The next pic of the week takes us to London. At about this time of year, the English capital on the Thames is famous for its fog that covers not only the areas along the main river, the Thames, but also the city’s Communist-era high-rise buildings, dating back to the 1960s. This was the case with this scene with the Paradiesbrücke. These pair of photos were taken last week during a fog spell that is typical of London. The fog was thick enough that it covered much of the background landscape, including the Communist-era buildings that were only 150 meters away as seen in the pic below. The end result was bringing the bridge to the foreground but having the black and white features of a structure sitting in pea stew. As a bonus, the oblique angle view of the bridge in the picture above makes the scene rather mysterious. One could make a story out of the two scenes, be it a murder mystery or romance.
Oh by the way: Did I forget to tell you the pictures were taken not in London but in Zwickau? In Saxony? In Germany? On the River Mulde? 😉
LONDON- The Blackfriars Railroad Bridge and its twin the Blackfriars Road Bridge, spanning the River Thames in London, are two of the oldest bridges still in operation. There’s not much mentioned on these two bridges aside from their history, yet there was one aspiring venture that was done on the railroad portion of the bridge which has not only revitalized the structure but has made it a popular attraction. Furthermore, this restoration and modernization of the bridge has set the precedent for finding creative ways to use renewable energy. The bridge is one of three in the world that is now powered by solar energy. In CNN’s Future Cities, the host of the show tells us why.
Author’s note:This is the first podcast since the move and features all the events that happened over the past 2-3 weeks. The most current version of Newsflyer (for the week of August 5th, 2019) will follow.
LONDON, ONTARIO (CANADA)- Almost four months after the reopening of the longest bowstring arch bridge in the world, located in Canada, the Blackfriars Bowstring Arch Bridge is starting to receive some well-deserved accolades for the work that was done for the bridge. As mentioned earlier, the 1875 product of the Wrought Iron Bridge Company finished second in the Ammann Awards in the categories of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Bridge of the Year, good enough for silver medals. It won the Author’s Choice Award for the former mentioned category. And just recently, on 21st February, the bridge won the ACO London Conservation and Reuse Award, presented by the City of London. Here’s a photo of the presentation of the bridge upon receiving the award:
The photos were taken by one of the people who contributed to saving the bridge, Lincoln McCardle. Like many residents in London, Lincoln has close ties and memories of the bridge, as he hung out with friends and the like at the bridge while growing up. His mother, Judi, has even more of an attachment to the bridge to a point where she has had a house located in the “visual vicinity” of the bridge (and judging by the article, her house does have a great view with the bridge.) She has even painted pictures of the bridge and has collected some works on it!!!
It’s pretty difficult to say who were spearheading the efforts to saving the bridge, even though the two are two of the bridge’s biggest fans. However, there was a time when the decision between rehabilitating and replacing the bridge was that difficult to make. But when the decision was made to do the rehab, it was well worth the work. I had a chance to interview Lincoln via e-mail about the Blackfriars Bridge. Like the author of the Chronicles, he was in charge of the social network scene, devoting his time to bringing the Blackfriars Bridge to the attention of the people in London and beyond. Thanks to that alone, it garnered a lot of attention and support, which made the decision to rehabilitate the bowstring arch bridge much easier than without. To give you an idea, here is a youtube clip of him as an overture to the interview conducted with the Chronicles. Check out the finished product at the end of the interview and feel free to comment. Have fun watching the film and reading the interview. 🙂
1. The bowstring arch bridge had been closed to all traffic from 2013 until the project. What factors led to the decision to restore the bridge?
The decision to restore was actually very much in doubt for some time. While deemed the more expensive in the Environmental Study Report, it was decided that rehabilitation was the preferred option. I believe that key factors that went into this decision were: importance as a significant heritage structure, role within the parks and pathway system as well as transportation network and perhaps most importantly it’s value to the community. In short, people love it!
2. Who were the key players in the project to restore the bridge?
Most notably the city of London itself. As well as provincial and federal government funding. Much of the prlimanry work was done by Dillon Consulting and the actual construction and rehabilitation work was done by McLean Taylor Construction Limited. Of course, there were many community and heritage activists whom without this project may never have taken place.
3. Describe in phases how the bridge was restored, beginning with the dissembly and ending with the reopening?
The procedure to carefully lift the bridge was been developed with safety as a priority. The steps were as follows:
Remove non-structural items to reduce weight lifted.
Prepared temporary steel framing and cables to provide an apparatus for
Set up two cranes for the lift, one on each side of the river. Two additional
cranes set up for worker access.
Lift bridge off the abutments and lower it down to an area above the river for improved worker access, while continuing to support it from the cranes at all times.
Cut bridge at the mid-span with torches while supported by the cranes.
Lift each half of the bridge to the nearest side of the river.
Dismantle and inventory the bridge for delivery off site for rehabilitation.
After nine months of the off-site repair and rehabilitation, the bridge was returned back in place across the Thames River on August 15, 2018.
4. Where was all the work done?
The bridge was actually transported to St. Mary’s, Ontario where the work was done. (About a 45 minute drive away from the site.) it was decided that bridge removal and off-site rehabilitation provides benefits including a longer life expectancy and improved worker and public safety. Off-site rehabilitation within a large indoor space created a safer worksite, ensure better quality control, reduce the need for environmental protection measures and take advantage of the winter months to complete much of the work. It also allowed for hot riveting to mimic the workmanship of 1875.
5. Why was the bowstring cut into half before being flown? Why not use the truck or two helicopters at the same time for carrying the bridge?
Two large cranes were required simply to lift the bridge – including one that is amongst the largest in North America. The bridge itself is 216 feet (65.8 meters) and is the longest working span of that kind in North America – it was determined that cutting it in half was the only possible way to transport it.
6. What difficulties did you have in restoring the bridge?
While I wasn’t involved myself, it’s pretty common knowledge that the major obstacle was the condition of the bridge. The project team had to constantly measure their desire to keep as much of the original bridge as possible while satisfying safety codes. This piece of the original structure that was gifted to me will give you an idea of what they were up against:
The rehabilitation process involved an ongoing assessment of the condition of the individual bridge parts with a combination of reuse, upgrades and the fabrication of replicas. Much of the wrought-iron members were in good enough condition to reuse. For example, the pedestrian railing and lattice that exists in several locations on the bridge were reused with local upgrades where corrosion is severe and bridge design requirements dictate. The bowstring arch was also reused and upgraded where its condition required.
7. Some historians and bridge preservation claimed that restoring the bridge is not considered restoration but more like a replacement because of new materials that were used to replace the old plus some of the extra components added to the bridge which compromises the historical value of the bridge. What is your opinion on that?
I reluctantly see their point. While I’m confident that every effort was made to restore as much of the original structure as possible there were clearly beyond repair and severely corroded. These needed to be replaced with new similar looking parts to increase the longevity of the bridge. While all original parts would have been ideal and had simply been neglected to long and at this point I’m happy to have the original bridge back – or at least a as much as possible the 1875 design of it.
8. Was the bridge listed on any Canadian national registry prior to restoration? Did it maintain its status when it was reopened in November?
Yes and yes. Blackfriars Bridge is a heritage-designated property under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act on April 21, 1992 and is included on the Ontario Heritage Bridge List, a list of provincially significant bridge structures. In 2016, Blackfriars Bridge was recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Site by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. In addition, it is included on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.
9. Up until this interview, has this bridge received any accolades or at least a nomination for its restoration?
10. The Paper Mill Bridge in Delaware has won the Ammann Awards in two categories: Bridge of the Year and Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, narrowing beating you in a voting marathon. In both categories you got second place, meaning a silver medal. In addition, you guys won the Author’s Choice Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge. Congratulations on both! What is the reaction have you guys been receiving?
It’s been really special to have a bridge that means so much to me appreciated by others. The truth is my personal goal was simply to raise awareness of the bridge – so to have it even nominated was far beyond my initial expectations. And to then win the Author’s Choice Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge is a dream come true. It really is a local heritage gem and to have it recognized outside of our corner of the world really validates what I’ve felt all along – we are blessed to have such a historic span. The bridge has supported Londoners for 145 years and its well-deserved that it gets some support in return!
11. We have some examples of bowstring arch bridges that have been sitting abandoned and waiting for restoration and repurposing. Among them include a bowstring arch bridge in Flensburg, Indiana, Livermore Falls Bridge in New Hampshire and the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge in Mankato, Minnesota, the latter still holds the title of being the longest historic bridge in the US and second longest in the world behind you. What advice would you give to the groups interested in restoring the structure and bring it back to life for recreational purposes?
It sounds cliché but team work makes the dream work. I honestly believe that this restoration would have taken place without a lot of people reminding their friends and neighbours that not only did this bridge exist but that it was special and deserved to be saved. The lower cost of simply replacing it with a new structure was tempting to local government but heritage is a non-renewable resource. Given the obstacles faced by this project, I would suggest that the best time to start such a campaign is 25-years ago, with today being the next best option.
“Blackfriars Bridge is one of the oldest and rarest bridges in Canada and an irreplaceable landmark in the Blackfriars/Petersville neighbourhood,” says Mayor Matt Brown. “This structure contributes to the character of our community. Preserving London’s built heritage matters and seeing the structure returned, looking just like it did in 1875, really brings our City’s history to life.”
And the finished product! 🙂
Many thanks to Lincoln for the interview and the photos.
Before announcing the official winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards, it’s time to take a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice Awards. Here, the author of the Chronicles (yours truly) picks out the best and worst in terms of bridges. And for this year, there is plenty of fame to go around. So without further ado, let’s take a look at my picks to close off a busy year.
Spectacular Bridge collapse
Florida International (niversity Bridge in Miami- There are accidents with fatalities that are caused by natural disasters, then we have some caused by human error. The Florida International University Bridge in Miami, which had been built by FIGG Bridge Engineering was one that collapsed on March 15th, killing six people was one that was caused by human error. Faulty design combined with a lack of thorough inspection caused the double decker bridge to collapse in broad daylight, turning a dozen cars passing underneath into steel pancakes. Most of the fatalities were from people who were squished underneath. It was later revealed the FIGG and four other companies had violated seven regulations resulting in fines totalling $89,000. Yet they are not out of the woods just yet, due to lawsuits pending against them. It is unknown whether a new pedestrian bridge will be built.
Kingsland Bridge in Texas- We have accidents caused by mother nature that produced no fatalities and not even the most modern of bridges can withstand. A pair of runner-ups come to mind on the American side: The bridges that were lost in the worst forest fire in California history, and this one, the Kingsland Viaduct, a 50-year old bridge spanning Lake Llano that was washed away by floodwaters on October 6th. Fortunately here, no casualties were reported. A new bridge is being built.
Morandi Viaduct in Genoa, Italy- It was the collapse of the year. The Morandi Viaduct in Genoa in Italy collapsed on 14 August during a severe storm. 22 people were killed, many of them had been crossing the concrete cable-stayed suspension bridge at the time of the collapse. The work of bridge engineer Ricardo Morandi had been under scrutiny due to defects in the decking and concrete cables and it was a matter of a simple storm to bring part of the bridge down. It served as a wake-up call for the Italian Government as it introduced strict standards for bridges afterwards, also in Europe. Other Morandi bridges are being examined with replacement plans being put together. As for this bridge, the 54-year old structure is currently being replaced with a steel/concrete beam viaduct, which is expected to be finished by 2020.
Chiajara Viaduct in Colombia- Runner-up here is another cable-stayed bridge, but located in the forest near Bogota. Here one didn’t need a storm to bring down the partially-built bottle-shaped cable-stayed suspension bridge, which happened on 15 January. 200 people were attending a seminar when the collapse happened, unfortunately those who were on the bridge- about 20 workers- were not so lucky. Eight were killed and others were injured, some critically. The completed half of the bridge was taken down six months later. It is in the process of being rebuilt.
Biggest Bonehead Story:
We had a lot of eye-rolling and forehead-slapping stories in this category. So we’ll start at the place where anything can happen: The United States
Man Destroys Historic Bridge in Indiana, Gets Sentenced and Asks for a Retrial- This really bonehead story goes back to the now extant Hohmann Railroad Bridge, which used to span the Grand Calumet River near Hammond. The person was arrested and tried on federal charges of not only trespassing onto the bridge, but destroying property for the sake of scrap metal- without even a permit. His claim: no one owns it so the metal was his. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole, yet he just recently asked for a retrial- for treating him unfairly in court and for wrongful judgement! Mr. President (Donald J. Trump): I have the perfect candidate for you to replace Elaine Chao as Head of the US Department of Transportation! He’s that type of guy!
Truck Driver Destroys Covered Bridge in East Chicago Days after Its Reopening- If the mother of this driver was at the scene of this rather careless accident, the person would have had a lesson of a lifetime, known as You break it, you fix it! On 28 June, 16 days after it reopened and was designated as a historic structure, Mr. Eriberto Orozco drove his truck through the covered bridge, ignoring the warning signs and sensors, and plowing smack dab into the newly restored structure. When he got out of the truck, he smiled. He has since been cited for reckless driving and destruction of property. The covered bridge is considered a total loss.
Three-Bridge Solution in Saxony- The battle between preservation and progress got a bit hairier and went way over the top with this story: A stone arch bridge had to be rebuilt elsewhere, moved aside for a modern bridge. Unfortunately, as you can see in the video, things went south in a hurry. Watch and find out what happened and why we have three bridges instead of one. The story is in the documentary Voss & Team and starts in the 11th minute.
Best example of a restored historic bridge:
Blackfriars Street Bridge- This year’s awards are the year of the bowstring arch bridge for there were some great examples of restored bridges of this kind that have been reported. While the Paper Mill Bridge won the Ammann Awards in two categories, the Author’s Choice goes directly to the Blackfriars Street Bridge because of the painstaking task of dismantling, sandblasting and repairing (in some cases replacing) and reassembling the structure back into place. All within 18 months time, keeping the historic integrity in mind and the fact that the bridge still holds the world’s record for longest of its kind. This is one that will be discussed in the historic bridge community for years to come and one that deserves some kind of recognition of sorts.
A pair of bridges visited during my US trip definitely deserve some recognition for its work. The Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota is one of them. The 1930s two-span through truss bridge underwent a makeover in 2017 with new decking and lighting, fixing some truss parts and a new coat of paint. The forest green colored bridge looks like it was newly built. It’s definitely one for the ages. The other bridge worth noting is the State Street Bridge in Bridgeport, Michigan. The 112-year old two-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored in 2016 where the trusses were taken apart, sandblasted and painted. Some of the truss parts were bent and needed to be straightened. A new pier and new decking followed. The bridge is now one of the key components of the county historical museum, where a collection of historic houses and a park line up along Main Street, adjacent to the Cass River crossing.
The Hidden Gem: Best Find of a Historic Bridge
Originally meant for finding only one historic bridge, I had to make some exceptions for two of the notables that deserve to be recognized. Henceforth, let’s have a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice in this category:
The Bridges of White County, Illinois- Fellow Bridgehunter Melissa Brand-Welch found a collection of abandoned truss bridges in this southeastern Illinois county, each of which had its unique design and history. There are at least six through truss bridges and numerous pony trusses that one can find here. Each of them have potential to be restored and reused as a bike/pedestrian crossing. This county got second place in the category of Tour Guide for American Bridges in the 2018 Ammann Awards, while Ms. Brand-Welch won in the Best Bridge Photo category with her oblique photo of the Siglar Bridge. Winning the Author’s Choice Awards in this category should be the third and most convincing reason for county officials to act to collaborate on saving these precious structures. If not, then Ms. Brand-Welch has at least three accolades in her name.
Camelback Girder Bridge in Wakefield, Michigan- Runner-up is this small crossing. Michigan is famous for its camelback girder bridges of concrete, for dozens were built between 1910 and 1925. This bridge, located 500 feet away from a park in Wakefield, is easy to miss unless the oversized chair next to the shelter catches you. Then during your stop for a photo and picnic, you will see it. May be a boring concrete structure to some, but it is unique enough for a brief stop.
In the international category we have three bridges that deserve recognition because they are either rare to find or are rarely recognized by the public. We’ll start off with the first bridge:
Höpfenbrücke in Pausa-Mühltropf (Vogtland), Germany- Located just off a major highway, 15 kilometers west of Plauen in Saxony, this bridge was built in 1396 and was an example of a typical house bridge- a bridge with houses either on the structure or in this case, on the abutments. This structure was restored recently after flood damage forced its closure. The bridge is definitely worth the stop as it is one of three key points the village has to offer. The other two are the palace and the city center, where the bridge is located in.
Pul Doba Suspension Bridge- One of the fellow readers wanted some information about this bridge. It is one of a half dozen in India whose towers is shaped like one of the towers of a castle. It was built in 1896 but we don’t know who built it. We do know that this bridge is a beauty.
The Bridges of Conwy, Wales- How many bridges does it take to get to a castle? Three, according to the city of Conwy in Wales, which has three structures that lead to one of the most popular places in the country: an arch bridge for traffic, a chain suspension bridge for pedestrians and a box through girder with towers for trains. Not bad planning there, especially as they fit the landscape together despite its space issues with the channel and the penninsula.
This sums up my picks for 2018. While we will see what 2019 will bring us for historic bridges, we will now take a look at the results of the Ammann Awards, which you can click here. Remember the results include a podcast powered by SoundCloud.
Blackfriars Street in London, Ontario reopened to traffic after five-year closure and one year extensive restoration work.
LONDON, ONTARIO (CANADA)- At 225 feet (68.6 meters), it is the longest bowstring arch bridge in the world. It was one of the longest ever built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in Canton, Ohio At 143 years of age, it is one of the oldest historic bridges of its kind left in Canada and North America. It is one of the rarest bridges to find in the country because of its dwindling numbers. And now, after five years including one year of a complete restoration, the Blackfriars Street Bridge in London, Ontario is back in business.
Thousands convened to the bridge on December 1st to commemorate the reopening of this unique bowstring arch bridge, located at Blackfriars Street, spanning the North Branch of the Thames River connecting Blackfriars Park on the west bank and Harris Park on the east bank. This included a ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by a parade of cars that crossed the newly restored structure. The cost for the complete restoration was $8.6 million, which was split between local and federal funding. For many residents and bridge enthusiasts, it is a relief to have the structure back in service while at the same time, retain its historic and cultural integrity. Many have had great childhood memories of the bridge and were happy to see the bridge open to traffic. From its build date of 1875 until its closure in 2013, the bridge served vehicular traffic before structural deterioration forced its restriction of the bridge to solely pedestrian cyclists in 2013. In November 2017, the bridge was lifted off its place, cut in half, then dismantled to be transported to an offsite complex where it was sandblasted and welded, with several parts being replaced.
This bridge restoration was met with hefty criticism, especially from bridge preservationists who dubbed the Blackfriars Street Bridge Restoration as a complete replacement. In a statement posted by Nathan Holth in the historicbridges.org homepage, “A 2018 rehabilitation project essentially replaced nearly every surviving piece of original material on this bridge with new material that looks completely different than the original design.” Holth added that “this may be due to a lack of sufficient consultation with experts in bridge restoration, or a lack of open minds on the part of engineers who may have consulted with experts in bridge restoration.” And while the website acknowledged that rehabilitation was needed, this type of work was more of a modernization of the bridge than in-kind restoration, stating “with an in-kind restoration, many parts of the bridge would still have been replaced, but they would have been replaced with replicas of the original design. The bridge’s bowstring trusses today are almost unrecognizable.”
While his claim is that with the complete replacement of bridge parts with new materials is as bad a bridge replacement, one needs to look at the difference between the Blackfriar’s Street Bridge before and the structure after the replacement to see the difference. It is clear that the portal bracings and the upper chord are different; the portals veered away from its three-tiered Lattice and X-frame portal bracings with heel bracings and was replaced with simply the X-frame with heels, whereas the original beams with Phoenix columns have been replaced with rectangular beams, much of the vertical and diagonal beams appear to be the same. One needs to have a look at the bridge for himself to see the difference.
Nevertheless, inspite of the criticism, the restoration of the bridge and its reopening of the crossing will provide drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike with an opportunity to gain access to the university complex on the western bank of the Thames from the greenery area on the east side, where the two branches form the Thames. But most importantly, the City of London got back their beloved historic bridge, one of only a handful of historic landmarks left for the city, but one of the most important that a person should see when passing through. This is one that is not only in the running for this year’s Ammann Award in the category of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, but one on the places to visit list for many, like myself, who have yet to see the structure and judge for himself how much alteration was actually done.
The Blackfriars Street Bridge has its own Twitter website, where you can follow up on the bridge and read the stories behind the structure and the love affair the people have with the longest bowstring arch bridge in the world. Click here and follow for details.
What’s in a name? A bridge is just a bridge as it crosses a ravine, body of water or even a roadway from point A to point B. This is where this week’s bridge pic comes in. A “natural” bridge spanning a deep ravine connecting a park with a castle……
The Hirschgrund Bridge has been in the news recently because construction has yet to begin on this 300+ year old stone arch structure. Why has there been a delay? You’ll love the author and the Glauchau City Council for this….. 😉
The debate over the name of the bridge!
In March of this year, the contract was let to a company for rebuilding the bridge, the name Hirschgaben Bridge was used. However, in the documents on the city’s budget plans was the name Hirschgrund used. This caused a lot of confusion as to how the bridge should be named. On the on hand, Hirschgraben was used because the ravine surrounding the castle was very deep – on the same level as the riverbed of the Zwickau Mulde River- a difference of 30 meters. Geologically speaking is Hirschgraben correct. And according to oral history is Hirschgraben the name used when talking about the bridge and the ravine. Historically speaking, Hirschgrund is also correct as it focuses on the whole complex itself, which includes the castle, park and ravine. In most history books one will find Hirschgrund. Yet given the preference of one or the other, the names of both were both correct, according to multiple sources. Given the need to cross their Ts and dot the I’s the debate on which name is correct was one of the reasons for the delay in allowing the construction to start.
The other was the city council’s rescinding of the contract to the first firm in favor of the second because the costs were cheaper and the second one was left out of the discussion the first time around. There had been four but only three officially presented their proposals.
In either case, now that the matter over the name has been settled, not to mention the costs and time wasted in “yammering” about it, construction on this natural bridge is about to begin. June is the starting date and the project is expected to take a year to complete. How the bridge will be rebuilt will be presented when the finished product opens to foot traffic for privacy purposes. But it does lead to the question of how this bridge- abandoned for almost five decades- will be reconstructed…..
It’s an opportune time to be thinking about railway viaducts, those great monuments to rail travel. Other than the biggest stations, viaducts are perhaps the largest and most noticeable structures the railway industry has imposed on the landscape. As stations tend to be in towns, while viaducts are often found in remote countryside areas, their […]
If you walk along the Thames Path, or perhaps cross the River Thames via foot or train on the two Blackfriars Bridges, you may have noticed these pieces of unusual river furniture. Running from north to south are pairs of red pillars, which used to support the original railway bridge before it was dismantled in […]