Our 150th Mystery Bridge takes us to Mannville, in Somerset County, New Jersey, located west of Edison and even New York City. This bridge came to our attention on bridgehunter.com because of its fancy portal bracings as well as the vertical end posts. Judging by the plaque on the portal bracing, the bridge was built in 1875. Judging by its features and the fact that steel was not as comonly used as it was 15 years later, this bridge was definitely built of either cast or wrought iron. The number of spans, judging by the tunnel view, is between four and six, thus making the length of the entire bridge between 200 and 400 feet long. The structure used to serve a railline connecting the area with Philadelphia and Reading in Pennsylvania. In fact, the bridge was part of the Philadelphia-Reading Railroad consortium, which was established in 1833 and had been in service until 1976. It was one of the oldest railroads in the country.
The bridge was replaced with a two-span Parker through truss though the date is not given, nor is there information in bridgehunter.com. Hence the first question that comes about is when the present-day span was built and this span removed.
It is unknown what type of truss was used for this railroad bridge, though at first hand, it appears to have been a Howe through truss design. Yet at the time of its construction, other truss designs were also used that have Lattice features, such as the Post, Whipple and even Pratt. So looks can be deceiving. So the next question is what type of truss bridge was this crossing.
And lastly, the third question behind this bridge is who built this to begin with and what was the motive behind the portals and end posts, which are not only typical for iron truss bridges during that time, but also one of the most ornamental of the bridges in the area? Although these trusses are rare to find these days, decorative truss bridges show not only the engineer’s signature but also the artwork that was put into the structure, especially when it comes to cast or wrought iron. These were dominant between 1870 and 1895 when steel became the norm for truss bridge construction and with it, sleeker truss designs with letter-shaped portals, such as the common A-frame, as well as W, M, WV, and MA, as well as Howe Lattice.
To to review the questions we need to solve for this research:
When was the truss bridge replaced by the current structure?
What type of truss bridge was this crossing?
Who was behind the design for this railroad crossing?
And with that, best of luck with the research. Feel free to submit your comments here if you find some information on the bridge. Happy Bridgehunting and happy trails! 🙂
Our next Pic of the Week paying tribute to James Baughn also pays tribute to Earth Day. This year’s Earth Day took place on April 22nd and this year’s event is symbolic, for the United States under President Joe Biden has returned to the Paris Summit and to the table with two goals in mind:
To fix the alliances with other countries, which were beset with hostility, ridicule and ignorance from the previous Presidency whose main slogan was „American First!“
To challenge the countries to do more by setting their own ambitious goals of reducing Carbon Dioxide levels, reducing global warming and restoring the environment wherever is possible.
The Biden effect has played out in other countries, where the green movement in politics, policies and even personal preferences is in full swing. In Germany alone, the Greens party not only has a successor candidate for Chancellor in Germany in Annalena Baerbock, they also has one who is ambitious and has a plan to make Germany greener. At the time of this post, the Greens are leading the CDU party under the helm of current Chancellor Angela Merkel in the race, even though the German elections are five months away.
But putting aside the Green movement in politics, the Biden effect has had a pivotal effect for it shows that if you are a leader and set the benchmarks, the other countries will follow suit and not only reach (or even surpass) the benchmark, but also challenge others with their own goals. With China, Russia, the EU, India, Brazil and Japan as key players, this race to stop the rise in global temperatures and the subsequent climatic effects will eventually become the race to see who is the greenest and the biggets icon.
But how important is Earth Day?
Have a look at the photo taken by Mr. Baughn in 2015. It’s of the Herculaneum Bridge, spanning Joachim Creek on Highways 61 and 67 in Herculaneum in Jefferson County. The bridge was built in 1934 by M. E. Gillioz in Monett, Missouri. The bridge builder was responsible for dozens of bridge built in the 1930s, some of which are still in service today.
With the increase in the numbers and intensity of droughts and flooding, as well as extreme temperatures, this photo serves as a reminder of how dire the situation is. With flood water levels falling four feet shy of the bridge’s portal bracings, this photo shows the 15 foot tall Camelback through truss bridge almost completely covered in water. Normally you see bridges inundated when dams are built. But not like this.
This bridge was lucky because of its design and riveted connections. It had been rehabilitated prior to the flood. And at present, after emergancy inspections and repairs , this bridge is still in use. Yet flooding has destroyed dozens of bridges globally, annually. Not just trusses, arches and trestles, but also modern bridges built only 20 years ago! There are enough examples to go around.
If this example is not convincing enough, ask yourself this question: How has your region changed over the past 10 years? 20 years? 30 years? Compare this with the weather patterns your parents and grandparents have experienced and when finished, ask yourself this question:
Is this what we want? For our kids and grandkids?
When looking at our potential fourth year of drought coming our way in Germany and parts of Europe, combined with the death of forests in many areas in Saxony and Thuringia, and fewer amounts of snow in the winter, I can tell you my answer: No, this is not our planet. 😦
The 143rd Pic of the Week takes us to Burlington, Iowa, and to this bridge, the Cascade. If there is one bridge a person should see in order to appreciate its structural beauty, fitting in a natural setting, it’s this structure. The bridge features a Baltimore deck truss and two Pratt deck trusses, all of the connections are pinned. The Baltimore span is the only known truss of its kind in Iowa, yet its construction and uniqueness has earned it national recognition in the form of the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge was built in 1896 by the Milwaukee Bridge and Iron Works Company, using Carnegie Steel as its provider for steel bridge parts. The design cam efrom the engineering office of Boynton & Warriner in Cedar Rapids. The bridge is suspended more than 60 feet from the ground, with supports from both sides of the gulch which the structure spans. A rather unique piece of artwork for a bridge lover and historian.
The bridge was one of the stops we made during the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2013 and this pic came from James’ bridge library. Yet its days may be numbered for the structure has been closed since 2008, to pedestrians since 2019. Residents living on the south side of the city have been battling to at least reopen the bridge for bikes and pedestrians, even if it means making the necessary repairs to do that. Yet the Burlington City Council has been unwilling to make even the modest repairs because of the lack of funding. Its cash-strapped mentality has resulted in much of its historic architecture either disappearing with the wrecking ball or simply sitting there until one incident that brings up the liability issue comes about and it eventually becomes a pile brick and steel. Its abandoned houses and buildings are matched with those in Glauchau, where BHC is headquartered, except Glauchau’s issue are owners buying historic buildings and simply leaving them sit without doing anything with them.
The winds of change are coming to Burlington, though. Already plans to replace the Cascade Bridge is going into motion, though when this will happen remains unclear, due to the question of funding, combined with the bridge’s status and the opposition to demolishing the rare structure to begin with. I’ve been doing some research and interviewing some people involved with the project and an Endangered TRUSS article is in the making.
Shortly after taking office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt went to work to provide help to over a third of the population in the USA who were beset by unemployment caused by the Great Crash on October 29, 1929 which later ushered in the Great Depression. Two of the programs that were introduced were the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which started on March 21, 1933, and the Works Progress Administration, which was founded on May 6, 1935. Both organizations had a general purpose: to provide employment to people who needed, whereas the CCC was mainly for those between the ages of 18 and 25. Much of the projects that were undertaken during the time of the two programs were outdoors, which included erosion control, planting trees, renaturalizing areas near bodies of water and building infrastructure to accomodate waterways and vehicular traffic, including dams and bridges.
And this is where this Pic of the Week, which is also our 145th Mystery Bridge comes into being. James Baughn photographed this unique bridge, which goes by the local name, Geode Bridge. The structure spans Saunder’s Creek at the park which also bears the stream’s name in Mount Pleasant, located in Henry County in southeastern Iowa. The build date of this very unique stone bridge goes back to 1933, which would mean that the CCC would have constructed the bridge. The bridge is no more than 40 feet long and is relativey short- between 10 and 15 feet. The bridge design is a pony girder with triangular pointed vertical posts at the end, resembling high heels. The railings are art deco.
There are some questions that surround this story about the bridge. The first one is who was behind the design of the bridge, for it is one of the most unique bridges- a rare structure that is one of a kind in Iowa. The second question is where the stones used were quarried and hauled to the site while the last one is the most important: How was it built and how long did it take to build it? For the third question, it is important to note that modern techniques in today’s standards would have this bridge completed between 3-6 months. But if we go back tot he Depression Era, where vehicles are smaller and slower, the building techniques are more hands-on, the machinery was sometimes old and outdated and the fuel needed was rationed due tot he lack of supply, the time to build a structure like the Geode Bridge was probably much longer than six months; presumably it was in the range of 12 months. More research into the bridge’s history, including interviews and like, would be needed to answer the aforementioned questions.
Saunders Park features this bridge as one of its masterpieces, together with a historic log house and a pair of gazeebos along with some shelter houses, playground and some forest, thus making it one of the most attractive places in the city. It showcases some natural scenery to those working or being treated for injuries/ illnesses at the nearby hospital as well as school children, who attend Manning School only a couple blocks away. It’s a stop that is worth a couple hours, especially if you travel long distances or are visiting friends and relatives in Mt. Pleasant.
James photographed this unique structure in 2013 during the Historic Bridge Weekend, tying it in with the visit to the Oakland Mills Bridge. While the bridge may be small, it’s worth a photo session, regardless of how it is done- wedding, graduation or for a simple calendar. While there has never been a calendar on Iowa’s historic bridges, should there be one, this bridge should be one of them that should be added, regardless of who took the shot.
Author’s Note:If you have any information about the bridge’s history, feel free to add this in the Comment section below. You can also include the info in the BHC’s facebook pages or that of Historic Bridges of Iowa as well as Iowa Bridges Past and Today.
This edition on Easter Sunday is the second of a two-part Easter weekend special. Again, this one’s for James Baughn.
Our 141st Pic of the Week takes us to Fayette County in Iowa. Speaking from my personal visit in 2011 and again in 2013, if there is a county that has at least a dozen truss bridges that are still standing, it’s this county in northeastern Iowa. 18 truss bridges make up the landscape, eight of which are nationally recognized as historic, including the Dietzenbach Bottom (a.k.a. Mill Race), West Auburn, Major Road, Eldorado, Fox Road, Albany, Lima, and this bridge: the Quinn Creek Kingpost Truss Bridge.
Before 2013, no one knew whether this bridge still existed. It had been mentioned in historic bridge surveys, including one conducted by the late James Hippen in the 1970s. Many thought this bridge no longer existed. Yet it was discovered during the 2013 Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa, and it was both James Baughn and another bridge lover, Dave King, who found this bridge, located just off 300th Street, between Granite Road and Fortune Road. Although replaced by culverts, this unique crossing still stands to this day as an example of early American engineering and one that is considered, in my mind, a national monument, ranking it to the likes of the Bollmann Truss Bridge in Savage, Maryland, the Melan Arch Bridge in Rock Rapids, Iowa and even the suspension bridges of New York City, just to name a few.
This bridge was built in 1885 and features a kingpost through truss, the connectons are pinned. The portals are X-frame supported by curved heels that are subdivided. The end posts are V-laced. The structure is 60 feet long. Records indicate that Horace E. Horton had built the bridge, for he was the primary bridge builder during that time. According to HABS/HAER/HALS records, Horton, whose bridge building company was based in Rochester, Minnesota, had built all but a couple truss bridges in Fayette County during his time as contractor in the last two decades of the 19th Century. His atypical bridge designs made him a household name and he was responsible for numerous structures in six states, including Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Counting this structure, there are five bridges left in the country that have Horton’s name on it, including another bridge in Fayette County, the West Auburn Bridge.
Since the discovery of the truss bridge in 2013, the Quinn Creek Bridge has become a popular bridge and one in the spotlight for efforts are being made to preserve it in its original condition. Given the fact that it is located in a natural area, it is likely that the bridge will remain as is, unless there is interest in relocating it to a park. But no interest has come about at the time of this post. Unique about this bridge is that it has maintained its original coat of paint, which makes it very likely it will be around for a very long time. Nevertheless, the discovery of the bridge, combined with the photos, which James took in 2013, has concluded that the bridge exists. It’s just a question of listing it onto the National Register of Historic Places, where the chances of it joining the ranks of the bridge greats is more than very likely. It’s a matter of when…… 🙂
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:
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?
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?
What truss designs are used to construct modern truss bridges and which ones would you like to see built?
And lastly, what’s a typical truss bridge to you and in your opinion, will these modern truss bridges meet your own expectations?
Feel free to comment here or in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. We love to hear from you. 🙂
Our first Mystery Bridge of 2021 takes us to California, to the town of Brookdale. It’s located in Santa Cruz County towards the Pacific Coastal area, and the San Lorenzo River snakes through the community with almost 2000 inhabitants in the heavily forested hills located southwest of San Jose along Highway 9.
There are several bridges located along the San Lorenzo in and around Brookdale, many of them arch structures. But this bridge, a postcard by John Smeaton, is not on any of the list of bridges in the Santa Cruz section in bridgehunter.com. The bridge is a pony arch with lattice features and judging by the photo, the structure is no longer than 90 feet long. It sits on a high cliff which is 30-40 feet above the San Lorenzo River. There is no information on its consturction, its history, its location and whether it still exists. A couple hints of where it could be is behind Pike Street as well as around Huckleberry Island but even then, there’s no guarantee that it’s there, we just know it was one of the San Lorenzo River crossings that deserves to be recogized and listed.
If you have any information on this bridge please contact Mr. Smeaton using the contact information in the Bridgehunter.com website. You can also provide information here at the Chronicles using the contact information found in the About page.
Many thanks and best of luck in the research. Happy Bridgehunting until we meet again! 🙂