Railroad Trestle in Illinois Coming Down

Photo taken by John Marvig in 2017

New Viaduct Nearing Completion. Old Viaduct to Come Down in March/ April

MEDIA, ILLINOIS- Railway Companies have been well known for abandoning and removing historic bridges for liability purposes. Even legendary historic bridge preservationist Eric DeLony had mentioned when the National Park Services and its division dealing with the National Register of Historic Places mentioned the possibilities of some bridges being historic, many of these companies would run to the opposite side of the room or lock themselves up in their own offices as a way of saying “Not Interested.” It’s a wonder that only a handful of structures have been preserved and many key ones, such as Portage Viaduct are coming down or have been removed.

Many of these railroad companies, such as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) have been systematically removing these historic bridges to make way for progress. The reason: Liability. If they cannot be used anymore, even if it’s historic, why keep it standing and risk lawsuits.

This logic is the driving force behind removing this viaduct. The Media Viaduct was built in 1894, spanning Ellison Creek just northeast of Media, running parallel to County Highway 5. Media has 107 inhabitants and is located 35 miles northeast of Fort Madison, Iowa. At the time of its construction, BNSF was once known as the Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, which later was purchased by Atchison Topeka Santa Fe as part of the project to extend the line from Chicago via Burlington to Kansas City. The viaduct had 15 towers and 15 spans, totaling 737 feet long, 80 feet high and the main span having 64 feet. Originally a one track crossing, the viaduct was expanded in 1907 to include another trach. This was done by extending the towers so that one track travels on the new portion; the other on the old one. More illustrations can be found on John Marvig’s website (click here for details). There is no information on the bridge builder, let alone who was responsible for the extensions on the viaduct.

Construction crews have been working on the new viaduct since early last year for a new one is needed to accomodate train traffic, where as many as 90 trains use this bridge daily. It will be a combination of steel beam bridges built on concrete piers, whose spans will be half as many as the historic viaducts. Because of the structure’s age and wear, the old viaduct will be decommissioned once the new viaduct opens in March. It will then be dismantled, piece by piece with the removal project to be finished by the end of April.

The Media Viaduct is the latest example of a historic bridge that will fall in the name of progress. And while railroad companies are expanding their freight and possibly passenger services, it’s becoming more and more obvious that historic bridges along these lines are going to be a hindrance and must be moved aside. And even then, the historic significance will not matter.

 

An Interview with John Marvig

24826060_1314136728698157_1652878058_o
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.

40262
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.

13255
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.

28472
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.

47927
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.

58542
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.

59002
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. 🙂

bhc-logo-newest1

An Interview With John Marvig

24826060_1314136728698157_1652878058_o
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.

40262
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.

13255
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.

28472
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.

47927
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.

58542
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.

59002
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. 🙂

bhc-logo-newest1

The Historic Bridges of Duluth, Minnesota

DSCF5353
Ariel Lift Bridge taken at sundown. Photo shot in 2009.

When I mention to my students of English that I originate from the State of Minnesota, the first question that mainly comes to mind is: Where is it? The second: What does it have to offer, apart from professional sports teams, like the Vikings (NFL), Timberwolves (NBA), Wild (NHL), Lynx (WNBA), Loons (MLS), Gophers (NCAA) and Twins (MLB)?

Well, the second question is easy to answer: Minnesota has a lot to offer year round- from fishing to ice carneavals, farming to multi-cultural activities in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul), snowmobiling to chit-chatting with a genuine Minnesotan dialect:

For the first, one has to include a little geography, using Niagra Falls as our starting point, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Ah yes, Niagra Falls is one of the seven wonders that German tourists most often visit while in the US. As the northern half of the US consists of the Great Lakes Region, most of which straddles the border between the States and Canada, the city on the westernmost end of the region is almost opposite of Niagra Falls by over 2,000 miles. That port, located at the tip of Lake Superior, is Duluth. With over 86,200 inhabitants, Duluth is the third largest city in Minnesota, and combining it with Superior and other cities within a radius of 30 miles, the metropolitan area has 280,000 inhabitants, making it the second largest metropolitan area in the state. Founded in 1857, the city prides itself in its shipping and has several places of interest, whether it is a city zoo, a state park, historic city center, ….

…or even its bridges. 🙂

Since the 1870s, Duluth has been bridged with crossings made of wood and later iron and steel, connecting the city with neighboring Superior and providing access between the mountainous areas on the Minnesota side and the farmlands of Wisconsin, enroute to major cities to the east, such as Chicago, Cleveland and even New York. As the city was bustling with traffic on land and water, the first crossings were movable bridges, featuring bascule and swing bridges, but also a transporter bridge which later became a vertical lift bridge. That bridge, the Aerial Lift Bridge, has become the symbol of Duluth, making it the gateway between land and the deep blue sea. Together with the Slip Drawbridge and the Grassy Point Bridge, the Aerial Lift Bridge is the only movable bridge still functioning today, as it lifts its center span for boats to pass. The Slip Bridge is 26 years old and is sparsely used for smaller boats along the canal, which connects the port area with its business district. The Bong and Blatnik Bridges are two of the longest bridges in Duluth and in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, replacing their predecessors in the movable bridges that had served rail and vehicular traffic. The Grassy Point bridge is the only swing bridge still in use and one of two key railroad crossings that cross the border. A pair of arch bridges dated back to the 1930s used to serve rail traffic going westward, yet they are now part of a rail-to-trail consortium that provides recreation to the parks located to the west.

I first came across the bridges in Duluth during a visit with a few friends in 2009, having spent a vast amount of time at the Aerial Lift Bridge, watching the span raise for boats lining up to pass. With its beautiful amber color at night, one cannot miss this icon when visiting Duluth. Further research was conducted by two key sources: John Weeks III and the newspaper people at the Duluth Tribune, the latter of which had dug up substantial research and photos of some of the most important movable bridges that had served both Duluth and Superior before being replaced by the fixed spans. Combining that with additional research done by another pontist, John Marvig, it was the best decision to put together a tour guide on Duluth’s (historic) bridges, both past and present. Unlike the previous tour guides, this one features a bridge with links that will take you to the pieces written by the Tribune and Weeks, while some bridges feature photos and facts provided by Marvig and Weeks. A map with the location of the bridges is provided in the guide to give you an idea where these bridges are located.

Use this guide and you will have a chance to visit and photograph the bridges that still makes Duluth a key port for transportation, looking at their history and their role in shaping the city’s infrastructure- and that of the US and beyond.

 

Links to the Bridges:

Aerial Lift Bridge: History as a Vertical Lift Bridge and as a Transporter Bridge

Interstate Bridge:   History and Ghost Stories

St. Louis Bay Bridge (extant): History  and its predecessor

Arrowhead Bridge (extant): History and Photos

Grassy Point Railroad Bridge: History and Facts

Minnesota Slip Drawbridge: History

Oliver Double-Decker Bridge: History and Facts

Richard Bong Memorial Bridge: History and Facts

John Blatnik Memorial Bridge: History and Facts

Superior Hiking Trail Bridge: Facts

Lester River Bridge: Facts

Zoo Arch Bridge: Facts

Stewart Creek Viaduct: Facts

Kingsbury Creek Bridge: Facts

 

2016 Ammann Awards Results

MacArthur Bridge: Winner of the Best Photo Award. Photo taken by Roamin Rich

Record voter turnout for the Awards. Saxony, Route 66,  and Elvis Bridges in Kansas dominating the categories. Eric Delony and John Marvig honored for Lifetime Achievement.

Since 2011 the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has been hosting the Othmar H. Ammann Awards for historic bridges, focusing on successful efforts in preserving them as well as places with a wide array of historic bridges to see as a pontist, tourist, photographer, historian/teacher or a simple passer-by. In its sixth year of the awards, we saw records getting smashed for the most number of votes, let alone the lead changes that came about in some categories, complete blow-outs in others, thus making this race the most exciting and nail-biting in history. No matter which category you were watching, you probably saw your favorite going from worst to first in as many votes as in the category Best Photo, which saw votes in the thousands, plus a voting arms race among three candidates. We also saw some deadlocks for Tour Guide International, Lifetime Achievement (for second place) and Mystery Bridge, which got people wondering what characteristics led to the votes, because they must have been this good. For some that lucked out, the Author’s Choice Awards were given as consolation, which will be mentioned here as well.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the results, each of whom has a brief summary:

BEST PHOTO:

This category was the most exciting and nerve-racking as we saw a battle for first place take place among three candidates:

The MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis (Taken by Roamin Rich), Bull Creek Bridge in Kansas (Taken by Nick Schmiedeler) and the Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau, Germany (Taken by Michael Droste).

Despite Zwickau’s early lead in the polls and regaining the lead for a couple days a week ago, MacArthur Bridge won the voting arms race with 38.5% of the votes, outlasting Bull Creek, which received 28.2%. Paradiesbrücke got only 16%.  Devil’s Elbow Bridge in Missouri received 4.2% with fifth place going to the same person who photographed the Paradiesbrücke but in the daytime (2.2%). The remaining results can be seen here.  For the next three months, the winner of the Best Photo Award will have his photos displayed on the Chronicle’s areavoices website (here) and the Chronicles’ facebook page (here), second place winner will have his photo on the Chronicles’ facebook group page (here), and the third place winner on the Chronicles’ twitter page (here). All three will also be in the Chronicles’ wordpress page (here), rotating in gallery format in the header.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:

This category was perhaps the most watched by readers and pontists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, as four cities were vying for first and third place, respectively before another city decided to crash the party within a matter of only 24 hours before the polls closed, effectively deciding the winner and third place winners. Coincidence or a plot, that remains to be seen. It is known that these five bridge cities will receive further honorable mentions in the near future. The winner of this tight race was Zwickau (Saxony), Germany, which after battling with Calgary during the competition, edged the largest city in Alberta and fifth largest in Canada by a margin of 25.1% to 24%. The reason behind that was the city’s selection of the most unique bridges, one of which, the Röhrensteg, had received the Author’s Choice Award for Best Historic Bridge Finding. There is also the aforementioned Paradiesbrücke, the Zellstoff Truss Bridge and the Schedewitz Bridge, all along the Mulde River and a stone arch viaduct near the train station. The city is worth a treat.

Third place winner goes to Canal Bridges in Brugges, Belgium, which went from seventh place to its final spot in less than 24 hours, knocking the River Tyne Bridges in Great Britain and the Bridges in Glauchau (Saxony) to fourth and fifth places. Brugges had 13.5% of the votes, followed by The River Tyne with 12.6% and Glauchau with 10.5%. Glauchau also received the Author’s Choice Award for its historic bridge find because of its many arch bridges that don’t span the Mulde, like in neighboring Zwickau, but along the railroad line and along the high road leading to the two castles located on the hill overlooking the river valley.

Beech Road Bridge in Tompkins County, NY. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

TOUR GUIDE USA:

Unlike in the international competition, this category proved to be no competition at all, for the Bridges of Tompkins County, New York, laden with various types of bridges dating back 150 years, including two iron truss bridges, a covered bridge and some arch bridges, left the competition in the dust. Even at the beginning of the race, it garnered an average of 92% of the votes. In the end, the county won an astounding 89.3%. The closest second place winner was the Bridges in Washington County, Maryland, which had 3.2% of the votes, edging the third place winner, The Bridges of Boone County, Iowa with 2.9%. Having lost the Wagon Wheel Bridge in December to demolition and removal after years of neglect, the Marsh rainbow arch bridges and Kate Shelley’s Viaduct could not compensate of the loss and therefore, people looked to its winner as their bridges are still in used, most of them after having been restored.

Colebrook Bridge. Photo taken by Ulka Kern

BEST KEPT SECRET FOR A US BRIDGE:

Some bridges deserved to immersed in water and covered in coral, used for habitat for underwater life. Others deserved to be immersed and later exposed when the weather extremities are at their worst. The Colebrook Lake Bridge in Connecticut is one that definitely is in the second category. When Colebrook Lake was made in 1969, this Warren pony truss span with riveted connections  became part of the lake bottom and a distant memory among local residents and historians. Its existence came as a surprise, thanks to a severe drought that lowered the lake to its pre-made stage and exposed this structure. Now residents and historians are finding more information on this structure while looking at ways to either reuse it or leave it for nature. Colebrook won the award in this category with 57.4% of the votes.  Second place went to the Marais de Cygnes Bridge in Kansas, one of the rarest Parker through truss bridges in the state, with 22.8% of the votes. Clark’s Creek Bridge, one of many Elvis bridges discovered by Nick Schmiedeler this past year, finished third with 15.4%, yet it was the winner in another category! More on that later. The remaining finishers had an average of 1.5% of the votes, which were a lot given the number of voters having gone to the polls.

Prince Alfred Trestle in Australia. Photo taken by Delta Charlie Images

BEST KEPT SECRET FOR AN INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE:

Australia’s historic bridges are ones that are worth traveling to visit, for many of them were built by European immigrants with ties to the bridge building and steel industries in their homeland. Only a handful were built locally. The winner and second place winners in this category come not only from the Land Down Under, but also in the state of New South Wales, which is the most populated of the states. The Prince Alfred Bridge, a nearly 150-year old wooden trestle bridge, won the race with 31.4% of the votes. This was followed by another bridge in the state, the Bowenfels Railroad Viaduct, which received 15.9% and the Ribblehead Railroad Viaduct at Yorkshire Dales in Great Britain, which got 8.7%. Tied for fourth place with 7.7% were the Isabella Bridge in Puerto Rico and the Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece. And sixth place finisher was the Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany, with 6.5%, edging its inner-state competitor Röhrensteg in Zwickau and the world’s smallest drawbridge in Sanford, Nova Scotia (Canada) with 6.2% of the votes.

BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE:

In this category, we looked at historic bridges that were preserved for reuse after being considered redundant for the highways due to age, functional and structural deficiencies and cost of maintenance. Like in Tour Guide USA, this competition was very lopsided for a covered bridge far outgained the metal truss bridges and arch bridges in the competition. The Beaverkill Covered Bridge, built in 1865 and located in the Catskills in New York, received a full makeover, using state-of-the art technology to strengthen existing bridge parts and replacing some with those of the exact shape and size. This bridge received 62.4% of the votes. Second place finisher was the Green Bridge (a.k.a. Jackson Street and Fifth Avenue Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa. The three-span Pratt through truss bridge, built in 1898 by George E. King, received its second makeover in 20+ years in order for it to continue serving a bike trail network serving Iowa’s state capital. It received 7.1% of the votes and would have soundly won the competition had one subtracted Beaverkill’s success. Third place finisher was the former Bird Creek Bridges along Route 66 in Oklahoma. The multiple-span K-truss bridges were relocated to Molly’s Landing on one side of the highway, Roger’s Landing on the opposite end, each serving as exhibits and entrances for light traffic. Bird Creek received 6.5% of the votes. Bottoming out the top six are Wolf Road Bridge near Cleveland, Ohio with 4.2%, the County Park Bridge in Hamilton County, Indiana with 3% and Houck Iron Bridge in Putnam County, Indiana with 2.4%.

Bonnie Doon Bridge in Lyon County, Iowa. Photo taken by John Marvig.

MYSTERY BRIDGE- USA:

For this category, we’re looking at bridges that are unique but missing information that would potentially make them historically significant and therefore, ripe for many accolades. Although the votes were made into one category, the winners have been divided up into those in the US and the structures outside the country.  For the US, the top six finishers originated from Iowa, with the top two finishers originating from Lyon County.  The Bonnie Doon Bridge, located along a former railroad bearing her name between Doon and Rock Rapids, won the division with 19.8% of the total votes. Not far behind is the Beloit Bridge near Canton, South Dakota, which received 13.2%. Third Place goes to a now extant Thacher through truss bridge in Everly in Clay County, which received 7.7%, 0.6% more than its fourth place finisher, the Kiwanis Railroad Bridge in Rock Valley in Sioux County.  Fifth place goes to the Pontiac Lane Bridge in Harrison County, with 6.1% of the votes. Yet latest developments in the form of photos is almost bringing the Whipple through truss bridge to a close. More later. In sixth place, we have a concrete arch viaduct built by H.E. Dudley near Richmond in Washington County, with 5.5% of the votes. According to John Marvig, that case was recently brought to a close as the now extant bridge was replaced with a steel girder viaduct in 1947.

Camelback arch bridge in Altenburg

MYSTERY BRIDGE- INTERNATIONAL:

All of our entries for the international aspect of mystery bridges were from Germany, specifically, the states of Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg.  Our first place finisher goes to the concrete camelback pony arch bridge near Altenburg. That structure was built between 1900 and 1920 and still retains its original form. Second place goes to the railroad viaduct in Grosskorbetha, located near Bad Durremberg in Saxony-Anhalt. The 1910 arch structure used to serve a local road to Wengelsdorf, but was removed in November this year, as the German Railways plan to modernize the Y-point where the raillines split to Leipzig and Halle from the south.  The Railway Station Bridge in Halle finished in third, followed by an unusual wire truss bridge in Potsdam and finally, the truss bridge at Schkopau Station, south of Halle.

Clarks Creek Bridge in Geary County, Kansas. Photo taken by Nick Schmiedeler

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

The category Bridge of the Year goes out to bridges that made waves in the headlines because of (successful) attempts of restoring them, as well as interesting findings. Our top six finishers in this year’s category consists of those by Julie Bowers and crew at BACH Steel, Elvis Bridge finder Nick Schmiedeler and those along Route 66. Clark’s Creek Bridge in Kansas came out the winner with 53.4% of the votes. This bridge was discovered by Schmiedeler and was one of the first bridges that were dubbed Elvis Bridges, meaning these bridges had been abandoned and hidden under vegetation for many decades. Clark’s Creek is a King Bridge product having been built in 1876.  Second place finisher is the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 18.1% of the vote. Thanks to Julie’s efforts, this 1870s structure is expected to be restored, relocated to a park and reused after years sitting abandoned, leaning to one side.  Third place finisher is the Times Beach Bridge spanning the Meramec River along Route 66 west of St. Louis, with 6.9% of the votes. This bridge was a subject of fundraising efforts to be restored as part of the Route 66 State Park Complex and bike trail. The bridge was recently given a reprieve from demolition by Missouri Dept. of Transportation. More later.  Rounding off the top six include Gasconade Bridge along Route 66 with 5.4%, Hayden Bridge in Oregon, another project by BACH, with 4.9% and Fehmarn Bridge in Germany with 3.2%. Word has gotten out that the sixth place finisher will receive a rehabilitation job, which will prolong its life by 30 years and keep its symbol as the icon of Fehmarn Island.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

Our last category for the 2016 Ammann Awards is for Lifetime Achievement. Unlike this year, there are two winners for this prize, one emeritus and one who is the youngest to win the awards. Eric Delony, who spearheaded efforts in preserving historic bridges through a nationwide program and was director of HABS-HAER for 32 years, received the Lifetime Achievement Emeritus Award. More on his work can be seen hereJohn Marvig became the youngest pontist to win the Lifetime Achievement thanks to his efforts in identifying, photographing and working with authorities in preserving railroad bridges in the northern part of the US. Since having his website in 2010, his focus went from railroad bridges in Minnesota and Iowa to as many as 9 states. The freshman at Iowa State University received 49.3% of the votes, outfoxing the second place finishers, Royce and Bobette Haley as well as Nick Schmiedeler. Christopher Marston finished fourth with 5.4% of the votes, which was followed by Ian Heigh (4%), Kaitlin O’shea (3.5%) and BACH Steel (2.9%).

Bull Creek Bridge in Kansas. Photo taken by Nick Schmiedeler

FAZIT:

And with that comes the closing of one of the most intensive competitions involving historic bridges in the history of the Ammann Awards. It was one that got everyone excited from start to finish, and for many bridges, there is a ray of hope in their future as more and more officials and the communities have become interested in preserving what is left of their history for the younger generations to enjoy. For some profiled that have a questionable future, not to worry. If one person refuses to preserve, another one will step up in his place, just like the electors in the US elections. The interest in historic bridges is there and growing. And that will continue with no interruptions of any kind.

The full results of the Ammann Award results can be found in the Chronicles’ wordpress page by clicking here. Note there are two parts just like the ballots themselves. The links to the pages are also there for you to click on.

This is the last entry carrying the Jacob slogan. Since September 2016 the Chronicles has been carrying the slogan in memory of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year old boy who was kidnapped on 22 October, 1989 and subsequentially murdered. His remains were discovered in September 2016 bringing a 27-year old case to a close. The murderer has since been sentenced to 20 years in prison with a lifetime incarceration in a state mental hospital to follow. His house was demolished on Christmas Day. As the murder happened closer to home (the author originates from Minnesota), the Chronicles started its Ammann Awards nominations early and carried this unique slogan in his memory. To his parents and friends, he will be remembered as a boy with dreams that never came true, yet he came home to rest and now is the time to bridge the gaps among friends, family and acquaintences, while keeping in mind, dreams can come true only if we let them, and help them along the way to fulfilling them with success and respect.

From the next entry on, the Chronicles will be carrying its present slogan, which is an upgrade from its last one. Some changes will be coming to the Chronicles, which includes establishing a Hall of Fame for the bridges nominated for the Ammann Awards as well as other interesting parts that will be added. Stay tuned, while at the same time, have a look at some mystery bridges that are in the pipelines and are on the way. 🙂

2016 Ammann Awards Results

MacArthur Bridge: Winner of the Best Photo Award. Photo taken by Roamin Rich

Record voter turnout for the Awards. Saxony, Route 66,  and Elvis Bridges in Kansas dominating the categories. Eric Delony and John Marvig honored for Lifetime Achievement.

Since 2011 the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has been hosting the Othmar H. Ammann Awards for historic bridges, focusing on successful efforts in preserving them as well as places with a wide array of historic bridges to see as a pontist, tourist, photographer, historian/teacher or a simple passer-by. In its sixth year of the awards, we saw records getting smashed for the most number of votes, let alone the lead changes that came about in some categories, complete blow-outs in others, thus making this race the most exciting and nail-biting in history. No matter which category you were watching, you probably saw your favorite going from worst to first in as many votes as in the category Best Photo, which saw votes in the thousands, plus a voting arms race among three candidates. We also saw some deadlocks for Tour Guide International, Lifetime Achievement (for second place) and Mystery Bridge, which got people wondering what characteristics led to the votes, because they must have been this good. For some that lucked out, the Author’s Choice Awards were given as consolation, which will be mentioned here as well.

 

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the results, each of whom has a brief summary:

 

BEST PHOTO:

This category was the most exciting and nerve-racking as we saw a battle for first place take place among three candidates: The MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis (Taken by Roamin Rich), Bull Creek Bridge in Kansas (Taken by Nick Schmiedeler) and the Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau, Germany (Taken by Michael Droste).  Despite Zwickau’s early lead in the polls and regaining the lead for a couple days a week ago, MacArthur Bridge won the voting arms race with 38.5% of the votes, outlasting Bull Creek, which received 28.2%. Paradiesbrücke got only 16%.  Devil’s Elbow Bridge in Missouri received 4.2% with fifth place going to the same person who photographed the Paradiesbrücke but in the daytime (2.2%). The remaining results can be seen here.  For the next three months, the winner of the Best Photo Award will have his photos displayed on the Chronicle’s areavoices website (here) and the Chronicles’ facebook page (here), second place winner will have his photo on the Chronicles’ facebook group page (here), and the third place winner on the Chronicles’ twitter page (here). All three will also be in the Chronicles’ wordpress page (here), rotating in gallery format in the header.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:

This category was perhaps the most watched by readers and pontists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, as four cities were vying for first and third place, respectively before another city decided to crash the party within a matter of only 24 hours before the polls closed, effectively deciding the winner and third place winners. Coincidence or a plot, that remains to be seen. It is known that these five bridge cities will receive further honorable mentions in the near future. The winner of this tight race was Zwickau (Saxony), Germany, which after battling with Calgary during the competition, edged the largest city in Alberta and fifth largest in Canada by a margin of 25.1% to 24%. The reason behind that was the city’s selection of the most unique bridges, one of which, the Röhrensteg, had received the Author’s Choice Award for Best Historic Bridge Finding. There is also the aforementioned Paradiesbrücke, the Zellstoff Truss Bridge and the Schedewitz Bridge, all along the Mulde River and a stone arch viaduct near the train station. The city is worth a treat.

 

Third place winner goes to Canal Bridges in Brugges, Belgium, which went from seventh place to its final spot in less than 24 hours, knocking the River Tyne Bridges in Great Britain and the Bridges in Glauchau (Saxony) to fourth and fifth places. Brugges had 13.5% of the votes, followed by The River Tyne with 12.6% and Glauchau with 10.5%. Glauchau also received the Author’s Choice Award for its historic bridge find because of its many arch bridges that don’t span the Mulde, like in neighboring Zwickau, but along the railroad line and along the high road leading to the two castles located on the hill overlooking the river valley.

Beech Road Bridge in Tompkins County, NY. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

TOUR GUIDE USA:

Unlike in the international competition, this category proved to be no competition at all, for the Bridges of Tompkins County, New York, laden with various types of bridges dating back 150 years, including two iron truss bridges, a covered bridge and some arch bridges, left the competition in the dust. Even at the beginning of the race, it garnered an average of 92% of the votes. In the end, the county won an astounding 89.3%. The closest second place winner was the Bridges in Washington County, Maryland, which had 3.2% of the votes, edging the third place winner, The Bridges of Boone County, Iowa with 2.9%. Having lost the Wagon Wheel Bridge in December to demolition and removal after years of neglect, the Marsh rainbow arch bridges and Kate Shelley’s Viaduct could not compensate of the loss and therefore, people looked to its winner as their bridges are still in used, most of them after having been restored.

Colebrook Bridge. Photo taken by Ulka Kern

BEST KEPT SECRET FOR A US BRIDGE:

Some bridges deserved to immersed in water and covered in coral, used for habitat for underwater life. Others deserved to be immersed and later exposed when the weather extremities are at their worst. The Colebrook Lake Bridge in Connecticut is one that definitely is in the second category. When Colebrook Lake was made in 1969, this Warren pony truss span with riveted connections  became part of the lake bottom and a distant memory among local residents and historians. Its existence came as a surprise, thanks to a severe drought that lowered the lake to its pre-made stage and exposed this structure. Now residents and historians are finding more information on this structure while looking at ways to either reuse it or leave it for nature. Colebrook won the award in this category with 57.4% of the votes.  Second place went to the Marais de Cygnes Bridge in Kansas, one of the rarest Parker through truss bridges in the state, with 22.8% of the votes. Clark’s Creek Bridge, one of many Elvis bridges discovered by Nick Schmiedeler this past year, finished third with 15.4%, yet it was the winner in another category! More on that later. The remaining finishers had an average of 1.5% of the votes, which were a lot given the number of voters having gone to the polls.

Prince Alfred Trestle in Australia. Photo taken by Delta Charlie Images

BEST KEPT SECRET FOR AN INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE:

Australia’s historic bridges are ones that are worth traveling to visit, for many of them were built by European immigrants with ties to the bridge building and steel industries in their homeland. Only a handful were built locally. The winner and second place winners in this category come not only from the Land Down Under, but also in the state of New South Wales, which is the most populated of the states. The Prince Alfred Bridge, a nearly 150-year old wooden trestle bridge, won the race with 31.4% of the votes. This was followed by another bridge in the state, the Bowenfels Railroad Viaduct, which received 15.9% and the Ribblehead Railroad Viaduct at Yorkshire Dales in Great Britain, which got 8.7%. Tied for fourth place with 7.7% were the Isabella Bridge in Puerto Rico and the Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece. And sixth place finisher was the Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany, with 6.5%, edging its inner-state competitor Röhrensteg in Zwickau and the world’s smallest drawbridge in Sanford, Nova Scotia (Canada) with 6.2% of the votes.

 

BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE:

In this category, we looked at historic bridges that were preserved for reuse after being considered redundant for the highways due to age, functional and structural deficiencies and cost of maintenance. Like in Tour Guide USA, this competition was very lopsided for a covered bridge far outgained the metal truss bridges and arch bridges in the competition. The Beaverkill Covered Bridge, built in 1865 and located in the Catskills in New York, received a full makeover, using state-of-the art technology to strengthen existing bridge parts and replacing some with those of the exact shape and size. This bridge received 62.4% of the votes. Second place finisher was the Green Bridge (a.k.a. Jackson Street and Fifth Avenue Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa. The three-span Pratt through truss bridge, built in 1898 by George E. King, received its second makeover in 20+ years in order for it to continue serving a bike trail network serving Iowa’s state capital. It received 7.1% of the votes and would have soundly won the competition had one subtracted Beaverkill’s success. Third place finisher was the former Bird Creek Bridges along Route 66 in Oklahoma. The multiple-span K-truss bridges were relocated to Molly’s Landing on one side of the highway, Roger’s Landing on the opposite end, each serving as exhibits and entrances for light traffic. Bird Creek received 6.5% of the votes. Bottoming out the top six are Wolf Road Bridge near Cleveland, Ohio with 4.2%, the County Park Bridge in Hamilton County, Indiana with 3% and Houck Iron Bridge in Putnam County, Indiana with 2.4%.

 

Bonnie Doon Bridge in Lyon County, Iowa. Photo taken by John Marvig.

MYSTERY BRIDGE- USA:

For this category, we’re looking at bridges that are unique but missing information that would potentially make them historically significant and therefore, ripe for many accolades. Although the votes were made into one category, the winners have been divided up into those in the US and the structures outside the country.  For the US, the top six finishers originated from Iowa, with the top two finishers originating from Lyon County.  The Bonnie Doon Bridge, located along a former railroad bearing her name between Doon and Rock Rapids, won the division with 19.8% of the total votes. Not far behind is the Beloit Bridge near Canton, South Dakota, which received 13.2%. Third Place goes to a now extant Thacher through truss bridge in Everly in Clay County, which received 7.7%, 0.6% more than its fourth place finisher, the Kiwanis Railroad Bridge in Rock Valley in Sioux County.  Fifth place goes to the Pontiac Lane Bridge in Harrison County, with 6.1% of the votes. Yet latest developments in the form of photos is almost bringing the Whipple through truss bridge to a close. More later. In sixth place, we have a concrete arch viaduct built by H.E. Dudley near Richmond in Washington County, with 5.5% of the votes. According to John Marvig, that case was recently brought to a close as the now extant bridge was replaced with a steel girder viaduct in 1947.

Camelback arch bridge in Altenburg

MYSTERY BRIDGE- INTERNATIONAL:

All of our entries for the international aspect of mystery bridges were from Germany, specifically, the states of Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg.  Our first place finisher goes to the concrete camelback pony arch bridge near Altenburg. That structure was built between 1900 and 1920 and still retains its original form. Second place goes to the railroad viaduct in Grosskorbetha, located near Bad Durremberg in Saxony-Anhalt. The 1910 arch structure used to serve a local road to Wengelsdorf, but was removed in November this year, as the German Railways plan to modernize the Y-point where the raillines split to Leipzig and Halle from the south.  The Railway Station Bridge in Halle finished in third, followed by an unusual wire truss bridge in Potsdam and finally, the truss bridge at Schkopau Station, south of Halle.

Clarks Creek Bridge in Geary County, Kansas. Photo taken by Nick Schmiedeler

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

The category Bridge of the Year goes out to bridges that made waves in the headlines because of (successful) attempts of restoring them, as well as interesting findings. Our top six finishers in this year’s category consists of those by Julie Bowers and crew at BACH Steel, Elvis Bridge finder Nick Schmiedeler and those along Route 66. Clark’s Creek Bridge in Kansas came out the winner with 53.4% of the votes. This bridge was discovered by Schmiedeler and was one of the first bridges that were dubbed Elvis Bridges, meaning these bridges had been abandoned and hidden under vegetation for many decades. Clark’s Creek is a King Bridge product having been built in 1876.  Second place finisher is the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 18.1% of the vote. Thanks to Julie’s efforts, this 1870s structure is expected to be restored, relocated to a park and reused after years sitting abandoned, leaning to one side.  Third place finisher is the Times Beach Bridge spanning the Meramec River along Route 66 west of St. Louis, with 6.9% of the votes. This bridge was a subject of fundraising efforts to be restored as part of the Route 66 State Park Complex and bike trail. The bridge was recently given a reprieve from demolition by Missouri Dept. of Transportation. More later.  Rounding off the top six include Gasconade Bridge along Route 66 with 5.4%, Hayden Bridge in Oregon, another project by BACH, with 4.9% and Fehmarn Bridge in Germany with 3.2%. Word has gotten out that the sixth place finisher will receive a rehabilitation job, which will prolong its life by 30 years and keep its symbol as the icon of Fehmarn Island.

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

Our last category for the 2016 Ammann Awards is for Lifetime Achievement. Unlike this year, there are two winners for this prize, one emeritus and one who is the youngest to win the awards. Eric Delony, who spearheaded efforts in preserving historic bridges through a nationwide program and was director of HABS-HAER for 32 years, received the Lifetime Achievement Emeritus Award. More on his work can be seen hereJohn Marvig became the youngest pontist to win the Lifetime Achievement thanks to his efforts in identifying, photographing and working with authorities in preserving railroad bridges in the northern part of the US. Since having his website in 2010, his focus went from railroad bridges in Minnesota and Iowa to as many as 9 states. The freshman at Iowa State University received 49.3% of the votes, outfoxing the second place finishers, Royce and Bobette Haley as well as Nick Schmiedeler. Christopher Marston finished fourth with 5.4% of the votes, which was followed by Ian Heigh (4%), Kaitlin O’shea (3.5%) and BACH Steel (2.9%).

Bull Creek Bridge in Kansas. Photo taken by Nick Schmiedeler

FAZIT:

And with that comes the closing of one of the most intensive competitions involving historic bridges in the history of the Ammann Awards. It was one that got everyone excited from start to finish, and for many bridges, there is a ray of hope in their future as more and more officials and the communities have become interested in preserving what is left of their history for the younger generations to enjoy. For some profiled that have a questionable future, not to worry. If one person refuses to preserve, another one will step up in his place, just like the electors in the US elections. The interest in historic bridges is there and growing. And that will continue with no interruptions of any kind.

The full results of the Ammann Award results can be found in the Chronicles’ wordpress page by clicking here. Note there are two parts just like the ballots themselves. The links to the pages are also there for you to click on.

 

This is the last entry carrying the Jacob slogan. Since September 2016 the Chronicles has been carrying the slogan in memory of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year old boy who was kidnapped on 22 October, 1989 and subsequentially murdered. His remains were discovered in September 2016 bringing a 27-year old case to a close. The murderer has since been sentenced to 20 years in prison with a lifetime incarceration in a state mental hospital to follow. His house was demolished on Christmas Day. As the murder happened closer to home (the author originates from Minnesota), the Chronicles started its Ammann Awards nominations early and carried this unique slogan in his memory. To his parents and friends, he will be remembered as a boy with dreams that never came true, yet he came home to rest and now is the time to bridge the gaps among friends, family and acquaintences, while keeping in mind, dreams can come true only if we let them, and help them along the way to fulfilling them with success and respect.

From the next entry on, the Chronicles will be carrying its present slogan, which is an upgrade from its last one. Some changes will be coming to the Chronicles, which includes establishing a Hall of Fame for the bridges nominated for the Ammann Awards as well as other interesting parts that will be added. Stay tuned, while at the same time, have a look at some mystery bridges that are in the pipelines and are on the way. 🙂

Mystery Bridge Nr. 70: Bonnie Doon’s Crossing

Photo taken by John Marvig

Our 70th mystery bridge keeps us in Iowa but takes us almost to the other corner of the land of corn and farming, namely Lyon County and in particular, this bridge. While doing some research on bridges in the county many years ago at the Lyon County Historical Society in Rock Rapids, I came across a photo of a through truss bridge, whose span collapsed on one end. My first speculation was that the bridge had spanned the Big Sioux River at the Hidden Bridge Wildlife Area, located seven miles west south west of Larchwood and five miles west of West Central Lyon Schools. The reason behind the speculation apart from the name was because of the roads that led to the river, even though the structure had been removed decades before.

Fast forward to December 2014, when fellow pontist John Marvig visited this bridge, and one can see that the previous assumption was proven wrong. The bridge still stands, but with two spans- both being riveted Pratt overheads with A-frame portals, built using Iowa highway standards- but one of them still broken down and in the Rock River. The bridge is located on what is left of Grant Avenue between the communities of Doon and Lakewood Corner, the latter of which only exists in the history books. Little do the pontists realize is that the now abandoned road and the bridge itself was once part of a legendary railroad that had once traversed through Lyon County but is still talked about today at the museum. That is the Bonnie Doon Railroad.

Owned and operated by the Chicago, Omaha and Pacific Railroad, the railroad line started at Doon, at the junction of the Great Northern Railroad (now owned by BNSF), the line would make an “S-curve” along the Rock River, and after a stop at Lakewood, would cross at this bridge before heading north past farmsteads and cemetaries before stopping at Rock Rapids. A brief description of the trip according to a written account by Galen Lawrence can be found here.  The passenger had the option of taking the line further north to Luverne, which required crossing two tracks running through town. The Bonnie Doon line was in operation for 50+ years until the last train travelled it in 1932-3. The line was never properly maintained and was subject to vandalism and derailments. By 1933, thanks to the coming of the automobile and the expansion of the highway system in the US, the Bonnie Doon line was abandoned with the tracks removed. Some remnants of the line can still be seen today along Grant Avenue as well as in and around Doon, which includes two abandoned culverts, remains of the original crossing here at this bridge and some crossings that could not be removed and had to remain.

It is unknown when this bridge at Lakewood was built in its place, let alone what the original Bonnie Doon crossing looked like. Yet given the introduction of the Iowa highway standards for truss bridges beginning in 1914, the two-span crossing was probably brought in during the 1930s as part of the plan to repurpose parts of the Bonnie Doon Railroad line. Whether it was built from scratch or relocated from another place remains unclear. What is clear is given the somewhat straightness of the road and the nostalgia involving this line and its history, the community of Doon and the township decided to repurpose the railroad as a road for travellers and farmers and provide a wider and safer crossing. It basically served as an alternative to travelling K.T. Highway to Rock Rapids, which is today known as US Hwy. 75. According to the US geographical maps, the road continued its service until the end of the 1960s when the north approached was partially washed away by floodwaters. It is unknown when the southern truss span collapsed partially, but the road and the bridge itself were closed off and abandoned by the early 1980s.

The bridge at Lakewood is a mystery in itself because of its association with the Bonnie Doon rail line and the histories that are being collected, especially with regards to this crossing. We have no idea what the original Bonnie Doon crossing looked like when the trains were in service, let alone when the road trusses were installed to replace the railroad bridge. We do know that the current crossing appears to have retained their structural integrity and could easily be repurposed as a bike trail crossing, even in its original place if one wants to revitalize the line as a bike trail. But given the lack of funding for even bridge replacement in Iowa, that project is, at the most, in the pipeline and it could take years until Bonnie Doon comes alive again for cyclists to use.

Do you know more about this bridge? Put your comments in the section below, post them on the Chronicles’ facebook page or send them to Jason Smith at the Chronicles. Information will be updated as they come in.

 

bhc fast facts new

Rock Rapids was the central hub for railroads between 1880 and 1930 with three railroads passing through the community of 2,300 residents. Apart from the Omaha Railroad, another north-south line passing through was the Illinois Central, which connected Orange City and Sioux Falls, stopping at George, Edna and Beaver Creek (MN). The Rock Island Railroad was the lone east-west line going through Rock Rapids, connecting Sioux Falls with Estherville, stopping at Little Rock, Larchwood, Lester and Granite. Each one had a bridge crossing the Rock River. After the ceasement of the Bonnie Doon Line, the Rock Island abandoned its line through Rock Rapids in 1972 and eventually went bankrupt in 1980. The Island Park Viaduct, located east of the Historical Society and was part of the Rock Island line was converted to a bike and pedestrian crossing in 2008. The Illinois Central line was abandoned in 1981, but its crossing is still being used by the local public works facility. Eventually it too will become a bike trail crossing because of its proximity to a nearby park.

 

The Chronicles would like to thank John Marvig for discovering this bridge and bringing the topic on Bonnie Doon back to life. 

 

bhc logo short new

Mystery Bridge Nr. 64: The Rock Valley Kiwanis Railroad Bridge

Photo taken in 1998 by the author

Our next mystery bridge takes us to Rock Valley, Iowa, located along the Rock River in Sioux County, and this bridge, located on the west end of town. Locally known as the Kiwanis Bridge, my discovery of the bridge dated back to 1998, where during a Spring Break trip from college, I took my Ford F 250 pickup and went along the Rock River from Pipestone County all the way to its confluence with the Big Sioux River north of Hawarden. The Kiwanis Bridge was one of a dozen pre-1945 bridges I found during that time. When walking across it for the first time, I noticed that the wooden trestle approach spans on the east end was much older than the piers holding the Pratt through truss span in place across the river.  Also interesting to note was how the trusses were configured. Consisting of riveted and pinned-connections and Howe Lattice portal and strut bracings, the end posts on the outer ends of the truss spans have a 60° angle, whereas the middle pier in the main span consists of vertical end posts that do NOT meet. One of the first impressions I had was that the bridge was relocated from elsewhere, but was altered to accommodate the spans over the Rock River. At the time of the photos, the river was running wildly with march areas on both sides of the river.

 

I wrote a letter to the City of Rock Valley and received a confirmation by William Van Maanen, a city council member at that time, that the bridge was indeed relocated to Rock Valley. His father Gerrit had been involved in the relocation efforts in the early 1920s and noted that the original railroad crossing, owned by the Milwaukee Road (Chicago, Milwaukee and Pacific Railroad), consisted of wooden trestle spans, and the truss spans were brought in to replace the ones that were obstructing the flow of the river, causing flooding upstream.

 

Fast forward to 2015, where the author is residing in Germany, but another pontist, John Marvig, is also looking for some information on this bridge. During his visit in December 2015, he found that the marsh area along the Rock River has been converted to residential areas with sidewalks and all. The bridge is still there, but the mystery of where the bridge came from is still open. The Milwaukee Road museum provided the building date of 1913, the time when standardized truss bridges with riveted connections were being introduced, but the hunches are that the bridge used to be a swing span, only to be altered when being put into place.

 

This leads to the following questions to be resolved:

  1. Where was the bridge originally located and when was it relocated here?
  2. Who was the bridge builder?
  3. Was the bridge originally a swing span or part of a major crossing?

 

We must keep in mind that according to William Van Maanen based on the accounts of his father as well as his own personal experience, the Milwaukee Road abandoned the line in the late 1950s and efforts were made to buy the bridge in an attempt to preserve it. The question here is when this happened and when were the renovations made? The bridge was named after the Kiwanis Club in Rock Valley, which bought the bridge and spearheaded efforts to convert it into a recreational crossing. A job that was well done and one that will keep the bridge in service for a very long time, especially as more people reside on the west side of Rock Valley.

 

If you know of any further information on the Kiwanis Bridge and would like to help answer the questions, please do. The channels are open on the part of the Chronicles as well as John Marvig’s Railroad Bridge Photography website and Bridgehunter.com. Your help and photos would be very much appreciated, as many people would like to know more about the bridge’s history. A gallery of photos of the bridge are below, but there are more via link, which you can click here to view.  Happy Bridgehunting and Researching! 🙂

 

East trestle and truss bridge. Photo taken in 1998

 

Oblique view of the west end of the bridge. Photo taken by John Marvig in 2015

 

Side view of the bridge. Note the vertical end posts in the middle of the span. Photo taken by John Marvig in 2015

 

Tunnel view. Photo taken in 2015 by John Marvig

 

bhc new logo jpeg

2013 Ammann Awards: Smith picks his favorites

Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque, Iowa. One of the nine-span 1868 Mississippi River crossing that had existed until 1898 when it was dismantled. Photo taken in August 2013 by John Marvig.

While many people are taking last minute attempts to submit their ballots for the 2013 Ammann Awards, as the deadline was extended to January 11th due to the extreme severe cold weather that kept many from voting, the author of the Chronicles went ahead and chose the select few bridges that deserve the best attention possible. In its third year, the Smith Awards go out to the bridges that serve as examples of how they should be preserved from the author’s point of view.  This year’s Smith Awards also hit a record for the number of entries, for many examples were presented that should be brought to the attention to those whose historic bridge may be deemed unsafe in their eyes, but restorable in the eyes of those who have the experience in preservation as those who have close ties with the structure.

So without commenting further, let’s give out the Smith Awards beginning with:

Quinn Creek Kingpost Bridge in Fayette County, Iowa. Photo taken in August 2013 by James Baughn

BEST BRIDGE FIND: 

USA:

This year’s Smith Awards for the Best Bridge Find in the United States is given to three Iowa bridges because of their unique features. The first one goes out to the Kingpost through truss bridge spanning Quinn Creek in Fayette County. Built around 1885 by Horace Horton, this bridge was thought to have disappeared from view in the 1990s when it was replaced by a series of culverts. Bill Moellering, the former county engineer and Ammann Award for Lifetime Achievement candidate was the first person to prove us wrong, for he mentioned of the bridge’s existence during our correspondence in March of last year (I had asked him to speak at the Historic Bridge Weekend, which he accepted). Dave King and James Baughn provided the pictorial evidence a few months later. Albeit not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this one will most likely be listed in the near future. And given the county’s staunch stance regarding its historic bridges, this bridge will remain in its place for many generations to come.

The second one goes  to the Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque. This span was one of the nine spans of the 1868 bridge that had spanned the Mississippi River for 30 years before it was dismantled and the spans were dispersed all over the country. This one is in its third home, as it used to span Whitewater Creek near Monticello before its relocation to its present spot in 2006-7. The next question is: what happened to the rest of the spans? The Chronicles will have an article on this unique span in the near future.

Photo taken by the author in September 2010

And the last one goes to the Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama in Tama County. The bridge was built by Paul Kingsley in 1915, two years after the Lincoln Highway, which the bridge carried this route for many years, was created. Its unique feature is the lettering on the concrete railings, something that cannot be found with any other concrete bridge in the US, or even Europe. The bridge was part of the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway celebrations last year and will surely have a celebration of its own in 2015, the same year as the 100th anniversary of the Jefferson Highway, which meets the Lincoln Highway at Colo, located west of this bridge. As James Baughn commented through his bridgehunter.com facebook page: “It is a true crime to visit Iowa and NOT photograph this bridge.” This one I have to agree.

 

Photo taken by S. Moeller. Public domain through wikipedia

International:

Fehmarn Sound Bridge in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany:  Spanning the channel connecting mainland Germany and Fehmarn Island, this 1963 bridge was unique for it was the first bridge in the world to use the basket-style tied arch design. It has since been recognized a national historical landmark. Yet another unique bridge in North Rhine-Westphalia received larger recognition this year, and because this bridge type was used extensively beginning in the 1990s, this bridge fell to the wayside. Yet it at least deserves this honor for the work engineers and construction crews put in to make this span possible, especially as it is one of the key landmarks to see, while visiting northern Germany. The bridge still serves rail and vehicular traffic today, albeit it will receive a sibling in a form of another crossing that will connect Fehmarn Island with Denmark, thus eliminating the need for ferry service and completing the direct rail connection between Berlin and Copenhagen through Hamburg and this location.  Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

BIGGEST BONEHEAD STORY:

International:

St Jean Baptiste  Bridge in Manitoba, Canada.  What is much worse than replacing a historic bridge against the will of the people? How about tearing down a historic bridge that is a key crossing to a small community and NOT rebuilding it. This is what happened to this three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge in February 2013. Extreme hot weather combined with flooding from the rains in the fall of 2012 undermined the easternmost abutment and bank of the crossing, prompting officials in Winnepeg to not only close down the bridge, but dropped the entire structure into the Red River of the North. The implosion occurred in February 2013.  This has created widespread pandemonium not only because of its historic significance (it was built in 1947), but because of the detour of up to 50 kilometers either to Morris Bridge or to Dominion City to cross the river. There is still no word from Winnipeg regarding whether or when the bridge will be rebuilt, angering them even more.  A sin that is not forgiven, and politicians making that unintelligent decision will most likely be voted out of office in the upcoming parliamentary elections, if they have not been relieved of duties already.

Note: A new bridge would cost up to CDN $60 million and take five years to build.

More on this story can be found here.

 

Second place:

Europa Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany. The incident in Canada far eclipses the incident involving the 42-year old bridge crossing the Baltic-North Sea Canal, where crews closed most important crossing connecting Flensburg and Denmark in the North with Hamburg and the rest of Germany in the South. And this during the peak of summer travel in July!  While trying to squeeze across using the tunnel carrying a main street through Rendsburg, the closure left travelers with no choice but to use the rail line and the Rendsburg High Bridge.  You can imagine how crowded the trains were at that time. Given the fact that the A-7, which crosses this bridge, is the main artery slicing through Germany, many residents are still scratching their heads and demanding the logic behind this abrupt closure of an important link between the south and north.

 

USA

Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge: Arsonism overtook the theft of metal components from bridges as the number one culprit that has either severely damaged or even destroyed historic bridges. At least a dozen reports of vandalism and arson on historic bridges were reported this year in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and even Iowa. What gets people to set bridges made of wood, or metal bridges with wooden decking is unknown, except for the fact that their ignorance is hurting the counties that maintain them as tourist attractions.  The Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge in Vinton County, Ohio is a classic example of one of those victims of arson. Built in 1874, the bridge used to be one of two in the country with an arched bridge deck until fire engulfed the bridge in June 2013. This five years after the county had spent over $300,000 in restoring the bridge by adding a new roof and improving the trusses and decking.  Police are still looking for the perpetrator to this day and more information about the incident can be found here. It’s unknown whether this bridge will be rebuilt, especially as there is a steel pony truss bridge built alongside the structure to accommodate traffic.

More on the tragedy here.

 

Second Place: 

I-5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington:  Not far behind the theme of arson is the collapse of the I-5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington state, which occurred in May 2013. A semi-truck exceeded the vertical clearance limit on the portal bracing of this 1950s through truss bridge, sending part of the bridge into the water. While the driver was not cited, it sparked a debate on how to deal with through truss bridges with many people wanting them taken off the roadways for good. One state senator even went further by advocating the elimination of the Section 106 and Environmental Impact Survey requirements for bridge replacement. Both of these are way too expensive and, as a political science professor at the University of Jena would say: “It will just not happen.” So we’re going to end this topic by travelling to a through truss bridge on any highway- on a reduced load- and cross it, appreciating its grace and beauty!

More on the bridge disaster here.

 

Bonus:

Ft. Lauderdale Railroad Bridge:  There are many reasons why No Trespassing signs are posted on railroad bridges. Add this incident involving a railroad bridge in the Florida community. A 55-year old woman, walking home from her breast cancer walk, found herself hanging onto dear life from a bascule bridge that had lifted to allow ships to pass- and getting a pose in the process from thousands of onlookers who took pictures and posted them onto the social network pages!  Being dressed in pink and in an outfit like that probably made many people react in strange way, but for her, it probably made her day. Fortunately she was rescued by fire crews, but it redefined the meaning of No Trespassing, which now ranks up there with being photographed by automated cameras in Europe if exceeding the speed limit on the motorways.  Do as expected, or expect to shamed in the media!  More on the story here.

SALVAGEABLE MENTIONED:

Photo taken in August 2011

Roof Truss Bridge at FW Kent Park in Iowa:  This crossing has a unique story. The truss bridge was built using the steel trusses from a vintage automotive dealer in Iowa City, four miles east of the park, which were found in the ditch along the road in the late 1980s and converted into a bridge to serve the pedestrian path encircling the lake. The bridge is a must see, as it is located on the north end of the lake and is one of nine truss bridges that makes the core of the park. Click here for more about this story.

 

 Honorably Mentioned

New Bennington Bridge in Vermont:  Technically, this bridge should have gotten this award for it featured a one of a kind Moseley iron arch span whose superstructure was found along the road in the ditch, cut in half and was put together as a truss bridge now serving a park complex. Yet the difference is the creativity aspect, for this salvaged and restored span had once been  a bridge before it was taken out of service. Hence its nomination in the Ammann Awards for Best Bridge Preservation Practice. It would not be surprising if these two bridges won their respective awards for 2013.

 

WORST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO PRESERVE A HISTORIC BRIDGE

View inside the bridge. Photo taken by Steve Conro, released into public domain through http://www.bridgehunter.com

 

New Castle Bridge near Oklahoma City: The 10-span Parker through truss bridge was a victim of a double-tragedy: a tornado that destroyed two of the spans and the demolition of all but one span, as directed by the local and state governments. It is unclear what the plans are for the remaining span, yet this act falls in line with eating up all but the head of the gingerbread man. A tortuous loss that should have gone one way or the other: dismantle and store the remaining trusses for restoration and reuse or tear down the whole structure and risk receiving the Bonehead Award for 2013, which was given to the arsonists who succeeded all the way in this type of business.

 

BEST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO PRESERVE A HISTORIC BRIDGE

USA:   

The Petit Jean Bridge in front of Danville City Hall. Photos courtesy of J. Randall Houp

Petit Jean Bridge in Arkansas:  While looking at this 1880 bowstring arch bridge, one would say that it is a typical vintage bridge that deserves to be honored, even if it is demolished with the information being placed in the books. Yet apart from its history with an infamous lynching incident in 1883 that scarred Yell County, the Petit Jean Bridge receives this award and is in the running for the Ammann Awards for Best Preservation Practice for a good reason: It is the only bridge in the state, let alone one of a few rare bridges that was relocated more than one time in its lifetime- and still retained its original form! The bridge was relocated three times, including one to its final resting point this past October: in front of the Danville City Hall to be part of a city bike trail network. If the Petit Jean Bridge wins the Ammann Awards in addition to this one, it will be because of the care that the county took in relocating and restoring the bridge multiple times. What other historic bridge can make this prestigious claim?

 

International:

Three bridges in the UK have received the Smith Rewards for the best example of preserving a historic bridge. The first one goes to the Llangollen Chain Bridge in the Northeastern Part of Wales. The cantilever suspension bridge was built in 1929, even though the crossing has a 200-year tradition, yet it was closed to all traffic 30 years ago due to safety concerns. Since that time, efforts were undertaken to raise funds for restoring and reopening the structure connecting the Llangollen Canal and the railway. This was successful and the bridge is currently being restored, awaiting reassembly  this year.  The second one goes to the Whitby Swing Bridge in North Yorkshire, a duo-span deck girder swing bridge that underwent renovations totaling £250,000 last year to redo and waterproof the electric wiring, strengthen and paint the girders. It worked wonders for while flooding this past December left the swing spans in the open position, no damage was done to the electrical wiring and the superstructure itself. Something that people can take pride in and show others how restoring a swing bridge can actually work.  And lastly, the Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge, located near Chester (England) is currently undergoing an extensive rehabilitation to rework the swing mechanism, strength the Howe trusses and improve the decking for a total of £4.5 million, with the goal of prolonging its lifespan by 50 years. The preparations for this project was herculean for a temporary span was constructed prior to the closure of the 90-year old structure, for the bridge provides the only vital link between the two communities.  Once the bridge reopens next year, it will show to the public that the project and its difficulties in arrangement and processes was really worth it, especially as the people of the two communities have a close relationship with the bridge.

For more information on these bridges, click on the links marked in the text. As you can see in the selections, it is just as difficult in choosing them as it is for people voting for the candidates for the Ammann Awards. Yet despite the fear that 2013 would usher in the year of destruction of historic bridges- and we’ve seen a lion’s share this year- it actually was a good year for many unique examples were restored for reuse, marking a sign that the interest in historic bridges is huge- both in the United States, as well as elsewhere. How 2014 will take shape depends on numerous factors, which include the interest in historic bridges, the increasing number of preservationists and technical personnel willing to restore them, and lastly the financial standpoint. There was speculation that the Crash of 2008 in the US marked the end of the preservation movement, yet that did not seem to move the people whose close ties with these structures remain steadfast. If communities cooperate with private groups and provide support towards preserving the remaining historic bridges, as seen with the Bunker Mill, Riverside and Green Bridges, then there is a great chance that they will receive new life and will be greeted by the new generations interested in them. Without cooperation and funding, the structures will simply sit there rotting until they are swept away by the ages of time.

On to the results of the Ammann Awards; even though the deadline is January 11th to submit your votes, the results will be given out on the 13th. Stay tuned.

 

 

Something Old and Something New at the Historic Bridge Weekend

Cascade Bridge in Burlington, Iowa. One of many bridges visited on the tour.

Open-air presentations, reunion with old friends and colleagues, incredible bridge finds
There is a first time in everything. This old saying can be applied to this year’s Historic Bridge Weekend, which took place August 9-12 in eastern Iowa. While we had a total of 23 participants from all over the US and Germany at the four-day event, which in the face of the Iowa State Fair and the Knoxville Nationals that took place at the same time, was a sizable turnout, we did have some firsts that made the four-day event memorable for everyone. We had the youngest presenter talking about bridges- aged 15. We had the youngest participant, who was four years old and was also pictured in an article produced by the Iowa City Press Citizen crossing the Sutliff Bridge. We had our first open-air presentations on the night we dedicated to a special pontist who worked to save many bridges in Iowa. The bridgehunting tour featured a bridge-smorgasbord, meaning people can visit the bridges they wanted to go to- and got some great pics in addition to that. This first time event is despite the fact that we had a guided tour. And even though the four-day event was also a first (for the Weekend usually takes place Friday to Sunday), the fourth day featured a tour through the life of a girl who saved many lives from a train wreck, which downed one bridge, but not before having to cross a long bridge on her hands and knees in the face of a fierce storm with torrential flooding. While some points from the 2013 Weekend will be detailed in future articles and photos of the Weekend can be found on the Chronicles’ facebook site (click here to get to the site), here are some highlights of the events that made the fifth annual Weekend an interesting success story.

Stone City General Store and Restaurant: site of the open-air dedication ceremony on Friday

Open-air presentation:
In the fresh air with only the Wapsi-secadas chirping along the Wapsipinicon River, singing in the background, the Friday night dedication dinner honoring the late James Hippen took place at the Stone City General Store and Restaurant located three miles west of Anamosa. Elaine Hippen, widow of the late history professor at Luther College who died in February 2010, and Bill Moellering, former engineer for Fayette County who was close friends with Mr. Hippen, spoke at the event. Due to the missing conference room and lots of noise, the presentations took place on the front terrace of the restaurant where the secadas dominated the background noise mainly. This makeshift concept was well-received and gave some people an idea of how to have an open-air evening of the Weekend in the future, yet such an event would require a venue that is quiet and cut off from the usual crowd, which at the General Store was very noisy and full of Bachelors.

 

Ely Stret Bridge in Bertram

Saturday Morning Bridge Tour:

While this year’s bridgehunting tour featured a smorgasbord, which meant that participants can pick and choose which bridges to visit, several people took advantage of the Saturday morning bridge tour, which was given by Quinn Phelan and started at the Anamosa Bridge before going to a restored covered bridge, the Upper Paris Bridge, and three other bridges in and around the Bertram area, located east of Cedar Rapids. After ending the tour at the Ely Street Bridge, we went to the F.W. Kent Park west of Iowa City to look at several truss bridges that were relocated from parts of Johnson County to be used on the bike trail. The park features several miles of trails, a lake with swimming possibilities and some playgrounds. As for the bridges, here’s the Chronicles’ Guessing Quiz for you to ponder and answer:

How many truss bridges are located at F.W. Kent Park?

When was the park first conceived?

The answer will come when the article on this park is posted as part of the series on Iowa’s bridges and the Historic Bridge Weekend.

Sutliff Bridge near Mt. Vernon. Photo taken by Birgit Smith

 

Paying Homage to an Iowa Icon:

After allowing some time to see other bridges in the afternoon, Saturday night’s presentation and dinner took place at Baxa’s Sutliff Restaurant and Tavern, located across the road from the three-span Sutliff Bridge. Built in 1898 over the Cedar River, the bridge served traffic until being converted to a pedestrian crossing in the 1980s and had remained intact until floodwaters amputated the easternmost span and its west approaches on 13 June, 2008. Four years and a couple million dollars later, the bridge reopened with a replica span in place. Randy Owl, who owns the Restaurant and is Vice President of the Sutliff Bridge Authority took 30 minutes to talk about the bridge to approx. 21 people who attended the event. Nathan Holth and John Marvig also took some time to talk about their work. Mr. Holth’s Historic Bridges,org is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, while Mr. Marvig talked about railroad bridges in Iowa, focusing on the crossings in the Quad Cities and Dubuque areas.

A Tour Back into Time:

After a presentation on the bridges of Marion County and the Silent Auction on Sunday in Pella, the four-day event concluded with a trip back into time to honor a young girl who saved many lives. A dozen people took part in the tour of Kate Shelley and the bridges which bear her name in history and her honor. The tour, conducted by Pamela Schwarz, started at the Boone County Historical Museum in Boone and took us to the Kate Shelley Viaduct, the Wagon Wheel Bridge located north of the viaduct, the remains of the Honey Creek Bridge, the site of where the bridge collapsed in a storm on the night of July 6th, 1881. Ms. Shelley’s farm was located nearby and she heard the bridge collapse that night. And finally the tour ended at Moingona, the site of the train station where Kate informed the tenant of the accident and approaching train. Behind the station was the remants of the Des Moines River bridge where Kate crawled across the bridge to get help.  Misty McNally created a pop quiz on Kate Shelley and her heroic deeds and it will be posted in the next article.

Reunion with old friends and colleagues:

For one person, the Historic Bridge Weekend provided a special treat as it a chance to reunite with some old friends. Bill Moellering was the county engineer for Fayette County from 1964 until his retirement in 2001 and collaborated closely with James Hippen on saving the bridges in his county- namely by bypassing them and leaving them in place- as it was the most cost-effective measure at that time. An article on the bridges in the county is in the works and will come out soon. It also included some help from the Iowa DOT in identifying the most significant bridges and determining which ones should be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While meeting new people at the Weekend, he reunited with Jim’s widow Elaine at the Friday night event and shared some memories of his days working together with the historian. Judy McDonald, who was historian at the Iowa DOT before retiring in 2009, also had an opportunity to visit with him for the first time in many years, while on the Kate Shelley tour.  Despite all the travels he and his son Jack went through on the Weekend tour to visit some of the finest bridges in the state, Bill was the star of the show as he shared some interesting stories with others, many of which were unforgettable. It also garnered some media attention at home in West Union, as the county recently turned to him for some guidance on how to reuse the bridges that have been serving as objects for tourists and pontists to see. More on the latest developments can be found here.

 

What’s next?

Despite a successful turnout overall, combined with a successful silent auction in the face of a few participants at Bos Landen on Sunday, and lots of memories while on the bridgehunting tour, some lessons for the next Historic Bridge Weekend can and will be taken with for the next coordinators to organize. While it is highly unlikely that we will have a four-day event like this again (or if so, it’ll be a Thursday through Sunday ordeal), the next Historic Bridge Weekend in 2014, which appears to be going to Michigan will be more local as many regions have numerous bridges within a 150-mile radius. Less is more when it comes to travelling to see the historic bridges, especially because of gas prices but also one has a chance to see more and visit more. This will be key when planning for future Weekends, as some areas in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana will be targets for bridge enthusiasts to visit and photograph. Also interesting is to find out how to include children in the Historic Bridge Weekend, for as we see in this year’s event, the interest in historic bridges has increased with each generation. The question is how to make the event more interesting for children without having to bore them with travelling long distances just to see a bridge. As mentioned many times, a bridge is just an ordinary bridge unless it has historic and aesthetic value and/or unique design for people to see. It is more of a question of marketing this so that people can understand better how bridges play a role in the country’s infrastructure and America’s history, which seems to evolve around making things better for everyone to use and learn.

Author’s note: Some of the bridges highlighted on the tour will be featured in separate articles, including the Cascade Bridge in Burlington, the Bridges of Marion, Winneshiek and Fayette Counties and Bunker Mill Bridge near Kalona- the last of which has its future hanging in the balance because of a fire that destroyed the bridge’s flooring on the morning of the 12th. Stay tuned for more articles to come.

But first……