BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 140: Tribute to James Baughn-Easter Edition Part 1

This week’s Pic of the Week features a two-pic special in observance of the Easter holiday weekend. The first part will be showcased today on Easter Saturday, the second part on Easter Sunday- all in honor of the bridgehunter webmaster himself, James Baughn.

Today’s Pic takes us to Chester, Illinois and this bridge, the Gage Junction Bridge. This pic was taken by Mr. Baughn in 2013 at the time where Spring is beginning to take its course with the blossoming of trees and the melting of the snow. When this pic was taken, the river levels were higher because of the run-off caused by the melting snow. Nevertheless, this shot deserves recognition for its beauty as the greening process takes its course.

The Gage Junction Bridge is one of the newer versions of the truss bridge. The bridge features a polygonal Warren through truss span supported by multiple plate girder spans. The portals are Washington-style (WA) and the connections are riveted. The total length is 1380 feet; the truss span is 240 feet. The bridge is located over the Kaskaskia River just above the Lock and Dam northwest of Chester, in Randolph County, Illinois. It was built in 1976 replacing a swing bridge that had been built in 1903 but was destroyed in a train wreck in 1975. Union Pacific continues to operate the line and this bridge to this day.

The Gage Junction Bridge represents an example of truss bridges that were still being used during the 1970s. Even though truss bridges became rare to build because of other bridge designs that were more commonly used, such as beams and girders. However, in the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of truss bridges being built. Even though nine out of ten newer truss bridges have been built for railway traffic, we have seen new truss bridges that have been built either for pedestrian use, like the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County, or for roadway use, like the Motor Mill Bridge in Clayton County– both located in Iowa. We’re not talking about the mail-order-truss structures that are welded together at a manufcaturing company and installed on the spot. We’re talking about truss bridges that are put together and supported by riveted connections and feature genuine portal and strut bracings, V-laced vertical beams and upper and lower chords. And they are built together onsite and over the river. 🙂

This leads me to some questions for you to ponder:

  1. How historically valuable are these modern truss bridges compared to the ones built between 1870 and 1940, including those made of iron and also those with special (ornamental) features?
  2. Will truss bridges make a comeback and become another option for bridge building? We’re seeing many examples of such bridges dating back to the 1980s and later in places like Indiana and Ohio. But what about the other states?
  3. What truss designs are used to construct modern truss bridges and which ones would you like to see built?
  4. And lastly, what’s a typical truss bridge to you and in your opinion, will these modern truss bridges meet your own expectations?

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Feel free to comment here or in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. We love to hear from you. 🙂

Wagon Wheel Bridge Damaged by Fire

West entrance to the bridge. Photo taken during the 2013 Historic Bridge Weekend.

Fire damages east approach span. Investigation ongoing.

BOONE, IOWA- Law enforement authorities are investigating a possible arson, which occurred on the Wagon Wheel Bridge most recently. According to reports from multiple sources, the fire was reported by Union Pacific Railroad on Sunday night at 11:00pm at the eastern end of the bridge. While the fire was brought under control and no damage was done to the multiple span truss bridge, the eastern approach spans were charred, prompting county officials to remove the spans. The bridge has since been closed off to pedestrians and cyclists with its future in limbo. Any information pertaining to possible arson should be directed to law enforcement officials in Boone as soon as possible.

The Wagon Wheel Bridge, built in 1910 by the Iowa Bridge Company in Des Moines, has seen its best and worst times, the latter occurring within the past eight years. Damage was sustained by high water in 2008 when sections of the eastern approach spans were washed away during the worst flooding since 1993.  Attempts were made to pass a referendum in 2010, calling for a new structure to be built in place of the vintage structure, only to fall on deaf ears by a vast majority. Two floods later, the structure had been still been standing in tact with new decking added to the entire 710 foot bridge. Even an idea of having a memorial at the bridge site, dedicated to Kathlynn Shepard was brought up in 2013. This was in addition to having two bills passed to make kidnapping a felony and increase the age of the vicitims of such crimes to 15 years of age (instead of 12). More on the efforts can be seen through Kathlynn’s Hope facebook site.  Homage was paid to the bridge through the Historic Bridge Weekend that same year, where 20 people from all over the US attended the event, with Pam Schwartz of the Boone County Historic Society providing the guided tour of that and other bridges- many in connection with the famous Kate Shelley story (click here for details).

With the eastern approach spans removed, attempts are being made to restore the bridge to its original glory. This includes providing new decking that will not be vulnerable to fires. But also the need for repairing the truss parts and stabilizing the cylinder piers are there. All of this is part of the plan to use the bridge as a centerpiece of a bike trail to connect Boone and Odgen with a possibility to connect with the trails in Des Moines. Already, a facebook page has been launched with over 1440 likes on there. The main goal is to raise enough funds to realize the project. Repairs are estimated to be betwene $700,000 and $1m. But the race against time is underway. While the bridge is fenced off to all traffic with the eastern approach spans are removed, consideration is being taken to remove the entire structure for safety reasons. This is being met with solid opposition from locals, the state and other members favoring the preservation of the bridge becaus of its connection with the city’s history. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1998 and any plans to alter, replace, or remove the bridge will require approval and survey, which could take time and money to take. With the love towards the bridge being as high as it was when the referendum failed in 2010, many paths to Rome will be built to ensure that the historic bridge will be saved from becoming scrap metal, even if it means spending more to rehabilitate the structure and make it part of the city’s history and bike trail network. It is more of the question of the availability of resources and effort to undertake this mission. If new decking was added after 2010 with no problems, and looking at the success with Sutliff Bridge, another multiple span truss bridge, people will more likely look at ways to make this project bear fruit.

The Bridgehunter’s Chroncles will keep you posted on the latest on the Wagon Wheel Bridge. Please click on the highlighted links to take a look at the stories written about this bridge and other items. Join the group saving the bridge on facebook and get in touch with them if you are willing to provide some ideas and help to restoring the bridge.

 

Oblique view of the longest span. Photo taken in 2010

View of the east approach. This is where the fire took place recently. The photo had been taken in 2013.

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Ely Street Bridge in Bertram Washed Away

Ely Street Brdg. Bertram
Ely Stret Bridge in Bertram

1891 Bridge near Cedar Rapids knocked into flooded Big Creek.

June of this year saw unprecedented flooding in the Midwest, as heavy rainfall saturated the ground and turned quiet creeks into violent rivers flowing out of control. This includes the areas of Linn, Jones and Johnson Counties in east central Iowa, where floodwaters and erosion caused damage to two major highway bridges northeast of Cedar Rapids, and sadly the destruction of a prized historic bridge in the small town of Bertram.

Located east of Cedar Rapids and accessible from highways 151 and 13, the town of 300 inhabitants is located on a key railroad line between Clinton and Cedar Rapids. The quiet community prides itself in having four historic bridges located within a six-mile radius, all of them located along Big Creek, one of the tributaries that eventually empties into the Cedar River.  The Ely Street Bridge, located on East Bertram Road just south of the railroad crossing is one of them.

Ely Street Bridge in Bertram
Ely Street Bridge in Bertram in Linn County. Photo taken in August 2013

Built in 1891, the two-span Pratt through truss bridge, with Town lattice portal bracings and pinned connections, is a key example of a bridge built by J.E. Jayne and Son Bridge Company in Iowa City, located 30 miles south of Cedar Rapids. Born in 1838,  John E. Jayne moved to Johnson County at the age of two where he settled down with his family on a plot of land in Graham Twp., according to county records. He started his bridge building business in Iowa City in the 1870s, with his company located on Gilbert Street. Many bridges built in Linn County were credited to his name, including three in and around Bertram. The red-colored Ely Street Bridge is the best known product built by Jayne, as the structure consists of two truss spans totalling 224 feet long and 14 feet wide. Plaques are found at the top center part of the portal bracings. The bridge is well-hidden but one will cross it right after crossing the railroad tracks.

That is, it used to…

Heavy rainfall caused Big Creek to flood its banks, resulting in trees and other debris falling into the rushing waters. One of the larger trees knocked the two-span structure into the water on June 30th, cutting the truss bridges into pieces and the street off from its main access to US 151 and IA 13.  Once standing while underwater, the truss structure is now in many pieces, and there is no word on whether the bridge will be rebuilt or scrapped in favor of a more modern structure.

Already last year, attempts were made by Iowa DOT and Linn County to encourage residents of Bertram to “upgrade” the bridges, including the Ely Street Bridge. The offer of covering a wider portion of the cost to replace them was rejected by residents for they did not want to have an increase in traffic going through the community. The decision was sensible given the quiet setting Bertram has to offer, with its narrow streets and houses that are more than 70 years old. With the Ely Street Bridge washed away, the issue of the future of the crossing will indeed be brought back onto the table of the Bertram town council, Linn County and eventually Iowa DOT.

There are three options facing the parties involved:

1. The bridge could be scrapped and replaced with a modern bridge, with the plaques being saved and showcased at either the museum or on the railings of the new bridge. There, the issue of the increase in traffic and the opposition to building a new bridge because of cost and historic significance will be discussed vehemently.

2. The second option is removing what is left of the bridge and not replacing the bridge at all. This would be a definitely inconvenience for it would cut the community in half with a crossing disappearing forever.

3. Then there is the third option, which is rebuilding the truss bridge, piece by piece, making it resemble the original crossing. While that may be expensive to undertake, judging by the state of the truss spans, most of the pieces are salvageable, with the exception of the diaginal beams and portal bracings, which can be done by a local bridge builder. This option would keep the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the honor it had received in 1998.

Even if only one of the truss spans is salvageable, one can either construct a replica of the lost span, as was done with the Motor Mill Bridge in Clayton County and the easternmost span of the Sutliff Crossing near Lisbon, both done in 2012. Both bridges had been washed away by flooding years before, and residents associated with both bridges raised funding and received help from state and federal authorities to rebuild them.  That financial support is also available if one would import a historic bridge from elsewhere to replace one of the lost spans, whether that span originates from somewhere in either Linn, Jones or Johnson Counties or a couple river miles west of the bridge. There, the Blaine’s Crossing Bridge, seen from the Hwy. 151/13 Bridge, has been out of use for many years but still has some use left, judging by the appearance after the bridge was visited by two pontists within two years of each other.

Given the many opportunities available, combined with the technical know-how available for rebuilding and restoring historic bridges, and the residents’ interest in a (preferrably restored) crossing at East Bertram Road, it will be most likely that the Ely Street Bridge will be rebuilt and the crossing will be reopen in the near future. The questions will remain though as to how to approach this problem. Will the bridge be rebuilt to its original form or (partially) replaced? How much money is needed to rebuild the crossing and where will the money come from? Will there be any campaigning for restoring the crossing, like on facebook, etc., and if so, how? And lastly, what will the rebuilt bridge look like: in its original form, in a replicated form, in an altered form, or in a completely new form?  All these questions will need to be answered in the coming weeks and months before construction of the crossing can commence. This time, those affected will have their say as to how (new) crossing should be built.

Author’s Note: Check out Bridgehunter.com for more pictures of the Ely Street Bridge, taken by the author and two other pontists. This includes a couple shots of the bridge after being knocked into Big Creek. 

A tour of Bertram’s bridges can be seen here.

Something Old and Something New at the Historic Bridge Weekend

Cascade Bridge in Burlington, Iowa. One of many bridges visited on the tour.

Open-air presentations, reunion with old friends and colleagues, incredible bridge finds
There is a first time in everything. This old saying can be applied to this year’s Historic Bridge Weekend, which took place August 9-12 in eastern Iowa. While we had a total of 23 participants from all over the US and Germany at the four-day event, which in the face of the Iowa State Fair and the Knoxville Nationals that took place at the same time, was a sizable turnout, we did have some firsts that made the four-day event memorable for everyone. We had the youngest presenter talking about bridges- aged 15. We had the youngest participant, who was four years old and was also pictured in an article produced by the Iowa City Press Citizen crossing the Sutliff Bridge. We had our first open-air presentations on the night we dedicated to a special pontist who worked to save many bridges in Iowa. The bridgehunting tour featured a bridge-smorgasbord, meaning people can visit the bridges they wanted to go to- and got some great pics in addition to that. This first time event is despite the fact that we had a guided tour. And even though the four-day event was also a first (for the Weekend usually takes place Friday to Sunday), the fourth day featured a tour through the life of a girl who saved many lives from a train wreck, which downed one bridge, but not before having to cross a long bridge on her hands and knees in the face of a fierce storm with torrential flooding. While some points from the 2013 Weekend will be detailed in future articles and photos of the Weekend can be found on the Chronicles’ facebook site (click here to get to the site), here are some highlights of the events that made the fifth annual Weekend an interesting success story.

Stone City General Store and Restaurant: site of the open-air dedication ceremony on Friday

Open-air presentation:
In the fresh air with only the Wapsi-secadas chirping along the Wapsipinicon River, singing in the background, the Friday night dedication dinner honoring the late James Hippen took place at the Stone City General Store and Restaurant located three miles west of Anamosa. Elaine Hippen, widow of the late history professor at Luther College who died in February 2010, and Bill Moellering, former engineer for Fayette County who was close friends with Mr. Hippen, spoke at the event. Due to the missing conference room and lots of noise, the presentations took place on the front terrace of the restaurant where the secadas dominated the background noise mainly. This makeshift concept was well-received and gave some people an idea of how to have an open-air evening of the Weekend in the future, yet such an event would require a venue that is quiet and cut off from the usual crowd, which at the General Store was very noisy and full of Bachelors.

 

Ely Stret Bridge in Bertram

Saturday Morning Bridge Tour:

While this year’s bridgehunting tour featured a smorgasbord, which meant that participants can pick and choose which bridges to visit, several people took advantage of the Saturday morning bridge tour, which was given by Quinn Phelan and started at the Anamosa Bridge before going to a restored covered bridge, the Upper Paris Bridge, and three other bridges in and around the Bertram area, located east of Cedar Rapids. After ending the tour at the Ely Street Bridge, we went to the F.W. Kent Park west of Iowa City to look at several truss bridges that were relocated from parts of Johnson County to be used on the bike trail. The park features several miles of trails, a lake with swimming possibilities and some playgrounds. As for the bridges, here’s the Chronicles’ Guessing Quiz for you to ponder and answer:

How many truss bridges are located at F.W. Kent Park?

When was the park first conceived?

The answer will come when the article on this park is posted as part of the series on Iowa’s bridges and the Historic Bridge Weekend.

Sutliff Bridge near Mt. Vernon. Photo taken by Birgit Smith

 

Paying Homage to an Iowa Icon:

After allowing some time to see other bridges in the afternoon, Saturday night’s presentation and dinner took place at Baxa’s Sutliff Restaurant and Tavern, located across the road from the three-span Sutliff Bridge. Built in 1898 over the Cedar River, the bridge served traffic until being converted to a pedestrian crossing in the 1980s and had remained intact until floodwaters amputated the easternmost span and its west approaches on 13 June, 2008. Four years and a couple million dollars later, the bridge reopened with a replica span in place. Randy Owl, who owns the Restaurant and is Vice President of the Sutliff Bridge Authority took 30 minutes to talk about the bridge to approx. 21 people who attended the event. Nathan Holth and John Marvig also took some time to talk about their work. Mr. Holth’s Historic Bridges,org is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, while Mr. Marvig talked about railroad bridges in Iowa, focusing on the crossings in the Quad Cities and Dubuque areas.

A Tour Back into Time:

After a presentation on the bridges of Marion County and the Silent Auction on Sunday in Pella, the four-day event concluded with a trip back into time to honor a young girl who saved many lives. A dozen people took part in the tour of Kate Shelley and the bridges which bear her name in history and her honor. The tour, conducted by Pamela Schwarz, started at the Boone County Historical Museum in Boone and took us to the Kate Shelley Viaduct, the Wagon Wheel Bridge located north of the viaduct, the remains of the Honey Creek Bridge, the site of where the bridge collapsed in a storm on the night of July 6th, 1881. Ms. Shelley’s farm was located nearby and she heard the bridge collapse that night. And finally the tour ended at Moingona, the site of the train station where Kate informed the tenant of the accident and approaching train. Behind the station was the remants of the Des Moines River bridge where Kate crawled across the bridge to get help.  Misty McNally created a pop quiz on Kate Shelley and her heroic deeds and it will be posted in the next article.

Reunion with old friends and colleagues:

For one person, the Historic Bridge Weekend provided a special treat as it a chance to reunite with some old friends. Bill Moellering was the county engineer for Fayette County from 1964 until his retirement in 2001 and collaborated closely with James Hippen on saving the bridges in his county- namely by bypassing them and leaving them in place- as it was the most cost-effective measure at that time. An article on the bridges in the county is in the works and will come out soon. It also included some help from the Iowa DOT in identifying the most significant bridges and determining which ones should be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While meeting new people at the Weekend, he reunited with Jim’s widow Elaine at the Friday night event and shared some memories of his days working together with the historian. Judy McDonald, who was historian at the Iowa DOT before retiring in 2009, also had an opportunity to visit with him for the first time in many years, while on the Kate Shelley tour.  Despite all the travels he and his son Jack went through on the Weekend tour to visit some of the finest bridges in the state, Bill was the star of the show as he shared some interesting stories with others, many of which were unforgettable. It also garnered some media attention at home in West Union, as the county recently turned to him for some guidance on how to reuse the bridges that have been serving as objects for tourists and pontists to see. More on the latest developments can be found here.

 

What’s next?

Despite a successful turnout overall, combined with a successful silent auction in the face of a few participants at Bos Landen on Sunday, and lots of memories while on the bridgehunting tour, some lessons for the next Historic Bridge Weekend can and will be taken with for the next coordinators to organize. While it is highly unlikely that we will have a four-day event like this again (or if so, it’ll be a Thursday through Sunday ordeal), the next Historic Bridge Weekend in 2014, which appears to be going to Michigan will be more local as many regions have numerous bridges within a 150-mile radius. Less is more when it comes to travelling to see the historic bridges, especially because of gas prices but also one has a chance to see more and visit more. This will be key when planning for future Weekends, as some areas in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana will be targets for bridge enthusiasts to visit and photograph. Also interesting is to find out how to include children in the Historic Bridge Weekend, for as we see in this year’s event, the interest in historic bridges has increased with each generation. The question is how to make the event more interesting for children without having to bore them with travelling long distances just to see a bridge. As mentioned many times, a bridge is just an ordinary bridge unless it has historic and aesthetic value and/or unique design for people to see. It is more of a question of marketing this so that people can understand better how bridges play a role in the country’s infrastructure and America’s history, which seems to evolve around making things better for everyone to use and learn.

Author’s note: Some of the bridges highlighted on the tour will be featured in separate articles, including the Cascade Bridge in Burlington, the Bridges of Marion, Winneshiek and Fayette Counties and Bunker Mill Bridge near Kalona- the last of which has its future hanging in the balance because of a fire that destroyed the bridge’s flooring on the morning of the 12th. Stay tuned for more articles to come.

But first……

 

Newsflyer 27 May 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Update on the Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa,  (Modern) Bridge Collapse in Missouri

In light of the Washington Bridge Collapse last Monday, one would point their fingers on bridge types as a way of pushing for them to be erased from the highway system. Yet Saturday’s collapse of another bridge in Missouri, built only 30 years ago, raises questions about how bridges are built and maintained and what changes should be made in that department. That plus an update on the upcoming Historic Bridge Weekend are found in this Newsflyer:

Photo taken by James Baughn

Railroad Overpass Collapses after Train Derailment/ Collision

Rockville, MO. Built in 1988, this combination steel and concrete girder, spanning two railroads just outside the town of Rockville (30 miles west of the Mississippi River in Scott County) and carrying Missouri Route M would not have expected a bridge disaster to happen, like it did on Saturday.  The 25-year old structure, expected to last at least 50 years carrying main traffic, had its life span cut short during that afternoon, when two trains collided, causing a derailment, and resulting in the bridge being destroyed. 21 people were injured in the wreck.  This disaster is one of the worst in bridge engineering, ranking it up there with the train wreck in Entschede, Germany on 3 June, 1998, destroying a railroad overpass and killing as many as 101 passengers. While the ICE Train, which was travelling at 80 mph before it derailed and folded together like an accordion, the trains at Rockville were going half the speed when the mishap happened.  While investigators will be looking at the behavior of the trains before it happens, the bridge collapse will raise questions about how bridges are being built and many will find ways to build structures that are able to withstand the abuse caused by all forms of transportation, especially given the light of an earlier bridge disaster in Washington.

 

Portal view of the rebuilt span. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

HB Weekend Travel Itinerary available online; Registration form available upon request.

In the past week, work has been undertaken on the travel itinerary for this year’s Historic Bridge Weekend in eastern Iowa, Des Moines and Boone County. Thanks to the app, Popplet, the itinerary is now available online for you to download. Please click onto the following links, zoom in and out and scroll down to see which bridges will be targeted for photo opportunities by many people expected to attend the 4-day event. The bridgehunting event will be a smorgasbord-style event, meaning even though there will be one or two primary tours to the most important bridges, pontists and bridge enthusiasts can elect to choose the bridges they want to see, while not missing out on the meetings and dinner/entertainment that will take place during that weekend.

Please note: The itinerary does NOT include the bridges of Linn and Marion Counties, for each party responsible for organizing the guided tour will have maps available for you in person. The Linn County tour will start on 10 August at 8:30am, whereas the Marion County tour will take place 11 August at 2:30pm. More information available here.

Itinerary Links:

Day 1

Day 2

Days 3 & 4

Author’s tip: While we will start on August 9 at Old Barn Resort in Preston, MN, the bridges that are highly recommended to visit during the weekend include:

The Bridges in Winneshiek and Fayette Counties, The Bridges of Lanesboro, MN, Motor Mill Bridge in Clayton Bridge, Elkader Arch Bridge, Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque, The Bridges of Jones, Linn and Johnson Counties (including the ones at F.W. Kent Park west of Iowa City), Cascade Bridge in Burlington, Ft. Madison Swing Bridge, The Des Moines River Bridges between Keokuk and Des Moines and of course the Kate Shelley and Wagon Wheel Bridges.

It may be possible that the last span of the CGW Railroad Bridge in Des Moines is still up when visiting it, but don’t hold your breath….

ALSO: Registration forms for the dinner and entertainment portion is available directly through the author. Please inquire by e-mail at either flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com or JDSmith77@gmx.net and you will receive a form to fill out and return by no later than 15 July.  This is to determine how many people are expected at the venues. Payments will be collected at the event.

Bridge memorabilia is being sought for the silent auction taking place on 11 August at Bos Landen Golf Course in Pella. If you have bridge photos and items you want to part ways with, please bring them to the event or contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles.

REMINDER: Bridge information, etc. is still being sought for the Bridge Book Project, the Truss Bridges of Iowa, which the author is working on. An Information Box will be made available for you to contribute to the project. You can also talk with the author of the book at the evening events or while on the bridgehunting tour.  Or just send it via e-mail, which will get there quickly and directly.

 

5th Annual Historic Bridge Weekend Coming to Iowa

Hale Bridge near Anamosa in Jones County. Photo taken in 2010

Each year since 2009, the Historic Bridge Weekend  Conference has  taken place in August or September, and each year, it has drawn in more people who are  experts in historic bridges, preservation or history, as well as those who are either bridge enthusiasts or have a keen interest in how these vintage structures were built and how they played a role in American History.
This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend is coming to America’s heartland, the state of Iowa, where the history of transportation and infrastructure and the development of America as a whole go together like bread and butter.  The Lincoln and Jefferson Highways meet in the state. Iowa was the first state to introduce the No Passing Zone signs. Kate Shelley made her heroic deed by stopping a passenger train from falling through a bridge washed away by flood waters.
And the bridges?  Iowa takes pride in its bridge building. The first bridge designs, like the Marsh arch, the aluminum girder and the Thacher truss originated from Iowa.  Numerous bowstring arches were built throughout the state. Many big-name bridge builders from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania made their mark in Iowa, while the state had its own bridge building companies located in Clinton, Ottumwa and Des Moines, which dominated the American landscape during the first half of the 20th Century.
This year’s Historic Bridge Weekend will take place August 9th through the 12th and will focus on the eastern half of Iowa, where many historic bridges dating as far back as 1870 still exist today. Please refer to the detailed agenda at the end of this message for more information.

Contact:
For those who are interested in participating in the dinner and presentations, please RSPV Jason D. Smith at the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles at:
flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com or JDSmith77@gmx.net by no later than 15 July.  Information on the bridge tours and the dinner and presentations will be provided through e-mail.  Lodging and camping possibilities are available upon request.

Upper Paris Bridge in Linn County. Photo taken in August 2011

Agenda:
Day 1 – 9th August, 2013
The journey starts on 9th of August at the Old Barn Resort in Preston, Minnesota beginning at 10:00am, and after touring Fillmore County, we’ll focus on the northeast corner of Iowa, which includes the bridges in Winneshiek, Fayette, Dubuque and Jones Counties and features the bowstring arch bridges in the region as well as the Black Hawk Bridge, the Red Bridge, and the remaining spans of the original Dubuque bridge, built in 1868 over the Mississippi and is one of the last remaining historic bridges made of cast iron in the country.

Dinner and presentations will take place at the Stone City General Store in Stone City (near Anamosa) at 6:30pm. This event will be dedicated to James Hippen, who spearheaded efforts to save historic bridges in Iowa for over 40 years until his unexpected passing in 2010. People who worked with Mr. Hippen will speak at this event in his honor.

Day 2 – 10th August, 2013
August 10th will feature a tour of the historic bridges in the east-central portion of the state. This will include a guided tour of the bridges of Linn and Johnson Counties by Quinn Phelan, which starts at 8:30am at Palisades-Kepler State Park at Mt. Vernon and last throughout the morning. This includes a trip to F.W. Kent Park near Tifflin (west of Iowa City), where one can see nine fully-restored historic bridges, including a roof-top bowstring arch bridge, built using steel trusses from a building that was demolished in the 1980s.

Afternoon tours include visiting bridges along the Lincoln Highway, as well as the Quad Cities and can be done individually or in groups, pending on preferences.
Saturday evening’s dinner and presentations will take place at 7:00pm at Baxa’s Tavern and Grill, located at Sutliff Bridge, south of Mt. Vernon. Sutliff Bridge features two original Parker through truss spans and a replica of the easternmost span that was destroyed in the flooding in 2008. Members of the Sutliff Bridge Authority will talk about the restoration of the bridge and answer any questions the people have about the project. In addition, a pair of presentations by two important figures in historic bridges and preservation will also be provided.
Day 3 – 11th August, 2013

Morning:
Tour of the bridges in the southeastern part of Iowa including the bridges in and around Burlington, Fort Madison and Keokuk, as well as the bridges along the Des Moines River between Keokuk and Des Moines.
Afternoon:
Meeting to talk about the Horn’s Ferry Bridge at the Red Rock Informational Center located near the site beginning at 2:30pm, followed a tour of Marion County‘s bridges and finally the last of the presentations and dinner at Bos Landen Golf Course south of Pella at 5:30pm. A silent auction will accompany the evening event.  The Weekend will conclude with a night tour of the bridges of Des Moines.
Day 4 – 12th August, 2013
For those wanting to see the Kate Shelley Viaduct, there will be a tour of Kate Shelley, her life and the bridge named in her honor beginning at 10:00am at the Boone County Historical Center in Boone. The 2-3 hour tour will include a tour of the Kate Shelley exhibit, a trip to the train depot at Moingona and the remains of the bridge that was washed away by flooding (the same bridge which Kate Shelley crossed before informing the tenant of a nearby bridge being washed out), and a tour of the bridges, including the two viaducts (the 1912 steel viaduct and the 2008 replacement viaduct), the (freshly remodeled) Wagon Wheel Bridge north of the viaducts (which is opened to pedestrians), the Bass Creek Viaduct, and the Madrid Viaduct.

Oblique overview of the Sutliff Bridge. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

One More Note:
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is also accepting donations for the following projects:
The restoration of the McIntyre Bowstring Arch Bridge in Poweshiek County
The restoration of the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County.
A donation box will be made available on each of the evening dinner events for you to make a contribution.
Note: We will have a silent auction on Sunday 11 August at Bos Landen Golf Course near Pella at 5:30pm, the same time as the dinner and presentations. All proceeds will go to the two aforementioned projects.

Donations of Info and Photos for Bridge Book also being taken:
In addition, donations in the form of pictures, postcards, information, money for research, etc. are currently being accepted for the book project “The History of Truss Bridges in Iowa” which is being written by the author of the Chronicles. An information box will be available during the Historic Bridge Weekend, but you can also contact Jason Smith in person at the event or via e-mail of you have any information about any of Iowa’s bridges that is worth entering in the book.

Moderne ou Historique? The newly rebuilt Sutliff Bridge

Oblique overview of the bridge. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

What is modern and what is historic, when we look at bridges in general? This question is very difficult because it is based on the individual bridge and its appearance. Sometimes we cross a truss bridge that looks as old as the oldest members of the Baby Boomer generation (between 67 and 70 years ofn age) even though it was built in the 1980s. But we have crossed concrete bridges that appear to be modern, but are at least between 70 and 90 years of age. In the eyes of many people, a bridge is historical if and only if they are older than 50 years of age and it has a unique value that can be tied in with the history of architecture and as a whole, the history of the US. Modern bridges are those whose aesthetic value may be next to nill at the present but will increase over time as the bridge ages and the legacy of the bridge designers and contractors are mentioned. Modernization and history never ever mix on one particular bridge.

Or does it?

Looking at the Sutliff Bridge in northeastern Johnson County in Iowa, this debate has certainly been at the fore front recently, as the easternmost span of the bridge was reerected, and the bridge is now open to traffic. One has to take a look at the background information to understand its history. Built in 1898 by J.R. Sheely and Company of Des Moines, the bridge became the centerpiece of the village of Sutliff, consisting of a country store, blacksmith shop, outdoor movie theater, a nearby school and a park and pavilion. The three-span pin-connected Parker through truss bridge served as a main artery to the village until it was replaced in 1983. In 1984, the bridge was given to the Sutliff Bridge Authority (SBA), who converted the structure into a pedestrian bridge. 15 years later on 11 September, 1999, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with Ray Brannaman (founder of the SBA) quoting that “Our hope is that it’s never torn down.”

Unfortunately, on 13 June, 2008 at 12:23pm, the eastern Parker through truss span was knocked off its foundations by the raging waters of the Cedar River, carrying it 100 yards down the river before it became a pile of twisted steel at the bottom of the river. It was the same year that the 500 year flood took place, which inundated two thirds of Iowa and the cities of Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.  For four years, the bridge was nothing more than an island of two Parker truss spans. I was at the bridge twice in 2010 and last year providing my observations which can be seen by clicking here.

Fast forwarding to the present, October 2012, the bridge has been reconnected and is now open to traffic. It is still listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And the people are happy to see their bridge back in service, thanks to the efforts conducted by all parties involved, from the SBA to Johnson County to the state and federal government, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which authorized the use of federal money for the bridge, and the State Historic Preservation Office, which ensured that the rebuilt bridge matches that of the original structure to meet the guidelines of the National Register of Historic Places. Then there is the bridge builder, Iowa Bridge and Culvert, who reconstructed the bridge.

However, there are some features on the new structure that are somewhat different than the original bridge. Looking at the pictures provided by Quinn Phelan, the Historic Engineer’s Record and yours truly, can you identify them and post them in the comment section?

Going back to the topic of modern bridge versus historic bridges, many people have scoffed at the notion that the rebuilding of the Sutliff Bridge was a waste of FEMA money, while some preservationists have claimed that the rebuilt Sutliff Bridge is nothing more than just a modern bridge. What do you think of that notion? Do you think that the bridge was restored as much to its original form as possible, or do you think the truss span is just a plain modern span which is modern in its form? And if that is the case, do you think the newly built Sutliff Bridge represents a case where modern bridge meets historic bridge, and if so, do the rebuilt and original spans conform to each other or are they contrasting to each other?

Look at the pics and I’m looking forward to your thoughts on them. A follow up on the topic with some interview questions with parties involves will follow this article. Stay tuned.

Photos:

Original eastern span of Sutliff Bridge. Photo taken by HABS/HAER

Underneath the Sutliff Bridge. Photo courtesy of HABS/HAER

The two spans that survived the floods. Photo taken by the author in 2010. More photos of the bridge can be seen here

Side view of the two surviving spans. Photo taken in 2010

Portal view of the rebuilt span. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

Vertical posts of the original Sutliff Bridge. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

Vertical post of the new span. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

View of the rebuilt Sutliff Bridge taken from the porch of Baxa’s Bar and Grill. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

 

 

 

The Bridge to Nowhere? The Sutliff Bridge Story

View from the tavern- a lonesome blick since 2008 Photo taken in September, 2010

Travelling through the rolling hills of southeastern Iowa with another pontist living in the region during the late summer of this year, we came up to this bridge and were taken by surprise at the artwork mother nature did to it. On the one hand, the great flood of 2008 amputated the eastern most span towards the nearby tavern, breaking the hearts of many who grew up at the bridge and saw how the raging waters of the Cedar River, slowly and in a torturous way, removed a piece of history during the morning hours of the 13th of June, 2008. The wreckage was later found over 500 feet down stream and removed from the river. On the other hand, the river, which eventually engulfed Cedar Rapids and took out another historic bridge in there, converted the bridge into a gift for Sarah Palin, as what was left of the three span truss bridge with a long wooden trestle approach,  were  only two truss spans and that was it. Apart from the eastern span, the entire western approach to the remaining truss spans was also wiped out, making the bridge look like that “Bridge to Nowhere” the former Alaska governor and 2008 Vice Presidential candidate had been touting- before killing it in an attempt to support John McCain and his campaign to eliminate “pork barrel” politics. If Ms. Palin wanted a “Bridge to Nowhere,” this would be the place to go- at least as long as it will remain like that.

Yes, the bridge that got indirectly received the name “Bridge to Nowhere” is the Sutliff Bridge, located in northeastern Johnson County in eastern Iowa. Going beyond the name, the three-span Parker through truss bridge with a 3-rhombus Lattice portal bracings (with subdivided 45° heel bracings) and a long trestle approach on the western end, has received a lot of national (and now international) attention, as despite the arguments being presented intensively on both sides, the dream of rebuilding the bridge has now come true. To break down this story, the article will describe the history of the bridge beginning with when it was built, how the community of Sutliff joined forces to save the bridge twice and what the plan is now for rebuilding the 825 foot long structure.

First and foremost, the name Sutliff Bridge is derived not only from the village of Sutliff, which was a ferry town at the time of its construction, but it was named after the founder of the village, Allen Sutliff. Mr. Sutliff had established a ferry service in 1838 but after almost 60 years, sandbars formed after years of transporting people and horses across the wide Cedar River making the function of this service obsolete. Henceforth, the citizens of Sutliff successfully petitioned to the Johnson County supervisors for a permanent structure across the river, which was granted in December 1896. The contract was awarded to J.R. Sheely and Co. of Des Moines and a local engineer G.W. Wynn of Iowa City for $12,000 to construct the collosial structure. When it was completed in April 1898, the bridge, whose Parker through truss spans were 214 feet each, was the longest of its kind in the state of Iowa.  86 years later, citizens rallied behind the bridge by creating the Sutliff Bridge Authority and buying the bridge from Johnson County, which had planned to demolish the truss structure as soon as its replacement bridge was open to traffic. The bridge was converted to pedestrian use and was an icon to the small village, let alone to the region. Weddings were performed on the bridge, cookouts and other events brought families and friends to this unique structure. This was until that tragic day on 13 June 2008.

Now the community, Johnson County, the state historical society and people associated with the Sutliff Bridge are coming together once again to relive the experience of walking across this unique collosial structure- by rebuilding the bridge and opening it to pedestrian traffic again. Already, despite the opposition by many who claimed that the bridge was lost and spending the money to rebuild “the Bridge to Nowhere” would be a waste compared to Palin’s campaign to build that bridge to the airport on the island during her tenure as Alaska governor, two major hurdles were made. First the engineering surveys done on the two structures standing revealed that they were structurally sound for reuse. Secondly, the majority of voters as well as the county commissioners in April 2010 voted to spend approximately $2 million to rebuild the bridge. The reconstruction plan consist of rebuilding the eastern span exactly the way it looked like before it ended up in the Cedar, except pin-connections will be replaced with riveted connections using gusset plates. Furthermore, the trestle approach and the flooring system on the two standing structures will also be reconstructed. Construction is set to begin in the spring of 2011 and is expected to be completed in 2013.  The contractor responsible for the job is another Iowa City company, VJ Construction, which has been working with other agencies in reconstructing and repairing infrastructures and buildings affected by the 2008 Flood.

At the same time, fund raising drives and events will still continue as it has garnered support from over the country. There are many ways to donate to the Sutliff Bridge Authority to help with the rebuilding and maintenance of the bridge. First and foremost merchandise on the bridge can be bought at the Sutliff Bridge (Baxa’s) Tavern, which is located just east of the bridge. One can also purchase a plank for the bridge with your name on it, if you donate more than $60. One can also give to an endowment with the Community Foundation of Johnson County, which has been working together with the Bridge Authority regarding finding financial resources to realize the reconstruction plan. Other ways to donate can be done through contacting the Sutliff Bridge Authority directly. The link is enclosed.

After photographing the bridge, we decided to grab some food at the tavern and I found yet another alternative to donating: decorating the ceiling with a dollar bill to help with the cause. Realizing I was short-changed in terms of cash in possession, I added my mark in hopes that the tiniest contribution will help the cause. However, this donation was for my little daughter as I hope someday when the bridge is rebuilt and reopened to pedestrians that we can walk across it together and perhaps have a picnic on one of the spans, overlooking the Cedar River and the village of Sutliff, and under a blue sky with a cool breeze. This would be my unique father-daughter gathering. But others probably have the same idea as I do and are waiting just as anxiously as I am for the bridge to open so that we can do it. It’s just a question of taking out our wallets and making a difference for the right cause. I know this will not be my last time visiting the bridge and to those at the Sutliff Authority, it will not be the last time you receive my support for the project, as you made all this happen because we want it to happen. And we plan to contribute further so that the reopening of the bridge will be realized soon.

Photos of the Sutliff Bridge can be seen by clicking here.

Useful links:

http://communityfoundationofjohnsoncounty.org/pages/give-to-the-endowment.php

http://www.sutliffbridge.com/

Photos of the Sutliff Bridge collapse can be found here:

http://www.kcrg.com/younews/19980049.html?img=1&mg=t

Information on the bridge and more pictures by Jason D. Smith can be found here:

http://www.bridgehunter.com/ia/johnson/sutliff/