2019 Author’s Choice Awards: Mr. Smith Picks Out His Best Ones

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GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY-

With 2019 and the second decade of the third millennium over and done, we’re now going to reflect on the key events in the area of historic bridges and feature some head-shakers, prayers, but also some Oohs and Aahs, jumps of joy and sometimes relief. Since 2011, I’ve presented the Author’s Choice Awards to some of the bridges and bridge stories that deserve at least some recognition from yours truly directly. Some of the bridges from this edition are also candidates in their respective categories for the Bridgehunter Awards.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice Awards in their respective categories starting with the unexpected finds:

 

Best Historic Bridge Find (International): 

2019 was the year of unique bridge finds around the globe, and it was very difficult to determine which bridge should receive the Author’s Choice Prize. Therefore the prize is being shared by two bridges- one in Germany in the state of Saxony and one in Great Britain in the city of Bristol.

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Rosenstein Bridge in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany:

Our first best historic bridge find takes us to the city of Zwickau and an unknown historic bridge that had been sitting abandoned for decades but was discovered in 2019. The Rosenstein Bridge spans a small creek between the suburb of Oberplanitz and the bypass that encircles Zwickau on the west side and connects Werdau with Schneeberg. The bridge is a stone arch design and is around 200 years old. It used to serve a key highway between the Vogtland area to the west and the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) to the south and east, transporting minerals and wood along the main road. It later served street traffic until its abandonment. The name Rosenstein comes from the rock that was used for the bridge. The rock changes the color to red and features its rose-shaped design. A perfect gift that is inexpensive but a keeper for your loved one.

Link for more on the bridge:  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2019/03/28/what-to-do-with-a-hb-rosenstein-brucke-in-oberplanitz-zwickau/

 

Close-up of the bridge’s tubular railings. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Brunel Swivel Bridge in Bristol, UK:

The other bridge that shares this honor is That Other Bridge. Located in Bristol, England, the Swivel Bridge is very hard to find, for the structure is underneath the Plimsol Bridge, both spanning the River Avon. While Bristol is well known for its chain suspension bridge, built over 150 years ago and spans the deep gorge of the Avon, the Swivel Bridge, a cast iron girder swing span,  is the oldest known bridge in the city and one of the oldest swing bridges remaining in the world, for it is 170 years old and one of the first built by I.K. Brunel- the suspension bridge was the last built by the same engineer before his death. Therefore, the Swivel Bridge is known as Brunel’s Other (Significant) Bridge.  The Swivel is currently being renovated.

Link on the Bridge and its Restoration Project:  https://www.brunelsotherbridge.org.uk/

 

 

Best Historic Bridge Find (US/Canada):

Fox Run “S” Bridge in New Concord, Ohio:

“S-Bridges” were one of the oldest bridge types built in the US, featuring multiple spans of stone or concrete arches that are put together in an S-shape. It was good for horse and buggy 200-years ago, especially as many existed along the National Road. They are however not suitable for today’s traffic, which is why there are only a handful left. The Fox Run Bridge in Ohio, as documented by Satolli Glassmeyer of History in Your Backyard, is one of the best examples of only a few of these S-bridges left in the country.

 

Royal Springs Bridge in Kentucky:

The runner-up in this category goes to the oldest and most forgotten bridge in Kentucky, the Royal Springs Bridge. While one may not pay attention to it because of its design, plus it carries a busy federal highway, one may forget the fact that it was built in 1789, which makes it the oldest bridge in the state. It was built when George Washington became president and three years before it even became a state.  That in itself puts it up with the likes of some of Europe’s finest bridges.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/royal-springs-bridge-in-kentucky-the-oldest-the-most-forgotten-of-historic-bridges/

 

Biggest Bonehead Story:

We had just as many bonehead stories as bridge finds this year. But a couple of stories do indeed stand out for these awards. Especially on the international level for they are all but a travesty, to put it mildly.

 

International:

The Pont des Trous before its demolition of the arch spans. Jean-Pol Grandmont (Collection personnelle/Private collection). [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D
Tournai Bridge in Belgium: 

Sometimes, bigger is better. Other times less means more. In the case of the senseless demolition of the Pont des Trours (Bridge of Tears) spanning the River Scheldt in Tournai, Belgium for the purpose of widening and deepening the river to allow for ships to sail to the River Sienne from the Atlantic, one has to question the economic impact of using the boat to get to Paris, let alone the cultural impact the demolition had on the historic old town. The bridge was built in 1290 and was the only bridge of its kind in the world. Its replacement span will resemble an McDonald’s M-shape pattern. In this case, less means more. Smaller ships or more trains to ship goods means better for the river (and its historic crossings) as well as the historic city. In short: Less means more.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2019/08/17/pont-de-trous-the-bridge-of-tears/

 

Runner-up: Bockau Arch Bridge (Rechenhausbrücke) in Saxony.  

Residents wanted to save the bridge. There was even a group wanting to save the bridge. The politicians and in particular, the Saxony Ministry of Transportation and Commerce (LASUV) didn’t. While the 150-year old stone arch bridge over the Zwickau Mulde near Aue was the largest and oldest standing in western Saxony and was not in the way of its replacement- making it a candidate for a bike and pedestrian crossing, LASUV and the politicians saw it as an eyesore.  While those interested wanted to buy the bridge at 150,000 Euros. Dresden wanted 1.7 million Euros– something even my uncle from Texas, a millionaire himself, would find as a rip-off.  Supporters of the demolition are lucky that the bridge is not in Texas, for they would’ve faced a hefty legal battle that would’ve gone to the conservative-laden Supreme Court. The bridge would’ve been left as is. But it’s Saxony and many are scratching their heads as to why the demo against the will of the people- without even putting it to a referendum- happened in the first place. As a former member of the Friends of the Rechenhausbrücke, I’m still shaking my head and asking “Why?”

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2019/02/14/tearing-down-the-bockau-arch-bridge-lessons-learned-from-the-loss/

 

USA/Canada:

The “Truck-Eating” Bridge at Gregson Street before its raise to 12′-4″ in October 2019 Washuotaku [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
Gregson Street Overpass in Durham, NC:

This story brings out the true meaning of “Half-ass”. The Gregon Street Overpass, which carries the Norfolk and Southern Railroad (NSR) is an 80-year old stringer bridge that has a rather unique characteristic: Its vertical clearance is 11 feet 8 inches (3.56 meters).  It’s notorious for ripping off truck trailers, driven by truck drivers who either didn’t see the restriction signs, traffic lights and other barriers or were unwilling to heed to the restrictions because of their dependency on their GPS device (Navi) or their simple ignorance.  In October 2019, NSR wanted to raise the bridge to 12 feet 4 inches (3.76 meters) to reduce the collisions. The standard height of underpasses since 1973 have been 14 feet (4.3 meters). End result: the collisions have NOT decreased.  Epic fail on all counts!

My suggestion to NSR and the NCDOT: If you don’t want your bridge to be a truck-eater, like with some other bridges that exist in the US, like in Davenport and Northhampton, make the area an at-grade crossing. You will do yourselves and the truck drivers a big favor.

Evidence of the Durham’s Truck Eater’s carnage: http://11foot8.com/

 

Northwood Truss Bridge in Grand Forks County, ND:

Not far behind the winner is this runner-up.  A truck driver carrying 42 tons of beans tries crossing a century-old pony truss bridge, which spans the Goose River and has a weight limit of three tons.  Guess what happens next and who got short-changed?   The bridge had been listed on the National Register because of its association with Fargo Bridge and Iron and it was the oldest extant in the county. Luckily the driver wasn’t hurt but it shows that he, like others, should really take a math course before going on the road again.

Links: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/too-heavy-big-rig-collapses-100-year-old-bridge-north-n1032676

Bridge info and comments: http://bridgehunter.com/nd/grand-forks/18114330/

 

Spectacular Bridge Disaster (International):

Waiho Bridge near Franz Josef, NZ before its destruction. A new bridge mimicks this span. Walter Rumsby [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D
Waiho Bridge Disaster and Rebuild in New Zealand

This one gets an award for not only a spectacular disaster that destroyed a multiple Bailey Truss- as filmed in its entirety- but also for the swiftest reply in rebuilding the bridge in order to reopen a key highway. Bailey trusses have known to be easily assembled, regardless of whether it’s for temporary purposes or permanent.  Cheers to the inventor of the truss as well as the New Zealand National Guard for putting the bridge back together in a hurry.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2019/04/27/waiho-bridge-reopens/

 

Destruction of the Chania Bridge in Greece

No bridge is safe when it comes to flash flooding. Not even concrete arch bridges, as seen in this film on the century-old Chania Bridge in Greece. Flash floods undermined the bridge’s piers and subsequentially took out the multiple-span closed spandrel arch bridge in front of the eyes of onlookers. The photos of the destroyed bridge after the flooding was even more tragic. Good news is that the bridge is being rebuilt to match that of the original span destroyed. But it will never fully replace the original, period.

Link: https://greece.greekreporter.com/2019/03/02/heartbreaking-video-of-historic-greek-bridge-in-ruins/

 

Spectacular Bridge Disaster (US):

The Great Ice Jam/Flood 2019:

Sargent Bridge in Custer County, Nebraska: One of many victims of the Great Ice Jam/Flood 2019.

This category was a real toss-up, for the US went through a series of what is considered one of the biggest wrath of natural disasters on record. In particular, massive amounts of snowfall, combined with extreme temperatures resulted in massive flooding which devastated much of the Midwest during the first five months of the year. The hardest hit areas were in Nebraska, Iowa and large parts of Missouri. There, large chunks of ice took out even the strongest and youngest of bridges along major highways- the most viewed was the bridge near Spencer, Nebraska, where ice jams combined with flooding caused both the highway bridge as well as the dam nearby to collapse. The highway bridge was only three decades old. Even historic truss bridges, like the Sargent Bridge in Custer County were no match for the destruction caused by water and ice.  While the region has dried up, it will take months, if not years for communities and the infrastructure to rebuild to its normal form. Therefore this award goes out to the people affected in the region.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2019/03/18/apocalyptic-floods-destroys-bridges-in-midwest/

 

Runner-up: Close-up footage of the destruction of the Brunswick Railroad Bridge.

Railroad officials watched helplessly, as floodwaters and fallen trees took out a major railroad bridge spanning the Grand River near Brunswick, Kansas. The railroad line is owned by Norfolk and Southern. The bridge was built in 1916 replacing a series of Whipple truss spans that were later shipped to Iowa for use on railroad lines and later roads. One of them still remains. The bridge has since been rebuilt; the line in use again.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/brunswick-railroad-bridge-washes-away/

 

Best Example of Restored Historic Bridge:

 

International:

The Coalbrookdale Iron Bridge after restoration: Tk420 [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
Coalbrookdale Bridge in the UK: 

The world’s first cast iron bridge got an extensive makeover in a two-year span, where the cast iron parts were repaired and conserved, new decking was put in and the entire bridge was painted red, which had been the original color when the bridge was completed in 1791. The jewel of Shropshire, England is back in business and looks just like new.

King Ludwig Railroad Bridge in Kempten, Germany:

The world’s lone double-decker truss bridge made of wood, received an extensive rehabilitation, where the spans were taken off its piers, the wooden parts repaired and/or replaced before being repainted, the piers were rebuilt and then the spans were put back on and encased with a wooden façade. A bit different than in its original form, the restored structure features LED lighting which shows the truss work through the façade at night.

 

 

US/Canada:

Longfellow Bridge: Lstrong2k [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)%5D
Longfellow Bridge in Boston:

This multiple-span arch bridge with a draw bridge span underwent a five-year reconstruction project where every aspect of the bridge was restored to its former glory, including the steel arches, the 11 masonry piers, the abutments, the four tall towers at the main span and lastly the sculptures on the bridge. Even the trophy room underneath the bridge was rebuilt. All at a whopping cost of $306 million! It has already received numerous accolades including one on the national level. This one was worth the international recognition because of the hours of toil needed to make the structure new again.

Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longfellow_Bridge

Winona Bridge in Winona, MN:

The runner-up is a local favorite but one that sets an example of how truss bridge restoration can work. The Winona Bridge went through an eight-year project where a new span carrying westbound traffic was built. The cantilever truss span was then covered as it went through a makeover that featured new decking, sandblasting and repairing the trusses and lastly, painting it. To put the icing on the cake, new LED lighting was added. The bridge now serves eastbound traffic and may be worth considering as a playboy for other restorations of bridges of its kind, including the Black Hawk Bridge, located down the Mississippi.

Link:  http://bridgehunter.com/mn/winona/winona/

And with that, we wrap up the Author’s Choice Awards for 2019. Now comes the fun part, which is finding out which bridges deserve international honors in the eyes of the voters. Hence, the Bridgehunter’s Awards both in written form as well as in podcast. Stay tuned! 🙂

 

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An Interview with Clark Vance

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In 2011 at the Historic Bridge Convention in Missouri, I had a chance to meet Clark Vance in person and found him to be open-minded in many aspects, but having knowledge that is enriched for historic bridges, and other artefacts. Mr. Vance just recently retired from his position as high school teacher, but has been a key contributor of historic bridges for bridgehunter.com for as long as the website has existed, providing readers with photos and interesting facts on historic bridges, mainly in the Midwestern part of the US, centering around the states of Kansas and Missouri. Because of his contributions to historic bridges- as a photographer, historian and sometimes consultant- Mr. Vance won the Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement in 2018.

I had a chance to interview him recently about his interests in the topic and found some more interesting facts about him, how his interest in historic bridges first started and some words of advice for those who are working in the field of historic bridges, in terms of photography and preservation. This is what I learned from him, as you read the interview:

 

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  1. Tell us more about yourself in terms of professional and private life.

I recently retired from 11 years of teaching engineering, math, and software engineering to high school students. I previously worked in IT and automotive technology. I still enjoy working with and driving my (too many) cars and motorcycles. My wife is a psychologist in private practice and her daughter is a professor at an art and design school. I highly recommend being retired.

 

  1. What got you interested in historic bridges?

My father was a civil engineer with the Kansas Highway Department in the late ‘40s before going to work as a structural engineer in private industry. He didn’t mind my gazillion “What’s that?” questions as a kid and actually had the knowledge to answer a lot of them, particularly about man made artifacts in the natural environment. My curiosity about infrastructure was rewarded with good explanations of whatever odd item caught my attention. Some of my best times as a kid were when he and I would visit road construction sites and he would answer all my questions then add information about things I hadn’t noticed.

 

  1. You do mostly bridge photography, right? Or do you write or talk about them?

My main public activity surrounding bridges is as a contributor to BridgeHunter.com. I’ve enjoyed old maps as a way to see into the past and discover things that are unused and forgotten. My enjoyment of driving back roads and hiking fit with this, and BridgeHunter gave me an excuse to photograph the things I found. I don’t consider myself a bridge expert or historian and I try to avoid spending too much time talking with others about bridges lest they consider me odd(er).

 

  1. Do you teach historic bridges in school? If so, how?

I didn’t get a chance to teach the second year class where we taught truss analysis, so my role as an educator was mostly as an informal consultant for the students working on entries to bridge building competitions. I taught an intro civil class where I got to cover infrastructure and of course I exposed my students to a lot of structural history using bridges. I hope they came to appreciate the significance of structures that their later instructors will possibly dismiss as obsolete.

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  1. What kind of historic bridges do you look for?

Although I enjoy simply documenting older existing structures, my greatest enjoyment comes from locating and documenting bridges that have been forgotten. Most of the time there is little left physically but I like to record the location and identify any visible remnants. Kansas City still has places where one can see the paths worn by the wagons heading out on the Santa Fe Trail. For whatever reason, I feel it’s important for people to remember the paths used in the past.

 

  1. A historic bridge in your opinion is…….

Defining what constitutes an historic bridge is similar to identifying an historic car. Anything old enough is worth preserving, and the more important it was when new, the more significant when old. Even the plainest, cheapest Model T should not be scrapped if it’s possible to preserve it. A Cadillac V-16 is obviously more rare and more worthy of preservation. From the perspective of the people trying to use objects in the economy, is would be foolish and wasteful to try to run a fleet of Model T taxis and it’s equally foolish to expect a tall, narrow pony truss to carry a combine or loaded grain trailer. It’s fun to drive old cars across the Chain of Rocks bridge but trying to keep it as part of the interstate system makes no sense.

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Chain of Rocks Bridge. Photo taken by Jason Smith in 2011

 

  1. What is your favorite historic bridge?

Picking favorites is difficult. Friends and I would walk out on the Chain of Rocks bridge not long after it closed. I haven’t been back since it got cleaned up but I imagine it’s still pretty spectacular. As a kid my family would visit relatives in southeast Kansas and I have a long standing love for the Marsh arches. I also enjoyed driving the old Flagler railroad bridges linking the Florida Keys back in the ‘70s.

 

  1. What historic bridge(s) do you miss the most?

Probably the bridges I miss most are: The Chouteau Bridge in KC. Totally obsolete and awful for trucks and cars alike, it was nonetheless an important bridge when built and quite impressive an an old, still functioning work. The ASB automobile lanes were narrow and had a reputation for fatal accidents where the lanes split to go around the trusses. For better or worse, one could have a close look at the structure and mechanism while driving by. More generally, I miss the many through trusses that were everywhere when I began traveling and which have almost all been replaced by much more efficient boring bridges guaranteed to keep concrete plants busy repairing and replacing them.

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  1.  What words of advice do you have for the following:

 

Photographing Historic Bridges: Get the big picture and the little details. Show the setting and what one would see driving by or passing under. Also, catch the details that can help identify the builder, date, and other parts of the history.

Teaching about Historic Bridges: I wish I had more knowledge about this. I found that I could engage students by providing some of the history behind modern concepts. Bridges played an important role in the development of engineering as a field, so I tried to cover bridge technology in discussions about changes brought about by developments in material science, structural analysis methods, etc.

Preserving Historic Bridges: Two things strike me as most important, public support and technical skills. Right now old bridges are in a place similar to steam locomotives in the ‘50s. They are being phased out and replaced by products deemed superior by policy makers. I don’t think there is much hope of their remaining in common use. The focus needs to be on finding ways to save them from being scrapped and preserving the knowledge needed to put them back in limited use when more of the public has the desire to experience the old technology. Each one lost will make the remaining ones more valuable and more likely to be saved.

 

Thank you for your time, Clark and wishing you all the best in your endeavors. J

 

The next question is who will win the now rebranded Bridgehunter Awards in the category Lifetime Achievement? If you haven’t voted yet, click here and you will be directed to the ballot. Deadline is January 10th and the winner will be announced two days later.

 

Note: Photos posted  but not cited here are all courtesy of Clark Vance.

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Call to Action to Save the Route 66 Gasconade Bridge

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Photo courtesy of James Baughn

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HAZELGREEN, MISSOURI- The days of the Gasconade River Bridge, which used to carry US Hwy. 66 near Hezelgreen may be numbered as it faces demolition scheduled for Spring of 2020 unless a new owner can be found.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) has placed the 95-year old bridge under a 30-day public review and comment period which is halfway through its time and is scheduled to be completed by July 5th.  The historic bridge was built in 1924 by MODOT and consists of (from west to east) one 8-panel Warren pony truss with alternating verticals, two 8-panel Parker through trusses and one 6-panel Pratt through truss, all totaling a length of 526 feet. The structure is elgible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its design that was in connection with the standardized bridge movement that started in 1910. It is also in connection with Route 66 and its history, as the Highway, connecting Chicago with Los Angeles via Tulsa and Santa Fe was in operation from 1926 until the last segment of the highway was decommissioned in 1979. Interstate 40 had suplanted the stretch of highway where the bridge is located a years earlier.

Currently, the bridge is closed to traffic and a replacement bridge is being built alongside the historic structure, which will carry a frontage road running alongside the interstate once it’s completed next year. The Gasconade Bridge used to carry that road before its closure in 2015.

Attempts to find an owner for the new bridge and restore the structure to its original glory have not been successful due to differences in planning and realization combined with lack of funding for purchase and restoration. Yet the Gasconade Bridge Facebook (click here) has garnered support from over 1200 Followers and many more who are not on the social media scene. There have been rallies and fundraisers lately and a page where you can donate to save the bridge (click here).

Still the clock is ticking and with the resources and options running out, “only a public outcry expressing significant concern and a desire to save the bridge from demolition might help,” according to a statement on the Gasconade Facebook Page. If you would like to help in convincing government officials to save the bridge, here are the contact details you Need to know before you address your support for the bridge:

E-Mail: STIPcomments@modot.mo.gov

Phone: 1-888-275-6636

Mail: Transportation Planning, Program Comments, P.O. Box 270, Jefferson City, MO. 65102.

Identify the Gasconade River Bridge in Laclede County, MO. Give them your name and where you live and most importantly, why this bridge is important and is worth saving. It must be personal; all letters copied and pasted will not be acceptable.

To provide you with an incentive to convince MODOT, here’s an interview I did with Rich Dinkela about the bridge a few years ago. Click here to view.  A pair of YouTube videos of the bridge can be found below:

If you have any suggestions to help save the bridge or are interested in buying it, please contact the Group on their Facebook page. A link to their website you will find here.

 

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Jenkins Bridge Fundraiser for 23rd March

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Photo taken by Trent Huse

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WHEELERVILLE, MISSOURI- The campaign to save a historic bridge in Missouri has kicked off with a fundraiser. The Jenkins Bridge is a six-panel through truss bridge with M-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. Spanning Flat Creek south of Jenkins in Barry County, this bridge was built in 1909 by the Standard Bridge Company in Omaha and has been a place of great memories by many locals who have used the bridge for swimming/ diving as well as fishing.

The bridge has been closed since 2017 and many locals are working together with officials from Barry County to find a way to rehabilitate and reopen the bridge to traffic. Already at the starting block are the fundraisers that are underway. One of which takes place on Saturday, March 23rd.

A benefit concert, featuring the music group, Homestead Pickers, will take place at the Wheelerville Church beginning at 7:00pm. Join them for an evening of bluegrass, gospel, country music with good ole fashioned humor and entertainment by the group featuring Greg Bailey, Greg Becker, Danny Eakin, and Walt Morrison. All proceeds from the concert will go towards the newly-formed Jenkins Bridge Foundation to file the necessary documents and restoration expenses of the bridge. Aside from restoring the bridge, the group is pursuing a plan to have the structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This will be the first of many fundraisers yet to come. More details on other plans for saving the bridge will come soon, as the Chronicles has been doing an e-mail interview with members of the group and will keep you posted on the latest.  If you wish to contribute to the cause of saving and restoring the bridge, you may join the Jenkins Bridge Foundation’s facebook site, which you can click here.

More to come soon.

 

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2017 Author’s Choice Awards- Author chooses his best and worst- albeit belatedly

Lakewood Park Truss Bridge, relocated to the middle school in Salina, KS.  Best Example of a Restored HB according to the author.  Photo taken by Jack Schmidt

After a very long delay due to bridge and non-bridge related commitments that needed to be address, it is long past overdue to present the Author’s Choice Awards for 2017. Normally this would have been awarded at the same time as the winners of the Ammann Awards (see the results here). However there were some developments bridgewise that kept me from posting the results. By the time the opportunity came to do that, commitments related to my other job as teacher pushed the posting back much further. Yet, better late than never to announce my pics for 2017, with a promise to be more punctual when I announce the 2018 Author’s Choice Awards in January 2019, the same time as the winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards that will be announced simultaneously.

So without further ado, here we go…..

2017 was an exceptionally hard year for historic bridges for dozens of them worldwide were destroyed either by mother nature in the form of wildfires, flash flooding and other storms or through really unintelligent people ignoring the weight and height restrictions for the purpose of convenience and shortcuts. With the second part we will get to later. Let’s look at my picks for 2017 as the bridges deserve the author choice for the following reasons:

Best Find of a Historic Bridge:

USA: 

While my pics go directly to the state where the government is trying profusely to destroy every single metal truss bridge in the state- namely New Hampshire, two areas with a set of historic bridges deserve to be recognized here. The first one are the bridges of Hinsdale/ Battleboro There, we have a pair of Pennsylvania through truss spans in the Anna Hunt Marsh and the Charles Dana, the Killburn Brook Stone Arch Bridge, the Chesterfield Arch Bridges and a pair of railroad bridges. A tour guide will be made soon as two of the bridges face uncertain futures for even though a replacement bridge is being built on a new alignment downstream, the public is divided between restoring the truss spans and simply demolishing them. One of the proponents of the latter had already defaced the Anna Marsh bridge by removing the planking and appears to be grabbing the city government by the balls to have them fulfill his demands. However, that person is being held at gunpoint by others who disagree.  Michael Quiet produced a pair of videos on the Anna Marsh and Charles Dana spans which you can see here:

Runner-up is a pair of former railroad truss bridges located at Pulp Mill. The older truss span is an 1868 Whipple through truss with vertical endposts featuring Phoenix columns. The 1921 truss is a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge. While both are abandoned, they deserve a second life as a bike crossing, don’t you agree?  The two bridges received the bronze medal in the Ammann Awards competition under Bridge of the Year.

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       International:

Since the beginning of 2017, I had the priviledge to do a bridgehunting tour along the Zwickau Mulde River in the western part of the German state of Saxony. 200 kilometers and consisting of some of the Ammann Award winners of Zwickau, Glauchau, Aue and Rochlitz, plus some candidates in the Lunzenau area, the river region features a tall 150-year old concrete viaduct, several stone arch bridges, big and small, a handful of pre-1930s era truss bridges as well as cantilever and Suspension bridges. All of them are accessible via Mulde bike Trail and if Things go the way the Mayors of Glauchau, Rochlitz and Lunzenau want it to be, the former railroad line connecting Glauchau and Wurzen that runs parallel to the Zwickau Mulde may end up becoming either a Tourist rail line or a “rails-to-trails” route in the next five years. For that reason it deserves the Author’s Choice Awards as a way of motivating them to make this Project happen.

The link to the photos can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheBridgehuntersChronicles/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2061753800510249

 

Best Example of Preserved and Reused Historic Bridge:

USA:

Lakewood Park Truss Bridge. Built in 1877 by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Works Company and measured at 99.1 feet Long, this pin-connected Pratt through truss Bridge with Town Lattice Portal bracings was relocated to ist present site, which is the Lakewood Middle School in Salina, Kansas, a few blocks from where it had been originally located. The Bridge serves as living history and a park area for students wishing to relax and learn some history about the structure and ist Connection with Engineering history in the US. The Bridge Looks just like new with ist decking and benches. It is definitely worth a visit and for sure receiving this Award.

International:

While this Bridge received third place in the Ammann Awards under the category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente Suspension Bridge near Santos, Brazil is getting the Author’s Choice Awards for its in-kind restoration of the Suspension Bridge, with new decking and cables, but being able to retain ist structural integrity. This was a masterpiece that is worth the recognition. The Suspension Bridge can now carry vehicles and pedestrians across the river without the fear of collapse.

Most Spectacular Bridge Disasters

USA:

Mother nature has not been kind to mankind this year and has shown ist distaste because of the ignorance of the effects of industrialization, wasting non-renewable resources and too many cars and housing. This includes massive forest fires, die-offs of fish, and especially widespread flash-flooding. For this year’s most Spectacular Bridge Disaster Story, we have two examples from the US, one of which Mother Nature redid a piece of artwork that was perceived as wrong.

The James Bridge in Ozark County was one of four key bridges that were wiped out by flash-floods during the first weekend of May, which also took out the Hammond Mills and Bruns Bridges– the former of which was only 30 years old and a concrete slab bridge; the latter a 130-year-old historic truss bridge. The James Bridge featured a two-span polygonal Warren pony truss bridge with riveted connections that was built in 1958. The flood not only knocked it off ist foundations but it flipped over upside down, thus converting the span into a deck truss. Workers removing the “makeshift deck truss bridge” as well as reporters on the scene were quite impressed with the artwork Mother Nature had left behind as a result. Yet this is the second time in six years this conversion from a pony truss into a deck truss has happened- all in Missouri.

The runner-up was a tight one between another bridge collapse due to flooding and mudslides in California, and this bridge in Atlanta, the I-85 Bridge. This structure fell victim to a blazing inferno on 30 March, causing a 28 meter (92 foot) section to collapse. Investigators later concluded that a combination of improper storage of materials underneath the concrete viaduct and arson resulted in this unfortunate event. Still, this disaster became the new Minneapolis Bridge disaster, for the collapse showed that even potentially dangerous flaws in concrete beam bridges can exist.

 

International:

There were over a dozen well-known bridge disasters in Europe and Africa in 2017, yet there are two stories that stand out and deserve recognition.

The first place winner goes to a bridge in the Indian state of Goa. There, a Whipple pony truss bridge spanning the River Sanvordem at Curchorem collapsed under the weight of people on 18 May. Official reports put the casualty totals of two dead, dozens injured and 30 people missing; many of those missing were presumed dead as the river was infested with crocodiles, which made rescue attempts difficult. Spectators had been on the bridge to watch efforts to rescue someone who wanted to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge. The bridge goes back to the 1800s during the time the Portuguese had control of the Goa Region. As of right now, the bridge, abandoned for many years, is scheduled to be removed. This is the second bridge disaster in two years that included the Goa Region.

The runner-up in this category is the collapse of the Troja Bridge. This bridge goes back to the Communist era and used to span the River Vlatava near the Zoo in Prague. On 2 December, the entire concrete beam structure collapsed, injuring four- two of them seriously. The causes of the collapse stemmed from age and structural deficiency to its weakening as a result of the Great Flood of 2002, forcing officials to monitor the bridge more closely while introducing plans to replace it with a newer, more stable structure.

Biggest Bonehead Story:

In the final category, we look at the Biggest Bonehead Story and this is where we look at stupid people destroying historic bridges for unjustified reasons. We have a lot of good stories that go along with this topic, all of which in the United States. And with that, we will look at Judge Marilyn Milian, the judge for the TV-series The People’s Court.  Since taking over for Judge Wappner in 2005, Ms. Milian has used her sassy commentary and rhetoric to put people in their places for their actions that are both legally and morally wrong. At the same time, she has a zero-tolerance to people doing stupid things as well as making unintelligent comments, sometimes embarassing them on TV. Some classic examples of how the Lady Judge does her work can be seen here:

Back in January 2018, when the Ammann Award winners were being announced, I tried to contact Ms. Milian to see if and how she would react to the following bridge disasters that were caused by stupidity at its finest- all of which will share the Author’s Choice Award for 2017 because of their bizarre nature. That is, had the courts not decided and the cases had been sent to the People’s Court 😉  :

1. Gilliecie Bridge (aka Murtha and Daley): This 130-foot long bowstring arch bridge, built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in 1874, spans the Upper Iowa River at Cattle Creek Road. It had the weight of three tons before the driver of a grain truck, weighing five times as much as the weight allowed on the bridge, tried to cross it on 5th May. After hitting the eastern portal, the truck and the bridge fell right into the water! The driver wasn’t injured. He later claimed that his GPS device led him to the bridge and afraid that he could cause an accident while backing up, he chanced it. Another Mary Laimbright slash “My GPS made me do it” story but sadly unlike the incident and its after-effects at the bridge where she downed it with a semi-truck in 2015, this bridge in Iowa may have seen its last days before being scrapped. Its future is uncertain.

2. Cedar Covered Bridge: Spanning Cedar Creek near Winterset, this bridge was built in 2004 as a replica of the original 1883 span that was destroyed by arson in 2002. This bridge was torched again, this time by three high school teenagers on 15 April, 2017. There, two of them poured gasoline on the decking while the third one set it ablaze. The bridge was left with a charred Town Lattice truss skeleton after the fire was put out. The person who had set the fire to the bridge was upset after breaking up with his girlfriend, with whom he had spent time on the bridge. Before his sentencing in June, the person wanted to get out on bail so that he could graduate from high school. He was later arrested for setting a car ablaze in March in West Des Moines. For the bridge he torched, he received a deferred sentence of 10 years in prison and five years probation. His two other accomplices also received suspended sentences and probation. Yet this incident is a reminder of another incident at McBride Bridge in 1984, which was caused by heartbreak. That person, who destroyed the bridge, had to help with rebuilding the bridge as part of the sentence. Sometimes hard labor helps shape a man.  By the way, the Cedar Bridge is being rebuilt again, for the third time. Opening date remains open.

3. Longwood Lane Pony Truss Bridge: Spanning Cedar Run in Fauquier County, Virginia, this pony truss bridge had a very quiet life until a UPS Delivery Truck crossed it on July 17th- or should I say the driver tried to cross it, but it fell in the water. So much for the delivery, not to mention the job as a delivery person. The fastest sometimes had the worst.

This leads to the question of how Judge Milian would handle this, had she seen these three cases in the People’s Court? Would she handle them like above, or even in a case below? What examples an be used? And who would win the case: the owners of the bridges (all of them had been owned a the county) or the defendant? And if the plaintiff, how much would the defendant have to pay- financially and timewise in jail?

This is where the forum is open to the judge, but also to the followers of the People’s Court. 😉

And this wraps up the 2017 Author’s Choice Awards for some of the most bizarre bridge stories. There will be much more for the 2018 Author’s Choice Awards, as there are enough stories to go around there. They will be posted when the winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards come out in January. This time the author means it when he says it will come very timely next time around. So stay tuned! 🙂

 

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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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Gasconade Bridge Relisted for Sale: Any Takers?

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MoDOT has Route 66 Crossing  for sale after failed attempt to buy the bridge. Deadline is March 15, 2019. Bridge will be demolished if no one claims it.

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HAZELGREEN/ JEFFERSON CITY/ ST. LOUIS- One month after Workin Bridges withdrew from the Gasconade River Bridge project, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is looking for a new owner of the bridge that used to serve Route 66. Between now and March 15, 2019, you have an opportunity to claim this prized work- a four-span truss bridge featuring two Parker through trusses, a Pratt through truss and a Warren pony truss span, totaling 525 feet. According to the information on the MoDOT Bridge Marketing Page:

“The Gasconade River Bridge was constructed under State Highway Department project 14-38. The contract for the project was awarded on December 30, 1922 to the Riley & Bailey Construction Company of St. Louis, Missouri. Route 14 was being developed as a diagonal highway connecting St. Louis and southwest Missouri. The highway, designated under the Centennial Road Law passed in 1921, was funded by State Road Bonds, and connected the county seats and major towns between St. Louis and Joplin. In 1926, Route 14 was designated U. S. Highway 66.”

In addition, the bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under criteria A and C for its significance in transportation and engineering, according to the website.

Parties interested in preserving the structure must have a commitment and a plan as to how to go forward with saving the bridge, as the structure has been closed to all traffic since December 2014 because of structural concerns. This includes restoring the bridge for reuse as a recreational crossing, even in its current place. Proposals are being accepted between now and 15 March, 2019 from one or more parties.  In a statement made by MoDOT:

“Due to liability issues and limited funds, we will have to remove the bridge unless an outside entity steps forward to take ownership of and maintain the bridge,” said MoDOT Central District Engineer David Silvester. “We know that’s not what folks want to hear, but it’s the reality of the situation. We are hopeful some entity will step forward with a proposal to preserve the existing structure.”

This setback will not affect the plans for building a new bridge on new alignment adjacent to the existing structure. Bids for building the new bridge will be opened in April, and the project is scheduled to be awarded to a contractor in May. Construction is set to start in July, and MoDOT is expecting to have traffic on the new bridge by the fall of 2019.

Anyone interested in taking ownership of the old bridge can contact Karen Daniels, Senior Historic Preservation Specialist, at 573-526-7346 or Karen.Daniels@modot.mo.gov.

Information available here: http://www.modot.org/freebridges/Gasconade_River.htm

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