Flensburg-Bridgehunter Merchandise on Sale through Café Press

 

Rosedale Bridge. Photo taken in September 2010

If you are looking for the best gift for your loved one and are not sure what to get them, or know someone who loves bridges, photography, landscapes or the like, or you want to surprise them with something you don’t find on the shelves of any supermarket, then perhaps you can try the Flensburg-Bridgehunter Online Shop. Powered by Café Press, this year’s items include new calendars from the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, featuring the historic truss bridges of Iowa as well as the bridges of Minnesota, which are selling like hotcakes even as this goes to the press. In addition, merchandise carrying the Chronicle’ new logo are also for sale, including wall clocks and coffee cups. Some of them feature historic bridges that are the focus of preservation efforts.  The Flensburg Files has a second installment of the Night Travel series for 2015, in addition to part I that was produced in 2012 but is available in the 2015 version. This in addition to a new set of photos and journals to keep track of your travels and thoughts.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the products provided by the Chronicles and the Files, click here. This will take you directly to the store. Hope you find what you are looking for and thank you for shopping.

Posted in Misc. | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystery Bridge Nr. 51: The Bridges of Saylorville Lake in Iowa

The Des Moines River at the Woodward Viaduct in Boone County. This is the starting point of Saylorville Lake, which extends to north of Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013

This Mystery Bridge article is in connection with a book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River. For more information about the book and how you can help, please click here for details.

The next mystery bridge features not only one, but SIX bridges, all within the vicinity of a lake. Saylorville Lake is the second of two man-made lakes along the Des Moines River in Iowa. The other is Red Rock Lake, located between Knoxville and Pella in Marion County (article on that can be found here). Yet Saylorville is the larger of the two, covering an area of 5,950 acres and 9 miles wide. The length of the lake is 17 miles long, starting at Woodward in Boone County and ending north of Des Moines. In the event of flooding, the lake is three times the length, extending as far north as Boone. The size of the lake is over 17,000 acres at flood stage, which was reached twice- in 1993 and 2008. The lake was authorized by the US Army Corps. of Engineers in 1958 as part of the project to control the flooding along the Des Moines River. It took 19 years until the lake was fully operational in September 1977.  Yet like the Red Rock Lake project, the lake came at the cost of many homes and even bridges.

Before Saylorville, six bridges once existed over the Des Moines River within the 17 miles that was later inundated. Five of them consisted of multiple spans of steel truss bridges built between 1890 and 1910. The sixth one consisted of a steel and concrete beam bridge built in 1955 carrying a major highway. All of them were removed as part of the project between 1969 and 1975. Yet some information on the bridge’s type and dimensions were recorded prior to their removal  for load tests were conducted to determine how much weight a bridge could tolerate under heavy loads before they collapse. Only a few pictures were taken prior to the project, yet information is sketchy, for the pictures did not describe the bridges well enough to determine their aesthetic appearance. Despite one of the bridges carrying a plaque, there was no information on the builder. All but two spans have a construction date which needs to be examined to determine their accuracies. In any case, the bridges have historic potential for each one has a history that is unique to the area it served before the lake was created.

While the bridges no longer exist as they are deep under water in a sea that is only 836 feet above sea level (that is the depth of Saylorville Lake when there is no flooding), it is important to know more about their histories so that they are remembered by the locals, historians, pontists and those interested in the history of the region now covered with beaches, marinas and houses. The bridges in question are the following:

Hubby Bridge

Location: Des Moines River at Opal Lane in Boone County

Bridge type: Pennsylvania through truss with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections (four spans)

Built: 1909

Removed: 1975

Length: 660 feet (160 feet per span)

 

Chestnut Ford Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River at 145th Lane in Dallas County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss (3 spans total) with Howe Lattice portal bracings (2 spans) and A-frame portal bracing (1 span). Two of the three spans were pinned connected whereas the third span was riveted.

Built: ca. 1900; one of the spans was replaced later.

Removed: 1975?

Length: 480 feet (180 feet per span)

 

Hanley Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River near Jester Park in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss (one span); two additional spans existed but type is difficult to recognize.

Built: ca. 1900; two newer spans replaced the original spans damaged in 1953

Removed: 1975

Length: 360 feet total (largest span: 150 feet)

 

Corydon Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River south of Polk City in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss with X-frame portal bracings and pinned connections (two spans)

Built: 1889

Removed: 1975 but not before it collapsed under the weight of US Army tanks in 1972

Length: 312 feet total (156 feet per span)

 

Snyder Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River at 128th Street in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss with pinned connections. Portal bracing unknown (three spans total)

Built: 1898

Removed: ca. 1975

Length: 444 feet total (148 feet per span)

 

Hwy. 98 Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River between Woodward and Madrid in Boone County

Bridge type: Steel plate girder

Built: 1955

Replaced: 1973 with higher span

Length: 360 feet

The highway was later changed to Hwy. 210

 

What is needed from these bridges are the following:

1. More photos to better describe the structure

2. Information on the construction of the bridge, including the bridge builder and the year the bridge was built

3. Information and photos of the removal of the bridge

4. Stories and memories of the bridge during their existence prior to the creation of Saylorville Lake

If you have any useful information about these bridges, please contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. The information will be useful for the book project but the Chronicles will keep you posted when information comes in on these bridges. The creation of the lakes along the Des Moines River came at the expense of bridges, villages and some livelihoods. Now it’s a question of piecing together the history of the areas affected to find out what the areas looked like, with the goal of the younger generation remembering them for years to come. This includes the bridges that were erased from the map and in some, memory. And while they are physically gone, history surely will not.

Thanks to Luke Harden for digging up some facts about the bridges as they were documented in a report published prior to the bridges’ removal. Please click on the names of the bridges as they serve as links to the bridges found on bridgehunter- also thanks to his contribution so far.

 

 

Posted in Bridge Profile USA, Mystery Bridge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “soon to be disappearing” Bridges of Camden State Park (MN)

Located in southwestern Minnesota, Lyon County, with its county seat being Marshall, prides itself with its ice cream in Schwann, athletics and academics through Southwest State University and the county’s school districts, its agriculture in the form of corn, soybeans and sugar beets, and lastly its beautiful landscape because of the deep valleys along the Redwood and Cottonwood Rivers. The county once prided itself in vast numbers of historic bridges, many of which consisted of steel truss spans that were relocated for reuse many times. Some of them were even stored at the county highway department awaiting reuse, according to correspondence with the county engineer while pursuing a science project on bridges in the 7th grade at Marshall Junior High School.

But with the recent developments going on, the county is facing a dwindling number of these truss bridges. Already gone are the spans that used to cross the Cottonwood River, including two at Garvin Park. Those featured a 1920 Warren span brought in from Lynd in 1985 and a 1908 Queenpost span brought in from Clifton Township in 1986.  But the spans at Camden State Park may be the next ones to follow.

Featuring five bridges- three steel pony trusses, a low-water crossing and a wooden trestle, with one exception, these spans were built in the 1930s when Camden State Park was developed  as a facility to replace a village that had once existed. What is unique about the steel pony trusses is the fact that they were part of the relocation scheme, built in their place of origin somewhere else before being relocated to the park in the late 1980s to 1990 to replace previous crossings.  Each bridge presents a sense of beauty as they fit perfectly with the scenery, with the hills and trees surrounding them.

Yet word is getting around that Lyon County is planning to turn over responsibility of the road (County Road 25) and the bridges to the owner of the park, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR), in the near future. There, planning is in the works to replace all three pony truss spans with concrete structure with a form liner resembling cut stone. These spans would resemble a Cottonwood River span that opened in 2005 and is located in Springfield, in Brown County.

Already gone is the low-water crossing because of flooding in 1993 (that was replaced with a welded pony truss bridge), losing the three truss bridges would be a blow to the state park because of their historic value they present. They were built using standardized spans introduced in 1914 with the purpose of making the crossings safer for traffic. Each bridge has survived weather extremities, for they were washed out by the floodwaters in 1993, but were reconstructed in their original places, keeping their historic integrity in tact. If the bridges were rebuilt, integrating the trusses in the concrete roadway, as is being practiced with many Minnesota spans, then their structural lifespan will be prolonged for another 60-80 years with little maintenance. Yet should the truss bridges go, they will most likely take the wooden trestle with, which was built in 1931 spanning the railroad track. Whether this plan of action is for the benefit of the state park remains in question. But to better understand which bridges are affected by the latest project, here is a list of bridges and their location for you to visit and convince the parks to save:

Photos taken in September 2010

BNSF Trestle:

Location: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway at the south entrance to Camden State Park

Bridge Type: Wooden Trestle

Year Built: 1936

Length: 190 feet (36 feet main span)

Status: Open to traffic but not affected by project (for now)

Bridge 5101A

Location:  Redwood River at Camden State Park- first steel truss bridge after entering park.

Bridge Type: Warren pony truss with vertical beams and riveted connections

Year Built: 1931 at undisclosed location, relocated here in 1989

Length: 61.4 feet (main span: 60 feet)

Status: Open to traffic, but scheduled to be replaced.

This bridge is located east of the site where the low-water crossing once stood. It originally consisted of a two-span pony truss bridge located somewhere along the Redwood River northeast of Marshall, yet this half made its way here in 1989, whereas the other half was relocated to Green Valley, where it still serves traffic today. It sustained damage by floods in 1993 but was rehabilitated and reopened to traffic afterwards.

Bridge 5054

Location: Redwood River at Camden State Park. Second crossing after entering the park

Bridge Type: Steel Warren pony truss bridge with vertical beams and riveted connections

Year Built: 1931 by Illinois Steel Company; Moved here in 1990.

Length: 75.1 feet (main span: 73.2 feet)

Status: Open to traffic but scheduled for replacement

This crossing is located at a dangerous corner, where drivers have to make sharp right turns before crossing the truss span. The bridge originally came from a crossing over Plum Creek at US Hwy. 14 west of Walnut Grove. At the time of its replacement and road reconstruction in 1990, it was relocated here where it is still serving traffic today.  This bridge was washed out during the flood of 1993 but was salvaged and placed back into service a year later.

Bridge R0122

Location: Redwood River at north entrance to Camden State Park

Bridge Type: Warren pony truss with vertical beams, extended wind bracing and riveted connections

Year Built: 1915 over the Yellow Medicine River in northern Lyon County. Relocated here in 1986

Length: 50.2 feet (main span: 47.3 feet)

Status: Open to traffic but scheduled for replacement.

This bridge is the oldest of the three to be found at the park. It is also the only bridge that features an exterior wind bracing, which was common in earlier standardized truss spans. 1915 is the date that was designated in the records, but the bridge looks younger than that. The crossing is the first one upon entering the park from the north side. For a long time, it was a dead end crossing for vehicles minus the bikes, for drivers were not allowed to enter the park from the north end. Yet after being wiped out by floods in 1993 and being reerected in its place a year later, the entrance was reopened to all traffic.

Why these bridges are not being considered for relocation to another less used road in the county remains unclear, let alone being considered for relocation, but these bridges represent a classic example of how Lyon County took care of its truss bridges in the 1980s and 90s, seeing the potential for reuse and the historic significance of each of the spans. The new bridges in place, like the Springfield crossing, may fit the landscape of a community, yet in cases like the ones at Camden, they represent an epic fail because of the lack of conformity with the natural surroundings. Therefore it is important that these spans are saved and rehabilitated for reuse to ensure that they continue to serve their purpose for the next 60-80 years.

You can help spread the word. Not only is it important to visit these sites, but it is important to convince the county and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to keep these spans in place because of their importance to the parks. With as many voices as possible, the planning can be altered to benefit the tourists visiting the park and the county that has prided itself in its reuse of historic structures. Your voice can make a difference.

Information and contact details for Camden State Park can be found here.

Contact details for the Lyon County Engineer’s Office in Marshall are found here.

 

 

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystery Bridge Nr. 50: A small culvert on a big major highway

Photo courtesy of the Jefferson Highway Archives/ Facebook Page

Culvert: a tunnel-like structure that passes underneath the road, providing a channel for water to flow through. Culverts were first used in the early 1910s as a substitute to beam or even (pony) truss bridges as they were cheap to build, they controlled the flow of water- keeping it from eroding the banks, and they were shorter than the short-span crossings. A culvert has an average length of 20-40 feet; the same applies to the width.  And while they are becoming the norm for small stream crossings, county engineers are using multiple spans as a replacement for a simple bridge span, as was seen with the Miller Station Bridge in western Pennsylvania, three years ago. Although the cost-cutting mentality has forced many to resort to this use, the lone setback is when water backs up on higher ground, thus causing flooding and frustration among farmers and property owners.

But this 50th mystery bridge in the series takes us to this culvert, spanning a stream carrying 585th Avenue between Shipley and Cambridge, in Story County, Iowa. Now many readers are probably wondering why this rather simple culvert is being used as an article. There are two key ones:

1. The road, which is now gravel and owned by the county, used to carry the Jefferson Highway, the second oldest highway in the United States. The highway started in Winnepeg, Manitoba (Canada), and after passing through Fargo, Minneapolis, Albert Lea, Des Moines, Kansas City and parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas, terminated in New Orleans. Although created in 1915, the highway was finalized in 1918 and was the primary north-south highway for four decades, before vast portions were replaced by Interstate highways. Many roads that were part of the highway, including this one, are still marked with the historic sign to this day, indicating where the highway once ran. Known as the Palm to Pine Highway because of the different trees one can find on the highway, the Jefferson intersects with the Lincoln Highway at Colo, Iowa, the oldest highway in the country and one that criss-crosses the country from San Francisco to New York via Chicago.

2. This culvert is not like any culvert one sees on the highway. It spans a small judicial ditch, a dug-up stream that channels water alongside and underneath the road.  The culvert is so small that one can barely see it. If it is seen, then one would think that it is a piece of concrete standing in the ditch and causing a nuisance to those mowing the ditches. The culvert is probably no longer than 6 feet in length and no higher than four feet, which is half the average size of a common culvert. Yet given the Art Deco design on the railings, this bridge was built after 1914, when Iowa introduced state standard bridge designs, which bridge builders had to abide by for safety purposes. The question is, who was behind the idea of this culvert? Why this concept when a steel tunnel culvert or a low-water crossing would have sufficed?

This is where you as the reader and/or researcher should find out about this. If you know of any stories behind this culvert, please contact the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles or place your comments accordingly and share them. The more info, the more likely this mystery will be solved. As the Jefferson Highway will turn 100 years old next year, you can share your stories with them as well. The bridge may be very small and somewhat insignificant, but it does have valuable information that is useful as the highway reaches the century mark in 2015.

Author’s Note: Thanks to the Jefferson Highway Organization for allowing the author to use the pic for this article. 

More Jefferson Highway bridges will be featured in the course of 1.5 years in the Chronicles as the highway celebrates its 100th birthday in 2015. If you want to contribute with a bridge or series of bridges, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles and information on how to submit will be provided. There are many valuable historic bridges that once served this unique route and should be honored for their service, even if some of them no longer exist. 

Posted in Mystery Bridge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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. 

Posted in Mystery Bridge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystery Bridge Nr. 48: Disappearing Des Moines River Bridge in Murray County

Overview with view of the trusses. All photos courtesy of MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This mystery bridge article is in connection with the book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River, which actually starts here in Murray County, Minnesota. For more information on the project and how you can help contribute to the project, please click here for more details.

Bridge Facts:

Bridge Type: Pratt half hip pony truss with riveted connections

Location: Des Moines River at Jeep Trail, 0.3 miles east of County Highway 42 at Sec. 21/28 Des Moines River Township

Construction Date: 1929

Located over the Des Moines River seven miles south of the village of Dovray and only 0.3 miles east of County Highway 42, this Jeep Trail bridge (known to Minnesota DOT as Bridge L-1602) may represent a typical truss bridge with little or no history on it, except from those living near it. Yet its uniqueness and the mystery makes it something worth researching and talking about. For instance, the bridge is a half-hip Pratt pony truss bridge, with a span of 49 feet. The bridge type itself was the only one used for the Des Moines River crossing as a single span, both in Minnesota as well as in Iowa. More unique is the fact that the connections are riveted. One can detect this by finding the gusset plates at the bottom chord at the second panel as well as the top chord at the outer panels, where the diagonal beams and end post meet. Normally one would find half hips with pinned connections, but as the bridge was built here in 1929, the riveted truss design represents a break from the state standardized truss designs that were introduced 15 years earlier, and the half hips were supposed to be phased out in favor of heavier pony trusses featuring (polygonal) Pratt and Warren designs.

But the question is did this bridge break this standard with its construction at Jeep Trail in 1929 or was this bridge built earlier- before the standardized trusses were introduced- and was relocated here? If the latter is true, then the next question is where this bridge originated from.  The unfortunate part with this bridge was the fact that it was removed from service after 1990 with the road being vacated between County Hwy. 42 and County Hwy. 67. While returning home to Jackson from Marshall during my days in high school, my father and I crossed the bridge at 42 and the Jeep Trail Bridge was seen from a distance because of the flatness of the landscape and lack of trees. Yet when trying to find and photograph the bridge during my time in college in 1998, the bridge was not to be found. Furthermore, the road was fenced off. It is possible that because of the sparse usage of the road, and bridge that it was rendered useless by the county and was given to a local farmer for use. Had that bridge remained opened, there would have been a chance to inspect the bridge to see which of the two arguments would stand out as true: being brought in in 1929 or being originally built in 1929. Lastly, regardless of which one was true, the last question is who was responsible for the construction of the bridge.

Now it’s the local’s turn. What do you know about the bridge and its history? Any information? Send it over to Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact details here. The bridge will be included in the book on the bridges along the Des Moines River and therefore, any information on its history will be useful for the reader. Any stories and facts about it will be much appreciated. In the meantime, enjoy the photos of the bridge in hopes that some memories will be kindled and people with some facts will step forward to talk about it. :-)

All photos are courtesy of Minnesota DOT, whom the author thanks for the usage for the article and the book project.

Quick Note: The bridge is located 11 miles east of Slayton, the county seat of Murray County, and 9 miles east of Avoca. It is located approximately 13 river miles southeast of Lake Shetek, the source of the river.

Photos:

Posted in Bridge Profile USA, Mystery Bridge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystery Bridge Nr. 47: The Twin Bridges over the Des Moines River in Minnesota

Sherman Bridge northwest of Windom. Photos taken in 1962 by MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next mystery bridge features two bridges and is part of the book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River (for more, click here). This one takes us to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, located north of Jackson County, where the author grew up, and a main throughfare that crosses the river three times in the same county, County Road 15. The road enters the county from neighboring Murray County at Talcot Lake and after crossing the third Des Moines River bridge, terminates at US Hwy. 71 north of the county seat Windom.

Two of the Des Moines River crossings are featured here because they are literally identical. Both bridges feature Pratt half-hip through truss designs, with M-frame portal bracings and V-lace endposts. They are both approximately 80 feet long, despite the fact that the difference in total length between the two are only 40 feet apart. Both were built before or around 1900 but the information is very sketchy- sometimes “suspect” because of questionable data. The only difference is the location of the two- one is next to a golf course just outside of Windom, the other is only four miles to the west after the river bends to flow southeasterly.  To be specific as far as what bridges the author is talking about, here is what we know about the two bridges:

Side view of the Sherman Bridge. Photo courtesy of MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherman Bridge :

Location: Des Moines River at the Golf Course, 0.3 miles west of County Road 13  at Sec. 21 Great Bend Twp.

Length: 141 feet total (main span: 80 feet)

Replaced: 1960? with a concrete slab bridge

Thompson Bridge Photo taken in 1962 by MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thompson Bridge

Location: Des Moines River, 0.4 miles north of County Road 40 at Sec. 14/15 Springfield Township.

Length: 95 feet total (77 feet main span)

Replaced: 1963 with a wooden trestle bridge

Questions remain open regarding the history of the two bridges. First and foremost is the question of the date of construction and the bridge builder. Judging by the features of the two spans, they were most likely built by the same company at about the same time. Some possible bridge builders that did business in Cottonwood County include Raymond and Campbell of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Hennepin Bridge Company of Minneapolis and Joliet Bridge Company of Joliet, Illinois. Judging by the markings of three bridges built in neighboring Jackson County during the time frame between 1880 and 1905, they appear to be the work of Raymond and Campbell, for its agent, George C. Wise had conducted business in the region between 1880 and 1910, both under the auspices of R & C as well as an independent contractor. He had built at least a dozen bridges in Jackson County and most likely did business in Cottonwood County. Yet more evidence in the form of newspaper articles and other information would be needed to confirm this. Joliet Bridge most likely built the Dempsey Bridge, located five miles northwest of Windom over the Des Moines River, but more information is needed to determine if it built other bridges at that time. The same applies to Hennepin Bridge Company, one of many bridge companies operated by members of the Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders which featured the Hewett family, Commodore Jones and Alexander Bayne.

The other question deals with the replacement date for the two bridges- in particular, the Sherman Bridge. National Bridge Inventory database and even the history books have the bridge being replaced in 1960, yet according to records and photos provided by Minnesota Dept. of Transportation, the bridge was still standing as of 1962. This leads to the question of whether the Sherman and the Thompson were replaced at the same time and if so, when. While working on a book on the bridges in neighboring Jackson County, an error was found in the NBI and state historical society records indicating a through truss bridge in Jackson being built in 1930, when city records pin-pointed its construction date of 1907, built by Joliet. This means that in the case of the two bridges, further information will need to be found as to when they were constructed and when they were replaced, in order to update all records to reflect on their history.

This is where you come in. If you have any information on the history of the Sherman and Thompson Bridges including photos of their existence and even replacement, the author would be much greatful if he could use them for the book project. Please send them to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  Any information on the two bridges will be useful to complete their history. It is very rare to have twin bridges sharing the same road with little knowledge. Yet through your help, you can solve their mystery.  Looking forward to the information that is forthcoming.

Thompson Bridge. Photo taken in the 1940s by MnDOT

 

Posted in Bridge Profile USA, Mystery Bridge, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Historic Bridges along the Des Moines River- book project

Murray Bridge spanning the Des Moines River in Humboldt County. Built in 1905 by A.H. Austin. Photo taken in September 2010

Growing up in Jackson County, Minnesota, I was acquainted with historic bridges that had once crossed the Des Moines River, remembering the thousands times I had crossed the Petersburg Rd. Bridge, located just north of my grandma’s place when I visited her, or paying homage to those in the northern part of the county. They were unique because of their individual character and history. They were also part of our past, which the future generations have little to no knowledge about.

Despite almost all of them disappearing to progress, I wrote a book about Jackson County’s historic bridges in 2007 and again in 2012, featuring the bridges along the Des Moines River, where over a dozen bridges had once crossed the major river, now there are only 9 left in use.  Realizing the popularity of the books on “disappearing” historic bridges on book shelves in the libraries and book stores, it is time to take this subject to the next level- which is scrolling down the Des Moines River, digging up interesting bridge facts for readers to look at.

Petersburg Road Bridge in Jackson, Minnesota. Built in 1907, the bridge was torn down in 1995. Photo taken in 1992.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m looking for any information and old photos of bridges (as well as photos of old bridges before they disappeared) along the Des Moines River for use in a book bearing the above-mentioned title.

One has to keep in mind that the Des Moines River started in two different places. The west branch starts at Lake Shetek in Murray County and snakes its way through Cottonwood and Jackson Counties before making a straight shot going southeast. The east branch starts in Jackson County east of Alpha, and after meandering through Martin, Emmet and Kossuth Counties, joins the west branch south of Humboldt before slicing Iowa in half, passing through Des Moines, Red Rock Lake, and Ottumwa before emptying into the Mississippi River south of Keokuk. The total length of the river is 525 miles (845 km). Like the border it temporarily forms between Iowa and Missouri before its confluence at Keokuk, the river in Iowa also represents the border between the bridges builders from the east coast that built various iron bridges in the eastern half of the state and the bridges built by those who were based in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and all points to the west. Examples of bridges built by both sides of the spectrum are found in some history books, and some can be visited today by tourists and passers-by alike. This includes the Kilbourn, Bentonsport, Eveland, Bellefont and Horn’s Ferry Bridges, as well as bridges in Des Moines, Ottumwa, and Fort Dodge. Also a bonus is the number of railroad trestles that were built along the river, one of which was named after Kate Shelly, the girl who informed the station tenant of the bridge being washed out in a storm and stopped an incoming passenger train before it fell into the river.

Kilen Woods State Park Bridge in Jackson County, Minnesota. Built in 1913, replaced in 2004. Photo taken in 1994

If you have any information, stories and photos that you care to share in the book project, please contact me via e-mail at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. For photos, please let me know the source so that it is cited in the book accordingly. Some mystery bridge articles in connection with some bridges along the river will be posted in the Chronicles and will be listed in the page entitled Forums and Inquiries under the title: Mystery Bridges. If you have any questions about the project or have anything that will contribute to the project, let me know and I’ll be happy to take them on. The Chronicles will keep you up to date as to how the book project is going and when it will be completed and ready for publishing. It is hoped that it will be finished in 2-3 years but it depends on the information found and how book will be created.

There is the Mississippi River bridge book set. Two other river books are in the works by a couple other pontists. Many cities have their own books on the history of bridges. It is hoped that the Des Moines River bridge book will be another one for readers to look at and cherish for years to come.

 

Posted in Misc. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tree Falls on Skunk River Bridge

Photos taken in August 2011

AMES, IOWA-  The Cambridge Bridge, located at Ken Maril Road spanning the Skunk River in the south of Ames, is one of a few abandoned historic bridges that has received its lion’s share of visitors. Whether it is a runner crossing it as part of his round, a fisherman using it to catch a good bite, or a photographer stopping to get a few shots, the bridge is popular among locals, even if it has been abandoned for almost 25 years now. The bridge features an iron through truss bridge with a Warren design plus a riveted steel pony truss with a subdivided Warren design. The through truss was built in 1876 originally at a mill near Cambridge, located four miles south of Ames. Its builder was the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The bridge spanned the Skunk River and was 80 feet long. After 40 years of service, the bridge was relocated north to Ames to span the same river but to accommodate residents  living in the southern part of the city. There the 80-foot pony truss span was added, making the total length of the bridge to be 163 feet. The bridge continued to serve traffic until its closure in 1990. Up until now, the bridge has literally remained in place, with pedestrians and cyclists using the structure on a regular basis. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1998 as the iron span is the oldest of its kind left in Iowa.

Jogger running towards the bridge.

Now its future is in doubt after a tree fell onto the bridge. It is unknown when or how it happened, but one of the photographers recently visited the bridge during his bridgehunting tour through Iowa and found a couple trees that had fallen on the pony truss span. The damage appears to be minor as bent railings and dents in the truss span were reported. In addition, some tree parts are leaning against one of the piers, causing the decking to be uneven. Photos of the damage can be found here (photos 59-67).  This is leading to questions as to how to remove the debris without further damaging or even destroying the structure. Furthermore, discussion will most likely be brought up as to how to deal with the bridge in the future- whether it should be repaired and left open to pedestrian traffic or if it should be relocated to one of the parks in and around Ames. The city and the county historical society is looking into this matter in hopes that a solution can be found as soon as possible. Given its status on the National Register, it is highly unlikely that the bridge will be torn down. However, with as much use as this bridge has had since its closure, officials know that doing nothing is not an option and whatever action is taken, will require input from local residents and those associated with the bridge.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments. In the meantime, as a bonus, enjoy the photos and an earlier article written by Luke Harden on the bridges in Ames, which includes a further write-up on this bridge.

Posted in Bridge Profile USA, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rendsburg High Bridge

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

Information:

Location: Baltic-North Sea Canal at Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Description: Main span: Cantilever Warren through truss with transporter (main span), steel trestle approach span (south) and loop approach (north)

Length: 7 km (total) Of which: 2468 main span; loop approach 4.5 km

Built: 1913 by Friedrich Voss and  C.H. Jocho of Dortmund

 

Travelling north to Flensburg on the Schleswig-Holstein-Express (the SHE) one evening in May 2010, I was chatting with four passengers heading home to the Rum capital of the world, talking about break-ups, broken marriages and partners cheating on them, when we suddenly found ourselves taking off from the ground. To think that most of the German state is flat consists of mainly farmland and coastal areas, to go from travelling on the ground to travelling in the air in a matter of seconds is like Eliott and E.T. flying in the air by bike. Yet the sound of metal to metal contact, especially when going over the steel towers revealed that whatever we were crossing was huge, the spectacular view of the lights of the town below and the body of water covered in emerald green lights was gorgeous.  After going through the steel truss mechanism, we made our descent in a curly-Q fashion before touching the ground and stopping at our next station. Our conversation had stopped in favor of the structure’s admiration, a sign that homage needed to be paid to a gigantic symbol that bridges the past with the present, the lover on one place with one in the other, and the impossible with the reality.

Especially the last one is what describes the Rendsburg High Bridge, spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal in Rendsburg, located between Hamburg and Flensburg. The bridge was the masterpiece of Friedrich Voss, who had built two other structures along the Grand Canal at Hochdonn and Kiel as well as numerous others in the northern half of the country, concluding the two-span arch bridge at Friedrichstadt. It took 1.5 years to build the main attraction along the canal, which after 101 years, it still serves as the anchor that makes the Grand Canal and Rendsburg the place to visit.  What Voss did with the bridge was unthinkable, impossible and even insane in the eyes of many locals during that time. While steel trestles and a through truss design were his signatures for long-span structures like the aforementioned bridges, Voss needed a main span that would carry both horse and buggy (and later cars) as well as rail traffic. Henceforth as one of the feats, Voss chose the cantilever Warren span, whose roadway would serve rail traffic connecting Hamburg and Neumünster to the south and Flensburg and Scandanavia to the north. Hanging from the main span is the transporter span, which even today carries cars, bikes and pedestrians across the canal between Rendsburg and Aldorf. The transporter operates four times an hour in both directions during the day and takes 4-5 minutes to cross, half as long as when crossing the entire bridge via SHE.

Even more unique is the north approach. Already in existence was the train station for it served rail traffic between Kiel and Husum, the problem came with how the approach span should descend from 50 meters above water to just over zero. This was where Voss referred to the history books and chose the loop approach. Using the Hastings Spiral Bridge as reference, the loop approach provides travelers with an opportunity to gradually glide down from the bridge, making a circle of 360°. The 1895 bridge over the Mississippi River was the first bridge to feature this loop approach for engineers and bridge builders at Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Works had the problem of the bridge extending into Hasting’s business district, which already had numerous buildings and traffic at that time. Therefore, the south approach consisted of the loop approach, thus encouraging cars to glide down into the city center like a marble.

The problem was similar with the north approach, as it consisted of much of Rendsburg’s city center and housing area, combined with remnants of the old canal and the harbor area connected with the new canal. Therefore, Voss and his men devised a plan where a loop approach would feature first a series of steel trestles at the height of between 40 and 50 meters above water level, followed by earthen berms with concrete arch spans crossing main streets,  after the descent of 40 meters. A Warren deck truss span crosses the rail line as it approaches the end of the loop. The total length of this loop approach alone is 4.5 km. The area the loop encircles consists of housing and therefore was later named Schleife.

On 1 October, 1913, after 1.5 years of work, Voss and 350 of his men from the bridge-building firm C.H. Jucho of Dortmund completed the work and the bridge was open to traffic. The bridge and transporter complex has operated almost unaltered ever since, sustaining minimal damage in World War II. The bridge was rehabilitated with rust protectant being added to the steel bridge between 1993 and 2012. The rail line was electrified in 1995, which resulted in the portal and strut bracings of the through truss span being lifted. Instead of the two-rhombus portal bracing, the main span now had A-frame portals, high enough for trains to pass through.

I had a chance to visit the bridge again in 2011, this time filming the crossing of the bridge and its transporter, but also following the path of the bridge from the start of the loop approach on the ground to the main span. While I never got a chance to see the Spiral Bridge as it was torn down in 1951, the Rendsburg High Bridge is nothing anyone has ever seen before. It is amazing just to be in a small suburb that is encircled by the loop approach, listening to trains cross it on an hourly basis. Its tall and towering trestles cannot be missed when travelling through Rendsburg. But the main span is just as amazing, for it has a total height of 68 meters, visible from 20 kilometers, making it one of the tallest structures along the Grand Canal.  But I also noticed that the bridge with its wonderful work of art has not yet been recognized on the national and international scale. With the Vizcaya Bridge being nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013, the Firth of Forth Bridge scheduled to be nominated in 2015, the Rendsburg High Bridge Complex should be considered another UNESCO site as well because of the engineering feats that Voss accomplished in building this superstructure but also because the bridge still functions as a normal crossing of its kind today, just like it did when it opened to traffic in 1913. This is something that has made Rendsburg famous and makes it one of the wonderful works of art in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany and central Europe. Already it was given the Historische Wahrzeichen der Ingenieurbaukunst in Deutschland Award (Historic Recognition of the Works of Engineering in Germany) in 2013, on its 100th birthday. Chances are, more accolades will follow for this iron lady, whose total length of 7 kilometers (2,400 m main span) still makes it the longest railway bridge in Germany.

To close this documentary about this bridge, the third and most important part of the Tour along the Grand Canal, there is a saying that applies to any bridge enthusiast. You are never a true pontist unless you visit at least a couple key engineering works. In my book, one should really pay homage to the Rendsburg High Bridge. It is an engineering work of achievement that is underrated and something that awes every engineer to this day. Every engineer has his creative talents, which Voss had when building this bridge. It has withstood the test of time and is still a work of art one should see, when visiting Germany. It is hoped that it will one day be a UNESCO site. It will eventually for it deserves this honor.

Author’s note:

You can view the photos of the Rendsburg High Bridge via facebook site. Click here to have a look at every aspect photographed during my visit in 2011.

Some videos of the bridge can be viewed below as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fE9_2iHBFRo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAct8wirEbk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZDonew3k5Y

 

And some links to provide you with some more information on the Rendsburg High Bridge:

http://www.rendsburger-hochbruecke.de/

http://www.move-team.de/artikel/rendsburg.html

 

Lastly, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is sending off its logo, which goes by the design of the main span of the Rendsburg High Bridge. From now on, it will use a new logo, using another bridge to be profiled very soon, also located in Schleswig-Holstein, the Fehmarn Bridge. Here’s a farewell with many thanks to the old iron lady for being the source of inspiration into creating this unique logo:

 

 

Posted in Bridge Profile Europe and elsewhere | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment