Iron and Steel Preservation Conference in Lansing: October 18-19

US Hwy. 2 Cut River Bridge. Photo taken by James Baughn

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Lansing, Michigan- Entries are still being taken for this year’s annual Iron and Steel Preservation Conference. The two-day event will take place on Friday and Saturday, October 18-19 at the Lansing Community College West Campus, located at 5708 Cornerstone Drive in Lansing. With a couple exceptions, this conference has been held annually and focuses on welding and other industrial techniques, using historic bridges as examples, as the state has many of them still in use, a third of which have been credited through the technical expertise of those who have participated in the workshop and has done a lot of work with historic bridge preservationists and welding experts.

The events on each day will be from 8:00am to 5:00pm. According to the coordinator, Vern Mesler, the Conference will feature the following:

Day One of this conference is primarily lecture, and Day Two participants will have opportunities to see Demonstrations of actual preservation techniques and have hands on learning opportunities.

Day 1 – Speaker’s Forum:
Presentations on the rehabilitation work recently completed on Michigan’s Cut River Bridge on U.S. Highway 2 in the Upper Peninsula by Michigan Department of Transportation personnel who were directly involved in the rehabilitation work. (Lloyd Baldwin, cultural and historic resource coordinator for MDOT, will lead these sessions from the initial planning stages to the completion of the rehabilitation work.)

Presentations on issues related to riveted and bolted connections and on the damaging effects of pack rust on metal structures. Presentations on the role of riveting in new construction and design.

The presenters at the Friday event:

  • Lloyd Baldwin, Cultural and Historic Resource Coordinator (MDOT)

“Cut River Bridge Rehabilitation”

  • Andrew Zevchak & Mario Quagliata (MDOT)

“Bridge Rehabilitation Design Overview”

  • Christopher Garrell, PE (AISC)

“Exploiting the Resiliency of Built-up Steel Members”

  • Robert J. Connor, PhD (Purdue University)

“Research and Evaluation of Pack-out Corrosion in Steel Built-up Members at Purdue University”

  • Steve Howell, Ballard Forge

“Hydraulic riveting introduction”

  • Steve Howell and Lansing Community College Staff

“Hydraulic Rivet Demonstration”

 

Day 2 – Hands On Demonstration:
The experienced staff of craftsmen at Lansing Community College will demonstrate electric arc welding processes, braze welding, and an introduction to the industrial rivet process (both field riveting and shop hydraulic riveting).

 

The event is open to all who are interested in the profession of welding and/or preservation of historic bridges and workshop participants will experience the use of the aforementioned welding demonstrations and other industrial processes during hands-on sessions and learn how these processes are used in the preservation of historic metals and new construction. One of the key centerpieces of this conference will be the Cut River Bridge along US Hwy. 2, which had recently undergone extensive rehabilitation using these welding techniques that will be presented at the conference (for more on the bridge, please click here).

Breakfast and lunch will be provided for both days. Participants will need to book their own lodging accomodations. For more information and to register for the event, please click on the link below, which will lead you directly to the conference website and registration page:

https://axiom.lcc.edu/wconnect/ace1/CourseStatus.awp1?&course=194IRON00135

For more information on the conference, please contact Vern Mesler at: bci@lcc.edu, or click here for other contact information.

For examples of such successful preservation practices in Michigan, check out the following links:

The Bridges of Bridgeport/Frankenmuth

Historic Bridge Park

HistoricBridges.org

 

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The Bridges of Bridgeport/ Frankenmuth (Michigan)

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Bronner’s Bridge south of Frankenmuth.  Photos taken in July 2018

There are tourist traps and then there are tourist traps with historic bridges involved. The tour guide provided here clearly belongs to the latter, and it has a story behind it. As we were travelling north on Interstate 75 in the direction of the Mackinac Bridge, we came across a bilboard that directed us to Bridgeport, home of Michigan’s number one historic bridge. I had known about the first bridge on the tour guide prior to the US trip, yet we also learned about Bridgeport’s next door neighbor, Frankenmuth, a typical German community that was full of surprises. We decided to pull off first at Bridgeport and then head over to Frankenmuth and found more surprises than what we learned about. What will a tourist find in the bridges in Bridgeport/Frankenmuth apart from what is highlighted by links and in the Instagram pages will motivate you to spend a couple days in the region that is only 10 miles south of Saginaw.

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State Street Bridge (Bridgeport):  When travelling North on Interstate 75, one will come across a bilboard that says Bridgeport, home of Michigan’s number one historic bridge. A first where a bridge is a centerpiece, a tourist attraction, a magnet. However, from a bridgehunter’s point of view, together with his family members who were also armed and dangerous with Lumixes and Pentaxes, the city’s chamber of commerce was right and then some. 🙂  The Bridgeport Bridge spans Cass River at State Street. Built in 1906 by the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company, the bridge features a pin-connected, two-span Pratt through truss bridge with three-rhombus Howe lattice portal bracings with 45° heels. The bridge is a distant cousin of one in Jackson, Minnesota at Petersburg Road, which was built a year later but was removed after flood damage in 1995. The difference is the length of the structure, which is nearly twice as long as the one in Jackson: two 126-foot long truss spans with a total length of 252 feet. Jackson’s was 130 feet, but the total length was 150. After serving vehicular traffic for almost a century years, the bridge was closed to traffic because the center pier was being undermined by the currents, causing the western span to tip over. Yet thanks to efforts conducted by Nathan Holth of historicbridges.org, who documented the Bridge in detail from 2004 to date, the Bridgeport community collaborated with the state and an engineering group, Spicer Group to conduct an in-kind restoration, overseen by Vern Mesler. This was done in 2010 and consisted of dismantling the two trusses off site, sandblasting the bridge parts, and reassemble the bridge exactly as it was built, but with new bolts and eyebars in many cases. The only “new” aspects of the bridge was the new center pier, new abutments, railings and the approaches to the Bridge. That was in addition to a picnic area and pavillion as a bike trail connecting Bridgeport and Frankenmuth was being constructed. The bridge today looks just like it was when it was originally built, including the wooden decking, thus presenting a historic appeal.  Yet there are two more reasons to visit the bridge and pay homage to those who restored it. First of all, there is a historic town park on the eastern bank of the river, where a “revived” main street is lined with historic stores, church and houses dating back a century ago. The Bridgeport Museum, which owns the property, is located along this historic street. Yet it would be a crime to miss out on reason number two, which is the eateries that are located across the Dixie Highway from the bridge, going to the east. The Butter Crust Bakery is located on the corner of Sherman Road and Dixie, and from 6:00 in the morning until 5:00pm on all but Sunday and Monday, one can enjoy jelly-filled donuts, long-johns, mini-cakes and even a glazed ugly (caramel filled pastry with hazelnuts and/or almonds for a very low Price. All of them are locally made and use all natural ingredients- have been doing so for over a half-century. 🙂  An ice cream parlor at State Street just off the highway offers the finest ice cream in the region, including Rocky Road (ice cream with fudge, dark chocolate and marshmallows) and Michigan Pothole (dark chocolate with chips), the latter is named after a typical curse one will find on all Michigan’s roads- potholes, big and small. Both of which are highly recommended, whereas one can see the bridge from the parlor and can even enjoy watching people cross it from the inside.  🙂

 

CSX Bridge

Bridgeport (CSX) Railroad Bridge: To the north of the Bridgeport Bridge at State Street is another through truss bridge that gives the photographer on the State Street crossing a chance to get a few shots. The Bridgeport Railroad Bridge spans the Cass River, carrying the CSX Railroad, located approximately 300 feet away. The bridge is considered the longest of the bridges profiled here in the Bridgeport/Frankenburg area, for even though the main span- a Warren through truss with riveted connections and heel portal bracings- is 130 feet long, if one counts the trestle approaches, especially on the southern end, the total length is 530 feet. The bridge was constructed in 1908-09 by the American Bridge Company in New York. The 1908 date came from the concrete abutment, whereas the truss bridge was brought in a year later; the plaque is on the bridge. Together with the Bridgeport Bridge at State Street, the CSX crossing is one of a handful of bridges that still has a railroad and a road crossing running along side or adjacent of each other, but are trussed. The bridge is basically an accessory to the other one nearby and all its historic places located next to it, that it is basically a win-win situation for bridgehunters and historians alike. One cannot photograph one without getting the other.

 

Photo by James Baughn

Gugel Bridge at Beyer Road: Spanning the Cass River, this unique crossing has had a share of its own history as the 114-year old structure is the oldest surviving bridge in the county. The pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with Town Lattice portal bracings and a pony truss approach span, was originally built to accommodate the Dixie Highway until 1919. It was then relocated to this site where it served traffic until it was closed down in 1979. 25 years later, William ‘Tiny’ Zehnder led efforts to restore the bridge to reincorporate it into the bike trail connecting Bridgeport and Frankenmuth. There are historic markers and benches at the bridge for people to relax when taking a break, while enjoying the natural surroundings of the Cass.

 

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Frankenmuth Covered Bridge:

In the eyes of fans of iron bridges, this bridge is a modern “Schande” to the City of Frankenmuth. In the eyes of German tourists this bridge is too “Kitschisch” just like with the rest of the predominantly- German community whose resorts and restaurants resemble those in the Alps, even though the origin of Frankenmuth is from the Franconian Region of Bavaria. Yet in the eyes of covered bridge fans and those who have never seen Frankenmuth before, this bridge is considered the crown jewel for the community, competing with the Bridgeport Bridge at State Street for the best historic Bridge in this tour guide.

Yes, the Frankenmuth Covered Bridge, built in 1979 by Milton Graton & Son of Ashland, New Hampshire, is considered historic, even though in ten years time, it could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its unique truss design, its aesthetic features and its association with the community. The bridge is 239 feet long and has an A-Frame gable roofing which covers not only the one-lane road deck but also the pedestrian walkway that is on the outside of the bridge, separated by its Town Lattice truss design. Its gabled attic roofing on the sides make it resemble a covered Bridge in the Swiss  For cyclists going from Zehnder’s Restaurant on the west bank to the Bavarian Inn Lodge on the eastern side it is best to push your bike across on the pedestrian walkway as this covered Bridge sees a lot of traffic on a regular basis. The bridge, which carries a weight Limit of 7 tons, is a backdrop to the scenery on both sides of the river. On the east end, there is the Bavarian Inn and Restaurants which includes a park and many acres of green. On the western end there is the Business district, which includes small shops, restaurants and an open-air stage where polka and Bavarian-style music are played daily.  The bridge is next to the docks where boat tours are available to explore Frankenmuth. The Frankenmuth Covered Bridge has several names, but the most common is Holz Brücke (although the words are together in German), whereas Zehnder’s is also used for the masterminder behind the bridge was the town’s entrepreneur, William “Tiny” Zehnder (1919-2006).  Zehnder was the face of Frankenmuth because of his establishment of the Bavarian Inn in 1959, which was basically an extension of one of the restaurants he had owned prior to that. From that time until his retirement in 2004, Tiny carved a place in the history of Michigan by turning original small-town businesses into that of a Bavarian-style architecture which not only revived the town’s Franconian heritage but also made the community of over 6,500 people a popular attraction. Tiny died in 2006, but his family still runs the Bavarian Inn complex today.

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Frankenmuth Pedestrian Bridge  Perhaps the most interesting bridge in Frankenmuth and on this tour guide that is worth mentioning is this pedestrian bridge. The bridge is the newest one on the block and can be seen from both the covered bridge as well as the Highway 83 Bridge leading into downtown. The bridge is a concrete pony girder, using a similar art Greco design and flanked by flags and ornamental street lanterns on both sides. The bridge is estimated to be between 150 and 170 feet Long and about 10-12 feet wide. The first impression was that with a design like that, it was probably 80 years old. Yet with the structure being between 15 and 30 years old, one could conclude that the bridge could serve as an example of fancy pedestrian bridges that can be built if engineers and city leaders would not worry about the costs but more on the Geschmack the community would like to live with. Not everything needs to be made of just a slab of concrete.

 

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Bronner’s (Black) Bridge:  When entering Frankenmuth from the south along Michigan Highway 83, this is the first bridge you will see. Bronner’s was once located over Cass River at Dehmel Road, having been built in 1907 by the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company. The bridge features a Pratt through truss design with A-Frame portals, whose top chord is decorated with curved lower-cased m and n patterns. The bridge has a total length of 180 feet with the main span being 151 feet long. The decking is 16 feet wide and the height clearance is 14 feet. After 75 years in service, the bridge was relocated to this site, over Dead Creek at Grandpa Tiny’s Farm, one of the ideas concocted by William “Tiny” Zehnder because of his years of farming, alongside his role as Frankenmuth’s well-known entrepreneuer. It has been in its place ever since then, yet it is heavily fenced and secured with cameras to ensure no one walks onto the property unless it is open to tourists. However, you can photograph the structure from both the highway as well as the road going past the farm, at Townline Road. The bridge is located only 500 feet from Bronner’s, the largest store in the world that sells Christmas ornaments and lighting. Regardless of which country and the nostalgia, if you are looking for as special ornament or lights, you will find it there. That includes bubble lights, an American past time that is trying to make its comeback yet they are rare to see.

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There are more along the Cass River, but this tour guide will hopefully Show you the bridges you can visit while experiencing a mixture of German heritage on the part of Frankenmuth and local heritage on the side of Bridgeport. Being only six miles apart, the bridges are easily accessible, both by car as well as by bike or foot. The evidence can be seen in the map below as well as by clicking onto the highlighted links in the guide. There one will see that the Bridgeport/Frankenmuth Region is Michigan’s number one hot spot for bridges spanning over a century’s worth. It is definitely worth a stop for a few hours before travelling to the Mackinac Bridge and the state’s Upper Peninsula to the north.

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2015 Ammann Awards: The Winners

2015 Ammann Awards: The Winners

Amy Squitieri wins Lifetime Achievement; Gallatin County, Montana gets top honors in two categories, another accolade for Michigan’s Historic Bridges

JENA, GERMANY-  Earth calling Amy Squitieri! Ms. Squitieri, there is a customer out in Montana, specifically in Gallatin County, who has been profiling historic bridges in the county. The majority of them cannot bear today’s loads anymore but have historic character to it that many people don’t want to see scrapped. This includes the Nixon Bridge. Can you help?

After all, with multiple years of experience, you deserve the Lifetime Achievement Award, so your help is needed. 🙂 And as a bonus, the man named Troy Carter won Best Photo for the Nixon Bridge! 😀

TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE A car drives over the Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Gallatin County Commissioners approved Tuesday an engineering study for its replacement.
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A car drives over the Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Gallatin County Commissioners approved Tuesday an engineering study for its replacement.

Before getting to the rest of the results, the Chronicles would like to thank everyone for taking part in the voting. Thanks to Poll Daddy, people had no problems with the voting process, with the exception of the website being down once a day for five minutes, as that was the only complaint. Because of the high turnout, the plan is to keep the format as is for the 2016 Awards, which will run its original form with voting in December and the results to be presented in January 2017.

But going back to the results, Squitieri is the second person from Mead and Hunt in three years to win the Lifetime Achievement Award, Robert Frame III won it in 2014. And like Frame, she received 45.8% of the votes, far outpacing the second place winners from Ames, Iowa- consisting of Randy Faber, Judy McDonald, Hank Zalatel and Matt Donovan from the Iowa Department of Transportation- who received 22.4%. Julie Bowers from Workin Bridges recieved 14% of the votes, outgunning Nathan Holth by four percentage points.

And the rest of the results for LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

  1. Amy Squitieri- 45.8%
  2. Donovan, Faber, McDonald and Zalatel- 22.4%
  3. Julie Bowers- 14%
  4. Nathan Holth- 9.4%
  5. James Barker- 5.7%
  6. Todd Wilson and Lauren Winkler- 2.8%

 

TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE Anglers row on the Jefferson River just before the Williams Bridge near Willow Creek on Saturday, Oct. 24. Six one-lane truss bridges, including the Williams Bridge, have been designated structurally obsolete according to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department.
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Anglers row on the Jefferson River just before the Williams Bridge near Willow Creek on Saturday, Oct. 24. Six one-lane truss bridges, including the Williams Bridge, have been designated structurally obsolete according to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department.

BEST PHOTO:

As mentioned at the beginning, Galatin County, Montana won in two categories, which include the category of best photo. Even more so, Troy Carter obtained not only the gold medal, but also the silver for the picture above, of the Williams Bridge. Bronze medalist goes to Roger Deschner for his photo of the Savana-Sabula Bridge over the Mississippi River.  And the rest of the votes:

  1. Nixon Bridge (Troy Carter)- 51.2%
  2. Williams Bridge (Troy Carter)- 38.1%
  3. Savana-Sabula Bridge (Roger Deschner)- 6%
  4. Tied:  Bentonsport Bridge, Firescald Bridge, Thompson Bridge, Chapel Curry Bridge (1%)

BEST KEPT SECRET:

Due to a lack of entries for individual bridges, that and the city guide tours were merged for this year’s awards. However, the two subcategories will be presented again for the 2016 awards. As always, the votes were broken down to US, International and All around. The top three in the US category happened to be the winners all around, while the bridges in Newcastle (UK) and Paris (France) shared top honors in the International Division. Furthermore, he second and third place winners came from New Jersey, while three out of the top five finishers originated from New Jersey.  Here are the results:

USA/ All Around:  

  1. The Bridges of Gallatin County, Montana- 41.1%
  2. The Bridges along the South Branch Raritan River in New Jersey- 17.9%
  3. The Bridges along the Delaware River at the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border- 10.7%
  4. The Bridges of New Ulm, Minnesota- 7.1%
  5. The Bridges of Hunterdon County, New Jersey- 5.4%
  6. Tied- Newcastle (UK) and Paris (France)- 5.4%

International:

  1. Newcastle/Paris
  2. Tied- York (UK)/ Zeitz (Germany)

 

BEST RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE(S):

For the second time since its inception, the Historic Bridge Park near Kalmazoo, Michigan has won an award by the Chronicles. In 2011, the Park won the Award for Best Kept Secret, while simultaneously, its engineer behind the creation of the park, Vern Mesler, won the Lifetime Achievement Award. As attractive as the park is and as big of a posterboy as this place has served, it is justified that the award is given, especially as 36.4% of the voters gave the people there the nod. 🙂 As for the other results….

  1. Historic Bridge Park in Michigan- 36.4%
  2. Tied- Sandy River, Portland Waterworks Bridge in Oregon/ Thompson Bridge in St. Louis County, Minnesota- 15.2%
  3. McConnellsville Bridge in Morgan County, Ohio- 12.1%
  4. High Bridge in New York City- 9.1%
  5. Swing Bridge Park at Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota- 6.1%
  6. Two tied with 3%

 

MYSTERY BRIDGE:

The competition was fierce, especially in the international division, but the unusual covered bridge in New Hampshire received 25% of the vote, and therefore took the USA and All Around divisions. Only 7% behind was the Waddell truss bridge in Clearwater County, Minnesota with 18.8%, and the Howe Truss Bridges in Blue Earth County won third place with 3.1%. In the International Category, the Estate Bridge in Staffordshire in the UK won the competition, and third place in the All Around. In second place, we have a tie between The Bridge of Lions in Berlin and the Natural Bridge at Mallorca Island in Spain. Third place goes to Havenga Bridge in South Africa and the Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge in Zeitz, Germany.  Here are the complete results:

  1. Covered Bridge in New Hampshire- 25%
  2. Waddell Truss Bridge in Minnesota- 18.8%
  3. Estate Bridge in the UK- 15.6%
  4. Bridge of Lions (Germany) and Natural Bridge (Spain)- 12.5%
  5. Havenga Bridge (South Africa) and Moritzburg Bridge (Germany)- 6.3%
  6. Howe Truss Bridges in Minnesota- 3.1%

 

 

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BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

And lastly, the 2015 Bridge of the Year. While the Cliffton Suspension Bridge ran away with the competition in the 2014 Awards, the competition was fierce among the candidates, as there were several ties before the Hayden Bridge in Oregon came away a winner with 27% of the votes. Second place finisher is the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Alabama, which was the site of the demonstrations in 1964. The 50th anniversary celebrations took place at this steel through arch bridge. It received 18.1% of the votes. The Savana-Sabula Bridge finished in third with 12.1%.  And as for the rest:

  1. Hayden Bridge in Oregon
  2. Edmund Pettis Bridge in Alabama
  3. Savana-Sabula Bridge
  4. Tied- Fehmarn Bridge in Germany/ Firth of Forth Bridge in Scotland/ Calhoun Street Bridge in New Jersey
  5. Chemnitz Viaduct in Germany
  6. Traffic Bridge in Saskatoon (Canada)

 

FAZIT:

And with that, we have closed shop for the belated 2015 Ammann Awards by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. For the delay because of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the author apologizes. For that, plus in light of the 5-year anniversary of the Ammann Awards, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be accepting nominations for the 2016 Ammann Awards between now and 1 December, 2016. If you have any candidates in any of the categories, please use the contact form and send them in this direction.

In addition, the Chronicles will have its own version of the Hall of Fame, where the top two candidates of each category of each year (from 2011 to 2016) will be voted upon, and the top three in each category will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. More information will come during the course of the year. It is clear that two different and sequential voting processes will commence during December 2016 and January 2017.

In the meantime, get your cameras and candidates out there, you have more than enough time between now and December 1st, 2016 to win your fame and fortune with your bridge and pontist. 🙂

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Highlights of the 2013 ISPC Conference in Lansing, Michigan

Photos courtesy of Lansing Community College, used with permission.

 

Have you ever wondered how many historic bridges that were in dire state that they were candidates for demolition but were fully restored to look like it was brand new?  Every year since 2009,  Lansing Community College and Vern Mesler have held a three-day seminar featuring presentations from experts in historic bridges, preservation, steel welding and history, as well as demonstrations on how to remove pack rust, sandblast and straighten out beams with the welding machine, replacing steel components, including eyebars, and disassembling and reassembling truss bridges.  This year’s event brought in over 200 participants, including some from Europe, and featured many presenters, including Michael Mort, who provided people with a guide on how to save a historic bridge, Cynthia Brubaker of Ball State University, who talked about the Indiana bridge companies based on information brought to the history department recently, and Christopher Marston and Kevin Whitford, who talked about Moose Brook Bridge in New Hampshire and how it was restored.

Nathan Holth was also at the conference and talked about his book on Chicago’s Movable Bridges, which was released in the fall of last year. He agreed to provide the readers with some highlights of the event, including his presentation and some other facts that will encourage people to attend next year’s event. The Chronicles has a couple pictures to support the event that took place last month, during the first weekend of March. Yet they are only a tiny fraction of the bunch that one can see either through the ISPC Conference page on facebook, or through Nathan Holth himself.

Highlights from Mr. Holth:

My presentation on creative bridge engineering, past and present of Chicago, immediately followed an introduction by the president of the College. The president actually stayed and watched my presentation; he doesn’t always stay after he introduces the conference. My presentation was well received based on comments I got. We had a presentation about the Indiana Bridge Company from Ball State University. The good news out of this is that Ball State has a ton of archived materials from the company and is slowly digitizing them all and making it available online. Soon to be released are “bridge cards” that list all the bridges the company ever built, which should help identify bridges we don’t know who built. There also were several presentations of a more technical nature that were of interest to the many engineers in attendance. Some of the content in these presentations focused on updates in ongoing research to find ways to make riveting, welding and other historic bridge restoration techniques standardized and acceptable by groups like AASHTO and highway agencies. These updates indicate that research progress has been made, but at the same time more research needs to be completed as some challenges and problems remain. The day two demonstrations also went very well. The Lansing Community College staff that demonstrates and works with the attendees do a fantastic job and everyone seems to have a good time. Unique this year was a cast iron brazing demonstration using some broken manhole covers donated by East Jordan Iron Works.

Photos (all courtesy of Lansing Community College):

Vern Mesler demonstrating the process of sandblasting metal. Mesler has been the coordinator of the conference since 2009.
Ready, set, weld!!!
Overview of the demonstration with the participants looking on.

 

Author’s Note: A pair of books dealing with restoration and Chicago’s Bridges are in the possession of the author and will be profiled in the Book of the Month series, together with the interview with Nathan Holth and Michael Mort.

2013 Iron and Steel Preservation Conference

Waterford Bridge in Dakota County, Minnesota: One of a few bridges awaiting restoration and conversion into a bike and pedestrian bridge. Photo taken in August 2011

Historic bridge preservation can take on various form. While some bridges are sandblasted and repainted, some bridge parts are welded together to make them look like they were just recently built.  And as the need for welders for preservation projects are as high as ever, Vern Mesler and Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan are once again hosting the Iron and Steel Preservation Conference, a two-day event that takes place on 4-5 March.

Apart from showcasing live welding demonstrations, such as oxygen welding, pack rust removal and straightening metal through heating,  many speakers will be participating in the evening presentations, among them, Michael Mort, owner and producer at Equity Studios, who published a book entitled  “A Bridge Worth Saving, A Community Guide for the Preservation of Historical Bridges” in 2010, which has won many awards in Michigan and elsewhere. Other speakers participating at the event include Cynthia Brubaker of Ball State University, who will talk about the history of bridge companies in Indiana, Dario Garspini, Chris Marston and Kevin Whitford, who will talk about Moose Creek Bridge in New Hampshire, and Mark Bowman of Purdue University, who will talk about Evaluating and Repairing Metal Structures in Indiana.

Cost for the event is $175 for one day and $300 for both days. Information on how to register is available by clicking here, or contacting Vern Mesler either at (517) 483-9583 or by e-mail using the form here.

Waterford Bridge to be restored- mainly decking and abutments

For the people working on restoring the Waterford Bridge northeast of Northfield in Minnesota, an event like this might present them with a chance to pick up some useful skills to use and share with other preservationists. As recently as this month, a survey on the structure conducted by Workin’ Bridges revealed that the steel truss structure is in great condition and the majority of the work being conducted on the bridge is the decking and abutments. This is good news for the preservationists who are striving to incorporate it into the bike trail. A contract has been let out by Frank Wergin of Waterford Township to rehabilitate the structure, which can be viewed here.  More information about the project is made available via Julie Bowers at Workin Bridges, Liz Messmer of the Waterford Iron Bridge Organization and Frank Wergin at the township. Mr. Wergin’s e-mail address is: waterfordtownship@gmail.com.. Ms. Bower and Ms. Messner can be reached through their respective pages available via facebook.

Other good news regarding historic bridge restoration:

Gilliecie Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa- another bridge under the radar of Workin’ Bridges as it will be replaced in 2014. Photo taken by the author in Oct. 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilliecie Bridge to move to Sunny Brae Golf Course-

Spanning the Upper Iowa River on Cattle Creek Road in Winneshiek County, Iowa, this bridge, which also goes by the names of Daley and Murtha, was one of over two dozen bridges that were constructed in the county by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio between 1870 and 1890 and one of three bowstring arch bridges that existed over the same river (the Lower Plymouth (now extant) and Freeport (now located at a park in Decorah) were the other two). The structure, built in 1874 and has a length of 129 feet (main span), sustained heavy damage to the top chord of the structure and was scheduled to be replaced in the near future (2014). Yet the bridge may soon have a new home as a golf course bridge at Sunny Brae in Osage in Mitchell County.  As soon as funding is available, the move of the bridge to the golf course could take place by the end of next year and open to all traffic in the coming golf season in 2015. Mitchell County will then have four through truss bridges in use for recreational purposes, which includes the Otranto Bridge and two through truss bridges along the Wapsi Bike Trail northwest of Riceville. More information on how you can contribute to the relocation of the bridge can be sought through Workin Bridges.

 Rothrock Bridge to reopen as a pedestrian bridge

Located over Blue River at the Harrison and Crawford County border in Indiana, this Parker through truss bridge was built in 1916 and had a length of over 155 feet long. It was replaced by a pony truss bridge in 2005 and the future of the structure was unclear. Less than eight years later and a full restoration later, the bridge is awaiting to be placed onto new foundations at the Hayswood Natural Preserve southwest of Corydon.  The $1.4 million project featured the dismantling of the entire structure, sandblasting and welding, fixing and replacing broken parts, painting the bridge parts and reassembling it at its new site. The last phase of the project will be to reinstall it over the new piers over Indian Creek at the preserve and integrate it into the bike trail that is being constructed. The project is scheduled to be completed by spring. An article on the restoration can be found here.  It will be the third historic bridge to be restored in both counties, yet another bridge, the Breeden’s Bridge may soon follow as it is scheduled for restoration this year. It is unknown however when this bridge will be used again and for what purpose.

 

The Chronicles’ Interview with Julie Bowers

McIntyre Bridge in Poweshiek County, Iowa before its destruction due to flooding in 2010. Photo taken by Julie Bowers, used with permission.


Imagine you have a vintage 1890s historic truss bridge that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but is in danger of being demolished in favor of a new bridge. The local government knows that the functional life of the structure for automobiles has reached its end and a new bridge is needed to accomodate the increasing need of traffic on the road. Yet the bridge’s aesthetic value makes it worth being saved. The government does not have the funding resources available to renovate it, let alone relocate it to a park. Who do you turn to for help?

This is a one of those text book examples where unless the municipality has a group of people with enough resources, the historic bridge becomes a pile of scrap metal. While two thirds of the historic bridges in the United States have been wiped out over the past three decades, three out of four have been because of a lack of support and resources needed. This includes not only lacking financial resources but also the expertise needed to restore them to their pristine condition. Yet in the past decade we are starting to see a trend toward preserving as many of the remaining third of the historic bridges as possible. This includes the increase in welding and sandblasting the bridge parts and other techniques needed to restore the bridges. It also includes something that Julie Bowers of Workin’ Bridges is doing- marketing and selling historic bridges.

While many state departments of transportation have different policies towards marketing historic bridges that are on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) but are scheduled for replacement- and the success rate among them vary from state to state from above average to poor- Ms. Bowers has been spearheading the efforts to involve parties in the private and public sector and have the historic bridges relocated to other places where they are needed, not only through marketing and selling them, but also having them restored to their usual form before today’s automobiles started wearing them down again.

I had a chance to meet Ms. Bowers while at the Historic Bridge Conference in St. Louis in August and found that she was an optimistic person and a great supporter of historic bridge preservation. But there was an underlying reason of why she is into the business she is right now (and will be in the future)- and this falls on one of the bridges in Poweshiek County, Iowa- her place of origin- which was wiped out during the Floods of March 2010 and is one of the primary targets to have it restored to its usual form. I had a chance to conduct an online interview with the 2011 Ammann Legacy Award runner-up and after some editing work for content, I decided to post the dialogue here, so that the reader can learn more about her work and get involved in the effort to save a historic bridge in his/her own area, let alone assist in the work of Ms. Bowers and her organization, Workin’ Bridges. Here is what she has to say:

 

 

 How did you become interested in historic bridges (and preservation)?

Sunday afternoons in the fall would often find my family and friends at an old iron bridge. I remember being three and falling in the river from the deadfall – trees that would fall across the river to form a bridge were the most fun. In the background and always crossed – was the old arch bridge. I didn’t know it was historic, it was old, certainly. I was never afraid to drive over it. In 1989 they closed the road, but I was able to ask the Conservation Board for a key, because I felt our family should be grandfathered in to access to that area. Today Millgrove Access Wildlife Area is nearly 1200 acres of prairie, oak-hickory savannah, river  birch and boggy area.

 

Then I moved to California and fell in love with the Golden Gate, Richmond-San Rafael, Bay Bridge. When I moved back to Iowa with Laran (my daughter) in 2001, shortly after 9/11, we started the Sunday ritual at the river again, and introduced a lot more people to that bridge. It has served as a place for weddings and senior pictures, anniversaries and many parties. Magical place.

 

 

McIntyre Bridge remains. Photo taken in the first half of 2011 by Julie Bowers. Used with permission


 How are you connected with the McIntyre Bridge? Was it the source of inspiration for you to preserve and market historic bridges?

The McIntyre Bridge is how my career in historic bridges evolved.  I was the one that got the call on October 4, 2009 from Larry Bryan who had just been at morning coffee. Now, morning coffee, exists everywhere,  that is where you find out the news.  Larry asked when I called him back, “They are going to tear down your bridge, what are you going to do about it? “ I cried for three days, then decided that the bridge needed me. There was no other family member to step up and take charge. I was the one who put on the annual party. It was up to me. I was the only one that cared and it was just because my family spent Sundays there when I was a kid.

 

I started researching bridges and discovered restoration and preservation then, and I haven’t stopped yet. The Supervisors of Poweshiek County allowed us time to see what we could do about saving the bridge and we formed a friends group and then we formed a non profit. And then we lost our bridge, I think without that I wouldn’t be so stubborn about helping others. Knowing that I was one step behind has made all the difference in the world, but it is not easy, and if funds don’t come int, like with the Pepsi Challenge (a long shot for sure) or private donations. We just try to work for our money for restoration in these economic times. We adhere to the standards for restoration and that is how we market our bridges. Historic Antiques – Formerly on the List of recognized historical objects.

 

Funny story, my daughter and I shared a phone plan, and I got a call one day in early December, “MOM, what have you done to the phone, we are 700 dollars over our limit?” We fixed that by unlimited minutes but I had called nearly every construction and engineering firm in Iowa and no one could help me. Peterson Construction, Inc was the only construction company with cranes who said they would help. Research nationally brought Vern Mesler, Nathan Holth, Kitty Henderson, Eric Delony, Alan King Sloan. Vern and Nathan came to Iowa and told us that we could save the bridge, even if it fell in the river. It was leaning a lot and we didn’t know what to do. It took us a couple of months to become a non-profit – The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA). Unfortunately, we lacked one signature for lifting the bridge at the end of February and by the 1stweek of March we had lost our window of opportunity to spring flooding for lifting the bridge off it’s piers..

 

We struggled with legal issues for 5 more months and finally found that two agreements needed to be made, a lease on the land, and the purchase of the bridge for $1. The agreement gives the bridge back when it is fixed. The County did not sign the agreements until after the bridge had been swept off it’s piers in early August 2010. Our organization insisted that we would take care of the bridge and see what we could do about salvaging and seeing if it could be fixed, the piers were still standing in the same place.

 

That was the day I called Vern to tell him that the bridge was gone. A couple days later he called back with a phone number that I wrote down on the back of an envelope, with a name Nels Raynor. It took a couple of weeks for me to call him, we didn’t know what to do. Nels came to Iowa and told us he was the one that could salvage and fix the bridge. He quoted us a very low price for the removal of the spans all all iron from the river that was way low, saying he knew we didn’t have money for this and he wanted to help us.” We were able to also help whim with a tax write-off for the rest of his time and energy, as the job took a little longer than he thought it might. That bridge went down fighting, about 150 feet downstream.

 

Piano Bridge in Fayette County, Texas. Photo taken by Julie Bowers. Used with permission.

Workin’ Bridges started from that meeting. I had done a lot of research and grant writing on the bowstring and found www.bridgehunter.com and historicbridges.org. Started doing some research, found a little King bridge in Texas that needed some help, and Nels and I made the trip to do the Scope of Work and Estimate for the restoration of the bridge. TxDOT won that project, but today I sit in Texas, waiting to start documenting the restoration of the Piano Bridge, with the team from Michigan, Nels and BACH Steel, and Scott Miller of Davis Construction Inc, of Lansing (DCI of Decatur, TX), who won the bid at my urging in early August. This little Piano Bridge has a lot of story for everyone to learn something, that old iron can be welded, that it is not intrinsically tired, and that pin connections can be trusted. I’ve learned a lot.

 

 What types of bridges do you market and preserve?

I take a lot of guidance from the bridgehunter nation as to which bridges should be saved and why. The Upper Bluffton Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa is one example of bridges that we got the contractor to save rather than scrap. Long Shoals Bridge in (Bourbon County) Kansas is an early 1900’s modified Parker that showed up on the TRUSS award from last year, I called the county commissioners and they listened and are now working on the permission to move that bridge to the city of Fort Scott.

 

My original research was on King Bowstrings, which branched out to King Bridges, which came back to other bowstrings. My work centers on the bridges built from the late 1860s to 1900. 1916 is the cutoff for most  of my interest, that is when American Steel, JP Morgan, the auto industry changed the bridge industry. Now I like all the bridges and determine their historic and local uses. As as artist I like how they frame a view,  you don’t get that with the concrete or train-car style of bridge. We look for different qualities for preservation, mostly if there is a use for the bridge.

Upper Bluffton Bridge before being moved off its foundations and onto a piece of land to be disassembled and relocated. Photo taken by the author in August 2009.

 

Our non-profit was fortunate to have some major donor’s working to help us with  the bowstring but funding is tight. That is another reason we started Workin’ Bridges, so that I could take the research, grant writing and bridge information I had learned over the last year and share it with others that needed help. The consulting fees help support our administrative budget, which isn’t covered by most grants. Our hope is to get in on some big projects that will ultimately fund our own bridge restoration, which is always a primary goal in my world. To that end we try to educate engineers and construction companies, county and city officials, DNR and County Conservation Boards, and regular folks like me, who just happen to own a bridge.

 

 What is the role of BACH Steel?

If only I had heard about Nels Raynor and BACH Steel when I first heard of Vern Mesler. In July of 2010, after Vern had come to Iowa to put on a metals workshop,  I read the book that the core group of bridge lovers had written which had a section on Nels. “A Community Guide to Historic Bridge Preservation” by Mike Mort from MSU. Anyway, coming from a construction background, Nels had the answers and the estimates that I needed. I didn’t need some historic preservationist,  I needed a contractor that worked with historic structures.  We started collaborating together when I was in  Michigan, getting an inventory and photographic details of bridge parts together for the bowstring’s Technical Advisor to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in Iowa .

 

BACH has, to date, only worked as a consultant to Workin’ Bridges on the site visits in Texas, Kansas, Arkansas but we hope to visit more bridges next year. The business model provides a way for the non-profit to work with the locals or purchase a bridge and work with it to find funding and a local group to support it. If the job goes to bid, BACH has the rights to bid it and hopefully the non-profit makes a finder’s fee. If Workin’ Bridges acts as the contractor , as in the bridges we own, then BACH works as the sub. It gets confusing but we have just started working with  Davis Construction Inc. from Lansing, MI that Nels had worked with previously. Hopefully, we can continue to work collaboratively to find more bridges to restore, and get them into a pipeline for scheduling so that we consistently have work.

Enochs Knob Bridge in Franklin County, Missouri. Photo taken by the author in August 2011

SUCCESS STORIES

The Long Shoals Bridge – awareness, grant writing, permission requested from NPS keeper of the National Register of Historic Places to move the bridge to Fort Scott. If the permission is granted, a grant has been written for $90,000 to help with the move and disassemble. Further grants and fundraising will have to take place for the restoration and reset.

Springfield Bridge – Faulkner County is pursuing funding for the restoration of the bridge in its original setting as a park. The bridge planking is in bad shape, and some irregular fixes happeed. Another King this is from 1873 and the differences in engineering will require some creativity on the part of the engineer. For the McIntyre Bowstring – Spicer Engineering of Saginaw, Michigan engineered the decking to become part of the lateral strength of the bridge. The Springfield does not have riveted lattice bracing on the verticals, that strengthening showed up in the late 1870s. The eyebars and floor beams are also different in the early bridge so it will be interesting to see how the engineers come up with loading.

McIntyre Bridge – Spicer Engineering has signed and sealed the plans for the restoration of the bowstring. BACH Steel has come up with a way to make the vertical posts and will fix the bridge once funding has been secured. That is the hardest part, we are out in the country with little support for this place.

Enochs Knob Road Bridge – Workin’ Bridges supplied Molly Hoffman with an estimate and Scope of Work for the bridge in Franklin County, Missouri. This bridge has been slated for replacement but our findings showed that another look at the engineering might make a difference in keeping it, although the approaches had been worked for a replacement structure. This would also be a great pedestrian/equestrian bridge but the local population doesn’t want the party contingent there. These bridges are magnets and it is up to us to educate those that hang out their on how to maintain and care for the bridges. Enochs Knob has a lot of ghost stories and history so it will be interesting to see where that project goes.

The Piano Bridge – Workin’ Bridges was given the rights to document the full restoration of this bridge. During my time talking about bridges, I have often had to defend the engineering without being an engineer. The engineers from TxDOT will talk about their reasons for restoring these bridges – low daily traffic and an alternate route are two of the criteria they look at when evaluating keeping bridges in their system. Texas will be doing a lot of restorations in the next two years from funds already allocated by legislature. The documentary / reality construction content will be utilized in a variety of ways, formats and hopefully find distribution to a wide audience, educating them about saving our historic resources.

Piano Bridge being dismantled with the bridge parts being sandblasted before being reassembled. Photo taken by Julie Bowers, used with permission

 


 What difficulties have you dealt with and how have you overcome them?

Most of preservation nation is made up of experts and consultants who consistently get the grant monies.

Bridges are not at the top of the list when it comes to granting or giving donor money.

Bridges were added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 90s from a grant from the National Parks Service,

Being listed on the National Register affords no protections from tearing down,  it might slow the process but it has no authority to dictate saving a project.

Local SHPOs don’t know much about historic bridges.

Section 106 is only of use when there is federal money involved and most projects that I look at are small county projects where there is no money. The counties have figures out if they don’t use the Federal money that regulations are different.

It has been very frustrating for our group for many reasons, not being in any town or city and being on the county line are drawbacks for resources.

 

Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge near Mankato, Minnesota: The longest bridge of its kind in the country and one of the bridges that Bowers wants to see saved. Photo taken by the author in Dec. 2007

How does Workin’ Bridges differ from other preservation groups?

 

We differ at Workin’ Bridges because we are a non-profit, we can do the construction and estimating of a project.  People need to know what a project is likely to cost before they can decide to move forward or to write a grant. Most grants don’t allow you to do any work on a project before the grant is approved. Workin’ Bridges can step in to bridge that gap so that the project has a solid basis and can move forward with good decisions.   We can also do the work from start to finish with our expert contractors. Sometimes a project has enough money right at the beginning to get something done, so waiting to go through bureaucratic hoops just costs money. Again, if we had been able to use the $50,000 to fix our bowstring in place we would have been way ahead of the game now.  And we aren’t out here to make a fortune, although it’s not that we don’t charge fair prices. And we turn any profits we make into the next project, so it is a win-win for bridges.

Nels’ expertise is what I needed when I was trying to save our bowstring, so that is what  I am trying to do for the community,  get him out there saving more bridges. He is just so knowledgeable and passionate about these bridges, and he is willing to work with me as I find more people that need help. As Nels put it after our visit to Arkansas and Kansas, “We do better work together” It’s good that I can use my background in architecture, design and data management and keep him in the field workin’ bridges.. We are making progress and 2012 has a lot of potential. We hope to be part of the work that goes on at the Cedar (Avenue) Bridge in Bloomington, Minnesota and hoping to start negotiations on the Kern Bowstring (near Mankato, Minnesota),  We also put in an option to be part of the Gilliece Bowstring restoration when it comes up for removal.

Workin’ Bridges also has bridges for a sale. Currently a bowstring, a King Post Pony and Pratt from Upper Bluffton, Iowa and several other pony trusses that are at BACH Steel in Michigan.

Winter is a great time for us to go out and do site visits and estimates,  spring is the time for grant writing,  late summer, fall and early winter a good time to get the work done. I hope Workin’ Bridges will be around for a long time,

I have utilized bridgehunter.com for finding projects from a variety of sources.  Nathan Holth of historicbridges.com does a great job of culling information from around the country and letting the rest of us know about different projects all around the country on their forum on on his own website.

The TRUSS awards last year on bridgehunter.com were the bridges we went after, and quickly I started asking questions on the forum. ., With the success of the Piano Bridge trip, where we had just delivered a product that was utilized to negotiate a better deal, I contacted Judge Scroggin in Faulkner County on the way back from Texas and he requested a site visit from us, which we executed in early April. I also contacted the local commissioners in Bourbon County, Kansas and went to visit them in January, 2011. I had been to many county level meetings during the bowstring ownership negotiations so I knew some of their concerns. I was blown away when they each said they were surprised that they could do anything with an NRHP historic bridge, having been told by previous members they could not touch it. When I suggested that they would be responsible when it fell into the river they were shocked and yet understood. Now ten months later they have a plan for the very historic Long Shoals to be the centerpiece of their river park, The Fort Scott /Bourbon County Riverfront Authority (FSBCRA) also had us estimate a King 1910 RR Bridge and Military (Marmaton) Bridge – a 3 King bowstring, both sited over the Marmaton River in Fort Scott and to be utilized for the trail system. The FSBCRA has already been granted over $1.5 for developing the roads and trails, and a bridge had already been specified for crossing in the master plan. Their willingness, even at many times the cost of the concrete pedestrian bridge specified for $100,000, is to be commended, Their executive team and county moved very quickly, realizing that they had a resource they had never considered before. They also see the economic value of a unique structure, one that is also a part of their history, that will add to the overall historic climate of the fort and downtown.

 

Gilliecie Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa- another bridge under the radar of Workin' Bridges as it will be replaced in 2012. Photo taken by the author in Oct. 2005

Can you specify with some examples?

 

Historicbridgerestoration.com

Vern’s Mesler’s mission is to train people about metals and how to work with them. That includes bridges and he has been on the forefront of getting that message out,. There is more work to do because many engineers still believe you can’t weld old iron and of course, no one hot rivets anymore and you can’t save that old bridge. We do! Or at least the team I work with does and we support all that takes the Historic Metals Workshop at Lansing Community College. It is worth the trip.

 

Historic Bridge Foundation

Located in Texas, this foundation brings together information to help in projects that utilize federal funding. Their board of directors is comprised of pontists whom I have mentioned previously. What I have found is that many counties don’t have that funding and are looking at other ways, like selling bridges to private organizations.

 

National Trust for Historic Preservation

Funds expert consultants, but if you don’t know what you need it is hard to write for the grant. Now I know the experts in engineering and with Workin’ Bridges Scope of Work – a grant can be effectively written for the expert planning required to begin, architectural or engineered plans.

 

The Keeper – Nels and I had a phone meeting with the Keeper of the Register, Carol Shull, and her deputies Paul Loether and Barbara Wyatt. They had many suggestions but were still adamant that site is very important to bridges and they would not allow permission for the Upper Bluffton Bridge to remain on the NRHP which would allow it to be eligible for grants. They were aware that Long Shoals was coming up but it had time to go through the process and more will be revealed. If permission isn’t granted, I don’t know that the Long Shoals bridge will still be a candidate for use in the river park. They also suggested working with the local EPAs to add a section where every property should be addressed historically, whether utilizing federal funds or not. Just a second look, in my opinion, would be great.

 

Everyone has their role to play,  the photographers and bridge experts at  bridgehunter adding to the mix daily, the historian at historicbridges.org analyzing each feature of everytype of bridge, but we look at these projects from a viewpoint of construction. These are big projects and most people don’t know where to start, so that is where we differ from Indiana or Pennsylvania, they have the product but it’s not easy to see it to completion. We can go all the way to landscaping if that is necessary, and we work with proven engineers experienced in truss bridges. As stated before preservation seems to add zero’s to a job, when that isn’t necessary. I think Workin’ Bridges fills a niche, we’ll see.

 

Eveland Bridge in Mahaska County, Iowa- another project in the making for Workin' Bridges once approved. Photo taken by Julie Bowers, used with permission.

What will the Future Hold for Workin’ Bridges?

NSRGA was started with one goal, to preserve the bowstring bridge and the greenbelt around it. I didn’t know it was a King and I didn’t know it had a name, we call it the Skunk River Bridge. I, quite frankly, thought all bowstrings were Hales, after I saw footage of the Jones County bowstring lift by the national guard. Our bridge is too big for the helicopters to lift so they couldn’t help me, but their may come a time when I too shall see another bowstring fly.

 

Some find it quite ironic that I am out here trying to save other bridges when  the McIntyre bowstring bridge lays in the backyard at BACH Steel. That delay, failure to find funds, forced the board to think outside the box. We want to restore our bridge and we were able to start and make Workin’ Bridges effective because we are a non – profit, and they trusted that I had the skills and education to make it work.  We’ve been at it almost a year.

 

Our model is similar to Habitat for Humanity or more closely to Dry Stone Conservancy. The Dry Stone Conservancy teaches masonry skills and offers competitions and a list of contractors.  I called them for information on contractors for some of the stone piers we are working with like Long Shoals where we will preserve as many original as possible.

 

I would like to develop contacts in every state. We know that BACH and Davis Construction can’t handle all of the jobs, and many state grants want their dollars to stay with experts in state.  so our mission to is find projects of any size and scope, and give the clients the  best estimate and quality workmanship  they can get. Davis Construction has also been certified in more states, including Iowa, so we are able to look at all kinds of projects, including some with Federal and Historic Monies. So we are either training or consulting in many states and also, when the jobs finally come up, we can go through the construction process. Davis at last word was estimating the Sutliff Bridge at Workin’ Bridges request and we are holding out that the Cedar Bridge Project in Bloomington will become a reality.

 

This results ultimately in restored iron bridges that can ultimately serve a population for several more generations. There are not that many iron experts, I know, I tried to find them. It is one of our missions to train the next generation of craftsmen while working on our own projects.  In the meantime, we  educate the elected officials that have the issue of “truss bridges” on their plates. We educate engineers and bridge lovers. We do that by showing the team working a complete restoration (at the Piano Bridge) in Dubina, Texas, explaining the process in detail, This documentation  should result in more people saving more bridges. Distribution will be key.  Funding is necessary. Anyone still has time to get in on the funding of this documentary as the big bridge lift happens the first of December or thereabouts.

Side view of the Cedar Avenue Bridge in Bloomington, Minnesota. Bridge has been closed and fenced off since 2002. Photo taken by the author in August 2011

Author’s Notes:

Since the interview, a pair of important points to pass along to the reader:

1. The Piano Bridge was dismantled during the first week of December of this year. The general plan is to sandblast and prime the truss parts and the pin-connections will be either repaired or replaced. It will then be reassembled on site and reopen to traffic sometime in the next year or so. It is touted as a success story for Workin’ Bridges although there are many bridges that are have been pursued and are close to being preserved.

Link: http://bridgehunter.com/tx/fayette/piano/

2. The Upper Bluffton Bridge appears to have found a home with a local snowmobile club, even though it is unclear where it would be relocated. The last time there was something mentioned about the bridge, it is still on a piece of land away from its original site. The future of the bridge remains unclear from this point on. However, the Gilliecie Bridge will be replaced as soon as the funding is available even though the bridge will be up for the taking. Should a party take on the bridge, it will need to be dismantled and completely restored, especially because of the damage to the upper chord of the bridge.

Links: http://skunkriverbridge.org/the-project.html

3. The Long Shoals Bridge will be relocated to Fort Scott as soon as the funding for the relocation is available. It will be used along with some other historic bridges as a pedestrian bridge. At the moment, almost $1.7 million has been awarded to the Riverfront Authority and another $3.3 million is needed to complete the project, including $90,000 for relocating the Long Shoals Bridge to the park.

Link: http://www.fstribune.com/story/1758410.html

http://bridgehunter.com/ks/bourbon/long-shoals/

4. For more information on how you can help with the projects that Workin’ Bridges is carrying out, use this link to contact Julie Bowers: http://skunkriverbridge.org/  The author would also like to thank Ms. Bowers for the use of some of her photos of the bridges that are either the target of her next projects or are currently undergoing renovation and/or relocation.

 


 

Ammann Award Results for 2011

After many entries and votes for the best historic bridges and the people who have made a difference, the Historic Bridge Month has come to a close, but not before announcing the winners of the Othmar H. Ammann Awards for Excellence in the following categories:

Example of the work done on a bridge- rewelding the pin-connections. Photo taken by Nathan Holth, used with permission

Lifetime Legacy Award:
Vern Mesler: It is rare that there are people in the world who are experts in welding or any profession dealing with the steel industry. It is even rarer if a particular welder is also a bridgelover. But Vern Mesler, who has been in the welding business for over 30 years is one that has gone the extra mile to use his expertise to save historic bridges. He has not only offered courses in these two areas to those interested in taking up the profession of welding and historic bridge preservation, but he went further by creating a historic bridge park in Calhoun County, featuring his finished works of historic bridges that he put his expertise into use and preserved. All of his examples can be found in his newsletters the VJM Craftsman Newsletter. The author of the Chronicles has sent him some interview questions which he will send back to be posted.  Mr. Mesler can take pride in his work as he has not only won the Lifetime Legacy Award but also the Best Kept Secret Award for his historic bridge park in Michigan. The Bridgehunter‘s Chronicles would like to congratulate him for his work.
Honorably Mentioned:
Julie Bowers: Inspired by a local bowstring arch bridge in Poweshiek County (The McIntyre Bridge), Ms. Bowers put her marketing strategy and expertise in historic bridge preservation into use with the founding of Workin‘ Bridges, an organization devoted to consulting, marketing and doing estimates on historic bridges to be preserved for reuse. Already she has been successful with many bridges in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, just to name a few. The Chronicles has done an interview with her via e-mail and will post the success story in the next posting.

Best Snapshot Award:

Photo taken by the winner: John Goold

High Level Arch Bridge in Akron (Ohio)- 32 votes: This oblique photo, taken by John Goold from the bottom of the structure shows a detailed look at the 1953 cantilever truss structure and the way it graces across the river and parking lot. This bridge should be considered a poster boy for all of these types that are coming down in vast numbers; especially in response to the I-35W Bridge collapse in August, 2007. This structure is not spared from this massive slaughter as it is slated for replacement as soon as the funding is approved (which could be either 2012 or 2013), unless attempts are made to rehabilitate it to prolong its functional life.
Link: http://www.bridgehunter.com/oh/summit/bh49749/

Honorably Mentioned:

Dotson Bridge. Photo taken by John Marvig

Dotson Bridge near Sanborn (Minnesota)- 29 votes: John Marvig had to fight through a half a mile of bushes, tall green grass and trees to discover and photograph this railroad bridge, a 1920s lattice through truss bridge that was once part of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad  route going from Sanborn to Sherburn and Fairmont, but was abandoned in the 1980s because of flood damage to the structure and the lack of service on the route. The bridge was named after a village that had once existed in the age of the Great Expansion (1870s) but all that is left of its memory is this piece of natural artwork. It is owned by the state department of natural resources but one has to get permission from nearby residents to get to the bridge.
Link with info:  http://pegnsean.net/~johnm/CNWCottonwoodRiverBridge.html
Other participants (with number of votes): Snowmobile Whipple Truss Bridge in northern New York state- taken by Marc Scotti (21); Riverside Bridge in Ozark (Missouri), taken by Daniel Shortt (13); Railroad/Pedestrian Bridge in New York state- taken by Marc Scotti (7); Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge-abandoned, in Rock Island (Illinois), taken by John Weeks III (6)

Note: The author would like to thank the students of the Departments of Civil Engineering, City Planning, and Building and Energy Technology at the University of Applied Science in Erfurt, Germany for voting on the historic bridge photos.

Best Kept Secret Award:

Charlotte Road Bridge at Historic Bridge Park. Photo taken by Nathan Holth, used by permission

Historic Bridge Park in Calhoun County (Michigan): This park, located not far from I-94 in south central Michigan, features a half-dozen vintage truss bridges, dating as far back as 1880; all of which were dismantled at their original sites, sandblasted, rewelded, and reassembled at their new location in the park.  This includes the Charlotte Highway Bridge, a 1886 Whipple through truss bridge, and the Bauer Road Bridge, a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with very ornamental and rare portal bracings. The mastermind behind the park is Vern Mesler as he has received many awards for his park and has inspired other groups to form parks similar to his. One of which was discovered in Iowa this past summer at F.W. Kent Park near Iowa City, which houses eight truss bridges. Mesler can add one more award to his collection with the Lifetime Legacy Award for his work.
Links:   http://historicbridges.org/truss/bauer/index.htm
http://historicbridges.org/truss/charlotte/index.htm
http://historicbridges.org/info/bridgepark/index.htm

Photo taken by the author in April 2011

Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg (Germany): The first time that I crossed or even heard of this bridge was in May 2010 while on a train trip from Hamburg to Flensburg. Since that time information has been collected and it is sufficient enough to justify its prize on the international scale; especially given the fact that despite its rare design- a cantilever truss bridge with a transporter span over the Baltic-North Sea Canal combined with a loop approach supported by steel trestles and brick arch spans- and the fact that it was one of many bridges built in Germany by Friedrich Voss (this one was built in 1913), the bridge is under-recognized by the international bridge community. Even some pontists in the US had never heard about this bridge until it was presented at the Historic Bridge Conferences in Pittsburgh (2010) and St. Louis (2011).  Perhaps this recognition combined with an article to come in the Chronicles will help this bridge find its place on the international scale.
Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendsburg_High_Bridge

 

In addition to that, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles also has its own pics for historic bridges both in the US as well on the international scale that deserve to be recognized. Without further ado, here are the pics for 2011:

BRIDGEHUNTER CHRONICLES‘ BRIDGE PICS:
Best Example of Historic Bridge Reuse:
USA:
Full Throttle Saloon and Bridges in Sturgis (South Dakota): What was Michael Ballard thinking when he purchased a two-span through truss bridge (a Pennsylvania petit and a Pratt) and moved them to the world‘s largest and most popular motorcycle restaurant, bar and grandstand at Sturgis to be used as decoration and a grandstand for concerts? Well, nobody knows the answer to that question but Mr. Ballard himself. Yet maybe when he receives word of the award he is about to receive for his creativity in saving a historic bridge from becoming a pile of scrap metal and making it a popular tourist attraction, perhaps he will provide readers with a secret to his successful push to making his two bridges and his venue the place to visit while on a road trip through the country. The Bridgehunter‘s Chronicles has sent him a couple questions about this and as soon as an answer arrives, you will have an opportunity to read it for yourself.
Links:
http://www.bridgehunter.com/sd/meade/bh47904/
http://www.bridgehunter.com/sd/meade/bh47905/
http://www.fullthrottlesaloon.com/

International:

Photo taken by the author in December 2010

Krämerbrücke in Erfurt (Germany): The Kramer Bridge in the state capital of Thuringia in central Germany is perhaps the only bridge left in Europe whose arch design supports housing. The London Bridge was the other bridge, before its relocation to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1969. The bridge is part of the historic district considered a World Heritage Site and still houses small shops today ranging from local specialties to unique gifts for people to have. Further information on the bridge will come in a later column on the bridges in Erfurt. In the meantime….
Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krämerbrücke

Worst Example of Historic Bridge Reuse:

Oblique view of the Rock Island Bridge- Photo taken by John Weeks III, used with permission
Close-up of the swing span at the time of its demolition. Photo taken by John Weeks III, used with permission
The finished product- a pier using the last two spans of the Rock Island Bridge. Photo taken by the author in August, 2011

Rock Island Railroad Bridge at Inver Grove Heights (Minnesota)
This story is rather a tragic one for bridge lovers and locals interested in history. We have one of the most unique bridges in the country that spanned the Mississippi River bordering Dakota and Washington Counties south of St. Paul, built in 1894 by a bridge company in Pittsburgh. It was a double-decker bridge (with the lower deck carrying vehicular traffic and the upper deck carrying rail traffic) with seven Pratt truss spans, a Baltimore petit swing span and four Vierendeel truss spans (in the row from the Dakota side to the Washington side). It was closed to traffic in 1999 and was left abandoned until it was reduced down to a quarter of the entire structure in 2010- namely two Pratt spans on the Dakota side. It was then converted into a pier with welded trusses constructed as approach spans. In the eyes of many pontists and those knowing the bridge, while two spans were salvaged, the bridge is still considered a total loss, as cutting the spans up into blocks without finding other alternatives to using it for pedestrian use, combined with Washington County’s unwillingness to cooperate in the mitigation efforts resulted in a bridge altered to a point of no acknowledgement of its historic value.
Links: http://www.johnweeks.com/bridges/pages/ms02.html
http://www.bridgehunter.com/mn/washington/rock-island/

The Salvageable Mentioned:

The east spans of the Horn’s Ferry Bridge. Photo taken by the author in August 2011

Horn’s Ferry Bridge in Marion County (Iowa)
Located just below the Red Rock Dam over the Des Moines River 30 km south of Pella, the bridge was one of the longest vehicular bridges over the Des Moines River, let alone the state of Iowa. The bridge was built in 1882 and consisted of (from west to east) seven pony truss spans, one Camelback through truss span, one riveted Pratt through truss span and one riveted Warren pony truss span. While it was closed in 1982 when the new bridge, located upstream from the old one was open, it was open to pedestrians and cyclists for another 10 years until August 1992, when half the bridge fell into the river because one of the piers failed. After removing the wreckage and additional trusses, the remaining spans were salvaged and are now piers overlooking each other’s banks and adjacent campground. While the major superstructure, the first built over the Des Moines River in Marion County was a major loss, the county did an excellent job of saving what is left of the historic structure and is still a major attraction for tourists and campers.
Note: The author is looking for additional information and photos of the bridge before its collapse in 1992 for an article in the Chronicles as well as a book on Iowa’s truss bridges.
Links to photos: http://www.bridgehunter.com/ia/marion/bh49471/

The Worst Reason to Destroy a Bridge:
United States:
Fort Keogh Bridge near Miles City (Montana): This bridge is the rarest over the Yellowstone River as it consists of two Pennsylvania Petit through truss main spans and a pony truss approach span, built in 1902 by the Hewett Bridge Company in Minneapolis (the same builder responsible for the Salisbury Bridge in Minnesota). Yet floodwaters caused the pony truss bridge to partially collapse and one of the main spans to tilt by 10°. Natural solution: tear the whole structure down even though it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge cannot be saved says the state historical society, yet one has to look at examples of bridges in similar shape like this that were dismantled (with bridge parts fixed) and reassembled, as is the case with the State Street Bridge in Saginaw County (Michigan) If the bridge still stands at the time of the awards, one should contact Nathan Holth, Vern Mesler and Julie Bowers for options and an estimate.
Links: http://www.bridgehunter.com/mt/custer/fort-keogh/
http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_0a0be72c-60a0-57ff-8605-9712b4c0df5d.html

http://www.historicbridges.org/truss/state/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_mcmt/5947278628/in/set-72157624985190546/  (Collection of photos of the Ft. Keogh Bridge after the flood damage)

Honorably Mentioned: Drayton Bridge in Oslo (North Dakota): This story was rather tragic. One wants to see the 1950s style Turner truss bridge with an unusual design (endposts not supported by piers), only to be denied the chance twice- once by inclimate weather and the second time because it was removed right after the spring floods in May. Todd Wilson of Bridgemapper once commented “Why are some of the unique bridges gone before one wants to see it?” Ask the Minnesota and North Dakota Departments of Transportation, as I do not have a clue either; especially as the bridge would have been a centerpiece for a bike trail for the people of Oslo and along the Red River…..
Link: http://www.bridgehunter.com/mn/kittson/6690/

International:
The Bridges in Saalfeld (Germany): On an international scale, here is a stupid reason for demolishing a bridge: because of the lack of money to maintain it. The southern Thuringian city of 25,000 inhabitants received this award because of the plan to remove not one, but EIGHT bridges! Even more insane is the fact that they are all pedestrian bridges built in the 1970s and 80s- two over the main highways going through the city and six along the two tributaries feeding the Saale River, the main river passing through the community. While this solution may be a short-term fix to save money, in the long term, it will create headaches for many pedestrians and cyclists for they will have to bike to the nearest vehicular bridge to cross and many of these structures are not suitable for this type of traffic. Smooth move on the part of the city government who plans on executing this plan beginning in 2012. Sad part is the fact that other cities are thinking that same idea, including Zittau, located on the Neisse River at the German-Polish border, which plans on removing two of its bridges beginning next year for similar reasons.
Link (German): http://www.otz.de/web/zgt/suche/detail/-/specific/Rueckbau-der-Bruecken-minderer-Qualitaet-in-Saalfeld-beschlossen-556950036
http://www.mdr.de/sachsen/neissebruecken100.html

The Best Find of a Historic Bridge:

Approaching the bridge from the south hill side. Photo taken by the author in August 2011

Spring Hill Bridge in Warren County (Iowa)
Iowa has a number of truss bridges that have been sitting out of use for many years, but manage to find its place in the nature. Some of them, like the Bellefont and Evelyn Bridges along the Des Moines River and the Hardin City Bridge near Steamboat Rock have been documented and are awaiting reuse for recreation purposes. Perhaps this 1909 Clinton Bridge and Iron Company Parker through truss structure should belong to the ranks of the “diamonds in the rough needing attention and recognition.” The structure was found by the author by accident coming back from the Historic Bridge Conference in St. Louis in August of this year. Even though the bridge has been closed for at least 10 years, it appears that the structure spanning the South River is in good shape and is being used for recreational purposes by local residents living up the hill from the structure. The only caveat to this bridge is accessing it, as the south approach has eroded to a point where the road ends a half a mile from the bridge. Access from the north end is possible, albeit it is privately owned.
Link: http://www.bridgehunter.com/ia/warren/334580/

Photo taken by the author in April 2011.

Kluvensiek Draw Bridge near Rendsburg (Germany): This is one of a few places that still exists along the Old Eider Canal, the predecessor to the Baltic-North Sea Canal which connects Kiel (the capital of Schleswig-Holstein) and Heide (where the North Sea is located). The drawbridge, built in 1850 by a company in Rendsburg, only received minimal attention through magazines and local newspaper articles. However, given the fact that the iron ornamental towers- which was part of a double-leaf bascule bridge which was in service for 40 years until the canal was decommissioned- is still intact despite the canal being partially filled in and can be seen from the nearby highway, the bridge is definitely worth a stop for a photo opportunity. (Please see link where the bridge is mentioned:http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2011/07/28/touring-the-bridges-along-the-grand-canal-part-i/)

The Biggest Bonehead Story:
Thieves stealing an entire bridge in New Castle (Pennsylvania) for the price of metal:

With prices of metal flying sky high within the last five years and the economic conditions being unstable, one would actually show some restraint and not steal one’s personal belongings just to sell it for the price of a commodity, like scrap metal, right? Not with these thieves as a group of four people dismantled an entire 50 foot stringer bridge, sitting abandoned over a small creek, with blow torches, loaded them up onto trucks and took it to the steel yards for money. While they were eventually arrested for grand theft, the total loss for the bridge was over $100,000 and they set the precedent for others to follow, as reports of missing bridge parts were reported in Mississippi and at least six other states. Stupidity and desperation does have its rewards, but at the expense of others (including their lives), as this incredible act is on par with a story of an electrician’s attempts to steal copper from a live 200 volt transformer on an power line pole in Texas! I will not go into detail as to what happened there….. This story far outguns one’s attempts of crossing the Fryer’s Ford Bridge in Arkansas in May of this year- and dropping it into the river in the process- by over a mile and therefore receives the award outright.
Links:

Thieves Steal An Entire Metal Bridge in Pennsylvania
http://www.minyanville.com/dailyfeed/2011/10/10/thieves-steal-entire-bridge-for/
http://www.bridgehunter.com/story/1160/#Comments