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

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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.


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.



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/



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:



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.




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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Apocalyptic Floods Destroy Bridges in Midwest

Sargent Bridge in Custer County, Nebraska- Destroyed by Ice Jam. Photo: wikiCommons

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After record-setting snowfall and cold in the Midwest of the US, residents and farmers are bracing for what could be flooding of biblical proportions. Already in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin, one can see fields converted into lakes and piles of broken ice from rivers and lakes littering streets and Highways. Billions of Dollars in property lost are expected as floodwaters and ice have destroyed farms and killed livestock, while many houses are underwater with thousands of residents displaced. Highways and especially bridges have been washed away, while other forms of infrastructure have caved in under the pressure of high water caused by snowfall, ice on the ground and massive amounts of precipitation.  For residents in Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois and regions along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, where people are sandbagging their homes and communities, while others are evacuating, the scenes out west are a preview of what is yet to come.

The same applies for many historic bridges and other key crossings, for reports of bridges being washed away by flooding or crushed by ice jams are cluttering up the newsfeeds, social media and through word of mouth. While dozens of bridges have been affected, here’s a list of casualities involving all bridges regardless of age and type that have come in so far. They also include videos and pictures. Keep in mind that we are not out of the woods just yet, and the list will get much longer before the floodwaters finally recede and the snow finally melts away. For now, here are the first casualties:


Bridge Casualty List:

Trolley Bridge with its two missing spans. Photo taken by Chris CJ Johnson

Trolley Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa: Spanning Beaver Creek north of I-35 between Iowa’s State Capital and nearby Johnston, this railroad trestle with two deck plate girder spans used to serve a trolley line going along the creek to the northwest. The line and the bridge were converted into a bike trail in 2000. On Wednesday the 13th, an ice jam caused by high water knocked over the center pier, causing the two deck plate girders to collapse. Two days later, the spans floated down the river with no word on where they ended up. No injuries reported. It is unknown whether the bridge will be rebuilt.






Highway 281 Bridge in Spencer, Nebraska: The Sandhills Bridge, spanning the Niobrara River was built in 2003. The multiple-span concrete beam bridge is located south of Spencer Dam. It should now be reiterated as a „was“ as the entire bridge was washed away completely on Monday the 11th.  A video shows the bridge being washed away right after the dam failure:






The main culprit was the failure of the Spencer Dam, caused by pressure from high water and ice. It is unknown when and how both the failed will be rebuilt, even though sources believe the bridge will be rebuilt and open by September.


Carns State Aid Bridge in Rock County, Nebraska: This Niobrara River crossing consists of five arch spans, a Parker through truss and a Pratt through truss- both of them were brought in in 1962 to replace a sixth arch span and several feet of approach that were washed away. The bridge ist he last surviving structure that was built under Nebraska’s state aid bridge program and is listed on the National Register. It may be likely that a couple additional spans will be needed as the south approach going to the truss span was completely washed away in the floods. Fortunately, the rest of the bridge is still standing.


Photo taken by an unknown photographer

Sargent Bridge: Residents in Custer County, Nebraska are mourning the loss of one of its iconic historic bridges. The Sargent Bridge was a two-span, pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings supported by 45° heels; its overhead strut bracings are V-laced with 45° heels as well. Built in 1908 by the Standard Bridge Company of Omaha, using steel from Illinois Steel, this 250-foot long span was no match for large chunks of ice, floating down the Middle Loup River, turned the entire structure into piles of twisted metal. This happened on the 14th. While a photo showed only one of the spans, it is unknown what happened to the other span. One variable is certain: The loss of this historic bridge is immense.


Photo taken by J.R. Manning

Green Mill Bridge near Waverly, Iowa: Time and wear took a toll on this two-span bowstring through arch bridge, which spanned the Cedar River between Janesville and Waverly. A product of the King Bridge Company, the bridge was part of a three-span consortium in Waverly when it was built in 1872. 30 years later, two of the spans were relocated to a rural road northeast of Janesville, where it survived multiple floods, including those in 1993 and 2008. Sadly, it couldn’t survive the ice jams and flooding that took the entire structure off its foundations on the 16th. Currently, no one knows how far the spans were carried and whether they can be salvaged like it did with the McIntyre Bridge in Poweshiek County. The Green Mill Bridge was one of only two multiple-span bowstring arch bridges left in the state. The other is the Hale Bridge in Anamosa.



Photo taken by John Marvig

Jefferson Viaduct in Greene County, Iowa: The Raccoon River trestle features a through truss span built by Lassig Bridge and Iron Works and trestle approach spans built by the both Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Works and the Chicago Bridge and Iron Works Company. The 580-foot long bridge used to serve a bike trail until Friday the 15th when ice took out several feet of trestle approach. Fortunately, the through truss span is still in tact. Given its location though, it may take months until the trestle spans are replaced.





DM&E Fall Colors

Photo taken by Jerry Huddelson

Turkey River Railroad Bridge at Millville, Iowa: This railroad span, located near 360th Street in Clayton County, has not had the best of luck when dealing with flooding. The two-span through truss span was destroyed in flooding in 1991 and subsequentially replaced by three steel girder spans. Two of them were washed away in flooding in 2008 and were replaced. Now all three spans are gone as of the 15th as flooding washed them all out. The rail line, owned by Canadian Pacific, has been shut down until a replacement span is erected with the freight trains being rerouted. It does raise a question of whether having a span in a flood-prone area makes sense without raising the railroad line.



Dunham Park Bridges in Sioux Falls, South Dakota: One of the first cities hit by ice jams and flooding, Sioux Falls was almost literally underwater with floodwaters at every intersection and street as well as the Falls being converted into an apocalyptic disaster, resembling a dam failing and the waters of the Big Sioux River wiping out everything in its path. One of the hardest hit was seen with Dunham Park as floodwaters washed away two mail-order truss bridges almost simultaneously. A video posted in social media on the 14th showed how powerful the floodwaters really were. The bridges were installed only a few years ago. It is unknown if other bridges were affected as crews are still battling floods and assessing the damage. It is however safe to say that the park complex will need to be rebuilt, taking a whole summer or two to complete.

There will be many more to come, as the weather gets warmer, accelerating the snowmelt and making the situation even more precarious. We will keep you informed on the latest developments. But to close this Newsflyer special, here’s a clip showing the raging Big Sioux River going down the Falls in Sioux Falls, giving you an idea of how bad the situation is right now:



That in addition to a reminder to stay away from floodwaters. Signs and barricades are there for one reason- to save your life. Think about it.


Our thoughts and prayers to families, friends and farmers affected severely by Mother Nature’s wrath- many of them have lost their homes and livelihoods and are in need of help. If you can help them, they will be more than grateful…… ❤



Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis, Indiana

Boyd Bridge at Greensburg City Park in Craig, Indiana- a fine product of CSBC. Photo taken by Tony Dillon

This article is in connection with the creation of the database for the Bridge Builder’s Directory in the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ wordpress page, which you can click here to view.

Indiana, together with Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York, were considered the big six in terms of steel construction and bridge building during the heyday of architectural and infrastructural expansion between 1880 and 1920. Steel mills were found between Minneapolis and Pittsburgh, including the metropolises of Chicago, Indianapolis, Canton and Cleveland. Several schools of bridge building existed, which churned out the finest bridge builders and businessmen in the field. This included the Indiana school, which had over a dozen bridge builders, including the longest known bridge builder in the state, The Central States Bridge Company (CSBC). But what do we know about the company and its founder to date?

The company was created in 1895 as the New Castle Steel Sewer Pipe Company by Eugene Runyan and others, with its headquarters in New Castle, IN. It later expanded its services and began building bridges. In 1897,  in response to the changing trends in infrastructural work that included the increasing demand for metal truss bridges, the company changed its name to New Castle Bridge Company and would later receive contracts for bridge building in Iowa, Virginia, and Michigan. In 1905, the company relocated to Indianapolis and was renamed the Central States Bridge Company. Prior to World War I, the bridge company constructed dozens of bridges of its kind in 10 states, including: Indiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Montana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Nebraska and New York.

Lilleberg Bridge
Lilleberg Bridge in Jackson County, MN (1910-1976) Source: Jackson Co. Hwy. Dept.

Many of these bridges have been either documented by the State Historical Societies, HABS/HAER or both and are either listed on the National Register of Historic Places or are considered eligible. Yet many of these CSBC bridges are disappearing fast as they have been either replaced or demolished in the past 20 years. This includes the following bridges:

Lefarge Bridge in Wisconsin: This bridge used to be the Hudson Toll Bridge until it was relocated in 1953 to its final destination. It was documented by HABS/HAER before it was removed in 1983.

Standing Rock Bridge in Montana: This three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge was one of the key historic sites along the Yellowstone River until its replacement in 1991

Little Flatrock Bridge in Indiana: Decatur County was CSBC’s primary customer as a half dozen of its bridges were built there between 1900 and 1916. This one had a fancy portal bracing, yet efforts to save the bridge from the wrecking ball failed, as the bridge was removed in 2000 after its replacement was built. However, the Applegate Bridge has a similar feature and is in storage, awaiting relocation for reuse.

Lilleberg Bridge in Minnesota: The Lilleberg Bridge was one of the younger bridges built by Central States, for it was constructed in 1911. It was the fourth structure at the location and used to be a centerpiece for the now extant village of Belmont. Sadly, flood damage in 1969 resulted in its replacement in 1976 on a new alignment. One can still see the lally columns from the current structure today.


Structures that are still standing include:

Boyd Bridge in Indiana: This used to span Sand Creek at CR 700 before it was relocated to Greensburg Park in Craig in 2006, nicely restored and now part of a bike path.

Bernadotte Bridge in Illinois: This bridge features a Pratt through truss and a Pratt pony truss. Damaged by the flooding along the Spoon River, the pony truss span was taken out of the river and placed on blocks, while the through truss is still standing. Efforts are being undertaken to save the entire structure.

Locust Street Bridge in New York: Located in the town of Waterloo, this 1914 arch structure was the only known bridge of its kind built by CSBC and is still in service today.

Little is known what happened to the Central States except to say that even though the founder, Mr. Runyan, died in 1913, the business continued building bridges well into the 1970s and 80s, according to the Indiana Historical Society during the author’s correspondance in 2007. Whether the company still exists today, either as an independent entity or as part of a larger steel and/or bridge company remains unknown to date, nor do we have much information on the later structures built by CSBC.

If you know more about the company, especially regarding Euguene Runyan’s life and the company’s existence sice 1919 in terms of bridge examples, advertising or other information, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, under the following address: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Further information will be added to this page pending on the information that is received at that time.

In the meantime, check out the list of bridges built by CSBC by clicking on the following links below:

http://bridgehunter.com/category/builder/central-states-bridge-co/- Bridgehunter.com

Historic Bridges.org: Central States Bridge Company



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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Mystery Bridge 39: The fallen Burwell (Nebraska) Bridge

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Burwell,_Nebraska_fallen_bridge_2.JPG

A few weeks back, we received a photo with some information pertaining to this bridge. Located over the North Loup River on what remained of 7th Avenue at present-day Riverside Park, the Bridge at Burwell (coined as Old Burwell Bridge in the bridgehunter.com website) has some mysteries of its own to be solved- in particular, what the bridge looked like and when it was built. What is clear, according to records from the Nebraska Historical Society, floodwaters washed out this bridge- deemed as the lone crossing going in and out of Burwell- on 25 June, 1939. The Nebraska Department of Roads and Irrigation responded by constructing a new crossing a year later, featuring a steel plate girder crossing located 3/4 mile east of the original crossing, where Highways 11 and 91 cross today.

The fallen north portion of the original bridge is all that remains of the Old Burwell Bridge today. Judging by its Art Deco design, the crossing must have been built between 1912 and 1920, when concrete girders, using similar designs, were used either as a substitute to steel or even as a complement to the material that had been used almost exclusively for bridge building up until then. Already, the standardization of bridges had started, where state road departments introduced strict standards in bridge building, including new bridge designs made of concrete, like the girder as seen in the photo above.

Bolson Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa. The 1924 bridge represents an example of standardized truss bridges used during this time. Photo taken in 2007

The question is whether this crossing had been a full-blown concrete girder bridge with more than one span, or whether the fallen span had once been an approach span for another bigger bridge type, like a riveted truss bridge, for example. For the second argument one needs to add the fact that truss bridges were built using riveted connections instead of pinned ones, but despite its sturdiness, they are sometimes prone to flooding, where the span is washed away. Many truss bridges had girder approach spans as they were sturdier than wooden ones, and they enabled passengers to cross the bridge safely.

Keeping these arguments in mind, we have a couple questions to answer with regard to the Old Burwell Bridge:

1. Was the crossing a full fledged concrete beam or girder bridge or was it an approach span to another bigger bridge type, like a truss bridge?

2. When was this bridge built and who was the bridge builder?

3. What were the dimensions of the bridge before flooding washed it away?

Answers to this question can be posted here or on the Chronicles’ facebook page. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Inquiring minds would like to know about the bridge’s history, and the Chronicles is there to help solve the mystery.


Bowstring Arch Bridge in Nebraska declared non-historic- demolition inevitable

Portal view of Steinhart Park Bowstring Arch Bridge. Photos courtesy of James McCray.


A Bowstring Arch Bridge that is not historic?

Before starting in on this subject, here’s a rhetorical question for all pontists and highway engineers who have pre-1950 bridges in their database: Why are historic bridges demolished and replaced? Is it because of structural issues? Is the cost for maintenance too high? What about liability and safety concerns?  And lastly, have you ever been in a situation where you have a historic bridge and you were forced to choose between tearing it down and replacing it or rehabilitating (or restoring) it to prolong its useful life?

Author’s note: Discussions and stories are welcomed both here as well as via facebook and LinkedIn.

There are many reasons for demolishing a historic bridge, but just as many reasons countering it in favor of rehabilitation and restoration, either for further use as a vehicular bridge or reuse as a recreational bridge.  However, one bridge in Otoe County, Nebraska is being replaced as part of the plan to reconstruct and expand the bike trail network, because it is not considered historic.  Logically speaking, if a historic bridge has little or no value in terms of aesthetic appearance and historical significance, or if it was altered to a point where its value has been compromised, it would be understandable.  What is driving historians, preservationists and pontists to the point of insanity is the fact that this bridge is a bowstring arch bridge, a truss type that is becoming rarer to find nowadays.

A bowstring arch bridge, in simple terms is a type of truss bridge where the top chord creates an arch span that is supported by vertical and diagonal beams. It is similar to the Parker Truss design except the fact that the top chord is curved and not polygonal like its cousin. Squire Whipple designed and patented the design in 1848 and various bridge builders have varied their design based on the design of the top chord.  The most common are those with the Phoenix columns (patented by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company) and the H-beam design with bolts sticking out on the top side, which was patented by the King Bridge Company. The longest bowstring arch bridge in the US is the 190-foot long Kern Bridge near Mankato in Minnesota, built in 1873 over the Le Seuer River and closed since 1990. The longest in the world is the Blackfriar’s Bridge over the London River in London, Ontario in southern Canada. The 1878 bridge has a span of 224 feet long. Both of these bridges are works of the Wrought Iron Bridge Company.

Oblique and close-up view of the bowstring arch bridge and the H-framed upper chord.

The Steinhart Park Bowstring Arch bridge, located at the park bearing its name west of Nebraska City is an example of a bowstring arch bridge with H-framed upper chords, but one that is rare in itself in Nebraska. It is unknown where the bridge was originally built, but records indicated that it was relocated to the park to span South Fork Table Creek several years ago. The only modifications done on the bridge was halving the width and replacing some bolts, but it remained in service until its closure because of safety concerns.  Plans were in the making to construct a bike trail that would encircle the western portion of the city and use the park as its hub point, as stated in a recent article by the Hamburg Reporter in Hamburg, Iowa.  This would include using the location of the bowstring arch bridge as a crossing. While the city received a grant for the bike trail network, construction was delayed due to the historic significance of the bridge, hence involving the state historical preservation office  to determine how historically significant the bridge really is.

The decision made by Jill Dolberg that the bowstring arch bridge is not considered historic despite its rarity cleared the last hurdle for the demolition of the structure to commence, but it has sparked an outcry from the bridge and preservation community regarding the treatment of historic bridges by the local government and private sectors.  It also contradicts the way historic bridges are being treated despite being modified for reuse. One has to look across the Missouri River into neighboring Iowa to see enough examples of historic bridges being reused, some of which still maintain their status on the National Register of Historic Places.  Two examples come to mind: the Yellow Smoke State Park Bridge in Dennison (Crawford County ) and the Moneek Bridge in Castalia (Winneshiek County).  The one in Crawford County was constructed in 1945, one of a dozen bowstring arch bridges built at that time to replace the ones that were destroyed in the flooding. The one at Castalia was built by Allen and McEvoy, local contractors , in 1872. Both were relocated to parks when they were rendered useless for vehicular traffic, and despite modifications, both were considered historically significant as they still are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To consider the bowstring arch bridge as non-historic serves as a slap in the face and leads to the question of whether the preservation policies that exist on the state and national levels are sufficient enough, or if tougher measures are needed to ensure that more funding and technical know-how as well as tougher sanctions against owners for neglecting historic properties are needed to ensure that all parties are better informed about the possibilities for restoring historic bridges and making them safer for people to use, while at the same time educate them on how to maintain historic places of interest, rather than neglect them like it was the case with this bridge.

As plans are underway to raze the bowstring arch bridge, making way for a modern and rather bland structure to take its place to serve the planned bike trail, many people will most likely pay homage to the bowstring arch bridge, while at the same time, protest this decision to let go of one of the rarities of Nebraska City. Already the city has lost two key Missouri River crossings to progress (a highway bridge and a railroad bridge built by George S. Morison), and the loss of this bridge will contribute to the city becoming more modern, at the expense of history. The decision to not consider the bowstring arch historic enough- and thus allowing the demolition to proceed- is being scrutinized by many as being one of the most illogical decisions made by a historian or any member working for a state historic preservation office in the country. It is definitely not winning any points with the author of the Chronicles, who might have an award ready for Nebraska City and the Nebraska SHPO to accept…..

Author’s note: Special thanks to James McCray for allowing the author to use of his photos for this article.

REMINDER: Do not forget! Nominations for the 2012 Ammann Awards are still being taken. Deadline for accepting photos, historic bridges and historic bridge preservationist is 1 December. At the moment we have a few entries, but if you submit your entries, the numbers will increase and we will have a wide selection to choose from regarding voting. Act now and make yourself and your entry known! More info can be found here.

Mystery Bridge nr. 3: The Bridges that came from California

Author’s Note: The next two historic bridge entries deal with the bridges in Harrison County, Iowa. While the county has one of the highest number of historic bridges in the state, the uniqueness of it is the fact that a third of them were brought in from out of state in the late 1940s. Why and how are explained below.

Kelly Lane Bridge This and the following photos courtesy of Craig Guttau, used with permission

There are a number of physical and historic features that make Harrison County, Iowa a special place to visit. With the county seat located in Logan (just off US Hwy. 30, the Lincoln Highway), the county presents a day and night feature when it comes to topography. It is one of the hilliest in the state, competing with Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Clayton Counties, thanks to the area near Pisgah known as Loess Hills, which is today a state park. The area used to be a Mormon settlement in the area now known as Preparation Canyon State Park, created by Charles Thompson in 1853. It was short lived and the settlers eventually trekked west to Utah.  Looking to the south and the west of Loess Hills, one can see the flat lands as far as the eye can see. Compared to the altitude of Loess Hills at 430 meters above sea level, the flat plains, at 320 meters above sea level, is one of the flattest areas in Iowa and is part of the Missouri River basin, which starts at Sioux City and flows south towards Kansas City. At least 13 of Iowa’s 91 are located in this deep valley that is rich in farm land, but sadly beset by massive floods. The last time this area was flooded was last year, as the late spring thaw combined with heavy rains turned the Missouri River into the Red Sea, causing billions of dollars in damage and crop loss, and damaging or destroying hundreds of bridges on both sides of the river. It even closed down Interstate 29 from Kansas City to Omaha, forcing a detour through Des Moines along I-35 and I-80, respectively.
Yet the 2011 floods were not the worst of it. According to Michael Finn, who wrote about bowstring arch bridges in Iowa in 2004, the floods of 1946 destroyed almost every single river crossing in the valley in its path, including those along the Soldier, Willow, Nishnabota, Boyer and Little Sioux Rivers. That combined with the scarcity of raw materials, such as steel, and the dire state of the economy as a result of World War II and  President Harry Truman’s attempts of containing Communism in Europe at the expense of money and manpower forced the entire area back into another Great Depression, and  county officials as well as the state had to consider cheap options. While bowstring arch bridges in Crawford County and Bailey truss bridges in Harrison County and other areas were used as they use less steel than other conventional truss bridges, the state also recycled its truss bridges, relocating them to the areas that are needed the most. The reason for this measure is simple: most of the bridges were built at the turn of the century and were still in good condition. They could be dismantled and transported to the new site to be reassembled and reused for vehicular traffic. Most of these bridges were built using steel, which is light weight, durable and flexible. The counterargument to relocating truss bridges was the fact that the information on the bridges was missing or sometimes thrown away, leaving a void to finding out where the structures originated from and who built them. This led to many structures not being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making them prone to demolition.
Harrison County is no stranger to bridge relocation, for at least eight bridges were imported from outside the county between 1946 and 1949. This included the Orr Bridge northeast of Missouri Valley, a Pennsylvania through truss bridge that was built in 1910 but was brought in from Kansas or Missouri. That bridge was removed in 2002. The same applies to the Gochenour Bridge over Willow River, a Pennsylvania through truss bridge that was also built in 1910 before being relocated to its present site, where it still sits to this day. But half of the bridges imported to Harrison County came from a four-span Pratt through truss bridge crossing. This is where the mystery begins.
The four-span bridge features a Pratt through truss design with a three-rhombus Howe lattice portal bracings, whose origins were over the Santa Ynez River near Bakersfield, California. Built in 1918 at a cost of $181,230, the structure was 1369 feet long and was incorporated into US Highway 101, the main artery running along the coastal area, when the US Highway System was introduced in 1926. The Bakersfield Bridge carried the main highway until the increase in traffic because of an influx of people coming to California for work during the Great Depression and the second World War- and with that, the increase in cars- made the structure obsolete. Instead of tearing the bridge down, they were simply dismantled and sold to Western Steel Cutting Company, who then sold the bridge to the Highway Bridge Company of Lincoln, Nebraska. They in turn sold the bridge to Harrison County in 1950 and each of the four 162-foot long truss spans were erected replacing earlier spans that fell to the floodwaters. The bridges were located on Jackson Street over Soldier River in Pisgah, on 340th Street over the Harrison-Monona Ditch near Little Sioux, over Willow River (as Nelson Bridge) southwest of Dunlap and the Kelly Lane Bridge over Soldier River near Mondamin. A couple examples of the Kelly Lane Bridge were provided by local Craig Guttau for the column so that one can see what the four bridges look like.

Kelly Lane Bridge

Sadly however, the days of the original Bakersfield Bridge may be numbered very soon. The Jackson Street Bridge in Pisgah was replaced in 2004 as structural concerns justified its immediate replacement. The Monoma-Harrison Ditch Bridge collapsed due to flood waters last year and despite the potential to rebuild the structure on new foundations, the counties of Harrison and Monoma decided to remove the bridge in its entirety instead. Since April of this year the road leading to the bridge is a sackgasse.

The Monona-Harrison Ditch Bridge (now removed)




The Kelly Lane Bridge, according to county engineer Tom Stoner, will be replaced next year, and the future of the Nelson Bridge is in doubt. In the last decade, at least 15 of the county’s bridges have been removed or replaced without considering alternatives, such as reusing them for recreational purposes and further research on their history. Given the dire state of the roads and bridges in the area, the tend is clearly continuing to focus on abandoning roads and removing crossings in place of focusing on main highways that need the most attention. This includes US Hwy. 30, which slices through the county, running parallel to Union Pacific/Amtrak Railroad, which crisscrosses through Iowa connecting San Francisco and New York/Chicago.

This is not good news as some of the remaining bridges have the potential for becoming part of a bike trail for the towns in the county, let alone Loess Hills State Park. Only one Bailey Truss Bridge has been preserved at a county park according to Guttau, yet it does not mean that it can be the only span located there. As there are some historic bridge parks that exist in the US, including the F.W. Kent Park Complex in Iowa City and the Historic Bridge Park in Calhoun County, Michigan, Harrison County could have a park of its own, using the remaining historic bridges that are still in use but slated for replacement. This would allow for researchers to continue finding out more about the bridges imported from elsewhere, for although the records are sketchy, on the bridges imported in the county, there is still potential to find their origins.
This applies to the original Bakersfield Bridge, where two of the four relocated spans are remaining. Some of the questions pertaining to the bridge are the following:
Was there a bridge that was built prior to the Bakersfield Bridge in 1918?
Who built the structure and where was the steel fabricated from?
What events occurred at the bridge?
What factors led to the replacement of the span?
How was the bridge transported from California to Nebraska before settling in Iowa?
Who was the local contractor for building the four spans in Harrison County?
What did the predeceasing structures look like before 1945?
While inquiring about the bridge through research may help answer some of the questions, leaving the two remaining spans as they are without demolishing them, for display purposes, may be the only option left open to solving the mystery of the bridge’s trek to America’s heartland.

If you have some answers to these questions or have some stories to share about the Bakersfield Bridge or the four relocated spans in Harrison County, please send them to Jason Smith at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  Looking forward to hearing about this interesting bridge story.

The author would like to thank Craig Guttau for the use of his photos for this piece.