Mystery Bridge Nr. 150: The Raritan River Bridge at Bound Brook, New Jersey

Source: https://bridgehunterschronicles.files.wordpress.com/2021/05/a2916-1875raritanriverbridge.jpg

Our 150th Mystery Bridge takes us to Mannville, in Somerset County, New Jersey, located west of Edison and even New York City. This bridge came to our attention on bridgehunter.com because of its fancy portal bracings as well as the vertical end posts. Judging by the plaque on the portal bracing, the bridge was built in 1875. Judging by its features and the fact that steel was not as comonly used as it was 15 years later, this bridge was definitely built of either cast or wrought iron. The number of spans, judging by the tunnel view, is between four and six, thus making the length of the entire bridge between 200 and 400 feet long. The structure used to serve a railline connecting the area with Philadelphia and Reading in Pennsylvania. In fact, the bridge was part of the Philadelphia-Reading Railroad consortium, which was established in 1833 and had been in service until 1976. It was one of the oldest railroads in the country.

The bridge was replaced with a two-span Parker through truss though the date is not given, nor is there information in bridgehunter.com. Hence the first question that comes about is when the present-day span was built and this span removed.

It is unknown what type of truss was used for this railroad bridge, though at first hand, it appears to have been a Howe through truss design. Yet at the time of its construction, other truss designs were also used that have Lattice features, such as the Post, Whipple and even Pratt. So looks can be deceiving. So the next question is what type of truss bridge was this crossing.

And lastly, the third question behind this bridge is who built this to begin with and what was the motive behind the portals and end posts, which are not only typical for iron truss bridges during that time, but also one of the most ornamental of the bridges in the area? Although these trusses are rare to find these days, decorative truss bridges show not only the engineer’s signature but also the artwork that was put into the structure, especially when it comes to cast or wrought iron. These were dominant between 1870 and 1895 when steel became the norm for truss bridge construction and with it, sleeker truss designs with letter-shaped portals, such as the common A-frame, as well as W, M, WV, and MA, as well as Howe Lattice.

To to review the questions we need to solve for this research:

  1. When was the truss bridge replaced by the current structure?
  2. What type of truss bridge was this crossing?
  3. Who was behind the design for this railroad crossing?

And with that, best of luck with the research. Feel free to submit your comments here if you find some information on the bridge. Happy Bridgehunting and happy trails! 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 93: The Unusual Railroad Truss Bridge (or Bridges) in the Erzgebirge

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ERLA-CRANDORF (SAXONY); GERMANY- Not far from the towns of Markersbach and Schwarzenberg is our next mystery bridge. This one is located over the Schwarzwasser River in the small town of Erla. First mentioned in the history books in 1308, Erla and its neighboring village Crandorf are located three kilometers southwest of Schwarzenberg. Combined, they have a population of only 2000 inhabitants, with Erla having 850. The two communities had been a joint entity from 1925 until it became part of the Schwarzenberg consortium in 1999, which remains to this day. While Crandorf is located on top of one of the mountains in the Erzgebirge, Erla is wedged deep in the Schwarzwasser Valley and is easily accessible by rail and by highway, both leading to Johanngeorgenstadt, which is at the border between Germany and the Czech Republic.

This bridge is one of the most unusual through trusses one can visit. It is located 50 meters from the train station and right next to the steelworks, which has existed as long as the community. When looking at the bridge from a distance, it appears a duo span that are siamese twins, meaning one truss bridge is connected to a larger truss span. Upon further view, the bridges are indeed separate, but the spans are different in size and age. The only similarity is that they are both Warren trusses with subdivided vertical beams, yet the larger one has a Scharper design.

The larger span features a through truss span with a 45° skewed portal bracings, which stretches three panels on the right side of the truss. Both the portal and the strut bracings are I-beamed shaped, while the first left panel has a vertical bedstead endpost and 60° heel bracings supporting the first strut and the portal bracings. All beams are mainly I-beam, with the vertical beams being H-beam. All connections are riveted. Every panel has a heel bracing on the bottom end of the decking. The bridge is 25-30 meters long and about 10 meters wide. It is taller than the neighboring pony truss bridge by 2 meters. The bridge is much newer with the only engraving being the name of the steelworks company, the Friedrichshutte, based in Laubach (Hesse), which is east of Frankfurt (Main). It is very likely that the bridge was built after German Reunification and is between 10 and 20 years old. But when it was built is unknown.

It is just as unknown as the pony truss span  located right next to it. The bridge is definitely older, yet the question is how old. The Schwarzenberg-Johanngeorgenstadt-Karlsbad route was built in 1883, and the railroad was rerouted between Erla and Schwarzenberg in 1946, which included the elimination of the tunnel going underneath the castle in Schwarzenberg. The chances of the pony truss span being built during Communist times is likely as riveted and welded trusses began to take over trusses with pinned connections in 1910. Bridges built to replace those destroyed during World War II were built using this type of connections on the trusses. This pony truss bridge has welded connections as it was built using T-beams. Even the gusset plates are welded into the beams making it sturdier. What is unique about the pony truss span is its unusual skewed span. It appears that the skew is 60°+ or misaligned by four panels, which makes it unusual for a skewed truss span. The vertical beams feature a pencil-like thin trapezoidal design, where the beam’s width is 25 cm, yet the beams narrow to form a pencil chewed on both ends- with 40 cm from the top and 25 cm from the bottom chord. The truss is 2 meters tall and the width is about eight meters. Because of its age and narrowness, it was subsequentially replaced but never removed. Even though it has been fenced off, it appears that a bike or pedestrian trail may be in the works in the long term, especially as there is a bike trail already in existence between Aue and Schwarzenberg. If it is the case, it may be an advantage for those wishing to bike up the mountains.

A photo gallery of the two bridges is below. If you know more about the bridges, feel free to contact the Chronicles. The main questions to be answered are: What more do we know about the history of the bridges? What did they look like before 1945? When were the two bridges built? And in the case of the pony truss bridge, who was the bridge builder? Any ideas and help would be much appreciated.

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An Interview with John Marvig

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Photo of John Marvig in front of the (now extant) Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone County, Iowa

When we think of historic bridges, we think of roadway bridges built of metal or stone, having truss, arch, suspension or beam designs, each of which has a well-documented history pertaining to the date of construction and the builders, as well as its significance to the community and infrastructure. It is rare to find history of railroad bridges that had made a different in a community…..

….that is unless you are John Marvig.

Since his 6th grade year, Marvig has been travelling the Midwestern US, photographing and documenting historic and modern railroad bridges for his website. Since its inauguration in 2011, the website has over 1200 bridges, big and small, covering eleven states and counting. The secret to the Chaska (Minnesota) native’s success as a railroad bridge photographer and writer I wanted to find out through this interview, as Marvig won the 2016 Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement, the youngest person to ever have received this distinction. Here are some Q&As conducted with this now sophomore at Iowa State University, majoring in Civil Engineering:

BHC: What got you interested in historic bridges; in particular, railroad bridges?

Marvig: When I was a kid, there was a bridge on I-494 in South Saint Paul known as the Wakota Bridge. That old tied arch structure always interested me, and I always took note when we drove to my grandparents farm in Wisconsin. Along the way, there were a number of other bridges I would take notice of from a young age. When I was younger, I had also wanted a model railroad. One thing led to another, and I would be taking pictures of a local railroad bridge by the fall of my 6th grade year. It grew from there, and became a full blown passion (or obsession, depending on how you look at it). Another bridge, an old railroad swing bridge located in my hometown of Chaska was always fascinating to me, since it only continued to exist in memory. Seeing the history that was lost really encouraged me to peruse my passion.

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North Redwood Railroad Bridge. Photos taken by John Marvig and avbailable via website.

BHC: What got you interested in historic bridges; in particular, railroad bridges?

Marvig: Creating my website was an idea that was formulated in a 7th grade technology class where we learned basic coding. John Weeks runs a website with numerous bridge photos on it, which also captivated my interest. From an early and very basic website to the full blown site it is now, it has steadily grown. I have well over 1000 bridges documented, I am just waiting to get the pages created! The hardest part is coding the pages. I manually code them, instead of using a form which automatically creates the pages (similar to Bridgehunter). This allows me the flexibility to change pages to meet the needs of the specific structure or the intended audience. However, this can be very time consuming. A page I have been working on for the Eads Bridge in Saint Louis took nearly 4 hours from start to finish to create. I continue to anticipate the site growing steadily. I have a waiting list of pages to add of over 350, and that list grows often.

 

BHC: Your focus on your website is railroad bridges. What makes them special in comparison to highway bridges?

Marvig: Railroad bridges, in my opinion, are the pinnacle of American engineering. While highway bridges were not built to carry a heavy load, railroad bridges were constructed to carry a load of many times a typical highway bridge. This results in some bridges that are engineered to perfection. In addition, railroad companies rarely reported construction of bridges and oftentimes did weird things such as relocation of spans. This makes it a unique challenge to document and research these structures.

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Crookston Railroad Bridge.

BHC:  Many railroad companies try to repel photographers and bridgehunters from photographing RR bridges. Why is that and how did you successfully managed to do that?

Marvig: Railroad companies are afraid of the liabilities of people being on their property. I have gotten around this by using public access, asking other landowners or walking along the riverbanks to the structure. My most important goal is to stay safe and set a positive example for others.

 

BHC:  Set a positive example- what examples?

Marvig: Two ways to look at this. The first is safety and to obey the rules. Walking on railroad property or bridges is very dangerous, and I try to use it as a last resort to get to bridges. On my site, I generally make notes of how I got to the bridge so others will hopefully follow that route. The other positive example I like to set is the strive for preservation and passion I demonstrate. I hope this spreads to others and we can see a positive turnaround in bridge preservation.

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Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque. This span was one of several from the 1868 span over the Mississippi River

BHC:  Did you have any confrontations with landowners accusing you of trespassing or other items? Many bridgehunters have dealt with this problem over the years- yours truly included on many occasions.

Marvig: I have. While I generally find that landowners are more than happy to talk to myself and my father, who often accompanies me on these trips, I have seen some people I hope not to deal with again. I would say 90% of people are nice and usually interested, and oftentimes tell their life story. I have however had instances of some real cranks. I’ve had hunters “accidentally” shoot my direction, I’ve had ladies in trailers yell at me because I’m parked on a public gravel road and I’ve had others claim a public road is theirs. However, a vast majority are some of the nicest people I’ve met; and in a few cases people I’ve kept in contact with.

 

BHC:  Bridge historians, like Eric Delony have often mentioned of railroad companies being very hesitant re. nominating railroad bridges deemed historic on the National Register because of their historic significance. From your experience, is this the case and if so, why is that?

Marvig: This is true. One example is the Redstone Bridge in New Ulm, Minnesota. The railroad has refused to nominate the structure repeatedly, even though the state attempted to get them to. This structure is an 1880 swing span, and one of the oldest known in America. Despite this, if the railroad chooses to demolish it, nobody can do anything about it. Fortunately, the State of Minnesota has said they will not let Canadian pacific demolish the structure, and when it is abandoned it should be preserved.

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Redstone Bridge spanning the Minnesota River in New Ulm.

BHC: Is the Redstone Bridge still in service?

Marvig: Yeah, its part of a spur to a quarry. I’m really hoping it is abandoned soon. With CP not doing well financially, I really hope that we can see a step in preservation made within the next decade

For more on the bridge, please check out the Tour Guide on the Bridges of New Ulm by clicking here. People in New Ulm as well as officials at the State Historic Preservation Office in St. Paul are interested in saving this bridge and nominate it on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

BHC:  What can be done to convince railroad companies to nominate their bridges to the Nat. Reg. as well as restore the bridge for future use? What examples have been mentioned?

Marvig: In my opinion, the only real thing that can be done is to make it worth it for them financially.  If an incentive was offered to a railroad to bypass historic bridges and preserve them, I’m quite sure they would be willing.

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Colfax Railroad Bridge in Wisconsin

BHC: Which RR bridges have you been involved in which has been successfully inducted into the National Register?

Marvig: While I do not believe any of the bridges I’ve helped preserve are listed as a separate listing on the NR, the railroad bridge across Main Street in Carver, MN (about 10 minutes from home) was to be demolished in 2011, but I worked with the city to preserve it. I believe it might be listed as a contributing resource currently.

 

 BHC:  Which RR Bridges you were involved in was converted into a Rails for Trails Crossing?

Marvig: Currently, I have not had any converted to trails. However, the bridge in Carver is eventually scheduled to become a trail. In addition, I’ve been working with the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis to preserve and convert the Short Line Bridge. The Missouri River Bridge in Bismarck is another example of a structure I am working to get preserved for this use.

 

 BHC: Which Railroad Bridge is your all time favorite?

Marvig: It’s hard to determine what my favorite bridge is, as there are a large number of structures I love. The Redstone Bridge in New Ulm, as well as the northwestern bridge in Eau Claire are two of my favorite bridges. These were both built in 1880 and are extremely old examples of rare truss types.

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Chicago and Northwestern Viaduct in Eau Claire, Wisonsin. This quintuple Warren deck truss bridge is now a bike trail crossing.

 

 BHC: If there is a person who is interested in bridge photography, what tips would you give him/her?

Marvig: As for tips for others, I would suggest starting with places you have passion for. If there is a bridge in town that you want to know more about, go take some pictures. Unique and historic bridges are going the way of the dodo bird in the United States, and photography is a form of preservation.

 

 BHC: And what about establishing a website like you have? The last question includes the use of social media, wordpress and the question of making a magazine out of it.

Marvig: To create a website, be prepared to have a large chunk of time taken up. The initial coding is tough, and manually adding pages is a long process. Research is also essential. I think I’ve spent several hundred dollars on research since 2010, as google doesn’t provide all answers. My biggest advice though is to create your website to be expandable. Make sure it has as many features as you want. I have 1200 pages on my site currently, and I’m working on reviewing and adding new features to these pages. It’s a lot easier to correct 12 pages than 1200.

Regarding social media, that isn’t my strong point. However it is essential to be able to reach out to a new audience to educate and inform about historic bridges. When I first started doing bridges in 2009, social media was a rather new invention, and I did not invest time heavily in it. Currently, I spread my message of bridges through both Facebook, and Instagram.

BHC: Thank you for your time for this interview.

Marvig: No problem.

To learn more about his work, click onto his website here. There you can find details of every bridge he’s visited, which includes its history and dimensions, as well as the number of trains crossing it daily (for most crossings). He has updated his website regularly and therefore, it is necessary to visit the site often. Enjoy some railroad facts and figures. 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 66: The Railroad Viaduct at Grosskorbetha

Photo taken in 2011
Photo taken in 2011

While on the subject of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt as there is a quiz on this subject (click here to challenge yourself), there are a few historic bridges in the state that many of us don’t know about. Many of them have been abandoned, and the little records that may have existed in the past vanished because of war and political oppression. Saxony-Anhalt was one of five German states that fell under the rule of two different dictators between 1933 and 1990: The first with Hitler and the second under Communism. During that time, records of these structures were either lost or altered in an attempt to prop up the goodness of these two regimes, when they anything but that.

This railroad viaduct in Grosskorbetha is one of these gigantic structures that has been sitting abandoned for decades and whose records on its history may have been lost to time and the iron fist. Grosskorbetha is a village in southern Saxony-Anhalt thatis the bridge between the industrial area to the north and the wine industry to the south. It is a transitional point in terms of landscape where going south, one can see the limestone hills lining along the Saale and Unstrut Rivers. Going north, it has nothing but flat plains. It is an outlyer to the megalopolis region of Leipzig and Halle, which includes Bad Durrenberg, Merseburg, Schkopau, Delitzsch and Bitterfeld-Wolfen.  And it is the Grand Central Station (or in German terms, Hamburg Hauptbahnhof) for all freight trains, especially as they branch off into three parts going north: to Leipzig, to Halle and to the petroleum area in Leuna.  For passenger train service, no one can escape seeing these trains and industrial complexes when passing through.

And for this railroad bridge, which is an nine-span closed spandrel concrete arch bridge, it is the structure which one will pass through by train, noticing all the cracks and spalling, the barriers keeping everyone off the structure, but one will have a difficult time photographing it. This shot was taken by train but at speeds of 120 km/h. The bridge is located a kilometer north of the train station, which makes walking ti the structure impossible, given the high volume of traffic at this junction. Even Nathan Holth would face the wrath of the Bahn in one form or another if he was to even try to walk to the bridge. 😉  But what we can say about the bridge is it is at least 80 years old, and it has withstood damages caused by war, wear and tear and trains passing through. Crossing the main passenger lines heading to Leipzig and Halle, one could say the bridge is well over 170 meters long. And the width is enough to hold vehicular traffic in both directions, especially when it connects Leuna and Grosskorbertha.  But…..

What else do we know about this bridge?  Any ideas in English or German would be of great help.

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Author’s Tip: As a tip when photographing bridges like these: If you cannot zoom in with your camera, try by train, but use the speed modus, and fire away as you approach the bridge. If you miss, turn around and try when the train goes away from the bridge. The second step is easier than the first, but you will be able to get a “drive-by” shot while the train is in motion.  My success here came after the train passed through the bridge, except it was with the red regional trains which have since been decommissioned due to age.  They featured windows you can open and stick your arms and camera out for a good shot.  With the newer trains by the rail service Abellio, the windows are fixed shut and it may be more difficult to photograph with a closed window, but still, it is doable.

 

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Guessing Quiz: Name that bridge type

Photo courtesy of Luke Harden

 

Beginning in April, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will start a series on unusual bridge designs- namely bridge designs that were not commonly used for roadways and railroads but were built for experimental purposes.

This bridge is one of them. Before talking about the truss type, take a look at the picture above. This was discovered by fellow pontist Luke Harden and was brought to the author’s attention shortly before Easter. The bridge spanned the Wapsipinicon River in Independence, in northeastern Iowa. It consisted of two truss spans, yet when looking closely at the bridge, it features a rather unusual truss design. It is not necessarily a Warren truss for the diagonal beams form a W-shape. Yet it is not a Whipple, nor a Bollmann, for the diagonal beams slice through three panels before meeting the A-frame panel, which is also sub-divided.

 

 

 

 

 

This leads to the Chronicles’ Guessing Quiz, featuring two questions:

1. Name that truss type.

2. When was it built, in your opinion?  As the bridge no longer exists, the other question is when was it removed.

You can leave your answers in the Comment section either here or in the facebook pages bearing the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ name.  The answer will be given at this time next week, with some interesting facts about this truss bridge type.  Good luck with the guessing!

Mystery Bridge nr. 8: The Bridge near Seymour, Indiana

The Dudleytown Bridge and dredge boat. Photo provided by Lori Day

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been receiving numerous requests from people who know a bridge located near their place of residence, which lacks information on its history. This is the first of many mystery bridges to be posted in the Chronicles. And how coincidental  it is to have a mystery bridge profiled on the eve of the upcoming Historic Bridge Conference, hosted by Tony Dillon, which takes place in two weeks.
Indiana is rich with numerous historic bridges made of steel or iron that are 70 years old and older. While one can expect to see at least six of them in each county on average, the number still existing is roughly half the number that existed in 1985. The Mystery Bridge, located over the Muscatauck  River between the villages of Dudleytown and Uniontown, located south of Seymour in Jackson County is one of those structures that have long since disappeared.
Or is it the case? That’s the question Lori Day is asking. She came across an old photo of the bridge and is requesting some information on its history and in particular, where it was located. As seen in the picture above, the bridge is a Pratt through truss structure with possible riveted connections. There are a total of eight panels. According to Day, the photo was taken during the time that the river was being dredged by a dredgeboat (as seen in the picture.)
When I had a closer look at the bridge, I checked James Baughn’s website, Historic Bridges of the US to see if this bridge matches those of the bridges profiled in Jennings and Jackson Counties. One of the possibilities may have been that the bridge was located closest to highway 250. Yet the nearest crossing is located about 20 miles south of Seymour and the newest structure was built in 1968. However, there is a railroad bridge located a half mile south of the crossing. The present structure appears to be a rail trestle according to Bing. According to Ms. Day, the railroad was owned by Penn Central and is now part of CSX. Judging by the picture provided by Ms. Day, the bridge was rather narrow and there were rail ties on the bridge deck. It is possible that the crossing was indeed a railroad bridge. Yet the truss span was so small that it might have resembled the Staples Ford Bridge, the bridge closest to the mystery bridge profiled here. The crossing  was built in 1897 but was replaced in 1995. But the question is, is this the bridge the same one that is profiled here or is it a different one located near Seymour but managed to slip past the records and has long since disappeared? Could be that the mystery bridge may have been relocated somewhere else or if it was demolished and replaced? If it was relocated, when did this take place an where was it relocated to?
For those who have some information pertaining to this bridge, together with the history of Dudleytown, Uniontown and Seymour, there are three different types of contact info you can use to help put the puzzle together. They can be found at the end of this column. Apart from the history of the bridge, the main question is where exactly is (or was) this bridge located outside of Seymour? And when did the dredging of the Muscatauck  River take place and why?
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on this riddle, as with all the other mystery bridges profiled so far.
Contact details:
Lori Day: loriday08@yahoo.com

Tony Dillon: spansaver@hotmail.com
Jason Smith (the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles): flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com

Interesting Fact:

Jackson County is home to the Bell’s Ford Covered Bridge. Built in 1885 by Robert Patterson, the two-span Post through truss bridge, located over the East Fork White River west of Seymour off Hwy. 258, collapsed twice in 1999 and again in 2006. Efforts are being undertaken to either rebuild the bridge or relocate it elsewhere, but unfortunately with no success. The future of the bridge, which is now half its length and slightly leaning to one side is in doubt. For those interested in taking the bridge, please contact that county commissioners and the City of Seymour for more information. A picture of the bridge provided by Tony Dillon is below: