Royal Springs Bridge in Kentucky- the oldest; the most forgotten of historic bridges?

Photo taken by James MacCray in 2013

A History in Your Backyard Documentary.

GEORGETOWN, KENTUCKY (USA)- The best historic bridges are the ones that are the most hidden, the most unrecognizable and in this case, the most heavily traveled bridge. The Royal Springs Bridge is located in Georgetown. It spans the creek bearing its name carrying Main Street and US Hwy. 460 near the university. Although the bridge was built in 1800, records indicated that it was constructed in 1789, the same year George Washington was elected the first president of the US. The engineer was Elijah Craig.This makes it the oldest bridge in the state.

Yet there are some more interesting points about this bridge. Here are some more in a documentary produced by History in Your Own Backyard:

 

Further information about its history can be found here via bridgehunter.com.

This bridge is a classic example of a bridge that is a forgotten one unless you make a stop with the camera and get a few shots. Especially if the structure is listed as a technical heritage site. 🙂

 

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Book of the Month/ Tour Guide: The Bridges of Schwarzenberg (Saxony), Germany

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Author’s Note: For the first time in four years, a literary review is being introduced in the Chronicles. Previously, we had a Book of the Week that had existed from 2013-14, but due to time constraints, it was discontinued. This time we have the Book of the Month, where each bridge piece will be introduced for people to have a look at. You will find this and future pieces on the Chronicles. A page is being created where all the bridge literary pieces will be added, past and present.  So without further ado……

Book of the Month: January 2019

The first ever book of the month takes us to the German state of Saxony, and to the community of Schwarzenberg. Located 10 kilometers east of Aue, deep in the Ore Mountains, the community of 23,300 prides itself on its traditional culture and its history for several historic landmarks are located in the old town, which features a castle and church overlooking the deep valley where the rivers Schwarzwasser and Mittweida meet. The town was one of the key hubs for railroads that met from areas high in the mountains. Today only one line exists from Johanngeorgenstadt to Zwickau, passing through this community. And while the mining industry almost no longer exists, other industries have taken over, thus making the city rather attractive.

While many cities in Saxony, such as Dresden, Leipzig and Plauen have prided themselves on their historic bridges because of popularity, no one has ever thought about the fact that a community, such as Schwarzenberg, would have an interesting set of their own.

Enter the Senior Citizens Club Haus Schlossblick in Schwarzenberg and their prized work, Schwarzenberg’s Bridges. The booklet was released in December 2018, with many copies having been sold during the Christmas markets and beyond. Even though the target language in this 53-page booklet is German, the booklet is laden with pictures of Schwarzenberg’s 44 bridges- both past and present- combined with years of research and photo collections all put together and presented in a form of a tour guide. The photos with the bare essential information is enough for people to read up before finding the bridges, especially as they are listed in the order going downstream for every river mentioned, minus the railroad crossings.

The booklet is different to another bridge booklet written in 2014 on the city of Aue. (For more, please click here to view the tour guide). While current pics of the city’s bridges were included, there was mainly text on the history of each of the bridges in the city of 16,000, located at the confluence between the Zwickau Mulde and the Schwarzwasser, as well as along the Flyover, connecting the city with the Autobahn 72. More pics on the previous structures, plus a better selection of information would have perhaps helped.

Going back to the bridges in Schwarzenberg, there are some interesting facts that are presented in the book, some of which will get the reader to visit them while in Germany. Here are the top five:

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  1. The Steynerne Bridge (pictured above) is the oldest bridge stilll existing in Schwarzenberg. It is also the narrowest vehicular crossing in the Ore Mountains.
  2. The Topp-Müller-Arch Bridge was the oldest stone arch bridge ever built in Schwarzenberg, dating back to 1539.
  3. Two railroad bridges used to carry a railline through the steep hills underneath the old town. It was bypassed in 1952.
  4. The old railroad arch bridge east of the train station is one of the best examples of a restored historic bridge of its kind.
  5. Each bridge has a medaillon on the railing, signaling the build and replacement dates, plus some of the symbols of the city.

Interesting is the fact that the author included the Markersbach Viaduct in the booklet. While that bridge is only a few kilometers away, it was included in the Chronicles’ tour guide (shown here). Still, the authors believe that it belongs to the Schwarzenberg ensemble, which is considered far fetched but ok. Also included is the Hammerbrücke, a covered bridge located in Lauter, which is three kilometers away.

A map with the location of the bridges in Schwarzenberg can be found below. I did a bike tour in the region on three different occasions and have therefore included photos in all but a couple of the city’s bridges. The rest of the information is from the booklet.

The book on Schwarzenberg’s bridges, which can be bought at the tourist information center upon personal visit for only six Euros, does bring up a question with regards to writing a book on bridges in such a community. While the book with sufficient information and photos on the bridges, like in Schwarzenberg, would be appropriate especially for readers who just want to know a bit on the bridges, the question is whether this book would fit for another community.

Which town would benefit from such a “picture book” with sufficient information?

Feel free to make your top five cities you would like to see a bridge book written on, either by choosing from the Chronicles’ tour guide page or adding some of your own.

My top five cities that deserve such a bridge booklet include: Glauchau, Zwickau, Dresden, Minneapolis and Des Moines. What about yours? Add your thoughts in the comment section.

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Obituary: Eric Delony (1944-2018)

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Eric Delony (right) with fellow historian and preservationist Mary-Ann Savage at the Bollmann Truss Bridge in Savage, Maryland. Photo taken in 2014

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Author’s update: Funeral Arrangements are being planned for historic bridge preservationist Eric Delony, who died on October 23rd. According to Information from Christopher Marston, it is being scheduled for January 2019. When and where has yet to be determined, but the Chronicles will inform you in due time as soon as everything is finalized.

Mr. Marston, who worked with Eric for many years, write a much-detailed version of the obituary, honoring him for his three decades-plus work in documenting and saving historic bridges, much more than what the Chronicles covered when having honored him with the Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement. This was done in 2016. With his permission, the detail of his life and work are written below. More Information on him and the stories behind his historic bridge preservation will follow. For now, enjoy reading about Mr. Delony from Christopher’s point of view:

Eric N. DeLony, who served as Chief of the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) from 1987 to 2003, died on October 23, 2018, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Over his career, Eric became known as a pioneer in historic bridge documentation and preservation and one of the nation’s leading experts in historic bridges. In recognition of his achievements, Eric was the recipient of the 2000 General Tools Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Society for Industrial Archeology.

 

Early Years at HAER

After graduating from the Ohio State University in 1968, Eric was first hired as a summer architect on the New England Textile Mills Survey, a joint project of the Smithsonian (under the leadership of Robert Vogel) and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). The following year he became a member of the Mohawk-Hudson Area Survey, HAER’s very first field team. This ambitious project documented several industrial sites and bridges in the Albany area, and team members were challenged to devise new recording techniques for manufacturing and engineering structures. His detailed drawing of the Troy Gasholder remains the logo of the Society for Industrial Archeology to this day. Once he completed his Master’s in Historic Preservation at Columbia University under James Marston Fitch (where he first met his lifelong friend and colleague, preservation educator Chester Liebs), Eric was hired as HAER’s first full-time employee in 1971. HAER began recording a variety of bridges and other industrial structure types as part of state inventories and themed surveys. These included surveys of the Baltimore & Ohio and Erie railroads, Paterson and Lowell mill towns, and later mining, steel, power, and maritime-related sites, among others. Eric also helped initiate “SWAT teams” to record endangered structures prior to demolition. By 1987, Eric DeLony had been promoted to Chief of HAER.

 

HAER Historic Bridge Program

In collaboration with Emory Kemp of West Virginia University, Eric began developing the HAER Historic Bridge Program in 1973, which would become the first comprehensive national program to identify and protect historic bridges. Through Eric’s efforts, HAER developed partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and state historic preservation offices (SHPOs). The first goal of the program was to promote comprehensive historic bridge inventories in each state. When inventories were required by law in 1987, Eric’s initiative became a catalyst in making highway bridges the first class of historic structures to be nationally evaluated.

After the preliminary state bridge inventories were completed, HAER partnered with state departments of transportation (DOTs) to undertake HAER summer documentation projects that would more intensively document representative bridges, with the first taking place in Ohio in 1986. Using funding from a variety of partners like the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOTs, and historic groups, HAER recording teams collaborated with national and local experts to produce large-format photographs, histories, and drawings of hundreds of historic bridges in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, from 1987-2001. Eric also worked with engineering professors such as Dario Gasparini at Case Western, Stephen Buonopane at Bucknell, and Ben Schafer at Johns Hopkins to hire students to compile detailed engineering analyses of a variety of historic bridge types, going beyond traditional architectural history reports. In appreciation of Eric’s initiatives, the White House and ACHP presented HAER’s Historic Bridge Program with a National Historic Preservation Award in 1992.

In addition to the nation’s highway bridges, the historic roads and bridges in the National Park system were also deteriorating from neglect and overuse. HAER developed a pilot project in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1988 to survey the historic and significant transportation-related structures and designed landscapes at various NPS units. With support from FHWA and NPS, this program expanded in 1989 and continued until 2002 to document the roads and bridges of large western national parks, national battlefields, and eastern parkways. HAER also partnered with New York and Connecticut to record several historic local parkways. The drawings of these projects are compiled in America’s National Park Roads and Parkways: Drawings from the Historic American Engineering Record (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2004).

Eric DeLony was also influential in HAER’s involvement with a third major initiative involving FHWA and historic bridges. Realizing that covered bridges were a beloved but endangered resource, Vermont Senator James Jeffords proposed legislation to save them. The resulting National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation (NHCBP) Program was established by FHWA in 1998 as part of the TEA-21 transportation bill. HAER received research funding beginning in 2002 to document the nation’s most significant covered bridges, as well as developing other educational initiatives including engineering studies, a traveling exhibition, national conferences, and National Historic Landmark nominations. With the benefit of continued FHWA support, HAER Project Leader Christopher Marston has continued Eric’s vision and is in the process of finalizing several research projects. These include the 2015 publication Covered Bridges and the Birth of American Engineering, co-edited with Justine Christianson, and dedicated to Eric DeLony. Rehabilitation Guidelines for Historic Covered Bridges will be published later in 2018.

 

Nationwide Advocacy

Eric was a longtime member of the Society for Industrial Archeology (SIA) and developed the SIA Historic Bridge Symposium beginning in the early 1980s to allow experts to share research and preservation experiences. Eric attended his last one in 2011; the 25th was held in 2016 in cooperation with the Historic Bridge Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. He was also an active participant with the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s Committee on Historic Preservation and Archaeology in Transportation (ADC50) beginning in the 1990s, which was comprised of professionals from state DOTs, SHPOs, and consultants involved in preservation issues on federally funded transportation projects. Research and best practices on preserving and maintaining historic bridges was always a major focus of the committee. As a subcontractor to Parsons Brinckerhoff, Eric DeLony co-authored A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types with Robert Jackson, for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCPRP Project 25-25, Task 15) in 2005.

Not satisfied to just record historic bridges, Eric was also determined to see as many bridges as possible saved and preserved. Some of the projects that Eric championed included: the 1828 Blaine S-Bridge and the 1868 Zoarville Station Bridge in Ohio; the 1869 Henszey’s Bridge in Pennsylvania; and the 1858 Aldrich Change Bridge in New York. As Ohio DOT’s Tom Barrett reflected, “Through Eric’s encouragement, I feel that the historic bridge inventory in Ohio has stabilized and improved in many ways. We strive to explore all plausible alternatives to demolition and find ways to educate everyone on proper rehabilitation and design solutions. Hard-fought successes here and nationwide in bridge preservation will always be a part of Eric’s legacy.”

Eric’s advocacy extended beyond bridges to roads as well. As Preserving the Historic Road conference founder Paul Daniel Marriott stated, “Eric appreciated that roads and bridges were intertwined. He was one of the first people to acknowledge that historic research and advocacy [were needed] for historic roads. Eric DeLony was instrumental in establishing the historic roads movement.”

 

International Influence

Eric studied at Ironbridge with Sir Neil Cossons in 1971-72 as a Fulbright Scholar, and this experience led him to encourage collaboration between HAER and industrial archeologists and preservationists in Europe and other countries. Eric consistently hired International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) foreign exchange students for his summer field teams beginning in 1984.

He represented the United States at several meetings of the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH). He also worked with several prominent European scholars, such as Barrie Trinder at Ironbridge and Louis Bergeron at Le Creusot, on various publications, exhibitions, and conferences. Another issue that Eric championed has finally shown dividends; after several decades, the U.S. delegation finally nominated the Brooklyn Bridge as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

 

Post-career Legacy

After retiring to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2003, Eric became a bridge preservation consultant. Maintaining “The Pontists” email list, he advocated for various bridge preservation causes and initiatives, and continued to write and teach.

An avid collector of rare books, technical reports, and images of historic bridges, Eric donated his collection to two prestigious archives. The “Eric DeLony Collection of the History of Bridges and Bridge Construction” was established in 2010 at The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. In 2013, the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri received the “Eric N. DeLony Engineering & Bridge Collection.”

After health issues removed him from public life, Eric continued to receive various honors acknowledging his legacy. Beginning in 2014, David Wright of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges established the Eric DeLony Scholarship, an annual prize awarded to a college student interested in historic preservation. Eric was also a recipient of the 2016 Othmar H. Amman Award for Lifetime Achievement from The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.

Eric DeLony was truly a pioneer in the world of historic bridge documentation, preservation, and advocacy. The 3,000+ bridges in the HAER Collection at the Library of Congress, and hundreds of examples of preserved historic bridges across the country are all a testament to his lifelong determination and passion for saving historic bridges.

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2018 Othmar H. Ammann Awards: Now Accepting Entries

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Scherberg Bridge at dusk and in black and white

A post shared by bridgehunters_chronicles2010 (@bridgehunters_chronicles17) on

2018 has presented itself with many surprises in all aspects. In particular with bridgehunting and bridge photography, where readers, followers and enthusiasts have been awed by many historic bridges abandoned for many years until discovered most recently, communities where historic bridges that are little mentioned are getting recognition, and historic bridges that are the spotlight for photographers and preservationists who worked successfully to breathe new life into them.

And with that, the 2018 Othmar H. Ammann is now open to business. Between now and December 3rd, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is now accepting entries of (historic) bridges and people who have worked to save them for reuse. Named after the Swiss bridge engineer who left his mark in bridge building in New York and the surrounding area, the Award is given out, both on the national and international levels in te following categories:

Best Bridge Photo

Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge

Lifetime Achievement (including post mortem)

Tour Guide- Communities, Counties, Districts with a high number of historic and fancy modern bridges

Best Kept Secret- Individual Bridge

Mystery Bridge and

Bridge of the Year.

More details can be found here. You can also find the results of the previous winners of the awards so that you have an idea which bridges, photos, etc. deserve to be entered.

Do you have a bridge, set of bridges, bridge photo(s) or even person(s) who has devoted time and effort to historic bridges that deserve recognition on the national and international levels? Send them here via form or e-mail:

E-mail: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.

You have until December 3rd to submit your entries. For bridge photos, please submit them using JPEG and keep it under 1MB, if possible. If you have any questions, please contact Jason Smith using the abovementioned form or e-mail address. Voting will proceed afterwards, ending on 8th January, 2019, with the winners being announced on the 12th.  We will use the same scheme as before with polldaddy yet we may experiment with other options when we vote.  More will come when the entries end and the voting begins.  The contest is open globally. Anyone can enter. 🙂  If you have a bridge worth mentioning or a photo worth showing, let’s see it! 🙂

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Feature Video: The Bridges of Venice

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By Livioandronico2013 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Back in January 2018, I posted a guest column on the bridges of Venice, Italy, taken by a travel blogger, who discovered the many hidden sites of Venice that are worth seeing, as a person visits the bridges along the Grand Canal and other waterways that make the city famous. A video was posted recently on the same subject, yet the focus was on the bridges themselves, filmed from all angles including the surroundings.

To give you a better idea of what to expect from the bridges of Venice, here’s the nine-minute video which will give you more than enough reasons to go to Venice. Enjoy! 🙂

 

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2017 Ammann Awards Voting Underway

The Wave near Glauchau (Saxony), Germany- One of the Candidates of this year’s Ammann Awards but in the category of Bridge of the Year

After a long delay due to illness and other non-column related items, voting has now commenced for this year’s Othmar H. Ammann Awards, presented by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. This year’s entries feature a vast array of bridges- old and new from almost every single aspect. We even have a new entry from Africa and that bridge is unique because of its historic and aethetic features that warranted its candidacy endorsement by one of our followers. For the first time, we have a re-entry of one candidate because of missing bridges and/or information provided by the locals which had not existed from last year’s entry.  And for the third time, a lifetime legacy candidate entered the category and it appears he might finally win this one, assuming he can beat out a massive amount of compatition.

So who will win the Ammann Awards this year? This is where you as the reader can decide. Just simply click onto the link here. This will take you to the wordpress version of the Chronicles, where the ballot is posted. Follow the instructions there and you are free to choose which bridges and persons deserve to win the Awards.

Voting will close on January 7th with the winners of the Ammann Awards to be announced afterwards. As usual, it will be done after the author presents his Author’s Choice Awards.

While the category of Best Photo features the finest photos on the ballot, the candidates in the other categories each have a link and/or short summaries so that you can easily decide which ones deserve the awards.  For instance:

Mystery Bridge:

Shoe Bridge in Chemnitz, Germany

Turner Truss Bridge in Chemnitz, Germany

The Whitesboro Bridge in Oklahoma

Elevator Bridge at Kappelbach (in Chemnitz), Germany

Bienertstrasse Bridge in Dresden, Germany

The Twin Bridges of Salisbury, Connecticut

Ancient Bridge over a Waterfall in Erfurt, Germany

Thatched Roofed Covered Bridge in St. Peter-Ording, Germany

Brick Culverts at Westerhever, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Small Bridge with Unique Railing and Plaque at Eibenstock, Germany

The Stone Arch Bridges of Zschorlau (Saxony), Germany

The Bedstead Truss Bridge at Muscatine, Iowa

 

Lifetime Achievement:

Nels Raynor of BACH Steel- For over two decades, Nels has successfully restored dozens of historic truss bridges made of metal thanks to his expertise in welding and his steadfast assistance with other bridge preservationists in identifying and restoring relict crossings of the path. This includes the most recent completion of the restoration of Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Arkansas. More details on him and BACH Steel you will find here.

James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com- In 2002, James created a database devoted to historic bridges in the Midwestern part of the United States. Fast-forward to the present, and you will find one of the most comprehensive bridge database websites in the country with information and photos of almost every bridge available, both present and past and regardless of its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. His website you will find here.

Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org- A product of a high school genius who later became a history teacher and advocate of preserving historic bridges, Nathan Holth’s website focuses on historic bridges and its documentation that is more detailed than with the nationally-known documentation of historic artefacts, such as HABS/HAER and the National Register in which he recommends alternatives to demolishing historic bridges. In its 15th year, Nathan has covered two-thirds of the US plus half of Canada. The website with all his work can be found here.

Todd Wilson and Lauren Winkler of Bridgemapper.com- Like Nathan Holth and James Baughn, this duo from Pittsburgh has a website that is focused on the historic bridges in western Pennsylvania with a focus on the greater Pittsburgh area. An interactive map with information on the existence and evolution of these geniune structures can be found here.

Nic Janberg of Structurae.net- While James Baughn plans to expand Bridgrhunter.com to include the international bridges, he may want to take some lessons from this man from Dusseldorf, Germany, home of the International Structural Database, Structurae.net. Created and maintained by Janberg and running since 2001, this database features information and photos of not only bridges- past and present, but other unique architectural works as well as their engineers and architects. To look at the website and information, click here.

Mary Charlotte Aubry Costello- In the mid-1980s, the social studies teacher from Waterloo, Iowa started travelling and sketching historic bridges along the Mississippi River as part of a book project presenting some interesting facts and images of these unique structures from her eyes. In the end, there were two volumes of work (produced in 1998 and 2002, respectively) that are still being read to this day. More on the book here.

Dave King- A bridge photographer who has contributed to Bridgehunter.com, Dave has presented some unique bridges for the state of Iowa, many of which are still standing albeit closed to traffic.

Royce and Bobette Haley- A husband-wife photo-duo, this couple has lit up the Bridgehunter.com website with their bridges as part of their cross-country bridgehunting tour. They have been doing this since 2013 and are still going strong.

 

Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge:

Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa- This three-span through truss bridge received a massive make-over last year and part of this year, which included new decking, new paint, new pin-connected joints and new LED lighting. Some information on this bridge can be found here.

Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Conway County, Arkansas- This 1870s iron bridge literally was brought back from the brink. Found leaning to one side, Raynor, Julie Bowers and crew worked together to relocate it and restore it to its former glory. Details here.

Marine’s Bridge in Wisconsin

Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli County, Indiana- Destroyed by a semi-truck on Christmas Day, workers put the old truss bridge together, piece-by-piece to make it look like new again. A Christmas gift for the people of Paoli.

Allan’s Mill Covered Bridge in Miami County, Ohio

Bowstring Arch Bridge at Merrimack College in Boston

Bowstring Arch Bridge at Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Ohio

Ponte Pince Sao Vincente in Santos, Brazil- This suspension bridge, built in the 1910s, received a massive make-over which included new decking and cables as well as some work on the towers. More on this project here.

War Eagle Bridge in Benton County, Arkansas

 

Tour Guide International (Click onto the name to access the websites):

Cambridge, England

Glauchau (Saxony), Germany- This was reentered due to additional bridges and information contributed by locals and historians. It had finished fifth in last year’s standings.

Aue/Schneeberg (Saxony), Germany- This is a combination of tour guides for Aue, Schlema, Schneeberg and Zschorlau. There are two parts: Part I and Part II.  As a bonus, an exclusive on the Stone Arch Bridge at Schlema is included here. Zschorlau’s Bridges are under the Category of Mystery Bridges.

St. Petersburg, Russia- There are several websites but they have been bundled into one mini-library guide here.

London (UK)

Winnepeg, Canada- There is a historic guide (here) and a present tour guide (here)

Quebec City, Canada

Rochlitz (Saxony), Germany.

 

Tour Guide USA (Click onto the names for access to the bridges):

Clinton County, New York

Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

The Bridges of the Wabash-Erie Canal/ Delphi, Indiana: Two links: Delphi and the Canal

Hennepin Canal in Bureau County, Illinois

Duluth, Minnesota

Cincinnati, Ohio

The Drawbridges of Chicago

The Bridges of Cleveland, Ohio

The Bridges of Marshall County, West Virginia

The Bridges of Wheeling, West Virginia

Bridges to the Past in Hardin County, Kentucky

 

Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge (USA):  (Click onto the names of the bridges for photos and info)

Belleville Bowstring Arch Bridge

Mill Creek Truss Bridge in Ft. Scott, Kansas

Old Highway 69 Peaceble Creek Bridge in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma

Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, MN

Niland’s Corner Bridge near Colo, Iowa

Sarto Bridge in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana

Johnson Bridge in Stillwater County, Montana

Brooklyn Army Arsenal Footbridges, New York (Brooklyn)

Sugar Island Bridge in Illinois

Lakewood Park Truss Bridge in Salina, Kansas

Bridge of the Year:

Bockau Arch Bridge near Aue (Saxony), Germany- the 400 year old bridge is slated for replacement even though there is a movement to stop the process.

Green Bridge in Waverly, Iowa- This 1910s bridge is the focus of politics where three sides (preservationists, proponents of a 2-lane bridge abd proponents of a pedestrian bridge) are vying for its future.

Frank J. Wood Memorial Bridge in Maine- Locals are going head-to-head with Maine DOT over this bridge, with the former wanting to keep the bridge in use.

Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Conway County, Arkansas- A masterpiece of preservation saving it from disaster and making it a new crossing.

Pulp Mill Bridge in New Hampshire

The Wave in Glauchau (Saxony), Germany- first bridge in the world to have a suspension span whose roadway is draped over the pylons.

Mathematic Bridge in Cambridge, UK a key landmark in the University City that is now a puzzle game.

Goteik Viaduct in Myammar– a find by a pair of tourists that is unheard of at present. Really tall but over a century old steel railroad viaduct

Cobban Bridge in Chippewa County, WI the future of the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge is in the balance after it was closed off to all traffic. Again, progressives and preservations are fighting over its future.

Hvita Bridge in Iceland- a rare, unheard of historic landmark on a remote island.

Cedar Covered Bridge in Madison County, Iowa three juveniles tried burning this bridge down. The bridge is being rebuilt AGAIN!

The Covered Bridges of New Brunswick, Canada- These bridges are unique in their length and histories but in danger due to age, weather extremities and carelessness.

 

 

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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