Mystery Bridge Nr. 83: The Twin Bridges of Salisbury, CT

salisbury ct bridges
Postcard courtesy of Dana and Ray Klein

After some time looking at the mystery bridges in the German state of Saxony, our next Mystery Bridge takes us back to the United States and the community of Salisbury in northwestern Connecticut. With a population of 3655 inhabitants, the town, incorporated in 1741, is part of the New York Metropolitan Region, which encompasses the entire state. Salisbury is laden with many historic buildings dating back to the time of its incorporation, some are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Because of its proximity to Mount Frissell in Massachusetts, the community is situated on the highest point in the state, with an elevation of 2380 feet above sea level. And lastly, the community has six lakes and several ponds. And with that come many bridges, although in high numbers.

And with the high number of bridges in the community, come the difficulties of finding rare structures and mystery bridges with missing information, like these two bridges in the postcard above.

Posted recently on bridgehunter.com by Dana and Ray Klein, one can see clearly that the bridge on the left was for pedestrians- on the right for horse and buggy and later, the Model T cars. The setting is around the turn of the century because of their design and appearance. Given the high number of trees and the given facts above, the twin bridges spanned a waterway connecting a pair of lakes and/or ponds. The question here is where exactly the bridge is located.

A closer look at the two bridges show that the material used for construction was clearly iron (most likely, cast iron), for two reasons:

  1. The pedestrian bridge features a curved design, namely curved endposts, and appears to have some artistic designs on the trusses, similar to the ones found at Central Park in New York City. These bridges were built in various areas between 1865 and 1880. It’s unknown what exactly the truss type was given the transversal view in the postcard.
  2. The vehicular bridge featured a Parker pony truss span, using the earliest design by C.H. Parker when it was patented in 1884. The connections were pin-connected, but unlike other regular Parker designs built after 1890, the upper chord consists of eyebar beams built in short lengths per panel with four or five put together. The vertical and diagonal beams are integrated into this mechanism and pins are used to connect all of them. In the picture, you can see how far apart they are, in comparison with conventional pin-connections, whose vertical beams are inserted into the upper chord, and pins are used solely for the diagonal beams. When Parker introduced his design, wrought iron was already being used, even though it was being phased out in favor of steel because of its flexibility and tolerance to heat. From 1890 onwards, all truss bridges were being built using this material. Therefore, because iron was used for circular designs and ornaments, in comparison to steel used for other geometrical shapes, such as rectangular ones, the bridge was built between 1885 and 1890.

Both bridges are long gone, but it would be curious to know the following questions:

  1. Where were the bridges located?
  2. When were the bridges built? The Parker was most likely between 1885 and 1890, while the pedestrian span was built before 1885.
  3. Who built the bridge?
  4. What were the dimensions of the two bridges?  For both, it appears to have the length of between 40 and 70 feet. The pedestrian span had a width of between 10 and 20 feet; the vehicular one, between 15 and 25 feet.
  5. When were they removed? Most likely because of the progressive development of the infrastructure combined with population growth, they were gone before 1960 latest, unless they were relocated. If relocated, where could one see the bridge today?

Do you know about the bridges, then send the author a line or post the information on the Chronicles’ facebook page. You can also comment on bridgehunter.com, where the postcard came from. In either case, we would like to know more about the structures.

So happy bridgehunting! 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 57: Havenga Bridge in South Africa

Havenga Bridge
Havenga Bridge over the Orange River. Photo taken by Ronel Le Roux Cilliers, used with permission

At 2,200 km in length, the Orange River, which goes by many names in different languages, is the longest river in South Africa. Starting in the Maloti Mountains in Lesotho, the river slices through the state before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay. The river is characterized by having steep valleys and wooded areas in a country that features a combination of mountains, savannas, lakes and deserts in general.

According to records, 32 crossings and three dams are reported to exist, even though the numbers may be a bit higher because of the river’s length and the towns it passes through, such as Preiske, Kakamas, Groblershoop, Hopetown, Douglas and Oranjemund. None of them have sufficient information on their length and history. This includes the Havenga Bridge, located between Vanderkloof and Orania, our mystery bridge profile.

Close-up of the portals of the outer truss spans
Close-up of the portals of the outer truss spans

Fellow pontist Ronel Le Roux Cilliers brought this bridge to the attention of the pontists in the Bridges facebook page, and with that to the attention of this author. While he has yet to visit Africa, this bridge is high on his places to visit list because of its unique features. First of all, the bridge features seven through truss spans. The center span is a Parker through truss with A-.frame portals whose bottom bracing is polygonal, like the truss design itself. The outer spans features three Pratt through trusses on each side of the center span. The weirdest feature of these spans are the portal bracings and endposts, where the top part features a trapezoidal beam design. The endposts are unusual as they are double-barreled with the inner portion featuring lattice bracing on the inner portion and the outer endposts are flat beamed. Normally for all truss bridges, endposts are single-barreled, like this bridge below:

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

Also more unique about the Havenga Bridge is the outer truss spans are much narrower than the center span. That span is estimated to be between five and seven meters (15 and 21 feet) wide, the outer spans a meter  (3-4 feet) narrower. It is unknown how long the bridge is total, but it is estimated that the bridge is close to 500-600 meters (1500- 1800 feet) long total with the longest span being 50- 70 meters (150- 210 feet) and each of the outer spans being 40-50 meters (120-150 feet long. Exact measurements would be needed to confirm the bridge’s dimensions. Even more important is when the bridge was constructed, for the plaque on the north end of the bridge is believed to have been built in 1934. It is unknown who the contractor was, but given the fact that South Africa was once a colony ruled first by the Dutch and later the British thanks to the Boer Wars, it is possible that the bridge builder may have come from the British Commonwealth or the Netherlands, especially because the truss design and portal features are typical in the region. More information would be needed to determine the exact date of construction, why it was needed, and who was responsible for the construction of the structure. It is possible that the original spans were Parker trusses, but the outer trusses were replaced at one point. Some are speculating the replacement dates being in the 1990s, but these are only speculations that need to be supported with pure facts. It is known that the entire bridge has riveted connections, which was typical of bridge construction at that time.

The bridge presents a beauty that has to be seen when visiting South Africa as a touring pontist or a tourist with an interest in history. What is lacking is the history of the bridge, and this is where your help is needed. What do you know about the bridge in terms of its history and/or features? Place your comments below or send them to Jason Smith at the Chronicles using the contact info in the About page. It is hoped that we can collect enough information to solve the mystery of the Havenga Bridge, but more so to open the can of beans and explore the Orange River and the other bridges that exist. Many of them are either just as old or even older than this bridge. May the Havenga Bridge open the stage for more bridges to be profiled in the Chronicles and beyond.

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