Paper Mill/Marshall Bridge: Rising from the Ashes- An Interview with Julie Bowers

 

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What is considered the impossible became the impossible. David never gave up on the notion of beating Goliath until it actually happened. Some heavily favorites can fall to the underdogs. All it takes is patience, preserverence, passion and persistence- the four Ps to success. Five if you want to include politics.

For Julie Bowers and the crew at Workin Bridges, those five Ps were needed plus some personnel with expertise and just as much of the five Ps to bring a bowstring arch bridge back from the rubble, resurrect the structure, restore it to its former glory and now, it’s being reused for recreation. That is the story behind the history of the Marshall Bostring Arch Bridge located now at the Auburn Heights Preserve in Delaware. It has gone by many names, but two come out as the most commonly used aside from its official name: the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge when it was in Iowa, and most recently, Paper Mills Bridge. The bridge has come a long way after it was destroyed by flooding in August 2009 at its original location in Poweshiek County, spanning the Skunk River. After it was pulled from the river and stored, efforts were undertaken to restore it, which included a long journey to its new home in Yorklyn, Delaware. The Odyssey came with a lot of challenges, as you will see in the interview I did with Julie Bowers before Christmas.  I wanted to find out how the 5 Ps played a role in bringing the bowstring arch bridge that is like a family to her and the crew who restored it back to life. Here’s how the story happened. Enjoy! 🙂

 

1. Tell us briefly about yourself and your role in restoring historic bridges. I’ve been doing this for ten years. I knew nothing about bridges or restoration or bureaucratic politics when our bridge was lost to the N. Skunk River. I did have a background in construction, architecture and databases and used that as a base to build on. I don’t give up and have been called stubborn. We could not do this without a lot of sacrifice by everyone that travels to save a bridge but mostly we couldn’t do it without Bach Steel and Nels Raynor and our board of directors, both current and past.

 

 

  1. In your opinion, how special is the Paper Mill Bridge (PMB) in terms of its history and personal association with it?

It was erected in 1883, built by the King Iron Bridge Company. We think it is from around 1878 production design based on the lacing in the vertical outriggers and the castings. The bridge of many names (Skunk River Bridge, Humpback Bridge, McDowell for a minute then McIntyre, then Paper Mill) now the Marshall Family Bridge, is the heart of the Auburn Heights Preserve in Yorklyn, Delaware. A public / private partnership to clean up zinc laden habitat, to rebuild old warehouses including the Paper Mill and to build a trail system using historic bridges. If we had not had this project we would not have saved our bridge. It was a lot more work after falling in the river but it will live on.

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  1. Prior to its relocation from Iowa to Delaware, the PMB was once known as the McIntyre Bridge. Tell us about the bridge in its original location.

The bridge was located on River Road over the N. Skunk River in SE Poweshiek County. Our family had ties to the area and found ourselves there often for fall and winter picnics. When I returned to Iowa in 2001, we restarted those picnics. It fit it’s location perfectly and was safely in a park until flooding pushed it off it’s piers.

 

  1. In 2010, floodwaters swept the bridge off its foundations and caused severe damage. Tell us more about it and how it influenced your decision to restore the bridge.

My daughter and I found the bridge on the Sunday following Friday the 13th. We heard later the county crews were pulling trees up river that were compromising a concrete span. They came on down river and the roots entangled with the cable railing and pushed the span off the piers. It was our bridge, my family had been tied to that place for generations and I got the call. What are you going to do? We started educating ourselves, making calls, and figuring out our options. Turns out, all we needed was Bach Steel at that time, before the bridge went down.

 

  1. What was the plan for restoring the McIntyre Bridge in its original place and why did it fail?

It was just decisions that let us keep trying to figure out how much it cost and how to find the funds. There were setbacks, grant rejections, a lot of them, but we persevered. Our first plan was research, we were referred to Vern Mesler and Nathan Holth and had them  come to Iowa. We raised $3000 for that consult.  The bridge was still up at that point. When the bridge fell we were told about Nels Raynor and we proceeded with Nels to pull the bridge from the river and to work with us on this bridge and others. My daughter, Laran Bowers is on the board now, has been for years and that makes sense. She was the one that found the bridge. Jaydine Good rounds out the board and we have about 5 advisors that we utilize all the time for their perspectives. We wrote grants to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), getting our County involved.

They subsequently reneged on their commitment to a TAP grant and we knew grants would never be our solution. When the county commissioners took back their backing, we knew that the solution was not going to be there and started looking. Flooding in August of 2009 changed everything from restoration plans to salvage, then restoration. No one ever decided not to save the bridge, it was always our number 1 priority through all of our efforts. We’ve educated a lot of folks on knowing the project before deciding to continue or not. We always knew our project costs from the beginning.

 

 Author’s Note: TAP stands for Transportation Alternative Program which focuses mainly on bridge rehabilitation/restoration instead of replacement.

 

6.  What happened to the McIntyre Bridge afterwards?

It went to Bach Steel for storage while we tried raising funds. Then we brought it back to Iowa because SHPO said we had moved the bridge out of Iowa. Then SHPO delisted the bridge because it was moved off it’s piers, they didn’t believe our scope and estimate, and the bridge was stored while we worked on other projects, became a contractor and tried earning funds rather than asking for funds.

 

Author’s Note: The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s along with two dozen other bowstring arch bridges in Iowa. Because of its significance, grants were available to restore the bridge but only at its original location. The bridge can be delisted if it’s either altered beyond historic recognition, destroyed by natural disaster or demolition or moved to another location. Some exceptions do apply.

 

7. How and when did the opportunity to relocate and restore the McIntyre Bridge come about?

Nels Raynor and I worked with Project PATH at PennDOT with Kara Russell and Preservation Pennsylvania, providing scope and estimates on several bridges. Without that information it is very hard to sell a bridge in their program. That lead to a call from DNREC. McIntyre Bridge was certainly our choice although Nels would have preferred others that might not have had as much damage. It was a lot of work and the care that Derek and Lee and their crew put into the restoration was immense. There was twisting along the box chord but if you look close today, you will see very little distortion.

More on PATH: https://path.penndot.gov/

 

8. How was the bridge reconstructed?

Very carefully. It’s a bridge that will take pedestrians and we care. This is a bowstring truss. The eye-bars are connected with castings and pins to make the length  of the bridge and the verticals hit the eye-bars, connected with cast parts. The trusses were laid opposite to each other, so that they could be picked up nearly in place and then the lateral connections were put in. Miles of angle were welded together to make the vertical “star iron / cruciform posts that were beyond repair. This is what we call in-kind restoration which means if we have to recreate parts we do that.  The trusses required mending, heat straightening, pack rust removal and it took a long time to essentially rebuild our bridge. Nels did that for us because he said he would.

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9. Who were the actors involved in the restoration?

There were no actors involved. It took the expertise of Nels Raynor at Bach Steel along with his crew over years. It also took finding James Schiffer, P.E. Now he does some work for others but the original team of Workin Bridges was Nels, Jim and I. Derek and Lee Pung worked the most on the bridge, along with Nels son Brock and others that have learned iron working arts during this project.

10. What other factors led to the success in restoring the bridge?

Perseverance, not patience, and finding other work along the way, not just waiting around for grants and then deciding grants and donations aren’t enough. We started working the construction angle to have the funds to pay for overhead while some grants were pursued. Remember, you can’t do anything after the grant goes in. 6 months to wait for denial is no fun. As we went along we found more and more opportunities and we know what failure looks like. The board, under the direction of my father Dick Bowers, Gary Sanders, Diane Roth, Laran Bowers and now Jaydine Good have kept me pursuing the best outcome for our bridge and helping other people with their bridges.

 

11.  The bridge was renamed Paper Mill Bridge and later Marshall? Why was that? 

The Marshall Family owned the Paper Mill and the Mansion and a collection of vintage Stanley Steemers and other collectible vehicles. They donated this to the state parks system and DNREC wanted to honor the family by naming the bowstring after them. Marshall Family Bridge was dedicated last year while Mr. Marshall could be there.

 

12.  Paper Mill Bridge is now in Delaware, but there is talk of adding some bridges, a couple from Pennsylvania. Can you elaborate further on this?

Part of Project PATH was a pony truss bridge for sale that we added to the complement of bridges from York County, PA. The project criteria were to find bridges with different builders, types and ages from different states to complement the mills being restored. That bridge, now called Farm Lane, is a pony truss that we modified for strength and width with girders. We also widened it to allow for a pedestrian lane, and engineered it for vehicular traffic with a moveable railing if emergency or agricultural vehicles need to cross. Martin Road will become Snuff Mill. A pratt truss from Michigan has been restored and is being painted, awaiting installation at NVF.  Another large truss, the Portland Water Works bridge is in storage in Delaware for future installation after we purchased and transported it across country two years ago.

 

 13.     How would you theme the project, Saving the Paper Mill Bridge either as a title or in one sentence? The Skunk River Bridge Story – 1883 to present

 

14.   What future bridge restoration projects do you have on the agenda, especially the bowstring arch bridge, like the Paper Mill?

We are working on Watts Mill Road Bridge, a rare continuous pony truss, we have tried to take on Aetnaville Bridge in Wheeling as a restoration project knowing that $2.5 million could be useful for preservation. We saved the Springfield Des-Arc bridge in a new park, that was another bowstring. I think we are instrumental in Pennsylvania and Ohio utilizing Bach Steel to save bowstrings now. If they are the Kings of Kings, we know where that started. Any that we can find now will go into the “Bridge in a Box” sales program that we are developing. Of course we expanded on the Old Richardsville Bridge and are hopeful that the engineers will be required to work with us on the restoration needs. We found little to fix but the Kentucky Cabinet likes spending funds on local certified engineers, lots of money. We got the process started to showcase that it was much older and it will be preserved as a vehicular bridge. That took historical research from the bridge hunting community which was great to dial in the history that negated the NPS dates for NRHP.

 

 15. What words of advice would you give to those who are pursuing preserving and reusing a historic bridge, based on your personal experiences with this bridge?

It is always political. Find the economic benefits for the bridge to the local community. You can’t assume that they will take it on like Beaver County did with Watts Mill Road Bridge after it is reset. Engineers estimates are overly high so get another opinion. Engineers are asked specific questions by their clients that they answer – their answers don’t always look at preservation. For instance, the engineers estimate for Broadway Bridge in Frankfort assumes putting concrete back on it and doesn’t even consider planks or an engineered decking system. Some DOTS are really working hard at finding solutions, but we have to become competitive in selling a “Bridge in a Box – by Bach”  if we want to be competitive with those selling welded steel spans. Convincing and branding a membership driven “Workin'” non profit would create funds annually to help save bridges and other structures. We’ve looked into many ideas, some have merit, some do not. For now we do site visits that give real costs for restoration so that our clients can have enough information for good decisions to be made. We will be crafting more stories on video and perhaps a book on the McIntyre – we have footage of my father and other locals when we first started. We also have content on a lot of site visits that we will start to analyze and put out as well. Having a wonderful board that won’t let you give up even in the face of struggles is the secret. There will be struggles and set backs. Engineers want to build new bridges and cities don’t want the risks of old ones. We try to mitigate the risks.

It’s hard. We’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons as we pursued this. No good deed ever goes unpunished but there are a lot of great people and wonderful stories across the US. We saved our bridge but it took a lot out of all of us and it wasn’t the outcome we wanted but it was the best outcome for the bridge. Can’t wait to walk it again soon.

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Epilog: The Paper Mill/ Marshall Bridge has received a lot of national and international recognition after its reconstruction and re-erecting at its new home in Delaware, including the 2018 Ammann Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Bridge of the Year, edging out the Blackfriar’s Bridge in Canada, whose design is similar to this bridge. While Blackfriar’s still retains the role of being the world’s longest of its kind, this bridge will definitely go down in the history books as one which was resurrected after a tragedy and is now being used again after years of hard work and lots of expertise. It sets the foundation for other historic bridge restorations that will come in the new decade, for they are becoming more important to save for future generations as the numbers dwindle due to progress and environmental disasters that are partly due to that progress. Progress is not welcomed unless we see some advantages in these. And as we learned this year with Greta Thunberg’s world tour, the environment will indeed be priority number one in our future plans for making things better. This is one of the projects that will benefit many.

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Former Iowa Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored and Reerected in Delaware

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YORKLYN, DELAWARE/ HOLT, MICHIGAN/ GRINELL, IOWA-

Nearly nine years after the McIntyre Bridge (aka Skunk River Bridge, Hump Back Bridge, McDowell Bridge) was swept off it’s piers on August 13, 2009 and into the N. Skunk River the old iron bridge has been restored, rehabilitated and repaired. It was erected June 1st, 2018 over the Red Clay Creek in Yorklyn, Delaware, part of the Delaware State Parks trail systems at Auburn Heights Preserve.

The bowstring bridge, fabricated in 1878 and erected in 1883 in Poweshiek County, Iowa has been in the craftsmans hands for the past few years in Michigan. Bach Ornamental and Structural Steel, in Holt & St. Johns, Michigan has had the massive task of bringing the bridge back to life. Nels Raynor participated in pulling the bridge from the river in the fall of 2009 and a larger gang of craftsmen including Derek Pung, Lee Pung, Brock Raynor and Andy Hufnagel, completed the bridge project. They spent countless hours welding old iron, riveting broken pieces back together and pounding out the packed rust. The cruciform posts were completely fabricated to replace the old and the bridge has been painted, wrenched back together and was lifted into place by John Hayden of First State Cranes who helped with adding sway bracing to the trusses and placing the stringers for installation.

The bridge was engineered by Jim Schiffer, P.E. of Traverse City, Michigan. The engineering and the repairs allow this bridge to go back to vehicular traffic, handling the Marshall Steam Museums fleet of classic cars and Stanley Steamers with a live loading limit of 8 tons. The bridge is 119.5 feet long and weighs with planks and iron 76,000 pounds.

The bridge has been renamed the Paper Mill Bridge, the story of it’s years in Iowa and the people that rallied to support it’s preservation is being told and while the bridge isn’t in Iowa it has been preserved.

“It was never our intention to save a bridge for somewhere else”, stated Julie Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges. “We worked very hard from 2009 until spring of 2012 and thought we had an arrangement with Poweshiek County to preserve the bridge in Iowa. The Board of Supervisors reneged on the application for Transportation Alternative Program to preserve the bridge at Mill Grove Access and it was at that point that we began to work on other people’s history.” When the plan to restore the bridge in Iowa failed, the next option was to find a new home for the structure, even outside Iowa. It was eventually sold to DNREC in 2015 and it was decided that it would span Red Clay Creek serving a train in Newcstle County.  She added that Workin’ Bridges with BACH and Schiffer Group, had won an award for preservation for the Springfield Bowstring Bridge restoration in Conway, Arkansas. In addition, the crew won the 2017 Ammann Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge with this same bridge with Nels Raynor winning the Lifetime Achievement Award.  Currently they are working on the 80-foot Hope Memorial Bowstring in Rosebud, Texas and has submitted a proposal for the Old Richardsville Bridge – a three span hybrid bowstring in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which was closed by Kentucky Transportation Cabinet earlier in 2018. Workin’ Bridges has been instrumental in preserving bridges all over the country. This is in addition to turning two bridges into land / bridge conserved parks in Pennsylvania and Oregon, as well as the bridges for a recreational area in northern Delaware, where the Paper Mill Bowstring is located.

More on the successes of BACH Steel, Workin Bridges and Co., as wel as Nels Raynor’s storied career will come in later articles. Stay tuned.

 

Workin’ Bridges is the The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA), a non-profit dedicated to historic truss bridges and greenbelt restoration. A documentary on Historic Truss Bridge Restoration is on YouTube. Donations are accepted for bridge repair and may be mailed to NSRGA, PO Box 332, Grinnell, IA 50112 • www.workinbridges.org • PayPal • Workin’ Bridges on Facebook.

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What to do with a HB: The McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge in Poweshiek County, Iowa

Photo courtesy of Julie Bowers

 

 

Poweshiek County rescinds grant and support for McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge. Bridge now for sale to be relocated.

Preserving historic bridges for future generations is not an easy task, given the amount of work needed to restore and maintain the structure. It is even a bigger challenge to rebuild the structure if it was damaged or destroyed by flooding, as we saw with the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County, Iowa. But when things appear to go in the right direction, with bridge parts restored and ready to be put back over the river to be reopened and reused, the last thing a person needs is opposition to the project, whether it is rescinding a grant or even making a “behind the door” descision to force the cease and desisting of the project in favor of scrap metal.

Here in Poweshiek County, Iowa, this is exactly the case with the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge. Built by the King Bridge Company in 1883, the bridge was washed away by floodwaters in 2010. In the past three years, Workin Bridges, with Julie Bowers as Executive Director, undertook a Herculean effort to fish the bridge out of the waters of the Skunk River, and reconstruct the bridge, piece by piece, straightening out the metal, replacing parts and having it ready to be put together like a set of Tinker Toys, as you can see in the picture below….

The original plan was to put the bridge on new piers, raised by two feet to clear floodwaters and have the county maintain the bridge for the next 20 years. This was supposed to be done using a grant provided by the state to cover the cost for the work- namely $140,000.  While the county supervisors had originally supported the plan, the most recent decision the county not to take the grant has basically put the last nails in the coffin as far as any efforts to save the McIntyre Bridge. Already the bridge was delisted from the National Register of Historic Places, considering the structure a total loss.  But this decision is one that has sent many people scratching their heads about this, and one that has put Workin Bridges at the crossroads as far as its future existence is concerned. From the author’s point of view, especially as he studied political science both in the US as well as in Germany, this form of lip service is very common for politicians and county officials will say one thing the first minute and then change its mind because of some factors that made them reconsider the decision.  There are many factors that may have led the county to change its mind.

For instance, the bridge collapse in Washington state caused by a truck driver disregarding the vertical clearance of the truss bridge has caused many counties to rethink the way through truss bridges are being used for traffic. Already a movement has started to dismantle the environmental and cultural impact surveys when replacing “sturcturally deficient” bridges in Washington state in response to the disaster (see articles enclosed here), which if successful, could spread throughout the country in the next five years, especially if the next president after Barack Obama is a Republican.

Photo taken by Julie Bowers

The other factor has to do with the flooding that has been going on so far this summer. As you can see in the picture, the Millgrove access was where the bridge used to be located prior to the flood in 2010. Yet flooding drowned the access making the county rather nervous about having a bridge over the river they have to maintain for 20 years. However, as one can see with the Great Flood of 2013 in Germany, Austria and parts of Europe, many of the bridges built similar to McIntyre have survived the onslaught of the floods with only concrete beam bridges being destroyed in the process. If McIntyre can be rebuilt on higher piers with steel that can withstand flooding, the bowstring arch bridge will last another 50-100 years, as seen with one of the bridges that survived the Great Flood in Germany.

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Tivoli Island Bridge in Watertown, WI. Photo taken by the author in August 2010

Bridge for Sale:

With all the resources exhausted, the future of the McIntyre Bridge is in limbo. Workin Bridges wants to give the bridge away to someone who is willing to use it for recreational purposes. While some work and assembly is required, it would be a shame to throw away three years of efforts of restoring the bridge to look like the bridge in Watertown, Wisconsin at Tivoli Lake, or even to the form that it appeared before the flooding. There are many places that could use a bowstring arch bridge for a bike trail, picnic area or the like. FW Kent Park near Iowa City has a collection of nine restored truss and bowstring arch bridges that still serve a trail encircling a small lake.  It would be an excellent addition. But other regions in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota could use a bridge like this one for their projects as well. Minnesota has only one bowstring arch bridge left in the Kern Bridge near Mankato. South Dakota has none. And perhaps as soon as the bridge finds a new home, it can retain its National Register status if it is not altered beyond recognition.

If you know of a place where the bridge could be reused or are interested in the bridge, please click here to contact Julie Bowers and information will be provided as well as the conditions for reusing the bridge. We can only hope that the efforts to restore the bridge will not be in vain. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest regarding the future of McIntyre Bridge.

Newsflyer 24 April 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Newsflyer:  24 April, 2013

Historic International Crossing spared Terrorist Attack, Two Historic Bridges lost to Flooding, One Bridge with connection to Internationally Renowned Bridge Coming Down

There has been a lot of action that took place in the US this past week, which included an unprecedented series of explosions- two at the Boston Marathon and an atomic-size explosion that nearly destroyed a Texas town- combined with the pursuit of the terrorists and those neglecting the safety guidelines of the fertilizer plant, and lots of rage by Mother Nature, implementing her wrath on the Midwest with snow and flooding.

And with that comes the demise of more historic bridges, but one was spared another potential terroristic plot to blow it up. How bad was this? The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has a list of news headlines that have been compiled under its latest Newsflyer.

Bridge at Niagra Falls saved from bombing attempt

The Whirlpool Rapids Bridge is a very important historic bridge in the Niagra Region for two reasons: 1. The 1897 steel deck arch bridge, measured at 329 meters long, and featuring a upper deck for rail traffic and lower deck for vehicular traffic is an important link between the US and Canada, serving rail traffic between New York and Montreal and Toronto. 2. It is one of two important historic bridges to see near Niagra Falls, as it is located 2.4 km from the Falls, where another arch bridge is located. It was refurbished in 2009-10 and is now owned by Amtrak which maintains the track and allows Canadian trains to cross.  This bridge was a target of a terrorist attack that was foiled by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Monday, arresting two people who had connections with Al Qaida in Iran- one of which was of Tunisian origins. Both were Canadians.  It is unknown how the planning was foiled for there was little information prior to the event, but had the attack succeeded, it would have resulted in massive loss of life among people in the train that they would have bombed in the process, car drivers and a historical landmark being destroyed, severing an important link between the two countries. The two men are currently in jail awaiting their fate. A close call for both countries, especially the USA, which was digesting its first terrorist attack since 9/11.

Two important Illinois historic bridges lost to flooding.

“No way!” This was the reaction of the amateur videographer who filmed the demise of the wrought iron Pratt through truss bridge spanning Big Bureau Creek east of Tiskilwa in Bureau County on 18 April. Built in the 1880s by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, the bridge had been abandoned for many years and like its cousin, the Maple Rapids Bridge in Michigan, it was also leaning to one side after sustaining previous flood damage. This most recent flood did the structure in. Half of the bridge is still in the water but the structure, which resembles the Jacobs Tavern Bridge in New Jersey, will most likely come out to be scrapped, as with another bridge.

Located over Wilburn Creek in Marshall County, this 1924 riveted Pratt pony truss bridge was in excellent shape with minor restrictions until flooding undermined the abutments and knocked the bridge over on its side. Despite the bridge being in good shape inspite of the fall, the county engineer has written it off and it will be replaced. The fate of the trusses hangs in the balance, but they do have a potential of being reused at a park if rehabilitated with welding technology…

Part of the Golden Gate Bridge gone!

The Doyle Drive Viaduct, located near the Presidio south of the Golden Gate Bridge is technically part of the grand lady. Built in 1936, the bridge features a rusty orange color, similar to the almost 76-year old suspension bridge. With the demolition of the bridge, it marks the loss of a piece of history. Currently this bridge is being replaced with a concrete viaduct as part of the plan to reconstruct the interchange with the road leading to the historic police station. This is part of a larger plan to modernize the Golden Gate area, which includes replacing toll takers of the grand lady with automatic electronic toll machines. This has taken place already. It makes people of San Francisco and other people who know about the bridge and its heritage wonder what will be done with the Golden Gate area next….

Yet there is a sign of life for one historic bridge with a pair of bonuses that are on the way. This time it involves the McIntyre Bridge in Iowa.

Bowers has it her way and possibly then some

After suffering numerous set backs this year, a glimmer of hope has finally arrived for Julie Bowers and the crew at Workin Bridges, as  Poweshiek County signed off on a grant for $184,000 provided by the Iowa DOT on April 19th to be used to rebuild the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge. The 1883 structure spanned North Skunk River until it was washed away by floods in 2010. Since then, painstaking efforts to raise money to restore the bridge were undertaken until the offer by the state agency, located in Ames, was brought to the table. Poweshiek County agreed to the proposal under the condition that Workin Bridges maintains the bridge over the next 20 years. If all is approved and the restoration efforts start in the summer, the bridge could be back over the river and in service again by the fall of this year.

In addition, a couple pony truss bridges from Carroll County may be heading to Poweshiek County to be reused for recreational reasons. When and where they will be relocated remains open, but the county is planning on replacing them this summer. More information from the Chronicles to come soon.

How to fix an antique metal bridge: DVD on Historic Bridge Restoration by Julie Bowers

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Photo taken by the author in December, 2014

Author’s Note: This article serves as a twofold function: 1. It is part of a multiple series on the Historic Bridge Conference, which took place last weekend (21-23 September) in Indiana, where the documentary was shown, and 2. This is the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ Book of the Month, but in a form of a DVD and documentary. An interview with Julie Bowers on historic bridge preservation was conducted earlier this year and can be viewed by clicking here.

There seems to be a belief from many people that historic metal truss bridges cannot be restored because the metal used for the structure has outlived its usefulness, and that restoration and/or relocation is either too expensive, outdated, or is not heard of. The last part was in connection with a comment made by a congresswoman in Ohio in May of this year.
Little do these critics realize is that restoration exists for metal truss bridges, and in the case of welding, the profession is making a comeback, as there is an increase in interest in this sort of work. And for the remaining truss bridges that are still standing in the country, this may be a blessing that could buck the trend of eliminating this truss type, especially after the I-35W Bridge Disaster of 2007 in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA).
Using the Piano Bridge in Texas and the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge in Iowa and with the support of songs by The Grateful Dead, Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges, a non-profit organization that deals with historic bridge restoration, produced a documentary on historic bridge restoration, bringing a profession back from the dead and, with step-by-step demonstrations and easy to explain concepts by the professionals, providing educational opportunities for welders, historians, agencies, bridge enthusiasts and people interested on how to restore a historic bridge.

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McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge in Poweshiek County, Iowa before ist destruction due to flooding in 2010. The parts were salvaged and transported to Delaware. Photo courtesy of Julie Bowers

The DVD starts with the McIntyre Bridge before and after the flood that destroyed the structure in August 2010 with the question of what to do with the structure. While Workin Bridges was in its infancy when this occurred, the organization’s biggest break came with the request from the people in Fayette County, Texas to restore the pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge, built in 1885 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Together with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) the restoration process started, first by taking the truss bridge off its original foundations, followed by taking it apart, putting rivets on the bridge, using heat to straighten out the eye bars, and doing other work with the parts, before putting the truss bridge together and placing it back on new foundations. The step-by-step process was filmed and photographed, with experts demonstrating to the viewer how these processes work, thus encouraging people to at least look at how restoration works, but with a long range goal of taking up the profession. Welding is an old technology that was developed in the 1800s, went into hibernation for many decades, but is making a comeback in a new form, which is restoring historic places made of metal. Yet for many people, the profession is new and exciting, but should be taken seriously, as it takes time and effort to form and reform structural parts to make a building or bridge look just like new.

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Piano Bridge in Texas: The bridge lift from its foundations. Photo courtesy of Julie Bowers

Here are some interesting facts about welding that were in the film and are worth noting:

  1. Rivets are more effective than nuts and bolts in a way that they keep the metals intact and ensure that rust and weather extremities do not cause the metal parts to crack. One of the cracked parts discovered on the Piano Bridge led to the structure’s closing and the quest for someone to come and fix it.
  2. Heat stripping is a process of placing the torch on a section of metal, straightening it out with clamps.
  3. The Piano Bridge is made of wrought iron, which has a low heating temperature. Therefore, one needs to be careful not to have heat on a section of metal for a long time or else the material falls apart like wood. This contributed to many structures failing during the Great Chicago Fire on 3 October, 1871, which destroyed 80% of the entire city.
  4. Steel can be welded to wrought iron to ensure its stability for many years, despite claims that it can be bent to a point where it breaks.
  5. Most interesting fact: rehabilitating historic bridges means adding parts to support the structure. It does not mean restoration, as in taking apart and reassembling the structure.

While the welding process was progressing on the Piano Bridge, there were discussions about historic bridges and their fate, especially in connection with the I-35W Bridge Disaster.  While many agencies have striven to have certain bridge types eliminated, as well as those that are structurally deficient, including those in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio, for example, other agencies, like TxDOT have worked to find ways to restore historic bridges and/or relocate them for reuse if deemed necessary. It is part of a two-way approach where the costs are analyzed and engineering thought is put in to determine not whether a historic bridge can be restored but how. John Barton of TxDOT denounces the knee-jerk approach to historic bridge replacement, as it has happened in many places, but claims that engineering is a way to address the variables, both systematically and methodologically and should be taken seriously.

Piano Bridge
Piano Bridge in Texas after its restoration. Photo courtesy of Workin Bridges

The film ends with some example bridges that have either been restored, like the State Street Bridge in Bridgeport, Michigan, or are targets for restoration efforts, like the Long Shoals Bridge in Kansas, the Cascade Bridge in Iowa, and the Enochs Knob Bridge in Missouri, the last two of which are being scheduled for demolition, although Workin Bridges is working to claim the Cascade Bridge to be restored. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will have that article for you as soon as the series on the Historic Bridge Conference in Indiana is finished. But it shows how each bridge could be restored thanks to the demonstrations that were presented in the film.

There are many demonstrations on welding techniques that are either available online or through seminars, like the annual welding seminar offered by Vern Mesler in Michigan. The DVD takes you up close to see how historic bridges can be restored through welding techniques that exist. It provides people with a chance to see how the process works and has the dos and don’ts to welding, let alone to restoring a historic bridge. Furthermore it advocates the need to do restoration work instead of rehabilitation, setting the standards very high for reasons of safety and integrity, while at the same time, restoring the bridge is more cost effective than rehabilitation or replacement.

The video is 47 minutes long and from a teacher’s point of view, if you have a class of students of civil engineering, conservation and restoration or even architecture, it is recommended that they see the film to provide them with a glimpse of the work and to spark their interest in possibly joining the profession, which has been growing since 2008. Chances are likely that at least a quarter of the students in the classroom will be interested in the work.  And even if no one is interested in the profession and is only curious about how a bridge is restored, the content of the film is easy to understand and the demonstrations are up front and not too technical. For agencies and politicians who advocate bridge replacement, the DVD provides them with an alternative to demolition, convincing them that restoration is more cost effective and will prolong the life of a bridge for many decades to come.

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Historic Paper Mill Bridge in Newcastle, Delaware.

I would like to end this review with a food for thought involving a question that I posed to many of my students: suppose you have a 120 year old truss bridge that is due for replacement and you have the following choices, which one would you take:

Replace the bridge with a concrete structure
Replace the bridge but leave the truss bridge in tact
Rehabilitate the truss bridge and leave it open to traffic?

Keep in mind the cost analysis for each option, the resources that are available, but most importantly, the interest of the people and their association with the structure. Without the interest, the truss bridge is history. Yet if the interest in saving the bridge is high, then one should look at the resources available and in particular, listen to the public and their suggestions. Chances are one of them may have seen this DVD and knows what he/she is talking about.

The DVD can also be viewed on YouTube, which you can watch below:

 

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The $5000 Challenge for the Mc Intyre Bridge

The McIntyre Bridge before its collapse during floods in 2010. Photo taken by Julie Bowers

There is a ray of hope with regards to the future of the McIntyre Bridge in Poweshiek County, Iowa. The North Skunk River Greenbelt Association, which owns the 1885 bowstring arch bridge was provided with a grant of $10,000 by the Marilyn Taylor Jordan on behalf of the McFarlin Family. However this grant comes with a challenge- there is a challenge to match at least half the funding- meaning $5000!

The organization is looking for 250 people who are willing to donate $20 to the cause. The advantages are two-fold: 1. The names of the donors will be in-scripted either on the planks of the bridge or on a plaque at the Millgrove Access Wildlife Area, where the bridge is located and 2. A thank-you gift in a form of the DVD documentary on historic bridge preservation will be given to the donor. The documentary features the restoration of the Piano Bridge in Texas and was produced earlier this year.

The money will be used to finish the Site Survey and pier study to determine if we need to add additional height to the piers. The NSRGA has been granted $1950 for this study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and more time has been extended for that study to be performed. It is expected to cost $4000. Grant money will be used for engineering drafts and bringing parts to the bridge site from outside so that work can proceed on rebuilding the bowstring arch bridge.

The McIntyre Bridge was destroyed by flooding in 2010 as the structure was swept downstream. A survey revealed that the bridge is salvageable and can be rebuilt, yet it is possible that new higher piers may be needed to avert further flooding. The full cost of bridge restoration and reset will cost about $134,000. This does not include money for work on the road or the riverbanks, as that will be separate and plans are in the making to work with the county on this aspect once the bridge is reset.

If you are interested in taking the challenge or have any questions on how you can help restore the McIntyre Bridge, please contact Julie Bowers at NSRGA at this website: www.skunkriverbridge.org If you want to take the challenge, you can also send a check to: NSRGA PO Box 332 Grinnell, IA 50112. The deadline to donate to meet the challenge is 31 July, 2012. Every little dollar counts in preserving a piece of America’s history for generations to come.

 

 

Bridge Preservation DVD now on sale!

Have you ever wondered how metal truss bridges go from becoming candidates for the scrap metal pile like this one……

Kirby Flynn Bridge in Palo Alto County, Iowa when it was closed to traffic in 1998.
Close-up of the damage to the railings and the rusting railings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

……to a newly restored bridge like this?

The Kirby Flynn Bridge after its restoration in 2010

Oblique photo of the bridge

Or do you know of a bridge that is in dire need of restoration like the following candidates below, but…..

Ohl Street Bridge in Greenville (Mercer County), Pennsylvania. A 1909 Canton Bridge Company structure that has been closed since 2009 and awaiting demolition

Carlton Bridge in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. An 1880 Columbia Iron Works two-span Pratt through truss bridge that was closed recently for structural reasons

 …neither you nor the owners of the bridge (whether it is the state or the county) have the knowledge needed to do the job? It is very difficult to maintain these precious vintage structures that have been ruling American highways for at least a century and a half. While many local and state agencies would rather prefer demolition and replacement with a bland concrete structure over just fixing the bridge and reopening it again, there is an alternative to this standard procedure, and Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges  released a DVD recently on how to rehabilitate the bridge.

Based on the McIntyre Bridge in Iowa and the Piano Bridge in Texas, Workin’ Bridges: Historic Truss Bridge Restoration provides you with an in depth look at how truss bridges can be rehabilitated through disassembly, sandblasting and replacing parts, and reassembly within a time span that is shorter than it takes to fully replace the bridge outright, and at a fraction of the cost of a new bridge. A summary of how the Piano Bridge was rehabilitated can be found via article here. You can purchase the DVD for $10 plus shipping and handling with proceeds going to Workin Bridges. For more information on the DVD, if you want to purchase it or if you would like to contribute to the organization, please contact Julie Bowers using the information available here.

The DVD is also useful for those wanting to restore truss bridges in Europe as many are due for repairs or replacement.

Each truss or bowstring arch bridge has a unique feature and history that everyone deserves to know about. Let’s preserve our past for future generations to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chronicles’ Interview with Julie Bowers

McIntyre Bridge in Poweshiek County, Iowa before its destruction due to flooding in 2010. Photo taken by Julie Bowers, used with permission.


Imagine you have a vintage 1890s historic truss bridge that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but is in danger of being demolished in favor of a new bridge. The local government knows that the functional life of the structure for automobiles has reached its end and a new bridge is needed to accomodate the increasing need of traffic on the road. Yet the bridge’s aesthetic value makes it worth being saved. The government does not have the funding resources available to renovate it, let alone relocate it to a park. Who do you turn to for help?

This is a one of those text book examples where unless the municipality has a group of people with enough resources, the historic bridge becomes a pile of scrap metal. While two thirds of the historic bridges in the United States have been wiped out over the past three decades, three out of four have been because of a lack of support and resources needed. This includes not only lacking financial resources but also the expertise needed to restore them to their pristine condition. Yet in the past decade we are starting to see a trend toward preserving as many of the remaining third of the historic bridges as possible. This includes the increase in welding and sandblasting the bridge parts and other techniques needed to restore the bridges. It also includes something that Julie Bowers of Workin’ Bridges is doing- marketing and selling historic bridges.

While many state departments of transportation have different policies towards marketing historic bridges that are on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) but are scheduled for replacement- and the success rate among them vary from state to state from above average to poor- Ms. Bowers has been spearheading the efforts to involve parties in the private and public sector and have the historic bridges relocated to other places where they are needed, not only through marketing and selling them, but also having them restored to their usual form before today’s automobiles started wearing them down again.

I had a chance to meet Ms. Bowers while at the Historic Bridge Conference in St. Louis in August and found that she was an optimistic person and a great supporter of historic bridge preservation. But there was an underlying reason of why she is into the business she is right now (and will be in the future)- and this falls on one of the bridges in Poweshiek County, Iowa- her place of origin- which was wiped out during the Floods of March 2010 and is one of the primary targets to have it restored to its usual form. I had a chance to conduct an online interview with the 2011 Ammann Legacy Award runner-up and after some editing work for content, I decided to post the dialogue here, so that the reader can learn more about her work and get involved in the effort to save a historic bridge in his/her own area, let alone assist in the work of Ms. Bowers and her organization, Workin’ Bridges. Here is what she has to say:

 

 

 How did you become interested in historic bridges (and preservation)?

Sunday afternoons in the fall would often find my family and friends at an old iron bridge. I remember being three and falling in the river from the deadfall – trees that would fall across the river to form a bridge were the most fun. In the background and always crossed – was the old arch bridge. I didn’t know it was historic, it was old, certainly. I was never afraid to drive over it. In 1989 they closed the road, but I was able to ask the Conservation Board for a key, because I felt our family should be grandfathered in to access to that area. Today Millgrove Access Wildlife Area is nearly 1200 acres of prairie, oak-hickory savannah, river  birch and boggy area.

 

Then I moved to California and fell in love with the Golden Gate, Richmond-San Rafael, Bay Bridge. When I moved back to Iowa with Laran (my daughter) in 2001, shortly after 9/11, we started the Sunday ritual at the river again, and introduced a lot more people to that bridge. It has served as a place for weddings and senior pictures, anniversaries and many parties. Magical place.

 

 

McIntyre Bridge remains. Photo taken in the first half of 2011 by Julie Bowers. Used with permission


 How are you connected with the McIntyre Bridge? Was it the source of inspiration for you to preserve and market historic bridges?

The McIntyre Bridge is how my career in historic bridges evolved.  I was the one that got the call on October 4, 2009 from Larry Bryan who had just been at morning coffee. Now, morning coffee, exists everywhere,  that is where you find out the news.  Larry asked when I called him back, “They are going to tear down your bridge, what are you going to do about it? “ I cried for three days, then decided that the bridge needed me. There was no other family member to step up and take charge. I was the one who put on the annual party. It was up to me. I was the only one that cared and it was just because my family spent Sundays there when I was a kid.

 

I started researching bridges and discovered restoration and preservation then, and I haven’t stopped yet. The Supervisors of Poweshiek County allowed us time to see what we could do about saving the bridge and we formed a friends group and then we formed a non profit. And then we lost our bridge, I think without that I wouldn’t be so stubborn about helping others. Knowing that I was one step behind has made all the difference in the world, but it is not easy, and if funds don’t come int, like with the Pepsi Challenge (a long shot for sure) or private donations. We just try to work for our money for restoration in these economic times. We adhere to the standards for restoration and that is how we market our bridges. Historic Antiques – Formerly on the List of recognized historical objects.

 

Funny story, my daughter and I shared a phone plan, and I got a call one day in early December, “MOM, what have you done to the phone, we are 700 dollars over our limit?” We fixed that by unlimited minutes but I had called nearly every construction and engineering firm in Iowa and no one could help me. Peterson Construction, Inc was the only construction company with cranes who said they would help. Research nationally brought Vern Mesler, Nathan Holth, Kitty Henderson, Eric Delony, Alan King Sloan. Vern and Nathan came to Iowa and told us that we could save the bridge, even if it fell in the river. It was leaning a lot and we didn’t know what to do. It took us a couple of months to become a non-profit – The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA). Unfortunately, we lacked one signature for lifting the bridge at the end of February and by the 1stweek of March we had lost our window of opportunity to spring flooding for lifting the bridge off it’s piers..

 

We struggled with legal issues for 5 more months and finally found that two agreements needed to be made, a lease on the land, and the purchase of the bridge for $1. The agreement gives the bridge back when it is fixed. The County did not sign the agreements until after the bridge had been swept off it’s piers in early August 2010. Our organization insisted that we would take care of the bridge and see what we could do about salvaging and seeing if it could be fixed, the piers were still standing in the same place.

 

That was the day I called Vern to tell him that the bridge was gone. A couple days later he called back with a phone number that I wrote down on the back of an envelope, with a name Nels Raynor. It took a couple of weeks for me to call him, we didn’t know what to do. Nels came to Iowa and told us he was the one that could salvage and fix the bridge. He quoted us a very low price for the removal of the spans all all iron from the river that was way low, saying he knew we didn’t have money for this and he wanted to help us.” We were able to also help whim with a tax write-off for the rest of his time and energy, as the job took a little longer than he thought it might. That bridge went down fighting, about 150 feet downstream.

 

Piano Bridge in Fayette County, Texas. Photo taken by Julie Bowers. Used with permission.

Workin’ Bridges started from that meeting. I had done a lot of research and grant writing on the bowstring and found www.bridgehunter.com and historicbridges.org. Started doing some research, found a little King bridge in Texas that needed some help, and Nels and I made the trip to do the Scope of Work and Estimate for the restoration of the bridge. TxDOT won that project, but today I sit in Texas, waiting to start documenting the restoration of the Piano Bridge, with the team from Michigan, Nels and BACH Steel, and Scott Miller of Davis Construction Inc, of Lansing (DCI of Decatur, TX), who won the bid at my urging in early August. This little Piano Bridge has a lot of story for everyone to learn something, that old iron can be welded, that it is not intrinsically tired, and that pin connections can be trusted. I’ve learned a lot.

 

 What types of bridges do you market and preserve?

I take a lot of guidance from the bridgehunter nation as to which bridges should be saved and why. The Upper Bluffton Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa is one example of bridges that we got the contractor to save rather than scrap. Long Shoals Bridge in (Bourbon County) Kansas is an early 1900’s modified Parker that showed up on the TRUSS award from last year, I called the county commissioners and they listened and are now working on the permission to move that bridge to the city of Fort Scott.

 

My original research was on King Bowstrings, which branched out to King Bridges, which came back to other bowstrings. My work centers on the bridges built from the late 1860s to 1900. 1916 is the cutoff for most  of my interest, that is when American Steel, JP Morgan, the auto industry changed the bridge industry. Now I like all the bridges and determine their historic and local uses. As as artist I like how they frame a view,  you don’t get that with the concrete or train-car style of bridge. We look for different qualities for preservation, mostly if there is a use for the bridge.

Upper Bluffton Bridge before being moved off its foundations and onto a piece of land to be disassembled and relocated. Photo taken by the author in August 2009.

 

Our non-profit was fortunate to have some major donor’s working to help us with  the bowstring but funding is tight. That is another reason we started Workin’ Bridges, so that I could take the research, grant writing and bridge information I had learned over the last year and share it with others that needed help. The consulting fees help support our administrative budget, which isn’t covered by most grants. Our hope is to get in on some big projects that will ultimately fund our own bridge restoration, which is always a primary goal in my world. To that end we try to educate engineers and construction companies, county and city officials, DNR and County Conservation Boards, and regular folks like me, who just happen to own a bridge.

 

 What is the role of BACH Steel?

If only I had heard about Nels Raynor and BACH Steel when I first heard of Vern Mesler. In July of 2010, after Vern had come to Iowa to put on a metals workshop,  I read the book that the core group of bridge lovers had written which had a section on Nels. “A Community Guide to Historic Bridge Preservation” by Mike Mort from MSU. Anyway, coming from a construction background, Nels had the answers and the estimates that I needed. I didn’t need some historic preservationist,  I needed a contractor that worked with historic structures.  We started collaborating together when I was in  Michigan, getting an inventory and photographic details of bridge parts together for the bowstring’s Technical Advisor to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in Iowa .

 

BACH has, to date, only worked as a consultant to Workin’ Bridges on the site visits in Texas, Kansas, Arkansas but we hope to visit more bridges next year. The business model provides a way for the non-profit to work with the locals or purchase a bridge and work with it to find funding and a local group to support it. If the job goes to bid, BACH has the rights to bid it and hopefully the non-profit makes a finder’s fee. If Workin’ Bridges acts as the contractor , as in the bridges we own, then BACH works as the sub. It gets confusing but we have just started working with  Davis Construction Inc. from Lansing, MI that Nels had worked with previously. Hopefully, we can continue to work collaboratively to find more bridges to restore, and get them into a pipeline for scheduling so that we consistently have work.

Enochs Knob Bridge in Franklin County, Missouri. Photo taken by the author in August 2011

SUCCESS STORIES

The Long Shoals Bridge – awareness, grant writing, permission requested from NPS keeper of the National Register of Historic Places to move the bridge to Fort Scott. If the permission is granted, a grant has been written for $90,000 to help with the move and disassemble. Further grants and fundraising will have to take place for the restoration and reset.

Springfield Bridge – Faulkner County is pursuing funding for the restoration of the bridge in its original setting as a park. The bridge planking is in bad shape, and some irregular fixes happeed. Another King this is from 1873 and the differences in engineering will require some creativity on the part of the engineer. For the McIntyre Bowstring – Spicer Engineering of Saginaw, Michigan engineered the decking to become part of the lateral strength of the bridge. The Springfield does not have riveted lattice bracing on the verticals, that strengthening showed up in the late 1870s. The eyebars and floor beams are also different in the early bridge so it will be interesting to see how the engineers come up with loading.

McIntyre Bridge – Spicer Engineering has signed and sealed the plans for the restoration of the bowstring. BACH Steel has come up with a way to make the vertical posts and will fix the bridge once funding has been secured. That is the hardest part, we are out in the country with little support for this place.

Enochs Knob Road Bridge – Workin’ Bridges supplied Molly Hoffman with an estimate and Scope of Work for the bridge in Franklin County, Missouri. This bridge has been slated for replacement but our findings showed that another look at the engineering might make a difference in keeping it, although the approaches had been worked for a replacement structure. This would also be a great pedestrian/equestrian bridge but the local population doesn’t want the party contingent there. These bridges are magnets and it is up to us to educate those that hang out their on how to maintain and care for the bridges. Enochs Knob has a lot of ghost stories and history so it will be interesting to see where that project goes.

The Piano Bridge – Workin’ Bridges was given the rights to document the full restoration of this bridge. During my time talking about bridges, I have often had to defend the engineering without being an engineer. The engineers from TxDOT will talk about their reasons for restoring these bridges – low daily traffic and an alternate route are two of the criteria they look at when evaluating keeping bridges in their system. Texas will be doing a lot of restorations in the next two years from funds already allocated by legislature. The documentary / reality construction content will be utilized in a variety of ways, formats and hopefully find distribution to a wide audience, educating them about saving our historic resources.

Piano Bridge being dismantled with the bridge parts being sandblasted before being reassembled. Photo taken by Julie Bowers, used with permission

 


 What difficulties have you dealt with and how have you overcome them?

Most of preservation nation is made up of experts and consultants who consistently get the grant monies.

Bridges are not at the top of the list when it comes to granting or giving donor money.

Bridges were added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 90s from a grant from the National Parks Service,

Being listed on the National Register affords no protections from tearing down,  it might slow the process but it has no authority to dictate saving a project.

Local SHPOs don’t know much about historic bridges.

Section 106 is only of use when there is federal money involved and most projects that I look at are small county projects where there is no money. The counties have figures out if they don’t use the Federal money that regulations are different.

It has been very frustrating for our group for many reasons, not being in any town or city and being on the county line are drawbacks for resources.

 

Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge near Mankato, Minnesota: The longest bridge of its kind in the country and one of the bridges that Bowers wants to see saved. Photo taken by the author in Dec. 2007

How does Workin’ Bridges differ from other preservation groups?

 

We differ at Workin’ Bridges because we are a non-profit, we can do the construction and estimating of a project.  People need to know what a project is likely to cost before they can decide to move forward or to write a grant. Most grants don’t allow you to do any work on a project before the grant is approved. Workin’ Bridges can step in to bridge that gap so that the project has a solid basis and can move forward with good decisions.   We can also do the work from start to finish with our expert contractors. Sometimes a project has enough money right at the beginning to get something done, so waiting to go through bureaucratic hoops just costs money. Again, if we had been able to use the $50,000 to fix our bowstring in place we would have been way ahead of the game now.  And we aren’t out here to make a fortune, although it’s not that we don’t charge fair prices. And we turn any profits we make into the next project, so it is a win-win for bridges.

Nels’ expertise is what I needed when I was trying to save our bowstring, so that is what  I am trying to do for the community,  get him out there saving more bridges. He is just so knowledgeable and passionate about these bridges, and he is willing to work with me as I find more people that need help. As Nels put it after our visit to Arkansas and Kansas, “We do better work together” It’s good that I can use my background in architecture, design and data management and keep him in the field workin’ bridges.. We are making progress and 2012 has a lot of potential. We hope to be part of the work that goes on at the Cedar (Avenue) Bridge in Bloomington, Minnesota and hoping to start negotiations on the Kern Bowstring (near Mankato, Minnesota),  We also put in an option to be part of the Gilliece Bowstring restoration when it comes up for removal.

Workin’ Bridges also has bridges for a sale. Currently a bowstring, a King Post Pony and Pratt from Upper Bluffton, Iowa and several other pony trusses that are at BACH Steel in Michigan.

Winter is a great time for us to go out and do site visits and estimates,  spring is the time for grant writing,  late summer, fall and early winter a good time to get the work done. I hope Workin’ Bridges will be around for a long time,

I have utilized bridgehunter.com for finding projects from a variety of sources.  Nathan Holth of historicbridges.com does a great job of culling information from around the country and letting the rest of us know about different projects all around the country on their forum on on his own website.

The TRUSS awards last year on bridgehunter.com were the bridges we went after, and quickly I started asking questions on the forum. ., With the success of the Piano Bridge trip, where we had just delivered a product that was utilized to negotiate a better deal, I contacted Judge Scroggin in Faulkner County on the way back from Texas and he requested a site visit from us, which we executed in early April. I also contacted the local commissioners in Bourbon County, Kansas and went to visit them in January, 2011. I had been to many county level meetings during the bowstring ownership negotiations so I knew some of their concerns. I was blown away when they each said they were surprised that they could do anything with an NRHP historic bridge, having been told by previous members they could not touch it. When I suggested that they would be responsible when it fell into the river they were shocked and yet understood. Now ten months later they have a plan for the very historic Long Shoals to be the centerpiece of their river park, The Fort Scott /Bourbon County Riverfront Authority (FSBCRA) also had us estimate a King 1910 RR Bridge and Military (Marmaton) Bridge – a 3 King bowstring, both sited over the Marmaton River in Fort Scott and to be utilized for the trail system. The FSBCRA has already been granted over $1.5 for developing the roads and trails, and a bridge had already been specified for crossing in the master plan. Their willingness, even at many times the cost of the concrete pedestrian bridge specified for $100,000, is to be commended, Their executive team and county moved very quickly, realizing that they had a resource they had never considered before. They also see the economic value of a unique structure, one that is also a part of their history, that will add to the overall historic climate of the fort and downtown.

 

Gilliecie Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa- another bridge under the radar of Workin' Bridges as it will be replaced in 2012. Photo taken by the author in Oct. 2005

Can you specify with some examples?

 

Historicbridgerestoration.com

Vern’s Mesler’s mission is to train people about metals and how to work with them. That includes bridges and he has been on the forefront of getting that message out,. There is more work to do because many engineers still believe you can’t weld old iron and of course, no one hot rivets anymore and you can’t save that old bridge. We do! Or at least the team I work with does and we support all that takes the Historic Metals Workshop at Lansing Community College. It is worth the trip.

 

Historic Bridge Foundation

Located in Texas, this foundation brings together information to help in projects that utilize federal funding. Their board of directors is comprised of pontists whom I have mentioned previously. What I have found is that many counties don’t have that funding and are looking at other ways, like selling bridges to private organizations.

 

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Funds expert consultants, but if you don’t know what you need it is hard to write for the grant. Now I know the experts in engineering and with Workin’ Bridges Scope of Work – a grant can be effectively written for the expert planning required to begin, architectural or engineered plans.

 

The Keeper – Nels and I had a phone meeting with the Keeper of the Register, Carol Shull, and her deputies Paul Loether and Barbara Wyatt. They had many suggestions but were still adamant that site is very important to bridges and they would not allow permission for the Upper Bluffton Bridge to remain on the NRHP which would allow it to be eligible for grants. They were aware that Long Shoals was coming up but it had time to go through the process and more will be revealed. If permission isn’t granted, I don’t know that the Long Shoals bridge will still be a candidate for use in the river park. They also suggested working with the local EPAs to add a section where every property should be addressed historically, whether utilizing federal funds or not. Just a second look, in my opinion, would be great.

 

Everyone has their role to play,  the photographers and bridge experts at  bridgehunter adding to the mix daily, the historian at historicbridges.org analyzing each feature of everytype of bridge, but we look at these projects from a viewpoint of construction. These are big projects and most people don’t know where to start, so that is where we differ from Indiana or Pennsylvania, they have the product but it’s not easy to see it to completion. We can go all the way to landscaping if that is necessary, and we work with proven engineers experienced in truss bridges. As stated before preservation seems to add zero’s to a job, when that isn’t necessary. I think Workin’ Bridges fills a niche, we’ll see.

 

Eveland Bridge in Mahaska County, Iowa- another project in the making for Workin' Bridges once approved. Photo taken by Julie Bowers, used with permission.

What will the Future Hold for Workin’ Bridges?

NSRGA was started with one goal, to preserve the bowstring bridge and the greenbelt around it. I didn’t know it was a King and I didn’t know it had a name, we call it the Skunk River Bridge. I, quite frankly, thought all bowstrings were Hales, after I saw footage of the Jones County bowstring lift by the national guard. Our bridge is too big for the helicopters to lift so they couldn’t help me, but their may come a time when I too shall see another bowstring fly.

 

Some find it quite ironic that I am out here trying to save other bridges when  the McIntyre bowstring bridge lays in the backyard at BACH Steel. That delay, failure to find funds, forced the board to think outside the box. We want to restore our bridge and we were able to start and make Workin’ Bridges effective because we are a non – profit, and they trusted that I had the skills and education to make it work.  We’ve been at it almost a year.

 

Our model is similar to Habitat for Humanity or more closely to Dry Stone Conservancy. The Dry Stone Conservancy teaches masonry skills and offers competitions and a list of contractors.  I called them for information on contractors for some of the stone piers we are working with like Long Shoals where we will preserve as many original as possible.

 

I would like to develop contacts in every state. We know that BACH and Davis Construction can’t handle all of the jobs, and many state grants want their dollars to stay with experts in state.  so our mission to is find projects of any size and scope, and give the clients the  best estimate and quality workmanship  they can get. Davis Construction has also been certified in more states, including Iowa, so we are able to look at all kinds of projects, including some with Federal and Historic Monies. So we are either training or consulting in many states and also, when the jobs finally come up, we can go through the construction process. Davis at last word was estimating the Sutliff Bridge at Workin’ Bridges request and we are holding out that the Cedar Bridge Project in Bloomington will become a reality.

 

This results ultimately in restored iron bridges that can ultimately serve a population for several more generations. There are not that many iron experts, I know, I tried to find them. It is one of our missions to train the next generation of craftsmen while working on our own projects.  In the meantime, we  educate the elected officials that have the issue of “truss bridges” on their plates. We educate engineers and bridge lovers. We do that by showing the team working a complete restoration (at the Piano Bridge) in Dubina, Texas, explaining the process in detail, This documentation  should result in more people saving more bridges. Distribution will be key.  Funding is necessary. Anyone still has time to get in on the funding of this documentary as the big bridge lift happens the first of December or thereabouts.

Side view of the Cedar Avenue Bridge in Bloomington, Minnesota. Bridge has been closed and fenced off since 2002. Photo taken by the author in August 2011

Author’s Notes:

Since the interview, a pair of important points to pass along to the reader:

1. The Piano Bridge was dismantled during the first week of December of this year. The general plan is to sandblast and prime the truss parts and the pin-connections will be either repaired or replaced. It will then be reassembled on site and reopen to traffic sometime in the next year or so. It is touted as a success story for Workin’ Bridges although there are many bridges that are have been pursued and are close to being preserved.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/tx/fayette/piano/

2. The Upper Bluffton Bridge appears to have found a home with a local snowmobile club, even though it is unclear where it would be relocated. The last time there was something mentioned about the bridge, it is still on a piece of land away from its original site. The future of the bridge remains unclear from this point on. However, the Gilliecie Bridge will be replaced as soon as the funding is available even though the bridge will be up for the taking. Should a party take on the bridge, it will need to be dismantled and completely restored, especially because of the damage to the upper chord of the bridge.

Links: http://skunkriverbridge.org/the-project.html

3. The Long Shoals Bridge will be relocated to Fort Scott as soon as the funding for the relocation is available. It will be used along with some other historic bridges as a pedestrian bridge. At the moment, almost $1.7 million has been awarded to the Riverfront Authority and another $3.3 million is needed to complete the project, including $90,000 for relocating the Long Shoals Bridge to the park.

Link: http://www.fstribune.com/story/1758410.html

http://bridgehunter.com/ks/bourbon/long-shoals/

4. For more information on how you can help with the projects that Workin’ Bridges is carrying out, use this link to contact Julie Bowers: http://skunkriverbridge.org/  The author would also like to thank Ms. Bowers for the use of some of her photos of the bridges that are either the target of her next projects or are currently undergoing renovation and/or relocation.

 


 

National Historic Bridges Month 2011

Spring Hill Bridge in Warren County, Iowa. One of the hidden treasures found and photographed by the author in August 2011

Imagine you have a vintage iron truss bridge, abandoned for two decades and left along the roadside to be consumed by nature while being forgotten until a group of people discover it. Noting its unique design and the history of the structure itself and its connection with local history, they band together to try and save it, only to find that they have no knowledge on saving it, no support from others as they have little information on ways to preserve it, and a lack of financial support. Yet they still fight for it as there is still a chance to save it.

These are one of many stories of the strive and struggle of the public to preserve a piece of American history which will be presented in detail this month as November is National Historic Bridges Month. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, in cooperation with its affiliates in the historic bridge community, will be presenting some stories and essays in connection with this month as the goal of Historic Bridges Month is to present examples of success stories of preservation efforts and stories of historic bridges that are worth saving but need our public support. Already, we have a pair of important announcements that are worth making so that the public is informed of the possibilities to learn from experience so that they can do it themselves.

Bridgehunter Chronicles’ Newsflyer

1.       McIntyre Bridge Taking the Pepsi Challenge:  Between now and 30thNovember, you can vote for the unique bowstring arch bridge through the Pepsi Refresh Everything Challenge. Should the bridge win the competition, presented by PepsiCo (makers of Pepsi Cola and Frito Lay products), the group will win $50,000, which would be much needed to rebuild the 1883 King Bridge Company structure. Located in Poweshiek County in southern Iowa, the bridge was abandoned and slowly leaning to one side until a flood in 2010 knocked it off its foundations and into the Skunk River. The parts were salvaged and it is just the question of reassembling it and reerecting it over the river, something that Julie Bowers and the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association is pursuing.  Information on both the Pepsi Challenge and contact details on how to help are listed below:  www.refresheverything.com/historictrussbridge#

  1. McIntyre Bridge: Photo taken by Julie Bowers, used with permission

    The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will do an interview with Julie Bowers and obtain some more information on this bridge and other bridges she and the crew are working on saving and reusing.

2.       Iron and Steel Preservation Conference coming to Lansing, Michigan in 2012: For the second time and back by popular demand, the Lansing Community College is hosting the Iron and Steel Preservation Conference on 5-6 March. Dr. Frank Hatfield, professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University will emcee the first day of the event, which will consist of a wide array of presentations, stemming from historic bridge restoration and the bike trail system in the city of Portland (Michigan) by Alan Halbeisen and Paul R. Galdes to restoring various types of steel by Chad Teeples and Jon Brechtesbauer and bridge maintenance by Mark Zimmerman.  The second day will feature on-site demonstrations of metal restoration including straightening metal parts, removing pack rust and using equipment to drive rivets into metal connections.  The cost of the two-day event is $300 ($175 for one day) and contact details on how to register can be found on this link.:

http://lcc.edu/manufacturing/welding/ISPCConference/

People can register here:  https://crm.orionondemand.com/crm/forms/zC6872d7TA70x6700tCJ

 

Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County, Iowa: Example of Restoration that People can learn from. Photo taken in August 2011

3.       Othmar H. Ammann Award for Excellence: For the first time ever, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be awarding the Othmar H. Ammann Award for Excellence to three candidates for their roles in historic bridge preservation and bridge engineering. It will consist of three categories: The Lifetime Legacy Award to the person who has had an enormous impact over the course of many years, the Best Kept Secret Award to the person or group with the best example of historic bridge preservation, and the Best Snapshot Award to the candidate with the best photo of a bridge in general. Entries are being taken between now and 25 November, with the winners announced on 2 December. The winners will be interviewed by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles (which will be posted) and receive a Certificate of Excellence Award.  If you know of a candidate  who has made an impact on the historic bridges community, please send his/her name via e-mail to Jason Smith (JDSmith77@gmx.net) before 25 November at 12:00am Central Standard Time. It is open to all residing in the US, and elsewhere. Nominating yourself is prohibited for the Lifetime Legacy Award and the Best Kept Secret Award; you can nominate your photo as long as it is your own work and not one of others unless you are nominating that of another person’s.

 FAST FACT: The Award is named after the Swiss-American engineer who designed and led the construction of over a dozen bridges in New York City as well as many others in eastern US and his home country of Switzerland. Among those included are the George Washington Bridge (1939) and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (1964), both located in New York City. The latter was the last of his engineering work (as he died eight months after it was open to traffic)  and was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1981 and still is the longest in the USA today.

 4.       Pics for 2011: Also a first this year is the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ Pics of the Year. It will be divided up into the following examples- Best example of historic bridge reuse, worst example of historic bridge reuse, the best effort to saving the bridge, the salvageable mentioned, the worst reason to destroy a bridge, the best find of a historic bridge and the biggest bonehead story. You have until the 25th of November at 12:00am Central Standard Time to submit your candidate(s) to Jason Smith (JDSmith77@gmx.net), who will announce the winner and the honorably mentioned on 2 December. Open to the US, Canada and Europe.

MORE STORIES ON HISTORIC BRIDGES TO COME AS WE CELEBRATE HISTORIC BRIDGE THIS MONTH.