Approximately two weeks ago, I did a write-up on the Castlewood Thacher Truss Bridge, which had once spanned the Big Sioux River just outside Castlewood in Hamlin County, South Dakota. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993 but not before it was bypassed by a low-water crossing. On GoogleMaps, one can only see the lally columns and the wing-walls but no truss structure. My question was “Where’s the Bridge?”
Many people thought the bridge was long gone, however…….
The bridge is still alive and well- but in a new home! 🙂 ❤
Jennifer Heath made a stop at the Threshing Grounds located outside Twin Brooks in Grant County and found the Thacher structure in use. Thanks to Don Morrison, who added the coordinates in my article from 20 February, she took a brief stop at the bridge a couple days ago to cofirm the bridge’s existence.
According to the information posted on the sign, the bridge was re-erected at the site in 1998, which meant that it had been taken off its original piers at Castlewood prior to 1997 and moved to this site. The bridge still serves traffic and is one of key features of the Twin Brooks Threshing Show Grounds. Featuring historic buildings (relocated here), farm exhibitions and a flea market, the Grounds hosts the annual threshing show in August, featuring antique tractor pulls and other forms of entertainment. It’s unclear how long they’ve been hosting the event or what the motive behind purchasing this historic bridge was. However it is clear that this bridge is the second of three hybrid Thacher structures that was relocated to a historic town setting to be used for exhibits and entertainment. The Yellow Bank Church Bridge in Laq Qui Parle County, Minnesota made its home at the Little Log House Pioneer Village, south of Hastings in Dakota County, Minnesota, when it was relocated there in 1989 and serves as a replica of the city’s beloved Spiral Bridge. The Castlewood Bridge sits over the creek and on concrete shows; its decking appears to be concrete, which makes carrying tractors and trucks a possibility.
While more information on the creation of the Grounds and the relocation of the bridge is needed (and will require a few e-mails and phone calls to find out -stay tuned), the bottom line is that the Castlewood Bridge has been found and is still serving traffic- 22 years after its relocation from its Big Sioux crossing. And it appears that with as much care as it has been taken, this bridge will remain a key ornament for the Grounds for many years and generations to come. For Twin Brooks, as well as Grant County and the state of South Dakota, it is a win-win situation, when someone preserves a key piece of history and uses it for a tourist attraction. 🙂
The search for information on the Castlewood Bridge: Link here.
BHC is collecting stories on Bizarre Encounters with People and Animals while bridgehunting/ photographing bridges: Link here
There will be a pair of updates coming in the Chronicles Newsflyer regarding the Castlewood Bridge and another Thacher Truss span, the Okoboji Bridge, based on the most recent findings that occurred at the time if this podcast. Stay tuned. 🙂
This Mystery Bridge entry takes us to the town of Castlewood in Hamlin County, The town is located east of the Big Sioux River, which snakes its way through the field in its infancy before it widens near Watertown. While Castlewood may be a typical rural American town, it does hold a treasure that is historically significant and one where we’re looking for.
The Castlewood Truss Bridge was a Thacher through truss bridge that had spanned the Big Sioux River southeast of town. It carries 184th street. The structure is 100 feet long with the main span having been 80 feet. The bridge was built by the King Bridge Company in 1894 under the direction of agent Milo Adams, and was the second of two bridges that was discovered and researched by the National Park Service in 1989. The second was at Yellow Bank Church Bridge in Laq Qui Parle County in neighboring Minnesota, built one year earlier. . Together with the Ellworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County, Iowa, the Castlewood Bridge represented an example of the hybrid form of the Thacher Truss Bridge, which was patented by Edwin Thacher in 1881.
The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 9th, 1993, yet the bridge was replaced on a new alignment by a low-water crossing in the summer of 1990. According to recent satellite view, the Thacher Truss structure is no-more. All that is left are the wing-walls and the lally columns on the west bank of the river.
This leads us to the main question: What happened to the bridge?
Research in newspaper articles and correspondences have thus far come up with nothing concrete. The exception was the plan to replace the bridge in 1989 after reports revealed that the structure was rusting and no longer able to carry traffic, which ran parallel to the research into the bridge’s historic significance. Bridgehunter.com had pinpointed the replacement date as sometime after June 1990, even though the article mentioned August 1990 as its planned replacement date.
This leads us to why the Castlewood Bridge was listed before the end of 1993. According to the National Register of Historic Places, any historic structure can be listed on the register if they comply to the requirements of historic significance. Once it’s listed, then grants and funding are made available for restoring and protecting the place, and it is next to impossible to demolish the historic place unless plausible arguments are made justifying it, which includes understanding the consequences of destroying it, which is its delisting. If the Castlewood Bridge was demolished for any reason, the bridge would be delisted from the National Register, and all records pertaining to its nomination, history and the like would be archived and made unavailable for researchers. If the bridge was replaced before its nomination in 1993, why list the structure to begin with? And if it was destroyed after its listing in 1993, why is it still listed?
This leads us to the question of what happened to the Castlewood Bridge. One has to assume that the bridge was dismantled and put into storage to be reused elsewhere. This was what happened to the Yellow Bank Church Bridge, and the truss bridge now has a new home at the historic village park south of Hastings in Minnesota. Its role is mimicking the Famous Hastings Spiral Bridge, the first bridge in the world with a loop approach. With regards to the Castlewood Bridge, the question is: Where’s the bridge? And will it be reused somewhere, if it has not been re-erected already? If the bridge no longer exist, then the question is 1. Why justify its existence on the National Register, and 2. Were any bridge parts been preserved as a historical marker?
The research about the bridge’s fate has not born any fruit to date. Therefore, the question goes straight to the locals of Hamlin County, South Dakota and the residents of Castlewood with this in mind:
After record-setting snowfall and cold in the Midwest of the US, residents and farmers are bracing for what could be flooding of biblical proportions. Already in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin, one can see fields converted into lakes and piles of broken ice from rivers and lakes littering streets and Highways. Billions of Dollars in property lost are expected as floodwaters and ice have destroyed farms and killed livestock, while many houses are underwater with thousands of residents displaced. Highways and especially bridges have been washed away, while other forms of infrastructure have caved in under the pressure of high water caused by snowfall, ice on the ground and massive amounts of precipitation. For residents in Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois and regions along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, where people are sandbagging their homes and communities, while others are evacuating, the scenes out west are a preview of what is yet to come.
The same applies for many historic bridges and other key crossings, for reports of bridges being washed away by flooding or crushed by ice jams are cluttering up the newsfeeds, social media and through word of mouth. While dozens of bridges have been affected, here’s a list of casualities involving all bridges regardless of age and type that have come in so far. They also include videos and pictures. Keep in mind that we are not out of the woods just yet, and the list will get much longer before the floodwaters finally recede and the snow finally melts away. For now, here are the first casualties:
Bridge Casualty List:
Trolley Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa: Spanning Beaver Creek north of I-35 between Iowa’s State Capital and nearby Johnston, this railroad trestle with two deck plate girder spans used to serve a trolley line going along the creek to the northwest. The line and the bridge were converted into a bike trail in 2000. On Wednesday the 13th, an ice jam caused by high water knocked over the center pier, causing the two deck plate girders to collapse. Two days later, the spans floated down the river with no word on where they ended up. No injuries reported. It is unknown whether the bridge will be rebuilt.
Highway 281 Bridge in Spencer, Nebraska: The Sandhills Bridge, spanning the Niobrara River was built in 2003. The multiple-span concrete beam bridge is located south of Spencer Dam. It should now be reiterated as a „was“ as the entire bridge was washed away completely on Monday the 11th. A video shows the bridge being washed away right after the dam failure:
The main culprit was the failure of the Spencer Dam, caused by pressure from high water and ice. It is unknown when and how both the failed will be rebuilt, even though sources believe the bridge will be rebuilt and open by September.
Carns State Aid Bridge in Rock County, Nebraska: This Niobrara River crossing consists of five arch spans, a Parker through truss and a Pratt through truss- both of them were brought in in 1962 to replace a sixth arch span and several feet of approach that were washed away. The bridge ist he last surviving structure that was built under Nebraska’s state aid bridge program and is listed on the National Register. It may be likely that a couple additional spans will be needed as the south approach going to the truss span was completely washed away in the floods. Fortunately, the rest of the bridge is still standing.
Sargent Bridge:Residents in Custer County, Nebraska are mourning the loss of one of its iconic historic bridges. The Sargent Bridge was a two-span, pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings supported by 45° heels; its overhead strut bracings are V-laced with 45° heels as well. Built in 1908 by the Standard Bridge Company of Omaha, using steel from Illinois Steel, this 250-foot long span was no match for large chunks of ice, floating down the Middle Loup River, turned the entire structure into piles of twisted metal. This happened on the 14th. While a photo showed only one of the spans, it is unknown what happened to the other span. One variable is certain: The loss of this historic bridge is immense.
Green Mill Bridge near Waverly, Iowa:Time and wear took a toll on this two-span bowstring through arch bridge, which spanned the Cedar River between Janesville and Waverly. A product of the King Bridge Company, the bridge was part of a three-span consortium in Waverly when it was built in 1872. 30 years later, two of the spans were relocated to a rural road northeast of Janesville, where it survived multiple floods, including those in 1993 and 2008. Sadly, it couldn’t survive the ice jams and flooding that took the entire structure off its foundations on the 16th. Currently, no one knows how far the spans were carried and whether they can be salvaged like it did with the McIntyre Bridge in Poweshiek County. The Green Mill Bridge was one of only two multiple-span bowstring arch bridges left in the state. The other is the Hale Bridge in Anamosa.
Jefferson Viaduct in Greene County, Iowa: The Raccoon River trestle features a through truss span built by Lassig Bridge and Iron Works and trestle approach spans built by the both Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Works and the Chicago Bridge and Iron Works Company. The 580-foot long bridge used to serve a bike trail until Friday the 15th when ice took out several feet of trestle approach. Fortunately, the through truss span is still in tact. Given its location though, it may take months until the trestle spans are replaced.
Photo taken by Jerry Huddelson
Turkey River Railroad Bridge at Millville, Iowa: This railroad span, located near 360th Street in Clayton County, has not had the best of luck when dealing with flooding. The two-span through truss span was destroyed in flooding in 1991 and subsequentially replaced by three steel girder spans. Two of them were washed away in flooding in 2008 and were replaced. Now all three spans are gone as of the 15th as flooding washed them all out. The rail line, owned by Canadian Pacific, has been shut down until a replacement span is erected with the freight trains being rerouted. It does raise a question of whether having a span in a flood-prone area makes sense without raising the railroad line.
Dunham Park Bridges in Sioux Falls, South Dakota: One of the first cities hit by ice jams and flooding, Sioux Falls was almost literally underwater with floodwaters at every intersection and street as well as the Falls being converted into an apocalyptic disaster, resembling a dam failing and the waters of the Big Sioux River wiping out everything in its path. One of the hardest hit was seen with Dunham Park as floodwaters washed away two mail-order truss bridges almost simultaneously. A video posted in social media on the 14th showed how powerful the floodwaters really were. The bridges were installed only a few years ago. It is unknown if other bridges were affected as crews are still battling floods and assessing the damage. It is however safe to say that the park complex will need to be rebuilt, taking a whole summer or two to complete.
There will be many more to come, as the weather gets warmer, accelerating the snowmelt and making the situation even more precarious. We will keep you informed on the latest developments. But to close this Newsflyer special, here’s a clip showing the raging Big Sioux River going down the Falls in Sioux Falls, giving you an idea of how bad the situation is right now:
That in addition to a reminder to stay away from floodwaters. Signs and barricades are there for one reason- to save your life. Think about it.
Our thoughts and prayers to families, friends and farmers affected severely by Mother Nature’s wrath- many of them have lost their homes and livelihoods and are in need of help. If you can help them, they will be more than grateful…… ❤
The discussion about the preservation and reuse of historic places has existed since the 1950s, thanks to the preservation laws that have been in place. The German Preservation Laws were passed in 1958, whereas the Historic Preservation Laws that established the National Park Service and National Register of Historic Places in the USA were enacted in 1966. Both serve the lone purpose of identifying and designating places unique to the cultural identity and history of their respective countries. Furthermore, these places are protected from any sort of modernization that would otherwise alter or destroy the structure in its original form. Protected places often receive tax credits, grants and other amenities that are normally and often not granted if it is not protected or even nominated for listing as a historic site. This applies to not only buildings and bridges but also to roadways and highways, windmills, towers of any sorts, forts and castles, citadels and educational institutions and even memorials commemorating important events.
Dedicating and designating sites often receive mixed reactions, from overwhelming joy because they can better enjoy the sites and educate the younger generations, to disgruntlement because they want to relieve themselves of a potential liability.
Since working with a preservation group in western Saxony on saving the Bockau Arch Bridge, a seven-span stone arch bridge that spans the Zwickau Mulde between Bockau and Zschorlau, six kilometers southwest of Aue, the theme involving this structure has been ownership. The bridge has been closed to all traffic since August 2017 while a replacement is being built on a new alignment. Once the new bridge opens, the 150-year old structure will come down unless someone is willing to step in and take over ownership and the responsibilities involved. . Taking the structure means paying for its maintenance and assuming all responsibility for anything that could potentially happen. And this is the key here: Ownership.
Who wants to own a piece of history? To examine this, let’s look at a basic example of a commodity where two thirds of the world’s population wear on a regular basis- the author included as well: glasses.
Ever since Marco Polo’s invention, glasses have been improved, innovated and modernized to not only make the person look great in appearance. It also helps them to better see the environment surrounding them, regardless of whether they are near-sighted or far sighted, have astigmatism or require bi-focals to read, or if they want protect their eyes from the sun in the form of shades. Glasses can be plastic or metal (or even both). And like the historic structures, the materials can be recycled if no one wants them. Yet by the same token, many of us love to keep them for the purpose of memories or give them away to those who need them. For over 30 years, I have worn nine pairs of glasses and two pairs of sunglasses; this does not count the eight years that I primarily wore contact lenses, which was during my time in high school and college. Like our historic structures, glasses have a life span. They are worn until the frames develop rust and corrosion, the vision changes or they are broken.
In some cases, many look for a new frames because they want to “look cool” in front of their peers. The “look cool” mentality has overtaken society to a point where it can be applicable to about everything: cars, clothing, houses and especially historic places and structures of interest. Basically, people just ignore the significance of these structures and things that had been built in the past, which hold memories, contribute to the development of a country, region or even community, or are simply fashionable. Still in spite of all this, one has to do something about the glasses, just as much one has to do something about the historic building.
So let’s take these two pairs of sunglasses, for example. Like in the picture above, the top one I was prescribed by an optometrist in 2005; the bottom one most recently in June 2018. The top one is a combination of plastic and steel- the temples, ends and hinges are made of steel; the eye wires are plastic. The lenses are made with Carl Zeiss branded glass with a sealcoat covering to protect it from scratches. The bottom ones are plastic- frames, temples and nosepiece; the lenses are plastic but with a sealcoat protectant and dimmers to protect the eyes from the sun. The brand name is generic- no name. The difference is that the changes in the eyes required new sunglasses for the purpose of driving or doing work outside. As I wear the new sunglasses, which are not as high quality but is “cool,” according to standards, the question is what to do with the old sunglasses?
There are enough options to go around, even if the sunglasses are not considered significant. One can keep the old pair for memory purposes. Good if you have enough space for them. One can give them away to someone who needs them. If they are non-prescription lenses, that is much easier than those with a prescription. With the prescription lenses, one will need to remove them from the frame before giving them away. Then there is the option of handing them into the glasses provider, who takes the pair apart and allows for the materials to be recycled. More likely one will return the old pair to the provider to be recycled and reused than it would be to give them away because of the factors of age, quality of the materials and glass parts and especially the questions with the lenses themselves. One can keep the pair, but it would be the same as leaving them out of sight and out of mind.
And this mentality can be implemented to any historic structure. People strive for cooler, more modern buildings, infrastructure or the like, but do not pay attention to the significance of the structure they are replacing in terms of learning about the past and figuring its reuse in the future. While some of these “oldtimers “ are eventually vacated and abandoned, most of them are eventually torn down with the materials being reused for other purposes; parts of sentimental values, such as finials, statues and plaques, are donated to museums and other associations to be put on display.
One of examples that comes to mind when looking at this mentality are the bridges of Minnehaha County in South Dakota. The most populous county in the state whose county seat is Sioux Falls (also the largest city in the state), the county used to have dozens of historic truss bridges that served rail and automobile traffic. As of present, 30 known truss bridges exists in the county, down from 43 in 1990, and half as many as in 1980. At least six of them are abandoned awaiting reuse. This includes a rails-to-road bridge that was replaced in 1997 but has been sitting alongside a gravel road just outside Dell Rapids ever since. A big highlight came with the fall of five truss bridges between Dell Rapids and Crooks in 2012, which included three through truss spans- two of which had crossed the Big Sioux. All three were eligible for the National Register. The reasons behind the removal were simple: Abandoned for too long and liability was too much to handle
This leads me to my last point on the glasses principle: what if the structures are protected by law, listed as a historic monument? Let’s look at the glasses principle again to answer that question. Imagine you have a couple sets of glasses you don’t want to part ways with, even as you clean your room or flat. What do you do with them? In the case of my old sunglasses, the answer is simple- I keep them for one can reuse them for other purposes. Even if I allow my own daughter to use them for decorating dolls or giant teddy bears, or even for artwork, the old pair is mine, if and only if I want to keep them and allow for use by someone else under my care. The only way I would not keep the old sunglasses is if I really want to get rid of them and no one wants them.
For historic places, this is where we have somewhat of a grey area. If you treat the historic place as if it is protected and provide great care for it, then there is a guarantee that it will remain in its original, pristine condition. The problem is if you want to get rid of it and your place is protected by law. Here you must find the right person who will take as good care of it as you do with your glasses. And that is not easy because the owner must have the financial security and the willpower just to do that. Then the person taking it over does not automatically do what he/she pleases. If protected under preservation laws you must treat it as if it is yours but it is actually not, just like renting a house. Half the places that have been torn down despite its designation as a historical site was because of the lack of ownership and their willingness to do something to their liking. Even if there are options for restoration available, if no one wants it, it has to go, even if it means taking it off the historic registry list to do that. Sometimes properties are reclaimed at the very last second, just like the old glasses, because of the need to save it. While one can easily do that with glasses, it is difficult to do that with historic places, for replacement contracts often include removal clauses for the old structure, something that is very difficult to rescind without taking the matter to court.
In reference to the project on the Bockau Arch Bridge in Germany, we are actually at that point. Despite its protection as a historic structure, its designation was taken off recently, thus allowing for the contract for the new bridge at the expense of the old structure to proceed. Yet, like with the pair of old glasses, last ditch attempts are being made to stop the process for there are possible suitors willing to take over the old structure and repurpose it for bike and pedestrian use. While neither of the communities have expressed interest, despite convincing arguments that the bridge can be maintained at a price that is 100 times less than the calculated amount, the group working to save the bridge is forming an association which will feature a network of patrons in the region, willing to chip in to own the bridge privately. Despite this, the debate on ownership and the bridge’s future lies in the hands of the state parliament because the bridge carries a federal highway, which is maintained on the state and national levels. Will it become like the old pair of glasses that is saved the last second will be decided upon later this fall.
To summarize briefly on the glasses principle, glasses and buildings each have a short lifespan because of their functionality and appearance. We tend to favor the latter more than the former and therefore, replace them with newer, more modern and stylish things to keep up with the pace. However, the older structures, just like the discarded pair of glasses, are downgraded on the scale, despite its protection under laws and ownership. When listed as a historical site, the proprietor works for and together with the government to ensure its upkeep, just like lending old glasses to someone for use, as long as the person knows he/she is “borrowing” it. When it is not listed , they are either abandoned or torn down, just like storing the glasses in the drawers or even having them recycled. However the decision is final if and only if no one wants it, and this could be a last-second thing.
We cannot plan ahead for things that need to be built, expanded or even replaced, for there may be someone with a strong backbone and staunch support who will step in the last minute to stake their claim. This applies to replacing older, historic structures with modern ones that have less taste and value. In the face of environmental issues we’re seeing globally on a daily basis, we have to use and reuse buildings and other structures to prevent the waste of materials that are becoming rarer to use, the destruction of natural habitats that may never recover but most importantly, remind the younger generations of our history and how we got this far. While some of us have little memories of our old glasses in schools with the exception of school class and party photos, almost all of us have memories of our experiences at, in, or on a historic structure that deserves to be recognized and kept for others to see. It’s just a matter of handling them, like the glasses we are wearing.
The 75th mystery bridge in the Chronicles takes us to a small but empty town of Beloit, in northwestern Iowa. Located on the Big Sioux River just east of Canton, Beloit was founded in the 1880s and was once a bustling community of almost 2,000 inhabitants. It used to be famous for its state children’s orphanage. Founded in 1890, the orphanage owned over 400 acres of farm land and had cared for over 1000 boys and girls ages 12 and under before closing down in 1944 and relocating to Ames in 1949. Augustana College was also located in Beloit for awhile before moving first to Canton and eventually to its current location in Sioux Falls, 30 miles up the river. Beloit was also a railroad hub, having served passengers coming in from Sioux Falls, Sioux City and even Rock Rapids. With all of them now gone, the community that used to have over 2,500 inhabitants (counting the orphans and college students) has now become a ghost town with not more than 20 residents living there and a lot of empty and dilapidated buildings and places that used to hold fond memories of what Beloit used to be like back in days of horse and buggy as well as the railroad.
Many people connected with Beloit in one way or another may be familiar with the Beloit Bridge, our mystery bridge. Located over the Big Sioux River, this bridge was the lone crossing serving Beloit for almost 80 years, yet little is known of who built it, how long it was and whether there was a predecessor- either a wooden/iron bridge or a ferry. We do know that the bridge was a Pennsylvania through truss with M-frame portals thickened with V-laced bracings, and pinned connections. It was built in 1897 and for 74 years, served traffic in the community. It is unknown how long the bridge was but estimates point to somewhere between 200 and 300 feet for the main span plus the approach spans. Records show that anyone going across the bridge faster than a walk was fined $10, which is equivalent to $300 in today’s standards. A plaque used to exist on the portal bracings, as seen in the picture below, and its design matches that of a handful of bridge builders that had once populated the state with through truss bridges. This includes A.H. Austin, Clinton Bridge and Iron Works, and King Bridge Company. Given the high number of Pennsylvania truss bridges built in the state, all money is being bet on Clinton, but research and a lot of luck is needed to confirm this. The plaques were removed in the 1940s and have not been seen ever since. Perhaps with the closure of the orphanage, they were simply taken off the portals and given to someone as a keepsake ornament.
But what else do we know about the bridge? The dates of its existence and its connection with Beloit is clear. But who built the structure and was there one before that? If you have pictures and information that will be of some help, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles and share some stories. The Beloit Bridge has a key role in the existence of a once thriving farm community and one that brought children, college students and even visitors together during its rather short existence. While we know a lot about Augustana College and the children’s home, plus many historic buildings that served customers, this bridge is definitely part of the community’s heritage and through your help, we can solve the mystery of the bridge that connected Beloit with the outside.
To start off this new year, there are some good news as well as some bad news. First the bad news: The deadline for entries for the 2015 Ammann Awards has been pushed back again for the last time. This time the 10th of January at 12:00am Central Standard Time (January 11th at 7:00am Central European Time) is the absolute deadline for all entries, including that for Best Photo, Lifetime Achievement and other categories. Reason for the delay is the low number of entries, much of that has to do with the weather disaster of biblical proportions in the United States and Great Britain, which has kept many away from the cameras and forced many to fill sandbags. The the voting process will proceed as planned with the winners being announced at the end of this month.
The good news: The author has enough candidates and stories to justify announcing his choices for 2015- the first to be announced before the actual Ammann Awards presentations but one that should keep the interest in historic bridges running sky high, especially before the main course. In other words, the author is serving his appetizers right now to keep the readers and candidates hungry for more bridge stuff. 😉
So here is our first appetizer: The Biggest Bonehead Story
Truck Destroys Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana- Ever since Christmas Day, this story has been the hottest topic in the media, even breaking records of the number of post clicks on the Chronicles. A 23-year-old woman, who claimed to be Amish, drives a 30-ton truck full of drinking water across the 1880 Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company structure that was only able to carry 6 tons. Naturally, the bridge gave in, yet the excuses the driver brought up became more and more incredulable: 1. I just received my driver’s license, 2. I couldn’t turn around or find an alternative so I took the chance, and 3. (Most outrageous): I didn’t know how many pounds equaled six tons.
Yet the question remains, which was more incredulable: The incident or the consequence of the incident: a mere $135 fine for crossing the light-weight bridge, destroying it in the process?
But this bridge collapse on the island of Sicily, which happened in January, was a scandal! The Scorciavacche Viaduct near Palermo was completed in December 2014, three months earlier than scheduled, only for it to collapse partially on January 5th, 10 days after its opening! While no one was hurt, the collapse sparked a political outcry as the multi-million Euro bridge was part of the 200 million Euro motorway project, and as a consequence, officials prompted an investigation into the cause of the bridge. The construction company, which claimed that the accident was caused by “substinence,” tried shooting down the accusations, claiming the accident was overexaggerated. Makes the reader wonder if they tried covering up a possible design flaw, combined with human error, which could have caused the collapse. If so, then they have the (now jailed) Captain of the capsized Costa Concordia to thank, for like the ship that has been towed away and scrapped, the bridge met the same fate. Lesson for the wise: More time means better results. Check your work before opening it to others.
Best Historic Bridge Find:
While the author stayed out of the US for all of 2015 and focused his interesting findings on European soil, other bridge colleagues have found some bridges that had been either considered gone or had never been heard of before. One of these colleagues from Minnesota happened to find one that is still standing! 🙂
Bridge L-1297 in Clearwater County, Minnesota-
According to records by the Minnesota Historical Society, the Schonemann Park Bridge, located south of Luverne in Rock County, is the only example of a Waddell kingpost truss bridge left standing in Minnesota. This 1912 bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Bridge L-1297, which spans the Clearwater River near Gronvich in Clearwater, is the OTHER Waddell kingpost pony truss bridge that is still standing. Its markings matches exactly that of its Schonemann counterpart. Although there is no concrete evidence of when it was built and by whom, Pete Wilson, who found it by chance and addressed it to the Chronicles, mentioned that it was likely that it was built between 1905 and 1910 by the Hewett family, which built the bridge at Luverne. In either case, it is alive, standing albeit as a private crossing, and should be considered for the National Register. Does anybody else agree? 🙂
It is rare to find a cluster of historic bridges that are seldomly mentioned in any history books or bridge inventory. During a bike tour through eastern Thuringia in March, I happened to find a treasure in the hills: A dozen historic bridges within a 10 km radius, half of which are in the city of 29,000 inhabitants, including the ornamental Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge located on the east end of town. Highly recommended the next time you pass through the area. These bridges will be profiled further in the coming year because of their aesthetic and historic value, which makes the town, resembling an East German bygone era, more attractive. Check them out! 🙂
Flooding and Fires dominated the headlines as Mother Nature was not to kind to the areas affected, thus they were flooded, destroying historic bridges in the path. If there was no flooding, there were dry spells prompting fires that burned down everything touched. While there were several examples of historic bridges destroyed by nature, the author has chosen two that standout the most, namely because they were filmed, plus two runners-up in the international category. Fortunately for the bridge chosen in the US category, there is somewhat of a happy ending.
While there was a three-way tie for spectacular natural disasters done to the historic bridges on the international front, this concrete arch bridge in Tadcaster in the UK stands out the most. The bridge collapsed on December 29th as floodwaters raged throughout much of the northern part of Great Britain. It was one of dozens of bridges that were either severely damaged or destroyed during the worst flooding on record. The saddest part was not the video on how the bridge fell apart bit by bit, but the bridge was over 300 years old. Demolition and replacement of the bridge is expected to commence at the earliest at the end of this year once the damages are assessed and the clean-up efforts are under way.
Coach takes a swim under a culvert in Brazil:
Two runners-up in this category also have to do with bridge washouts due to flooding. One of them is this culvert wash-out in Brazil. A video submitted to the French magazine LeMonde shows what can happen if engineers choose a culvert over a replacement bridge, as this coach sank into the raging creek, went through the culvert and swam away! :-O Fortunately all the passengers evacuated prior to the disaster, however, it serves as a warning to all who wish to cut cost by choosing a culvert over a new bridge- you better know what you are getting into, especially after watching the video below.
Massive Panic as Bridge is washed out in India-
The other runner-up takes us to the city of Chennai in India, where flash flooding wreaked havoc throughout the city. At this bridge, the pier of a concrete bridge gave way as a large wave cut up the crossing in seconds! Massive panic occurred, as seen in the video seen below:
Dumbest Reason to destroy a historic bridge:
The final category for this year’s Author’s Choice Award goes to the people whose irrational decision-making triggered the (planned) destruction of historic bridges. This year’s candidates features two familiar names that are on the chopping block unless measures on a private scale are undertaken to stop the wrecking ball. One of the bridges is an iconic landmark that is only 53 years old.
BB Comer Bridge in Alabama- Three years of efforts to raise awareness to a vintage cantilever bridge went up in smoke on November 14th, when county officials not only rejected the notion for a referendum on saving the BB Comer Bridge in Scotsboro, but also turned down any calls for the matter to be brought up for all time to come. While the organization promoting the preservation of the bridge claimed that the city and Jackson County would not need to pay for the maintenance of the bridge, officials were not sold on the idea of having the bridge become a theme park, which would have been a win-win situation as far as producing funds for the tourism industry is concerned. Instead, behind closed doors, the contract was signed off to convert the 1930 bridge into scrap metal, giving into the value of the commodity. Talk about short-sightedness and wrist slitting there!
Fehmarn Bridge to come down- In an effort to push through the Migratory Freeway through Fehmarn Island and down the throats of opposing residents, the German Railways condemned the world’s first basket weave tied arch bridge, built in 1963 to connect the island with the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The official reason was too much rust and any rehabilitation would prolong the bridge’s life by only 20 years- highly disputable among the preservationists and civil engineers given the number of concrete examples of rehabilitated bridges lasting 50+ years. Yet many locals believe that the German Railways is pushing for the bridge to be removed in favor of its own railroad crossing that would carry Fernzüge from Hamburg to Copenhagen, eliminating the ferry service between Puttgarten and Rodby in Denmark. The fight however is far from over as the campaign to save the island and its cherished architectural work is being taken to the national level, most likely going as far as Brussles if necessary. In addition, lack of funding and support on the Danish side is delaying the tunnel project, threatening the entire motorway-bridge-tunnel project to derail. If this happens, then the next step is what to do with the Fehmarn Bridge in terms of prolonging its life. The bridge is in the running for Bridge of the Year for the 2015 Ammann Awards for the second year in a row, after finishing a distant second last year.
AND NOW THE VOTING PROCESS AND RESULTS OF THE 2015 AMMANN AWARDS, WHICH WILL BEGIN STARTING JANUARY 11th, AS SOON AS THE DEADLINE FOR ALL ENTRIES PASSES. HURRY TO ENTER YOUR PHOTOS, BRIDGES, AND PERSONS DESERVING HONORS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!
Bridges severely damaged in the fire- future in doubt
STURGIS, SOUTH DAKOTA- A key icon symbolizing the great American bike trip is gone, and with it, most likely two symbols of America’s architectural past. The Full Throttle Saloon, the world’s largest biker bar and one of the key meeting points of the annual Motorcycle Rally that takes place every summer in August, was lost by a great fire early this morning (September 8th). Fire crews were called to the site at 12:30am (Mountain Standard Time) or 8:30am Berlin Time this morning when smoke was coming out of the building. Despite attempts by the firemen to put out the smoke and flames inside the building, they were forced to battle the fire from outside, when the heat and smoke became too unbearable. Thanks to high winds and a possible gas line leak, the building complex was engulfed in flames at 2:30am and collapsed a half hour later, according to reports from the fire department and local news. No one was injured in the fire, nor was there anyone in the locked building at the time of the fire. The building complex and all its relics and symbols were considered a total loss. The Rapid City Journal has a gallery of photos taken after the fire, which can be viewed here. Many videos were posted of the fire, but this one below shows the damage to one of the bridges and its decking:
As far as the two bridges are concerned, their futures are in doubt, as fire burned away the wood decking of both spans, leaving a truss superstructure standing. This is the first time since 2013 that a fire did considerable damage to a historic steel truss bridge. The Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa was set ablaze during the Historic Bridge Weekend in August 2013, causing significant damage to the bridge decking and bridge parts. That bridge has since been repaired and is being used as a venue for summer open-air concerts. The two bridges damaged by the Full Throttle Saloon fire were each built in 1912 and had spanned the Belle Fourche River before being relocated to the Saloon in 2008, to be used as an observatory deck for concerts and other events. Both bridges were built by the Canton Bridge Company in Ohio and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The difference between the two is the length and bridge type. The shorter span, measured at 79 feet, is a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings, decorated with X-lattice at the top- typical of the Canton bridges. The longer span is a Pennsylvania Petit with A-frame portal bracings and V-laced vertical posts. The bridge is approximately 200 feet long.
While the cause of the fire is being investigated by the state fire marshal, scores of letters of support are being poured in on the Saloon’s website and facebook pages in hopes that the place will be rebuilt. Whether and how this will happen, let alone whether these two bridges will be reconstructed or converted to scrap metal will depend on a series of inspections to be conducted by engineers and other architectural experts. These will be conducted in the coming months. But for now, tourists, bikers and bridge enthusiasts are mourning the loss of one of the most popular gatherings in the country, littered with vintage signs and other items that had once provided a nostalgia of a now bygone era, where the biker can pack little but travel cross country to see the wild west, stopping at places like this one for a good beer and good company. For many, Full Throttle will be missed, but another better one will take its place. And hopefully, the bridges and the salvageable can be used as part of a bigger meeting point for bikers.
Note: The Full Throttle Saloon won the Amman Awards for the Best Example of Historic Bridge Reuse in 2011. It was also the site of the 75th annual Motorcycle Rally this year. More on that here. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the future of Full Throttle after the blaze. You can visit their facebook page to provide them with some support for rebuilding the facility.
To start off this terminology page under the word Bridge Vibration, there is a story that is connected with this bridge. The Lackawaxen Suspension Bridge was built in 1849 by Russell Lord and John Roebling and spans the Delaware River bordering Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Together with the suspension bridge in Nuremberg (Germany), they are the only bridges of its kind in the world where the roadway is supported by odd-numbered towers. This in addition to the fact that they were both built before 1870. But the story goes where teenagers in the 1920s and 30s would try and race their cars across the bridge, then stop abruptly in the middle, creating a wave of vibration that would shake the wooden planking of the 300 foot structure! A dangerous stunt for it could lead to the bridge to collapse, but in those days, a carefree attitude towards bridges did not include liability issues like we have nowadays.
And this is where we look at the topic of Bridge Vibration. Can a bridge vibrate and if so, to what extent can it vibrate in order to make it safe? This is in connection with some discussion about bridge vibration and how unsafe it is. Three bridges- two in Battleboro, New Hampshire and one bridge at Sylvan Island in the Quad Cities were the primary focus of this issue. City officials in the Moline (IL) portion of the Quad Cities feared that bridge vibration would mean that the potential for bridge collapse was there and subsequentially closed the bridge to all traffic this past May. The 1911 Pratt through truss structure, once serving as the lone key access to Sylvan Island, is now scheduled to be replaced this fall with a concrete structure that is not meant to bounce. The Charles Dana and Anna Hunt Marsh Bridges in Battleboro were on the hot seat lately due to suspected negligence on the part of the New Hampshire DOT and vandalism by someone who justified his actions on bridgehunter.com and claimed that a 250 foot bridge does not bounce. Both bridges are scheduled for replacement in 5-10 years time. This leads to the question of whether a bridge can or has to bounce. After inquiring about this with some bridge engineers who have worked with this topic, the answer to that question is yes, but with certain restrictions. Says Todd Vierendeel, who works for an engineering firm in South Dakota: “All bridges will experience some amount of deflection under load. The repeated loading and un-loading of spans due to transient loads (truck and pedestrian) can generate the sensation of vibration, or “bouncing” as has been described here. Excessive deflection and/or vibration can cause structural issues, but it’s actually not desirable primarily from a user comfort perspective.” Billy Wulff, a bridge engineer from Quickborn, Germany, compares this sort of vibration to a plank sitting on top of a box whose expansion and contraction is restricted in contrast to the plank. Therefore, “…engineers build in tolerances (which they calculate) of movement.” He also added that engineers have tried to construct lighter bridges, using the same materials for both the structure and the flooring, in order for it to not move.
The danger to such vibration is that too much of it, combined with the usage of light-weight materials for bridge construction will lead to structural failure. Many bridges have collapsed because of what Wulff calls misunderstanding of science combined with unsuitable materials. The most classical example was the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington in 1940. There, too much light materials for the bridge deck on “Galloping Gertie” resulted in excessive bouncing in 40 mph wind, resulting in the bridge’s collapse. Video of the collapse can be found here. To regulate the vibration on all bridges, transportation agencies have bridge design codes to ensure that there is a certain tolerance to the bridge vibration; this applies to agencies responsible for highways and railroads, but as Vierendeel states, the guidelines are more stringent for pedestrian bridges as they can notice the vibrations more than automobile drivers or train conductors.
But for older bridges, like the aforementioned bridges, he adds that more care is needed to ensure that the vibrations do not cause any discomfort among drivers and pedestrians, namely because of the increase in loads going across the bridge. Therefore, some adjustments, like additional beams, weight restrictions, and extensive maintenance are needed to prolong the bridge’s life. As for bridges that are closed to vehicular traffic but open to pedestrians, such bouncing is considered normal for as they were used to vehicles crossing it, its tolerance may have increased over the years, making the bouncing sensation more pronounced. Yet, as many experts have mentioned, it does not mean that the bridge is unsafe and sometimes, additional support and retrofitting the bridge deck to reduce the vibrations is what is needed to prevent any discomfort of bridge users. This happened with the Millenium Bridge in London, where fluid and mass dampers were retrofitted to reduce the vibration frequency caused by many people crossing the bridge.
So to answer the questions, yes it is possible for bridges to vibrate when crossing, but only within tolerances that are imposed in bridge designs approved by transportation agencies. Should bridges witness any excessive vibrations, it is possible to fix the problem by adding support to the decking and retrofitting bridge parts to ensure that the vibrations are at a minimum. There is no such thing as a bridge not vibrating because of factors involving temperature differences combined with the volume of traffic crossing the bridge. This leads to the question of the necessity to tear down bridges that vibrate when it is all part of the way the structure functions. Sometimes some minor repairs to bridges like the ones mentioned combined with continuous maintenance is all that is needed to ensure that the bridge lasts longer and the tax payers do not have to suffer as a result of tearing down a bridge for something whose quality cannot match that of the one that is destined for the scrap heap. While it may be too late to save the Sylvan Island Bridge, it is something officials in New Hampshire and other states should consider before deciding on replacement over restoration.
The author would like to thank Billy Wulff and Todd Vierendeel (the names and occupation were changed to protect their identity) for their help in clarifying this topic.