Brunswick Railroad Bridge Washes Away

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Photo courtesy of NSR, found on bridgehunter.com website

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BRUNSWICK, KANSAS- Heavy rainfalls and flooding has been the theme for this year in much of the central and Midwestern parts of the US. High waters have damaged or destroyed many buildings, highways and bridges, disrupting services and causing billions of dollars in damage.

The Norfolk and Southern Railroad (NSR) Bridge spanning the Grand River near Brunswick, Kansas has joined the growing list of casualties from this abnormal year. A week ago on October 1st, high waters and debris from fallen trees and buildings took out the century old viaduct, thus cutting off service between Moberley and Kansas City, Missouri. While the photo of the bridge remains in its aftermath is scary, a video posted by officials at NSR, showing the power of Mother Nature and the magnitude of the destruction of this bridge puts it beyond what we saw with the ice jams destroying bridges in Nebraska earlier in the year. It can even be comparative to a movie laden with such disasters.

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The bridge itself was the second crossing at Brunswick. The multiple-span deck plate girder spans were built in 1916 and had a span of over 600 feet long. Its predecessor was a four-span Whipple through truss bridge that had been built in 1885 and served the Wabash Railroad for nearly three decades. These spans were eventually reused on branches of the railroad connecting Moberley and Des Moines, Iowa as well as Moulton and Ottumwa, also in Iowa. These lines were discontinued by the early 1980s, and all but one of the spans have been removed and scrapped. The remaining span from the original Brunswick crossing is privately owned and can be found spanning Village Creek south of Ottumwa. Two of the demolished truss spans used to span English Creek before they were destroyed to make way for the Red Rock Lake project, which was completed by 1968.

The author would like to thank Sandra Huemann-Kelly for bringing this to the readers’ attention.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 51: The Bridges of Saylorville Lake in Iowa

The Des Moines River at the Woodward Viaduct in Boone County. This is the starting point of Saylorville Lake, which extends to north of Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013

This Mystery Bridge article is in connection with a book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River. For more information about the book and how you can help, please click here for details.

The next mystery bridge features not only one, but SIX bridges, all within the vicinity of a lake. Saylorville Lake is the second of two man-made lakes along the Des Moines River in Iowa. The other is Red Rock Lake, located between Knoxville and Pella in Marion County (article on that can be found here). Yet Saylorville is the larger of the two, covering an area of 5,950 acres and 9 miles wide. The length of the lake is 17 miles long, starting at Woodward in Boone County and ending north of Des Moines. In the event of flooding, the lake is three times the length, extending as far north as Boone. The size of the lake is over 17,000 acres at flood stage, which was reached twice- in 1993 and 2008. The lake was authorized by the US Army Corps. of Engineers in 1958 as part of the project to control the flooding along the Des Moines River. It took 19 years until the lake was fully operational in September 1977.  Yet like the Red Rock Lake project, the lake came at the cost of many homes and even bridges.

Before Saylorville, six bridges once existed over the Des Moines River within the 17 miles that was later inundated. Five of them consisted of multiple spans of steel truss bridges built between 1890 and 1910. The sixth one consisted of a steel and concrete beam bridge built in 1955 carrying a major highway. All of them were removed as part of the project between 1969 and 1975. Yet some information on the bridge’s type and dimensions were recorded prior to their removal  for load tests were conducted to determine how much weight a bridge could tolerate under heavy loads before they collapse. Only a few pictures were taken prior to the project, yet information is sketchy, for the pictures did not describe the bridges well enough to determine their aesthetic appearance. Despite one of the bridges carrying a plaque, there was no information on the builder. All but two spans have a construction date which needs to be examined to determine their accuracies. In any case, the bridges have historic potential for each one has a history that is unique to the area it served before the lake was created.

While the bridges no longer exist as they are deep under water in a sea that is only 836 feet above sea level (that is the depth of Saylorville Lake when there is no flooding), it is important to know more about their histories so that they are remembered by the locals, historians, pontists and those interested in the history of the region now covered with beaches, marinas and houses. The bridges in question are the following:

Hubby Bridge

Location: Des Moines River at Opal Lane in Boone County

Bridge type: Pennsylvania through truss with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections (four spans)

Built: 1909

Removed: 1975

Length: 660 feet (160 feet per span)

 

Chestnut Ford Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River at 145th Lane in Dallas County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss (3 spans total) with Howe Lattice portal bracings (2 spans) and A-frame portal bracing (1 span). Two of the three spans were pinned connected whereas the third span was riveted.

Built: ca. 1900; one of the spans was replaced later.

Removed: 1975?

Length: 480 feet (180 feet per span)

 

Hanley Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River near Jester Park in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss (one span); two additional spans existed but type is difficult to recognize.

Built: ca. 1900; two newer spans replaced the original spans damaged in 1953

Removed: 1975

Length: 360 feet total (largest span: 150 feet)

 

Corydon Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River south of Polk City in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss with X-frame portal bracings and pinned connections (two spans)

Built: 1889

Removed: 1975 but not before it collapsed under the weight of US Army tanks in 1972

Length: 312 feet total (156 feet per span)

 

Snyder Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River at 128th Street in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss with pinned connections. Portal bracing unknown (three spans total)

Built: 1898

Removed: ca. 1975

Length: 444 feet total (148 feet per span)

 

Hwy. 98 Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River between Woodward and Madrid in Boone County

Bridge type: Steel plate girder

Built: 1955

Replaced: 1973 with higher span

Length: 360 feet

The highway was later changed to Hwy. 210

 

What is needed from these bridges are the following:

1. More photos to better describe the structure

2. Information on the construction of the bridge, including the bridge builder and the year the bridge was built

3. Information and photos of the removal of the bridge

4. Stories and memories of the bridge during their existence prior to the creation of Saylorville Lake

If you have any useful information about these bridges, please contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. The information will be useful for the book project but the Chronicles will keep you posted when information comes in on these bridges. The creation of the lakes along the Des Moines River came at the expense of bridges, villages and some livelihoods. Now it’s a question of piecing together the history of the areas affected to find out what the areas looked like, with the goal of the younger generation remembering them for years to come. This includes the bridges that were erased from the map and in some, memory. And while they are physically gone, history surely will not.

Thanks to Luke Harden for digging up some facts about the bridges as they were documented in a report published prior to the bridges’ removal. Please click on the names of the bridges as they serve as links to the bridges found on bridgehunter- also thanks to his contribution so far.

 

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 32: A Bridge in a Lake

Photos taken in August 2013

Our next mystery bridge takes us back to Marion County, Iowa and precisely to this bridge. Located on the north side of Red Rock Lake just east of Hwy. 14, one finds this unique structure. From a bird’s eye perspective, the bridge is low enough that it may be considered a pontoon bridge. But it does seem weird that the roadway is low enough that it is on the same level as the water level of Red Rock Lake, making it prone to flooding. Yet looks can be deceiving. Have a look at the following pictures of the bridge when up close….

Judging by these angles, one can see that the bridge and road have not been used for a long time. These are the remnants of the old Hwy. 14 Bridge and highway, all of which are either partially or completely inundated by the waters of Red Rock Lake.

Here are some facts we do know about these remains. There were at least two bridges that carried the old highway (but guesses are three or four): this one and the Des Moines River crossing. Both of which were built in the 1940s replacing earlier structures that were most likely steel truss bridges. But this happened before plans for Red Rock Lake were revealed in the 1950s, sentencing this highway and the bridges, together with a dozen other bridges and at least six towns located along the Des Moines River to be inundated. While the removal and relocation of some structures in the area were successful, other streets and some places like this one were left to be covered in water. The new Highway 14 Bridge was opened in 1965 and featured three bridges, the longest one is over a mile long, making it the longest bridge in the state. Once the bridges were opened and the Red Rock Dam, located 10 miles east of there was completed, all of the obsolete Hwy. 14 and its bridges were left to be taken over by water. Today, once can access this bridge and the highway remains on the north end by foot only as well as fish from the bridge- a piece of history to be reminded of what the region looked like before Red Rock Lake was created.

What is missing about this bridge and old highway is the history: namely what the bridges and road looked like before they were inundated. Furthermore, information is needed about their construction history and the truss bridges that existed prior to their replacement in the 1940s. Photos and any information are welcomed. If you have any information that is useful, please send it to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. You can also put your thoughts about the bridge in the comments section here as well as on facebook. More photos of the bridge and region can be found by clicking here.

The Chronicles will provide some information on this bridge as it comes.