Mystery Bridge Nr. 62: Paoli’s Bowstring Arch Bridges

Gospel Street Pedestrian Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon in 2010

Paoli, Indiana has a few notable historic bridges, both past and present, each of which have a unique story. Apart from the now destroyed by two careless driving women carrying tons of water Gospel Street Bridge, built in 1880 by the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company, the town had one of the longest wooden trestle railroad bridges, which was later replaced by a steel structure. Then it has these two bowstring arch bridges, both spanning Lick Creek.  Each one has welded and riveted connections with the top chord being a T-beam. Each one has a main span of 40 feet with approach spans of 30 feet each. While not confirmed, sources pinpoint the date of construction to the 1930s, although it is not clear who built the bridge and how. Given the fact that light steel was used for both crossings, it is possible that they were built using recycled steel that had been used for a historic building or bridge. This concept was used in Iowa during the 1940s in Crawford County (when many crossings that were wiped out were replaced by these bowstring arch spans) and in the 1980s when two trusses from an old building were assembled to create a crossing at F.W. Kent Park near Iowa City.

The difference  between the two crossings- at Gospel Street and at Cherry Street is the truss type. While Gospel Street has a Howe lattice truss type, the one at Cherry Street has a Warren truss type. But even that difference is overshadowed by the fact that there is not much information on the history of the two crossings otherwise- neither the exact date nor the bridge builder.

Or is there? If so, please feel free to comment or contact the Chronicles, using the contact info in the page About the BHC. Any leads will help contribute to knowing more about the bridges and why they are used as pedestrian crossings, let alone preserve what is left of Paoli’s bridge history. With two major HBs down, it is the responsibility of the city to save what is left of the town’s history, and this by knowing more about the crossings that still exist.

Cherry Street Bowstring Arch Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon on 2012


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Canadian Bridges washed away






Unprecedented Flooding in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and with that several bridges gone

Of all the areas in the world that have been prone to flooding over the last 15 years, including those along major rivers, western Canada was one of the places where flooding was least expected. During the time span between the 20th of June and present,  many small to medium sized rivers became large bodies of water, with raging rapids and mudslides, taking towns and large cities by surprise, when no one expected it. For many regions, this is the worst flooding since the 2005 Floods, which was considered the 100-year flood.   The hardest hit areas were places in the Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, where many communities located next to rivers were underwater in a matter of minutes. All of Calgary, the city of 3 million inhabitants located at the junction of the Bow and Elbow Rivers was flooded out (as seen in a video clip shown here), with other communities, like Medicine Hat, Canmore and High River sustaining considerable flood damage despite people fighting to keep the floodwaters in the river. The cost of repairs and reconstruction is expected to be in the billions of US Dollars and like the areas in Europe that are drying out from their Great Flood, Canada will most likely enter a recession for cities like Calgary, considered engines for economic growth, will suffer from millions of Dollars in lost revenue.

The unexpected flooding wiped out many bridges in the region and caused considerable damage to others, some to a point of collapse. No matter whether they were pedestrian crossings, railroad bridges or even bridges being constructed, no bridge was safe from the raging waters of the swollen river unless they were inspected, rehabilitated or built higher than the dikes.  While some bridges, like the Finlay Bridge in Medicine Hat were spared flood damage, some, like the Bragg Creek Bridge near Calgary was used as a buttress to shred houses washed away as seen in the video. But unfortunately for many bridges, like the ones highlighted here in this article, they were not so lucky. Here are the highlights of some of the bridges reported that were affected by the floods in one way or another:

Bonnybrook Bridge undermined by flood waters, collapses

Many of Calgary’s bridges, both old and new, were damaged substantially, as the Bow and Elbow Rivers turned the metropolis into Venice, and the bridges were undermined either through the severe erosion of the abutments, a span or two being washed away, or in this case, water currents undermining one of the piers of the Bonnybrook Railroad Bridge, spanning the Bow River next to another bridge.  While the bridge was inspected 18 times during the floods, it would have needed a 19th or 20th check-up to see that the pier was instable enough to cause two spans of a five-span pony truss bridge to partially collapse on 27 June in the afternoon with train coaches parked on the bridge to hold down the weight. The owner of the bridge, Canadian Pacific (CP) worked with haste to pull the wagons off the bridge. Despite this questions are being raised as to whether the bridge inspections were thorough enough, and that the extra work would have been needed to see that something was seriously wrong with the 1920 structure. It is expected that a new bridge built 4-6 feet higher- just as high as its neighboring bridge located 150 feet from the collapsed span- will be needed to accomodate rail traffic. A link to the story with videos can be found here. More information on the fate of the Bonnybrook Bridge will come here on the Chronicles.

Fish Creek Provincial Park and Bridges a total loss

Many pedestrian bridges including a pair of suspension bridges in and near Calgary were destroyed during the flooding. This include a couple at Fish Creek Provincial Park. Consisting of two sections straddling the Bow River featuring a dozen bridges, a zoo, golf course, bike trail and a natural area, this area was no stranger to disasters, for seven bridges on the western section of the park were wiped out during the 2005 floods and had to be replaced. Even though they were for the most part spared the flooding, three bridges were severely damaged or were destroyed this time around. This includes a bridge whose structure and abutment were completely washed away down the river, and a newly built MacKenzie Pedestrian Bridge, built in 2007. All that is left of the bridge is its Warren through truss span above the river as the approach and abutments were washed away. Another pedestrian bridge near the park, a beam bridge, suffered a similar fate. The cost of repairing or replacing the bridge represents a fraction of the cost for rebuilding the park, which is expected to be in the millions of US Dollars and will take at least 1-2 years to be fully restored. More information about the park and the bridges can be found here.

Bragg Creek Bridge survives onslaught of floating house

While this bridge represents an example of a bland plain grey concrete bridge built a few years ago to replace a previous structure, this structure made headlines in another way, for a spectator filmed a two-story house that had been washed into the creek and was floating at over 80 kilometers per hour when it encountered the structure and its center pier. Upon impact, the house was reduced to a pile of rubble. While the damage to the bridge was only slight, the owner of the house will have to go to the drawing board to design a new house.  A video of the impact can be viewed here.

To summarize the whole event in one sentence would be difficult except to say that the region is a whole mess right now, and people are working to rebuild their livelihoods. A difficult road is ahead of them for many homes, buildings and even bridges, damaged by the floods may have to be torn down and replaced. Already there was talk of Calgary tearing down over 100 buildings damaged by flooding. Yet this is only part of the rebuilding process as local and provincial governments and residents alike are working to ensure that the next flood of biblical proportions will not destroy the region again, for the third time may force many to leave the region for good. However, such preventive measures will come at a price, which includes redrawing the landscape and infrasturcture to ensure a three-peat will never happen.