What to do with a HB: The Case of the “Marode” Selbitz Bridge at Blankenstein

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As the state of Bavaria is striving for the world record with the construction of the longest pedestrian suspension bridge over the Selbitz Valley near the Thuringian-Bavarian border, one wonders if the project is too ambitious, given the fact that we have too many “marode” bridges in the region. Apart from the problems with the Sparnberg Bridge near the Motorway Crossing at Rudolphstein, we have another crossing that needs attention very badly. And for a good reason too: the bridge is located right at the junction of seven different hiking trails going in each direction!

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Source: brueckenweb.de

The Selbitz Bridge is located in the small town of Blankenstein, located on the Thuringian side of the former East-West German border. The bridge spans the river Selbitz and is the last crossing before it empties into the River Saale. For four kilometers between the confluence with the Saale and the junction with Muschwitz Creek, the Selbitz separates the two states  and had once been a military border that kept Blankenstein behind the Iron Curtain and people from fleeing over the river.  In fact, only a kilometer northeast of the confluence between the Selbitz and the Saale, there was a site of an attempted escape to the western half of Germany, which occurred on 6 January, 1989, nine months before the Fall of the Wall. There, three men and a lady tried escaping over the wall erected on the Thuringian side during the night. After going over the first wall and approaching the second inside the “Death Zone,” they were spotted by East German and Russian guards who shot at them. Eventually, one of the men succeeded in swimming across the icy cold Saale into Bavaria; the other three were arrested.  Blankenstein was one of the key escape routes used by many wanting to try and escape to the West until the borders were opened on 9 November, 1989. Some succeeded by breaking through the barriers. Others were arrested and imprisoned. One fatality was recorded in 1964.

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After the Fall of the Wall came the demolition of the borders that had separated the two Germanys for 28 years. And with that, the construction of several bridges over the rivers and streams that had been fenced off. The Selbitz Bridge was one of the bridges that was built crossing the former border. Originally a Waddell through truss bridge, the 29-meter long wooden crossing was completed in 1991. With that came an opportunity to reunite Thuringia and Bavaria by foot, providing hikers with an opportunity to explore the Thuringian Forest, the Fichtel Mountains and the Schiefgebirge using seven hiking trails- six here plus another one in the making that runs along the former border that had separated Germany prior to November 1989.  After the construction of the bridge, two monuments, built on each side of the Selbitz, as well as parking areas and a combination tourist information and first aid station were built, where the six current (and one planned) routes meet. The bridge practically served as the key meeting point between two points of junction, one for each state.

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The Bavarian monument where seven hiking trails meet, containing information, photos and maps of each trail. This was constructed a couple years ago and can be found off the county road opposite the river from Blankenstein.

Despite the bridge connecting the two states, problems arose in 2015 with the truss structure itself. Due to a combination of weather extremities, wear and tear and the damages caused by the two floods that ravaged Germany- 2002 and 2013, the Selbitz Bridge was considered structurally unsound, getting a grade of 3.4 out of 5 during an annual inspection in 2016. Bridges with a grade of 3 or worse are required to be rehabilitated to make it safer or be completely replaced.  The end result was an unusual move designed to keep the structure’s integrity but also give the bridge a new look. Hence the gabled tower and the top half of the Waddell truss were taken down, new bracings were added in its place, thus creating a Parker through truss design that is supported with X-framed portal bracings.  Furthermore, the decking was supported with leaning beams with x-bracings, anchored into the abutment, as seen in the picture below:

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Inspite this, this may not be enough to save the bridge, for a lot of wood rot and cracks are appearing in the lower half of the trusses. Most glaring are the end posts, one of which looks so shredded that it could potentially cause the bridge to collapse under ist weight or even flip over into the water. The least it could happen is that the trusses would tilt, putting more tension on the wooden truss parts. While some work has been done on the bridge already, with the truss conversion, it only represents a dressing to the problems the bridge has and the inevitable that the City of Blankenstein as well as the states of Thurngia and Bavaria will have to face- namely that the bridge will need to be replaced. Whether there is funding available remains unclear, especially in light of the recent approval of the construction of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges in the world at Lohbachtal and Höllental at the cost of 23 Million Euros.

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While this controversial project remains ambitious and will surely bring in hundreds of thousands of tourists to the region, one wonders if this project is being carried out at the expense of several bridges in the region that are in dire need of attention. And the numbers are growing as more people come to the region for vacationing. By making the necessary repairs to the crossings, like in Sparnberg and here in Blankenstein, it will do more than provide safety for drivers, cyclists and hikers.

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A Map of the Bridges at the Thuringian-Bavarian border can be found here. The Selbitz Bridge is on the far left.

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 29

 

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To kick off the Holiday Season, this pic of the week takes us to Chemnitz and to this bridge. Even though this Waddel through truss bridge with tubular and wire connections, which spans the River Chemnitz on the south end of the City, the snow can turn a modern bridge into a Beauty, which was the case here. These photos were taken on 17 January 2017, where over a foot of snow fell in Saxony, thus creating Winter Wonderland and some adventures Biking through the deep snow. Nevertheless, these shots are worth being printed on a Christmas Card, don’t you think? 🙂

Happy First Advent! 😀

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2015 Ammann Awards: The Author has some bridge stories to tell

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To start off this new year, there are some good news as well as some bad news. First the bad news: The deadline for entries for the 2015 Ammann Awards has been pushed back again for the last time. This time the 10th of January at 12:00am Central Standard Time (January 11th at 7:00am Central European Time) is the absolute deadline for all entries, including that for Best Photo, Lifetime Achievement and other categories. Reason for the delay is the low number of entries, much of that has to do with the weather disaster of biblical proportions in the United States and Great Britain, which has kept many away from the cameras and forced many to fill sandbags. The the voting process will proceed as planned with the winners being announced at the end of this month.

The good news: The author has enough candidates and stories to justify announcing his choices for 2015- the first to be announced before the actual Ammann Awards presentations but one that should keep the interest in historic bridges running sky high, especially before the main course. In other words, the author is serving his appetizers right now to keep the readers and candidates hungry for more bridge stuff. 😉

So here is our first appetizer: The Biggest Bonehead Story

Photo taken by Tony Dillon

USA:

Truck Destroys Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana- Ever since Christmas Day, this story has been the hottest topic in the media, even breaking records of the number of post clicks on the Chronicles. A 23-year-old woman, who claimed to be Amish, drives a 30-ton truck full of drinking water across the 1880 Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company structure that was only able to carry 6 tons. Naturally, the bridge gave in, yet the excuses the driver brought up became more and more incredulable: 1. I just received my driver’s license, 2. I couldn’t turn around or find an alternative so I took the chance, and 3. (Most outrageous): I didn’t know how many pounds equaled six tons.

Yet the question remains, which was more incredulable: The incident or the consequence of the incident: a mere $135 fine for crossing the light-weight bridge, destroying it in the process?

International:

Viaduct Collapses in Sicily- 2015 was not a good year for bridges outside of the USA, for several key (historic) crossings have met their fate or are about to due to human error. A temporary pedestrian bridge in Johannesburg (South Africa) falls onto the motorway crushing two cars. A pedestrian suspension bridge in New Zealand breaks a cable, causing the decking to twist and send hikers into the water.  Fortunately, no casualties. Both incidents happened in October. The highest glass bridge in the world, located in China, is cracking even though the government says it is safe.

But this bridge collapse on the island of Sicily, which happened in January, was a scandal! The Scorciavacche Viaduct near Palermo was completed in December 2014, three months earlier than scheduled, only for it to collapse partially on January 5th, 10 days after its opening! While no one was hurt, the collapse sparked a political outcry as the multi-million Euro bridge was part of the 200 million Euro motorway project, and as a consequence, officials prompted an investigation into the cause of the bridge. The construction company, which claimed that the accident was caused by “substinence,” tried shooting down the accusations, claiming the accident was overexaggerated. Makes the reader wonder if they tried covering up a possible design flaw, combined with human error, which could have caused the collapse. If so, then they have the (now jailed) Captain of the capsized Costa Concordia to thank, for like the ship that has been towed away and scrapped, the bridge met the same fate. Lesson for the wise: More time means better results. Check your work before opening it to others.

 

 

Best Historic Bridge Find:

While the author stayed out of the US for all of 2015 and focused his interesting findings on European soil, other bridge colleagues have found some bridges that had been either considered gone or had never been heard of before. One of these colleagues from Minnesota happened to find one that is still standing! 🙂

 

USA:

Bridge L-1297 in Clearwater County, Minnesota-

According to records by the Minnesota Historical Society, the Schonemann Park Bridge, located south of Luverne in Rock County, is the only example of a Waddell kingpost truss bridge left standing in Minnesota. This 1912 bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Bridge L-1297, which spans the Clearwater River near Gronvich in Clearwater, is the OTHER Waddell kingpost pony truss bridge that is still standing. Its markings matches exactly that of its Schonemann counterpart. Although there is no concrete evidence of when it was built and by whom, Pete Wilson, who found it by chance and addressed it to the Chronicles, mentioned that it was likely that it was built between 1905 and 1910 by the Hewett family, which built the bridge at Luverne. In either case, it is alive, standing albeit as a private crossing, and should be considered for the National Register. Does anybody else agree? 🙂

International:

The Bridges of Zeitz, Germany

It is rare to find a cluster of historic bridges that are seldomly mentioned in any history books or bridge inventory. During a bike tour through eastern Thuringia in March, I happened to find a treasure in the hills: A dozen historic bridges within a 10 km radius, half of which are in the city of 29,000 inhabitants, including the ornamental Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge located on the east end of town. Highly recommended the next time you pass through the area. These bridges will be profiled further in the coming year because of their aesthetic and historic value, which makes the town, resembling an East German bygone era, more attractive. Check them out! 🙂

 

Spectacular Disasters:

Flooding and Fires dominated the headlines as Mother Nature was not to kind to the areas affected, thus they were flooded, destroying historic bridges in the path. If there was no flooding, there were dry spells prompting fires that burned down everything touched. While there were several examples of historic bridges destroyed by nature, the author has chosen two that standout the most, namely because they were filmed, plus two runners-up in the international category. Fortunately for the bridge chosen in the US category, there is somewhat of a happy ending.

Photo by James MacCray

USA:

Full Throttle Saloon Fire-  Only a few weeks after celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Motorcycle Rally at the World’s largest saloon, the Full Throttle Saloon was destroyed by a massive fire on September 8th. Two of the historic bridges, relocated here to serve as overlook platforms and stages, were damaged by the blaze with the bridge decking being completely burned away. While the saloon was considered a total loss, bar owner Michael Ballard is planning on rebuilding the bar complex and has already lined up concert events including the upcoming Motorcycle Rally in August. More on how you can help rebuild here. Whether the bridges will be part of the plan is unclear, but given the effort to bring in the structure, it is likely that they will be kept and be part of the project as well. More on the project will follow, but things are really looking up for bikers and bridge lovers alike. 🙂

 

International:

300-year old arch bridge washed out by flooding-

While there was a three-way tie for spectacular natural disasters done to the historic bridges on the international front, this concrete arch bridge in Tadcaster in the UK stands out the most. The bridge collapsed on December 29th as floodwaters raged throughout much of the northern part of Great Britain. It was one of dozens of bridges that were either severely damaged or destroyed during the worst flooding on record. The saddest part was not the video on how the bridge fell apart bit by bit, but the bridge was over 300 years old. Demolition and replacement of the bridge is expected to commence at the earliest at the end of this year once the damages are assessed and the clean-up efforts are under way.

Runners-up:

Coach takes a swim under a culvert in Brazil:

Two runners-up in this category also have to do with bridge washouts due to flooding. One of them is this culvert wash-out in Brazil. A video submitted to the French magazine LeMonde shows what can happen if engineers choose a culvert over a replacement bridge, as this coach sank into the raging creek, went through the culvert and swam away! :-O Fortunately all the passengers evacuated prior to the disaster, however, it serves as a warning to all who wish to cut cost by choosing a culvert over a new bridge- you better know what you are getting into, especially after watching the video below.

 

Massive Panic as Bridge is washed out in India-

The other runner-up takes us to the city of Chennai in India, where flash flooding wreaked havoc throughout the city. At this bridge, the pier of a concrete bridge gave way as a large wave cut up the crossing in seconds! Massive panic occurred, as seen in the video seen below:

 

 

Dumbest Reason to destroy a historic bridge:

The final category for this year’s Author’s Choice Award goes to the people whose irrational decision-making triggered the (planned) destruction of historic bridges. This year’s candidates features two familiar names that are on the chopping block unless measures on a private scale are undertaken to stop the wrecking ball. One of the bridges is an iconic landmark that is only 53 years old.

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer
Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

USA:

BB Comer Bridge in Alabama- Three years of efforts to raise awareness to a vintage cantilever bridge went up in smoke on November 14th, when county officials not only rejected the notion for a referendum on saving the BB Comer Bridge in Scotsboro, but also turned down any calls for the matter to be brought up for all time to come. While the organization promoting the preservation of the bridge claimed that the city and Jackson County would not need to pay for the maintenance of the bridge, officials were not sold on the idea of having the bridge become a theme park, which would have been a win-win situation as far as producing funds for the tourism industry is concerned. Instead, behind closed doors, the contract was signed off to convert the 1930 bridge into scrap metal, giving into the value of the commodity. Talk about short-sightedness and wrist slitting there!

 

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International:

Fehmarn Bridge to come down- In an effort to push through the Migratory Freeway through Fehmarn Island and down the throats of opposing residents, the German Railways condemned the world’s first basket weave tied arch bridge, built in 1963 to connect the island with the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The official reason was too much rust and any rehabilitation would prolong the bridge’s life by only 20 years- highly disputable among the preservationists and civil engineers given the number of concrete examples of rehabilitated bridges lasting 50+ years. Yet many locals believe that the German Railways is pushing for the bridge to be removed in favor of its own railroad crossing that would carry Fernzüge from Hamburg to Copenhagen, eliminating the ferry service between Puttgarten and Rodby in Denmark. The fight however is far from over as the campaign to save the island and its cherished architectural work is being taken to the national level, most likely going as far as Brussles if necessary. In addition, lack of funding and support on the Danish side is delaying the tunnel project, threatening the entire motorway-bridge-tunnel project to derail. If this happens, then the next step is what to do with the Fehmarn Bridge in terms of prolonging its life. The bridge is in the running for Bridge of the Year for the 2015 Ammann Awards for the second year in a row, after finishing a distant second last year.

 

AND NOW THE VOTING PROCESS AND RESULTS OF THE 2015 AMMANN AWARDS, WHICH WILL BEGIN STARTING JANUARY 11th, AS SOON AS THE DEADLINE FOR ALL ENTRIES PASSES. HURRY TO ENTER YOUR PHOTOS, BRIDGES, AND PERSONS DESERVING HONORS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 59: An Undiscovered Waddell Truss

Photos courtesy of MnDOT
Photos courtesy of MnDOT

History sometimes has its doubts, especially when it comes to historic bridge inventories conducted by state and national governments. According to sources by the Minnesota Historic Society and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, there was supposed to be one kingpost truss bridge remaining in the state- the one located at Schoneman Park, south of Interstate 90 on US Hwy. 75 in Luverne, in Rock County (click here to view the photos).

But did you know that there is ANOTHER kingpost truss bridge, a design similar to the Schoneman Park Bridge in Clearwater County?  According to a discovery made by the Inspection Unit of MnDOT recently, there is.  The bridge is located over the Clearwater River, ten miles west of the Bagley Lake State Preserve and six miles east of nearby Gronvich, and features Waddell pony truss, with welded connections and a 10° angled outer wing on each side. The truss design was patented by J.A.L. Waddell but there are only a handful of these trusses left, including two through trusses (one in Kansas and one in Louisiana) and now two in Minnesota. The bridge is 37 feet long, and even though there was no date on the construction of the bridge, it is possible that the bridge was built between 1905 and 1910, possibly by the Hewett family. The reason: The bridge is nearly identical to the one in Luverne with only a few minor exceptions. This includes the length difference as well as the riveted connections on the top portion of the one at Schoneman.

The bridge has been bypassed by a new crossing, but it is now privately owned, an example of a farmowner’s willingness to keep a piece of history for private use. Despite this success, some more information is needed as to when it was exactly built and by whom. While the information in the bridgehunter.com website, it is based on the national bridge inventory page, and more research is needed to determine whether the construction date is correct. Furthermore, it is unknown whether Hewett built this or if another bridge company contributed to the work.

If you know more about this bridge (a.k.a. Bridge L 1297), please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact details below. The information will be updated in the bridgehunter.com website along with photos you wish to contribute. Some photos can be found here as well as in the website as well.  Best of luck in finding some information and stories pertaining to this bridge. 🙂

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Many thanks to Pete Wilson at MnDOT for the discovery and the information/ photos.

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The “Recycled” Bridges of Doniphan County, Kansas

Duncan Creek Bridge near Blair. All photos courtesy of Robert Elder.

Located along the Missouri River west of St. Joseph, Doniphan County, Kansas has a rather unique set of historic bridges. Unlike the standard designs that were used during the renaissance of bridge construction between 1880 and 1930, many of the bridges found in this county were built using unusual designs that were considered absurd in the eyes of bridge engineers and politicians alike, but considered a work of art in the eyes of historians and preservationists today. Also unique are the fact that these bridges were recycled and reused in locations that are still sparesly used today. It does not necessairily mean that they were relocated per se. Some of these bridges were rebuilt, using steel parts taken from other  bridges that were dismantled and scrapped. Reason for this is due to a lack of financing for hiring contractors to build bridges, using steel from mills from the east, the county commissioners during that time found creative ways of reusing the steel parts to construct “new” used bridges. While they have not been considered eligible for the National Register just yet, due to a lack of information on their history, they will surely be considered in the coming years, when local authorities and the Kansas State Historical Society will relook at these bridges and determine which ones are historically significant.

Six bridges are being profiled in this tour guide article. Five of them are located within 10 miles’ distance of US Hwy. 36, which slices through the county.  One of them is a railroad bridge over the Missouri River at St. Joseph. The sixth bridge is located 20 miles south of St. Joseph along the tributary of the Missouri, just west of its confluence with the second longest river in the US. Only one of the six bridges profiled here has been replaced. While there are four other pre-1920 steel truss bridges and a half dozen wooden stringer bridges still in use in the county, these six are the créme dela créme because of their unique design and their construction, using recycled steel parts. We’ll start off with the first bridge:

Duncan Creek Bridge (see photo above)

Location: Duncan Creek at Randolph Rd. near Blair. 3 miles north of Hwy. 36

Bridge Type: Pin-connected Parker through truss with four panels

Date of construction: 1935

Status:  In use.

Comments:  The Blair Bridge is perhaps the smallest of any Parker through truss bridges built in the history of bridge building in the US, with the main span of only 86 feet (the total length is 91 feet) and only four panels. Normally one would find four panels on a pony truss bridge. Yet looking at the pinned connections, the portal and strut bracings  as well as the V-laced bracing on the bridge’s top chord, it appears that the bridge was assembled using parts from a bridge dismantled before the date of construction. It is clear that the date of construction is not accurate. It is possible that either the bridge was relocated to this place or it was put together on sight using parts from a pre-1900 structure(s). Evidence is pointing to the latter because of its unusual appearance, which would have violated the standardized truss codes put in place by the state when they introduced 7+ panel Parker trusses with riveted connections in ca. 1915. Whoever was the genius behind this bridge has yet to be discovered through research. In either case, the bridge still retains its original form today and is open to traffic.

 

Cottonwood Creek Bridge

Cottonwood Creek Bridge

Location: Cottonwood Creek on Larkinburg Rd., 3 miles west of Hwy. 7, 4.6 miles SSE of Bendena and 12 miles S of Hwy. 36

Bridge Type:  Pin-connected Pratt through truss, with A-frame portal bracings and a shortened middle panel

Date of construction: Before 1900

Status: Still in use on a minimum maintenance road

Comments:  At a total length of only 75 feet, the Bendena Bridge is one of the shortest Pratt through trusses built in the history of bridge building. While the bridge has a total of five panels (typical of a 100-foot through truss span), the middle panel is only a third of the length of the other four panels. This leads to the question of whether this bridge was rebuilt using parts from another bridge or if it was relocated here but the panel was shortened in length to accomodate the crossing over a small creek. It is clear that the bridge originated from a period up to 1910 for pinned connections were popular during that time.

Doniphan Bridge

Doniphan Bridge

Location: Tributary of Missouri River on Monument Rd., 1.2 miles E of Doniphan and 0.3 miles W of the Missouri River

Bridge Type:  Waddell Pony Truss with riveted connections

Date of Construction: ca. 1920

Status: In use

Comments:  The Doniphan Bridge represents an example of an earlier use of welded and riveted connections. It is considered a Waddell truss because of the subdivided connections which are not found in a kingpost pony truss design. Yet how it was resembled is unusual because of the use of steel I and H-beams that were bolted and welded together. It is possible that this bridge was assembled using steel parts from a building or a bridge. Given the excessive use of steel for heavier crossings and sturdier buildings, it is possible that this bridge was constructed between 1915 and 1940. More information is needed to determine its construction date. In either case, the unusual appearance of the bridge makes it eligible for some accolades on the state level, at least.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Creek Bridge

Location: Charlie Creek at 190th Rd., 3 miles south of Hwy. 36 and 2.3 miles west of Hwy. 220

Bridge Type: Stone arch bridge with 35° skew

Status: Replaced with a concrete culvert

Comments: The Charlie Creek Bridge was a unique crossing for two reasons: 1. It was a stone arch bridge that was built before 1920 and 2. Despite having a total length of 30-40 feet, the bridge was built oin a 35- 40° skew, thus allowing the creek to flow freely underneath the road. This was something that the county engineer kept in mind, when this bridge was replaced with a concrete culvert crossing in 2010, as it too has a skew similar to the old one.

 

 

Old Hwy. 36 Bridge

 

Old Hwy. 36 Viaduct

Location: Old railroad grade on Old US Hwy. 36, 600 feet south of US Hwy. 36, three miles E of Troy.

Bridge Type: Concrete through girder with Art Deco design

Status: Open to traffic

Comments: Before the highway was straightened out 20 years ago, the original highway presented curves and stops through even the smallest of communities. The viaduct, which crosses a once-used railroad line connecting Troy and St. Joseph, was once part of the original highway, which had a sharp double curve going over the tracks. With the realignment of the highway to eliminate this dangerous curve, the highway was relegated to a county road and the bridge became the responsibility of the county engineer. Today, the bridge, built using the textbooks standardized bridge designs in the 1920s, is still in use, carrying a gravel road. It can be seen from the new alignment just to the south.

St. Joesph-Elwood Railroad Bridge

St. Joseph and Elwood Missouri River Railroad Bridge

Location: Missouri River 0.4 miles north of Pony Express (US 36) Bridge between Elwood (KS) and St. Joseph (MO).

Bridge Type: Pennsylvania Petit (3 approach spans) and Polygonal Warren Through Truss Swing Span.

Built: 1906

Status: Still in use but plans include abandoning the line and crossing.

Comments:  This railroad crossing is the second span at thus location between St. Joseph and Elwood, carrying the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge. It is one of three remaining swing bridges and one of only six movable bridges left over the Missouri River, plus one of two that are still in operation. Yet plans call for the line and the bridge to abandoned, thus triggering an initiative to convert this crossing into a rail-to-trail line. If successful, the bridge will share similar stories with Poughkeepsie Viaduct in New York and the Booneville Bridge in neighboring Missouri, the latter of which appears to have their dream of a bike trail crossing come true. More on the project to follow as information is revealed.

To summarize, the Doniphan County bridges may be ordinary because the county is one of the more sparsely populated in Kansas, yet their historical and aesthetic value make them jewels found in an empty and highly weeded field. The bridges are worth hundreds of photos and many hours of research to determine how the county found ways to make use of old parts into fancy srtuctures. Especially with the ones in Blair, Bendena and Doniphan, their construction history and designs will definitely make them candidates for the National Register. And this apart from the nomination by the Chronicles for the 2014 Ammann Awards for Best Kept Secret in the field of Tour Guide.

The Author wishes to thank Robert Elder for the use of his photos for this article/tour guide and for providing some interesting facts in the bridgehunter.com website. You can click on the title of the bridges to go to the individual bridge pages for more info and to contribute to the discussion forum 

Ammann Awards 2012 Results

Browns Creek Bridge near Stillwater, Minnesota. Winner of this year’s Best Kept Secret Award for the US. Photo taken and submitted by David Parker of David Parker Photography.

Midwestern Bridges take center stage, Cooper and Newlon win Lifetime Legacy, Thuringia on the map for Best Kept Secret

After the last of the votes have been tallied, it is now time for the results of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ Othmar H. Ammann Awards and the Smith Awards for historic bridges (the results of the latter will be in the next article).  Apart from new categories, this year’s awards mark the first time that the forum had an opportunity to vote for all the categories instead of just the best photo award like last year. And while the voting turnout was low in comparison to last year, the number of entries was not only higher than last year, but the decision on who gets the award for the respective categories was especially difficult for we had some high class bridges and pontists who deserve the recognition regardless of category. For those who voted- the pontists, journalists, historians, columnists and even the common person- time was needed and the voting was based on not just on the bridge’s history (or lack of, in the case of the Mystery Bridges) but the aesthetic features that make the historic bridge an attractive place for passersby. Without further ado, here are the winners and runners-up of this year’s Ammann Awards:

Lifetime Achievement:

James L. Cooper-
Votes: 7

Professor Ermeritus of DePauw University in Indiana, Mr. Cooper has worked with historic bridge preservation for 40 years, leading to success stories of historic bridges being preserved in his home state and several publications. He was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Historic Bridge Conference. An interview with him can be found here.

Howard Newlon, Jr. (Post humous)

Howard Newlon spent over 30 years at the Virginia Transportation Research Council and 50 years as professor, promoting historic bridge preservation, and spearheading publication efforts spanning 30 years and still counting. He died on 25 October and a Post Humous article provided by his colleagues can be seen here. The Chronicles is providing an award in his honor for his work.

Runner-up: Julie Bowers and Nels Raynor at Workin Bridges

Vote: 5

 

Best Photo:

Photo taken and submitted by John Weeks III

3rd Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota (submitted by John Weeks III)- this bridge is located over the Mississippi River, overlooking the city’s business district as seen in this picture.

Votes: 6

Photo taken and submitted by Jonathan Parrish

 

Runner-up:  Crosley Bridge in Jennings County, Indiana

Votes: 5

Other bridges in the race: Eau Claire Railroad Bridge, Lowry Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, Mulberry Creek Bridge in Ford County, Kansas, Washington Bridge in Missouri and New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, among the 13 candidates that were entered this year.

 

Mystery Bridge Award:

Like in the Best Photo Award, this race was also a close one. But the winner of this award goes to….

Photo taken by Aaron Leibold

Waddell A-frame truss bridge in Texas (submitted by Aaron Leibold)

Votes: 5

Orr Bridge, one of many Mystery Bridges profiled this year that belonged to Harrison County. Photo courtesy of Clayton Fraser

Runner-up:  The Bridges of Harrison County, Iowa (submitted by a party of five people, including the author, the locals including Craig Guttau, and the city of Buellton, California)

Votes: 4

 

Other Mystery Bridges that entered the competition included: The Hobuck Flat Bridge in New York, Hurricane Creek Bridge in Arkansas, and a Bascule Bridge in Friedrichstadt, Germany. You can view these candidates as well as other Mystery Bridges by going to the Mystery Bridges section under the Forum and Inquiries page located in the header.

Best Kept Secret Award for the United States

This bridge is a must-see when visiting the state of Minnesota because of its beauty and historic background that is in connection with the development of the transportation infrastructure in the state. The winner of this year’s award goes to:

The Brown’s Creek Bridge near Stillwater, Minnesota (submitted by David Parker)– this bridge was one of the first that was built after the state entered the union in 1853. The 1863 stone arch structure used to carry a military road between Cottage Grove and Duluth. It is the oldest bridge left in the state and one that despite its recognition by the National Register of Historic Places, has received minimal attention- until now.

Votes: 6

We had a two-way tie for second in the Best Kept Secret Award, each receiving three votes apiece. One of the runners-up is the Newfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in New York (submitted by Karen Van Etten), the other is the US Hwy. 50 stretch going through Clay County, Illinois, which features six vintage bridges that have been out of use for many years. That was submitted by James Baughn.

Best Kept Secret International:

The race was rather tight in this category as well as the selection was very difficult to choose from. In the end, Hans-Joerg Vockrodt and Diedrich Baumbach can add this award to their resumé for the winner goes to:

Kraemerbruecke in Erfurt at Christmas time. Photo taken in December 2010

The Bridges of Erfurt, Germany- featuring two dozen pre-1920 arch and truss bridges within the capital of Thuringia, and over 200 bridges within the entire city and metropolitan area. There are two books written by the authors focusing on the restoration attempts of the arch bridges in the inner city and the history of the bridges in the entire city. While they are both in German, perhaps an English version may be in the cards, especially after receiving five votes.

Runners-up saw a tie for second between the bridges of Copenhagen, Denmark and the bridges of Friedrichstadt, Germany with three votes apiece. Each city has a collection of various bridges based on bridge type, but whose history dates back to their founding. More on these bridge can be found by clicking on the respective links.

Other Best Kept Secret entrants for this year include:

US: Good Thunder Railroad Bridge in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, Mill Creek Bridge in Independence County, Kansas, and the Bridges of Boonville, New York

International: Pont Turcot Bridge in Quebec (Canada)

 

Bridge of the Year for 2012:

The final award is the Bridge of the Year, which focuses on a particular bridge that was the focus of massive attention by not only the media, but also the pontists and other people associated with the bridge. This year was supposed to be the year for the Golden Gate Bridge, as it celebrated its 75th birthday. Unfortunately, other bridges received much more attention due to many circumstances that have provoked countless discussions about historic significance versus safety. One of the bridges received the Smith Award this year (more details in the next article).

Eau Claire Viaduct: This year’s bridge of the year winner. Photo taken by John Marvig

Winner of the award:

The Eau Claire Viaduct-  This bridge was found and photographed by John Marvig and is a real gem. It is a quintangular intersecting Warren deck truss bridge that was built by the Lassig Bridge Company and was used by the railroad companies Chicago and Northwestern and later Union Pacific. Although abandoned for over 20 years, the city is looking at converting the bridge into a pedestrian crossing. At the same time, it is in the running for the National Register of Historic Places.

Other candidates: Eggners Ferry Bridge in Kentucky, Kate Shelley Viaduct, Fort Dodge (Iowa) Viaduct, Golden Gate Bridge and Nine Mile Creek along the former Erie Canal.

 

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 15: A Wadell A-frame truss in Texas

Photo taken by Aaron Leibold

There will be many candidates that will make it into the nominations for the Ammann Awards for the category of Mystery Bridges. This bridge is one of them. Photographed by fellow pontist Aaron Leibold, who operates a website devoted to bridgehunting in Texas, this bridge is very unique because of its truss design, which contradicts what was previous mentioned by other pontists and historians alike.

Located in the northern part of Baylor County north of Seymour and spanning a creek that is feeding into Lake Kemp, this bridge is unique because of a rare truss type that was developed by a world renowned civil engineer, J.A.L. Waddell. Born in Port Hope, Ontario (Candad) in 1854, Waddell emigrated to the US where he earned his engineering degree at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in New York in 1878, before teaching engineering at that institute and other educational institutions in the US, Canada and even Japan (at the Tokyo Technical Institute). While he was famous for constructing and patenting many movable bridges in North America, including the ASB Bridge in Kansas City– the only bridge in the world whose main bottom span lifts up toward the upper span in a hydraulic fashion- Wadell patented the many truss spans including his A-frame span. The Waddell truss consists of a Kingpost truss bridge with subdivided diagonal beams supporting the upper chord. There are a few pony trusses with this unique feature- like the Schonemann Park Bridge in Luverne, in Rock County, Minnesota, which was built in 1908 by the Hewett Bridge Company and after spanning the Rock River for 82 years, was relocated to this site in 1990. But there are two through truss spans of this kind left in the country- one over Cross Bayou near Shreveport, Louisiana and one at a park in Parkville, Missouri.

It is possible that this bridge is a Waddell truss, given its Warren truss design, which if true, it would join the ranks and contradict the claim that there are two Waddell A-frame trusses left. But even more puzzling is the fact that trusses can be seen below the bridge deck, thus creating a diamond-shaped truss span. This would make it one of the most unique trusses ever built in the country and one that is the last of its kind.

Albeit abandoned with its replacement span being constructed alongside it, the bridge is 45 feet long and eight feet wide and can easily be seen from the new bridge. Given its location in a remote area, the bridge is in no danger of being demolished, and it should not be given the rarity of the truss bridge. What is missing is more details about its history- who built it (and had the crazy idea to design the bridge), let alone when it was constructed. This is where the people in Baylor County, as well as the preservationists in Texas and people like you should chip in to help.

If you have any information about the bridge’s history, you can leave a comment at the end of this article and/or contact the Chronicles and Aaron Leibold. The contact information is enclosed below. The Waddell Truss bridge has already been nominated for the Ammann Award under Mystery Bridge, a new category that was established this year. Whether it will win or not depends on how the voters will perceive this bridge. From my point of view, the bridge does have a chance.

Contact:

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com

Aaron Leibold: aaron.mightypenguin@gmail.com

Special thanks to Aaron Leibold for the nomination and the photo.