Mystery Bridge Nr. 122: A Through Truss Bridge deep in the Erzgebirge

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Returning to the Erzgebirge we have a large crossing spanning the River Zwickau for a mystery bridge. Located near the village of Langenweissbach, this structure is a Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections, approximately 30-40 meters long and 4 meters wide. It carries Werkstrasse going through a series of buildings which appeared to have been either a former factory or a town before it was abandoned. The company that had existed closest to the bridge was Tarsan GmbH (Limited), but the firm closed down some years ago.

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Werkstrasse used to be a thoroughfare before the railroad crossing shut down. The street and its branch is now a dead end. Only one building next to the bridge is still occupied, which means the street is rarely used except for private purposes. Given the rust on the bottom chord and parts of the upper half of the superstructure, this bridge dates back to a time between 1910 and 1950, although given its remote location, it may have been spared the bombing. The structure is still used but with weight and height restrictions.

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This leads to the question of the following:

  1. What’s the history behind the buildings along Werkstrasse: Was it a factory, a town or a combination of a few? Could it be a military camp of some kind?
  2. What’s the history behind the bridge? Was there a previous structure before this one?
  3. What’s the history behind the street the bridge crosses?

Any ideas, we’re all ears, regardless of language. So, “Hau rein!” 🙂

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Langenweissbach is located between Zwickau and Aue-Schlema. First mentioned in the history books in the 12th century, the town merged with Weisbach and Grünau in 1996 and later became part of Langenbach. More on its history here.

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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. 

The Bridges of Des Moines Part III: The (lost) Truss Bridges

18th Street Bridge over the Raccoon River (now extant). Photo courtesy of IaDOT Archives

There are more bridge types that make Des Moines one of the most populous bridges in the Midwest. As we will see in this part, truss bridges were just as popular of a bridge design as the arch bridges that were built by James Marsh and company. As many as 30 truss bridges were reported to had been built during the time span between 1870 and 1930 along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers as well as other tributaries, including those mentioned in the first two parts of the series. The majority of them featured two or more spans. And while more than half of them were Pratt designs, there were many exceptions to the rule. Already mentioned in part II there was the Post through truss design that had existed at Court Avenue before its replacement in 1917. But like this bridge, the majority of the structures lack the information regarding its history, including the date of construction and the bridge builder. This was in part because of the fact that they were gone prior to the urban renewal period in the 1960s and after 1993.  This is not good for many of these structures, like the 18th Avenue Bridge featured some decorative designs on the portal bracings, which were common during the period of bridge construction prior to 1920, when bridge builders could afford to leave their marks with ornaments and builders plaques. After 1920, with the standardization of truss bridges and the letter-shaped portal bracings (A, M and X-frames), these were seldomly used and can rarely be found today when travelling on Iowa’s highways.

Today, eight bridges are known to exist in Des Moines that have a truss design, at least two thirds of the number that had existed prior to 1970. This does not include the CGW Railroad Bridge, which was demolished in its entirety last month. While some of the structures have already been mentioned earlier, the tour of Des Moines’ truss bridges will feature the ones not mentioned. Each one will feature a location, when they were built (and replaced), what they looked like and if there is no concrete information on the bridge builder, some assumptions will be made. As they will mentioned in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project that is being compiled by the author, any information on the bridges will be useful.

Without further ado, here are the bridges worth mentioning on the tour:

UP (Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific) Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue. Photo taken by John Marvig in 2012

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue:  This bridge can be seen from Hartford Avenue on the southeast end of Des Moines. The three-span subdivided Warren through truss bridge with X-frame portal bracings is the fourth bridge to be located at this crossing, for the earliest crossing was dated 1871. It was rebuilt in 1890 and again in 1915 with a four-span through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. While it can be assumed that the reconstruction in 1890 and 1915 may have to do with either flooding that damaged the spans or the increase in rail traffic, the current span was built in 1920 by the American Bridge Company and it most probably had to do with the destruction of the 1915 bridge, albeit more research and information is needed to confirm that claim. The bridge is 469 feet long and is owned by Union Pacific Railroad. However, it was part of the Rock Island Railroad with had a line connecting Indianola and Kansas City to the south, going through Des Moines enroute north to Albert Lea and Minneapolis. When the railroad company was liquidated in 1981, the line was acquired by Chicago and Northwestern, which in turn was bought by Union Pacific in 1995. 20 trains a day use this bridge.

18th Street Bridge: As seen in the picture at the very top of the article, this bridge crossed the Raccoon River at what is now Fleur Drive, southeast of the Central Academy. Before its demolition in 1936, the bridge featured four Camelback truss spans and was one of the most ornate bridges in Des Moines, let alone along the Des Moines River. More information is needed as to when the bridge was built (and by who) and why it was demolished. It is known that today’s Fleur Drive Bridge serves four-lane traffic and serves as a key link to Martin Luther King Drive and all points south of downtown Des Moines.

Inter-Rail Bridge Photo taken by John Marvig in 2012

Inter-Urban Trail Bridge:     Built in 1902, this bridge spans the Des Moines River south of the Euclid Avenue Bridge. The structure features four spans of Pratt with pinned connections, yet three of the spans feature lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings, while the fourth and easternmost span features V-laced portal bracings with a 45° angle heel bracing- quite possibly a span that was either brought in or built on-site to replace an earlier span destroyed. This bridge used to serve the Inter-Urban Rail Line, one of eight in Iowa accomodated commuters through the 1950s. This route connected Des Moines with Colfax in Poweshiek County, a length of 23 miles. Service continued until 1949, when the freight railroads took over and people resorted to the car or bus. 33 years later, the railroad line and bridge was abandoned, but the City bought both of them to be converted into a bike trail, which was opened in 1998. With the exception of the replacement of the approach spans in 2012, the bridge today retains its integrity and still serves bike traffic, while providing access to the Neal Smith Bike Trail, which combs the Des Moines River.

Commerce Bridge: Spanning the Raccoon River, this bridge featured four truss spans which included three Camelbacks with Howe Lattice portal bracings with subdivided heels and a Pratt through truss with M-frame portal bracings. The latter was built at a later time, whereas the three Camelbacks were reportedly to had been built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, one of many Iowa bridge builders that existed during the period between 1890 and 1930. It is unknown when they were built, let alone rebuilt, but records had it that the bridge was destroyed during the Flood of 1965. The bridge was later removed, and Commerce Street was rerouted to run along the Raccoon. All that remains are the abutments and the rapids where the bridge once stood. They can be seen as 105th Street southwest curves to the south.

Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge. Photo taken in August 2013

Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge:   Spanning the Des Moines River south of the Red Bridge and once part of the Rock Island Railroad, the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge was built in 1901 by the American Bridge Company and featured eight spans of pony girders totalling 625 feet. While it used to be a double-tracked bridge, the eastbound track was abandoned and fenced off in the 1980s and today, only one track is used. It replaced a four-span lattice through truss bridge, which had served one-lane of rail traffic and was built 30 years earlier. The future of this bridge is in doubt due to its sparse use, combined with the city’s plans to raise the dikes. Already the Red Bridge was raised four feet and the CGW Railroad Bridge were removed as part of the city flood planning. It would not be surprising that the bridge’s owner, Iowa Interstate Railroad would abandon the bridge altogether, making it the target for scrap metal. But it is unknown if and when that would happen.

SW 63rd Street Bridge: Located over the Raccoon River between Brown’s Woods and Water Works Parks on 63rd Street in West Des Moines, this three-span truss bridge featured two pin-connected Pratt through truss bridges with portal bracings similar to the 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge, located downstream. It is possible that either George E. King or Clinton Bridge and Iron Works (because of the plaque on the portal bracing) had built the original span. Its northernmost span featured a Pratt through truss bridge with riveted connections and A-frame portal bracing. That bridge was most likely brought in to replace one of the original spans that was destroyed either through flooding or an accident. Little information was gathered about the bridge prior to its demolition and replacement in 1964, due to lack of interest in the history of the structure. Had the historic preservation movement started 10-15 years earlier, it would most likely have been one of the first bridges eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The National Historic Preservation Law was passed in 1966, one year after the replacement of this bridge was open to traffic.

Waterworks Park Bridge. Photo taken by John Marvig in August 2013

Waterworks Park Bridge:    Built in 1922, this Raccoon River crossing is one of the key attractions of Waterworks Park on the south end of Des Moines, as well as the city’s bike trail network. The crossing is 320 feet long and features two 98 foot riveted Pratt pony trusses that used to carry vehicular traffic until its closure in the 1990s. In 1999, the City converted the crossing into a bike trail bridge and has remained in that fashion ever since.

SW Ninth Street Bridge: This Raccoon River crossing is perhaps one of two bridges on this tour that has the least amount of information on its history, despite the fact that it was replaced with the current bridge in 1967. The structure featured three spans of pin-connected Pratt through trusses with Howe lattice portal bracings. Yet that is about it as far as further information is concerned…..

Old Highway 46 Bridge:    This is the second of the two bridges that is missing information (including dimensions) and even more detailed photos than what is shown in the link. No information was found in the historic bridge survey conducted in the early 1990s.  Located southeast of Des Moines, this multiple-span polygonal through truss bridge was built in 1938 and was removed 60 years later when the Hwy. 65 freeway opened. Other than that, there was no information as to whether a previous structure had existed before that, let alone who the bridge builder was that built the 1938 structure. It is known though that the removal of the bridge came despite protests from farmers, who wanted the bridge open so that they can haul farm equipment across it. Yet because the valley where the bridge was located was flood prone, safety precautions were taken and the bridge was removed. Today, portions of the highway exist on its original path from Avon to the river and from there to Des Moines, terminating at Hwy. 163.  Interestingly enough, a railroad bridge located adjacent to the bridge was removed in 1968 after the railroad decided to reroute the line through Indianola enroute to Knoxville. A section of the railroad line exists but makes a dead-end at the power plant located on the north side of the river.

Two Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad Bridges: Located south of the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge over the Des Moines River, the crossings featured two four-span through truss bridges. The northern crossing was a quadrangular through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings. The southern crossing featured Warren through trusses with A-frame portal bracings. Both of them disappeared before 1970.

Ashworth Park Truss Bridge:  This is one of three bridges that straddle Walnut Creek carrying Iowa Interstate Railroad through Des Moines (the other two are Pratt pony trusses). The 1897 Warren through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings and riveted connections used to serve dual track rail traffic until the 1990s when it was reduced to only one track. The bridge still serves traffic and can be seen up close from the bike trail while passing through Waterworks Park.

This sums up the tour through Des Moines. The truss bridge portion of the tour is rather the most interesting, but the most challenging if one wants to find information and photos of the structure. As some of the structures will be included in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project, if you have any information that is useful for the project, or for other people who are interested in bridges in general, you can leave a comment here, or you can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  Aside from that, it is hoped that people will have an opportunity to visit the bridges while in Des Moines and listen (or read) the stories involved with each of them, for the bridges span a total of 160 years and three periods, both in terms of materials (wood-iron/steel- concrete) as well as the period of bridge building (trusses-arch-modern bridges). Through the interest in history, you are doing more than just collect stories, you are sharing them with others as well, for there is no such thing as no interest in history. Without history, we are ignorant and a group of people with no identity, no pride and no soul. We take pride in history to ensure we know who we are and bridges are an integral part of our history.

 

Author’s Note: More info can be obtained by clicking on the links marked in the heading and text. Special thanks to John Marvig for photographing the bridges and allowing usage in this article.

 

Twin Spans in Minnesota: The Answer

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Dept. of Transportation

And now to the answer to the question of Twin Spans in Minnesota, which is in connection with the recently published article on the Winona Bridge (see here). Some people may contest to the fact that there are three such twin spans- consisting of the original span and a sister span built alongside it to alleviate traffic. It is true that there is another pair of bridges located 60+ miles down south along the Mississippi River in LaCrosse, Wisconsin with a cantilever truss bridge (built in 1939) and a tied arch bridge (built in 2001), the latter of which carries eastbound traffic featuring US Hwys. 14 and 61 and Wisconsin Hwy. 16.  However, the crossing is only a mile southeast of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, ironically crossed by another pair of bridges built in the 1970s. Technically, when speaking of borders, the LaCrosse Bridges do not count.

The first crossing that featured an original bridge which later had a sibling span to serve traffic is the Hudson Bridge, spanning the St. Croix River at the Minnesota-Wisconsin Border, west of Hudson.  Originally carrying US Hwy. 12, which was later superseded by I-94, the Hudson Bridge’s history dates as far back as 1911, when the first crossing was built and christened The Hudson Toll Bridge. A product of the Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis, the 1051-foot long bridge was built on a causeway which started from the business district and ended with the driver making a 10° incline up the Warren deck truss approach spans, before crossing the 136-foot long polygonal Warren through truss span with Lattice portal bracings and riveted connections.  After that and crossing the approach span the driver ended up in Minnesota. Tolls were collected on the causeway on the Hudson side.

Photo courtesy of MnDOT

Yet because of the increase in boat and auto traffic and the coming of the freeways that would later shape the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, it necessitated the construction of a new bridge, located a half mile south of the Toll Bridge. When completed in 1951, the truss span was relocated to LeFarge, Wisconsin, where it spanned the Kickapoo River before its removal for safety concerns in 1986. The causeway itself was retained and now serves as an observation point with many piers from the old bridge to be seen on both sides of the river.

The Hudson Interstate Bridge was completed in 1951 and featured two lanes of traffic encased in seven spans of Warren through truss bridges with riveted connections and X-frame portal and strut bracings. The main spans, featuring a cantilever through truss span totalled over 700 feet with the entire structure totalling 1,700 feet. The Interstate Bridge served as a single entity until 1973, when a girder span was built to the south of the bridge and accomodated eastbound traffic of US Hwy. 12. The truss span served westbound traffic. Both spans were reconstructed in the 1980s when US 12 was converted to I-94.

Person crossing the Interstate Bridge. Photo taken by MnDOT

Unfortunately when flooding occurred in 1993, both states made haste to build a new span to replace the truss structure for floodwaters damaged the structure to a point where it not only could no longer carry heavy traffic, but it was literally falling apart, with cracks appearing in the steel. In fact the situation was so dire that an emergency lane on the newer structure was made for heavier vehicles going westbound was created. Officials claimed that had this not been done, the bridge would literally have fallen into the waters of the St. Croix, taking many lives with. When the new span opened in 1995, little effort was need to push the 1951 truss spans into the water and cut them up unto scrap metal. The truss spans did not last even a half century because of the wear and tear that had occurred on the structure. Yet had the flooding not occurred in 1993, chances are likely that the bridge would still have been retained even though plans would have been in the making for a new bridge anyway because of the high volume of traffic combined with the events that happened on the I-35W Bridge in 2007. How long the bridge would actually have survived remains unclear.

Since 1995 there has not been a double-span arrangement similar to the Hudson Bridge in Minnesota, but with plans in the making for a sibling span in Winona, we will have the second such arrangement ever built in the state, but the first one in 21 years when completed in 2016. Given the height of the 1940 cantilever truss span combined with the scheduled rehabilitation to follow, it is highly doubtful that the Winona Bridge will suffer the same fate as the bridge in Hudson, but that depends on how the structure handles traffic both on the highway as well as those in the water when passing underneath. If people treat the bridge with care, the bridge will perhaps last a generation or two longer than expected.

Some information and write-ups can be found by clicking on the links marked in the text, including those by John Weeks III.  Special thanks to Minnesota DOT for the information and photos provided for this article.