Brunswick Railroad Bridge Washes Away

58073-001
Photo courtesy of NSR, found on bridgehunter.com website

Film clip

BRUNSWICK, KANSAS- Heavy rainfalls and flooding has been the theme for this year in much of the central and Midwestern parts of the US. High waters have damaged or destroyed many buildings, highways and bridges, disrupting services and causing billions of dollars in damage.

The Norfolk and Southern Railroad (NSR) Bridge spanning the Grand River near Brunswick, Kansas has joined the growing list of casualties from this abnormal year. A week ago on October 1st, high waters and debris from fallen trees and buildings took out the century old viaduct, thus cutting off service between Moberley and Kansas City, Missouri. While the photo of the bridge remains in its aftermath is scary, a video posted by officials at NSR, showing the power of Mother Nature and the magnitude of the destruction of this bridge puts it beyond what we saw with the ice jams destroying bridges in Nebraska earlier in the year. It can even be comparative to a movie laden with such disasters.

bhc fast fact new

The bridge itself was the second crossing at Brunswick. The multiple-span deck plate girder spans were built in 1916 and had a span of over 600 feet long. Its predecessor was a four-span Whipple through truss bridge that had been built in 1885 and served the Wabash Railroad for nearly three decades. These spans were eventually reused on branches of the railroad connecting Moberley and Des Moines, Iowa as well as Moulton and Ottumwa, also in Iowa. These lines were discontinued by the early 1980s, and all but one of the spans have been removed and scrapped. The remaining span from the original Brunswick crossing is privately owned and can be found spanning Village Creek south of Ottumwa. Two of the demolished truss spans used to span English Creek before they were destroyed to make way for the Red Rock Lake project, which was completed by 1968.

The author would like to thank Sandra Huemann-Kelly for bringing this to the readers’ attention.

BHC logo

The Bridges of Harvey/Tracy, Iowa

At dusk
Never travel alone in the dark, as you are being watched. Photo of a farmstead taken at dusk by the author in August 2011

This tour guide takes us to southeastern Iowa, where we have not only one but six bridges in the area where Harvey and Tracy are located. One mystery bridge, one extremely haunted one carrying a dead end low maintenance road, one railroad bridge that had a tragic end, another railroad bridge that was located next to a sunken ferry and two abandoned ones that are being considered for a bike trail. All of them span(-ned) the Des Moines River within a 10-mile radius of a small town of Harvey. Located approximately seven miles east of the county seat of Knoxville in Marion County, Harvey has a population of roughly 250 inhabitants. Judging by the appearance of the houses and even the two churches, the town had seen its better days, as the majority of them live at or below the poverty line and most of the buildings are run down, the yards littered with junk needed to be removed if the assistance is available. It doesn’t look any better for the town of Tracy, located three miles down river in Mahaska County. The town of 150 inhabitants had once seen better days with the railroad in business, connecting it with Oskaloosa, which is 10 miles to the east and the county seat.

But looking at Harvey, these characteristics are only scratching the surface, as the town, and the surrounding area, and the crossings along the Des Moines River are all haunted in one way or another. Photographing the bridges, there is a sense of eeriness that makes a person stay close to the car and not wander off, fearing that he will not return. The region used to be bustling with railway and commercial traffic in the 1800s and early 1900s. In fact, Harvey was plotted in 1876 by the railroad with a line passing through later that year, connecting Knoxville and points east through the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy.  But the line that passed through Harvey was abandoned, and one by one, commerce moved away to nearby towns, but leaving traces of the past in the forms of ghosts and other paranormal activity that makes the region haunted, but researchers curious about its history. If there is a word of advice I have for the passers-by it is this: Never travel alone in the dark, for you are being watched. Travel in groups and in the day time to ensure that you are safe and sound. Make sure you do not wander off away from the cars, and never ever get lost when photographing in the area!

On one of the evenings in August of 2011, I took a tour of the region and its bridges. There were five historic truss bridges that I found and spent some time photographing them: The Horn’s Ferry, Wabash Railroad, Harvey Railroad, Belle Fountain, and Eveland Bridges. While the Horn’s Ferry Bridge has a topic of its own (click here), the primary focus of this tour is on the other four bridges.  In addition to that, there is an abandoned highway that used to pass through Harvey in a form of Iowa Highway 92, the same highway that used to crisscross Madison County, and its numerous covered bridges that existed (now there’s only six fully restored structures). It snaked its way towards the Des Moines River before crossing north of Tracy.  The highway was straightened and bypassed in 1978 but numerous questions remain about the highway. And lastly, east of Tracy is the remains of a railroad bridge which has a history of its own, including that of its tragic end 60 years ago.

This article provides you with a tour of the area and its bridges with some insight from the author on the structure and its significance. It will also include some stories of his encounters with some rather strange things that happened while on tour. We’ll start off with our first bridge:

Wabash Railroad Bridge:

The first bridge on the tour is one of two that used to be a railroad crossing but was repurposed to serve cars. The Wabash Railroad Bridge can be found spanning the Des Moines River just south of the present crossing at Keokuk Drive (CSAH T-17). It was built in 1881 by the Oliver Iron and Steel Company, even though it is unclear whether it was the company that had been operated by Henry Oliver in Pittsburgh or James Oliver in the state of Indiana. It consists of three Pratt through truss spans with pinned connections and Lattice portal bracings. The overhead bracings are V-laced with 45° heel supports. The center span was replaced in 1905. The total length is 545 feet long, meaning three 150-foot long spans plus an approach constructed in 1951 when it was converted to vehicular traffic. The Wabash Railroad was created in 1837 but started using the name out of the creation of several small railroads in 1865. The company served the Midwestern states which included an area between Kansas City and St. Louis to Chicago, Detroit, parts of Ontario and ending in Buffalo. This included the line going through Harvey and Tracy enroute to the Quad Cities (E) and Omaha (W). After its receivership in 1931 and purchase by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1933, several tracks were sold off, including this line and the bridge, which Marion County purchased in 1946. The bridge was eventually converted to a vehicular crossing by 1951 and the line was turned into a gravel road connecting Harvey and Oskaloosa. The bridge was bypassed by a newer crossing in the late 1980s but remained a crossing as a gravel road until its closure a few years ago. Today, it is a pedestrian crossing with each ends being barricaded and steel fencing having been installed. Plans are in the making to include the crossing into the bike trail network connecting Pella and Van Buren County.  In 2013, the remains of an antique ferry boat were found 500 feet south of the crossing. It is possible that a ferry used to serve locals during the time the Wabash Railroad was in service, but more information is needed to prove these claims. The Wabash folded into Norfolk and Southern in 1991, ending its storied 153 year run.

213086-l

213065-l

213075-l

Harvey Railroad Bridge:

Built in 1878 by the American Bridge Company, this four-span Pratt through truss bridge was one of the first bridges that featured the bridge company’s signature portal bracings (as you can see in the pictures below). They were used often for railroad crossings with most of them built after the consolidation of 26 bridge companies in 1901. The bridge served rail traffic until it was abandoned in 1938 and purchased by the county, which then converted it into a roadway bridge. At some time later, the Des Moines River was re-channeled making the road expendable. Yet it still serves this dead end road to nearby farms along the river today. The railroad that used the bridge was the Rock Island, which started its decline at the time the bridge and the line were sold off and was eventually liquidated in 1980.

The bridge is surrounded by thick trees, which covers the structure and makes the tall and narrow structure a haunted place to visit. During my visit to the bridge, the first impression after looking at the entrance was that of walking through a dark black hole filled with bats, owls, and creepy insects. Crickets were already out in full force chirping away. Everything else was deathly still as I was crossing the structure, taking pictures of it. Yet as I was at the easternmost portal entrance to the bridge, I heard gunshots ringing out from the opposite end of the bridge. The first shot did not stir me but it did scare off the birds that had been dining in the nests. The second shot however made me rethink my stay on the bridge as there was speculation that someone was shooting at me (or trying to). There was no one approaching me on the bridge and no other people in the vicinity of the structure. The third gunshot was the final signal for me to make my exit as I rush towards the car, hearing more gunshots along the way, got in and took off. As I was leaving, a party of two people on an ATV rushed onto the bridge.  If this was a way of shooing someone from the bridge just so they could have it, then they could have done better than that. Yet even if no guns were being used, the bridge is probably one of the most haunted structures you can ever cross, ranking up there with the Enoch’s Knob Bridge in Missouri. The best time to visit the bridge is in the daylight, where you can get the best pics and are most likely not be frightened by spooky creatures and guns going off without knowing where it came from.213048-L

213056-L

 

Old Highway 92 Bridge:

Among the four being profiled here is another mystery bridge- the first in Mahaska County, Marion’s neighbor to the east. The first time this crossing came to my attention was on a GoogleMap, where there are two crossings bearing the name Hwy. 92- the present one in Marion County and what is left of the previous crossing on the Mahaska side, approximately 1.5 miles south of the present crossing. The road approaching the previous crossing is still in its original form- concrete from the 1930s and really narrow. Yet when arriving at the crossing, it is barricaded with signs and broken down excavators on each end, with the road turning to the south and becoming gravel.  Another piece of evidence to be presented was the fact that a US geological survey map of the 1930s indicated that the crossing consisted of four spans and a truss design, similar to a Parker design. And lastly, National Bridge Inventory records indicated that the present Hwy. 92 bridge on the Marion side was built in 1978. Given the fact that the Belle Fountain Bridge is located a half mile downstream, it is possible that the Old 92 Bridge was removed as it was deemed expendable and obsolete. Yet we do not know whether it is true or not.

What we do know is there are many questions that need to be answered about this bridge, such as: 1. What did the old bridge look like? Was it a Parker truss bridge or another truss type?  2. When was the bridge built? Who built the structure? and 3. When was the bridge removed? Was it in 1978 or afterwards? And why was it removed?

 

Belle Fountain Bridge:

This bridge is located in a small unincorporated village of Belle Fountain, located 1.5 miles south of Hwy. 92 on the west bank of the Des Moines River. It is one of the earliest bridges built by a prominent bridge builder in Iowa, the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, which built the structure at a cost of $9750 in 1898. The four-span Pratt through truss super-structure features A-frame portal and strut bracing and pin connections, the former of which was recently introduced to replace the Lattice portal bracing. The bridge is 595 feet long with each span being 145 feet. The bridge has been a subject of neglect, especially after the Old 92 Bridge was built in 1930 and located 0.5 miles upstream. The lack of maintenance of the structure for unknown reasons prompted its closure. Since then the truss bridge has been allowed to remain in place with the flooring rotting away to expose the bottom chord. However, given the awareness of the bridge and its historic significance and connection with Belle Fountain, interest is being garnered in restoring the bridge and reincorporating it into a bike trail. When and if that will happen remains to be seen. One of the factors to keep in mind is to rid the bridge of the overgrowth, which has been ruling the eastern truss bridge for some time, as you can see in the photos. Given the fact that the bridge has been sitting abandoned for a long time, it is possible that the bridge may have to be disassembled, with the parts being sandblasted and replaced, and the foundations being rebuilt, before reassembling it back into place. The cost for the whole work would be a fraction of the cost for replacing the bridge outright.  Having a restored bridge like this one would be a blessing for the community and the county, which seems to have embraced preservation given the importance of this bridge.

229010-L

229013-L

 

Eveland Bridge:

The next bridge on the tour is the Eveland Bridge. Like the Belle Fountain Bridge, this bridge replaced a ferry that was used to cross the river. It is perhaps the only bridge originally built by a bridge company in Indiana, the Fort Wayne Bridge Works, which built the foundations in 1876 and erected the three-span truss bridge in the spring of the following year. It featured three spans of the Whipple through truss with the portal bracing representing the exact truss design. The structure was made of iron and featured pin-connections. Flooding wiped out the center span in 1903 and was subsequentially replaced with a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge made of steel. Since its closure in the early 1990s, it has sat in its place waiting to be reused, but not before replacing the decking (which has rotted away substantially) and possibly reconstructing the trusses. Photographing the bridge is really difficult as both sides of the river are heavily forested with the southern bank being littered with trailer homes and small houses. It also does not present a welcoming feeling when driving past the structure, especially as there are many dogs roaming around, waiting to chase the next person away from the area. With a lack of lighting in the area, it is especially creepy at night when driving, let alone walking. But nevertheless, I took advantage of the little daylight that was left and got a pair of pics before anything unusual happened, and then drove back to the hotel in Des Moines, which was a good hour’s drive away.  Like the Belle Fountain Bridge, the Eveland may be getting a new lease on life, as plans are in the preliminary stages to convert the bridge into a bike trail.  Given its remote location, the whole area surrounding the bridge may benefit from having a bike trail pass through, as business and other services could be established to serve the bikers and tourists. It will also mean more lighting in the evening for those going on an evening stroll, something that this area and the bridge itself need very badly. It all depends on the costs, the interest and the question of what can be realized and what can be scrapped.

229017-L

229020-L

 

Tracy Railroad Bridge:

The last bridge on the tour is one with a long history- and one that ended in tragedy. The Tracy Railroad Bridge consisted of two Whipple through truss spans with an X-frame portal bracing, all being pin connected. The bridge was originally built in 1882 by George S. Morrison for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (later became part of the BNSF Railways), spanning the Missouri River near Plattsmouth, Nebraska. Three bridge builders were behind the construction of the bridge, one of which- Keystone Bridge Company in Pittsburgh- had a hand in relocating and rebuilding the bridge at Tracy in 1903 for the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad. This was part of the plan to build a sturdier three-span Pennsylvania truss bridge at Plattsmouth while the 1882 bridge was needed for the line at Tracy. From 1903 to its removal in 1950, the bridge was located over the Des Moines River near the site of present-day Cedar Bluffs Natural Area, while the line connected Eddyville with Knoxville. After many years of disuse, workers in 1950 dismantled the structure and sold the parts for scrap. But it came at a price of one life, for one person was crushed to death as the eastern span fell thirty feet into the river. Another person was on that bridge and jumped into the river as it fell. He suffered only minor injuries. The accident happened after the western half of the bridge was removed. The rest of the eastern half was pulled out of the water and hauled away by another demolition company, months after the incident. The Tracy Bridge was a work of art of one prominent bridge builder, yet its life ended on a sour note, even though had the preservation movement started after World War II, there might have been a chance for this bridge, just like its neighbors to the north.

252009-l

It will be interesting to see what the future brings for the bridges in the greater Harvey area. Plans are in the making for a bike trail network going from its terminus at the Horn’s Ferry Bridge to Eddyville, possibly using the crossings for cyclists to pass through. This will bring a new lease in life for the ones that have been unused for a long time but whose history can be contributed to the development of the infrastructure in the state of Iowa over the past 150 years. And while it will take up to seven years to finalize the plans and actually build the network, when it is completed, people will take advantage of the trail and learn about the history of each village and bridge they pass by. And even if some of the bridges are haunted, it is unlikely that anyone will actually be taking the trail at night, unless they are as gutsy as I was when visiting the bridges last year. But it is a sure bet that safety features, including lighting, will be considered to accommodate those who dare to encounter the paranormal at night. As for the towns of Harvey and Tracy, the coming of the bike trail may help turn things around for a community that had seen its better days. Having the trail will boost commerce, like it did during the days of the railroad. And with that will bring good fortunes for the community, something that the people surely have been waiting for that for a long time and owe themselves to that share of the pie of prosperity.

A map of the bridges can be seen here. Should you be interested in helping out with the bike trail project in one way or another, please contact the county conservation board, historical societies and other groups involved and see what you can do for them.

 

 

 

bhc-logo-newest1

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 51: The Bridges of Saylorville Lake in Iowa

The Des Moines River at the Woodward Viaduct in Boone County. This is the starting point of Saylorville Lake, which extends to north of Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013

This Mystery Bridge article is in connection with a book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River. For more information about the book and how you can help, please click here for details.

The next mystery bridge features not only one, but SIX bridges, all within the vicinity of a lake. Saylorville Lake is the second of two man-made lakes along the Des Moines River in Iowa. The other is Red Rock Lake, located between Knoxville and Pella in Marion County (article on that can be found here). Yet Saylorville is the larger of the two, covering an area of 5,950 acres and 9 miles wide. The length of the lake is 17 miles long, starting at Woodward in Boone County and ending north of Des Moines. In the event of flooding, the lake is three times the length, extending as far north as Boone. The size of the lake is over 17,000 acres at flood stage, which was reached twice- in 1993 and 2008. The lake was authorized by the US Army Corps. of Engineers in 1958 as part of the project to control the flooding along the Des Moines River. It took 19 years until the lake was fully operational in September 1977.  Yet like the Red Rock Lake project, the lake came at the cost of many homes and even bridges.

Before Saylorville, six bridges once existed over the Des Moines River within the 17 miles that was later inundated. Five of them consisted of multiple spans of steel truss bridges built between 1890 and 1910. The sixth one consisted of a steel and concrete beam bridge built in 1955 carrying a major highway. All of them were removed as part of the project between 1969 and 1975. Yet some information on the bridge’s type and dimensions were recorded prior to their removal  for load tests were conducted to determine how much weight a bridge could tolerate under heavy loads before they collapse. Only a few pictures were taken prior to the project, yet information is sketchy, for the pictures did not describe the bridges well enough to determine their aesthetic appearance. Despite one of the bridges carrying a plaque, there was no information on the builder. All but two spans have a construction date which needs to be examined to determine their accuracies. In any case, the bridges have historic potential for each one has a history that is unique to the area it served before the lake was created.

While the bridges no longer exist as they are deep under water in a sea that is only 836 feet above sea level (that is the depth of Saylorville Lake when there is no flooding), it is important to know more about their histories so that they are remembered by the locals, historians, pontists and those interested in the history of the region now covered with beaches, marinas and houses. The bridges in question are the following:

Hubby Bridge

Location: Des Moines River at Opal Lane in Boone County

Bridge type: Pennsylvania through truss with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections (four spans)

Built: 1909

Removed: 1975

Length: 660 feet (160 feet per span)

 

Chestnut Ford Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River at 145th Lane in Dallas County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss (3 spans total) with Howe Lattice portal bracings (2 spans) and A-frame portal bracing (1 span). Two of the three spans were pinned connected whereas the third span was riveted.

Built: ca. 1900; one of the spans was replaced later.

Removed: 1975?

Length: 480 feet (180 feet per span)

 

Hanley Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River near Jester Park in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss (one span); two additional spans existed but type is difficult to recognize.

Built: ca. 1900; two newer spans replaced the original spans damaged in 1953

Removed: 1975

Length: 360 feet total (largest span: 150 feet)

 

Corydon Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River south of Polk City in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss with X-frame portal bracings and pinned connections (two spans)

Built: 1889

Removed: 1975 but not before it collapsed under the weight of US Army tanks in 1972

Length: 312 feet total (156 feet per span)

 

Snyder Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River at 128th Street in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss with pinned connections. Portal bracing unknown (three spans total)

Built: 1898

Removed: ca. 1975

Length: 444 feet total (148 feet per span)

 

Hwy. 98 Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River between Woodward and Madrid in Boone County

Bridge type: Steel plate girder

Built: 1955

Replaced: 1973 with higher span

Length: 360 feet

The highway was later changed to Hwy. 210

 

What is needed from these bridges are the following:

1. More photos to better describe the structure

2. Information on the construction of the bridge, including the bridge builder and the year the bridge was built

3. Information and photos of the removal of the bridge

4. Stories and memories of the bridge during their existence prior to the creation of Saylorville Lake

If you have any useful information about these bridges, please contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. The information will be useful for the book project but the Chronicles will keep you posted when information comes in on these bridges. The creation of the lakes along the Des Moines River came at the expense of bridges, villages and some livelihoods. Now it’s a question of piecing together the history of the areas affected to find out what the areas looked like, with the goal of the younger generation remembering them for years to come. This includes the bridges that were erased from the map and in some, memory. And while they are physically gone, history surely will not.

Thanks to Luke Harden for digging up some facts about the bridges as they were documented in a report published prior to the bridges’ removal. Please click on the names of the bridges as they serve as links to the bridges found on bridgehunter- also thanks to his contribution so far.

 

 

What to do with a Historic Bridge: The Monroe Bridge at the Jasper/Marion County Border in Iowa

Photos taken in August 2013

text Author’s Note: This is Part II of the series on the two Skunk River Bridges in Jasper County, Iowa that are threatened with their own demise after being abandoned for some time. Part I dealt with the Red Bridge and can be seen here. This parts looks at the bridge’s southern neighbor, the Monroe Bridge at the county border.

After being turned away at the Red Bridge, our next stop was the Monroe Bridge, located downstream at 126th Avenue at the county borders of Jasper and Marion Counties. Here, we got lucky and not so lucky with this bridge, built in 1899 by the local contractors, Burchinal and Hertzog.  Lucky because the bridge was noticeable in view and we could park near the structure. Unlucky because we could not cross it. After being closed to traffic in 2012, workers made sure that no one crossed the bridge by digging a hole 30 feet long and 15 feet deep behind the abutments, exposing the wooden wingwalls to the extremities. Unless you are an experienced pontist, like Nathan Holth, you don’t want to attempt to jump from the ledge to the bridge in order to photograph it.

Side view of the exposed wingwall after the abutment was dug out to prevent drivers and pedestrians from entering the bridge.

That it unless you have a reliable camera, like the Pentax 300, where you can get some long-distance photos, like I took during our stop there.  The bridge features a 150-foot long steel through truss bridge with Howe Lattice portal bracings, I-beam strut bracings with 45° heel supports, and pinned connections. With the wooden approach spans the total length is 230 feet and the width, 17 feet.  Yet looking at the portal bracings more closely, there are ornamental designs in the center of the bracings, where the two diagonal portions meet forming an X.

This is common among bridges built by George E. King, son of Zenas King who ran the King Bridge Company in Cleveland, Ohio.  King established his bridge building business in Des Moines in the 1890s and was responsible for bridges throughout Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas, built between 1890 and 1910. This includes the Green Bridge in Des Moines and the Straight River crossing at Clinton Falls, north of Owatonna in Minnesota.  It is possible that the Monroe Bridge consisted of a bridge previously located somewhere else, but the local contractors brought it here to be erected at its current site.  Yet judging by the design pattern on the portal bracing of the Monroe Bridge, it is possible that the local contractors may have ordered the bridge fabricated by the steel companies in the Rust Belt region, and the ornament was at their discretion.  More information would be needed to support one claim or another.

Close-up of the ornamental feature on the portal bracing.

The situation looks grim for the Monroe Bridge. Already a replacement bridge located 300 feet south of the structure is in the works, and it is unknown whether the bridge will be torn down after the new bridge is opened or left in its place.  As mentioned in the previous article on the Red Bridge, ideally would be to restore the bridge as a bike trail crossing connecting that with neighboring Red Bridge as well as the communities of Colfax, Monroe and Pella.  The other option would be to relocate it to a park in one of the nearby communities within 100 miles of the crossing. This includes the Red Rock Lake area, where some historic bridges are residing, including the Wabash, Harvey and Horn’s Ferry Bridges.  The third option is to give it to the nearby landowners, where they could use it as a private path. As this concept is well received in Iowa, this could be an option to take to compensate for the land lost to the new bridge and road alignment.  In either case, as aesthetically beautiful and historically significant as the Monroe Bridge is, it would be a shame to watch the bridge be reduced to a pile of rubble, when there is a chance to find out more about its history, let alone save it. Since last year, The Friends of the Red Bridge group has been looking at some ideas as to what to do with the neighbor to the north. Perhaps they have some space for the Monroe Bridge as well. Saving both may take hard work and lots of resources, yet in the end, it will save money and a piece of history for others to enjoy. And that is something Jasper County could take pride in.

The author has some more photos taken of the Monroe Bridge, to be seen in the Historic Bridges of the US website, available by clicking here.

Pella Bascule Bridge

Photo taken in August 2013

While in Marion County, going 10 miles east from the abandoned Hwy. 14 Bridge at Red Rock Lake, one should take some time and visit Pella. With a population of 10,400 inhabitants and a small private college, there are many things that make the city proud. The city is home to Pella faucets, windows and doors. It has the largest windmill in the western Hemisphere with the Vermeer Mill. And given the architecture in the city center, Pella prides itself on its Dutch heritage, as it was founded by Dutch immigrants in 1847.

And when it comes to Dutch architecture, one has to include a double-leaf bascule bridge, right? Like its European cousin, Friedrichstadt, Germany, a Dutch community without a bascule bridge just isn’t Dutch. This has to do with the popularity of these bridges in the country, with a huge concentration of them to be found in the country’s capital, Amsterdam. And while the mayor of Friedrichstadt got his wish with the Blue Bridge, built in the 1990s but functions as an ornament- a gateway to the town- this bridge (in the picture) serves as one of the jewels of the architecture one can see while in Pella.

Located in front of the Hotel Amsterdam between Main and First Streets, this double-leaf bascule bridge has been around for only a short time, spanning a man-made canal. This white-colored bridge does not appear to function as a bascule bridge but as a fixed span with pedestrians using the structure on a daily basis. The bridge is decorated with lighting and flowers, making it an attractive place to visit and even photograph. Yet there is no further information as to when the bridge was built or what the motives were behind this bridge. Was this part of a bigger project, or did the Dutchmen miss their beloved structure so much that they needed a replica to add to the heritage?

This leads to the questions of the origin of the bridge and the Dutch’s obsession towards a bascule bridge. Specifically:

1. When was this bridge built? Was it part of a project to reconstruct the city center?

2. Why are Dutchmen so obsessed with bascule bridges in a community outside the Netherlands? Could the bridge in Pella be one of those bridges that fall into the category?

3. Is the bridge used for a festival or for some other function? Or is it just a ornament to cross, a symbol of the town’s city center?

Put your comments down here or in the Chronicles’ facebook page, together with that of the social network pages dealing with History and Marion County and share your thoughts and facts about this bridge.  More photos of the Pella bascule bridge can be found here.

Many of us indentify ourselves based on a piece of heritage we cannot leave behind when emigrating to a new country. For the Dutch, it’s the architecture and in particular, their double leaves. It makes the author wonder what piece of heritage we cannot live without when moving to another place…. Any thoughts on that in addition to the questions already posted above?

 

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 32: A Bridge in a Lake

Photos taken in August 2013

Our next mystery bridge takes us back to Marion County, Iowa and precisely to this bridge. Located on the north side of Red Rock Lake just east of Hwy. 14, one finds this unique structure. From a bird’s eye perspective, the bridge is low enough that it may be considered a pontoon bridge. But it does seem weird that the roadway is low enough that it is on the same level as the water level of Red Rock Lake, making it prone to flooding. Yet looks can be deceiving. Have a look at the following pictures of the bridge when up close….

Judging by these angles, one can see that the bridge and road have not been used for a long time. These are the remnants of the old Hwy. 14 Bridge and highway, all of which are either partially or completely inundated by the waters of Red Rock Lake.

Here are some facts we do know about these remains. There were at least two bridges that carried the old highway (but guesses are three or four): this one and the Des Moines River crossing. Both of which were built in the 1940s replacing earlier structures that were most likely steel truss bridges. But this happened before plans for Red Rock Lake were revealed in the 1950s, sentencing this highway and the bridges, together with a dozen other bridges and at least six towns located along the Des Moines River to be inundated. While the removal and relocation of some structures in the area were successful, other streets and some places like this one were left to be covered in water. The new Highway 14 Bridge was opened in 1965 and featured three bridges, the longest one is over a mile long, making it the longest bridge in the state. Once the bridges were opened and the Red Rock Dam, located 10 miles east of there was completed, all of the obsolete Hwy. 14 and its bridges were left to be taken over by water. Today, once can access this bridge and the highway remains on the north end by foot only as well as fish from the bridge- a piece of history to be reminded of what the region looked like before Red Rock Lake was created.

What is missing about this bridge and old highway is the history: namely what the bridges and road looked like before they were inundated. Furthermore, information is needed about their construction history and the truss bridges that existed prior to their replacement in the 1940s. Photos and any information are welcomed. If you have any information that is useful, please send it to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. You can also put your thoughts about the bridge in the comments section here as well as on facebook. More photos of the bridge and region can be found by clicking here.

The Chronicles will provide some information on this bridge as it comes.

Newsflyer 27 May 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Update on the Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa,  (Modern) Bridge Collapse in Missouri

In light of the Washington Bridge Collapse last Monday, one would point their fingers on bridge types as a way of pushing for them to be erased from the highway system. Yet Saturday’s collapse of another bridge in Missouri, built only 30 years ago, raises questions about how bridges are built and maintained and what changes should be made in that department. That plus an update on the upcoming Historic Bridge Weekend are found in this Newsflyer:

Photo taken by James Baughn

Railroad Overpass Collapses after Train Derailment/ Collision

Rockville, MO. Built in 1988, this combination steel and concrete girder, spanning two railroads just outside the town of Rockville (30 miles west of the Mississippi River in Scott County) and carrying Missouri Route M would not have expected a bridge disaster to happen, like it did on Saturday.  The 25-year old structure, expected to last at least 50 years carrying main traffic, had its life span cut short during that afternoon, when two trains collided, causing a derailment, and resulting in the bridge being destroyed. 21 people were injured in the wreck.  This disaster is one of the worst in bridge engineering, ranking it up there with the train wreck in Entschede, Germany on 3 June, 1998, destroying a railroad overpass and killing as many as 101 passengers. While the ICE Train, which was travelling at 80 mph before it derailed and folded together like an accordion, the trains at Rockville were going half the speed when the mishap happened.  While investigators will be looking at the behavior of the trains before it happens, the bridge collapse will raise questions about how bridges are being built and many will find ways to build structures that are able to withstand the abuse caused by all forms of transportation, especially given the light of an earlier bridge disaster in Washington.

 

Portal view of the rebuilt span. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

HB Weekend Travel Itinerary available online; Registration form available upon request.

In the past week, work has been undertaken on the travel itinerary for this year’s Historic Bridge Weekend in eastern Iowa, Des Moines and Boone County. Thanks to the app, Popplet, the itinerary is now available online for you to download. Please click onto the following links, zoom in and out and scroll down to see which bridges will be targeted for photo opportunities by many people expected to attend the 4-day event. The bridgehunting event will be a smorgasbord-style event, meaning even though there will be one or two primary tours to the most important bridges, pontists and bridge enthusiasts can elect to choose the bridges they want to see, while not missing out on the meetings and dinner/entertainment that will take place during that weekend.

Please note: The itinerary does NOT include the bridges of Linn and Marion Counties, for each party responsible for organizing the guided tour will have maps available for you in person. The Linn County tour will start on 10 August at 8:30am, whereas the Marion County tour will take place 11 August at 2:30pm. More information available here.

Itinerary Links:

Day 1

Day 2

Days 3 & 4

Author’s tip: While we will start on August 9 at Old Barn Resort in Preston, MN, the bridges that are highly recommended to visit during the weekend include:

The Bridges in Winneshiek and Fayette Counties, The Bridges of Lanesboro, MN, Motor Mill Bridge in Clayton Bridge, Elkader Arch Bridge, Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque, The Bridges of Jones, Linn and Johnson Counties (including the ones at F.W. Kent Park west of Iowa City), Cascade Bridge in Burlington, Ft. Madison Swing Bridge, The Des Moines River Bridges between Keokuk and Des Moines and of course the Kate Shelley and Wagon Wheel Bridges.

It may be possible that the last span of the CGW Railroad Bridge in Des Moines is still up when visiting it, but don’t hold your breath….

ALSO: Registration forms for the dinner and entertainment portion is available directly through the author. Please inquire by e-mail at either flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com or JDSmith77@gmx.net and you will receive a form to fill out and return by no later than 15 July.  This is to determine how many people are expected at the venues. Payments will be collected at the event.

Bridge memorabilia is being sought for the silent auction taking place on 11 August at Bos Landen Golf Course in Pella. If you have bridge photos and items you want to part ways with, please bring them to the event or contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles.

REMINDER: Bridge information, etc. is still being sought for the Bridge Book Project, the Truss Bridges of Iowa, which the author is working on. An Information Box will be made available for you to contribute to the project. You can also talk with the author of the book at the evening events or while on the bridgehunting tour.  Or just send it via e-mail, which will get there quickly and directly.

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 24: The Red Rock Bridges

Red Rock Bridge
One of the Red Rock Bridges (now gone) Source: http://bridgehunter.com/photos/24/95/249507-L.jpg

Our 24th Mystery Bridge profile (as I counted the unusual bridge type in a salty German city as nr. 23) features not only one bridge, but as many as five, all going back to Marion County, Iowa, which houses another landmark we’ll get to in a short bit. And all of this happened by chance, thanks to a local librarian who responded to an inquiry about this bridge:

The structure featured two-spans of an identical design: Camelback Pennsylvania petit with pinned connections and Howe lattice portal bracings, located NW of the Horn’s Ferry Bridge. This bridge used to serve traffic connecting two villages along the Des Moines River: Red Rock and Runnells- that was until they were both inudated by the Red Rock Dam and through the creation of the Reservoir, a project that was completed in 1969 after nine excrutiating years of construction. How excrutiating was it?

Swan RRB
Swan Railroad Bridge, built in 1968. Now owned by BNSF. Photo taken in August 2011

The project required the relocation of hundreds of miles worth of highways and roadways, 80 miles of rail lines, plus uncountable amount of miles of utility and telephone lines. And it also required the construction of three vehicular crossings and a new railroad bridge: Hwy. 14 over the reservoir near Cordova Park, still holding the title as the longest and tallest bridge built in Iowa, but was built replacing an earlier bridge built in the early 1940s. Alongside that bridge was the Swan Railroad Bridge, a three-span Warren through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings that is owned by BNSF Railways, built parallel to the Hwy. 316 Bridge built at the same time. And lastly, there is the Hwy. T-15 crossing above the Red Rock Dam, connecting Knoxville with Pella, which has been the lone link since the closing of the Horn’s Ferry Bridge in 1982. However, a half dozen communities were either partially relocated or completely innundated along the way, including Red Rock, Runnels, Whitebreast, Cordova and parts of Swan. And with that, went the bridges along the way. But why?

One has to look at the motive behind the construction of the Red Rock Dam and Reservoir, for the Des Moines River prior to 1960 was a wild river that flooded frequently. Six different major floods had occurred along the river, including the ones in 1851, 1859, 1903, 1944, 1947, and 1954. The last four floods wreaked havoc on the bridges that existed, including the Horn’s Ferry Bridge (the first bridge built over the river), this crossing (whose construction date goes back to either 1897 or 1899), the Rosseau Bridge (built in 1908), the Bennington Bridge, and the Hwy. 14 bridge (built in the early 1940s). After the floods of 1944 and 47, plans were underway to control the flow of the Des Moines River, which included the Red Rock Project, but to the dismay of residents who used these crossings frequently because of their convenience from point A to point B. Many residents wanted the bridges affected by the project- namely the Red Rock, Rosseau and Bennington Bridges opened to traffic despite sustaining substantial damage because of flooding. For the Red Rock Bridge, the north span was destroyed in the 1944 flood. The Rosseau Bridge sustained heavy damage to the approach spans despite having them rebuilt on two separate occasions. Other smaller river crossings that were affected by the flooding were also in the way of the project and needed to be dismantled.

Sadly these bridges were eventually removed as the project went forward, while some crossings affected by the project became low-water crossings, meaning they did not become part of the Red Rock Reservoir per se, but as the streams flowing into the lake become flooded, the road and bridge were simply impassable. The questions involving the bridges lost to the Red Rock Reservoir and Dam were what they looked like and when were they built. This applies to the Red Rock Bridge, whose construction date is either 1897 or 1899. Therefore, here are some questions to solve this mystery:

Which bridges in the Red Rock Lake region were built in 1897, 1899, 1908 and 1912, and where were they located?

What are some facts involving the crossings at Cordova, Swan (Hwy. 14), Red Rock, Rosseau and Bennington? This includes the railroad crossing, which was also relocated?

What about the other bridges that did not cross the Des Moines River but were affected by the project?

What did the Red Rock Lake Bridges look like before they were lost to flooding and the Red Rock Dam and Reservoir Project? Any photos to support it?

Were any of the bridges in the Red Rock Region relocated at the time of the project?

Any information about these bridges and the facts about the villages inundated by Red Rock Lake can be submitted via e-mail. Yet, you can also provide some information in person at the Historic Bridge Weekend, which takes place August 9-12, which includes a meeting at the Red Rock Information Center at 2:30pm on August 11. A bridge tour and dinner at Bos Landen Golf Course will follow.

 

Photo courtesy of Luke Harden from the historic collections

 Update on Horn’s Ferry Bridge Mystery:

It appears that the story of the Horn’s Ferry Bridge, the first bridge to cross the Des Moines River in Marion County may be solved after all. According to information from the local library in Pella, the eastern two spans of the bridge (as seen in the picture above) were lost to an ice jam in 1929, cutting off the link between Pella and Knoxville. A contract was let out to Wickes Construction of Des Moines to construct the replacement spans, and reinforce the remaining seven spans including the Camelback through truss main span. These two 1929 spans still remain today, serving as the primary observation point overlooking Ivan’s Campground. The question remains of whether the two eastern spans wiped out in 1929 were original spans or if they were built after 1881. The hunch is that they may have been replaced after the 1903 floods, but more evidence is needed to support this argument.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Mystery Bridge update: The Horn’s Ferry Bridge and others

Photo courtesy of Luke Harden from the historic collections

Also: Another potential Mystery Bridge in Marion County gone by floods.

With plans wrapped up for the Historic Bridge Weekend and the events to take place in Marion County, combined with the plan to pay a loving ode to another historic bridge in Germany, a couple people brought the Horn’s Ferry Bridge up to my attention. Fellow pontist Luke Harden found an old postcard of the bridge when the entire structure was open to traffic. However, have a look at the photo above with the photos below. What differences can you see there?

Horn’s Ferry Bridge in the 1980s when it was open to bikes and pedestrians. Photo courtesy of Larry Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The difference on the through truss span is obvious: the first photo showed a pin-connected truss bridge with M-frame portal bracings. The second and third photos showed the same bridge but with riveted connections. Yet even more obvious was with the northernmost span, the pony truss. There, the top photo showed a Pratt or Howe pony truss span with pinned connections whereas the second photo showed a riveted Warren pony truss bridge.

211655-L
Oblique view of the spans after being converted to observation deck. Photo taken in August 2011

Looking at the facts so far, the present northernmost spans were erected in 1929 by Wickes Construction Company of Des Moines. The extension of the bridge was necessary for flooding was undermining the northern abutment causing the potential for the Camelback through truss span to collapse. Yet this concern was raised as far back as 1915 by the county, which had advocated two additional spans to alleviate the problem. The river was channeled but reports indicated that the two additional spans were added in 1929. The question is:

Did the older spans exist before 1915 or between 1915 and 1929? By answering this question, we will have a better idea when the present spans, now serving as an observation deck were built. If the spans existed in 1929, the next question is:

When were the present spans built if the older spans were built in 1929? This is important because it would undermine the argument that standardized truss bridges were introduced in 1913, which phased out pin-connected truss bridges in favor of riveted truss bridges.

Any information? Please send it to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com and the information will be revealed then.

Sadly, one of Marion County’s bridges disappeared as it was wiped away. Why?

Mystery Bridge over White Breast Creek gone due to flooding.

Located over White Breast Creek at 92nd Avenue, the bridge’s aesthetical features made it a treat to see, as seen in a pic taken by a person travelling by bike. Records show that the bridge was located here in 1947 and was built ca. 1899. Yet more information is needed to determine where the bridge originated from and who built it.  Sadly, according to locals, floodwaters took the structure out last week. More on the bridge will come, but if you have any information on this bridge, you know where to find the source for information. 😉

BHC logo

 

 

 

5th Annual Historic Bridge Weekend Coming to Iowa

Hale Bridge near Anamosa in Jones County. Photo taken in 2010

Each year since 2009, the Historic Bridge Weekend  Conference has  taken place in August or September, and each year, it has drawn in more people who are  experts in historic bridges, preservation or history, as well as those who are either bridge enthusiasts or have a keen interest in how these vintage structures were built and how they played a role in American History.
This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend is coming to America’s heartland, the state of Iowa, where the history of transportation and infrastructure and the development of America as a whole go together like bread and butter.  The Lincoln and Jefferson Highways meet in the state. Iowa was the first state to introduce the No Passing Zone signs. Kate Shelley made her heroic deed by stopping a passenger train from falling through a bridge washed away by flood waters.
And the bridges?  Iowa takes pride in its bridge building. The first bridge designs, like the Marsh arch, the aluminum girder and the Thacher truss originated from Iowa.  Numerous bowstring arches were built throughout the state. Many big-name bridge builders from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania made their mark in Iowa, while the state had its own bridge building companies located in Clinton, Ottumwa and Des Moines, which dominated the American landscape during the first half of the 20th Century.
This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend will take place August 9th through the 12th and will focus on the eastern half of Iowa, where many historic bridges dating as far back as 1870 still exist today. Please refer to the detailed agenda at the end of this message for more information.

Contact:
For those who are interested in participating in the dinner and presentations, please RSPV Jason D. Smith at the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles at:
flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com or JDSmith77@gmx.net by no later than 15 July.  Information on the bridge tours and the dinner and presentations will be provided through e-mail.  Lodging and camping possibilities are available upon request.

Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County. Photo taken in August 2011

Agenda:
Day 1 – 9th August, 2013
The journey starts on 9th of August at the Old Barn Resort in Preston, Minnesota beginning at 10:00am, and after touring Fillmore County, we’ll focus on the northeast corner of Iowa, which includes the bridges in Winneshiek, Fayette, Dubuque and Jones Counties and features the bowstring arch bridges in the region as well as the Black Hawk Bridge, the Red Bridge, and the remaining spans of the original Dubuque bridge, built in 1868 over the Mississippi and is one of the last remaining historic bridges made of cast iron in the country.

Dinner and presentations will take place at the Stone City General Store in Stone City (near Anamosa) at 6:30pm. This event will be dedicated to James Hippen, who spearheaded efforts to save historic bridges in Iowa for over 40 years until his unexpected passing in 2010. People who worked with Mr. Hippen will speak at this event in his honor.

Day 2 – 10th August, 2013
August 10th will feature a tour of the historic bridges in the east-central portion of the state. This will include a guided tour of the bridges of Linn and Johnson Counties by Quinn Phelan, which starts at 8:30am at Palisades-Kepler State Park at Mt. Vernon and last throughout the morning. This includes a trip to F.W. Kent Park near Tifflin (west of Iowa City), where one can see nine fully-restored historic bridges, including a roof-top bowstring arch bridge, built using steel trusses from a building that was demolished in the 1980s.

Afternoon tours include visiting bridges along the Lincoln Highway, as well as the Quad Cities and can be done individually or in groups, pending on preferences.
Saturday evening’s dinner and presentations will take place at 7:00pm at Baxa’s Tavern and Grill, located at Sutliff Bridge, south of Mt. Vernon. Sutliff Bridge features two original Parker through truss spans and a replica of the easternmost span that was destroyed in the flooding in 2008. Members of the Sutliff Bridge Authority will talk about the restoration of the bridge and answer any questions the people have about the project. In addition, a pair of presentations by two important figures in historic bridges and preservation will also be provided.
Day 3 – 11th August, 2013

Morning:
Tour of the bridges in the southeastern part of Iowa including the bridges in and around Burlington, Fort Madison and Keokuk, as well as the bridges along the Des Moines River between Keokuk and Des Moines.
Afternoon:
Meeting to talk about the Horn’s Ferry Bridge at the Red Rock Informational Center located near the site beginning at 2:30pm, followed a tour of Marion County‘s bridges and finally the last of the presentations and dinner at Bos Landen Golf Course south of Pella at 5:30pm. A silent auction will accompany the evening event.  The Weekend will conclude with a night tour of the bridges of Des Moines.
Day 4 – 12th August, 2013
For those wanting to see the Kate Shelley Viaduct, there will be a tour of Kate Shelley, her life and the bridge named in her honor beginning at 10:00am at the Boone County Historical Center in Boone. The 2-3 hour tour will include a tour of the Kate Shelley exhibit, a trip to the train depot at Moingona and the remains of the bridge that was washed away by flooding (the same bridge which Kate Shelley crossed before informing the tenant of a nearby bridge being washed out), and a tour of the bridges, including the two viaducts (the 1912 steel viaduct and the 2008 replacement viaduct), the (freshly remodeled) Wagon Wheel Bridge north of the viaducts (which is opened to pedestrians), the Bass Creek Viaduct, and the Madrid Viaduct.

Oblique overview of the Sutliff Bridge. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

One More Note:
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is also accepting donations for the following projects:
The restoration of the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge in Poweshiek County
The restoration of the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County.
A donation box will be made available on each of the evening dinner events for you to make a contribution.
Note: We will have a silent auction on Sunday 11 August at Bos Landen Golf Course near Pella at 5:30pm, the same time as the dinner and presentations. All proceeds will go to the two aforementioned projects.

Donations of Info and Photos for Bridge Book also being taken:
In addition, donations in the form of pictures, postcards, information, money for research, etc. are currently being accepted for the book project “The History of Truss Bridges in Iowa” which is being written by the author of the Chronicles. An information box will be available during the Historic Bridge Weekend, but you can also contact Jason Smith in person at the event or via e-mail of you have any information about any of Iowa’s bridges that is worth entering in the book.