Mystery Bridge Nr. 62: An Abandoned Bridge in Harrison County, IA

Kelly Lane Bridge This and the following photos courtesy of Craig Guttau, used with permission
Kelly Lane Bridge This and the following photos courtesy of Craig Guttau, used with permission

After a long absence, the mystery bridge series takes us back to Harrison County, Iowa. Except the main focus is not on the Buellton Bridges that made their way to the county and all but one of which have vanished into the history books. Nor does it have to do with the Orr Bridge, which met its unexpected end at the hands of the tornado in 1999, after serving the county for 40+ years. The mystery bridge we’re looking at is located only three miles east of Logan, which is not only the county seat but was also nearly wiped out by the same tornado.

When one turns right onto 240th Street from US Hwy. 30 and drives 1.5 miles east, then one will find the structure on the right hand side. According to Googlemaps, it is on Pontiac Lane, just 400 feet south over a small creek, surrounded by three farmsteads. When looking at the bridge closely, one can rule out the Warren type right away as the Warren truss has W-framed diagonals. Judging by the number of panels the bridge has (ca. 10 panels) one can assume that the through truss bridge is either a Pratt, Whipple or even Howe type. Further descriptions of the bridge- the portal bracing and whether the bridge is pin-connected or riveted- cannot be seen from a distance.

Yet, the history of the bridge is similar to the ones mentioned in earlier articles. According to Craig Guttau, the bridge spans a small creek and may have been imported to the county in the 1940s. It served traffic for 20-30 years before being replaced with a concrete culvert, while realigning the road at the same time. The purpose of a straightened road was to eliminate sharp curves and accommodate farm traffic. But when the bridge was built and when it was abandoned in favor of the culvert are still open to be solved.

Can you help?

The task is simple: We need photos and information on the bridge, using the data below. You can post your photos on the Chronicles’ facebook pages, send the information to Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact info provided in the About page, or post the info on the page. In either case, bird’s eye views are good, close-up shots are better, but the stories behind the bridge’s life is always the best. Let’s complete the story about this bridge, shall we?


Source Links:


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San Saba Trestle Wins Spectacular Disaster Award








Trestle Fire wins Run-Off; I-5 Skagit River and New Castle Bridges tied for second.

Within 25 seconds, it was just gone, and then it just turned into a giant fireball, because of all of the creosote in the cross-ties.- Jack Blossmann

All it took was a combination of heat, dry weather and a spark from a passing train, and a 900-foot long wooden trestle bridge with a more than 100-year history, was engulfed in flames. 30 seconds later, it all came tumbling down, like a stack of dominoes. The San Saba Trestle Bridge near Lometa (located 90 miles west of Waco) spanned the Colorado River and featured a steel through truss span over the river and hundreds of feet of wooden trestle on the west end. Yet its demise created some curiosity among the readers as seen in the video here.  If a teacher shows this disaster to the students in class and they are awed by the sequential cascading disaster, as one of the voters noted, then there is no wonder that the San Saba Bridge would receive the devious prize it deserves. After a week-long run-off vote, the Texas trestle received the Spectacular Disaster Award because of the intense effects of the fire and the bridge’s sequential disaster that followed seconds later. The video shown of the disaster will definitely be shown in many engineering and physics classes to show how dangerous a fire can do to a structure, whose melting temperature is low enough for it to collapse. A devastating loss for the railroad, for it needs $10 million to replace the trestle approach spans, but one that created a lot of curiosity among bridge engineers and scientists alike.

The Trestle beat out the New Castle and Skagit River Bridge Disasters, as they were tied for second place, missing out by only two votes each. This marks the first time in the history of the (recently changed) Author’s Choice Award,  that two bridges received two different awards or honorable mentions in two different categories. The New Castle Bridge west of Oklahoma City had already received the Award for the Worst Preservation Example as the 10-span through truss bridge over the Canadian River was reduced to only one span, thanks to a tornado that destroyed two spans and the city government’s decision to demolish all but one of the remaining spans. It was the same tornado that destroyed Moore and devastated vast parts of Oklahoma City.

The Skagit River crossing in Washington state had received the honorable mention for the Biggest Bonehead Story, as a truck driver dropped the southernmost span into the river after hitting the portal bracing. While this incident raised the debate on what to do with through truss bridges, suggestions by local politicians were above and beyond. The collapsed span has since been replaced and I-5 has returned to normal.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to thank everybody for voting in this year’s Ammann Awards and parts of the Author’s Choice Awards. As mentioned in the previous article, the voting format and the dates of the voting for this year’s 2014 Ammann Awards will be different as there will be more options but more simplicity to encourage people to vote on their candidates. It may be like the Bridge Bowl, but it might serve as a way to talk about the bridge candidates at the table, while serving traditional foods over the holidays. Entries will be taken in November, as usual, so go out there and get some pics, write about your favorite bridges and nominate your favorite historian.

Minus the Post Humous version of the Lifetime Legacy, let’s head back out there and look at the bridges that need your help regarding preservation, shall we?

Introducing: The 2013 Smith Awards for Spectacular Disasters

Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay, Wisconsin: One of many bridges that was in the news because of a collapse of an approach span. Photo courtesy of Robert Thompson, used with permission

Aside from new categories for the 2013 Othmar H. Ammann Awards, the Smith Awards, where the author picks the best and worst news in the world of (historic) bridges, also has a new category that will be featured this year. With all the bridge disasters that have happened so far this year, caused by Mother Nature, recklessness and freak accidents, the Smith Awards will introduce the category for Spectacular Disasters. And unlike other categories for the Smith Awards, you will have an opportunity to vote to see which story should receive the award. Already nominated for this year’s Award includes the following (click on the link for more details):

The Sagging of the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay, Wisconsin

The Destruction of the Big Bureau Creek Bridge in Bureau County, Illinois

The Destruction of a Railroad Trestle through fire in San Saba County, Texas

The Collapse of the I-5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington State

Bridge Collapse caused by train wreck in Rockview, Missouri

Destruction of the Canadian River Bridge by tornado west of Oklahoma City

Do you have any other bridge disaster stories that are worth nominating? If so, you have until December 1st at 12:00am Central Standard Time to submit your stories to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at The nominations are open to all bridges in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere, and you must include a link to the bridges, so that people can have a look at the entries and vote for them. Bridges destroyed by arson are not included for they belong to the Bonehead Category. Voting will commence at the same time as with the Ammann Awards and the winners will be announced the same time as the winners will be announced- namely before Christmas.

This year has been an unusual year as far as bridge disasters are concerned for they have affected all bridges, young and old and regardless of bridge type. We’re hoping that we can work to address the safety on the bridges, which starts off with maintaining them to ensure that they are safe to cross. Then it is followed by addressing the rules of crossing them, and lastly ensure that their importance in history and as a reference to bridge building is stressed. Only then will disasters like these (and more entries to come) can be avoided.

What to do with a HB: The Newcastle Bridge

View inside the bridge. Photo taken by Steve Conro, released into public domain through










After taking a few day hiatus from the Chronicles to do coverage on the Great Flood of 2013 in Germany and Europe, which you can see through the sister column The Flensburg Files, the Chronicles is back with some news coverage to show you. This article takes us back to Oklahoma and the Newcastle Bridge, spanning the Canadian River running parallel to Interstate 44 west of Moore. As mentioned in the Newsflyer article, the 10-span Parker through truss bridge was built by the Missouri Valley Bridge Company in Kansas City in 1923, only to serve traffic for 40 years before it was made obsolete by the Interstate highway and was subsequentially closed to traffic in 1963. For 50 years, this bridge was sitting abandoned, only to be accessed by foot and with three different pipelines going across the bridge before the infamous category EF5 tornado, measuring 2.5 km wide- the largest ever recorded in US history- anihilated Moore, Newcastle, and two spans of this bridge!

Despite the remaining spans being in good condition, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has started the task of tearing down the entire structure. The official reason behind it is because the bridge was too unsafe and is a liability to the state. Yet, given the track record of OKDOT, this scheme is part of the plan to repair or replace every structurally deficient bridge in the state within, as laid out by Governor Mary Fallin at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, the majority of the bridges are like the Newcastle Bridge, even though the majority of the truss bridges in the state feature Parker and K-Trusses, the latter of which still represent the highest density in the region in the world. The demolition of the Newcastle Bridge has created an outcry among thousands of people, who are associated with the bridge and has been working on ways to keep what’s left of the bridge. Many have cited Oklahoma as the wrecking-ball-toting hater of steel bridges and have considered this act a crime against history. The decision to demolish the bridge is already in the visier for one of the Smith Awards to be given out in December of this year. Other awards, including the Wall of Shame by are being considered, as well.

The good news is the southernmost span of the bridge will be spared demolition, even though many have claimed that more spans should have been saved. The City of Newcastle will assume full responsibility for the bridge.  While this may be a consolation for some, the question is what to do with that remaining span, once the whole process is completed. There are some talks according to the facebook website of converting the remaining span to an observation pier. Yet access to the bridge is difficult and the way the tornado flattened the area, there may not be much to see from the bridge. Another option is to relocate the bridge, either to be reused as a vehicular bridge on a minimum service road or as a memorial at a local park. The problem here would be location and cost factors. Granted the bridge would have to be taken apart and rehabilitated, like it happened with the Piano Bridge in Texas, but the biggest factor is where to relocate the structure, for much of the area in and around Oklahoma City is in ruins because of not only the tornado that destroyed all of Moore, but another one that occurred nine days later. Damage from the two is expected to top three billion dollars and it will take at least five years to rebuild the city.

There has been some consideration to list the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places, but apart from the fact that it would not hinder the demolition process, but also the chances of putting only one span onto the Register is very slim, for there are tough requirements which include having all 10 spans instead of only one to retain its historic form. Any type of alteration may compromise the historical integrity of the bridge.

But despite all of this, locals and pontists are taking the one span seriously and are with reservations thankful for keeping that particular span. Yet this is only half the battle, and the question that we have for the forum is the following:

What would you do with the lone span of the Newcastle Bridge?

a. Leave it in place and convert it into an observation deck

b. Relocate it and reuse it on a local road

c. Relocate it and reuse it on a bike trail

d. Relocate it to a park to be used as a memorial, etc.

e. Other options

You can leave your comments here, on the facebook pages entitled the Chronicles or send them via e-mail. You can also provide some suggestions and support to the Save the Canadian River Bridge group, which you can also find on facebook, when clicking here.

Newsflyer 21 May, 2013






Tornado destroys large bridge in Oklahoma, Bridge lost to flooding in Indiana, Future of Kentucky Bridge in question

The month of May was supposed to bring flowers, warm weather and fun to families and friends, especially because of the fact that in many countries, like Germany, May has the most number of holidays, including Mother’s Day, Father’s Day (in German: Maennertag), Pentecost and the last holiday coming up on 1 June, Children’s Day. In the United States, many schools are either out or will be out soon because of summer vacation.

Yet this month has been unkind to many families, whose lives have been turned upside down because of weather-related disasters. One of those was the Pentecost weekend storms, which generated yesterday’s two-mile wide tornado that destroyed Moore, Oklahoma and devastated many neighborhoods in the outskirts of Oklahoma City. CNN has a page on the disaster with videos which you can view here.  And with the tornadoes and other natural disasters this month came many structures that have fallen prey to these storms, including a multiple-span truss bridge in Oklahoma, which collapsed in yesterday’s storm.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has a short summary on the fallen bridges, plus a couple other historic bridges that survived unscathed but are facing another enemy, the wrecking ball- and in one case, against the will of residents who don’t want a new bridge there to begin with. Hence, today’s Newsflyer:

Newcastle Bridge collapses- gas pipeline leak noticeable

The 1923 Missouri Valley Bridge Company structure spanned the Canadian River, carrying US Hwy 62, SE of Oklahoma City. It was one of the longest bridges to span a river or ravine in the state, and when it was bypassed by an expressway bridge 30 years ago, the bridge received new life when a natural gas pipeline went across the structure. Unfortunately, like the suburb Moore, the bridge was directly in the path of yesterday’s tornado and two of the 10 Parker through truss spans were knocked off its foundations. Other spans received substantial damage, but even more alarming was the fact that the natural gas pipeline was severed when the spans went down. While clean-up is underway, plans will be in the making to determine the fate of the rest of the bridge, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While parts of the structure may be saved, the danger is that the bridge may be damaged beyond repair and may have to be taken down. But that has to be determined through the Section 106 Process, which will be carried out once the clean-up begins.

Ancient Aquaduct in Indiana lost to flooding

The Illinois and Michigan Canal ran 96 miles (154 km) from the Bridgeport neighborhood in Chicago on the Chicago River to LaSalle-Peru, Illinois, on the Illinois River. It was finished in 1848 and it allowed boat transportation from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The canal enabled navigation across the Chicago Portage and helped establish Chicago as the transportation hub of the United States, opening before railroads were laid in the area. Its function was largely replaced by the wider and shorter Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1900 and it ceased transportation operations in 1933.- James Baughn

The Nettle Creek Aqueduct was one of the structures that carried water along this canal from 1847 (when it was built) to the time it was converted to bike and pedestrian traffic in the 1980s. The stone arch bridge that carried a steel trough was rebuilt multiple times including the time it was converted to recreational use, and was one of the key features of Gebhard Woods State Park. Sadly though, flooding on 7 May undermined the east wall of the arch bridge, causing the structure to collapse. A series of photos courtesy of Steve Conro shows the bridge before and after the disaster. According to the information from locals, flood waters rose to the top of the bridge railing prior to the structure giving way. It is unknown when and how the aqueduct will be rebuilt.


 Kentucky Historic Bridge to be Replaced; Residents to Protest to the Courts

“The people that live there now won’t be there 100 years from now,” and,  “Whatever we do here, we are going to affect the future.”  Those are the comments made by Russell Poore County Magistrate of Logan County, Kentucky in a newspaper interview regarding the decision of the county officials to tear down a historic bridge. The Logan Mill Bridge, an iron Pratt through truss bridge spanning the Red River west of Adairville has been a target of controversy as the county has been pursuing the replacement of the bridge, whereas residents along a two mile stretch of road demanded that the bridge be left alone. As many as six families living near the bridge would like to see the crossing rehabilitated and open to pedestrians. But if the county has it their way, the bridge, considered a piece of scaffolding in their eyes will be replaced by a concrete structure at a cost of $1.36 million. Already the county has voted 4-3 in favor of using the funds for this project. Yet many residents, who felt that their opinion was not heard, will not give up the fight and will take the matter a step further to ensure they have it their way, claiming that the project would be a waste of money and that it would be another “Bridge to Nowhere.” Already the county has offered the bridge up for sale under the conditions that it will be relocated, yet residents near the bridge do not want increased traffic and would rather see the bridge remain for pedestrians only. More will follow on whether the residents will win the fight for the bridge.


Ohio Historic Bridge Relocation to start soon.

 Spanning the Olentangy River in Liberty Township in Delaware County, Ohio, this 1898 truss bridge, going by the name Orange Road, built by the Toledo Bridge Company had been closed since 2007 when a new bridge was built alongside it, and was sitting in its rightful place…. until now, that is. If enough funding is made, the bridge will be dismantled, moved to Liberty Twp. Park and reerected over Wildcat Run. The cost for the project including maintenance will be $657,000. Yet this does not include the cost for some rehabilitation work that is needed given its structurally stability that has been in question according to county inspections that were undertaken prior to its closure and has been brought up ever since.  While it is unclear when the relocation will start or how long the project will take to complete, the plan  has given Ohio a better light on historic bridge preservation, for it had been following Pennsylvania’s footsteps in eliminating as many historic bridges as funding permits it. While it had preserved many structures, there are still many more out there that is in need of attention, including one at Bellaire. More information on the Orange Road Bridge will follow.


Tama Bridge Celebration

It is rare for a bridge in the United States to have a celebration of its own, for such celebrations are common in Europe. Yet in this small Iowa town, located 45 miles west of Cedar Rapids, the celebration is the norm. This past weekend, the 34th annual Tama Bridge Festival took place, celebrating the 98-year old bridge, built in 1915 by Paul Kingsley as part of the Lincoln Highway. The festival featured a 5km run and a parade through downtown Tama, and lastly a midway at the bridge site. This year’s festival is special for it commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway that connected New York with San Francisco. While the highway has been bypassed by many US and interstate highways, including US Hwy. 30 which bypasses the town, many reminants of the bridge still exist today, including this bridge, whose railings christen the name Lincoln Highway. The Tama Bridge will be one of the bridges on the HB Weekend tour that will be visited in August. It is a must-see for many bridge enthusiasts.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and sister column The Flensburg Files would like to send our heartfelt prayers and support to the people affected by the Moore and Oklahoma City Tornado that destroyed vast amounts of homes and livelihoods. Please make it known that you are not alone and we’ll be ready to build new bridges to help you start over, clean up so that you can rebuild your lives, and stand together so that we can be a stronger family, supporting, caring and loving each other. Here is are some links for you to help:



Mystery Bridge nr. 5: Orr Bridge

Photo courtesy of Clayton Fraser

This month is where a lot of mystery bridges come to light. When presented into the limelight, it is hoped that people with knowledge and stories will step up to the plate and shed some light on the structure. Minus the last entry, the fifth mystery bridge takes us back once again to Harrison County, Iowa, and to this bridge.

Located over four miles northeast of Missouri Valley over the Boyer River at 290th Avenue, this Pennsylvania Petit through truss bridge was one of the longest of the truss bridge types that existed in Iowa, with a span of 225 feet. The bridge was unique because of the Town Lattice portal bracing, as can be seen in the picture above. Most Pennsylvania Petit trusses in Iowa featured either an A-frame or a Howe Lattice portal bracing, which was typical, as these bridges are large and long on the one hand, but vulnerable to extreme weather and heavy loads to a point where the overhead bracing was not enough to support the upper trusses. Any portal bracing with diagonals were needed to reinforce the bridge and ensure that the Pennsylvania Petit did not blow over to the side.

Example of a Pennsylvania Petit with A-frame portal bracing: Thunder Bridge over the Big Sioux River west of Spencer, Iowa. Built in 1905 by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works, the bridge is 181 feet long. Photo taken in August 2011

While almost all of the Pennsylvania Petits were constructed exclusively by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Company in Clinton, Iowa, it is unknown when the Orr Bridge was built, let alone who built it. Records indicated that the bridge was relocated from an unknown location in either Kansas or Missouri in the 1950s to replace a crossing that may have been one of many victims of the Great Flood of 1945 that wreaked havoc in western Iowa. But more information is needed to determine the bridge’s origins, let alone how it was transported into Iowa, like its counterparts, the California Bridge crossings and the Gochenour Bridge.

The story about the Orr Bridge ends on a sad note for it no longer exists. According to locals, it was destroyed by a tornado on 16 May, 1999 and despite pleas by the public to construct a new bridge, it fell on deaf ears by the county and the road was later abandoned. The Orr Bridge is one of the most unique bridges that existed in the county and one whose history is still open and left to be solved. To have a proper closing, here are some questions I have for anyone that has information about this bridge:

1. When exactly was the bridge relocated and who oversaw the relocation efforts,

2. Where (in Missouri or Kansas) did the bridge originate from,

3. When was the bridge first built and who built it, and

4. What is the story behind the bridge, both at its place of origin as well as in Harrison County prior to its tragedy in the hands of the tornado?

Any leads and information can be sent to the following e-mail address:  Looking forward to your comments on the bridge.


Interesting Fact: The tornado that annihilated the Orr Bridge was the same one that wreaked havoc on the county seat of Logan, indiscriminately damaging or destroying many homes and buildings. Many historic sites at the county historic village were either leveled or severely damaged. Two people were killed in the twister and many others were injured. The city has since recovered from that disaster. Another historic truss bridge at 8th Street was one of many structures that were spared by the tornado. It has now been closed to traffic.