Mystery Bridges Nr. 101: Die Geschwisterbrücken bei Schweizertal

The Bridge at Neuschweizerthal. By Aagnverglaser [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
BURGSTÄDT (GERMANY)- Located 10 river kilometers north of Chemnitz, one will find a pair of through truss bridges that had once served a rail line but will soon have a new purpose. Both span the River Chemnitz in the conglomerate community of Markersdorf-Taura but are very close together, connecting the district of Schweitzerthal-Amselgrund and Neuschweizerthal. Unique about these two bridges is that they look nearly identical in terms of its aesthetical appearance. They are both Warren through trusses, whose connections are welded and whose portal and strut bracings are the same. They feature Howe lattice, shaped in a trapezoidal fashion and supported by angled heel bracings (45°) that can be found at not only the diagonal end post (60°) but also at every single beam supported- both diagonal as well as vertical beams. This is really rare for a through truss bridge to have heel struts be connected to all the beams that form the panel.  The difference between the two is how they are constructed. The longer of the sister bridges has a straight portal approach and is 67 meters long. This is located next to the train station at Neuschweizerthal. The shorter of the two is located only 200 meters away around the curve, 100 meters away from the train station Amselgrund. That bridge has a 60° skew that was needed to support the curve. It is only seven meters shorter.  Both bridges were built around 1902 even though there is no record of the bridge builder, let alone the reason behind building the two crossings close together instead of leading the rail line along the river. Yet the reason for pinpointing the date to 1902 is the fact that these bridges were common during that time. In addition to that, it was built at the same time as the rail line connecting Chemnitz and Wechselburg. For a century, this line served freight service along the river because of the industries located nearby, especially in the industrial district in the north of Chemnitz.  Together with the Glauchau-Wurzen line, which it merged with at Wechselburg, the line was discontinued after 2002 due to the lack of profitablility combined with the Great Flood of 2002, which caused billions of Euros in damage to infrastructure and industry.

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The shorter bridge at Amselgrund. Photo taken in July 2018

In 2007, the Chemnitztal Cycling Association purchased the entire stretch to be converted into a rails-to-trails for cyclists and pedestrians and the line is being extended as of present. At the same time, a dandy horse-rail-line connecting Markersdorf-Taura and Schweizerthal went into service to provide a scenic tour for two kilometers. However, with the extension of the bike trail going through both communities, the days of the dandy horse may come to an end.

Currently, both bridges are being rehabilitated, refurbished and retrofitted for use of the bike trail. According to information by the Chemnitz Free Press, construction on the new stretch of bike trail between Claussnitz and Schweitzerthal started in April 2018, which includes these two bridges, plus another one south of Markersdorf-Taura. This six kilometer stretch is scheduled to be paved and open to traffic, pending on weather, by 2020 latest. As one can see in the photos here, plus in the BHC’s facebook page, work has progressed immensely in several segments, including the span at Schweizerthal. I was not able to get much of a photo of the bridge. However, I was lucky to get a few detailed shots of the shorter crossing and its skewed setting. As the decking had railroad track on it, there was no way to get a closer look at the beams to see if there were any inscriptions on there. But after the reconstruction is complete, maybe there is a chance to get a closer look at the bridge.

But then again, maybe some of the readers may have more information about these two sibling bridges, which will have a third life ahead of them. Do you have any information on the bridges’ history? Feel free to comment or send an e-mail. Any information may be of great help.

 

And for those who thought it was not allowed to walk on the grounds near the bridge, let me rest assure you no equipment or bridge parts were damaged during the photo session and it is only for the purpose of historic research for this blog. A book on the bridges in Saxony is being considered and perhaps you can be of great help there, just as a peace offering. Thank you. J

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 79: How to Reconvert a Truss Bridge- Going from Deck to Through Truss in Oklahoma

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Photos courtesy of Mark W. Brown

Our 79th Mystery Bridge takes us to Oklahoma; specifically to Whitesboro in LeFlore County and this bridge. Spanning the Kiamichi River at Township Rd. 4044C south of Whitesboro, this bridge is one of the most unusual through truss bridges a person will ever see in the United States. According to the data from Bridgehunter.com, the total length of the bridge was 270 feet with the largest span being 127 feet, the width of the bridge is around 13-14 feet and the vertical clearance is 13.3 feet. Yet despite the date of construction being ca. 1940, this bridge is unusual as it is a pinned connected through truss, thus bucking the standards of truss bridge construction. As many resources have indicated, most truss bridges built at this time had riveted or welded connections, making the structure sturdier and able to carry heavier loads. Pinned connections had a tendency of dislocating or even having the bolts connecting the beams to break off, causing bridge failure. This resulted in many of the structures being taken off the state highway system and relocated onto less-used township roads beginning in the 1920s and extending well into the 1950s, especially as the US was lacking materials and engineers as a result of World War II. Judging by the appearance of the bridge, it appears to have been built between 1910 and 1915 as this was the cut-off period for constructing truss bridges with pinned connections. It was congruent to the time standardized bridges were approved by the state governments, which included not just focusing on truss bridges with riveted connections and either Howe lattice or lettered portal bracings (namely, A, X, M and West Virginia framed), but also the key truss designs, which were the Pratt, Parker, K-truss, Warren, Polygonal Warren and in some cases, Pennsylvania petit.

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The Whitesboro Bridge features a Warren through truss, but looking at the structure further, it appeared that in its former life, it was a deck truss bridge that had many spans, totaling at least 500-600 feet. One can see how the overhead bracings were added, which consisted of thin cylindrical steel beams. Furthermore, there is no portal bracing, like other truss bridges, and lastly, when looking at the joint where the upper beam and the diagonal end posts meet, the upper beam appears to have been sawed off.  According to observation by fellow pontist, Mark W. Brown, the piers are 2-3 feet wider on each side and 1-2 feet higher, thus creating a slight slope when entering and crossing the structure. Two theories go along with the piers: either they were installed when the bridge was built or they were reinforced after the bridge sustained structural damage because of flooding.

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It is possible that this crossing was the first to have been built as the town expanded because of the baby boomer population. But the expansion did not last as many people moved to bigger cities for job opportunities. As of the 2008 Census, the population of the town incorporated in 1908 and named after one of the founders is only 1298. The hunch is that the highest population of Whitesboro was about 3,400 by 1960.

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The Whitesboro Bridge has a design that is not like any unusual designs developed by the engineers at all. It is neither a Pegram nor a Kellogg, now is it a Schaper truss, which you can see in many truss bridges built in Germany and other parts of Europe. This bridge is definitely a repurposed truss bridge, having gone from its previous life as a deck truss spanning one of the state’s greatest rivers, like the Red and the Canadian, to one spanning a smaller river but on whose width justified a through truss span.

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This leads us to the following questions:

  1. When exactly was this bridge built and was there a previous structure?
  2. Who was the mastermind behind this repurposing project and why did the engineer choose this?
  3. Where did the bridge originate from?
  4. When was this built and who was the bridge builder?
  5. Are there other remnants of that bridge left besides the one at Whitesboro?
  6. What do we know about Whitesboro aside the facts and figures presented in wikipedia?

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Got any leads, please share in the comment sections here as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the link here. As this bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, any information you have or can find will help build a solid case for its nomination, let alone preserving it for future generations. As Oklahoma is losing historic bridges in large quantities in the past 8 years, the time is ripe to preserve what’s left of its culture, especially when it comes to unusual designs like this bridge in Whitesboro.

 

Special thanks to Mark W. Brown for bringing this to the author’s attention and for providing some interesting pics of this bridge.

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

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

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

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

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

Can you help?

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

 

Source Links:

https://goo.gl/maps/DJBXRgn3wis

http://www.bing.com/mapspreview?&cp=qy90n070pptd&lvl=20&dir=270&style=b&v=2&sV=1&form=S00027

http://www.bridgehunter.com/ia/harrison/bh70169/

 

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Ship rams transport ferry at Rendsburg High Bridge

Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011
Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011

Substantial Damage to the Ferry; Two people injured

RENDSBURG, GERMANY-  A key crossing in Schleswig-Holstein spanning a key waterway between the Baltic and North Seas came to a standstill this morning, as a ship heading westward along the Baltic-North Sea Canal slammed into the transporter ferry of the Rendsburg High Bridge. The incident occurred at 6:39am Berlin time, where a large ship did not stop for the ferry in time, causing a collision. A video shown below sees how the ferry swung like a pendulum after the ship hit it and moved on.

Two people- the operator and a passenger were injured in the collision, the former was transported to a nearby hospital with serious injuries, according to SHZ News. The bridge and canal were both closed down to traffic and will remain closed until further notice. According to the Deutsche Bahn, the railroad line connecting Flensburg and Hamburg, which crosses the cantilever truss part of the bridge has been closed down until bridge inspectors can determine how the collision affected the bridge decking, how much damage was caused, and when the bridge can reopen. The line carries regional and international train services going through Flensburg to Denmark.  The passengers heading north are asked to go through Kiel from Neumünster enroute to Flensburg, as well as in the opposite direction. Because the ferry was misaligned, construction crews, according to reports by Radio Schleswig-Holstein (RSH),  will need to realign it before moving it to the north shore of the canal. The ferry has substantial damage to the housing and truss structure, as seen by the photos. It is unknown when the canal will be reopened and when the ferry will be operational again. The ferry was the key link between Rendsburg and the southern suburb of Alsdorf. A detour is being planned until the ferry can be fixed.

The Rendsburg High Bridge is the only bridge in the world that has a bridge span serving traffic that also carries a transporter ferry. The transporter is one of only eight left in the world that is functional.  It is the second bridge behind the Hastings Spiral Bridge in Minnesota that has a loop approach span, which encircles much of Rendsburg’s neighborhood. Built by Friedrich Voss in 1913, the bridge is a national landmark and has received various awards on the national and international levels. A detailed article about the bridge can be found here along with videos of the bridge filmed by the author during his visit in 2011. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, along with sister column the Flensburg Files will keep you informed on the latest with the bridge.

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Update on the BB Comer Bridge: 31 March, 2015

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

A new breath of life has been given to the B B Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) in Alabama and in particular, the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSGRA), located in Iowa, pertaining to the future of the BB Comer Bridge near Scottsboro. A $5,000 grant was awarded to NSGRA to be used for an independent economic impact study on the use of the bridge as a tourist attraction. An additional $5,000 will be needed to hire an independent contractor to conduct the study of the steel Warren cantilever through truss bridge, whose replacement span is being constructed and is close to completion. While traffic will be shifted to the new bridge once completed later this spring, there is still a chance that the bridge will remain, should the survey be completed and state and local officials can agree with a proposal with the CBF and NSGRA. The grant is one step in the right direction and if more people contribute, the second step will open that key door to the possibilities of saving the bridge.

Here’s the latest press release by the CBF with information on how to contribute to the study and preserving the bridge:

 

SCOTTSBORO, AL, March 31, 2015 — The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) awarded The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA) a $5,000 grant to support the group’s pursuit of an independent economic impact study on behalf of the Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF). An additional $5,000 must be raised to hire Dr. Anthony Dixon of Troy University to complete the study. Dr. Dixon prepared a similar study for the Eufaula Heritage Association to assist with preserving Eufaula’s main historic streetscape from construction by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which also owns Comer Bridge.

The B.B. Comer Bridge crosses the Tennessee River near Scottsboro, Alabama. NSRGA applied for the grant in early February and received notification on March 30.

David J. Brown, NTHP’s executive vice president and chief preservation officer in Washington, DC, stated, “The National Trust is very supportive of this worthwhile preservation initiative and we hope that this financial commitment will assist your organization in raising any additional funds needed for this effort.”

“We have determined that such a study is essential to show local citizens and governmental bodies how much the bridge can bring to the area, which in turn will help NSRGA/CBF gain eventual ownership of the bridge and prevent the bridge’s demolition. The timeline for demolition is not as tight as we anticipated, and we have time to explore how to lessen risks while growing the rewards of keeping the bridge intact,” explained CBF President Charles Holderfield.

“The study will solidify NSRGA/CBF’s commitment to saving, preserving and repurposing the bridge not only as a local asset but as a national treasure for everyone,” said Holderfield.

In March 2014, CBF entered into a collaborative agreement with NSRGA. Local attorneys Bill Tally and Justin Lackey represent CBF and NSRGA, respectively.

“The study will provide real numbers that support our plans to provide jobs, training and education in areas from hospitality, event management, security and maintenance,” shared Julie Bowers, executive director of Workin’ Bridges, the consulting arm of NSRGA. “The bridge can become a place to go for wellness and serenity, and a place where wildlife and human life are celebrated. Food, fun, music and historic preservation go hand-in-hand.”

In September 2014, after extensive work with relevant policy and with approvals by the Federal Highway Administration, Alabama Historical Commission and environmental requirements, ALDOT Director John Cooper interpreted the policy and demanded that the bridge could be sold only to a governmental entity.

NSRGA and CBF will now move forward to raise the remaining $5,000 needed for the study, which in turn will attract more support and funding for the effort to save the bridge.

Donations may be contributed toward the remaining $5,000 needed to fund the study online at http://www.gofundme.com/savecomerbridge. Contributions can be mailed to CBF at P.O. Box 609, Scottsboro, AL 35768-0609.

Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in October 2013, the historic bridge will now be submitted for national recognition by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

For more information about the CBF and efforts to save the bridge, visit the CBF website at www.comerbridge.org and consider liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation.

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Cairo Bridge Closed for a Year

Photos taken by James Baughn

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CAIRO, ILLINOIS- It is a prized landmark at a town where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet. Built in 1929 and is a product of the American Bridge Company and the Missouri Valley Iron Works Company, it spans the Mississippi River right at the junction of the two rivers. The Mile-Long Bridge has seen its years of wear and tear, especially as commuters have to endure two lanes of traffic-narrow enough to a point where the mirrors of oncoming cars meet while crossing, as many motorists have complained about- and as truck drivers have to abide by the weight restrictions- something almost no one does nowadays. It has even been affected by the floods of 1993 and 2011 but survived with little or no damage to the piers.

Now the Cairo Bridge, the key bridge for the town located at the junction of three states- Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri is now closed for a whole year, as the steel cantilever Warren truss span with X-frame portal bracings and riveted connections undergoes a much-needed renovation. According to information by Missouri DOT, some of the repairs will include replacing the bridge deck to make it sturdier and wider as well as replacing some structural parts worn out completely due to wear and tear. It is unknown how expensive the renovations will be, but it is expected to be in the tens of millions of US-dollars.

Travellers crossing the Mississippi River will have no problems for the detour will be through the I-57 bridge, located northwest of Cairo. However those wanting to cross the Ohio River from the south on the west bank of the Mississippi going north will have to use the I-155 Bridge at Caruthersville in order to reach their destinations. It is hoped that the repairs are done both in a qualitative manner, but also quantatively in terms of time and convenience so that motorists can use the bridge again with no problems  even if they have to put up with a bridge that’s too narrow…

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments involving this bridge. In the meantime, enjoy the gallery of photos posted by James Baughn and others just by clicking on the pic below, which will take you to the Bridgehunter.com site.

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 49: Silent Shade Swing Bridge in Mississippi

Photo taken by Craig Hanchey in 2009

The next Mystery Bridge takes us down to Mississippi and to this bridge: the Silent Shade Swing Bridge. The bridge is difficult to find for it is located over the Yazoo River, 25 migratory miles north of Yazoo City between US Highways 49W and 49E at the Humphreys and LeFlore County border. The bridge is visible from Silent Shade Road, located to the east of the river. The reason for its lack of visibility is because of the fact that the bridge has been abandoned for at least two decades. Yet the bridge has a lot of history that needs to be excavated, especially as it has been a subject of debate among historians and pontists. According to the data provided from the state of Mississippi, the bridge has a total length of 394 feet, 274 feet of which features a swing through truss span with a Warren design. The roadway width is 14.4 feet. The NBI data indicated that the bridge was built here in 1927, and this is where the debate starts.

If one looks at the picture more closely, there are two main factors that one has to look at. The first is the connecting trusses. While the bottom connections are riveted-meaning that the beams are slid together and welded shut like one wearing a pair of gloves- much of the truss is pin-connected, meaning the beams are bolted together like the elbow connecting the upper and lower arm of the human body. Pin-connected trusses were phased out in favor of riveted trusses as part of the standardized bridge plans introduced between 1915 and 1920. This brings up the next factor, which is the bridge’s portal and strut bracings. The Silent Shade Bridge has Howe lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings, while the strut bracings also have heel bracings. This is not typical of truss bridges built in the 1920s, for through truss bridges featured portal bracings resembling the alphabet, like the A, WV, W and even X frame portal bracings, as shown in the examples below:

Winnebago River Bridge located between Mason City and Charles City. Build date: 1925. Photo taken in July 1999
Oakland Mills Bridge over the Skunk River at Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Built in 1876. Photo taken in August 2011

With these two flaws in mind, one has to ask himself whether the Silent Shade Swing Bridge was relocated to this spot from its place of origin and if so, where. It is clear that unless the bridge builder was so stubborn that he bucked the standardized bridge plans provided by the state, that the Silent Shade Swing Bridge was built before 1900. The author’s guess is between 1880 and 1895 with the bridge builder being one of the 28 that eventually became part of the American Bridge Company Conglomerate, which was established in 1901. The question is how far from the truth is he off and therefore, your help is needed.

The bridge community would like to know the following:

1. Whether the bridge was originally built here or relocated and if the latter, where was its place of origin?

2. If the bridge was relocated, when was it originally built?

3. Who was the bridge builder who built the structure and/or relocated it to its present site?

4. When was the bridge discontinued and left abandoned?

Because the bridge is so unique because of its truss design and the use of a rare bridge type over a less-travelled river in comparison to the Mississippi, the bridge will most likely receive some accolades in the future, such as a National Register listing, and eventually be used as a bike trail crossing, assuming it can be swung back into place from its open position. But you can help by solving the mystery of this bridge. Send your comments and data to the Chronicles or post them on the Chronicles’ facebook page or the comment page of bridgehunter.com, which has some info of the bridge’s location and photos here.

Nathan Holth commented that if the bridge was built in 1927, then he was president of the US. If it actually was built in 1927, then perhaps he should be sworn in as US president. After all, the history of a bridge like the Silent Shade is full of surprises, much of which will help rewrite the history of American architecture and transportation.

Author’s Note: Special thanks to Craig Hanchey for allowing his photo to be used for this article.

Also: The bridge is located approx. 70 miles east of the Mississippi River and Greenville as well as 120 miles north of the state capital of Jackson.