Trucker Gets Jail Time for Destroying Historic Bridge

Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana. Photo taken by James Baughn

Trucker to serve six months for driving overweight truck across the Gospel Street Bridge. Bridge being rebuilt.

INDIANAPOLIS-  Sometimes the price to pay for ignorance can be the most painful.  When a person misses a turn-off and tries a short cut, it turns out to be the longest odessy of her life. For Mary Lambright, the trucker who drove across the historic Gospel Street Bridge in a semi-truck laden with bottled water on Christmas Day 2015, dropping the structure built by the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company in 1880 into Lick Creek, that short cut she took will cost her time and then some.

According to multiple resources, Indiana District Judge R. Michael Cloud sentenced Ms. Lambright to six months in prison. In addition, she is to pay $2000 in damages to the structure, to be paid once the bridge is rebuilt. Ms. Lambright, 24, and a 17-year old passenger missed a turn-off enroute to Wal-mart and took a short-cut that led to the bridge on Christmas Day. Not knowing what six tons meant on the sign, she continued to cross the bridge at 30 mph, resulting in the top trailer being sheered off by the bridge’s overhead bracings and the bridge collapsing into the creek. Neither of the two were injured. The trucking company, based in Louisville, later went out of business because of liability claims involving the bridge but not before having fired Lambright right after the incident. Ms. Lambright apoligized to the court at the time of the sentencing, stating: I’m really, really sorry about what happened and, if I could go back and do it over again, I wouldn’t be so stupid.

The Gospel Street Bridge is currently being rebuilt, piece-by-piece, to its original form, using the money provided by the insurance company that had once protected the trucking company she used to work for. The bridge is expected to be completely rebuilt and open to traffic by the beginning of July. With the sentencing handed down and the eventual return of the historic bridge to a small Indiana community, it will provide a closure to an incident that has been a focus of discussion about how to better train semi-truck drivers (how to avoid restricted areas and drive safely and responsibly), especially as the Gospel Street Bridge had served as the key artery into the business district. For those who have close ties to the bridge, they will be the lucky ones as they will win their historic bridge back- something that seldom happens to historic bridges in the US in this use-damage-throw away age of travel and consumption.

Author’s Note: What do you know about the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company in terms of its years in business, its founder and examples of other bridges built? The Chronicles is putting together a bridge builders directory that will contain a summary of the history of the companies and engineers who contributed to almost 200 years of bridge building in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. If you have any information about this company, please contact Jason Smith at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. A link will also suffice. You can find this directory on its wordpress page by clicking here.

 

 

Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis, Indiana

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Boyd Bridge at Greensburg City Park in Craig, Indiana- a fine product of CSBC. Photo taken by Tony Dillon

This article is in connection with the creation of the database for the Bridge Builder’s Directory in the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ wordpress page, which you can click here to view.

Indiana, together with Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York, were considered the big six in terms of steel construction and bridge building during the heyday of architectural and infrastructural expansion between 1880 and 1920. Steel mills were found between Minneapolis and Pittsburgh, including the metropolises of Chicago, Indianapolis, Canton and Cleveland. Several schools of bridge building existed, which churned out the finest bridge builders and businessmen in the field. This included the Indiana school, which had over a dozen bridge builders, including the longest known bridge builder in the state, The Central States Bridge Company (CSBC). But what do we know about the company and its founder to date?

The company was created in 1895 as the New Castle Steel Sewer Pipe Company by Eugene Runyan and others, with its headquarters in New Castle, IN. It later expanded its services and began building bridges. In 1897,  in response to the changing trends in infrastructural work that included the increasing demand for metal truss bridges, the company changed its name to New Castle Bridge Company and would later receive contracts for bridge building in Iowa, Virginia, and Michigan. In 1905, the company relocated to Indianapolis and was renamed the Central States Bridge Company. Prior to World War I, the bridge company constructed dozens of bridges of its kind in 10 states, including: Indiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Montana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Nebraska and New York.

Lilleberg Bridge
Lilleberg Bridge in Jackson County, MN (1910-1976) Source: Jackson Co. Hwy. Dept.

Many of these bridges have been either documented by the State Historical Societies, HABS/HAER or both and are either listed on the National Register of Historic Places or are considered eligible. Yet many of these CSBC bridges are disappearing fast as they have been either replaced or demolished in the past 20 years. This includes the following bridges:

Lefarge Bridge in Wisconsin: This bridge used to be the Hudson Toll Bridge until it was relocated in 1953 to its final destination. It was documented by HABS/HAER before it was removed in 1983.

Standing Rock Bridge in Montana: This three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge was one of the key historic sites along the Yellowstone River until its replacement in 1991

Little Flatrock Bridge in Indiana: Decatur County was CSBC’s primary customer as a half dozen of its bridges were built there between 1900 and 1916. This one had a fancy portal bracing, yet efforts to save the bridge from the wrecking ball failed, as the bridge was removed in 2000 after its replacement was built. However, the Applegate Bridge has a similar feature and is in storage, awaiting relocation for reuse.

Lilleberg Bridge in Minnesota: The Lilleberg Bridge was one of the younger bridges built by Central States, for it was constructed in 1911. It was the fourth structure at the location and used to be a centerpiece for the now extant village of Belmont. Sadly, flood damage in 1969 resulted in its replacement in 1976 on a new alignment. One can still see the lally columns from the current structure today.

 

Structures that are still standing include:

Boyd Bridge in Indiana: This used to span Sand Creek at CR 700 before it was relocated to Greensburg Park in Craig in 2006, nicely restored and now part of a bike path.

Bernadotte Bridge in Illinois: This bridge features a Pratt through truss and a Pratt pony truss. Damaged by the flooding along the Spoon River, the pony truss span was taken out of the river and placed on blocks, while the through truss is still standing. Efforts are being undertaken to save the entire structure.

Locust Street Bridge in New York: Located in the town of Waterloo, this 1914 arch structure was the only known bridge of its kind built by CSBC and is still in service today.

Little is known what happened to the Central States except to say that even though the founder, Mr. Runyan, died in 1913, the business continued building bridges well into the 1970s and 80s, according to the Indiana Historical Society during the author’s correspondance in 2007. Whether the company still exists today, either as an independent entity or as part of a larger steel and/or bridge company remains unknown to date, nor do we have much information on the later structures built by CSBC.

If you know more about the company, especially regarding Euguene Runyan’s life and the company’s existence sice 1919 in terms of bridge examples, advertising or other information, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, under the following address: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Further information will be added to this page pending on the information that is received at that time.

In the meantime, check out the list of bridges built by CSBC by clicking on the following links below:

http://bridgehunter.com/category/builder/central-states-bridge-co/- Bridgehunter.com

Historic Bridges.org: Central States Bridge Company

 

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