An Interview with John Marvig

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

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

….that is unless you are John Marvig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Crookston Railroad Bridge.

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

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

 

BHC:  Set a positive example- what examples?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Redstone Bridge spanning the Minnesota River in New Ulm.

BHC: Is the Redstone Bridge still in service?

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

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

 

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

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

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Colfax Railroad Bridge in Wisconsin

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

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

 

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

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

 

 BHC: Which Railroad Bridge is your all time favorite?

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

BHC: Thank you for your time for this interview.

Marvig: No problem.

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

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The Historic Bridges of Duluth, Minnesota

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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

 

2015 Amman Awards Voting Part 1

Finally, after a pair of significant delays due to events that have interrupted our lifestyles on both sides of the Big Atlantic, the time has come for the voting process for the 2015 Othmar H. Ammann Awards, powered by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and Poll Daddy.com. Unlike in previous voting, all the voting will be done directly through the Chronicles, which means more independence from external sources. 🙂 Also differently from last year is that the voting process will commence in two separate articles. This article will feature the category of Best Photo, where all photos will be presented and you will choose your top two votes.  Article 2 will feature the rest of the categories in the form of ballots with descriptions being presented. Please follow all instructions given when voting. In case of questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles

You have until 2 February to vote. The votes will be tallied and the result presented the same day. The five-year anniversary version of the Ammann Awards, where the top two from each category in the years 2011-2016 will be selected and voted on next year. More details will come in November.

Here we go with the voting! 😀

BEST PHOTO (2 Votes limit)

Photo taken by the author in December, 2014
Photo taken by the author in December, 2014

Bentonsport Bridge in Iowa- Jason D. Smith

 

MN-210 Bridge

Thomson Bridge in Minnesota- John Weeks III

 

hayden bridge

Hayden Bridge in Oregon- Julie Bowers

 

TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE A car drives over the Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Gallatin County Commissioners approved Tuesday an engineering study for its replacement.
TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE
A car drives over the Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Gallatin County Commissioners approved Tuesday an engineering study for its replacement.

Nixon Bridge in Montana- Troy Carter- Bozeman Chronicle

 

TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE Anglers row on the Jefferson River just before the Williams Bridge near Willow Creek on Saturday, Oct. 24. Six one-lane truss bridges, including the Williams Bridge, have been designated structurally obsolete according to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department.
TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE
Anglers row on the Jefferson River just before the Williams Bridge near Willow Creek on Saturday, Oct. 24. Six one-lane truss bridges, including the Williams Bridge, have been designated structurally obsolete according to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department.

Williams Bridge in Montana- Troy Carter  Bozeman Chronicle

 

hwy.5 bridge alabama

Hwy. 5 Bridge in Alabama- J. Carson Barrett

 

firescald bridge tn

Firescald Bridge in Tennessee- J. Carson Barrett

curry chapel bridge

Chapel Curry Bridge in Alabama- J. Carson Barrett

 

Savana-Sabula Bridge in Iowa-Illinois- Roger Deschner

 

AFTER LOOKING AT THE PHOTOS, PLEASE PROCEED TO PART II, WHICH IS HERE ->

Mystery Bridge 46: The Disappearing Bridge in Nicollet County, Minnesota

Photo courtesy of MnDOT

Just recently, as I was looking for some information on some historic bridges for a book on one of the rivers in Minnesota, I happened to stumble across this bridge by chance. Located over the Minnesota River south of Fort Ridgely State Park, the only information gathered from an inventory of all bridges constructed in Minnesota revealed that the bridge was built in 1905, carried a township road, and was 259 feet long.  I bundled that bridge (known to locals as the Hinderman Bridge) in with my other bridge inquiries to MnDOT, only to receive this black and white picture from 1941. As you can see in the picture, the bridge was a two-span Pratt pony truss with pinned and eyebar connections.  According to information from MnDOT, with the construction of the MN Hwy. 4 Bridge to the northwest and a new bridgeat County Highway 13 in 1987, it was determined that the truss structure was rendered useless and was therefore abandoned, taken off the road system and most likely ended up in the back yard of a private farmstead.  Using Googlemap, it is revealed that the bridge no longer exists, as it was removed at a certain date, even though it is unknown when that took place, let alone why it happened to begin with.

The Minnesota River is laden with lots of information on bridges, both past and present, much of which have been documented for public availability at local museums, the state historical society and even online. Yet there are many questions that have yet to be answered with regards to this bridge. First and foremost, we have the issue of location. Many historic maps in the early 1900s had revealed that the bridge no longer existed with the exception of the canoe map provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, leading to the question of what type of service the road served before it was closed along with the bridge.  This was one of the findings that fellow pontist John Weeks III thought was odd, during his visit to the bridge in 2008. Yet the Hinderman Bridge does have some history behind it as Weeks discovered while researching about this bridge:

The bridge was named after Captain Hinderman and was once a popular ferry, connecting Ridgely Township in Nicollet County and the village of Home in Brown County. In 1905 the state appropriated $1,800 for a new crossing to replace the ferry, and the bridge was later built under the direction of Captain Hinderman and William LaFlamboy on the Nicollet side and Hans Moe from Sleepy Eye on the Brown side.  It is unknown where the steel was fabricated and who the bridge builder was, but it is likely that Hinderman and local residents may have ordered the structure from the bridge builder and it was shipped to the location to be assembled.  Information from a source with relation to the Hinderman family revealed that the bridge was washed out by flooding in 1951 but was later rebuilt at the exact location. But more concrete information came from the great-granddaughter of Captain Hinderman in 2012, who revealed that the bridge had been in service for 82 years before it became a liability for Brown County (which had own the bridge) because of a weight limit of three tons and was later closed to traffic in the fall of 1987.  More information about the bridge can be found through John Weeks’ website here.

This was all the information that was found about the Hinderman Bridge. All that is left of the bridge is wood pilings and the road approaching what is left of the bridge from both sides. A center pier in the middle of the Minnesota River, which revealed a two-span structure was knocked into the river by flooding in the 2000s. Yet it still does not answer the following questions:

1. Who provided the steel and was contracted to build the bridge?

2. When was the bridge removed and why?

3. When was Hinderman’s Ferry in service, and how long did the village of Home exist?

Any information about the bridge would be much appreciated, so that we can close the book on the story of this bridge that had once been an important crossing but became an unknown memory after 1987. The article and information about the bridge are available through bridgehunter.com, where you can place your comments in the section by clicking here. Yet, you can contact the Chronicles and John Weeks III using the contact details provided both in the Chronicles page here as well as here.

The author wishes to thank Peter Wilson at Minnesota DOT for providing some important information and photos of this bridge. 

Long Meadow Bridge in Bloomington, Minnesota

Side view of the Long Meadow Bridge and plane enroute to the Twin Cities International Airport. Photo taken in August 2011

Inspite the number of historic bridges being demolished or wiped away because of natural disasters, there are a few bright spots to consider. The Long Meadow Bridge in Bloomington, MN is one of them.  Spanning the Long Meadow Lake arm of the Minnesota carrying Old Cedar Avenue, this 1920 structure, featuring five riveted Parker through truss spans with M-frame portal bracings has had a long history in itself. The current structure is the second crossing at this site where a major thoroughway used to exist. Originally connecting Minneapolis with the southern suburbs of Apple Valley, Bloomington and other smaller towns, Cedar Avenue used to be a major throughway back in the times where freeways did not even exist, with three major bridges carrying the major highway- Tenth Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, the Minnesota River Swing Bridge, and this one, located just to the north of the Swing Bridge. The Swing Bridge and this bridge were built at the same time in 1890, with the latter featuring trestle approaches a possibily a swing span as its main span. Evidence of this can be found in pictures, as shown by John Weeks, who has visited this bridge many times (click here for pictures).  Yet for some reason, be it lack of boat traffic or flooding, the swing span and trestles at Long Meadow Lake were replaced with a series of fixed spans in 1920, which has not been altered since then.  Both bridges served traffic crossing the island and providing access between the southern suburbs, the International Airport and downtown Minneapolis. This was until the bridges were rendered useless with the construction of the tied arch bridges in 1979, and Cedar Avenue (which had become Hwy. 77 in 1949) was rerouted to this freeway bridge. Sections of Cedar Avenue were eventually either rerouted or cut off with the construction of the Hwy. 62 Crosstown and I-494 Freeways, while the swing span over the Minnesota River was torn down shortly after the opening of the Hwy. 77 Bridge in 1980. Yet the Long Meadow Lake Bridge continued to serve traffic until it was deemed unsafe and was closed to cars in 1993 and later to all pedestrians and cyclists in 2002, fencing it off and removing 30 feet of decking on each side of the bridge. Despite the construction of a pedestrian bridge south of the bridge over the Minnesota River, there has not been any access to the airport, Mall of America (built in 1991) and the rest of the Twin Cities from the south.

But that is about to change!

For years, officials from several aspects of government, including the City of Bloomington, the National Park Service, the National Wildlife Preserve, and the state government have been wrestling over the future of the bridge, with the majority of the Bloomington City Council wanting to see the bridge torn down and replaced with a berm or a new crossing, and the federal agencies wanting the bridge to be kept as it is part of the national wildlife refuge which includes 35 miles of wildlife along the Minnesota River starting at Ft. Snelling State Park south of St.Paul. With the fight lingering, it seemed that there would be no end in site, and the bridge would eventually become part of naturing, decaying slowly but surely.

But recent decisions made this month has given the Long Meadow Bridge new life. This is thanks to Representative Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, who had been fighting to provide funding for the reconstruction of the structure. How she successfully accomplish this task though required some clever thinking and some support from House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL- Minneapolis and Governor Mark Dayton, DFL. The scoop: The Mall of America. Built in 1991 as the largest mall in the country at that time, officials wanted to expand the facility to include more shopping, lodging, gambling and parking possibilities, a project worth over $1.5 billion.  State legislators on 22 May agreed on a proposal to provide $250 million towards the project and additional $9 million for the bridge. There was a catch though, which was no cent would be spent unless the City of Bloomington agreed to reconstruct the bridge.  While the city breathed a sign a relief that funding is available and were very forthcoming on the proposal, they had another catch to the plan: officials cannot tear down and replace the bridge!

10 days ago, the Long Meadow Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its association with the type of bridge used during the 1920s, when the era of standardized truss bridges with riveted connections and heavy steel to accomodate traffic was in full motion. It was also part of the history of the Old Cedar Avenue and for many residents, the history of Bloomington itself.  With its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the bridge will receive new life as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge as it will undergo extensive rennovation to reopen the important link between the southern suburbs and the airport and the Twin Cities.

How this bridge will be rehabilitated remains unclear. Judging by the author’s visit in 2011, combined with inspections done by the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation, the major problems contractors will be facing will be the decking portion of the bridge, as many floorbeams and cross beams have corroded away to a point of irreparability and will have to be replaced. Yet if lessons are learned from three other examples, the Merriam Street, Washington Avenue and 4th Avenue Bridges, it is most likely that the Long Meadow Bridge may be set into a concrete bridge, which will function as the main bridge with the truss bridge being the ornament. On the other hand, if wood decking is needed, than new steel beams will be needed to support the deck and to function as a standing structure.  The superstructure itself appears to be in great condition despite the rust but will most likely be repainted so that it is protected against weather extremities. While it is unclear what the condition of the piers are, learning the lessons from the collapse of a railroad bridge in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) because of flooding, it is most likely that they will have to be inspected for scouring and be reinforced and or replaced.  And lastly, the old highway will need to be cleared of downed trees and other vegetation which had taken over since 2002. The road does not necessarily need to be replaced  as it still retains its historic character, yet some touch-ups will be needed to ensure that safety and aesthetics go together like bread and butter.

The hill will be steep to climb regarding rehabilitating the bridge, but one can use $9 million wisely to make the bridge what it was before it was closed to all traffic and return the bridge to its original form- as a piece of history connecting three key points. Thanks to Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, the wish of restoring the bridge and opening it up again will become a reality. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on this bridge.

Photos:

Photo taken in August 2011
Ariel view of the Cedar Avenue Bridge taken in 1968 by MnDOT. The expressway bridge built 600 feet south of the bridge was built 10 years later.

 

Cedar Avenue Swing Bridge over the Minnesota River built south of the Long Meadow Bridge. Portal view of the bridge photographed by MnDOT
Oblique view of the Cedar Avenue Swing Bridge over the Minnesota River in an open formation. Photo taken by MnDOT

You can see a gallery with photos taken of the bridge by the author with some details and explanations here.

Ammann Awards 2012 Results

Browns Creek Bridge near Stillwater, Minnesota. Winner of this year’s Best Kept Secret Award for the US. Photo taken and submitted by David Parker of David Parker Photography.

Midwestern Bridges take center stage, Cooper and Newlon win Lifetime Legacy, Thuringia on the map for Best Kept Secret

After the last of the votes have been tallied, it is now time for the results of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ Othmar H. Ammann Awards and the Smith Awards for historic bridges (the results of the latter will be in the next article).  Apart from new categories, this year’s awards mark the first time that the forum had an opportunity to vote for all the categories instead of just the best photo award like last year. And while the voting turnout was low in comparison to last year, the number of entries was not only higher than last year, but the decision on who gets the award for the respective categories was especially difficult for we had some high class bridges and pontists who deserve the recognition regardless of category. For those who voted- the pontists, journalists, historians, columnists and even the common person- time was needed and the voting was based on not just on the bridge’s history (or lack of, in the case of the Mystery Bridges) but the aesthetic features that make the historic bridge an attractive place for passersby. Without further ado, here are the winners and runners-up of this year’s Ammann Awards:

Lifetime Achievement:

James L. Cooper-
Votes: 7

Professor Ermeritus of DePauw University in Indiana, Mr. Cooper has worked with historic bridge preservation for 40 years, leading to success stories of historic bridges being preserved in his home state and several publications. He was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Historic Bridge Conference. An interview with him can be found here.

Howard Newlon, Jr. (Post humous)

Howard Newlon spent over 30 years at the Virginia Transportation Research Council and 50 years as professor, promoting historic bridge preservation, and spearheading publication efforts spanning 30 years and still counting. He died on 25 October and a Post Humous article provided by his colleagues can be seen here. The Chronicles is providing an award in his honor for his work.

Runner-up: Julie Bowers and Nels Raynor at Workin Bridges

Vote: 5

 

Best Photo:

Photo taken and submitted by John Weeks III

3rd Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota (submitted by John Weeks III)- this bridge is located over the Mississippi River, overlooking the city’s business district as seen in this picture.

Votes: 6

Photo taken and submitted by Jonathan Parrish

 

Runner-up:  Crosley Bridge in Jennings County, Indiana

Votes: 5

Other bridges in the race: Eau Claire Railroad Bridge, Lowry Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, Mulberry Creek Bridge in Ford County, Kansas, Washington Bridge in Missouri and New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, among the 13 candidates that were entered this year.

 

Mystery Bridge Award:

Like in the Best Photo Award, this race was also a close one. But the winner of this award goes to….

Photo taken by Aaron Leibold

Waddell A-frame truss bridge in Texas (submitted by Aaron Leibold)

Votes: 5

Orr Bridge, one of many Mystery Bridges profiled this year that belonged to Harrison County. Photo courtesy of Clayton Fraser

Runner-up:  The Bridges of Harrison County, Iowa (submitted by a party of five people, including the author, the locals including Craig Guttau, and the city of Buellton, California)

Votes: 4

 

Other Mystery Bridges that entered the competition included: The Hobuck Flat Bridge in New York, Hurricane Creek Bridge in Arkansas, and a Bascule Bridge in Friedrichstadt, Germany. You can view these candidates as well as other Mystery Bridges by going to the Mystery Bridges section under the Forum and Inquiries page located in the header.

Best Kept Secret Award for the United States

This bridge is a must-see when visiting the state of Minnesota because of its beauty and historic background that is in connection with the development of the transportation infrastructure in the state. The winner of this year’s award goes to:

The Brown’s Creek Bridge near Stillwater, Minnesota (submitted by David Parker)– this bridge was one of the first that was built after the state entered the union in 1853. The 1863 stone arch structure used to carry a military road between Cottage Grove and Duluth. It is the oldest bridge left in the state and one that despite its recognition by the National Register of Historic Places, has received minimal attention- until now.

Votes: 6

We had a two-way tie for second in the Best Kept Secret Award, each receiving three votes apiece. One of the runners-up is the Newfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in New York (submitted by Karen Van Etten), the other is the US Hwy. 50 stretch going through Clay County, Illinois, which features six vintage bridges that have been out of use for many years. That was submitted by James Baughn.

Best Kept Secret International:

The race was rather tight in this category as well as the selection was very difficult to choose from. In the end, Hans-Joerg Vockrodt and Diedrich Baumbach can add this award to their resumé for the winner goes to:

Kraemerbruecke in Erfurt at Christmas time. Photo taken in December 2010

The Bridges of Erfurt, Germany- featuring two dozen pre-1920 arch and truss bridges within the capital of Thuringia, and over 200 bridges within the entire city and metropolitan area. There are two books written by the authors focusing on the restoration attempts of the arch bridges in the inner city and the history of the bridges in the entire city. While they are both in German, perhaps an English version may be in the cards, especially after receiving five votes.

Runners-up saw a tie for second between the bridges of Copenhagen, Denmark and the bridges of Friedrichstadt, Germany with three votes apiece. Each city has a collection of various bridges based on bridge type, but whose history dates back to their founding. More on these bridge can be found by clicking on the respective links.

Other Best Kept Secret entrants for this year include:

US: Good Thunder Railroad Bridge in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, Mill Creek Bridge in Independence County, Kansas, and the Bridges of Boonville, New York

International: Pont Turcot Bridge in Quebec (Canada)

 

Bridge of the Year for 2012:

The final award is the Bridge of the Year, which focuses on a particular bridge that was the focus of massive attention by not only the media, but also the pontists and other people associated with the bridge. This year was supposed to be the year for the Golden Gate Bridge, as it celebrated its 75th birthday. Unfortunately, other bridges received much more attention due to many circumstances that have provoked countless discussions about historic significance versus safety. One of the bridges received the Smith Award this year (more details in the next article).

Eau Claire Viaduct: This year’s bridge of the year winner. Photo taken by John Marvig

Winner of the award:

The Eau Claire Viaduct-  This bridge was found and photographed by John Marvig and is a real gem. It is a quintangular intersecting Warren deck truss bridge that was built by the Lassig Bridge Company and was used by the railroad companies Chicago and Northwestern and later Union Pacific. Although abandoned for over 20 years, the city is looking at converting the bridge into a pedestrian crossing. At the same time, it is in the running for the National Register of Historic Places.

Other candidates: Eggners Ferry Bridge in Kentucky, Kate Shelley Viaduct, Fort Dodge (Iowa) Viaduct, Golden Gate Bridge and Nine Mile Creek along the former Erie Canal.