Covered Bridge in Maine Destroyed by Arson

Photo taken by Jack Schmidt in 2014

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LITTLETON, MAINE- One of Maine’s handful of century-old bridges was incinerated and the state fire marshal is looking into the possible causes. The Watson Settlement Bridge was a covered bridge featuring a Howe through truss design. It spanned the Meduxnekeag Stream on Former Carson Road in Littleton in Aroostook County, located between US Hwy 1 and the US-Canada border. It was built in 1911 and had served traffic until 1984 when the current concrete structure was built on a new alignment and the historic bridge was converted to a pedestrian crossing. Listed on the National Register since 1970, the 170 foot long bridge was named after the nearby Watson Settlement and was a magnet for photo opportunities including graduation photos.

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Soruce: Citizens of Littleton

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Fire Crews were called to the scene of a fire on Monday afternoon at 2:45pm Eastern Time only to find the covered bridge engulfed in flames. Three different fire departments from Littleton, Houghton and Monticello were at the scene to put down the blaze. The State Fire Marshal Office arrived at the scene an hour later to investigate. The entire structure, consisting of charred beams and a partially collapsed roof, has been considered a total loss and will have to be torn down. It is unknown at this point whether a replica will be constructed. The area has been barracaded off to keep people from going on the bridge due to its structural instability. The State Fire Marshal is looking into any information to determine the cause of the fire, including finding any potential arsonists. People with information on the fire should contact their office at 1-888-870-6162.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the bridge, the fire and what happens next.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 104: Trussed Arch Bridge in Indiana

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The 104th mystery bridge takes us to Chesterton, Indiana. Spanning Coffee Creek, this is one of the most unusual truss bridges found on record to date because of its design. The bridge is a combination pony arch with riveted Howe truss features as a top chord. Pony arch because of the vertical beams supporting the arched truss spans, each beam is supported by an outrigger. The bridge had six panels total.   Howe truss because of the X-frame design going from end to end in an arched fashion, all of it arched. Unique is the V-laced bracing running along the top part of the arched trusses, something that would have made it to the National Register of Historic Places, had it been left as is.

Records have pointed to the construction date of between 1893 and 1896, which would make this bridge one of the first ever to use riveted truss connections. Local records claim that it was built in 1893 and was located near the cemetary. Others claim that it was located somewhere else along the creek and that the location pointed in bridgehunter.com was only a guess.  One claim shows that another bridge similar to this one was built in 1895 by the Indiana Bridge Company in Muncie.

This contradictory information leads us to the following questions:

  1. When was this bridge built and where exactly?
  2. Who was the bridge builder for this bridge? Was it the company in Muncie, or was it another company?
  3. How was this bridge built? Was it built using trusses from a demolished building- one of my guesses?
  4. How long did the bridge serve traffic before it was removed?
  5. How many other bridges- if any- existed during this time?

The bridge was estimated to have been between 40 and 60 feet long; the trusses were up to seven feet high and the width was 16 feet wide. Anything else about the bridge depends on how much information a person can provide. If you have some to add, please feel free to comment.

Good luck and let us know more about this bridge.  🙂

Link to the bridge: http://bridgehunter.com/in/porter/coffee-creek/

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 89: Howe Bedstead Truss Bridge in Muscatine

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The 89th mystery bridge takes us back to Iowa and to a town of Muscatine. Located along the Mississippi River, the town of 22,886 inhabitants prides itself on its historic buildings in downtown, the riverfront and the lone LED-lit bridge in the Norman Beckley Bridge, the lone Mississippi River crossing that carries vehicular traffic into Illinois. Natural inhabitant areas, such as areas along the Iowa River and Wildcat Den State Park make the county seat in southeastern Iowa a treat for boaters and drivers alike.

This mystery bridge was discovered by fellow bridgehunter Luke Harden and is located directly in Muscatine. This pony truss span features two Howe designs that have welded connections, with a length totalling not more than 60 feet long. The width is not more than 14 feet. Spanning Geneva Creek west of Issett Avenue, the bridge connects Hilltop Baptist Church on the western bank with a towing company on the eastern bank. According to Harden, the bridge first appeared on a USGS map in 1951 and had been in the middle of farmland prior to the urbanization effect, which followed after 1960.  Yet looking at the rust and the riveted/welded connections of the bridge itself, it is very likely that it was constructed much earlier but at a different location. Estimates of the bridge’s age ranges from between 80 and 110 years old. Many bridge companies in the region constructed these bridges between 1905 and 1925, including the Stupp Brothers Company in St. Louis and the King Bridge Company in Cleveland. Yet there is no real information as to who built this bridge and when. However, a similar bridge exists at a park in Henry County, approximately 40 miles to the southeast. There the bridge build date goes back to 1907 but on a farm road. It was relocated to its present site a decade ago.

This leads us to the question of when this bridge was relocated to its present site and from which place of origin. Also important is when it was constructed, aside from the fact that estimates are narrowed to between 1905 and 1920.

Can you solve this case? Feel free to provide some clues and informatiop. A page where the bridge is located is here, which includes a map.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 89: Howe Bedstead Truss Bridge in Muscatine

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The 89th mystery bridge takes us back to Iowa and to a town of Muscatine. Located along the Mississippi River, the town of 22,886 inhabitants prides itself on its historic buildings in downtown, the riverfront and the lone LED-lit bridge in the Norman Beckley Bridge, the lone Mississippi River crossing that carries vehicular traffic into Illinois. Natural inhabitant areas, such as areas along the Iowa River and Wildcat Den State Park make the county seat in southeastern Iowa a treat for boaters and drivers alike.

This mystery bridge was discovered by fellow bridgehunter Luke Harden and is located directly in Muscatine. This pony truss span features two Howe designs that have welded connections, with a length totalling not more than 60 feet long. The width is not more than 14 feet. Spanning Geneva Creek west of Issett Avenue, the bridge connects Hilltop Baptist Church on the western bank with a towing company on the eastern bank. According to Harden, the bridge first appeared on a USGS map in 1951 and had been in the middle of farmland prior to the urbanization effect, which followed after 1960.  Yet looking at the rust and the riveted/welded connections of the bridge itself, it is very likely that it was constructed much earlier but at a different location. Estimates of the bridge’s age ranges from between 80 and 110 years old. Many bridge companies in the region constructed these bridges between 1905 and 1925, including the Stupp Brothers Company in St. Louis and the King Bridge Company in Cleveland. Yet there is no real information as to who built this bridge and when. However, a similar bridge exists at a park in Henry County, approximately 40 miles to the southeast. There the bridge build date goes back to 1907 but on a farm road. It was relocated to its present site a decade ago.

This leads us to the question of when this bridge was relocated to its present site and from which place of origin. Also important is when it was constructed, aside from the fact that estimates are narrowed to between 1905 and 1920.

Can you solve this case? Feel free to provide some clues and informatiop. A page where the bridge is located is here, which includes a map.

Mystery Bridge Nr. 82: Bienertstrasse Bridge near Dresden, Germany

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Bienertstrasse Bridge in Dresden (suburb: Plauen). Photos taken in June 2017

Our next mystery bridge is a diamond in the rough, in a literal sense of the word. When travelling along the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate by train, one can find a lot of surprises along the way, especially as far as bridges are concerned. I have a couple tour guides in the making that prove this theory. Some of the surprises a person can see along the way are hidden and requires some bridgehunting, as was the case with Glauchau. But this mystery bridge was a one found purely by chance.

Located 1.5 hours east that city along the rail line, this bridge spans the Weisseritz River in the suburb of Plauen, located between Dresden and Freital, the former having jurisdiction. The street it carries is Bienertstrasse, and it is located 350 meters southeast of the S-bahn station Dresden-Plauen (light rail is the English equivalent).  The bridge is part of the local bike trail network that extends from Dresden through Freital and then through Rabenau Forest going uphill.

Looking at the structure itself, the bridge is a Howe lattice pony truss with welded connections. The endposts are vertical but have a slight curve towards the top, resembling a bottle with a thin rectangular block on top. There are curved gusset plates at the top and bottom chords as well as the mid-point in the panel where the diagonal beams intersect. Engraved geometrical designs are noticeable in the end posts, which if following the patterns of the truss bridge design, places the construction date to between 1880 and 1900. Yet postcards and old photos indicated that the bridge was built in 1893, replacing a brick arch bridge, which was washed away by flash floods. Despite 80% of the city being destroyed during World War II, much of which came with the infamous air raid of 13 February 1945, which turned the once Baroque city into a blazing inferno and wiped out 60% of the city’s population, this bridge retains its pristine form and is still open to traffic.

But for how long?

Already there has been talk about replacing this bridge because of the need to open another crossing and relieve traffic at the neighboring ones at Würzburger Strasse and Altplauen Strasse, each of which are 400 meters away from this bridge in each direction. The bridge had been damaged by the Great Flood of 2002, which wiped out every other bridge in its path and damaging one in three of the remaining crossings to a point where replacement was a necessity.  Given its proximity to the mountain areas and to Dresden, the Weisseritz is notorious for its flash floods, which has caused city planners to consider long-term planning to encourage the free-flow of water enroute to the Elbe River, 8 kilometers from the site of this bridge. Given the densely populated area of the suburbs lining along the Weisseritz, it would make the most sense. However, opponents of the plan to replace the Biernertstrasse Bridge disagree. Apart from its historic significance, many, including the German bike association ADFC, have claimed that there is not enough traffic to justify replacing the bridge. In addition, the bridge serves as a key link for bikers going to other suburbs or even to Dresden itself. Given the high number of cyclists pedaling their way around the metropolitan area, combined with an ever-growing network of bike trails, that argument is well-justified.

For now, the bridge is safe and open to cyclists and pedestrians. Yet it is unknown if this bridge will remain a fixed crossing or if it will be lifted 1-2 meters as was the case with the Red Bridge in Des Moines, or if it will be replaced. What may serve as insurance and keep the developers’ hands off the structure is listing it as a technical monument in accordance to the German Historic Preservation Laws.  Yet despite its unique design and the fact that the bridge was built in 1893, we don’t know who was behind the design and construction of this bridge. And therefore, we need your help.

What do you know about this bridge? What about its predecessor? Tell us about it. The photos and the map with the location of the bridge is below. 🙂

Author’s Pics:

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 62: An Abandoned Bridge in Harrison County, IA

Kelly Lane Bridge This and the following photos courtesy of Craig Guttau, used with permission
Kelly Lane Bridge This and the following photos courtesy of Craig Guttau, used with permission

After a long absence, the mystery bridge series takes us back to Harrison County, Iowa. Except the main focus is not on the Buellton Bridges that made their way to the county and all but one of which have vanished into the history books. Nor does it have to do with the Orr Bridge, which met its unexpected end at the hands of the tornado in 1999, after serving the county for 40+ years. The mystery bridge we’re looking at is located only three miles east of Logan, which is not only the county seat but was also nearly wiped out by the same tornado.

When one turns right onto 240th Street from US Hwy. 30 and drives 1.5 miles east, then one will find the structure on the right hand side. According to Googlemaps, it is on Pontiac Lane, just 400 feet south over a small creek, surrounded by three farmsteads. When looking at the bridge closely, one can rule out the Warren type right away as the Warren truss has W-framed diagonals. Judging by the number of panels the bridge has (ca. 10 panels) one can assume that the through truss bridge is either a Pratt, Whipple or even Howe type. Further descriptions of the bridge- the portal bracing and whether the bridge is pin-connected or riveted- cannot be seen from a distance.

Yet, the history of the bridge is similar to the ones mentioned in earlier articles. According to Craig Guttau, the bridge spans a small creek and may have been imported to the county in the 1940s. It served traffic for 20-30 years before being replaced with a concrete culvert, while realigning the road at the same time. The purpose of a straightened road was to eliminate sharp curves and accommodate farm traffic. But when the bridge was built and when it was abandoned in favor of the culvert are still open to be solved.

Can you help?

The task is simple: We need photos and information on the bridge, using the data below. You can post your photos on the Chronicles’ facebook pages, send the information to Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact info provided in the About page, or post the info on the Bridgehunter.com page. In either case, bird’s eye views are good, close-up shots are better, but the stories behind the bridge’s life is always the best. Let’s complete the story about this bridge, shall we?

 

Source Links:

https://goo.gl/maps/DJBXRgn3wis

http://www.bing.com/mapspreview?&cp=qy90n070pptd&lvl=20&dir=270&style=b&v=2&sV=1&form=S00027

http://www.bridgehunter.com/ia/harrison/bh70169/

 

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The Bridges of Zeitz, Germany

Haynsburg Bridge. Photos taken in March 2015
Haynsburg Bridge. Photos taken in March 2015

Located along the River White Elster in eastern Saxony-Anhalt, the city of Zeitz, with ist population of 29,000 inhabitants, represents one oft he dying cities in the former East Germany. High unemployment, empty buildings, abandoned industries and a crumbling infrastructure, combined with historic buildings dating back to the 1800s that are sitting empty are what a person can see when passing through the city. Most of its main traffic has been diverted away from the city, and the only rail service in Zeitz are the lines connecting the city with Weissenfels, Gera and Leipzig- all privately owned and localized.

Yet the city scape of Zeitz has, for the most part been in tact, thus making it the venue for many films produced that require an East German scene or story. Despite their emptiness, many historic buildings in the city center are worth visiting and perhaps occupying with businesses and housing. Even the Moritzburg Castle and the nearby mills and churches, built during the Baroque period, still entertain guests because of their charm. You can also try the local wine from the vineyards located along the rugged Elster Bike Trail.

And then, there are the historic bridges.

At least a dozen bridges exist along the White Elster within a 10 km radius of the city, six of which can be found directly in Zeitz. Two thirds of them are at least 70 years of age or older. Yet all but two of them have been mentioned in the history books or by the International Structure Database in Berlin (structurae.net) which is part of the Wiley and Sons Publishing Conglomerate. While much of the records have disappeared because of World War II and later the Socialist regime, the structures profiled here are unique in its design and historic value. Most of the bridges are arches, but there are a couple girders and trusses that are worth mentioning as well. Each one lacks the most basic in terms of the date of the builders, their dimensions and for the most part, the stories behind them and their affiliation with the communities and castles they serve. Henceforth, this tour will profile each of the bridges in and around the Zeitz area, starting with the bridges near Crossen to the south and ending at Elsterau to the north. All but three of the bridges profiled in this tour guide are along the Elster. One of the bridges, the Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge, has already been profiled separately in a Mystery Bridge article and will therefore be omitted from this article. A link to this bridge can be found here.

We’ll start off with the first of two bridges in the village of Crossen, both of which can be reached by bike:

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Rauda Bridge at Crossen:

This bridge spans Rauda Creek, approximately a half kilometer south of the White Elster crossing. The bridge is approximately 15 meters long and six meters wide, good enough for a bike trail. The bridge is a stone arch design that probably dates back to the 1800s, when it was used for horse and buggy, serving a trail between Crossen and Silbitz. Later it was used for farm vehicles, but as the fields nearby are located in the flood plain of the Elste were therefore rendered useless, the trail was eventually converted into the bike trail connecting Crossen and Gera to the south. The bridge still remains in great condition despite its age and is a great place to stop for a picnic or even good photo opportunity, as seen with this photo.

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Crossen Bridge:

Spanning the Elster River, the Crossen Bridge features a deck arch bridge made of brick and concrete, and features seven arch spans totalling 130 meters long. The longest arch span (the center span) is approximately 30 meters long. The bridge’s spandrel is all made of concrete, whereby the arches were built of brick. While the bridge has been renovated as recently as 10 years ago, the date of the original construction of the bridge goes back to between 1900 and 1920. Records indicated that an attempt to implode the structure by the Nazis in 1945 in an attempt to stop the march of the Soviet troops only for the local residents to splice the wiring to the bombs in order to sabotage their attempts. The Nazis surrendered on 7 May, 1945 but not before their leader Adolf Hitler and many of his close friends committed suicide in order to avoid prosecution by the Allies. The bridge continued to be in service until recent renovations where sidewalks were added and the roadway was narrowed. Today, the bridge provides only one-way traffic controlled by traffic lights on each end. Yet it has no load limits, thus allowing for all kinds of traffic to cross, as seen in the photos below:

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Haynsburg Bridge:

Spanning the White Elster on the  road going to Haynsburg Castle to the east, this bridge features five arch spans totalling approximately 200 meters, the longest center arch span is around 50 meters. That span is flanked with two door-like openings on each corner, embedded into the piers, resembling an embedded pavillion on each corner. It is unknown what the original atructure looked like before World War II, but the date of construction goes back to 1911, according to local records. The bridge is one of three works of art one should see while in Haynsburg. The castle is three kilometers up the hill from the bridge. A train station along the rail line between Leipzig and Gera has a decorative lounge, even though trains no longer stop there. Haynsburg itself was a target of a witch hunt, for in 1624, one of the residents was burned at the stake for witchcraft.  Since 2010, Haynsburg is part of a local conglomerate that includes two other villages. The town is only a handful that has witnessed steady population growth for it has 580 inhabitants. The bridge itself will be rehabilitated come 2018 with the purpse of improving its load capacity and its aesthetic value.

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Bahnhofsbrücke:

Spanning the White Elster River, this pedestrian bridge connects the train station with the park complex along the river next to the city center in Zeitz. While travelling along the river along the Elster Bike Trail, this bridge is one of the two most visible structures near the vicinity of the train station. The bridge has a bedstead Pratt pony truss with welded connections. Judging by its aesthetic appearance, the structure appears to be at least 10 years old but no older than 20. It is unknown whether a previous structure had occurred there but because of the prescence of the pavillion across the river from the station, it may be possible that a structure had existed beforehand, but was either destroyed during World War II and was not rebuilt before 1990 or it fell into disarray during the socialist regime and was consequentially removed. But more information is needed to determine whether a previous structure existed prior to this one.

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Untere Promenade Bridge:

Located over the Mühlgraben Creek at the confluence with the White Elster, this bridge is located right next to the aforementioned  Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge. The bridge serves the Elster Bike Trail but it is unknown when the bridge was built. It would be unusual to have a bridge exist alongside the pavillion bridge for a long period of time, so one must assume the bridge was built after World War II, especially because of the ballustrades that were remodelled. Yet more information is needed to determine whether the bridge was built in modern times to replace the pavillion bridge or if it was built at about the same time, especially as arch bridges were very common up until 1915. The author’s prediction is that the bridge was built to mimick the pavillion bridge in the 1950s or 60s to accomodate a trail running alongside the river. In either case, both bridges retain a high degree of historic and aesthetical value that it is worth stopping to photograph.

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Geschwister Scholl Brücke

This is perhaps the most ornamental of the bridges along the White Elster River between Gera and Leipzig, for the 250 meter long seven-span concrete arch bridge provides the best access from the train station to Moritzburg Castle by car. The bridge has stone keystones and seal engravings above the piers. Its ballustrades are similar to the Untere Promenade Bridge and were redone most recently (10-15 years ago). Finials can be found on both ends of the bridge, but more unique and unusual is the lighting on the bridge- only one pair of lanterns are located at the very center of the span, but built on cast iron poles with a unique ornamental design.

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Judging by the age of the bridge, it appears to have been built between 1890 and 1915, yet when looking more closely at the structure ‘s center span in comparison with the outer ones, the bridge appeared to have been rebuilt after the war, as the Nazis blew up the center span in an attempt to slow the advancement of Soviet troops. The bridge and street itself were named in honor of Sophie and Frank Scholl, siblings who led the White Rose movement, a group whose purpose was to create an uprising against the Hitler regime. They were arrested and executed in 1944, along with dozens of other members of the movement. Yet the Nazi government ceased to exist with Germany’s surrender on 7 May, 1945. Hitler committed suicide a week prior to the fall.

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Tiergarten Pedestrian Bridge

Spanning the White Elster east of town, the Tiergarten Pedestrian Bridge is one of the most unique of spans, as the bridge features two Howe spans meeting in the middle. The center of each Howe span is supported by one steel pier but the outer ends are anchored by concrete piers. The truss itself has bedstead end posts and features welded connections. Lighting  illuminates the bridge. The bridge appears to be one of the younger spans, being built in the 1990s, but it is located near a small park on the north end of the river. It also serves as the division point for two sections of the trail. The older section of the Elster Bike Trail crosses this bridge before turning left and heading to Tröglitz. A newer portion of the trail does not cross the bridge but continues north past the park towards Massnitz and Zangenberg, tunneling through the forest along the way. Both paths have historic bridges along the way to photograph.

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Rehmsdorf Railroad Bridges

Located over the White Elster at the railroad crossing just outside the village of Tröglitz (1 km east of Zeitz), the Rehmsdorf Railroad Bridge features two different bridges. The river crossing, which one can see at the railroad crossing, consists of two Warren pony truss spans with vertical beams and riveted connections. Just 100 meters from that bridge is a deck plate girder bridge with eight spans, spanning a stream that empties into the White Elster. Both bridges, dating back to the 1920s, can be seen from the road connecting Tröglitz to the east and Zeitz to the west, and as the older stretch of the Elster Bike Trail runs parallel to the road, bikers and photographers have the best view of the two bridges with the camera. The bridges once served a rail line connecting Zeitz with Meuselwitz via Tröglitz and Rehmsdorf. Unfortunately, flooding caused the collapse of three of the plate girder spans resulting in the closure of the bridge and the rail line. Most likely the collapse happened during the most recent flooding in 2013. It is unknown whether that bridge will be replaced and the line reopened. But given the availability of bus service in the area, chances of anything happening with the line are slim.

Deck plate girder spans
Deck plate girder spans

Close-up of the collapsed spans.
Close-up of the collapsed spans.

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Börnitz/ Massnitz Railroad Bridge:

Leaving the Zeitz area and heading north along the White Elster, we have this bridge, located only four kilometers from the one at Tröglitz. Even stranger is the fact that even though it is located near Massnitz and Börnitz, it also served the line that ran in a loop fashion going north from Zeitz, then looping onto this bridge before heading south to join the line that eventually terminates at Meuselwitz. This leads to the question of whether this bridge was the original crossing serving the line between Zeitz and Meuselwitz before it was eventually realigned to go past Tröglitz and replaced by the aforementioned bridge. If that is the case, then when did the replacement take place? The author’s hunch: as this bridge features two concrete arch spans over the river, supported by 10 (approach) spans of steel deck plate girders (summing up the length to about 1 kilometer), and the piers of the approach spans look much newer than the arch spans (which most likely dates back to a time up to 1890), the structure was originally an arch span (probably 10-12 spans counting the two spans over the river). All but the two river spans were blown up (most likely by the Nazis in 1945), and while Soviet troops tried to rebuild this bridge, a temporary bridge at Tröglitz (the one mentioned earlier) was built, which later because its permanent replacement. While more evidence is needed to support this argument, Adolf Hitler’s plan of destroying everything in the path of the Allied troops, known as operation Nero, is known throughout the circle of German historians. Nero was enacted at the dismay of even his closest allies, shortly before his suicide in 1945, but failed when even the locals realized that the war was all lost and sabotaged the attempts of the Nazi soldiers to blow up the bridges. 80% of Germany’s remaining bridges were destroyed as part of the plan, only 10% of them could ever be restored. It is uncertain whether this bridge was one of the 80%, but it would not have been surprising if evidence points to that. In either case, the bridge is accessible via street and bike route connecting Tröglitz and Massnitz on the east side of the river as well as the new Elster Trail between Börnitz and Zeitz.

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Close-up of the arch spans. How old do you think they are?

The arch spans behind the trees. Photo taken from the newer stretch of the Elster Bike Trail
The arch spans behind the trees. Photo taken from the newer stretch of the Elster Bike Trail

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Göbitz Mühlgraben Bridge:

Located over Mühlgraben Creek just 500 meters from its confluence with the White Elster, this bridge appears to be one of the oldest remaining structures in the Zeitz region. The 25 meter long structure features a trapezoidal style concrete arch bridge, which is typical of bridges built in the 1800s. The bridge may have been built to serve horse and buggy traffic between Börnitz and Göbitz until newer highways diverted it away from this crossing. Although it still serves pedestrian, cyclar and farming traffic today, spalling cracks in the spandrels and the wingwalls show that some structural rehabilitation is needed in order for it to accomodate traffic in the future. Whether or not it will happen remains to be seen.

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Elsterau Pedestrian Bridge:

The last bridge profiled on the tour is this crossing. Spanning the White Elster River, this wooden pony arch span serves not only the Elster Bike Trail but also the trails connecting Börnitz and Göbnitz. The bridge was most likely built between 2008 and 2012 for it appears new to the eyes of the tourists. In either case, the bridge serves as a new addition to the village of Börnitz, which is a quiet community with just a handful of shops.

A map of the bridges can be found via Google Map, by clicking here:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zE70H-hBCaFg.kBi4SDJUWfjk

To summarize this tour, the bridges in and around Zeitz, most of which are located along the White Elster, represent the charm and historic value that best fits the landscape of the area. These structures have a history of their own, many of which are worth researching, for the information on them are scarce. But as you bike along the Elster Bike Trail, you will find that these structures are worth biking for, even if the trail can be rugged at times. Yet these bridges are only a handful of the structures one should see in neighboring Leipzig (to the north) as well as Gera (to the south). Henceforth, never skip a stop for each one is full of surprises that are worth spending a few minutes of your time for. Zeitz is one of those forgotten examples that should not be forgotten.

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Swing Bridge in Lübeck to be Rehabilitated

Photo taken in October 2013

Lübeck, Germany-  It is touted as the third oldest swing bridge in Germany and one of the last two swing bridges remaining in Schleswig-Holstein. Now the 1892 Drehbrücke, spanning the Trave River between Lübeck’s suburbs of St. Lorenz and the City Center (or Altstadt (Old Town)) is receiving a much-needed facelift.

The Crane ENAK lifted the truss span out of the water and the structure was transported to an undisclosed location, where it will be rehabilitated. The three curved Howe trusses (the center one dividing the street) will be sandblasted and redone, while the hydraulic motorwill be overhauled. The project is expected to take seven months to complete at a cost of 3.6 million Euros, and will cause some headaches for travellers having to use the Holsten Bridge and Puppebrücke, both located 1 kilometer south of the crossing to drive to St. Lorenz, as Willy Brandt Alle, where the bridge is located, will be closed during the reconstruction period.

Listed as a German Heritage Site, the Drehbrücke once served as a joint railroad and street crossing until the 1980s when the line was abandoned and the bridge became a two-way divided crossing. Its mechanism features a hydraulic motor, which lifts the bridge 16 meters before the rollers turn the bridge to a 70° angle. A video showing the bridge in the open position before closing can be found here:

This is the second bridge that Lübeck is replacing or restoring since 2013. The Posehlbrücke spanning the Elbe-Lübeck Canal in the eastern part of Lübeck was replaced last year, despite being built in 1956. The City is catching up on rehabilitating or replacing many of its bridges because of structural deficiencies found in the inspection reports so far, trying to eliminate the title of the “Stadt der Maroden Brücken” (Raw translation: City of Broken Down Bridges). But recognizing the structural integrity and historic significance of the bridge together with it popularity among residents, the city has taken a conservative approach and is keeping a piece of history by giving it a much-needed rehabilitation, so that it can serve traffic for another 122 years. And it is no surprise: the bridge will be 125 years old in 2017 and by that time, the it will function just like new- right in time for the celebration. 🙂  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you updated on the progress of this bridge.

A video captioning the lifting of the bridge can be seen below, but German station NDR1 has pictures of the event, which you can click here.

Last year, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles did a special coverage on Lübeck’s historic bridges, including this bridge. More on the bridges that should be visited can be found here. They include pictures which you can click on the links for access. The city’s bridges finished in second place on the international scale and third all around in the Othmar H. Ammann Awards last year under the category of City Tour Guide.

 

Dunlap’s Creek Bridge to be Rehabilitated

Side view. Photo courtesy of the HABS HAER Record

At first, the bridge seems to be a typical steel arch bridge in a small Pennsylvania community of Brownsville, located approximately 40 miles south of Pittsburgh, along the Monogahela River. However, instead of tearing down the structure, as it has been described in a textbook fashion by PennDOT, this bridge is due to be rehabilitated.

So what’s so special about Dunlap’s Creek Bridge, an 80-foot long bridge that reminds the author of the Blackfriar’s Road Bridge in London?

The bridge is definitely older than Blackfriar’s Road Bridge. It was built in 1869 and still serves traffic over the River Thames.

This bridge was built much earlier- 1839, to be exact!

Dunlap was the product of Captain Richard Delafield, the person who designed the bridge. The bridge consists of a Howe Lattice deck arch bridge, made of cast iron that was manufactured by Herbertson Foundry in town. Keys and Searight were the contractors for the bridge. The bridge was built 60 years after the first cast iron bridge in the world was constructed at Coalbrookdale, England, the structure that is still standing today. Yet Dunlap set the standard for the following developments:

1. The bridge set the standard for the introduction of the Howe Truss, designed and patented by William Howe in 1840, one year later. It is possible that Howe either influenced Delafield into using this design or used this bridge as a reference for his design.

2. The bridge was used as references for other arch bridges of this fashion, for hundreds of bridges of this type were used for crossings, big and small, in the US and Europe, built between the 1850s and 1900, a fraction of which are still standing today.

HABS HAER

The bridge is the first one to be built in the USA, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978 and is one of 76 bridges honored internationally for its unique design and historic significance. Now the 1839 bridge, which took three years to build and is the fourth crossing at this site, is scheduled to be rehabilitated. Plans are in the making to strengthen the arches, replace the roadway, and there is a possibility that the encasement installed in the 1920s will be removed, exposing the covered half of the cast iron arch. No details of how the bridge will exactly be restored, but PennDOT is looking at the restoration cost of up to $3.7 million, according to a report from the Post Gazette in Pittsburgh. The plan is to make it more attractive for tourists once the project is completed.

Builder’s plaque. Photo taken by James Baughn

A link with all the information about the bridge and its history can be found here. The Chronicles will keep you updated on the project as it comes.

 

K-Truss Bridge

Before I go into the topic on K-truss bridges, the second of many to come in a series on unusual bridge designs, I would like to tell you how I managed to come across this bridge, located over the Monongahela River near the town of Speers in western Pennsylvania. I did a paper on this subject during my time of my Master’s studies at the University of Jena in eastern Germany and sent out a request on the topic of K-truss bridges to the Bridge Mafia, as Eric DeLony coined it- a group of hundreds of bridge experts with a vast knowledge of bridges, history and preservation.  Already I knew of the number of K-trusses that existed in Oklahoma, according to Wes Kinser’s website on Oklahoma’s historic truss bridges. Yet I did not know that there was a bridge like this, built in the 1920s carrying the Wabash-Erie Railroad. Given its proximity to the I-70 Belle Vernon Bridge located right next to it, combined with many problems trying to get to the bridge for the best shot, I took the chance and hugged the pier of the I-70 Bridge, sliding and creeping around with my body literally glued to it and with almost no space to turn around. Fellow pontists Nathan Holth and Luke Gordon, who were bridgehunting with me at that time, were at the scene and the photos speak for themselves.

KTruss 1
The following two photos were taken by Nathan Holth

K-truss 2
Arriving at Destination: Ready, set, snap!

 

According to Kara Russell at PennDOT, this bridge is the only one left in the state, and one of only a couple left in the country, whereas the K-truss bridges seen on the roadways in the country are solely through trusses. But what makes a K-truss so unique?  It is clear that the truss type is a cross between a Parker and a Pennsylvania petit but feature two subdivided diagonal beams per panel that meet at the center of the vertical beam, featuring the letter “K” in the alphabet. There are two types of K-trusses that exist: one that features the subdivided beams going outwards away from the center of the span, creating a rhombus shape at the center of the span, as seen in the bridge at Speers. Yet the other type features subdivided beams going inwards, towards the center of the span, creating the letter “X”.  This truss design is one of three that feature diagonal beams resembling a letter in an alphabet. The other two are the Warren (with the W-shape) and the Howe lattice or double-intersecting Warren, which feature the letter X. Technically, a two-panel Warren truss design, resembling the letter V also counts in the mix.

K-truss1
Close-up oblique view of the K-truss as seen with the Speers Railroad Bridge. Note, like the bridges in Oklahoma and Tennessee, the connections on this bridge are riveted.

 

Example of the first type of K-truss that exists, except the Speers Bridge has a sub-divided Rhombus shape

 

Little is known about the K-truss bridge design except to mention that it was invented by Phelps Johnson of the Dominion Bridge Company in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. According to information collected to date, the K-truss came into existence in the United States during the age of Standardization in the 1920s. During that time, fancier but structurally deficient truss designs, such as the Thacher, Kellogg and Whipple trusses, were either phased out or modified with heavier truss beams and riveted connections with the goal of handling heavier volumes of traffic. Apart from the bridge near Speers, Tennessee and Louisiana were the first two states that introduced and built K-trusses in the 1920s and 30s.  Oklahoma began to adopt this truss design in the mid-1930s but its construction reached its peak during the 1940s and 50s.  As many as 54 of these K-truss bridges were reportedly built in that state during that time period, three out of four of which are still standing today, making it the state with the highest number of K-trusses. Bridges featuring the K-truss include:

Washita Bridge in Johnston County

Salt Creek Bridge in Osage County

Ralston Bridge

Alaska is the youngest state to implement the usage of K-trusses, as five bridges were built along the two main highways (Parks and Richardson) with the longest being a three-span 1300-foot bridge near Nenana (the main span being 500 feet).  Each of the five bridges were built between 1966 and 68 and are still in use.  And lastly, K-trusses were used on cantilever truss spans, including the Savanna-Sabula Bridge spanning the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois. Built in 1932 by the Minneapolis Bridge Company, the Sab-Sav served traffic until a replacement bridge, a through arch built alongside the structure, was opened to traffic in 2017. On March 8, 2018, the old bridge was demolished.

The Sab-Sav Bridge before its replacement came along. Photo taken in January 2015.

Even though Phelps Johnson invented the K-truss, it is unknown when he first used it, for although the first of these trusses were built in the 1920s and 30s, there are reports that K-trusses existes in Europe as well. Two bridges in Germany carry the same truss design and appear to be either as old as the earliest of these truss bridges in the US, if not older. This includes the Rhine River crossing near Mainz at the junction of the Main and Rhine Rivers. The other is a railroad bridge in Passau, spanning the Danube River, connecting the town with an industrial district in Austria. Both bridges carry rail traffic but the Mainz crossing is one of the heaviest used bridges in the greater Frankfurt area, for it serves regional and long distance train services connecting Mainz and Wiesbaden with Frankfurt and its international airport. It is possible that both bridges may have been built after World War II replacing previous structures that were destroyed by Allied bombings. Yet given the pristine condition of the towering portal entries in Mainz combined with the wear and tear of the trusses, it is possible that both these bridges may have existed before the war and somewhat survived the war in tact.   Ironically, while K-truss bridges are no longer being built in the US, they are still being used in Europe and elsewhere as an alternative to more expensive bridge types, such as arch and suspension bridges. This includes the Novi Sad Bridge in Serbia (built in 2000), The Tamur River Bridge in Dharan in Nepal (built in the 1980s), and The Ganga River Bridge in Patna, India (currently being built).

This takes us back to the deck truss railroad bridge near Speers, which is still being used for rail traffic even as this is being posted. While Phelps Johnson invented the truss bridge design, questions remain when the first bridge was built using the design and where. It is impossible to invent the truss type during the time he was alive (he was born in 1849) and not use it, like the other engineers had done with theirs, including the Thacher Truss as seen in the article here.  It is possible that despite a handful of bridges being built in his time that the truss bridge design was shelved for a few decades before being rediscovered and modernized during the age of Standardization in the 1920s, in which it made its comeback through the 1960s before jumping overseas. But more information is needed to answer the questions, mainly:

1. When exactly did Phelps Johnson invent the K-truss bridge? When and where was it first used?

2. When was the K-truss rediscovered and used again during the age of Standardization? (Note: pending on which state, the age started around 1915 and lasted until World War II)

3. Apart from the ones in the United States, where else have K-trusses been used in Europe, Asia and elsewhere and why are they used more commonly there?

4. What do we know about Phelps Johnson and his work as engineer and bridge builder? He had worked for the Wrought Iron Bridge Company prior to taking the presidency at the Dominion Bridge Company.

Any information pertaining to the K-truss can be submitted via e-mail, but also through facebook and LinkedIn. Who knows how many more K-trusses are/were out there but we do know that they were and are still popular for bridge construction. It is just a matter of finding out when it was used and why the design was on hiatus. Good luck with the research and that stunt I told you about: Don’t do this at home. We’re die hard professionals that have a passion for finding the truth and beauty behind these artifacts, no matter what the cost…

N Holth
Photo taken from the pier of the Belle Vernon I-70 Bridge in Speers

It was a good thing that Nathan Holth (pictured here) still had photos of my daring act and sent me a few to be used in the article (I’d had a couple from him earlier that disappeared with an old computer that crashed after the Historic Bridge Weekend in Pittsburgh) and would like to thank him for providing me with the spares to be used and saved for story-telling purposes. 

Another round of thanks goes to the Bridge Mafia for their help in obtaining the K-truss info so far and to Kara Russell at PennDOT for mentioning the Speers Bridge.

 

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