The first pic of the week since the move is actually a throwback to last year’s trip to the US. During a week-long stay in Pittsburgh visiting friends and doing some activities, we ran across the first of two bridges, spanning the tracks of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad at West Park. The two spans are nearly identical: Warren pony trusses built in three sets of ten panels (the middle one used to divide the street), each having V-shaped alternating vertical beams and vertical connections. Each were built in 1903 by the Fort Pitt Bridge Works Company in Pittsburgh. The only difference is the fact that they are located 400 feet from each other- one crossing at Ohio Street and this one at Ridge Avenue. Sadly, both spans have been closed for over a decade and were scheduled to be removed at the time of the visit. Yet during the visit in 2018, the two structures were still standing- rather untouched except by nature and walkers who can climb over or pass through the barriers to get to the nearby Children’s Museum on the east end. As both bridges are still standing as of present and are in a park setting, a word of advice to the City of Pittsburgh: If you are cash-strapped and are struggling to catch up on the infrastructural woes (and there are still some since the visit), why not rehab the bridge and make one crossing for cars and another for recreational purposes? It’s affordable. It can generate tourism- especially if you want to add plaques, picnic areas and the like. And it would solve the problem of forcing drivers to take a long detour, which is costly- both financially as well as for the environment. As we’re looking for ways to green up our planet and reduce carbon dioxide levels, it is something to think about.
Author’s note:This is the first podcast since the move and features all the events that happened over the past 2-3 weeks. The most current version of Newsflyer (for the week of August 5th, 2019) will follow.
143-year old historic viaduct, one of the highest in the country is being removed after new replacement span opens.
LETCHWOOD STATE PARK, NY (USA)- The Portage Viaduct at Letchwood State Park was one of the most important attractions in the state. Hundreds of thousands come to Letchwood State Park annually to see a spectacular site- an 820-foot long combination iron and steel viaduct with a height of over 300 feet towering over the falls of the Genessee River. The bridge used to serve Erie Railroad until it was acquired by first Conrail and later, its owner, Norfolk Southern. After 143 years in service, the National Register-listed bridge is coming down. Work has begun to remove the structure, piece by piece, beginning with the railbed, and then dismantling it down to the foundation. The project is expected to be completed by this summer.
This comes after a replacement structure, located 75 feet south of the structure, was open to rail traffic in December. The new bridge, a Warren deck arch bridge with riveted connections and made of heavy steel, was a necessity as the old structure was no longer able to carry heavy rail traffic. Because of heavy traffic combined with shale mining nearby, the contract was let in 2014 to build the new structure which would replace the historic bridge upon its opening. It took two years to build the bridge.
The historic Portage viaduct is actually the third sturcture in the history of the crossing. According to a small essay posted on bridgehunter.com by Sherman Cahal:
“The Erie Railroad completed a wooden crossing of the Genesee on August 16, 1852 at a cost of $175,000. At 234-feet-high and 800-feet-long, with 13 stone piers, it was the largest wooden bridge in the world.”
“The Erie Railroad moved to quickly replace the wooden bridge with an iron and steel structure after it burned in 1875. A contract for a wrought iron bridge was let to the Watson Manufacturing Company of Paterson, New Jersey on May 10, just four days after the fire. Construction began on the second crossing on June 8, 1875, opening to traffic on July 31.”
The third structure came in 1903 but it was only in the form of replacing the iron parts with that of steel, thus making it a full-fledged rehabilitation and renovation of the bridge. The McClintic-Marshall Company of Chicago and Pittsburgh were the contractors for the 1903 viaduct, the same company that built the 1848 High Bridge in New York City (the oldest known bridge in the city), the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit and the Beaver Falls Railroad Bridge in Pennsylvania. The (still) current structure has a combination of deck Pratt truss and girder spans, supported by tall, layered rectangular towers with X-lacing. The connections with the skeletal towers are riveted while the trusses and the lacings are pin-connected. The bridge (and the park itself) were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. The newest bridge that is replacing this one, a product of the American Bridge Company as well as Mojeski & Masters, is the fourth structure on the Northfolk & Southern Route.
Unlike the Kate Shelley Viaduct in Boone County, Iowa, there was no interest in converting the historic viaduct into a walkway pier- neither from the railroad nor from the state park officials, which led to the decision to include the demolition of the bridge in the contract for the new bridge. The historic viaduct in Iowa has been out of service since 2008 when a new one south of the structure was open to traffic and plans to make the bridge an observation point and/or monument has been on the table since then. But the historic Portage Viaduct received no such interest from park and railroad officials because of the importance of progress due to shale mining.
While the new Portage Bridge may eventually replace the historic variant as the new scenic place of photography at Letchwood, there are many who still feel attached to the older bridge and will definitely take the opportunity to photograph the bridge was it comes down, bit by bit….
Just 12 hours after publishing the press release of Part 1 of the Ammann Award winners, there was a lot of positive feedback from our Readers, especially in the category of Best Photo, where Chauncy Neumann came out the winner in that category, followed by Esko Räntilla and lastly, Kevin Skow- just to name the top three of the top six winners of the Awards. However, just after posting the first half of the results, I contacted the winner of Lifetime Achievement Award for an interview, informing him that he had won and asking him if he would be interviewed about his work. His response: cool as heckfire, let’s do it! 🙂 There are two reasons for Nels Raynor to be honored for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first has to do with his many years of hard work in restoring numerous bridges, especially with his company BACH Steel, located in Michigan. There will be more on his successes when the interview is finished and posted. The second has to do with a historic bridge he restored that won an accolade this year. That will come in a bit. But looking at the results, Raynor was in a dog-eat-dog battle with silver medalist James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com throughout most of the competition until he pulled away with 245 votes to Baughn’s 105 in the waning days of the voting process. The Bronze and Tourquois Medals had to be split up among three people in each standing, all of whom had at least 104 votes but the margin between third and fourth place was only a single vote. Nevertheless, the finishing results look like this:
TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:
This category was the only one in the Ammann Awards where each candidate successfully vied for first place and stayed there before being dethroned by another one. Even the bridges in a small town of Rochlitz, southeast of Leipzig, took first place honors for a few days before being outvoted by silver medalist, Winnepeg (Canada) and bronze medalist, St. Petersburg (Russia). It finished in fourth with 92 votes, five less than St. Petersburg. It also marked a first where a candidate was entered twice due to additional bridges that were added after the first run. That was with Glauchau (Saxony), Germany, which finished fifth in the 2016 Awards but because of four additional bridges, plus information from local historians and local publicity from the newspapers, it was reentered in the 2017 competition. It finished fifth, receiving the Quartzite Medal, after receiving 56 votes, far outdoing Quebec City, London (UK) and Cambridge (UK). The winner of the Tour Guide International Award goes to the bridges in the Aue-Schneeberg Region in western Saxony, Germany. Featuring the bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde, Schwarzwasser and Schlema Rivers, the region, which has bridges in the cities of Aue, Schneeberg, Schlema and even Zschorlau finished with 126 votes, after lagging behind Glauchau until the second-to-last day, thus receiving the Gold medal. More Information on the bridges in the region can be found here. Here are the rest of the results:
TOUR GUIDE USA:
There are many characteristics that make this year’s winner a treat to visit. Lehigh County, Pennsylvania has a wide array of covered bridges as well as arch bridges. They include, on the one hand, the Geiger and Rex Covered Bridges- both the oldest still in use- but also the oldest stone arch bridge in Reading (built in 1824) and the Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown, a 1913 arch viaduct that is the longest in the county. That was probably the main reason why the majority of voters selected Lehigh County as this year’s Tour Guide winner. After tangling with Clinton County, New York, Lehigh County received the gold medal with 201 votes, 71 more than Clinton County, which received the Ore Medal with 131 votes. Silver and Bronze go to the bridges in northern West Virginia, where Marshall County finished second with 149 votes and Wheeling finished with only two votes less. Civil war-based arch bridges in Bridges to the Past in Hardin County received tourquois with 132 votes. While the Cleveland Browns Football Team are walking away from the most humiliating football Season on record with an 0-16 record, the people of Cleveland are taking pride in the city’s bridges with 131 voters checking the City in for a fifth place finish and a Quartzite Medal. Here is the final tally of the top six of 14 candidates.
BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE
In perhaps the most intensive finish in the history of the Ammann Awards, the race came down to two bridges, each with its own preservation Story. The Springfield Bowstring Arch was perhaps one of the most successful bridge preservation stories on record, as crews saved the leaning 1871 iron bowstring arch bridge from disaster by dismantling it as well as rebuilding it at its new location at a park in Conway in Faulkner County, Arkansas. For Nels Raynor, Julie Bowers and crew, this 18-month project, which included several volunteers, consultants and historians, was one of the shortest and most successful on record, for it usually takes 2-3 years to accomplish such a feat. But for the crew, it was the most successful story in the company’s history and one of the best in bridge preservation history.
It had some massive competition from another bridge, located in Des Moines, Iowa, in the Green Bridge. The 1898 three-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored on site with new cassion piers and truss bridge parts as well as new decking and lighting and became a posterboy in the face of the city council’s attempts to modernize the Des Moines River crossings by replacing arch bridges with faux arches. Grand Avenue fell victim with Locust and Court Avenues coming up on their plans. With their success Story, perhaps the City will rethink the way they treat their historic structures as they have been on the onslaught by those who think newer and leaner is better. Both Green and Springfield had raced neck-on-neck, changing leads at least two dozen times in the last two weeks of the competition before Springfield finally edged the Green Bridge for Gold Medal by a score of 1720 votes to the silver medalist’s 1682. Bronze went to the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente in Santos, Brazil, with 717 votes. This category had more bowstring arch bridges in the top six than in the past, as the crossings at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Ohio and at Merrimack College near Boston finished in fourth and fifth respectively. The Ore Medal for sixth place goes to the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota, which the Minnesota River crossing garnered 366 votes. 6126 votes were recorded in this category, which was the second best behind the last category of the Awards.
BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:
With 7160 votes total for 13 candidates, the Bridge of the Year category set a new record for the highest number of votes recorded in the history of the Ammann Awards. None of the candidates received less than 200 votes each but there was a fierce competition for first place among five bridge candidates which lasted until the final four days of voting. It was then that 1800 voters selected the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the Cobban Bridge. The 1908 product of Modern Steel Structures Company is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but its future is in peril after county officials voted to close off the bridge to all traffic last year, deeming it unsafe. Officials want to see the bridge replaced by 2021, but locals would like to see the bridge saved and rehabilitated for reuse. There has been on ongoing debate on what to do with the bridge. Despite claims that the cost for rehabilitating the bridge is prohibitive, figures have been revealed as overexaggerating. Could the Cobban Bridge be the next Green Bridge of Des Moines? 2018 will be the decisive year for residents of Chippewa County and the state of Wisconsin as to what will become the lone truss bridge of its design in the state, let alone the last of its kind in the country.
Apart from the Cobban Bridge receiving gold, the silver medal winner went to the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 617 votes, two thirds shy of the triple crown for BACH Steel. The duo truss bridges of Pulp Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire received the bronze with 589 votes, despite having competed with Cobban, fourth place finisher Hvita Bridge in Iceland (which received 580 votes) and the Wave in Glauchau, Germany for first place. Pulp Mill had traded leads with Cobban several times before the last rush put it out of reach by a long shot. The Wave finished tied for 10th with the Green Bridge in Des Moines and well out of medal range. Despite being arsoned for the second time in over a decade, the Cedar Covered Bridge near Winterset, Iowa received the Quartzite and finished fifth with 435 votes, 11 votes more than the ore medal winner, the Covered Bridges of New Brunswick, Canada, the topic of discussion and many stories because of closures due to structural issues and drivers falling through the flooring. Here is the tally in detail:
And with that ends the most intensive but exciting 2017 Ammann Awards. Observing the voting process and watching people get engaged made this round as exciting as the Holiday Season itself, even though the latter was shorter than normal due to Christmas Eve falling on thr Fourth Advent which meant shorter Holiday Shopping and time for Christmas Markets. In any case, with plans of other Websites, like Bridgehunter.com planning to go international and the Chronicles providiing more coverage, including bridge tours, bridge book profiles, interviews and others, it is hoped that the 2018 Ammann Awards will be bigger and more exciting than this year.
While the author of the Chronicles picks his favorites to be published in the next article, those interested in submitting bridges, photos and more should keep in mind that nominations officially begin on October 3rd and end December 3rd. Voting will proceed right afterwards, ending on January 8th, 2019. Winners to be announced on January 12th. For details, click here and/or contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles if you have any questions.
For now, let’s have a look at the Author’s Choice Awards, which follows this article and I must warn you: If you are a fan of Judge Marilyn Milian of the People’s Court, you will have a blast at what she could have said to the stories that made headlines in 2017. Stay tuned! 🙂