Historic Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored after a nearly one-year project to relocate the structure to a city park. Dedication ceremony on 23 September in Conway.
CONWAY, ARKANSAS- Bridge crews and preservationists are celebrating the rebirth of one of the oldest surviving historic bridges in Arkansas. The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge is back in use after a record-breaking stint, which featured the disassembling, relocation, restoration and rassembling of the 1871 structure, a product of the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio, all within a span of ca. nine months! Usually, such projects last between 1-2 years, pending on the truss type, length and width and the way it should be restored. For other bridges, such as arches, suspension bridges and viaduct, it may take up to five years, pending on how it is restored. The Springfield Bridge, with its main span of 146 feet and a width of 12 feet, is one of the longest of its kind built by King that is left. However when looking back at the bridge before its relocation from the Faulkner-Conway county line to Conway City in November 2016, it presented a totally different picture- a rather sad one when looking at it through the lens of Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges and Nels Raynor of BACH Steel.
Workin’ Bridges is a non profit organization based in Grinnell, Iowa that is dedicated to historic bridge preservation, and Bach Structural and Oranmental Steel (BACH Steel) of Holt, Michigan. Six years after the completion of a study by Raynor and Bowers , the historic bridge restoration project was successfully completed. The success was due to a rare collaboration between the City of Conway, Faulkner County, and Dr. Ken Barnes of the Faulkner County Historical Society who was essential in the writing and successful grant application and petitioning the City of Conway to find a place to move the bridge. Permission to move was granted by the National Park Service for this structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A dedication to the restoration and future of this iron bowstring will be held Saturday, September 23rd at 10:00 am at Beaverfork Lake Park in Conway, Arkansas.
The iron truss was fabricated in 1871 and erected in 1874 over E. Cadron Creek between Faulkner and Conway Counties as the first and oldest highway bridge built for farm to market requirements by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The bridge restoration was funded by City of Conway tourism dollars used for parks, Faulkner County equipment, expertise and funds for the extra crane, with the help of Metroplan which allowed the restructuring of grant funding to allow preservation to move forward.
The bridge was removed from the Cadron in November of 2016. The BACH Steel Rivet Gang went to work with the disassembly and marking the members for transportation to a paint removal company in Little Rock, managed by Snyder Environmental. Workin’ Bridges was then given the job of designing the new substructure at Lake Beaverfork, engineered by James Schiffer of Schiffer Engineering Group of Traverse City, Michigan.
Once the caissons were designed, drilled, formed and poured, and covered with riveted columns repairs to the bridge trusses began. Nels Raynor of BACH Steel is the premier bridge restoration craftsman throughout the United States that specializes in restoring bridges the old fashioned way. “In Kind” restoration means that parts are replaced with similar parts, rivets replaced with rivets and if new parts are required they are fashioned with care. When asked Raynor stated: “This one stands out as one of the most beautiful. I wish there were more people like those of Conway and Faulkner County. Those who wish to protect and save their hesitate. It’s part of my life’s work to preserve those structures. My company has been bless with finding those with the same passion inmy partners Derek and Lee Pung, Andy Hufnagel and Brock. Behind the scenes we have my daughter Heather Raynor, Nathan Holth and Jim Schiffer. We want to thank everyone for giving us the creative freedom to make this one of the most memorable and beautiful bridges we have ever been involved with.”
Jack Bell, Chief of Staff for the City of Conway, Mark Ledbetter, Director of Roads for Faulkner County, Steve Ibbotson, Director of Parks for the City of Conway and Judge Baker were the team that provided the collaborative efforts to make this a successful project. They teamed up for all of the site requirements, from building a road and crane pad to the old location on Cadron Creek, to building the roads and crane pad for the reset at Lake Beaverfork. They utilized reclaimed stone from the original abutments to sculpt the new location with retaining walls and provide a bench for viewing. Bell said, “The partnership between Workin’ Bridges, BACH Steel, Faulkner and the City of Conway was essential to bring this project to fruition. A significant piece of Faulkner County history has been saved and an iconic amenity has been added to our Parks system.”
New railings, as required by law, were designed by Raynor and company, who were able to provide historically accurate laced and riveted railing, using requirements for today’s pedestrians. The rail was then sent to Conway, where the local historical society teamed up with Workin’ Bridges to promote the “Paint the Rail” campaign. The campaign successfully contributed the funds needed to coat the rail, using a PPG product delivered by Furgerson Brothers Painting.
The restoration will be featured in a documentary filmed by Terry Strauss of Ultimate Restorations and should be available for viewing on PBS and through Amazon Prime in the fall of 2017. It will be featured in a later article provided by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. The project was also documented by Workin’ Bridges with the aid of Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org. The bridge was built by craftsmen and the record of their work, the “craftsman’s record” was evident in each cast and riveted piece in the bridge said Raynor. “To think that this all started six years ago with a site visit to Arkansas with my son Brock and Bowers with Workin’ Bridges. What this bridge has become today is just amazing to me and I have been involved with many bridge projects”.
It is a testament to the fact that we work better together, always have. The collaboration made a very big bridge project manageable, and used resources in a way that reduced time and material cost”, stated Bowers from her office in Holt, Michigan. “One never knows if a site visit that renders real numbers for project evaluation will become a job. These bridges take a lot of time, craftsmanship and money, but in the end it is all about making memories. The collaboration worked well and rendered a project that could have cost far more into an affordable package for the parks system.”
More information about the bridge, pictures from the process can be found at Springfield Bridge on Facebook. Questions may be directed to Julie Bowers at email@example.com. The Chronicles would like to congratulations to Julie, Nels and the rest of the crew for bringing a relict back to life. Thanks to you, you’ve just given people a chance to learn more about the history of Conway County, King and American infrastructure. 🙂
After a brief history of the Bonnie Doon Railroad and its main crossing over the Rock River in Lyon County, the next mystery bridge takes us down the Big Sioux River to its last original crossing, before the coming of the Interstate Highway era, until its confluence with the Missouri River. The Three Corner’s Bridge is located at the site of the Two Rivers Golf Course in Sioux River, spanning the river at the Iowa/ South Dakota border, approximately two miles west of the point where the two rivers merge, as well as the two states and Nebraska meet. The crossing used to be located north of the last physical crossing before its junction, the I-29 bridge, which has been serving traffic since the mid-1950s. It is most likely that the crossing is at the place where a pedestrian crossing, which provides access to the golf course, is located. Yet more information is needed to either support or counter these claims.
But before going into the debate on this structure’s actual location, let’s have a look at the bridge itself. The structure that used to exist appeared to have two different truss bridges built from two different time periods. What is clear is the truss span on the right appears to be much older- having been built in the 1880s and consisting of a pin-connected through truss bridge with V-laced end-posts and an X-frame portal bracings with curved heels. The diagonal beams appear to be much thinner than the vertical beams, this leading to the question of whether the former were built using thin iron beams or with steel wiring. In addition, the design of the bridge leads to the question of its stability, which leads to the question of whether the bridge collapsed under weight or by flooding and was replaced by the span on the left, a Parker through truss span, made of steel, with pinned connections, A-frame portal bracings and featuring beams that are thicker and sturdier. The span on the right, which appeared to be an all-iron structure, had at least two spans total- one of which spanned the main river channel and was replaced by the Parker span. The Parker span was one that is typical of many Parker spans along the Big Sioux River, having been built between 1900 and 1915 by the likes of Western Bridge Company of Lincoln, Nebraska, Clinton Bridge Company of Clinton, Iowa, and the bridge builders from the Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders- namely Commodore P. Jones, Alexander Bayne, as well as Seth and William S. Hewett. However, it does not mean that the Parker span replaced the lost iron span during that time. It is possible that it was put in place between the 1930s and 1950s, which was the time when bridges were relocated and reused as replacements because of the scarcity of steel on the count of the Great Depression, followed by the onset of World War II and later, the Korea War. With flooding that occurred during the 1940s, especially in 1945-6, it it possible that the Parker was relocated to the spot because of that. Records have already indicated multiple bridge replacements in that fashion, including those in Crawford, Harrison and Monona Counties in Iowa. It is unknown when the entire bridge was removed, but chances are because of the increase in urban development combined with the creation of the golf course, the bridge was removed between the 1960s and early 1980s.
To sum up, the bridge is very unique but has a lot of missing pieces in the puzzle, which if assembled thanks to help from people like you, can round off the story of the structure that contributed to the development of Sioux City’s infrastructure. What do you know about this bridge in terms of:
The date of construction of both the iron Pratt and steel Parker structures
The bridge builders for both structures
When the iron bridge collapsed and how
Whether the Parker span was original or if it was brought in from somehwere and
If it was relocated, from where exactly and how was it transported
The dimensions of the bridge and lastly,
When was it taken down and why.
Use the question form below and see if you can help put the pieces together. You can also comment on the Chronicles’ facebook pages and encourage others to paricipate. Let’s see what we can put together regarding this bridge, shall we?
The bridge is pinpointed at a location where another truss bridge, a continuous Warren through truss, is located. This one is open to pedesrians accessing the golf course. If you know about this bridge, please feel free to add that to the comment section as well.
The I-29 Bridge was originally built in the early 1950s to accomodate traffic over the Big Sioux River enroute to Sioux City. The bridge collapsed in 1962 due to structural failure and flooding and was subsequentially replaced with a steel beam structure a year later. An additional span was added to accomodate southbound traffic.
Bridge to become part of a city bike trail. Potential for other steel truss bridges to follow suit?
WINTERSET, IOWA- The Bridges of Madison County: Home of its covered bridges, one of a handful counties in the United States that has at least a half dozen of them. Built between 1867 and 1885, there were once 19 of these wooden housed structures spanning the North, Middle and South Rivers as well as numerous streams. Today only six of them remain, all of which are considered nationally significant, and each one has its own park and rest area to allow people to enjoy the bridge and the natural surroundings.
Madison County also has numerous truss bridges made of steel, and one of them is about to become part of a bike trail. The Valley View Trail Bridge, located four miles west of I-35 and two miles southwest of Bevington,has been closed since 2008 and has sustained significant damage to the approaches thanks to flooding that occurred in 2008, 2011 and 2013. The banks of one of the approach spans was washed away to a point where it resembled a diving board. Yet the 120-foot long bridge, constructed in 1911 by the Iowa Bridge Company and features a pinned connected Pratt through truss span with M-frame portal bracings and V-laced overhead strut bracings is seen by many locals as a rarity nowadays. Therefore the county is expanding its historic bridge heritage by including this bridge as part of a recreational complex. The plan is to place the bridge over a spillway being constructed at Cedar Lake in Winterset, which it will serve as a bike trail surrounding the lake. While costs are being calculated even as this gets posted, the county has already received funding from Iowa Dept. of Transportation (DOT) which will cover the cost for relocating the bridge.
The reuse of the Valley View Trail Bridge for recreational purposes has started a question about the possible use of other steel truss bridges in the county. There are as many steel truss bridges in the county as they are the covered bridges when their numbers reached its peak with 19 in 1920. Some of them have already been decommissioned and taken off the road system, yet there are some others that are approaching the end of their service, despite most of them being built during the Depression era. The relocation and reuse of the Valley View Bridge may serve as an incentive for the county to consider reusing these bridges and bring their histories to the forefront, making the county not only the place of covered bridges, but also the place of bridges built of steel with the help of bridge builders, steel welders and railroaders responsible for molding the bridge parts in the mills, transporting them by rail and erecting them on site. With the number of truss bridges becoming a rarity, the county might have to consider this option once the Valley View Bridge is relocated and reopened for cyclists and pedestrians.
There are seven bridges worth considering for reuse apart from the successful plan involving the Valley View Bridge. These bridges are as follows:
Located over North Fork Clanton Creek a mile south of Limestone Rd. between US Hwy. 169 and Clark-Tower Road, this bridge is one of the shortest of the through truss bridges in Madison County, as well as Iowa. The 80-foot long Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings was built in 1909 by local bridge builder SG Hunter Iron Works Company of Atlantic, Iowa, the bridge is perhaps the last example of its kind. Yet since its abandonment in the late 1980s, the bridge has become derelict. Relocation is possible, yet it would require dismantling the structure and doing some major sandblasting before reerecting it at its new home.
Located over Clanton Creek at 282nd Trail, this bridge is a classic example of a series of truss bridges built by the King Bridge Company because of its portal bracings, as well as the inscriptions on the diagonal and vertical beams and the builder’s plaque. The bridge was relocated to this spot in 1952 and has been here ever since. The bridge has seen its better days as the decking has been removed to keep everyone off the bridge. Yet the bridge appears stable enough to be relocated without disassembly.
Located over Middle River at Fox Trail (CSAH G-47), five miles southwest of Winterset, this 157-foot long riveted Camelback through truss with West Virginia portal bracings represents a great example of a truss bridge built using Iowa state highway standards introduced in 1914. The bridge was built by another Iowa firm, the A. Olson Construction Company based in Waterloo. Two dates of construction make this bridge a controversial topic: 1935 according to the National Transportation Records and 1951 according to records by Iowa DOT. The hunch is that this bridge was built in 1935 somewhere else and was relocated here in 1951. Still in use, this bridge has potential to become a National Register landmark in the next 15 years because of its unique design that is becoming rare to find.
Located three miles north of Winterset and one mile east of US Hwy. 169 over the North River at North River Trail, this 122-foot long riveted Pratt through truss bridge features an M-frame portal bracing similar to many structures built by a bridge company Wickes Engineering from Des Moines. Yet this structure was built in 1932 by Ben Cole and Son, located in Ames, just 25 miles north of the state capital along Interstate 35. The question is whether Ben Cole did business with Wickes prior to 1932. This will require some research to find out. Yet the Wickes style of bridge is becoming rare today, for despite having an average of three of these bridges in each county, the numbers have dwindled down to just above 10% remaining in Iowa. The bridge is still in use but has some potential of being reused once its time as a full-service bridge runs out. The bridge is located six miles west of another covered bridge, the McBride Bridge, which was destroyed by arson in 1983. The instigator, who confessed to the act as response to losing his true love, eventually did social work to make up for the incident- working as a bridge inspector at a county highway department!
Bevington Park Road Bridges
Located along Bevington Park Road between Bevington and St. Charles, this stretch of highway features two nearly identical trusses, located only three miles apart. Both feature riveted Pratt through trusses with M-frame portals. Both were built in 1932 by Ben Cole. Both have similar lengths of the main spans- ca. 125 feet. And both have the same color of a rustic brown. The only difference: One is located over the Middle River just outside Bevington and south of Iowa Hwy. 92; the other is over Clanton Creek, two miles north of St. Charles. They’re still open to traffic but once their service ends, they are potential candidates for reuse as they exemplify as early modern truss bridges built during the Depression era, using Iowa State Highway standards, which were later used in bridge building, especially during this difficult era.
There are as many pony truss bridges in Madison County as they are through truss bridges. This bridge is located just east of the Holliwell Covered Bridge, southeast of Winterset. Given the eyebar connections as seen in the photos taken by James Baughn, this bridge may be one of the oldest in Madison County, let alone in western Iowa. Yet as written as a mystery bridge in the Chronicles in 2011, there is a lot to learn about this bridge (see article here). As there are three pony truss bridges already preserved as bike trails in Madison County, like the Cunningham, Miller and Morgan Bridges, this bridge would be a perfect candidate for trail use, regardless of whether it is in place at the Holliwell Covered Bridge (which would make much sense given the bridge’s value and location from Winterset), or if it was relocated to Winterset, as was the case with the Morgan and Miller Bridges. In either case, the bridge serves as a historical compliment to an even more popular Holliwell Bridge.
If these examples are not enough for people to take action and make the county an even bigger and more popular tourist attraction, then they should visit the county. After visiting historic Winterset, the John Wayne Birth Place and Museum and the six covered bridges, plus the site of the former McBride Covered Bridge, they should click on the links to the above-mentioned bridges, plan a trip to these structures, armed with a camera and some paper and have a look at them. Then start a movement to save the remaining truss bridges and repurpose them for recreational purposes. While covered bridges are one of the key symbols of American heritage, bridges like the ones mentioned here are just as valuable because of their contribution to the development of the US as a whole, and in this case, Madison County on the local level. The Valley View Trail Bridge project is just the beginning of a potentially bigger project to preserve what is left of these truss bridges. And if the county and state work together with private groups and those interested in these artefacts, then there will be another reason to visit Madison County in the coming summer months. Furthermore, Iowa just might have another completed preservation project on its long and storied resumé of preserved bridges, whose movement started with James Hippen in the 1970s and has been very successful since then.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the Valley View Bridge project as well as any other developments involving the historic truss bridges in Madison County. The author would like to thank Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa and James Baughn of bridgehunter.com for allowing use of the photos. All information are courtesy of IowaDOT, whose director, Matt Donovan is to thank for his help.
Mead Avenue Bridge in Meadville, Pennsylvania. One of the most unique bridges in the US and perhaps even beyond. Spanning French Creek, the two-span through truss bridge featured an 1871 worught iron Whipple span encased with a 1912 Baltimore span. When I visited the bridge during the 2010 Historic Bridge Weekend, the blue-colored span was closed to traffic with a bleak future in its midst. The majority of the city’s population wanted the bridge gone. But efforts were being undertaken to try and preserve at least half the span. This bridge was the first one profiled in the very first aricle I wrote for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles blog, when it was launched in October of that same year. Click here for the article.
Fast forward to the present and the situation has changed completely. The bridge is being profiled again as the first article produced by the Chronicles as a website, yet the bridge is no more.
Well, not quite. 🙂
Most of the historic bridges like this one would be cut up into pieces and hauled away to be recycled. In Pennsylvania it is no exception for many of them are being replaced through the rapid replacement program initiated by PennDOT and many bridge builders in the private sector last year. Yet a last-minute attempt by one pontist has paid off. The bridge is being distmantled, the parts will be hauled, BUT it will be relocated. The question is how?
The Chronicles had a chance to talk about the plan to restore the bridge with Art Suckewer, the pontist who is spearheading the efforts and pulled off the last minute trick to saving the artefact from becoming a thing of the past. What he is going to do with the bridge and the challenges that he and his crew are facing at the moment are discussed below:
How did you become interested in historic bridges in general? I always liked them since I was a kid but never thought of them as more than a neat part of the scenery until recently. After purchasing a farm property in a historic district with several stream crossings, I researched my options and discovered that acquiring an old truss bridge was a viable solution. I learned a lot through your website, bridgehunter and historic bridges. Through speaking with Julie Bowers, Nathan Holth and Jim Cooper, I learned what was involved and received enough guidance to try to acquire one. While Mead Ave. was on my list, I thought it was too big of a project, and Vern Mesler was going for it so it seemed like it would be preserved. Instead I went for the Beatty Mills Bridge and the Carlton Bridge as my primary and back-up selections. Little did I know I’d get them both!
What got you interested in the Mead Avenue Bridge in Meadville?What is so special about it in your opinion? Your website, bridgehunter.com and historic bridges.org brought it to my attention. What is so special is that it still exists, that it was very decorative (none of the websites show the bridge with its original spires – look at pictures/ woodcut prints of the Azuma Bashi Bridge in Japan if you want to get a sense of what this bridge once was) and that even though it is a Penn Bridge Co. bridge it represents the last example of an early, long span Keystone Bridge Co. design. I am now 95% certain that it was built by Keystone Bridge Co. to Jacob Linville’s 1865 patent as a kit to be erected by Penn Bridge Co.
How did you purchase the bridge? Vern Mesler was going to take it but he had difficulty getting his plan approved due to very sensitive environmental issues (I still think his approach was the best way to go). Once Vern gave up, I stepped in because I feel strongly that the bridge should be saved. I think because I established credibility with PENNDOT in recovering two other bridges successfully (thanks to Nels Raynor, Nathan Holth, Jim Cooper and Ross Brown), my engineering background and experience in writing proposals and working with government agencies gained from my day job, they gave me a shot. I had pursued the recovery for nine months with serious efforts beginning in August. That said, it didn’t come together until after it was already too late and ownership had been transferred to Mekis (the prime contractor for the replacement) but with Mekis’ support/flexibility and strong support from PENNDOT, especially Kara Russell and Brian Yedinak, and Ross Brown’s inspection of the bridge and willingness to attempt my plan to reinforce the 1912 Baltimore truss as a falsework and disassemble the 1871 Whipple in place did we get the go ahead. We had less than two months and Ross worked 10 – 12 hour days 7 days a week to pull it off but the 1871 structure has now been successfully removed. The remaining structure will be lifted by crane by Mekis then disassembled by Ross and removed by May.
What difficulties did you encounter? The plan we were allowed to pursue was the most difficult and risky approach. Finding the funds was tough. Due to the lateness, Ross had a very narrow window to pull off the job and it ended up being one of the worst/coldest winters in memory. Also, the bridge had lots of previous improper repairs that made Ross’ job much more difficult.
What are your plans for the bridge? What are the places you want to relocate the structure? While I have committed to putting the bridge on my property and I do have a place for it, I consider that to be a placeholder. Ideally I’d like to find a home in a northwestern Pennsylvania town as a pedestrian walkway within a town as part of that towns revitalization. Alternately, a public use elsewhere. We have some leads.
How much rehabilitation will be needed before the bridge is reconstructed? A lot. The bridge is suffering from a thousand improper repairs as well as differed maintenance. However, the project is doable because the quality of the castings, both in tolerance and material is extraordinary – definitely benefitting from the demands of James Eads on Andrew Carnegie to meet his exceedingly high quality standards for the Eads Bridge as both bridges construction periods overlapped.
When will we see the reconstructed bridge next time? Within ten years (if it is reused for a public purpose then it may be soon; if no one else wants it, I’ve got two other bridges to fix first so it will be a while).
Any advice you would give to any party interested in preserving a bridge, regardless of whether it is in place or if it needs to be relocated? Look at all options; be flexible; listen to the experts (especially the craftspeople); be patient yet persistent; leverage your resources; be prepared to walk away – you can’t win them all; If you think ‘someone should…’ ask yourself if that someone is you.
Good luck to Art and his crew as they continue with the project. The removal and disassembly part is just the first of many phases that will be done during the 10-year frame he’s mentioned. There are many more to come, and if there is a proverb to end this article, it is the song produced by the East German music group Karat entitled “Über sieben Brücken muss du gehen.” (You must cross seven bridges) There, the person had to cross seven bridges spanning the worst of ravines in order to reach his destination. This is what Suckewer and crew are facing with the Mead Avenue Bridge. But after the seventh bridge is crossed and the newly restored Mead Avenue Bridge is in place, the efforts will pay off in the end. Even if the seventh bridge is out and there is no place to relocate the bridge, there will be many attempts to make sure that the restored bridge finds a new home and someone who will take care of it and use it for his purpose.
But before we speculate, let’s watch, wait and see how this next chapter, the one after a rather happy ending in the current one we’re reading, unfolds. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest.
Note: More photos of the Meadville Bridge are available via flickr.
Here’s a pop quiz for you readers, with regards to this mystery bridge:
1. When was the oldest swing bridge in the US ever built and
2. When was the first time a bridge was ever relocated in the US?
This Mystery Bridge takes you to Florida and in particular, this bridge. Located over the Suwannee River at the Lafayette and Suwannee County border, the Drew Bridge features a swing bridge with a Warren through truss design. The name Drew comes from a family that consisted of George Franklin Drew, who governed Florida from 1877 to 1881, and his sons, George L. Drew and Franklin Drew, who operated a lumber business near the site of the bridge and purchasd a large segment of the Suwannee and San Pedro Railroad in 1899 and extended the line to Mayo, to accomodate their business. They purchased this bridge, located somewhere in Brazil, in 1900 and was put into service after being transported to its current site in 1901. It served traffic until the railroad was abandoned due to competition in 1921. Since that time, the bridge has been sitting abandoned in an open position. The bridge was named after the elder Drew, who died in 1900.
Nathan Holth visited the bridge earlier this year and is looking for some information as to the date of the construction, the bridge builder, and whereabouts is the bridge located. The reason for this (and one can see it through the information and photos he took on the trip) are the features of the bridge- both in terms of portal and strut bracings as well as the way the bridge was constructed, both in terms of materials used as well as the how the bridge parts were assembled (and reassembled upon its relocation. It is clear that the bridge has been in its current location for 113 years. However, the inscriptioions on the steel, combined with the design have it being pointed to the construction date of between 1870 and 1885. More information can be found via link here:
If you have any information that is important to the research on this bridge, please contact Nathan Holth using the contact information on his website. You can also place your comments here for readers to read.
Because of its unique design and history, the Drew Bridge is one of the candidates for this year’s Ammann Awards in its respective category. 🙂
Located in southwestern Minnesota, Lyon County, with its county seat being Marshall, prides itself with its ice cream in Schwann, athletics and academics through Southwest State University and the county’s school districts, its agriculture in the form of corn, soybeans and sugar beets, and lastly its beautiful landscape because of the deep valleys along the Redwood and Cottonwood Rivers. The county once prided itself in vast numbers of historic bridges, many of which consisted of steel truss spans that were relocated for reuse many times. Some of them were even stored at the county highway department awaiting reuse, according to correspondence with the county engineer while pursuing a science project on bridges in the 7th grade at Marshall Junior High School.
But with the recent developments going on, the county is facing a dwindling number of these truss bridges. Already gone are the spans that used to cross the Cottonwood River, including two at Garvin Park. Those featured a 1920 Warren span brought in from Lynd in 1985 and a 1908 Queenpost span brought in from Clifton Township in 1986. But the spans at Camden State Park may be the next ones to follow.
Featuring five bridges- three steel pony trusses, a low-water crossing and a wooden trestle, with one exception, these spans were built in the 1930s when Camden State Park was developed as a facility to replace a village that had once existed. What is unique about the steel pony trusses is the fact that they were part of the relocation scheme, built in their place of origin somewhere else before being relocated to the park in the late 1980s to 1990 to replace previous crossings. Each bridge presents a sense of beauty as they fit perfectly with the scenery, with the hills and trees surrounding them.
Yet word is getting around that Lyon County is planning to turn over responsibility of the road (County Road 25) and the bridges to the owner of the park, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR), in the near future. There, planning is in the works to replace all three pony truss spans with concrete structure with a form liner resembling cut stone. These spans would resemble a Cottonwood River span that opened in 2005 and is located in Springfield, in Brown County.
Already gone is the low-water crossing because of flooding in 1993 (that was replaced with a welded pony truss bridge), losing the three truss bridges would be a blow to the state park because of their historic value they present. They were built using standardized spans introduced in 1914 with the purpose of making the crossings safer for traffic. Each bridge has survived weather extremities, for they were washed out by the floodwaters in 1993, but were reconstructed in their original places, keeping their historic integrity in tact. If the bridges were rebuilt, integrating the trusses in the concrete roadway, as is being practiced with many Minnesota spans, then their structural lifespan will be prolonged for another 60-80 years with little maintenance. Yet should the truss bridges go, they will most likely take the wooden trestle with, which was built in 1931 spanning the railroad track. Whether this plan of action is for the benefit of the state park remains in question. But to better understand which bridges are affected by the latest project, here is a list of bridges and their location for you to visit and convince the parks to save:
Location: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway at the south entrance to Camden State Park
Bridge Type: Wooden Trestle
Year Built: 1936
Length: 190 feet (36 feet main span)
Status: Open to traffic but not affected by project (for now)
Location: Redwood River at Camden State Park- first steel truss bridge after entering park.
Bridge Type: Warren pony truss with vertical beams and riveted connections
Year Built: 1931 at undisclosed location, relocated here in 1989
Length: 61.4 feet (main span: 60 feet)
Status: Open to traffic, but scheduled to be replaced.
This bridge is located east of the site where the low-water crossing once stood. It originally consisted of a two-span pony truss bridge located somewhere along the Redwood River northeast of Marshall, yet this half made its way here in 1989, whereas the other half was relocated to Green Valley, where it still serves traffic today. It sustained damage by floods in 1993 but was rehabilitated and reopened to traffic afterwards.
Location: Redwood River at Camden State Park. Second crossing after entering the park
Bridge Type: Steel Warren pony truss bridge with vertical beams and riveted connections
Year Built: 1931 by Illinois Steel Company; Moved here in 1990.
Length: 75.1 feet (main span: 73.2 feet)
Status: Open to traffic but scheduled for replacement
This crossing is located at a dangerous corner, where drivers have to make sharp right turns before crossing the truss span. The bridge originally came from a crossing over Plum Creek at US Hwy. 14 west of Walnut Grove. At the time of its replacement and road reconstruction in 1990, it was relocated here where it is still serving traffic today. This bridge was washed out during the flood of 1993 but was salvaged and placed back into service a year later.
Location: Redwood River at north entrance to Camden State Park
Bridge Type: Warren pony truss with vertical beams, extended wind bracing and riveted connections
Year Built: 1915 over the Yellow Medicine River in northern Lyon County. Relocated here in 1986
Length: 50.2 feet (main span: 47.3 feet)
Status: Open to traffic but scheduled for replacement.
This bridge is the oldest of the three to be found at the park. It is also the only bridge that features an exterior wind bracing, which was common in earlier standardized truss spans. 1915 is the date that was designated in the records, but the bridge looks younger than that. The crossing is the first one upon entering the park from the north side. For a long time, it was a dead end crossing for vehicles minus the bikes, for drivers were not allowed to enter the park from the north end. Yet after being wiped out by floods in 1993 and being reerected in its place a year later, the entrance was reopened to all traffic.
Why these bridges are not being considered for relocation to another less used road in the county remains unclear, let alone being considered for relocation, but these bridges represent a classic example of how Lyon County took care of its truss bridges in the 1980s and 90s, seeing the potential for reuse and the historic significance of each of the spans. The new bridges in place, like the Springfield crossing, may fit the landscape of a community, yet in cases like the ones at Camden, they represent an epic fail because of the lack of conformity with the natural surroundings. Therefore it is important that these spans are saved and rehabilitated for reuse to ensure that they continue to serve their purpose for the next 60-80 years.
You can help spread the word. Not only is it important to visit these sites, but it is important to convince the county and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to keep these spans in place because of their importance to the parks. With as many voices as possible, the planning can be altered to benefit the tourists visiting the park and the county that has prided itself in its reuse of historic structures. Your voice can make a difference.
Information and contact details for Camden State Park can be found here.
Contact details for the Lyon County Engineer’s Office in Marshall are found here.
Australian Traveller that loves to "Roam" our globe, creator of ENDLESSROAMING.COM sharing the experience through word and photography. Currently residing in my home of Newtown Sydney but hope to be back on the road late 2020. Feedback / questions are more than welcome, happy travels