This week’s pic of the week is also the 106th mystery bridge in the series. And while it is in the running for this year’s Ammann Awards in the category Mystery Bridge, it is also in the running for the Author’s Choice Awards for the Best Find of a Historic Bridge.
That is if this bridge is historic. It does look rather strange up close.
When driving along Crimmitschauer Strasse heading west and away from Pölbitz, a suburb of Zwickau in Saxony, one will see some housing developments along a small valley, where a creek runs through. Going by the name of Weissenborner Bach (or creek), there are dozens of small crossings for pedestrians and filled-in crossings for cars to enable access to the housing there, where the average age for the houses and flats there are no more than a decade old.
Yet during a drive most recently, I found a hidden arch bridge located just off the highway, tucked away in the trees. It was then I needed to pull off to have a look. From a distance, one can see a typical arch bridge that is closed spandrel, regardless of the color in the concrete. Yet getting an even closer look at the structure, it turned out to be anything but that.
The bridge’s main arch was not round but polygonal, resembling a Parker truss design minus the vertical and diagonal beams. The same applies to the outer two arches, albeit not as visible as the main arch. The bridge appears to be built using wooden boards that had been cut up, which would partially answer the question of why the arch is polygonal. The boards are slanted and when having a closer look at it, one can clearly see the pattern. Normally for arch bridges, they are made of concrete or brick, with the latter having vertical and horizontal patterns. When looking at the arches more closely, they are faux pa, meaning the bridge itself is a beam span, and the arches were added as decoration. When finding out that diagonal beams are supporting the bridge from inside the arches, one can conclude that the bridge is a kingpost deck truss that is flanked with faux pa, polygonal arches. The question is how old is the bridge, for given the condition of the wood, they appear to be not much older than 10 years.
Any ideas behind the bridge? And do you know of other polygonal arch bridges that exist? If you do, you know what to do. 🙂
The bridge was photographed right in the middle of Fall with the ground covered in leaves and the trees having a combination of red, yellow and light green. In Sepia form, it looks even spookier with the dark-colored bridge in the background. In either case, this pic of the week best fits with the season that is in full swing, even though we have had some warmer than usual weather- a sign of tough times to come.
Our 96th mystery bridge takes us to the central part of the US; specifically to Wakefield, in Clay County, Kansas. The Milford Lake Truss Bridge is one of two bridges that used to be located along a path on the western side of the lake. The truss span is a Kingpost pony truss, which features cruciform outriggers on the outer edge on the verticle post. The truss connections are riveted, however, the trusses are supported by V-laced lally columns, entrenched into the stream bed. Its decking is held by concrete wingwalls. The bridge is between 45 and 50 feet long between abutments; between 30 and 40 if focusing on the trusses. Judging by the age of the trusses and its connections, the bridge must’ve been built between 1900 and 1915 as riveted connections were being introduced at that time to replace the pinned connections. Furthermore, many of these riveted trusses included cruciform outriggers, designed to keep the trusses vertical and attached to the lower chord. Many local bridge builders used kingposts for small stream crossings, including those in Kansas, where this bridge is located. They include the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Works, Stupp Brothers (both of St. Louis), the Hewett families of bridge builders in Minneapolis (MN), RD Wheaton and Company in Chicago and Seevers Bridge Company in Oskaloosa (IA), just to name a few. This bridge was most likely built by a bridge contractor in Kansas or Missouri, given its approximate location near the border. But more information is needed to prove this.
As for Milford Lake itself, the lake was created by the US Corps. of Engineers in 1967, which included the damming of the Republican River. It was part of the project to control flooding and create recreational areas in and around Junction City. The lake has 15,700 acres of water and over 33,000 acres of land used for natural habitat. It is the largest lake in Kansas with a length of 20 miles and a width of five miles on average. When the lake was formed, this bridge was partially submerged along with a culvert, 200 feet away. Yet because of the drought, much of the lake has decreased in size and depth, thus revealing this beauty.
This presents a grand opportunity to save this bridge by restoring it, relocating it to a community that may need it and reuse it as a bike crossing. Given its location right next to the water, leaving it as is may not be an option, for water levels may rise and the bridge may disappear- even for good. According to Forrest Stewart, who submitted this photo on Interesting Places in Kansas’ facebook site, and confirmed by many bridge enthusiasts, damage to the trusses has been reported which includes bends in the cruciform and bottom chords. Although it is not severe enough that the bridge is in immediate danger of collapse, some repairs are needed, nonetheless before it is repurposed.
To sum up: The bridge was rebuilt between 1900 and 1915 by a local bridge builder, but is in need of a new home before it is re-inundated again, possibly disappearing together. Can you help with the history and or the efforts? A map is enclosed to show its location. All you need to do is call for help.
Under a pile of rubble, there is always a jewel, no matter who or what it is or where it came from. Located 16 kilometers south of Glauchau, along the Mulde River, the city of Zwickau may look like an ordinary community, whose architecture mostly comes from the Cold War. This includes high-rise buildings, mining facilities, old factories and even bridges built using scarce materials possible but only lasting 40 years. In fact, a newspaper report from a local newspaper in Chemnitz revealed as many as 37 bridges in the district of 480,000 inhabitants (of which the city itself has 104,000 residents) that are in dire need of repair or replacement. Most of them had exceeded their expected lifespan by 20 years and are hanging by a thread because of imposed weight limits designed to keep trucks, tractors and busses off of them.
But underneath the doom and gloom of a bygone era, there are some jewels to find. Zwickauprides itself on the automobile industry, where the beloved Trabant automobile was built- now the company belongs to Volkswagen. Audi was founded in this community in 1904. The world’s first known and popular automobile racing union was created five years later. It also has an international school (Saxony International in Reinsdorf) and a college of science and technology (Westsächsisch Hochschule), making the city a multicultural university town. It has a bridge building firm that has existed since 1854 and still has its base in the city.
And when there is a bridge builder in the community, there will always be bridges, especially given its proximity to the river!
The town was first mentioned in 1118 when the Slavs settled there, yet a half dozen bridges, mostly covered wooden ones were built to connect it with other villages by the 1500s. By the late 1800s, more than 40 bridges crossed the Mulde or surrounded the old town center. Today, if one subtracts the crossings carrying pipelines, only a quarter of the bridges exist in Zwickau, all are along the Mulde. And of these 10 known crossings, counting the Zellstoff Bridge, four of them are over 70 years old. Two of them however have received national accolades because of their unusual designs. They include the Paradiesbrücke- the only known bridge in Germany and the western hemisphere that has the cantilever pony truss design- and the 500-year old Röhrensteg- the only known covered bridge with multiple designs and functions, plus the oldest in Saxony. Both of these centerpieces will be profiled together with nine other structures that will include a couple near Wilkau-Hasslau(to the south) and a couple near Schlunzig (to the north). All of them were built before 1990, but they will present not only the historical aspects of the bridges, but also address the issues involving their ability to carry traffic. A gallery of pictures are enclosed for each bridge I stopped at during the tour in September.
Picking up where I left off in Glauchau, we’ll start the tour going upriver and through the prized automobile and infrastructural community, starting off with our first bridge:
Built in 1954 replacing a wooden bridge destroyed in a flood, the Schlunzig Bridge may be a typical bland concrete beam bridge with little or no value, even if the structure is equipped with the ever so quickly disappearing set of street lighting from the bygone era. Yet its significance resembles two sides of a coin. On the one side, it is a typical East German Bridge, constructed using scarce materials that were prescribed by the Communist government- similar to the Wave at Wernersdorf (for more, see the tour guide on Glauchau’s bridges). Even the lighting originated from that era, which was considered too industrial for the region that is mostly oriented towards agriculture and nature. On the flip side, the bridge is a poster boy for the structural woes the region (and much of Germany) has been dealing with: a run-down structure that is unable to withstand increasing traffic or even weather extremities. The good news though is the district of Zwickau has approved the design and financial support for a new bridge. When the 50 meter long, Mulde crossing is replaced in 2018-19, in its place will be a more attractive bridge type that will awe even the bikers using the bridge to continue on the Mulde Bike Trail: the cable-stayed span! It will be interesting to see what it will look like when the bridge is back in service by the end of 2019.
Three kilometers to the south, near Crossen, we have this bridge. The Schneppendorf Bridge features a three-span closed spandrel concrete arch bridge with a total length of 80 meters. Like the Schlunzig Bridge, this one stems from the East German days with typical lighting and railing. It also fits the stereotype of bridges that despite being between 65 and 90 years old (as I estimated its age during my visit), it is in need of repairs because of wear and tear, combined with structural neglect. The bridge has weight restrictions, still it serves as a backdrop to the scenery one can enjoy at a park and rest area located just to the south of the structure. As a bonus, especially for photographers, the bridge and another one just 100 meters to the north- a through truss bridge carrying pipelines across the river- both have a nice background with wooded hills and old-fashioned houses. That bridge had a 45° skewed portal bracing, similar to the next bridge located to the south of the arch bridge. Sadly though, this bridge was removed in 2017 after it was revealed that the structure was rendered useless and a hazard for boaters along the Mulde.
Fast Fact: The bridge was in fact built in 1959 replacing an earlier span that had been built 21 years earlier but was destroyed in the war. Ironically, the 1938 span replaced an iron truss span that was built in 1878, replacing a wooden covered bridge from 1547. No pictures, postcards and drawings exist at this time, but if you have any that you wish to add please contact the Chronicles.
Entering Zwickau’s city limits, we have the Zellstoff Bridge on the left. Spanning the Mulde River, this bridge features one of the most unusual through truss spans in the region. It’s span consists of a Warren through truss with riveted connections. The portal bracings are skewed at a 45° angle and feature a V-laced form (outer portal) and an I-beam form with heel bracings (inner portal). The struts and vertical beams are both V-laced, as well with the diagonal beams being H-framed. The approach spans feature five spans of a concrete cantilever design. A gallery above will give you a description of what the bridge looks like. Also interesting is a narrow chimney at the left side of the west portal. This may be part of a mechanism that harnessed or even supported electricity, especially as many electrical lines went over this bridge. The bridge served a rail line connecting an automobile factory and possibly an area where mining had existed and therefore, played a key role in Zwickau’s industrial history. But more research on the mining area in Zwickau and in particular, the mini-chimney is needed to help uncover the secrets to the bridge and its surrounding area. The bridge was abandoned after 1990 and there was a plan to remove the structure shortly afterwards. However, thanks to opposition to the plan by residents and preservationists, the decision was scrapped in 2007, and today, the bridge serves as a bike trail between the city and the area where mining had existed. The overgrowth has dominated the bridge and the trail going east, but people can still use them to see what the mining area had looked like before the Fall of the Wall. Despite its age, many people still love this bridge, especially as I met some people while filming it, who all said this one word: “Historique.” That I’m not in a position to disagree with you on. The interest in the Zellstoff Bridge contributed to the City of Zwickau’s successful project in renewing the bridge flooring in early 2018. Since that time, more and more people are using the bridge and even getting some good shots with the camera. A blessing for bridge preservationists, historians and locals alike. 🙂
Here’s a Youtube video on this bridge:
Note: If you know more about this bridge in terms of its history and historic significance to the region, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles. The information will be added to the tour guide.
The first vehicular crossing over the Zwickau Mulde when entering Zwickau is located in the northernmost suburb, Pölbitz. Located at Pölbitzer Strasse, west of B-93, this bridge connects Pölbitz with Eckersbach and provides direct access to the nearest town of Crimmitschau. While records indicated the first wooden bridge having been built 1511, the bridge was replaced with a four-span concrete Luten arch bridge in 1914, all with closed spandrels. The bridge withstood years of abuse as a result of flooding, war and lastly, neglect because of the lack of resources and know-how during the Communist era. The straw that broke the camel’s back came with the Great Flood of 2002, which caused extensive damage to the bridge, especially the arches. The city council reacted with a plan to replace the entire structure with a concrete cantilever span, similar to the picture above. The bridge was replaced in 2005-06 with the current structure, which includes some finials and a memorial on the east end of the bridge. A video showing the events involving the Pölbitz Bridge before and after the replacement can be seen below. It includes interviews with those involved in the replacement project and commentary from the anchor, a local who obviously forgot about the arch bridge except for its destitute state.
Spanning the Zwickau Mulde at Kolpingstrasse and highway B-175 , this three-span structure features a concrete deck cantilever design. The bridge is one of the heavily travelled bridges in Zwickau for the crossing provides traffic in and around Zwickau as well as points to the west and north. The current structure was built in 1955 replacing a wooden combination trestle and Queenpost through truss structure that was built in 1898 under the name Socialist Bridge. The bridge was replaced with the current structure in 1955 but not before the floods a year earlier caused significant damage to the new bridge under construction as well as the truss bridge itself. Between 1898 and 1990, when the name was changed to Echersbach Bridge, the bridge was named with a socialist flair which started with that before changing to the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Bridge. Given its age and its wear and tear because of weather extremities and congestion, the bridge has seen better days, and it appears that in the coming years with the increase in traffic, replacement may have to be considered.
Only 150 meters north of the bridge is a pipeline bridge, built using steel plate girders. Built in the 1980s, the bridge carried hot water to Zwickau from sources to the east of the city. Abandoned for a decade, the bridge was removed in 2017 not only for liability reasons, but the residents nearby did not want to see an eyesore obstructing the view of the Mulde River valley.
The Maritius Bridge is the first of two Mulde River bridges in Zwickau that carry the major highway B93 going south. The steel structure features two bridges: One built in 1992 to accomodate street car service going south and a parallel one built in 1994 to accomodate vehicular traffic. Both structures replaced the Bierbrücke that was built where the present-day Maritius Brewery is located. The structure was first mentioned in 1859 and was built of wood, even though it is unclear whether it was a covered bridge or another truss structure. Furthermore, we don’t know how long the bridge had existed at that time. After having been destroyed by ice and flooding multiple times, an iron structure was built in 1861. According to some of the postcards, the bridge featured a Town Lattice truss bridge and had three spans. Due to structural concerns, the bridge was closed in the 1970s. It was rehabilitated in 1975 to accomodate pedestrians and cyclists by replacing the truss spans with steel beam and was raised a meter to allow for free flowing waters of the Zwickau Mulde. Inspite of this, the partial permanent closure of the Bierbrücke resulted in a complicated detour through other parts of Zwickau where massive traffic had not been seen on residential streets.
Because of lack of funding due to the economic conditions in East Germany during that time, reconstruction was only possible after the two Germanys were reunited. Come 1992, the first of two bridges were built to provide street car service to Eckersbach from the city center. By that time, the old Bierbrücke had vanished into history. Two lears later, as part of the B-93 expressway project, the second bridge was built for traffic. Today’s Maritius Bridge is the gateway to Zwickau from neighboring Glauchau and points to the north along the expressway connecting the city with Leipzig.
Paradise Bridge (Paradiesbrücke):
Germany was once known as a place filled with ornamental bridges built using unusual designs. Despite 90% of them being destroyed during the Third Reich and through the bombings in World War II, there are still some diamonds in the field that if found are worth researching and given its rightful honor. The Paradise Bridge, located at Nicolai and Reinsdorfer Strassen near the Nicolaischule and Eberts Palace is one of those bridges that deserves international accolades, as well as its neighbor upstream, the Röhrensteg. Having been considered a cultural heritage site (Kultutdenkmal) by both the East German government and later by the State of Saxony since 1980, here are some interesting facts worth noting about this bridge:
2. The bridge was built in 1900 by a bridge-building firm Beuchelt & Company in Grünberg in Schlesia (now part of Poland), replacing a covered bridge, which was one of over 30 that were built in Zwickau. The predecessor was built in 1694 by Johann Georg Findeisen from Schellenberg at a cost of 200 Taler. The covered bridge was one of the fanciest of the dozen built in Zwickau and it had come in response to multiple previous crossings that had been built but had survived briefly as they had been destroyed by ice jams, flooding and war. The Findeisen span had been in service for 306 years before it was decomissioned and dismantled in favor of the cantilever truss bridge.
3. The structure itself is 120 meters long, its tower is in the middle of the Mulde River. The width is 15 meters, counting the trusses. Since 1979 and inspite the restoration work in 2003, the bridge has been serving cyclist and pedestrian traffic, carrying a bike trail connecting Zwickau’s City Centre with Reinsdorf, located four kilometers to the east.
Its replacement structure is found 200 meters west of the bridge at Dr. Friedrichs Ring (Hwy. 173). That bridge, known as the Adolf Hennecke Bridge and later from 1990 onwards as the Glück-Auf-Brücke, was built in 1979 and connects Zwickau with Chemnitz to the southeast. That bridge is three times as long and twice as wide as the Paradiesbrücke, spanning the river, Highway B-93, the Mulde Bike Trail and Reinsdorfer Strasse.
4. When the bridge was renovated in 2003, the towers were crowned with finials resembling the Matthäus Kirche (St. Matthew’s Church) which was located 400 meters east of the entrance. Additional decorations on the trusses and ornamental lamps were also added making the bridge more attractive to tourists and passers-by.
5. The bridge is located near the site where a former mine and bridge building company used to be located. A memorial site with a miner resting with a beer in the hand can be seen 100 meters northeast of the city side of the entrance. It is also located near the Ebert Palace, whose finial towers can be seen above the trees at the bridge’s east entrance.
6. The bridge was the platform for several historical events affecting Zwickau and beyond. For instance, the name Paradies stammed from Martin Luther’s visit in Zwickau, where he crossed the bridge in rage after a row with the priests before entering a nearby house and declared: “Thank God I found this house. Here is my paradise.” The first was an open-air festival in 1847, featuring a concert by musicians Robert Schumann and his wife, Clara. For two weeks after the end of World War II, the bridge served as a temporary border crossing for American and Soviet troops. That ended in July 1945. And in 1956, a film production in Zwickau included a couple scenes on the bridge. The restoration of the bridge in 2002/03 came after floodwaters almost knocked the bridge off its piers. And most recently, an open-air cafe used to be on the bridge, which happened in 2017.
Any more reasons for listing this bridge on the UNESCO site in comparison with the nays? Check out this youtube video on this bridge:
Pöhlau Railroad Bridge:
Located near the site of the International Trabant Museum, this bridge appears to be one of the newer truss bridges built no earlier than 25 years ago. While its light brown color makes it look rusty in appearance, its “molded” connections is typical for today’s truss bridges. The Warren through truss bridge with beam portals and Lattice truss overhead bracings used to serve a rail line connecting Pöhlau and Zwickau Central Station. The bridge and the line are now abandoned. Given its age and modern appearance, chances are this bridge will be reused at some point- either as a crossing for cyclists in its place, a street car crossing going south or a railroad crossing at a new location. Time will tell what the City of Zwickau will do with this structure.
Like the Paradiesbrücke, the Röhrensteg (translated as the Bridge of Pipes) is another key attraction for Zwickau which should receive international recognition for its design and function. The bridge’s history dates back over 500 years to 1535, when the bridge was first built. At that time, the people in Zwickau needed water for their personal and commercial use. Because the water of the Mulde was dirty and not drinkable, the only source of clean drinking water to be found was at a pond near Reinsdorf- three kilometers away from the bridge. Henceforth, workers created man-powered pumping stations and pipelines made of hard wood from oak trees. The trees were cut down, and after stripping the bark and outer layers, a hole with a diameter of 30 centemeters was dug out by hand, but not before having cut the wood into sections and then connecting them once the hole was “drilled.” The wooden pipeline then transported water down the hill and across this bridge before being distributed throughout the city. A section of this wooden pipeline can still be seen on the bridge, where the overhead beams are still supporting it, providing proof that this practice once existed. A total of at least 17 wooden pipelines had been built for the city of Zwickau to provide drinking water for the community, four fountains where the wooden pipes were connected dating back to the 1700s have been preserved as exhibits at the city center to show this unique engineering feat. This pipeline system was later replaced with more modern systems in the early 20th century, but the bridge itself has withstood the test of time and mother nature. Despite having had substantial damage during the flood of 1790, the Röhrensteg was rebuilt and has retained its original form ever since. The bridge has survived numerous floods and other natural disasters, even after new pier casings were installed in 1940 as part of the project to dredge the Mulde River.
In terms of its structure, the Röhrensteg is the only truss bridge (wooden or metal) to have two different designs and two different portals. The bridge features a three-span Queenpost truss design on the western side and a subdivided Warren truss on the eastern side. A-frame portal bracing is found on the city side, X-frame lattice with heel bracings on the Reinsdorf side. Endposts with 45° angles can be found at each portal; together with the wooden siding lining up between the bridge and the abutment, this makes the Röhrensteg one of the most unusual covered bridges to have ever been built. Roofing is of hip style with an angle of 45°, which is similar to the covered bridges found in Switzerland. The bridge serves a bike trail connecting Zwickau’s southern part and Reinsdorf via Oberhohnsdorf, serving as a spur to the Mulde Bike trail that careens along the river.
Despite its unusual design and multi-functionality, the bridge is showing its age, and therefore needed to be rehabilitated. This work was completed during three quarters of 2018, having been reopened to traffic in January 2019. Details can be found here. Prior to the rehabilitation, new approach spans on the Reinsdorf side and the pier casing had been built, no extensive work has been done on the bridge prior to its extensive work. More on the work can be found here.
A youtube video on the Röhrensteg takes you across the bridge and to the pipes found in the superstructure itself. Check it out:
Röhrensteg after its reopening in 2019:
Schedewitz Bridges (New Schedewitz Bridge and Bockwaer Brücke):
Located in the suburb bearing the bridge’s name, the next two bridges are located only 200 meters from each other, each spanning the Mulde. The older bridge is a two-span Warren deck truss without verticals but with stone arch approach spans. Built in 1890, this bridge used to connect the suburbs of Schedewitz and Bockwa, hence it was known by locals as the Bockwaer Brücke. Its predecessors consisted of a multiple-span stone arch bridge that was built in 1842. The northern two spans of this bridge were preserved and used as approach spans for the Warren truss spans. Yet the first crossing was a covered bridge, which was built in 1661. The bridge used to serve a key route along the Silver Road, connecting Zwickau with Schneeberg via Wiesenburg. Much of that route has been taken over by the federal highway B-93. Furthermore, the bridge used to have a streetcar route and a two-lane vehicular crossing.
Because of flood damage in 1954, contract was let to the local bridge building firm VEB Brückenbauwerk Zwickau in 1956 to build its replacement span, located 200 meters downstream at the site where the crossing exists today. The new span features a three-span concrete cantilever span, with a length of 70 meters, accommodating four-lanes of traffic plus sidewalks. Construction lasted two years due to difficulties digging through the steep cliffs, requiring the use of explosives before the cliffs were dug out. The road was then laid out, which included a side road that would connect with the main route from the old Bockwaer Brücke before continuing onto Schneeberg. . This was useful for the highway was later extended to the south enroute to Reinsdorf, the motorway exit Zwickau-Ost and later Hartenstein. The new bridge has been serving traffic for over 60 years but age and wear and tear may warrant a much-needed rehabilitation in the future.
As for the Bockwaer Brücke, once the new Schedewitz Bridge was opened to traffic in 1958, work commenced to remove the street car tracks, plus halve the roadway to a point where only bikes and pedestrians could use the old bridge. The bridge was then raised 2 meters to avoid damming the river in the event of flooding. Today, the bridge still serves cyclists and pedestrians but work may be needed to make the structure more functionable. Already the Zwickau City Council rejected a proposal to rehabilitate the bridge in 2017, which raises questions on the bridge’s future. Will there be enough locals willing to convince the city council to reconsider, or will indifference and a strive for modernization doom the old structure, whose history is worth preserving, especially as it is part of the history of Zwickau and the Silver Road?
Another important crossing to mention is the Cainsdorf Bridge. While little has been written about its history, the 1929 two-span steel deck plate girder span crosses the Zwickau Mulde at the railroad station along the Zwickau-Aue-Johanngeorgenstadt line. The bridge connects Cainsdorf and areas to the west and the eastern edge of Zwickau between Oberhohndorf and the city of Wilkau-Hasslau and provides the lone access to the Planitz district, which includes a restored castle and church, where the present-day Clara Wieck Gymnasium is located. Sadly, the bridge’s condition has deteriorated to a point where only a three-ton limit has been enforced for all vehicles except the city’s bus line. The good news is the bridge is expecting a replacement bridge, to be built on a new alignment connecting both areas, but towards the Oberhohndorf district, thus cutting down the time needed to get to one’s destination in either way. Construction is expected to start in 2019 and finish by 2021. Afterwards, the historic bridge will undergo a thorough rehabilitation that will prolong its life but also allow for only cyclists and pedestrians to cross. This will be a big advantage especially those wishing to catch the train from the train station next to the bridge. A win-win situation that many locals with ties to the bridge will benefit from.
Wilkau-Hasslau Pedestrian Bridge:
Five kilometers further upstream and biking past the Cainsdorf Bridge is the pedestrian bridge at Wiklau-Hasslau, the southernmost suburb of Zwickau. There, one will find a rather unique pedestrian bridge. Built in 2004, the bridge features a pen-like tower, with cables supporting the roadway and the tower itself. The roadway has a curve, allowing cyclist from the east side and Schneeberg to enter as a ramp, as it curves to the right towards the west end. The 145 meter long pedestrian bridge crosses the Mulde River and a pair of railroad tracks that provide train service between Zwickau and Aue to the south. The valley’s hilly and wooded scenery is what the Wilkau-Hasslau Pedestrian Bridge has to offer- along with a short break at a modernized city center, which has a weekly market- before biking on to some more bridges. The tower has a height of 32.2 meters, making it the tallest bridge in Zwickau. Yet to the south of the bridge is an even taller bridge carrying the Motorway A 72. Built in 1995, that bridge spans the deepest of the Mulde River valley in Zwickau, but is the second longest bridges along the stretch between Hof (Bavaria) and Chemnitz.
Kirchberg (Mulde) Bridge:
To the north of the pedestrian bridge is the Kirchberg Bridge, perhaps the longest of the “at-level” river crossings over the Zwickau Mulde in the greater Zwickau area. When looking at the bridge from the pedestrian bridge, one could guess that the stone arch bridge, built using sandstone, had three arches. Yet when walking along the streets of Wilkau-Hasslau to get a better, closer look at the bridge, one can see the number of spans being more than double. In fact, eight spans glide over the river and the flood bed with a total length of between 300 and 400 meters. Records reveal that the Luten arch structure was built in 1867 but it appears to have been widened in the early 1990s to better accomodate traffic between the joint community (which was established in 1934) and Kirchberg, located five kilometers to the southwest. This bridge has shown its age as cracks are appearing in the stone arches. Despite emergency repairs in 2018, a full-blown rehabilitation project to prolong the crossing will most likely occur sometime in 2020. When this happens, most likely the West German style flourescent lighting will disappear in favor of fancier, ornamental lanterns with LED-lighting, which will present a more appropriate flavor for Wilkau-Hasslau.
Motorway 72 Viaduct
The tallest and longest of Zwickau’s bridges is not located in Zwickau directly, but in neighboring city Wilkau-Hasslau on the south end. The motorway viaduct was originally built in 1937-39 as part of the construction of the motorway connecting Hof with Chemnitz. Ironically, the entire stretch of the highway was not finished until 1993 due to delays caused by World War II and the division of Germany that followed. This stretch was the last built prior to the start of the war and would be used heavily after the war ended. The motorway viaduct continued service until 1995, when it was replaced with a new steel girder viaduct span, built on the piers of the original bridge. The total length is 670 meters with a height of 50 meters, making it one of the longest along the original stretch. It can be seen when entering Wilkau-Hasslau from the northern side.
Approximately 350 meters north of the Central Railway Station is the Marienthal Viaduct- the only bridge in this tour guide that does not span the Zwickau Mulde. Spanning a small but deep creek as well as Werdauer Strasse, the eight-span stone arch bridge is the longest in Zwickau, with a total length of 94 meters. With a height of 14 meters above the ground, it is also the highest. If counting the Motorway 72 Viaduct in Wilkau-Hasslau, it is the second longest in this tour guide. The viaduct is the shortest of the noted viaducts along the Nuremberg-Hof-Dresden Magistrate with the next ones in both directions being at least twice as long. The bridge was built in 1869 as the railroad was being built for Zwickau from the east. It was built using red brick, sandstone and porphyr. The bridge still sees use on a daily basis for as many as 10 trains cross this bridge per hour; most of them passenger train services connecting Zwickau with Glauchau, Chemnitz and Dresden. Albeit a regional service route, it is expected that this route will be connected to the long-distance train in the future, for the Bahn plans to electrify the line south of Hof and in the end have InterCity trains going from Dresden to Munich.
A map of the bridges in Zwickau is enclosed in case you would like to visit the bridges yourself. Some of the bridges are mystery bridges where an article has been written on each one and can be found in the Chronicles. Others feature just a pic of the bridge indicating its existence but has no information on it to date.
If you have any more information on Zwickau’s bridges that need to be added, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact form below. All information will be added to this guide.
The next Mystery Bridge takes us to New Hampshire. We have read and heard of many stories of the Granite State losing dozens of historic bridges because of their being neglected by the local and state governments, including the Boscawen Bridge and this year the Sewall Falls Crossing. We’ve also read about the state priding themselves of their covered bridges, which are both loved and hated at the same time by many pontists.
Yet this mystery bridge brings metal and wood together, not to mention the covered bridge and metal truss bridge lovers. Located over a railroad bridge along Lakeside Avenue between Tower Street and Foster Avenue in Weirs Beach in Belknap County, this bridge presents an unusual truss design that is almost never seen nowadays. The bridge features a metal deck truss design in a shape of a Kingpost built on an incline. The outer portion has a 40° angle, whereas the inner portion has an obtruse triangular shape that is subdivided. Furthermore, the longest diagonal beam between the center span and the pier has a slight bent where the support beam meets. Looking at the trusses more closely, one can see that the connections are riveted, this putting the construction date up to the time after 1900, the time when riveted truss bridges were being introduced and proliferated with the standardization programs introduced by the states’ highway departments.
The covered portion of the bridge in the center span features a pavillion with a half cylindrical roof colored in blue. The roof is supported by four iron piers, one in each corner and that are ornamental at the railing and where the columns meet the roof. The steps appear to be made of wood.
The bridge serves as the entrance to the Winnipesaukee Marketplace, yet it is unknown whether the bridge was built at the same time as the historic building, or if the bridge existed well before that. It is known that this bridge presents some similarities to another bridge in Germany, the Bridge of Friendship at the German-Danish border north of Flensburg, although the trusses for that bridge is not as advanced in appearance as this bridge at Weirs Beach. Plus the roadway of the bridge in Flensburg is straight, unlike the roadway of the New Hampshire bridge and its half-octagonal look. The Bridge of Friendship was built in 1920 and was renovated in 2004.
This leads to the questions of when the bridge at Weirs Beach was constructed- whether it was at the same time as the market place or earlier- and who was the mastermind behind this unique bridge design. Why build it over the railroad tracks when trains passed through on a regular basis 60 years ago and why not build a tunnel underneath? These questions have yet to be solved. Can you help?
Post your thoughts in the comment section here, as well as those in the Chronicle’s facebook pages and the Bridges page, where you can see more photos of the bridge taken by Scott Wagner (who is to be thanked for allowing use of the pics). Your thoughts and stories/history behind the bridge will be much useful in solving this mystery.
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:
BEST BRIDGE FIND:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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, theSutton 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.
This bridge in the city-state of Suffolk, Virginia is another example of an appealing swing bridge that has long since been demolished. Judging by the picture submitted by Nathan Holth, this bridge appears to have been built of iron and has one of two designs: 1. A pair of kingpost truss spans supported by a central panel consisting of two pairs of vertical towers with light weight diagonal beams holding the trusses made of heavier iron together or 2. a Camelback truss bridge whose center panel is thinner and lighter than the two outer panels. In either case, the bridge was a hand-powered swing bridge, used to allow boats to pass. It is similar to another photo that was submitted by the same person but located at Reed’s Ferry in Virginia.
The problem with both bridges is threefold. First of all, while the designs are similar to each other, it is unknown who designed and built the bridges, let alone when they were constructed, except to say that for the last question, it appears that the period between 1875 and 1895 would best fit for iron was used often for bridge construction before it was supplanted by steel after 1890.
Also unknown is the location of the swing bridge, for in the top picture, it was claimed that it was located in Everet’s, whereas in the bottom photo, it was located at Reed’s Ferry. It should be confirmed that Everet’s was located in Nansemond County, which was subsequentially absorbed into the city-state of Suffolk in 1974. While Suffolk has a total population of 1.7 million inhabitants as of present (including 87,000 in the city itself), its land size is the largest in the United States and is larger than the German states of Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen, as well as the Vatican City and Monaco combined! Given the village’s absorption, it is unknown whereabouts it was located when it existed prior to the 1970s.
Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that many streams in the city-state were dammed and henceforth, lakes were created as a result. While the Nansemond River flows through Suffolk, as many as five lakes and reservoirs were created, which meant that bridges like this one were either removed before the projects commenced, or were inundated and the bridge parts have long since rusted away. In either case, there are many questions that need to be resolved for this unique bridge, namely:
1. When did Everet’s and Reed’s Ferry exist?
2. When were the bridges in their respective communities were built and who built them? When were they removed?
3. When was the Nansemond River dammed and the lakes created?
All information on the two bridges should be directed in the Comments section of James Baughn’s Bridgehunter.com website by clicking on the name Everet’s Bridge. You can also add any information on Reed’s Ferry Bridge in the Comment section if you have any that will be helpful.
The Nansemond County portion of the city-state of Suffolk has a unique history of its own, as it was named after Nansemond, a native American tribe who lived along the river at the time of the arrival of the English colonists in Jamestown in 1607. Under the name of New Norfolk County, it became one of the oldest counties in the US, having been established in 1636. After being divided into Upper and Lower Norfolk in 1637, the Upper portion became Nansemond County in 1646 with the county seat later being Suffolk (it was established in 1742 and was a county seat eight years later). It remained a county seat until Suffolk and Nansemond became a city-states in 1972. Interesting note was the fact that Suffolk had been an independent city from 1910 up to then. Subsequentially Nansemond became part of the city-state Suffolk two years later. A city-state in this case means that even though it is part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is an independent city, having its own government and laws as well as responsibilities for its infrastructure, education system, and the like. Virginia still supports Suffolk with funding, but has little influence on the activities of the city-state, making it similar to the aforementioned city-states, as well as the Spanish state of Catalonia, which is much larger than Suffolk.
It is a scene that drives everyone up the wall: a driver turns off the main highway onto a gravel road in an overweight truck carrying a trailer with oversized equipment. The total weight is 9 tons with the maximum height of 14 feet. He approaches a through truss bridge, whose vertical clearance is 13 feet and has a weight limit of 3 tons. The driver has taken his truck across the structure many times as it serves as a shortcut to his destination, plus the Pratt structure built in 1890 represents a picturesque view of the river valley. While he sees a weight restriction sign, he disregards it and goes across it, only to find that the whole structure swayed side-to-side and as he managed to get off the bridge, the whole structure fell into the river! He gets out of the truck and surveys the damage only to react with the words â€œâ€¦â€¦!â€ Â (Iâ€™ll let the reader fill in the blanks).
This happened to the Fryerâ€™s Ford Bridge in Conway County, Arkansas this past Monday, as the driver of an H20 Transfer Service truck carrying a trailer with a hose track dropped the truss bridge into the water as he was getting off. Although he claimed that he had crossed the bridge many times before, this time was definitely his last; especially because of the fact that he was later ticketed for driving an oversized vehicle on the bridge and is expected to face more legal action in the coming days. While the bridge may be rebuilt as it sustained minimal damage from the photos taken at the scene, the Wrought Iron Bridge Company structure will be reduced to recreational use only as it will never be able to serve vehicular traffic ever again. And it will be unfortunate as it was the oldest bridge of its kind still in operation in Arkansas before the accident took place.
This scene has been played out many times over again throughout the country as the infrastructure in the US is crumbling to a point where the country is on the same level as a third world country, such as Uganda, Sudan, or even Libya. The latest report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers has graded the infrastructural system in the country as a whole a D, with the bridges being graded a C. However, when it comes to awareness of historic structures and ways to preserve them, let alone inform the public about the restrictions historic bridges have- especially with regards to weight limits- the grade for that one is D- at best; ironic given the fact that the literacy rate in the US is 99%, and one can obtain information everywhere at any time. Why is this the case?
There are two arguments that play a role in the problem with historic bridges and awareness. The first is with regards to the lack of maintenance. Normally for structures, like the Fryer’s Ford Bridge or any bridge to be exact, one has to find ways of maintaining the structures as they are. This means that they must be inspected regularily, repairs must be done when and where needed, and in case the bridge may approach the end of its useful life, one must try and prolong it as long as possible, which includes rehabilitating it at a fraction of the cost of replacing it with another bridge- at least a quarter of the cost to be exact. That means for a historic bridge, the cost for rehabilitating a structure like the one in Arkansas could range from $20,000 to $120,000 pending on what needs to be done with it, which could include new flooring, strengthening the beams and other connections and painting it so that it is rust resistant. By replacing the bridge outright with a concrete span, the cost could go up to $500,000, which in the end, tax payers will be footed the bill. Should restrictions be needed, they should be posted accordingly, and fines should be imposed on drivers caught disregarding the restrictions. Unfortunately though, most of the time this happens when it is too late.
Putting historic bridges aside, there have been many bridge failures due to the lack of maintenance and the lack of information on the structures and their capabilities to handle traffic. A couple of regional examples coming to mind include the partial collapse of a bridge carrying a county highway south of Brewster, Minnesota on the Nobles and Jackson County borders on 19 October, 2010, as a milling machine was on the bridge during the construction of the county road. One half fell through leaving the other one open to one way traffic only. That bridge is scheduled to be replaced this year. The other example is the collapse of a Kingpost pony truss bridge in western Winneshiek County in Iowa in 1995, after a county maintenance vehicle crossed it. And then there is the infamous I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis in 2007, a cantilever deck truss bridge that failed because of too much equipment on the structure. This disaster in particular served as a wake-up call to look at the American infrastructure and its dire state.
While wreckages involving historic bridges through accident caused by lack of maintenance may be annoying, what drives many people to the boiling point is when accidents can happen due to a combination of ignorance, carelessness, and in many cases, downright stupidity. Many times drivers with overweight or oversized vehicles ignore the weight restrictions signs and proceed to cross the bridge haphazardly, risking the damage or destruction to the structure itself, let alone to the property of the driver himself. Sometimes excuses are brought up to justify the actions, although much of them have been questioned by local authorities, let alone the preservationists. The primary excuse used for justifying the actions of crossing the bridge is that “It has been done before.” Those who read about the collapse of the Fryer’s Ford Bridge have countered that claim saying that it was no excuse, and that “….everytime the person crossed the bridge (with too much weight) was damage inflicted on the structure, weakening it significantly.” Another excuse used in justifying the crossing was that the bridge was a shortcut and that taking a detour costs money and time. This was used with the Frenchmans Bluff Bridge in Lincoln County, Missouri in 2006, when an oversize delivery truck brought down the 1886 iron Pratt through truss Â structure built by the King Bridge Company. Â But not all bridge mishaps have to do with overweight vehicles. Carelessness in general, resulting from reckless driving, can also produce dire consequences, as was happened with the Blood Run Creek Bridge in Livermore in Humboldt County, Iowa in 2003, as a pick-up driver lost control and slammed into the Pratt through truss bridge, taking the 1901 structure down in the process. The bridge was one of the last built by the Marshalltown Bridge and Iron Works in Iowa.
So what do we do with this compound problem? This is a question which everyone is asking themselves even as this column is being read. Most of the time when mishaps involving bridges take place, those who caused the accident are usually the ones getting away with a small fine and a slap on the wrist. The sad part about this aspect is the fact that it also applies to historic bridges, like the Fryer’s Ford Bridge; especially given the fact that it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And many historic bridges destroyed by carelessness caused by lack of maintenance combined with recklessness on the part of the drivers are either eligible for listing on the National Register or are listed already. But even with the bridge near Brewster, which is not considered historically significant, one has to maintain the structures to cut costs for replacing them outright and to prolong their structural lives, while at the same time, apply strict rules to protect them from damage caused by reckless driving or even vandalism. There’s no such thing as a bridge that is built to last 100 years and needs no maintenance, as was stated by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at one time, last year. Bridges have to be maintained for the purpose of safety, cutting costs and (in the case of historic bridges) structural integrity. State of the art technology is being introduced to determine the stability of the structure and ways to make more precise repairs to them, regardless of the bridge types (truss, arch, beam, etc.) It is more of a question of investing the time, money and effort in doing that, which is possible, even in light of the current economic crisis.
There is however the upgrading of sanctions against drivers who willingly ignore restrictions on bridges and cause accidents by crossing them intentionally. It does not necessarily have to deal with very strict guidelines like the laws in Singapore, which fine people hundreds of dollars for even spitting on the sidewalk. Nor should it be as detailed as the Flensburg Point System, where persons could receive 7 points on his driving record, be forced to take driving classes and be paid thousands of dollars in fines had such an incident occurred in Germany (please refer to the sister column’s article on the Flensburg Point System). Â But it should hold drivers accountable for any damage caused to the bridge, no matter how severe nor does it matter the circumstances. They can range from the driver paying for repairs to the bridge, let alone for a new one, to having the driver’s license revoked, to even taking compulsory classes on driving safety. Â This is especially important for historically significant bridges, like the Fryer’s Ford Bridge, as stricter laws will serve the purpose of providing a lesson in respecting pieces of American History which are becoming rare by the year, as well as in driving safely in areas most sensitive to traffic and the changing driving habits, which have become more erratic over the last 15 years.
While the future of the Fryer’s Ford Bridge still remains in doubt after the accident, this mishap will serve as a reminder of how precious historic bridges like these really are. The questions that all of us should ask ourselves are the following: 1. Is it worth cutting funding for improving our infrastructure or should we find other sources where cuts would be needed (like defense spending, for example), 2. Is it worth spending more money on a new bridge when we could maintain and even rehabilitate the old one to prolong its life a bit more at less cost, 3. Is it worth taking the shortcut to a bridge that is unable to carry the weight of your own vehicle just to save on gas and time, or is it worth making that extra three mile detour, and finally 4. Is it worth being ignorant or should we be aware of what we have and what we can do to better things? After all, one can make do with what little is available at his disposal without having to spend extra at the cost of others….
The author would like to thank Bradley Widding, Kari Lucin and Brian Korthals for the usage of the photos and the contribution to this column.
Australian Traveller that loves to "Roam" our globe, creator of ENDLESSROAMING.COM sharing the experience through word and photography. Currently residing in my home of Newtown Sydney but hope to be back on the road late 2020. Feedback / questions are more than welcome, happy travels