An Interview with John Marvig

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Photo of John Marvig in front of the (now extant) Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone County, Iowa

When we think of historic bridges, we think of roadway bridges built of metal or stone, having truss, arch, suspension or beam designs, each of which has a well-documented history pertaining to the date of construction and the builders, as well as its significance to the community and infrastructure. It is rare to find history of railroad bridges that had made a different in a community…..

….that is unless you are John Marvig.

Since his 6th grade year, Marvig has been travelling the Midwestern US, photographing and documenting historic and modern railroad bridges for his website. Since its inauguration in 2011, the website has over 1200 bridges, big and small, covering eleven states and counting. The secret to the Chaska (Minnesota) native’s success as a railroad bridge photographer and writer I wanted to find out through this interview, as Marvig won the 2016 Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement, the youngest person to ever have received this distinction. Here are some Q&As conducted with this now sophomore at Iowa State University, majoring in Civil Engineering:

BHC: What got you interested in historic bridges; in particular, railroad bridges?

Marvig: When I was a kid, there was a bridge on I-494 in South Saint Paul known as the Wakota Bridge. That old tied arch structure always interested me, and I always took note when we drove to my grandparents farm in Wisconsin. Along the way, there were a number of other bridges I would take notice of from a young age. When I was younger, I had also wanted a model railroad. One thing led to another, and I would be taking pictures of a local railroad bridge by the fall of my 6th grade year. It grew from there, and became a full blown passion (or obsession, depending on how you look at it). Another bridge, an old railroad swing bridge located in my hometown of Chaska was always fascinating to me, since it only continued to exist in memory. Seeing the history that was lost really encouraged me to peruse my passion.

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North Redwood Railroad Bridge. Photos taken by John Marvig and avbailable via website.

BHC: What got you interested in historic bridges; in particular, railroad bridges?

Marvig: Creating my website was an idea that was formulated in a 7th grade technology class where we learned basic coding. John Weeks runs a website with numerous bridge photos on it, which also captivated my interest. From an early and very basic website to the full blown site it is now, it has steadily grown. I have well over 1000 bridges documented, I am just waiting to get the pages created! The hardest part is coding the pages. I manually code them, instead of using a form which automatically creates the pages (similar to Bridgehunter). This allows me the flexibility to change pages to meet the needs of the specific structure or the intended audience. However, this can be very time consuming. A page I have been working on for the Eads Bridge in Saint Louis took nearly 4 hours from start to finish to create. I continue to anticipate the site growing steadily. I have a waiting list of pages to add of over 350, and that list grows often.

 

BHC: Your focus on your website is railroad bridges. What makes them special in comparison to highway bridges?

Marvig: Railroad bridges, in my opinion, are the pinnacle of American engineering. While highway bridges were not built to carry a heavy load, railroad bridges were constructed to carry a load of many times a typical highway bridge. This results in some bridges that are engineered to perfection. In addition, railroad companies rarely reported construction of bridges and oftentimes did weird things such as relocation of spans. This makes it a unique challenge to document and research these structures.

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Crookston Railroad Bridge.

BHC:  Many railroad companies try to repel photographers and bridgehunters from photographing RR bridges. Why is that and how did you successfully managed to do that?

Marvig: Railroad companies are afraid of the liabilities of people being on their property. I have gotten around this by using public access, asking other landowners or walking along the riverbanks to the structure. My most important goal is to stay safe and set a positive example for others.

 

BHC:  Set a positive example- what examples?

Marvig: Two ways to look at this. The first is safety and to obey the rules. Walking on railroad property or bridges is very dangerous, and I try to use it as a last resort to get to bridges. On my site, I generally make notes of how I got to the bridge so others will hopefully follow that route. The other positive example I like to set is the strive for preservation and passion I demonstrate. I hope this spreads to others and we can see a positive turnaround in bridge preservation.

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Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque. This span was one of several from the 1868 span over the Mississippi River

BHC:  Did you have any confrontations with landowners accusing you of trespassing or other items? Many bridgehunters have dealt with this problem over the years- yours truly included on many occasions.

Marvig: I have. While I generally find that landowners are more than happy to talk to myself and my father, who often accompanies me on these trips, I have seen some people I hope not to deal with again. I would say 90% of people are nice and usually interested, and oftentimes tell their life story. I have however had instances of some real cranks. I’ve had hunters “accidentally” shoot my direction, I’ve had ladies in trailers yell at me because I’m parked on a public gravel road and I’ve had others claim a public road is theirs. However, a vast majority are some of the nicest people I’ve met; and in a few cases people I’ve kept in contact with.

 

BHC:  Bridge historians, like Eric Delony have often mentioned of railroad companies being very hesitant re. nominating railroad bridges deemed historic on the National Register because of their historic significance. From your experience, is this the case and if so, why is that?

Marvig: This is true. One example is the Redstone Bridge in New Ulm, Minnesota. The railroad has refused to nominate the structure repeatedly, even though the state attempted to get them to. This structure is an 1880 swing span, and one of the oldest known in America. Despite this, if the railroad chooses to demolish it, nobody can do anything about it. Fortunately, the State of Minnesota has said they will not let Canadian pacific demolish the structure, and when it is abandoned it should be preserved.

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Redstone Bridge spanning the Minnesota River in New Ulm.

BHC: Is the Redstone Bridge still in service?

Marvig: Yeah, its part of a spur to a quarry. I’m really hoping it is abandoned soon. With CP not doing well financially, I really hope that we can see a step in preservation made within the next decade

For more on the bridge, please check out the Tour Guide on the Bridges of New Ulm by clicking here. People in New Ulm as well as officials at the State Historic Preservation Office in St. Paul are interested in saving this bridge and nominate it on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

BHC:  What can be done to convince railroad companies to nominate their bridges to the Nat. Reg. as well as restore the bridge for future use? What examples have been mentioned?

Marvig: In my opinion, the only real thing that can be done is to make it worth it for them financially.  If an incentive was offered to a railroad to bypass historic bridges and preserve them, I’m quite sure they would be willing.

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Colfax Railroad Bridge in Wisconsin

BHC: Which RR bridges have you been involved in which has been successfully inducted into the National Register?

Marvig: While I do not believe any of the bridges I’ve helped preserve are listed as a separate listing on the NR, the railroad bridge across Main Street in Carver, MN (about 10 minutes from home) was to be demolished in 2011, but I worked with the city to preserve it. I believe it might be listed as a contributing resource currently.

 

 BHC:  Which RR Bridges you were involved in was converted into a Rails for Trails Crossing?

Marvig: Currently, I have not had any converted to trails. However, the bridge in Carver is eventually scheduled to become a trail. In addition, I’ve been working with the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis to preserve and convert the Short Line Bridge. The Missouri River Bridge in Bismarck is another example of a structure I am working to get preserved for this use.

 

 BHC: Which Railroad Bridge is your all time favorite?

Marvig: It’s hard to determine what my favorite bridge is, as there are a large number of structures I love. The Redstone Bridge in New Ulm, as well as the northwestern bridge in Eau Claire are two of my favorite bridges. These were both built in 1880 and are extremely old examples of rare truss types.

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Chicago and Northwestern Viaduct in Eau Claire, Wisonsin. This quintuple Warren deck truss bridge is now a bike trail crossing.

 

 BHC: If there is a person who is interested in bridge photography, what tips would you give him/her?

Marvig: As for tips for others, I would suggest starting with places you have passion for. If there is a bridge in town that you want to know more about, go take some pictures. Unique and historic bridges are going the way of the dodo bird in the United States, and photography is a form of preservation.

 

 BHC: And what about establishing a website like you have? The last question includes the use of social media, wordpress and the question of making a magazine out of it.

Marvig: To create a website, be prepared to have a large chunk of time taken up. The initial coding is tough, and manually adding pages is a long process. Research is also essential. I think I’ve spent several hundred dollars on research since 2010, as google doesn’t provide all answers. My biggest advice though is to create your website to be expandable. Make sure it has as many features as you want. I have 1200 pages on my site currently, and I’m working on reviewing and adding new features to these pages. It’s a lot easier to correct 12 pages than 1200.

Regarding social media, that isn’t my strong point. However it is essential to be able to reach out to a new audience to educate and inform about historic bridges. When I first started doing bridges in 2009, social media was a rather new invention, and I did not invest time heavily in it. Currently, I spread my message of bridges through both Facebook, and Instagram.

BHC: Thank you for your time for this interview.

Marvig: No problem.

To learn more about his work, click onto his website here. There you can find details of every bridge he’s visited, which includes its history and dimensions, as well as the number of trains crossing it daily (for most crossings). He has updated his website regularly and therefore, it is necessary to visit the site often. Enjoy some railroad facts and figures. 🙂

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2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards: Nomination for Awards Now Being Taken

Zellstoff Bridge north of Zwickau (Saxony), Germany. Photo taken in September 2017
With construction season winding down and a lot of success stories involving restoring historic bridges, now is the time to nominate our favorite historic bridge(s) and preservationists both here and abroad. Between now and the 3rd of December, entries are being taken for the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards. For those wishing to know about the awards, there are six categories for both American as well as international bridges where you can nominate your bridge, person or even best bridge photo.  Information on the categories and how you can enter are in the link below.
On this page, you can find the previous winners of the Ammann Awards which you can read about.   Voting will take place during the holiday season from December 4th until 6th January, 2018 with the winners to be announced on the 12th of January. The ballot will be available through The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. If you have bridges that deserve to be nominated and deserve an Award, or if you have any questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at:
flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.
Happy Bridgehunting and may the nomination for the Ammann Awards begin! 🙂

2016 Ammann Awards Ballot Part II

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BEST KEPT SECRET TOUR GUIDE:

US:

The Bridges of Boone County, Iowa– Minus the now removed Wagon Wheel Bridge, this county is rich with history involving its bridges, one of which involved a hero who averted a potential disaster in Kate Shelley.

The Crossings along the Chesapeake-Ohio Canal– Built in 1828, the canal system serves four states and provides water to Washington. It also features some of the oldest arch bridges in the country, some of which have been restored since 2005.

The Arch Bridges of Cowley County, Kansas– Until this year, 17 arch bridges served the county, most of which were built between 1890 and 1920 and made of stone. One of the bridges succumbed to flooding this spring.

The Bridges of Cincinnati/ Covington– Several bridges, big and small, old and young can be found in this metropolis, including John Roebling’s suspension bridge built in 1869, one year before his death on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Bridges of Washington County, Maryland– 22 historic stone arch structures span Conococheague Creek and Antietam Creek, and its tributaries, including Wilson’s Bridge, a 210-foot long bridge built in 1819. Most of the structures are almost 200-years old.

The Bridges of Tompkins County, New York– Over two dozen bridges are found in this county that are historically significant, including their centerpiece, the Newfield Covered Bridge.

International:

Glauchau (Saxony)– Several arch bridges span the Mulde as well as on the hill leading to the castles. As a bonus, a covered bridge and an iron bridge can be found here.

Zwickau (Saxony) – It is extremely rare for a town to have a 500-year old covered bridge with a very unusual design, a cantilever pony truss bridge and an unusual through truss bridge in a community, but Zwickau has that and more.

The Canal Bridges of Brugges (Belgium)– several stone arch bridges span the canals serving this historic community.

Calgary, Alberta– Two dozen bridges, modern and historic serve this Canadian community including those on the city’s historic registry.

The River Tyne- Flowing through Newcastle and Gateshead, this river features 22 improtant bridges as it flows into the North Sea from the eastern UK.

The Bridges of Newark on Trent– Like Glauchau, Newark has 27,000 inhabitants and a wide-array of well-known bridges- ten of them.

The Bridges of Dublin, Ireland– Many bridges from different periods of time can be found here. This includes a pair of cable-stayed bridges, three arch bridges and a couple truss bridges.

BEST KEPT SECRET INDIVIDUAL:

US:

Good Thunder Railroad Bridge in Minnesota

Sibley Railroad Bridge in Missouri

Marais des Cygnes River Bridge in Kansas

Coalbrook Lake Bridge in Connecticut (was inundated until the drought)

The Purple People Bridge in Cincinnati

Clark’s Creek Bridge in Kansas

Clairemeont Avenue Railroad Bridge in Wisconsin

International:

Isabella Viaduct in Puerto Rico

Röhrensteg Pedestrian Bridge in Zwickau, Germany

Ribblehead Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (UK)

Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire (UK)- photo included here

Sandford Drawbridge in Nova Scotia (Canada)- the world’s smallest bascule bridge

Prince Alfred Bridge in New South Wales (Australia)

Rosa Luxemburg Bridges in Berlin, Germany

Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany

Bowenfels Railroad Viaduct in New South Wales (Australia)

Hangeseilbrucke, Geierlay, Germany

Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

Clark’s Creek Bridge in Geary County, Kansas

Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau, Germany

Röhrensteg in Zwickau, Germany

Times Beach (US 66) Bridge in Missouri

Augusta Bridge in Kansas

Fehmarn Bridge in Germany

Hayden Bridge in Oregon

Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Arkansas

Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa

Dodd Ford Bridge in Minnesota

Gasconade (US 66) Bridge in Missouri

Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece

White River Bridge in Clarendon, Arkansas

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2016 Ammann Awards Ballot Part I

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Route 66 Gasconade Bridge in Missouri. Photo taken by Roamin Rich

For instructions in English, please go to the areavoices version of the Chronicles (click here). Für die in der deutschen Sprache, bitte zum Blog The Flensburg Files gehen (clicken Sie here).

BEST PHOTO:

 

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BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE:

Information on these bridges are available via links:

Long Meadow Bridge (MN): http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/10/28/long-meadow-bridge-open-to-bike-traffic/

Green Bridge in Des Moines (IA): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.1826891580920201&type=3

Houck Iron Bridge in Putnam Co. (IA): https://blog.jimgrey.net/2014/09/26/restored-and-repurposed-the-houck-iron-bridge/

Fort Morgan Rainbow Bridge (CO): http://www.fortmorgantimes.com/fort-morgan-local-news/ci_30393446/city-earns-award-rainbow-bridge-rehab-project

Wagon Bridge in Hemphill Co. (TX): http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/08/prweb13632078.htm

Bird Island Bridge in Chicago: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-division-street-bridge-st-0807-20160805-story.html

Molly’s and Rogers Landings US 66 Bridges (OK): http://www.route66news.com/2011/10/12/mollys-landing-saves-part-of-old-route-66-bridge/

Harahan Bridge in Memphis (TN): http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/news/2016/09/27/video-tour-the-mississippis-new-big-river-crossing.html

Beaverkill Covered Bridge in Sullivan Co. (NY): http://cdn.equipmentworld.com/painstaking-restoration-of-historic-covered-bridge-in-the-catskills-nears-completion/

Wolf Road Bridge near Cleveland (OH): http://bridgehunter.com/oh/cuyahoga/bh49083/

Hamilton Co. Park Bridge (IN): http://cdn.equipmentworld.com/indiana-festival-celebrates-three-historic-bridges-joined-together-to-form-one/

Maple and Lafayette Bridges in Fayetteville, AK: https://www.fayettevilleflyer.com/2016/12/05/city-to-celebrate-re-opening-of-historic-maple-and-lafayette-bridges/

Dodd Ford Bridge near Mankato, MN: http://mankatotimes.com/2016/06/30/ribbon-cutting-for-historic-dodd-ford-bridge-set-for-july-5th/

Eau Claire Railroad Viaduct (WI): http://bridgehunter.com/wi/eau-claire/bh36335/

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

 BACH STEEL: Nels Raynor, Derek Pung, Lee Pung, Andy Hufnagle, Brock Raynor and Nathan Holth- Several Bridges saved through in-kind restoration (restoring to its original form, including Farm Lane, Paper Mill and Martin Road, as well as their newest project: Springfield Bowstring Arch.

Christopher Marston: Chris has been working for Historic American Engineer’s Record for almost 30 years, documenting and collaborating successfully to preserve many historic bridges. Interview here: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/10/06/an-interview-with-christopher-marston-of-habs-haer/

Nick Schmiedeler: It unknown how many years he has been a pontist, but Nick has found more abandoned “Elvis” bridges than a typical pontist in his/her lifetime. Record of his findings here: http://bridgehunter.com/profile/Nick_Schmiedeler

Royce and Bobette Haley: Known as Bridge Road Warriors, this couple has found and photographed more bridges in a span of two years than anyone in his/her lifetime. More on their work here: http://bridgehunter.com/profile/roycehaleyIII

John Marvig: Before 2010, no one really dared to photograph railroad bridges, that is until John arrived. Since then, 10 states and thousands of bridges profiled and photographed as can be seen here: http://johnmarvigbridges.org/

Kaitlin O’shea: For over a decade, she has been running the website Preservation in Pink, providing some interesting educational aspects to historic preservation, including bridges. And this over a good coffee and company with the flamingo: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/12/02/interview-with-kaitlin-oshea-preservation-in-pink/

Ian Heigh: For many years, this engineer has been responsible for maintaining the Scottish National Railway and especially the longest bridges in the country: Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay. More here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_vZjvTuSJw

MYSTERY BRIDGE:

Before voting, check out the information on the bridges being voted by clicking here. If any problems, please type in Mystery Bridge. The following candidates are numbered from 62 to 76. Two votes for the US and two for the international versions are allotted here.

 

 

 

Interview With Kaitlin O’shea (Preservation in Pink)

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Kaitlin O’shea

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Every column needs a mascot, logo or a slogan, something that stands out in the eyes of the readers and one that shows significance to the themes we cover in society.  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has logo with the beloved Fehmarn Bridge in Germany, and the slogan: Preserving our past for the future, bridge by bridge.  Its sister column, The Flensburg Files has a slogan the sailboat and the flags of Germany and the US symbolizing its topic on cultural affairs and current events affecting the two countries. For Preservation in Pink, their mascot is the flamingo. There is an interesting story behind this beloved animal, as will be explained by its creator Kaitlin O’shea.  A preservation consultant for a firm in Burlington in Vermont, Kaitlin has been running the online column for 10 years and it has expanded it coverage to include various forms of social media, with the goal of providing coverage on topics on preserving places of historic interests, including historic bridges. They include live examples of preserved artifacts, preservation practices and the like. Kaitlin is no stranger to preservation, as she  received her B.A. in Historic Preservation from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. and a Master of Science in the same field at the University of Vermont. In between, sheI worked for the Fort Bragg (North Carolina) Cultural Resources Program for the U.S. Army (Independent Contractor, not military), conducting a 3 year oral history project on a 10,000 former Rockefeller estate that abutted Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, which included interviews, completed transcriptions, conducted archival research, and wrote the oral history book for the project. After obtaining her Master’s  Kaitlin  worked for the Vermont Agency of Transportation for 5 years, conducting historic preservation review of all projects. Since May 2015, she has worked as a Preservation Planner for VHB (an engineering + environmental firm) focusing on the regulatory side of preservation, except with state environmental laws.

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Pittsford Railroad Bridge in Vermont

I had a chance to interview Kaitlin about Preservation in Pink (PiP), how it has developed over time and played a role in preserving places of historic interests in the US. Given her in depth experience and knowledge in her field, I figured a little time to pick her brain and talk about preservation would give me, as well as the readers a little insight on the successes and drawbacks historic preservation is. Here are her comments to the questions I posed:

  1. What inspired you to create Preservation in Pink?

The short version. After graduating college, I missed my close preservation classmates and friends. Although I was working in historic preservation and enjoying my job, I missed the diversity of subjects from my classes and the varying conversations my friends and I would have late at night while working or studying in the preservation drafting lab. I was afraid that we might be stuck in our jobs and jaded, no longer the optimistic college students who believed in preservation and its capacity to save the world. To fill that void of conversation, I started a newsletter. The newsletter was a medium for us to share our ideas with friends and to continue to find the fun in preservation. I had experience in layout and editing and writing, so a newsletter seemed like a perfect fit. If you want the longer version, click here:  https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/about/

  1. And what does the flamingo stand for?

The short story: In college, my classmates and I watched a video about Ashland, VA. The people in Ashland were divided over pro/anti Walmart sentiments. Those who opposed Walmart chose the tacky pink flamingo lawn ornament as their mascot. In the end, the opponents lost. And as passionate college students studying the evils of big box stores, we took this as our battle cry: We hate Walmart, we love flamingos!

From there, it snowballed. We started drawing flamingos on chalkboards, giving each other flamingo items, and even flamingo-ing our professors fronts lawns (out of love, of course). When we graduated college, the flamingo remained a symbol of friendship and our love for preservation. To this day (10 years later, we still call each other flamingos and send each other flamingo cards and tchotchkes). Pink flamingos were the whimsical, fun side of preservation.

The name Preservation in Pink references pink flamingos. I chose that name because I didn’t want it to be mistaken for a serious, academics-only newsletters. I wanted people to find preservation approachable and fun. And it was my newsletter, so I thought, why not?

A longer version of the story you can find here: https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/2008/08/07/why-do-all-preservationists-love-flamingos/.

  1.  What was the purpose of PiP? Has that mission changed through the years?

The purpose of PiP has remained steadfast over the years, though how the mission is achieved has changed. The mission is:  to encourage communication between new and seasoned preservationists with and about the world around them. And to show everyone that historic preservation is everywhere you look and makes a positive difference in the world.

4.  When you created PiP, you had regular newsletters before switching to digital news coverage. When did you do this and why do such a change?

When I started PiP, newsletters made the most sense. Blogs hadn’t become popular yet, so it didn’t cross my mind. However, after creating the first newsletter, I realized that I needed a digital, accessible place to keep the newsletter so readers did not have to find it through a PDF in an email. However, creating a newsletter required getting articles on time from friends (whom I couldn’t pay). As the internet changed, newsletter weren’t fast enough. I wanted to be able to reach audiences on a less formal basis, a shorter format. On the blog, I could post here and there and keep people’s attention, and hopefully their interest in between newsletters.

As my writers, and I, became busier with careers or grad school, and blogs became more popular and newsletter less popular, I decided that it was time to let the newsletter go. It was an organic process. I enjoyed blogging all of the time, and a blog written mostly by me seemed more appropriate than a newsletter entirely by me.

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Proctor Marble Bridge in Vermont

5. PiP has experimented with several social apps, including that of photos. Why those and not facebook?

Over the years, the social media apps have changed in purpose, as we’ve all seen. PiP did have a Facebook page until then end of 2013. However, at that time I wanted to delete my personal FB, and I couldn’t have a PiP FB without my FB. (Maybe that’s changed, but I haven’t been interested in checking.)

I do keep the apps linked, because I know some readers use one and not the other. I do that through IFTTT, which allows an instagram post to become a wordpress post, which is then publicized on Twitter.

Yet, I do use each app for their own purposes. On Twitter, I like to find interesting stories and news, and communicate with social media friends. Instagram is my favorite app because preservation is very visual. It’s fun to see what other preservationists photograph and post, and learn about what they’re up to.

I’ve relied on Instgram to WordPress post capabilities heavily over the past couple of years. As my schedule became busier and there was less time for writing long blog posts, I could still micro-blog/photo-blog using Instagram.

  1.  What topics have you covered in PiP? 

The topics have changed as my career has changed and as I have changed, and that is quite varied as I worked in oral history in rural North Carolina for three years, and then attended graduate school and worked for the Agency of Transportation in Vermont, and now for an environmental + engineering firm, VHB, in Vermont. I’ve covered preservation news, preservation basics, preservation education, travel to historic places, abandoned buildings, oral history, road trips, preservation ABCs, guest posts, interviews with fellow preservationists…. anything and everything that can be connected to historic preservation, I’m up for writing about it.

  1. Also for historic bridges?

During my years working for the Agency of Transportation, I worked on a lot of bridge projects, and wrote about a lot of bridges: covered bridges, truss bridges, concrete bridges. I have an affinity for decorative concrete railings. I’ve written about photographing bridges, the history of particular bridges, bridges as gateways to historic districts, and I’ve posted a lot of bridge photographs over the years.

  1. While you have focused on historic places in Vermont and the New England states, you have started to “invade” Canada. Can you tell us about your adventures there? Any other countries and places in the US on your places to visit list in the future?

Your “invade Canada” observation made me laugh! My writing and my photography is, of course, going to be focused on where I live. My work is primarily in Vermont, so that accounts for many of my posts. I live in Burlington, VT, which is only 2 hours from Montreal, 4 hours from Quebec City, and 3.5 hours from Ottawa. For reference, Boston is about 4 hours from Burlington! So, by travel time alone, if I want to get to a big city, Montreal is my best bet! I love exploring new cities, and Canada has such beautiful cities. My significant other is from Montreal, which makes traveling in Canada more fun, too. He’s an excellent Canadian tour guide + travel partner.

Actually, I’ve never been out of the country, other than Canada! I would love to visit Europe: Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Spain. In the near future? I don’t have any big trips planned, but San Francisco remains high on my list, as well as New Orleans. I love exploring the United States. One day, I’d love to take a cross-country train trip.

  1.  Word has spread that while Vermont prides itself on historic bridges, including the metal structures, other states, like Maine and New Hampshire are tearing them down systematically despite their historic significance. Can you explain why this is the case? And is this problem widespread in the US?

I can only speak to this generally. Many states (maybe most) delay necessary maintenance on bridges, which then adds to the repair cost. By the time the bridge comes up for repair/replacement/rehab, people just want a new bridge. I would say that this is a widespread problem in the US.

Covered bridges tend to be loved. Truss bridges don’t receive as much love. And concrete bridges have the worst fate usually, simply due to the ephemeral nature of concrete and the harsh climate conditions of the northeast (freeze/thaw cycles, and salt/sanding of the bridge). And the bridges that aren’t as loved, probably will not be high up on the preservation list.

While some of us love truss bridges; other people see just the peeling (sometime lead) paint and the hulking metal structure, rather than a beautiful historic structure. Sometimes this has to do with geometry and safety guidelines. Historic bridges have narrower lanes, no shoulders, or low clearances, and they are not always safe. On major thoroughfares, these bridges can pose problems. For those reasons, some bridges have to go.

  1. What could you say about the care and preservation of HB in Vermont (giving a grade, in comparison with nationwide)? Why?  (Based on historic places you’ve photographed that were not in the best condition)

ud to work for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and proud of the work we did as an Agency, especially in the Environmental Section. While we do demolish historic bridges in Vermont (like I said, we cannot save them all), replacement bridges are designed with context sensitive solutions in mind. That means that if the bridge is in a historic district, the design will be compatible with the setting. Vermont is known for rehabilitating covered bridges, and we have metal truss success stories, too, such as the Checkered House Bridge in Richmond, VT.  I haven’t worked on bridges in other states, but I think Vermont should be proud of its work.

  1. When photographing bridges, what features are important, in your opinion? (Choose the main bridge types you’ve visited). 

Here’s my “How to Photograph a Bridge” post: https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/how-to-photograph-a-bridge/.

The most important features to me are elevation shots, context shots, and details. Details can include connections ( is it a pin connected truss? Bolts? Rivets? Hand hewn timber?) and date plaques.

12.When a person wants to preserve the bridge for reuse, what are some important aspects to keep in mind, especially when maintaining the structure?

  • What is the current condition of the bridge?
  • How will it be transported to the new location?
  • How will it be used? What does the load rating have to be?
  • Who will maintain the bridge? Is there an annual maintenance agreement? Who will pay for it?
  • Will the location benefit the public?
  1. Do you still talk history over a coffee? (I owe you one for this interview if you come to Germany, BTW)

Yes, I do! Okay, often it’s preservation over wine – depending on the time of day, of course. I will take you up on that when I make it to Germany.

14. What is your favorite bridge in VT? US? North America? The World?

Oh, that is a tough one. In Vermont, I have an attachment to the new Lake Champlain Bridge because working as the Historic Preservation Monitor for the bridge replacement project was my first job in VT. But, as for historic bridges? I’m not sure I can pick a favorite. I love finding bridges on back roads that most people wouldn’t see. The Proctor Marble Bridges (rehabilitated) is one of my favorites: https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/proctor-marble-bridge/

In the US? I love the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York, because I have many memories of driving over it with my parents + sisters to visit family, and later with college friends on our many routes up and down the east coast.

In the world? I’d love to see the Fourth Rail Bridge in Scotland.

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Close-up of the ballustrades of the Proctor Marble Bridge

If you want to know more about PiP, check out her website and follow her to get updates on some preservation successes and policies. You can follow PiP on twitter, instagram and other social networks. Some of her articles will appear in the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles as guest columnist.

Link: https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/

And let the coffee-laden flamingos go wild in preserving America’s history and pride! 😉

bhc jacob

The Bridges of Halle (Saale), Germany

Author’s Note: This is a throwback article written in November 2013. New features in the updated version includes more photos on this page, as well as Google Map, pinpointing the exact location of the bridges profiled here. A link can be found at the end of this tour guide article.

Berliner Brücke in Halle (Saale) Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/de/2/23/Berliner-Bruecke-Halle.jpg

Halle (Saale)- the birthplace of George Friedrich Handel. The second largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt and representing the second half of the metropolis Leipzig-Halle, which has 100,000 of the metro’s 600,000 inhabitants as well as one of the most renowned universities in Germany. Yet when you get off the train in Halle, you may be turned off by the ugly high-rise buildings that date back to the days of the German Democratic Republic, a communist state that existed until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German Reunification in 1990. Yet when you walk further towards the City Center, you will see another face of Halle that will sweep you off your feet: architecture dating to the Baroque Period, a statue of Handel overlooking the Cathedral and the Town Square, and further towards the Saale River, there’s the Giebichenstein Castle and the Halle Zoo, one of the largest zoos in the eastern half of Germany (Neuenbundesländer).

Surprisingly, if you are a pontist, you will be surprised to find that Halle has a wide selection of historic bridges that exist along the Saale River, its tributaries and to the south, the White Elster River, which meanders through Leipzig enroute to the Vogtland region in Thuringia and Saxony. There are 131 bridges in and around Halle; 14 of which are declared historically significant and protected by state preservation laws.  It is very rare to find historic bridges of at least four different types, or until recently have more than one cantilever truss spans, dating back to the 1880s. And in terms of German history, many of these bridges survived the test of time, including World War II, in contrast to the majority of cities and regions, whose bridges were severely damaged or destroyed through air raids and attempts by the Nazis to fend off advancing Allied troops. This plus the history that is still being sought on these bridges is what makes the bridges of the City of Salt unique.

This article will take you on a tour of the bridges that you should see, when spending a day in Halle. This includes a pair of bridges that no longer exist but are still part of the memories of the Hallenser people that still live there as well as those who were born there but have long since moved away for better possibilities. So without further ado, here is a small guide of the Bridges of Halle, keeping in mind that there are links available that will bring you to the photos and info on the bridge:

Schafbrücke in Halle (Saale), Germany

Schafbrücke: 

This bridge, built in 1733, is the last crossing along the White Elster before it empties into the Saale River in the Hallense suburb of Böllberg. It used to serve a main trading route between Merseberg and Magdeburg before it lost its importance because of the railroads. Today, the stone and concrete arch bridge serves the White Elster bike trail between Halle and Leipzig. Yet the bridge has seen its better days as the arches have deteriorated to a point where reconstruction is badly needed in order to avoid the structure to collapse.

Rabeninselbrücke in Halle (Saale), Germany

Rabeninselbrücke: 

This is the second youngest bridge in the city and the youngest to span the Saale. This bridge spans the Saale’s main river at the entrance to Rabeninsel (Raven’s Island) and features a cable-stayed bridge, whose pylon angles towards Böllberg Weg and the cables support the roadway. The roadway resembles a raindrop as it encircles the pylon. Built in 2000, the bridge measures 85 meters long and is 20 meters tall, easily seen from the main highway a kilometer away.

Hafenbahn Bridge in Halle (Saale), Germany

Hafenbahnbrücke: 

A few months ago, the Chronicles did a segment on this mystery bridge, spanning the Saale River at the confluence of the Elisabeth Saale and Middle Saale Rivers, west of Böllberg Weg. This bridge was built in 1884 and used to serve a rail line connecting the city with Magdeburg (north) and Merseburg (south) for over 80 years. When the line was abandoned in the 1970s, the lenticular through truss span, measured at 40 meters in length, was rehabilitated and converted into a bike and pedestrian crossing, which still serves its function today. The bridge also has a dark side- and a memorial plaque is placed on the truss as a marker of this tragedy. In the night of 13-14 March, 1919, Karl Meseberg, who was a revolutionary leader during World War I, was murdered on the bridge with his body landing in the Saale. It was found five days later. While the bridge shows its bright side during the day, at dusk, one can feel the presence of a ghost at the bridge, keeping people away from the crossing. This may be in connection with this unfortunate event, but more info in the form of eyewitnesses and evidence is needed to confirm the claims of a ghost at the bridge.  If you look to the south of the bridge, you will find a blue tied-arch bridge about 100 meters away. That bridge was built in 2000 and carry water lines connecting the southern and western parts of the city.

Genzmer Bridge in Halle (Saale), Germany

Genzmer Bridge: 

This steel through arch bridge is located over the Saale River at William Jost Strasse north of the Hafenbahnbrücke. Built in 1912, the grey-colored span is similar to the Hollernzollern Bridge in Cologne in terms of the design of the bridge, but the portal bracing resemble a bridge located west of Steinbrücke in neighboring Magdeburg. But when passing underneath the bridge, one will see the stone arched approach spans carrying the emblem of Halle on there- an impressive construction by the builder of the bridge, whoever it was.

Mansfeld Brücke

Mansfeld Bridge:

Spanning the Saale River at the Mansfelder Strasse, there are three crossings located within 60 meters of each other. The oldest span is a polygonal Warren pony truss with riveted connections that used to serve streetcar and vehicular traffic. Yet because of its structural obliqueness- too narrow and too light to support traffic- a vehicular crossing to the north was built in the early 1990s, which was followed by a separate streetcar crossing to the south a decade later. The truss span was later converted to pedestrian use by strenthening the trusses and adding a concrete and brick deck. An economic and interesting way to preserve a piece of history.

Peissnitz Bridge:

Apart from the Hafenbahn, Giebichenstein, and Mühlentor Bridges, the Peissnitz Bridge is one of the crown jewels as far as Halle’s bridges are concerned. Spanning the Saale River at Peissnitz Island, carrying the street carrying the same name, the bridge is one of the most ornamental of bridges, for the 1898 structure features a cantilever Pratt truss design, with ornamental towers supporting street lights, and red quarry stone arch approach spans, presenting its grey and red colors which are typical colors of the city. When built in 1898, the bridge was the only toll bridge in the city, as money was collected for people wanting to cross the bridge and enter Peissnitz Island. This was discontinued in 1921 and the bridge has operated as a free bridge ever since. The bridge is 103 meters long, 70 meters of which represent the main span. Despite sustaining damage during World War II, it was rebuilt in 1946 and was eventually converted to a pedestrian and bike crossing, which remains that way to this day.  The Peissnitz Bridge is the only way in and out of the island which houses a vehicle museum complex and the island mini-train. Another bridge spanning the Wild Saale west of the bridge at Weinberg, known as the Elisabeth Bridge, a suspension bridge built in 1913, has been closed to traffic since 2011 and plans are in the making to tear it down and replace it.

Glienicker Bridge in Halle (Saale), Germany

 Krollwitzer Brücke (aka Giebichensteinbrücke): 

This bridge and neighboring Giebichenstein Castle on the lime cliffs of the Saale River go together like bread and butter. The three-span concrete arch bridge is the fourth crossing at this site, being built in 1928 replacing a steel Parker through truss bridge, whose predecessors included a pontoon bridge, ferry and a covered bridge. The bridge is 261 meters long, 60 of which consist of the largest arch span. The bridge features two sculptures on the south side facing neighboring Peissnitz Bridge, resembling cattle- making the bridge a real treat to see. The bridge was renovated in 1995 and again in 2011, but continues to serve vehicular and street car traffic connecting the city center with the western suburb of Krollwitz.

Mühlentorbrücke:

Like the Peissnitz Bridge, the Mühlentor Bridge, spanning Mühlgraben-a tributary of the Saale- at Neuwerk in the northern end of the city, is the most ornamental bridge but in the form of an arch bridge. Art Deco art on the bridge’s railing and four lamp posts can be seen when crossing the 1912 span by car or bike. The railings resemble a Howe truss made of concrete, a rarity one can see these days.

Berliner Brücke:

When leaving Halle (Saale) by train heading north, this bridge will be the last landmark to be seen on your way out. Today’s bridge, built in 2005, features a cable-stayed span that is 71 meters tall and 171 meters long, spanning the railroad tracks. Yet the bridge came at the cost of a steel eyebar suspension bridge with pony truss decking, which was built during the first World War, with the help of French soldiers. It was originally named the Hindenburg Bridge before it was changed after World War II. Despite being considered a historic landmark, excessive rust and corrosion, caused by diesel-powered trains passing underneath it, doomed the bridge, causing the city council to decide for a replacement span. The cable-stayed bridge was built to the north of the bridge and after its completion in 2005, the 1916 bridge was dismantled and sold for scrap, despite protests by many who wanted to keep the structure for reuse as a pedestrian bridge.

While some local newspapers have mentioned a bit about Halle’s bridges, more publicity is needed to bring the bridges to light and find out more about their history. While a couple bridges have been documented, others still have mysteries that have yet to be solved. And even more so, perhaps someday when someone writes a book about the bridges in this community, this information will be useful.

A Map with the locations of all the bridges can be found via link here:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zE70H-hBCaFg.kegHJaktOJ0A

Halle (Saale) is famous for many markets and events honoring Handel and other music greats. This includes the Christmas market, which you can click here to read about. Courtesy of sister column The Flensburg Files.

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