Time Running out for Washington Bridge in Missouri

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Photo taken by James Baughn in 2008

Washington, Missouri (USA)- Replacing this unique Missouri River crossing is like the film True Crime. The almost 20-year old film featured a newspaper reporter who uses a half a day to rebuke claims that a person sentenced to death is innocent because of discreptancies. The last second evidence to avert the execution: a locket that was stolen by a killer who shoots the clerk at a convenience store and runs off, while the wrongly accused was using the restroom.

 

With the last beam of the new bridge in place, the clock is starting to tick loudly for the Washington Truss Bridge, which spans the Missouri River at Hwy. 47 in Washington. Built in 1936 by three different bridge builders located in Missouri and Kansas, the Bridge features a multiple-span cantilever through truss with X-frame portals and was built during the time of the Works Progress Administration, a program initiated by Franklin D. Roosevelt to encourage people to partake in projects in response to the Great Depression. Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Works in Leavenworth (Kansas) and two St. Louis Bridge builders- Stupp Brothers as well as  Sverdrup & Parcel Company were responsible for designing and constructing the 2,500-foot span, which was once one of the key landmarks of Washington.

Unfortunately for this bridge, its days appear to be coming to a close as a new span is currently being built right alongside the old span. While the length of the new structure will be about the same, the new bridge- a multiple span steel girder span- will be wider, with two 12-foot lanes, two 10-foot shoulders and one 10-foot lane for bikes and pedestrians, which will total 54 feet in width- two and a half times the width of the current bridge. After two years, the last beam was put into place on 12 June and work is now underway to pour the concrete. City officials expect the new bridge to be open by December 1, pending on weather. The truss spans will be imploded at the beginning of 2019. Talks of saving the truss bridge was getting around, however, unless a petition drive is started to save the bridge for recreational use, Franklin County will be down to four through truss bridges that carry traffic, one of which has been relocated and restored. Yet  two of them  are scheduled to come down within the next five years.

Franklin County once had a wide array of through truss bridges. In fact, during the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2011, there were at least a dozen bridges of its kind left in service. With the Washington Bridge coming down, we may not have any bridges left to visit and photograph, a sign of the times for many who are disinterested in the history of America and its infrastructure. It doesn’t mean that the bridge is lost yet. There is still a chance to save it. But the time is running to start the drive and convince the State that the Bridge should be saved. It’s more of the question of who is willing to be that person who pulled off a stunt similar to what Everett did in True Crime.

An ariel view of the two bridges can be seen here:

 

A summary of the history of the construction of the Washington Truss Bridge via film can be seen here. A rather interesting documentary on how the bridge was built:

 

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The Bridges of Harvey/Tracy, Iowa

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 71: The Two Rivers Golf Course Bridge in Sioux City, Iowa

Photo courtesy of Iowa DOT; submitted to bridgehunter by Luke Harden

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After a brief history of the Bonnie Doon Railroad and its main crossing over the Rock River in Lyon County, the next mystery bridge takes us down the Big Sioux River to its last original crossing, before the coming of the Interstate Highway era, until its confluence with the Missouri River. The Three Corner’s Bridge is located at the site of the Two Rivers Golf Course in Sioux River, spanning the river at the Iowa/ South Dakota border, approximately two miles west of the point where the two rivers merge, as well as the two states and Nebraska meet. The crossing used to be located north of the last physical crossing before its junction, the I-29 bridge, which has been serving traffic since the mid-1950s. It is most likely that the crossing is at the place where a pedestrian crossing, which provides access to the golf course, is located. Yet more information is needed to either support or counter these claims.

But before going into the debate on this structure’s actual location, let’s have a look at the bridge itself. The structure that used to exist appeared to have two different truss bridges built from two different time periods. What is clear is the truss span on the right appears to be much older- having been built in the 1880s and consisting of a pin-connected through truss bridge with V-laced end-posts and an X-frame portal bracings with curved heels. The diagonal beams appear to be much thinner than the vertical beams, this leading to the question of whether the former were built using thin iron beams or with steel wiring. In addition, the design of the bridge leads to the question of its stability, which leads to the question of whether the bridge collapsed under weight or by flooding and was replaced by the span on the left, a Parker through truss span, made of steel, with pinned connections, A-frame portal bracings and featuring beams that are thicker and sturdier. The span on the right, which appeared to be an all-iron structure, had at least two spans total- one of which spanned the main river channel and was replaced by the Parker span. The Parker span was one that is typical of many Parker spans along the Big Sioux River, having been built between 1900 and 1915 by the likes of Western Bridge Company of Lincoln, Nebraska, Clinton Bridge Company of Clinton, Iowa, and the bridge builders from the Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders- namely Commodore P. Jones, Alexander Bayne, as well as Seth and William S. Hewett.  However, it does not mean that the Parker span replaced the lost iron span during that time. It is possible that it was put in place between the 1930s and 1950s, which was the time when bridges were relocated and reused as replacements because of the scarcity of steel on the count of the Great Depression, followed by the onset of World War II and later, the Korea War. With flooding that occurred during the 1940s, especially in 1945-6, it it possible that the Parker was relocated to the spot because of that. Records have already indicated multiple bridge replacements in that fashion, including those in Crawford, Harrison and Monona Counties in Iowa. It is unknown when the entire bridge was removed, but chances are because of the increase in urban development combined with the creation of the golf course, the bridge was removed  between the 1960s and early 1980s.

To sum up, the bridge is very unique but has a lot of missing pieces in the puzzle, which if assembled thanks to help from people like you, can round off the story of the structure that contributed to the development of Sioux City’s infrastructure. What do you know about this bridge in terms of:

  1. The date of construction of both the iron Pratt and steel Parker structures
  2. The bridge builders for both structures
  3. When the iron bridge collapsed and how
  4. Whether the Parker span was original or if it was brought in from somehwere and
  5. If it was relocated, from where exactly and how was it transported
  6. The dimensions of the bridge and lastly,
  7. When was it taken down and why.

Use the question form below and see if you can help put the pieces together. You can also comment on the Chronicles’ facebook pages and encourage others to paricipate. Let’s see what we can put together regarding this bridge, shall we?

 

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The bridge is pinpointed at a location where another truss bridge, a continuous Warren through truss, is located. This one is open to pedesrians accessing the golf course. If you know about this bridge, please feel free to add that to the comment section as well.

The I-29 Bridge was originally built in the early 1950s to accomodate traffic over the Big Sioux River enroute to Sioux City. The bridge collapsed in 1962 due to structural failure and flooding and was subsequentially replaced with a steel beam structure a year later. An additional span was added to accomodate southbound traffic.

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Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges Coming Down

Fairfax (left) and Platt Purchase (right). Photo taken by James Baughn in Aug. 2011

KANSAS CITY-  The Kansas City Royals baseball team finally snapped out of their doldrums this year and not only reached the playoffs in Major League Baseball for the first time since 1985, but was two runs shy of winning their first World Series in 29 years.  Yet the city has lost over half its pre-1945 bridges during that time span. With the Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges coming down this year, the trend seems to be continuing without slowing down.

Work is underway to replace the twin cantilever Warren through truss bridges that span the Missouri River, carrying US Hwy. 69 from I-635 in Kansas City into Wyandotte County Kansas. The spans feature a southbound span built in 1935 and a northbound span built 22 years later. Specifically, here are some details about the bridges:

Photo taken by the author in August 2011

Fairfax Bridge:

Location: Missouri River at US Hwy. 69 southbound

Built: 1935 by the Kansas City Bridge Company

Length: 2,594 feet total; largest span is 470 feet

Width: 20 feet

Last rehabilitated: 1979

Photo taken by the author in Aug. 2011

Platte Purchase Bridge:

Location: Missouri River at US 69 northbound

Built: 1957 (presumably by the same company)

Length: 2,601 feet; largest span is 474 feet

Width: 25.9 feet

Last rehabilitated: 1997

The plan is to replace the twin spans with one span that will accommodate six lanes of traffic. The project has already started with the southbound lanes being shifted onto the Platte Purchase Bridge and the Fairfax Bridge being demolished first. As soon as the new bridge is completed by late 2016, the Platte Purchase Bridge will follow suit. Both of the bridges, which had once collected tolls until 2000, had been made available for taking by the Missouri Department of Transportation until May of this year, when no takers were announced and the decision was made to turn these beautiful spans into a pile of scrap metal. The Fairfax Bridge, named after the city in Kansas, had been considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places The Platte Purchase Bridge was named after the Platte Purchase of 1836, where Missouri annexed the northwestern part of the state along the Missouri River up to the Iowa border, including the suburbs that belong to Kansas City today. That purchase was in violation of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which drew the border between the free states and territories of the north and those of the south, including Missouri. Yet the two are the latest casualties of truss bridges along the Missouri River that are dwindling rapidly in numbers. Since 1990, over 80% of the pre-1950 bridges along the second longest waterway in the United States have been replaced with only a handful of examples being kept for recreational and historic purposes. This includes the Paseo Bridge, located downstream in Kansas City. The 1950 suspension bridge over the Missouri River carrying I-29 was replaced by the Christopher Bond Bridge in 2010 and later removed. While Kansas City still has a large number of historic bridges, including those along the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, as will be shown in the Chronicles’ tour guide, the numbers are decreasing. And with the Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges coming down within the next two years, we could see numerous other examples being torn down in favor of modern but bland structures less appealing to travelers and tourists. While the Royals may have woken up after a long sleep and suddenly become contenders again, it is time for the rest of the city to wake up, look at their heritage and see to it that some of it is saved before it is too late- before we can only see them on youtube videos, as seen below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mBydOiZ02g

More on the bridge replacement project can be found here.

 

The “Recycled” Bridges of Doniphan County, Kansas

Duncan Creek Bridge near Blair. All photos courtesy of Robert Elder.

Located along the Missouri River west of St. Joseph, Doniphan County, Kansas has a rather unique set of historic bridges. Unlike the standard designs that were used during the renaissance of bridge construction between 1880 and 1930, many of the bridges found in this county were built using unusual designs that were considered absurd in the eyes of bridge engineers and politicians alike, but considered a work of art in the eyes of historians and preservationists today. Also unique are the fact that these bridges were recycled and reused in locations that are still sparesly used today. It does not necessairily mean that they were relocated per se. Some of these bridges were rebuilt, using steel parts taken from other  bridges that were dismantled and scrapped. Reason for this is due to a lack of financing for hiring contractors to build bridges, using steel from mills from the east, the county commissioners during that time found creative ways of reusing the steel parts to construct “new” used bridges. While they have not been considered eligible for the National Register just yet, due to a lack of information on their history, they will surely be considered in the coming years, when local authorities and the Kansas State Historical Society will relook at these bridges and determine which ones are historically significant.

Six bridges are being profiled in this tour guide article. Five of them are located within 10 miles’ distance of US Hwy. 36, which slices through the county.  One of them is a railroad bridge over the Missouri River at St. Joseph. The sixth bridge is located 20 miles south of St. Joseph along the tributary of the Missouri, just west of its confluence with the second longest river in the US. Only one of the six bridges profiled here has been replaced. While there are four other pre-1920 steel truss bridges and a half dozen wooden stringer bridges still in use in the county, these six are the créme dela créme because of their unique design and their construction, using recycled steel parts. We’ll start off with the first bridge:

Duncan Creek Bridge (see photo above)

Location: Duncan Creek at Randolph Rd. near Blair. 3 miles north of Hwy. 36

Bridge Type: Pin-connected Parker through truss with four panels

Date of construction: 1935

Status:  In use.

Comments:  The Blair Bridge is perhaps the smallest of any Parker through truss bridges built in the history of bridge building in the US, with the main span of only 86 feet (the total length is 91 feet) and only four panels. Normally one would find four panels on a pony truss bridge. Yet looking at the pinned connections, the portal and strut bracings  as well as the V-laced bracing on the bridge’s top chord, it appears that the bridge was assembled using parts from a bridge dismantled before the date of construction. It is clear that the date of construction is not accurate. It is possible that either the bridge was relocated to this place or it was put together on sight using parts from a pre-1900 structure(s). Evidence is pointing to the latter because of its unusual appearance, which would have violated the standardized truss codes put in place by the state when they introduced 7+ panel Parker trusses with riveted connections in ca. 1915. Whoever was the genius behind this bridge has yet to be discovered through research. In either case, the bridge still retains its original form today and is open to traffic.

 

Cottonwood Creek Bridge

Cottonwood Creek Bridge

Location: Cottonwood Creek on Larkinburg Rd., 3 miles west of Hwy. 7, 4.6 miles SSE of Bendena and 12 miles S of Hwy. 36

Bridge Type:  Pin-connected Pratt through truss, with A-frame portal bracings and a shortened middle panel

Date of construction: Before 1900

Status: Still in use on a minimum maintenance road

Comments:  At a total length of only 75 feet, the Bendena Bridge is one of the shortest Pratt through trusses built in the history of bridge building. While the bridge has a total of five panels (typical of a 100-foot through truss span), the middle panel is only a third of the length of the other four panels. This leads to the question of whether this bridge was rebuilt using parts from another bridge or if it was relocated here but the panel was shortened in length to accomodate the crossing over a small creek. It is clear that the bridge originated from a period up to 1910 for pinned connections were popular during that time.

Doniphan Bridge

Doniphan Bridge

Location: Tributary of Missouri River on Monument Rd., 1.2 miles E of Doniphan and 0.3 miles W of the Missouri River

Bridge Type:  Waddell Pony Truss with riveted connections

Date of Construction: ca. 1920

Status: In use

Comments:  The Doniphan Bridge represents an example of an earlier use of welded and riveted connections. It is considered a Waddell truss because of the subdivided connections which are not found in a kingpost pony truss design. Yet how it was resembled is unusual because of the use of steel I and H-beams that were bolted and welded together. It is possible that this bridge was assembled using steel parts from a building or a bridge. Given the excessive use of steel for heavier crossings and sturdier buildings, it is possible that this bridge was constructed between 1915 and 1940. More information is needed to determine its construction date. In either case, the unusual appearance of the bridge makes it eligible for some accolades on the state level, at least.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Creek Bridge

Location: Charlie Creek at 190th Rd., 3 miles south of Hwy. 36 and 2.3 miles west of Hwy. 220

Bridge Type: Stone arch bridge with 35° skew

Status: Replaced with a concrete culvert

Comments: The Charlie Creek Bridge was a unique crossing for two reasons: 1. It was a stone arch bridge that was built before 1920 and 2. Despite having a total length of 30-40 feet, the bridge was built oin a 35- 40° skew, thus allowing the creek to flow freely underneath the road. This was something that the county engineer kept in mind, when this bridge was replaced with a concrete culvert crossing in 2010, as it too has a skew similar to the old one.

 

 

Old Hwy. 36 Bridge

 

Old Hwy. 36 Viaduct

Location: Old railroad grade on Old US Hwy. 36, 600 feet south of US Hwy. 36, three miles E of Troy.

Bridge Type: Concrete through girder with Art Deco design

Status: Open to traffic

Comments: Before the highway was straightened out 20 years ago, the original highway presented curves and stops through even the smallest of communities. The viaduct, which crosses a once-used railroad line connecting Troy and St. Joseph, was once part of the original highway, which had a sharp double curve going over the tracks. With the realignment of the highway to eliminate this dangerous curve, the highway was relegated to a county road and the bridge became the responsibility of the county engineer. Today, the bridge, built using the textbooks standardized bridge designs in the 1920s, is still in use, carrying a gravel road. It can be seen from the new alignment just to the south.

St. Joesph-Elwood Railroad Bridge

St. Joseph and Elwood Missouri River Railroad Bridge

Location: Missouri River 0.4 miles north of Pony Express (US 36) Bridge between Elwood (KS) and St. Joseph (MO).

Bridge Type: Pennsylvania Petit (3 approach spans) and Polygonal Warren Through Truss Swing Span.

Built: 1906

Status: Still in use but plans include abandoning the line and crossing.

Comments:  This railroad crossing is the second span at thus location between St. Joseph and Elwood, carrying the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge. It is one of three remaining swing bridges and one of only six movable bridges left over the Missouri River, plus one of two that are still in operation. Yet plans call for the line and the bridge to abandoned, thus triggering an initiative to convert this crossing into a rail-to-trail line. If successful, the bridge will share similar stories with Poughkeepsie Viaduct in New York and the Booneville Bridge in neighboring Missouri, the latter of which appears to have their dream of a bike trail crossing come true. More on the project to follow as information is revealed.

To summarize, the Doniphan County bridges may be ordinary because the county is one of the more sparsely populated in Kansas, yet their historical and aesthetic value make them jewels found in an empty and highly weeded field. The bridges are worth hundreds of photos and many hours of research to determine how the county found ways to make use of old parts into fancy srtuctures. Especially with the ones in Blair, Bendena and Doniphan, their construction history and designs will definitely make them candidates for the National Register. And this apart from the nomination by the Chronicles for the 2014 Ammann Awards for Best Kept Secret in the field of Tour Guide.

The Author wishes to thank Robert Elder for the use of his photos for this article/tour guide and for providing some interesting facts in the bridgehunter.com website. You can click on the title of the bridges to go to the individual bridge pages for more info and to contribute to the discussion forum 

Newsflyer 10 September 2013 Part 1

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa- victim of arson that occurred on 11 August, 2013 and whose future is in doubt. Photo taken in August 2011

Historic bridge burned with scrappers drooling for money. Another set of historic bridges  destined for scrap metal. Historic icon receives a new icon. A replica of a lost bridge to be built. A pair of historic bridges to be focus of restoration campaign.

While away on hiatus for three weeks, which included the four-day long Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa, a lot of events unfolded which involved historic bridges. This include a tragedy involving a historic bridge in Iowa whose future is now in doubt. Keeping all this in mind, the Chronicles will feature a summary of the events that are non-related to the Historic Bridge Weekend with the author’s feedback on each of the themes. Links are provided in the text, as usual.

North trestle span in the foreground with the truss span in the background. Photo taken in August 2011

Bunker Mill Bridge burns. Future in doubt.

Spanning the English River southeast of Kalona, this bridge is unique in terms of its appearance. It was built in 1887 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio and featured a six-panel iron Pratt through truss bridge with Town Lattice portal bracing with a span of 120 feet long. With the north trestle span being 170 feet long- enough to fit another through truss span- the total length of the bridge is 290 feet. In 1913, the Iowa Bridge Company reinforced the bridge which included the addition of M-frame portal bracing. Closed since 2003, plans were in the making to convert this bridge into a bike trail connecting Richmond and Kalona in Washington County. Sadly, the bridge, which was visited during the Historic Bridge Weekend, was burned on the morning of 12 August, destroying the entire bridge deck. The truss span is still in tact but it is unknown how much damage was done to the superstructure. At the present time, work is being undertaken to determine whether the bridge can be salvaged and relocated. At the same time however, sources have informed the Chronicles and the pontist community that the scrappers are making a bid to obtain the bridge for scrap metal. Police and fire officials are determining the cause of the fire, which is suspected to be caused by arson. The Chronicles has a separate article on this bridge based on the author’s visit to the bridge which will be posted after an interview with organizers trying to save the bridge is done.

Rulo Bridge in Nebraska. Photo taken in August 2011

Two Missouri River Bridges to be demolished. Two to be replaced soon.


If the rate continues its course, there will no longer be any pre-1960 bridges along the Missouri River by the year 2030. Two continuous truss bridges built in 1938 have been replaced and are closed to traffic, despite the 2-year delay because of the Great Flood of 2011 which turned the Missouri River into the Red Sea for 3/4 of the year. Already one of the bridges, the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge in Fort Atchinson, Kansas, built at the time of the disappearance of the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean, is scheduled to come down beginning 23 September after the tied arch bridge was opened to traffic. The demolition is scheduled to take two months to complete. The Rulo Bridge, which carries US Highway 159 through the Nebraska town of Rulo was rerouted to the new bridge and is now closed awaiting demolition. This may happen at the earliest in the fall but most likely in 2014. The Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, a two-span tied arch bridge most likely to follow as Missouri and Kansas DOTs are planning on its replacement which will happen in a few years. And finally, a pair of duo continuous Warren truss bridges, the Fairfax Bridge (built in 1935 by the Kansas City Bridge Company) and the Platte Purchase Bridge (built in 1957) in Kansas City are planned to be replaced beginning in 2015. The reason for replacing the US Highway 69 crossing was because of its narrowness.  To know more about the Missouri River Bridges, it will be mentioned in detail in a presentation provided by James Baughn during the Missouri Preservation Conference, which takes place 18-20 September in Booneville. More information can be found here.

Another slab bridge collapses- this time in Illinois

Engineers and politicians are running out of bridge types to condemn in favor of modern bridges. Reason: another concrete bridge has collapsed after a truck rolled across it! This happened near Woodlawn, Illinois on 6 September. Woodlawn is near Mt. Vernon in Jefferson County. The bridge is over 200 feet long and was built in 1977. Fortunately, nobody was hurt when it happened for the structure collapsed right after the truck went across it. Investigators are trying to determine whether the weight of the loaded truck was too much and if a weight limit should have been imposed. This is the second post 1970 bridge that collapsed this year (a 1987 bridge in Missouri collapsed this past July) and has raised questions of whether weight limits should be imposed on all bridges and highways to ensure their prolongitivity and driver safety. But despite the “less is more” mentality that is becoming the norm in society, it will most likely take a few more collapses of modern slab before it get through the heads of the engineers and government agencies that are responsibility for the infrastructure in the US.

Bay Bridge Replacement opens to traffic.

When the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge first opened to traffic in 1936, the eight mile long bridge spanning San Francisco Bay was the longest in the world, with two sets of suspension bridges connecting Yerba Buena Island with San Francisco and a cantilever truss bridge and beam bridge between that island and Oakland. Since 3 September, the Oakland portion of the bridge has been replaced with a cable-stayed suspension bridge and closed to all traffic while cars are travelling on the new span. For those who are not familiar with this portion of the bridge, it was that particular bridge which partially collapsed during the Earthquake of 1989, the one that killed over 300 people, caused the double-decker Nemitz Freeway in Oakland to collapse and brought the World Series at Candlestick Park to a halt. A person videotaped the bridge and a car falling into the collapsed portion of the bridge. A link can be found here.  The bridge collapse prompted notions to replace that portion of the Bay Bridge and bring the suspension bridge portion up to earthquake proof standards, together with the Golden Gate Bridge. 24 years later, they got their wish with a cable-stayed suspension bridge made using steel made in China. This is still sparking a debate on whether Chinese steel has as high quality as American steel, especially as several flaws were discovered while building the Oakland portion of the bridge, which included broken bolts and anchors holding the stayed cables. Despite the bridge being a remarkable landmark that will surely be documented in 50 year’s time, especially with the statue found at the island, it is questionable of whether $4 billion was necessary to build the bridge or if it would have made sense to rehabilitate the cantilever bridge. This includes the cost and time it will be needed to demolish that bridge, which will commence sometime next year.

With all the bad news involving bridges in the US, there are some drives to save historic bridges with one being replicated after a 70 year absence. More in part 2 of the Chronicles’ Newsflyer.

 

What to do with a HB: The Okoboji Bridge

Photo taken in August 2011

In connection with my last article on Thacher truss bridges, we are going to have a look at this bridge, the Okoboji Bridge. Located four miles west of Fostoria over the Little Sioux River on 180th Avenue, this bridge is unique both in terms of its design as well as its history.  Built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, this riveted truss bridge is the only one left in the country that is a pony Thacher truss, if one looks at its configuration and compare it with the examples mentioned in the last article. Yet the reason for the configuration is in connection with its history. It was built at its original location in 1909- over the strait connecting East and West Lake Okoboji, connecting Okoboji to the north and Arnolds Park to the south, carrying what is today US Hwy. 71. Yet the bridge was a replacement for the numerous swing bridges that had been built and rebuilt since 1859. The 1909 truss bridge was also a swing bridge that operated by machine instead of by hand, like its predecessors, made of wood and whose towers featured stayed wired cables. Pictures of that bridge can be seen here, including the bridge in its opening position. 

While the Thacher truss bridge served as an important asset to the region, the increase in traffic- both vehicular as well as marine, combined with the coming of Hwy. 71 in 1926 made it expendable and was replaced in 1929 by a fixed span- a closed spandrel arch bridge, which was later widened and modified in 1997 as part of the plan to widen all of Hwy. 71 to eliminate the bottleneck traffic that had been common, especially in the summer time and during the Fourth of July. Yet with the bridge being in service for only 20 years, the county decided to recycle the bridge and move it to an out-of-the-way remote and present location- over the Little Sioux River on a road served by a pair of farms, each located on the opposite sides of the small meandering stream. It had served traffic until its closure for structural reasons in the early 1990s.

The Okoboji Bridge at the site where the Thacher truss swing bridge once served its use. Now widened and modernized to handle more traffic. Photo taken in August 2009

Yet the future of the bridge is without hesitation, in serious doubt. During my visit to Iowa in August 2011, I looked for the Okoboji Bridge, only to find, as you can see in the picture above as well as through a gallery via flickr that the bridge was a victim of flooding.  Although not as severe as the one three years earlier, the flooding in Iowa in June and July caused substantial damage and loss to many crops and houses, thanks in part to a wet and stormy winter, combined with the late spring thaw, unseasonable temperatures and above normal rainfall. In fact, the hardest hit area were along the Missouri River, where a line between Sioux City and Kansas City was covered in water, turning the river into the Red Sea, and forcing an unprecedented detour of I-29 which followed I-35 to Des Moines and then I-80 to Omaha, for its original path was all but underwater. It was unexpected that the Little Sioux River, a small meandering stream that flows quietly like a snake through the farmland would become a lake full of rushing water. And for this bridge, it stood in the way of the flood, resulting in the truss bridge being knocked off its foundation and landing right into the river, with fallen trees and debris covering it.

Upon inspecting the bridge, photographing and filming it, the bridge seemed to be in excellent shape with some damage to the flooring. Yet with some work on the bridge, which includes repairing some bridge parts and repainting it, it could be reused again, either as a vehicular or a pedestrian bridge. Given its location, it is unlikely that it will be used again at its present location but can be relocated somewhere else in the county. Dickinson County has had a good track record regarding reusing truss bridges for cost-effective purposes, as two bridges (also along the Little Sioux River) were replaced using truss bridges that had been located elsewhere, either in Okoboji or to the south. The Okoboji Bridge would be of best service when relocated. Yet whether the county and IaDOT would agree with this proposal depends on their willingness to save this unique piece of artwork and the costs that would incur in the relocating and rehabilitation process. Even though I did get a chance to talk to IaDOT and some other people about the bridge, the flood issue was foremost on their minds and it was understandable if this issue was tabled because  of that. Yet today, even with fewer resources, one can have a look at the bridge and decide how to proceed from there.

Keeping this in mind, have a look at the photos I posted on flickr and the film I produced that is available on youtube and decide for yourself if:

1. The bridge is salvageable and why,

2. What should be done with the bridge in terms of repairs and rehabilitation, and

3. Do you know of a place where this bridge would be of better service?

You can post your comments here, via facebook and through e-mail. Another person of contact would be Julie Bowers at Workin Bridges. Her contact details are found here.

Author’s note: additional photos and info can be found by clicking on the underlined words.