Mystery Bridge Nr. 77: A Bridge Shaped Like a Shoe

Photos taken in December 2016

Our first Mystery Bridge of 2017 takes us back to Saxony in eastern Germany, and in particular, this bridge. This unusual structure spans the Chemnitz River at Hauboldstrasse, roughly 100 meters south of the Müllerstrasse Bridge in the northern part of Chemnitz. This was discovered while bridgehunting and visiting the Christmas market this past Christmas and is considered one of the most unusual bridges I’ve seen so far.

The bridge features a rigid Luten arch span, but the piers are engraved into the abutments, The east end appears to have the characteristics of a concrete arch bridge, yet the west end has piers that eventually curve to go vertically into the water, like a timeglass. Such piers can be found with the new I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis, when it was constructed in 2009. The bridge’s length is about 70 meters with a width of only five meters, barely wide enough for car to cross. More unusual is the thickness of the concrete and Art Greco design on the top railings. Most concrete bridges built today depend less on concrete and more on steel for supports making them slender in design, but also safer for cars, pedestrians and cyclists to cross. Engineers went out of their way to carve some unusual artwork with this bridge, using as much concrete as possible- even for its third unusual feature, the portal.  The portal itself can be found only on the east side overlooking the city center. It has a hexagonal design that is halved, resembling either a basketball high-top or high heels turned upside down, pending on how you look at it.

The bridge is open to pedestrian and bike traffic connecting an industrial area to the west with the neighborhood to the east. Unusual about this setting is there is not much of both, for much of the former is to the north. One needs to follow the smokestack of the regional power company and take about 15 minutes to get there. The latter still has scars from World War II for much of that area has open lots where houses once stood before the war, creating an empty eerie scene while biking towards the city center. Those that are still standing have been renovated to make it liveable and more accessible for handicaps, while having reintroduced vintage lanterns either of sodium or gas-powered. It is possible that the bridge may have been built in the 1990s to provide access to the neighborhood and make it more accessible and attractive. On the other hand, having the Müller Strasse Bridge to the north, with four lanes of cars, plus additional lanes for bikes and pedestrians, it is possible that the pedestrian bridge was built much further back- between 1930 and 1960, which was later supplanted by the current crossing, but was left in place, as people used it more often as it is part of the local bike trail.  Given the wear and tear of the structure, my hunches are that it was a product of the East German bygone era that has survived the test of time to date.

Smokestack of the Regional Power Company located north of the bridge.

But what do the locals think about this bridge? When was it built? Which engineer dated a woman with high heels and was inspired by her to build this bridge? What else do we know about the bridge’s history? Use the contact form and feel free to add some information in German as well as in English. As we know more about the bridge, it will be added to the tour guide that is being put together on Chemnitz’s bridges, a project that just started a few weeks ago and will continue during the first quarter of the year. Let’s see why the bridge is like it is, shall we?

Gas-powered vintage lantern

Sodium-powered vintage lantern

Chemnitz is also home of the iron viaduct, which I wrote about back in 2015. The bridge is still standing despite attempts by the German Railways to push through with demolishing and replacing the 1884 structure with a modern one to accomodate InterCity trains. More on the article here. Details and updates on the bridge’s situation will follow.

A map of the location of Shoe Bridge is below:

Update on the Mystery Bridge Nr. 62: The Bridge at Pontiac Lane


A couple months ago, I posted a Mystery Bridge article about one of the bridges in Harrison County, Iowa, based on a tip provided to me by a local familiar with the bridge. This bridge is located at Pontiac Lane, just off 220nd Street, two miles east of Hwy. 30 in Logan. As mentioned in the article, the bridge was unusual because of its length over a small creek, and it was a through truss bridge, according to the online maps. There were many questions about this structure, including its aesthetic appearance, age, and the date of when it was replaced by a culvert but left in place. There was a sense of hope that someone might take a look at the structure and provide some pics for it, to help solve the case.

This is where Adrian Brisee comes in.


A couple weeks before Christmas, he took the opportunity to visit the bridge and provide some pics for others to see. These pics will surprise you:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


From observation, the bridge is a single lane through truss bridge of Whipple type, with pinned connections. The diagonal and vertical beams are connected with a loop. The portal bracings are a three-layer set, where the top and bottom layers are Howe Lattice (with the bottom having heel bracings) and the middle has an X-shape. This puts the date of construction back to between 1870 and 1885, when these portals were used. It also narrowed down to the number of bridge builders who used it, including Wrought Iron Bridge, King and even some of the companies in Ohio and Pennsylvania, many of whom were consolidated into American Bridge Company in 1900. The portals were subsequentially phased out in favor of those with letters, like the A-frame, X-frame, etc.  Additional markings however suggest that this was a Wrought Iron Bridge product, namely the star-engravings at each of the bottom latteral chord, as shown in the picture. This is typical of all WIBCo as 70% of their bridges have this, including the Freeport Bridge in Decorah and the Hungry Hollow Bridge near Mankato (now extant).  Judging by the length of the bridge, it is between 130 and 180 feet long; the width between 15 and 17 feet.


Establishing a concrete basis for solving this case, the next questions require some in-depth research and even photographing some of finest points, including inscriptions in the beams, possible connections that are either typical of WIBCo or unusual of any truss bridge built during the given period and even plaque or any additional info- enough to justify its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. This include three very important ones left to be answered:


  1. When was the bridge built?
  2. Was this bridge originally built at this location or was it relocated from elsewhere and if so, where?
  3. Was there a previous structure before this bridge?


This is in addition to the ones left to be answered. The questions are important for the condition of the bridge has deteriorated over the years, with the western side dropping three feet, thus bending the entrance noticeably. With its nomination to the National Register, funding would be made available on the state and federal levels to restore the structure and convert the area to a park. Given its unique history involving historic bridges, including some imported from out of state, Harrison County would profit greatly from having some sort of historic bridge park or district with tour guide with a list of historic bridges to visit, just like in Madison County.


But before we can nominate this bridge, we have some questions to clear up, which can only be done by hopping into the car, driving to the bridge for some pics and lastly, visiting the library, museum and highway department, for starters.  Having international recognition in the category of Mystery Bridge (a fifth place finish) is a start. The next ones are all yours to take.


So go for it. 🙂


If you haven’t read the results of the Ammann Awards or the Author’s Choice, please click here to take a look to see if your bridge received one of the two or both.

The Author would like to thank Adrian Brisee for visiting this bridge and taking some pics. You were of great help! 🙂

bhc logo newest1

2016 Ammann Awards Results

MacArthur Bridge: Winner of the Best Photo Award. Photo taken by Roamin Rich

Record voter turnout for the Awards. Saxony, Route 66,  and Elvis Bridges in Kansas dominating the categories. Eric Delony and John Marvig honored for Lifetime Achievement.

Since 2011 the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has been hosting the Othmar H. Ammann Awards for historic bridges, focusing on successful efforts in preserving them as well as places with a wide array of historic bridges to see as a pontist, tourist, photographer, historian/teacher or a simple passer-by. In its sixth year of the awards, we saw records getting smashed for the most number of votes, let alone the lead changes that came about in some categories, complete blow-outs in others, thus making this race the most exciting and nail-biting in history. No matter which category you were watching, you probably saw your favorite going from worst to first in as many votes as in the category Best Photo, which saw votes in the thousands, plus a voting arms race among three candidates. We also saw some deadlocks for Tour Guide International, Lifetime Achievement (for second place) and Mystery Bridge, which got people wondering what characteristics led to the votes, because they must have been this good. For some that lucked out, the Author’s Choice Awards were given as consolation, which will be mentioned here as well.


So without further ado, let’s have a look at the results, each of whom has a brief summary:



This category was the most exciting and nerve-racking as we saw a battle for first place take place among three candidates: The MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis (Taken by Roamin Rich), Bull Creek Bridge in Kansas (Taken by Nick Schmiedeler) and the Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau, Germany (Taken by Michael Droste).  Despite Zwickau’s early lead in the polls and regaining the lead for a couple days a week ago, MacArthur Bridge won the voting arms race with 38.5% of the votes, outlasting Bull Creek, which received 28.2%. Paradiesbrücke got only 16%.  Devil’s Elbow Bridge in Missouri received 4.2% with fifth place going to the same person who photographed the Paradiesbrücke but in the daytime (2.2%). The remaining results can be seen here.  For the next three months, the winner of the Best Photo Award will have his photos displayed on the Chronicle’s areavoices website (here) and the Chronicles’ facebook page (here), second place winner will have his photo on the Chronicles’ facebook group page (here), and the third place winner on the Chronicles’ twitter page (here). All three will also be in the Chronicles’ wordpress page (here), rotating in gallery format in the header.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany


This category was perhaps the most watched by readers and pontists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, as four cities were vying for first and third place, respectively before another city decided to crash the party within a matter of only 24 hours before the polls closed, effectively deciding the winner and third place winners. Coincidence or a plot, that remains to be seen. It is known that these five bridge cities will receive further honorable mentions in the near future. The winner of this tight race was Zwickau (Saxony), Germany, which after battling with Calgary during the competition, edged the largest city in Alberta and fifth largest in Canada by a margin of 25.1% to 24%. The reason behind that was the city’s selection of the most unique bridges, one of which, the Röhrensteg, had received the Author’s Choice Award for Best Historic Bridge Finding. There is also the aforementioned Paradiesbrücke, the Zellstoff Truss Bridge and the Schedewitz Bridge, all along the Mulde River and a stone arch viaduct near the train station. The city is worth a treat.


Third place winner goes to Canal Bridges in Brugges, Belgium, which went from seventh place to its final spot in less than 24 hours, knocking the River Tyne Bridges in Great Britain and the Bridges in Glauchau (Saxony) to fourth and fifth places. Brugges had 13.5% of the votes, followed by The River Tyne with 12.6% and Glauchau with 10.5%. Glauchau also received the Author’s Choice Award for its historic bridge find because of its many arch bridges that don’t span the Mulde, like in neighboring Zwickau, but along the railroad line and along the high road leading to the two castles located on the hill overlooking the river valley.

Beech Road Bridge in Tompkins County, NY. Photo taken by Nathan Holth


Unlike in the international competition, this category proved to be no competition at all, for the Bridges of Tompkins County, New York, laden with various types of bridges dating back 150 years, including two iron truss bridges, a covered bridge and some arch bridges, left the competition in the dust. Even at the beginning of the race, it garnered an average of 92% of the votes. In the end, the county won an astounding 89.3%. The closest second place winner was the Bridges in Washington County, Maryland, which had 3.2% of the votes, edging the third place winner, The Bridges of Boone County, Iowa with 2.9%. Having lost the Wagon Wheel Bridge in December to demolition and removal after years of neglect, the Marsh rainbow arch bridges and Kate Shelley’s Viaduct could not compensate of the loss and therefore, people looked to its winner as their bridges are still in used, most of them after having been restored.

Colebrook Bridge. Photo taken by Ulka Kern


Some bridges deserved to immersed in water and covered in coral, used for habitat for underwater life. Others deserved to be immersed and later exposed when the weather extremities are at their worst. The Colebrook Lake Bridge in Connecticut is one that definitely is in the second category. When Colebrook Lake was made in 1969, this Warren pony truss span with riveted connections  became part of the lake bottom and a distant memory among local residents and historians. Its existence came as a surprise, thanks to a severe drought that lowered the lake to its pre-made stage and exposed this structure. Now residents and historians are finding more information on this structure while looking at ways to either reuse it or leave it for nature. Colebrook won the award in this category with 57.4% of the votes.  Second place went to the Marais de Cygnes Bridge in Kansas, one of the rarest Parker through truss bridges in the state, with 22.8% of the votes. Clark’s Creek Bridge, one of many Elvis bridges discovered by Nick Schmiedeler this past year, finished third with 15.4%, yet it was the winner in another category! More on that later. The remaining finishers had an average of 1.5% of the votes, which were a lot given the number of voters having gone to the polls.

Prince Alfred Trestle in Australia. Photo taken by Delta Charlie Images


Australia’s historic bridges are ones that are worth traveling to visit, for many of them were built by European immigrants with ties to the bridge building and steel industries in their homeland. Only a handful were built locally. The winner and second place winners in this category come not only from the Land Down Under, but also in the state of New South Wales, which is the most populated of the states. The Prince Alfred Bridge, a nearly 150-year old wooden trestle bridge, won the race with 31.4% of the votes. This was followed by another bridge in the state, the Bowenfels Railroad Viaduct, which received 15.9% and the Ribblehead Railroad Viaduct at Yorkshire Dales in Great Britain, which got 8.7%. Tied for fourth place with 7.7% were the Isabella Bridge in Puerto Rico and the Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece. And sixth place finisher was the Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany, with 6.5%, edging its inner-state competitor Röhrensteg in Zwickau and the world’s smallest drawbridge in Sanford, Nova Scotia (Canada) with 6.2% of the votes.



In this category, we looked at historic bridges that were preserved for reuse after being considered redundant for the highways due to age, functional and structural deficiencies and cost of maintenance. Like in Tour Guide USA, this competition was very lopsided for a covered bridge far outgained the metal truss bridges and arch bridges in the competition. The Beaverkill Covered Bridge, built in 1865 and located in the Catskills in New York, received a full makeover, using state-of-the art technology to strengthen existing bridge parts and replacing some with those of the exact shape and size. This bridge received 62.4% of the votes. Second place finisher was the Green Bridge (a.k.a. Jackson Street and Fifth Avenue Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa. The three-span Pratt through truss bridge, built in 1898 by George E. King, received its second makeover in 20+ years in order for it to continue serving a bike trail network serving Iowa’s state capital. It received 7.1% of the votes and would have soundly won the competition had one subtracted Beaverkill’s success. Third place finisher was the former Bird Creek Bridges along Route 66 in Oklahoma. The multiple-span K-truss bridges were relocated to Molly’s Landing on one side of the highway, Roger’s Landing on the opposite end, each serving as exhibits and entrances for light traffic. Bird Creek received 6.5% of the votes. Bottoming out the top six are Wolf Road Bridge near Cleveland, Ohio with 4.2%, the County Park Bridge in Hamilton County, Indiana with 3% and Houck Iron Bridge in Putnam County, Indiana with 2.4%.


Bonnie Doon Bridge in Lyon County, Iowa. Photo taken by John Marvig.


For this category, we’re looking at bridges that are unique but missing information that would potentially make them historically significant and therefore, ripe for many accolades. Although the votes were made into one category, the winners have been divided up into those in the US and the structures outside the country.  For the US, the top six finishers originated from Iowa, with the top two finishers originating from Lyon County.  The Bonnie Doon Bridge, located along a former railroad bearing her name between Doon and Rock Rapids, won the division with 19.8% of the total votes. Not far behind is the Beloit Bridge near Canton, South Dakota, which received 13.2%. Third Place goes to a now extant Thacher through truss bridge in Everly in Clay County, which received 7.7%, 0.6% more than its fourth place finisher, the Kiwanis Railroad Bridge in Rock Valley in Sioux County.  Fifth place goes to the Pontiac Lane Bridge in Harrison County, with 6.1% of the votes. Yet latest developments in the form of photos is almost bringing the Whipple through truss bridge to a close. More later. In sixth place, we have a concrete arch viaduct built by H.E. Dudley near Richmond in Washington County, with 5.5% of the votes. According to John Marvig, that case was recently brought to a close as the now extant bridge was replaced with a steel girder viaduct in 1947.

Camelback arch bridge in Altenburg


All of our entries for the international aspect of mystery bridges were from Germany, specifically, the states of Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg.  Our first place finisher goes to the concrete camelback pony arch bridge near Altenburg. That structure was built between 1900 and 1920 and still retains its original form. Second place goes to the railroad viaduct in Grosskorbetha, located near Bad Durremberg in Saxony-Anhalt. The 1910 arch structure used to serve a local road to Wengelsdorf, but was removed in November this year, as the German Railways plan to modernize the Y-point where the raillines split to Leipzig and Halle from the south.  The Railway Station Bridge in Halle finished in third, followed by an unusual wire truss bridge in Potsdam and finally, the truss bridge at Schkopau Station, south of Halle.

Clarks Creek Bridge in Geary County, Kansas. Photo taken by Nick Schmiedeler


The category Bridge of the Year goes out to bridges that made waves in the headlines because of (successful) attempts of restoring them, as well as interesting findings. Our top six finishers in this year’s category consists of those by Julie Bowers and crew at BACH Steel, Elvis Bridge finder Nick Schmiedeler and those along Route 66. Clark’s Creek Bridge in Kansas came out the winner with 53.4% of the votes. This bridge was discovered by Schmiedeler and was one of the first bridges that were dubbed Elvis Bridges, meaning these bridges had been abandoned and hidden under vegetation for many decades. Clark’s Creek is a King Bridge product having been built in 1876.  Second place finisher is the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 18.1% of the vote. Thanks to Julie’s efforts, this 1870s structure is expected to be restored, relocated to a park and reused after years sitting abandoned, leaning to one side.  Third place finisher is the Times Beach Bridge spanning the Meramec River along Route 66 west of St. Louis, with 6.9% of the votes. This bridge was a subject of fundraising efforts to be restored as part of the Route 66 State Park Complex and bike trail. The bridge was recently given a reprieve from demolition by Missouri Dept. of Transportation. More later.  Rounding off the top six include Gasconade Bridge along Route 66 with 5.4%, Hayden Bridge in Oregon, another project by BACH, with 4.9% and Fehmarn Bridge in Germany with 3.2%. Word has gotten out that the sixth place finisher will receive a rehabilitation job, which will prolong its life by 30 years and keep its symbol as the icon of Fehmarn Island.



Our last category for the 2016 Ammann Awards is for Lifetime Achievement. Unlike this year, there are two winners for this prize, one emeritus and one who is the youngest to win the awards. Eric Delony, who spearheaded efforts in preserving historic bridges through a nationwide program and was director of HABS-HAER for 32 years, received the Lifetime Achievement Emeritus Award. More on his work can be seen hereJohn Marvig became the youngest pontist to win the Lifetime Achievement thanks to his efforts in identifying, photographing and working with authorities in preserving railroad bridges in the northern part of the US. Since having his website in 2010, his focus went from railroad bridges in Minnesota and Iowa to as many as 9 states. The freshman at Iowa State University received 49.3% of the votes, outfoxing the second place finishers, Royce and Bobette Haley as well as Nick Schmiedeler. Christopher Marston finished fourth with 5.4% of the votes, which was followed by Ian Heigh (4%), Kaitlin O’shea (3.5%) and BACH Steel (2.9%).

Bull Creek Bridge in Kansas. Photo taken by Nick Schmiedeler


And with that comes the closing of one of the most intensive competitions involving historic bridges in the history of the Ammann Awards. It was one that got everyone excited from start to finish, and for many bridges, there is a ray of hope in their future as more and more officials and the communities have become interested in preserving what is left of their history for the younger generations to enjoy. For some profiled that have a questionable future, not to worry. If one person refuses to preserve, another one will step up in his place, just like the electors in the US elections. The interest in historic bridges is there and growing. And that will continue with no interruptions of any kind.

The full results of the Ammann Award results can be found in the Chronicles’ wordpress page by clicking here. Note there are two parts just like the ballots themselves. The links to the pages are also there for you to click on.


This is the last entry carrying the Jacob slogan. Since September 2016 the Chronicles has been carrying the slogan in memory of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year old boy who was kidnapped on 22 October, 1989 and subsequentially murdered. His remains were discovered in September 2016 bringing a 27-year old case to a close. The murderer has since been sentenced to 20 years in prison with a lifetime incarceration in a state mental hospital to follow. His house was demolished on Christmas Day. As the murder happened closer to home (the author originates from Minnesota), the Chronicles started its Ammann Awards nominations early and carried this unique slogan in his memory. To his parents and friends, he will be remembered as a boy with dreams that never came true, yet he came home to rest and now is the time to bridge the gaps among friends, family and acquaintences, while keeping in mind, dreams can come true only if we let them, and help them along the way to fulfilling them with success and respect.

From the next entry on, the Chronicles will be carrying its present slogan, which is an upgrade from its last one. Some changes will be coming to the Chronicles, which includes establishing a Hall of Fame for the bridges nominated for the Ammann Awards as well as other interesting parts that will be added. Stay tuned, while at the same time, have a look at some mystery bridges that are in the pipelines and are on the way. 🙂

A Tribute to Eric DeLony

Shaw Bridge at Claverack, New York. Photo courtesy of Jet Lowe of HABS/HAER

A gifted person provides society with a gift to make it better. A person with unusual talents shapes society to benefit all.


For Eric DeLony, a person with a passion for historic bridges not only leads efforts to save them but teaches and encourages bridge lovers and historians to love them and follow his lead. My first contact with him came in 2005 when I wrote my first documents for a Master’s class on American History at the University of Jena in Germany. For the next eight years, despite not being able to meet him in person due to time and travel expenses, I kept in contact with him and he provided some great insights to any topic pertaining to historic bridges, preservation and careers available. Eric was a walking encyclopedia and forefather of historic preservation. Graduating from Ohio State University in 1969, he had previously started working with industrial archaeology during his studies before landing his job as Director of the Historic American Builders Society/ Historic American Engineering Record, a job he held for over three decades while having collected vast arrays of experiences that led to the start in the program to document and preserve historic bridges in 1973, known as the Historic Bridge Program. He launched the Historic Bridge Symposium in 1983 as part of the annual Society of Industrial Archaeology Conference, which has been running successfully ever since. And lastly, he taught seminars on historic bridges and preservation. Thanks to his tireless efforts, many states have implemented their historic bridge preservation programs, which includes providing funding and incentive to local groups wanting to preserve historic bridges, marketing historic bridges and looking at techniques towards prolonging the life of historic bridges for traffic use. Indiana, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, New York and Vermont have been the leading examples in such policies which have saved at least half of the pre-1940 bridges that had existed prior to 1970. Cities, like Pittsburgh, Portland, Minneapolis and Chicago have a large swath of historic bridges preserved for use. In the face of progress, that effort is astounding if compared to the preservation policies of other countries, including some in Europe.

As we wind down our 2016 Ammann Awards and with that, the topic on 100 years of the National Park Service and 50 years of the National Register of Historic Places, we feel that Eric DeLony deserves to be honored for over 40 years of work in preserving historic bridges and guiding others like yours truly, Nathan Holth, Todd Wilson, Kitty Henderson, Kaitlin O’shea, Anne Miller, Jet Lowe and Christopher Marston to becoming successful preservationists, historians, teachers and bridgelovers. There is a reason for honoring him for Lifetime Achievement for his work.

But there is more to him than that. What got him interested in historic bridges and how did that play a key role in preservation policies in the US, which served as an example for other countries to follow?  Christopher Marston, who has worked for HABS-HAER since 1989, has known Eric for many years, both on the job as well as privately. He agreed to do a tribute to Eric as a guest writer for the Chronicles in response to a request for people to step forward in contributing to Eric’s legacy. His work includes a few important sections talking about Eric’s  career as a presevrationist and what he left behind for others to follow. Here is the guest column on Eric DeLony, which also includes a source section for you to find and read when you have some free time and are interested in knowing about this topic. Enjoy! 🙂


Eric DeLony doing preliminary field measurements on the 1870 pony truss Old Mill Road Bridge, Northampton County, PA, in 1985. The bridge was documented as part of the Pennsylvania Cast- and Wrought-Iron Bridges Recording Project in 1991. Photo courtesy of HABS HAER Collection


How you guys met
I started working for the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record in 1989, as an architect on a summer recording team in Homestead, PA, near Pittsburgh. My first project was to document and draw the 12,000 ton press (1893) at the U.S. Steel Homestead Works. I met Chief of HAER Eric DeLony in person the following summer, when I was working on the Duquesne Blast Furnace. The first bridge I documented for HAER was the 1839 Dunlap’s Creek Bridge in Brownsville, PA, the first cast-iron arch in the country, in 1992. After I joined the HAER office in Washington, DC, in October 1994, I worked directly under Eric as a project leader until he retired in 2003. Over my career, I’ve led HAER documentation projects of over one hundred individual historic bridges; parkway and railroad HAER projects included another hundred bridges.

Eric DeLony’s first HAER drawing of a bridge, as part of the Mohawk-Hudson Survey in 1969. This exploded isometric technique was used on several HAER projects to show how structures go together, especially cast- and wrought-iron bridges, Eric’s favorite. Whipple Cast & Wrought-Iron Bowstring Truss Bridge, HAER NY-4, Sheet 4, 1969.

What Eric did at HAER and elsewhere
Eric DeLony was a summer-hire architect on the very first field team of the Historic American Engineering Record, the Mohawk-Hudson Area Survey, in 1969. This ambitious project documented several sites in the Albany-Troy area, and Eric measured and created HAER drawings of the Troy Gasholder, the Whipple Bowstring Truss, and the Delaware & Hudson Canal, Delaware Aqueduct. After hiring Eric as its first full-time employee in 1971, HAER began recording a variety of other bridges as part of state surveys in Virginia, Utah, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and Florida. HAER also photographed several large railroad bridges and viaducts as part of aerial surveys of the Baltimore and Ohio and Erie railroads from 1970-72. Several of these early surveys were done with teams of students working in schools of architecture, and cosponsored by the Smithsonian Institution through the leadership of Robert Vogel.
Working with longtime colleague Prof. Emory Kemp of West Virginia University, Eric started planning the HAER Historic Bridge Program in 1973, which would become the first comprehensive national program to protect historic bridges. Through Eric’s determination, HAER developed partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and state historic preservation offices. The first goal of the program was to promote comprehensive historic bridge inventories in each state. When inventories were required by law in 1987, Eric’s initiative became a catalyst in making highway bridges the first class of historic structures to be nationally evaluated.

Freeport Bridge, one of several Wrought Iron Bridge Company structures that was preserved thanks to Eric’s efforts. Spanning the Upper Iowa River, this bowstring arch bridge, the second longest in the US, was relocated to Gunderson Park in Decorah, Iowa, where it now serves as a picnic area. Photo taken by the author in 2007

Eric recalled that when he first proposed the HAER historic bridges program, he initially received an adversarial reaction from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and state departments of transportation (DOTs). However, once DOTs realized that rehabilitation was an economical solution to maintaining bridges over replacement, and inventories revealed state’s wealth of historic bridges, some engineers were persuaded to appreciate their value. Inventories also helped states prioritize which bridges should be saved, and which older bridges could be replaced after documentation. The stipulation in the ISTEA legislation that 3% of funds go to preservation and amenities greatly helped fund the saving and rehabilitation of hundreds of historic bridges in the 1990s and 2000s.

Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota. One of many bridges that has been rehabilitated for further traffic use. It was one of 29 historic bridges that are of interest of MnDOT and MinnHisSoc. Photo taken in 2013

After the preliminary state bridge inventories were completed, HAER partnered with state DOTs to undertake HAER summer documentation projects, collaborating with a combination of national and local experts and student engineers, architects and historians. Negotiating with a variety of partners from FHWA, DOTs, and other historic groups to secure funding, these HAER state bridge recording projects started with Ohio in 1986. David Simmons of the Ohio Historical Society served as a member of the team that completed the Ohio historic bridge inventory, and as an advisor to the 1986 and 1992 HAER Ohio Historic Bridge Recording Projects. He recalled that the HAER team set up offices at the architecture studios at The Ohio State University, and assisted Eric in training the students in how to read a bridge. The team documented over a dozen bridges (both on system and off) with large format photographs and histories, and completed measured drawings on roughly half of the bridges. HAER’s interest in many of these bridges helped save them from being replaced. An example was the Zoarville Station Bridge, which was preserved with support from local private citizens’ groups. From 1987 to 2001, Eric worked with several other states to document their historic bridges and add to the HAER Collection including: New York, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, Iowa, Texas, and Illinois.

Zoarville Station Bridge in Ohio, the only Fink through truss bridge of its kind left in the US. This bridge was photographed by Nathan Holth in 2007 as it was undergoing extensive rehabilitation for reuse as a predestrian crossing

In addition to the nation’s highway bridges, the historic roads and bridges in the National Park system were also deteriorating from neglect and overuse. HAER developed a pilot project in the National Capital Region in 1988 to survey the historic and significant transportation-related structures and designed landscapes in various units of the National Park Service. With support from FHWA and NPS, this program expanded in 1989 and continued until 2002 to document national parks across the country. A sample of some of the parks where HAER employed large summer recording teams includes: Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Sequoia, Zion, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Acadia, Great Smoky, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller national parks; Skyline Drive, George Washington Memorial, Colonial, Rock Creek, Blue Ridge, Baltimore-Washington parkways; Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Gettysburg and Shiloh National Military Parks. HAER also partnered with Connecticut and New York State to record several historic parkways including: Merritt State Parkway, Taconic State Parkway, Bronx River Parkway, and the Henry Hudson Parkway.

Hogback Covered Bridge, one of thousands of covered bridges that have been preserved for use as a pedestrian crossing after a bridge was constructed alongside it. It is one of six bridges that are part of the Bridges of Madison County tour, soon to be expanded to include a couple additional metal truss bridges relocated recently. Photo taken in 2007

Eric DeLony was also vital in getting HAER involved with a third major initiative involving historic bridges and FHWA. Realizing that covered bridges were a beloved but endangered resource, Vermont Senator James Jeffords proposed legislation to identify and rehabilitate them. The National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation (NHCBP) Program was established by FHWA in 1998 through the TEA-21 transportation bill. Through Eric’s determination and foresight, HAER received research and education funding beginning in 2002 to survey and document the nation’s most significant covered bridges, as well as other educational initiatives including engineering reports, a traveling exhibition, national conferences, a national database, and nominating national historic landmarks. With the benefit of continued FHWA support, HAER National Covered Bridges Recording Project Leader Christopher Marston has continued Eric DeLony’s vision and is in the process of finalizing several research projects. This includes the publication, Covered Bridges and the Birth of American Engineering, co-edited with Justine Christianson, and dedicated to Eric DeLony. Rehabilitation Guidelines for Historic Covered Bridges will be published later in 2017.
How he brought the historic bridges to the attention of the public esp. in terms of preservation and designating them on the National Register
Eric DeLony was involved in several organizations related to bridge preservation. Eric was an active member of the Society for Industrial Archeology (SIA) from its early years, and developed the SIA Historic Bridge Symposium beginning in the early 1980s. For these events, Eric would encourage his network of experts to share their research and experience with bridge preservation initiatives. He would typically introduce the symposium with his annual “State of the Bridge” address. These were more or less annual events from 1988 in Wheeling to 2003 in Montreal, the last year Eric attended as Chief of HAER. Eric returned in 2010-11 in Colorado Springs and Seattle with the co-sponsorship of Kitty Henderson and the Historic Bridge Foundation. HBF has continued the tradition biannually, and the 25th SIA Historic Bridge Symposium was held last year in Kansas City, MO.
He was also a committee member and friend of the Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Historic Preservation and Archaeology in Transportation (ADC50) which included several professionals from state departments of transportation, SHPOs, and consultants involved in preservation issues on federally funded transportation projects. Research and best practices on preserving and maintaining historic bridges was always a major focus of the committee. As a subcontractor to Parsons Brinckerhoff, Eric co-authored with Robert Jackson, “A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types” for National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCPRP Project 25-25, Task 15) in 2005.
Not only was Eric interested in documenting historic bridges. He was also determined to see that as many structures as possible were saved and preserved. He followed through with DOTs and colleges to see that creative means could assure a bridge’s continued use. Some of these projects that Eric championed and encouraged included: the 1869 wrought-iron Henszey’s Bridge in Summerdale, PA; 1828 Blaine S-Bridge in Blaine, Ohio; the Aldrich Change Bridge in Macedon, NY, an 1858 Whipple Truss over the Erie Canal, among others.
Concurrent with the NPS Roads and Bridges projects, there was also a groundswell of interest in preserving historic roads, and related landscapes and structures. This initiative was championed by Paul Daniel Marriott, then at NTHP, and grew into the Preserving the Historic Road conferences, a biennial event that officially started in Los Angeles in 1998, with HAER as an original cosponsor. According to Marriott, “Eric appreciated that roads and bridges were intertwined. He was one of the first people to acknowledge that historic research and advocacy for historic roads. Eric DeLony was instrumental in establishing the historic roads movement.”
His involvement with HBs outside the US
As a Fulbright Scholar, Eric studied at Ironbridge with Neil Cossons in 1971-72. Eric always hired International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) foreign exchange scholars for his summer field teams beginning in 1984, which continued for approx. 25 years.
Eric was instrumental in getting HAER to collaborate with industrial archeologists and preservationists in Europe and other countries. He represented the United States at several meetings of the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH). Another issue that Eric was involved with has finally shown dividends: after several decades, the U.S. delegation has finally agreed to nominate the Brooklyn Bridge as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Eric DeLony (left) and Dario Gasparini at the Guilford Pratt truss in Howard County, Maryland by Christopher Marston in 2013

What legacy he left behind
After Eric retired and moved to Santa Fe, NM in 2003, he continued to stay involved in historic bridge preservation. He ran a private consulting business for several years, and kept up an email list of his bridge contacts, which he called “the Pontists”. That list has evolved into the Pontists LinkedIn discussion group. He also published several articles on several historic bridge topics between 2000-2008.
In 2013, Eric bequeathed several of his rare books and technical reports to establish the “Eric N. DeLony Engineering and Bridge Collection” at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, MO.
Eric DeLony was truly a pioneer in the world of historic bridge documentation, preservation, and advocacy. The 2,000+ bridges in the HAER Collection, and hundreds of examples of preserved historic bridges across the country are all a testimony to Eric’s determination and enthusiasm for saving historic bridges.


“Biographies of the Experts: Eric DeLony.” Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO website, 2008.
Eric DeLony, Landmark American Bridges. New York: American Society of Civil Engineers, 1993.
Eric DeLony, “HAER and the Recording of Technological Heritage: Reflections on 30 Years’ Work,” IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology Volume 25, Number 1 (1999): 5-28.
“Eric N. DeLony Engineering and Bridge Collection.” Linda Hall Library website.
Duncan Hay, “Eric DeLony: 2000 General Tools Award Recipient.” Society for Industrial Archeology Newsletter Volume 29, No. 2 (Summer 2000): 5-7.



Christopher Marston’s career at HABS-HAER and the benefits and setbacks towards preserving historic bridges can be seen through an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Click here for details. To him we have our thanks for his help. 🙂


2016 Author’s Choice Awards

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone. Photo taken in September 2010 when the bridge was closed to all traffic. It was torn down in 2016 after the western half of the structure collapsed. 

While voters are scrambling to cast their last-minute ballots for the 2016 Ammann Awards by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, we have a wide array of bridges that received the Author’s Choice Awards. The awards are based on the author’s selection of bridge stories that were either the most talked about or the most unique, pending on the categories here. What is even interesting about this year’s awards is that they are being given on the eve of Donald Trump taking office as the next President of the US on January 20th. As he promised to spend billions on improving infrastructure, he has no clue as to how to allocate these funds properly, let alone specify , how these new bridges are to be built, I decided to pose a challenge to him on that to see if he’s paying attention to the needs of Americans in his quest to “make America great again.” You will see that in one of the categories…..


So without further ado, let’s have a look at the winners of these awards and their runners up…..


Most Spectacular Disaster:



Wagon Wheel Bridge in Iowa

The Wagon Wheel Bridge is the tragedy story of 2016, but started in September 2015. We had an arsonist set fire to the planks which set the motion for its demise. In February 2016, floating chunks of ice in the Des Moines River rammed the western half of the bridge, tilting the already tilting cylindrical steel piers even further and creating an “S” shape in the structure. The last nail in the coffin was the collapse of one of the middle spans in March. While a pair of eyewitnesses saw the event live while fishing, neither of them were hurt.  The wrecked span and the westernmost span were removed in June, but not before saving a pair of planks awaiting display at a local historical society in Minnesota. The rest of the spans- including the longest of the 730-foot bridge- were removed shortly before Christmas.   The Wagon Wheel Bridge represented a tragedy in two parts: There was tragedy because of Mother Nature and there was tragedy because of years of neglect. While Boone County was relieved of its liability, its next step is to preserve its legacy in a form of a memorial or exhibit. That has yet to be seen.



Tappan Zee Bridge in New York

During work on the replacement of the 1952 cantilever truss span over the Hudson River at Tarrytown, a crane located at one of the towers of the new bridge collapsed, falling onto the old structure, stopping all traffic in both directions for hours. No casualties were reported, but one of the propane truck drivers travelling eastbound barely missed the crane by feet! Luckily, the old structure, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2018 after the new bridge is open to traffic, sustained no damage to the super structure but minor damage to the railings on the deck the crane fell. The cause of the collapse was high winds. It was a close call and one that brings up the question of strength and effectiveness of truss bridges as they appear to be gaining favor over cable-stayed and modern beam bridges, for many reasons.



Suspension Bridge in Bali:

We had several bridge disasters on the international scale this year. The Lembogan-Ceningan Bridge was the worst of them. Built in the 1980s, this suspension bridge collapsed under a weight of pedestrians and motorcyclists who were participating in a Hindu ceremony on October 16th. Nine people were killed and scores of others were injured. The cause of the collapse was a combination of too many people, which exceeded the weight limit, and design flaws. The collapse rekindled two disasters that we’ll be commemorating this year: The 50th anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse over the Ohio River and the 10th anniversary of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis. Both bridges had design flaws that caused their failures respectively.



Mahad Bridge in Mumbai, India:

India had two major bridge failures in 2016- the Kolkatta Flyover which killed 23 people and this one, spanning the Savitri River between Mumbai and the State of Goa. This one was far worse, as the stone arch and steel structure that dated back to Colonial British rule collapsed under the pressure of floodwaters, taking with it two busses full of passengers. Nine lives were lost including one of the two bus drivers. Dozens were injured and at least 20 had been reported missing. The bridge collapse combined natural disasters with inadequate bridge design and lack of maintenance, both of which were brought up to the national government afterwards.


Biggest Bonehead Story:


Broadway Bridge in Little Rock:

How many attempts does a person need to demolish a bridge? For the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, one needed three to bring down a steel arch bridge in 1987 in favor of the current suspension bridge. That bridge was 100 years old at the time of its demise. For the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas, a multiple span arch bridge featuring a 1974 tied arch main span plus multiple span concrete closed spandrel arch approaches built in 1893, one needed EIGHT attempts! Very lame attempts to not only justify the bridge’s weaknesses prior to the demolition by government officials, but also in demolishing the structure through implosions. The bridge was finally brought down with the crane for the eighth and final time. Yet the epic failures did raise a question of whether the bridge was THAT functionally obsolete and whether the new tied arch bridge will survive as long as the downed span. I don’t think so…..

Photo courtesy of Dr. Benita Martin. Link:


Two-Mile Creek Bridge near Hatfield, AK:

2016 started off with the demolition of this through truss bridge over Two-Mile Creek, the last of its kind in Polk County, by an oversized truck with trailer!!! The bridge was replaced in quick time, being opened by November! Thanks, dude for your ignorance!



Chemnitz Viaduct in Germany:

As part of the plan to modernize the rail track between Kassel (Hesse) and Chemnitz (Saxony) via Erfurt, Jena and Glauchau, the German Railways are trying to replace a 120+ year old historic bridge that is perfectly in good enough form to last another 120 years. Its replacement proposal: An open spandrel steel arch bridge with very little aesthetic value. Good thing the people in Chemnitz are speaking out against that proposal and for restoring one of only a handful of pre-1939 landmarks in Chemnitz. But will their voices be heard? Die Bahn macht man mobil!



Eisenbahnviadukt in Linz, Austria:

Linz’s mayor Klaus Luger had it his way when he campaigned for the 1912 three span bridge spanning the Danube River to be demolished and 70% of the Linz community voted for it. However, haste made waste when one of the three spans, removed from the river and on a hydraulic lift, collapsed! That span was to be reused as part of an a plan for a park. This put the last nails in the coffin regarding any chance of saving the bridge’s legacy. Luger must’ve really hated the bridge enough to see it to a recycling complex.


Hamilton County Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon

Best Use of a Restored Historic Bridge-

Molly’s Landing Bridges along Historic US 66:

While the historic bridges in Oklahoma are dwindling rapidly every year, a successful attempt was made to relocate one of the twins of the Bird Creek Bridge. Slated for demolition in 2012, Russ White, owner of Molly’s Landing found a creative way of saving the 1936 spans for their complex near the Verdigris. This led to Roger’s Landing to take the remaining spans of the bridge some time later. While the Bird Creek Bridges are no longer on Route 66, one can see them on display not far apart from each other.


Runner Up:

The Bridge at Strawtown Koteewi Park and White River Campground in Hamilton County, Indiana.

This was almost a toss-up between this bridge and Molly’s Landing. But the bridge in Hamilton County definitely deserved at least runner-up of this award because engineers and park officials managed to import three historic bridges from three different counties to form a 285-foot long super span, featuring a Pratt through truss, a Whipple through truss and a rebuilt deck girder span connecting the two spans! Indiana has been well-known for restoring and reusing historic bridges, yet this one takes bridge preservation to new levels.


Worst example of reusing a Historic Bridge:

B.B. Comer Bridge in Alabama: The multi-span cantilever through truss bridge was demolished earlier this year, after officials in Alabama rejected a proposal to even talk about preserving the 1930 span. As compensation, ALDOT offered one of the bridge’s portal bracings to be erected at a park near the bridge. If this was compensation or a strategy to save Governor Bentley’s “legacy” in the face of scandals he was facing at that time, here a simple Denglish term to keep in mind: “Ziemlich Lame!”and “Opfer eines F**k- ups!”

Photo taken by Victor Rocha. Link:

Best Find of a Historic Bridge-


Bridge to Nowhere in San Gabriel Mountains (California):

California is well known for its multiple-span concrete open spandrel arch bridges, especially along Highway 101. However, this bridge, located near Azusa, can only be accessed by foot! Built in 1936, the bridge was abandoned after a mudslide blocked the key highway between San Gabriel Valley and Wrightwood in March 1938. Today, the bridge can be reached by foot, although it is seen as a liability because of a high rate of fatalities. The US Forest Service owns the bridge and has been working together with local groups on how to minimize it. Nevertheless, the bridge has a unique background worth seeing.

Lungwitz Viaduct spanning a creek and major street in Glauchau (Saxony). Photo taken in 2016


The Bridges of Glauchau (Saxony), Germany:

The author visited this community in the summer 2016 and was quite impressed with its bridges. While the town is located along the Zwickauer Mulde, which is laden with modern bridges, most of the arch bridges dating back to the 1800s and earlier are located either along the railroad line, or on the hill spanning gulches and moats at or near the city’s two castles. Very atypical for a city in a river valley, where normal historic bridges would be located.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

Röhrensteg in Zwickau, Germany:

The Bridge of Pipes is the oldest of Zwickau’s bridges. It is also the most unique because of its design and function. It has two different truss spans- one per side- two different portal bracings and until 70 years ago, used to transport water over the river from Reinsdorf to Zwickau’s city center using wooden pipes! This was one multi-functional bridge and despite getting a much-needed facelift, one of the key landmarks people should see while in Zwickau.


Russia’s bridges:

With that, I have a “Denkzettel” for Donald Trump with regards to another runner-up, the bridges of Russia, according to the magazine Russia Today. The author there found some very unique and fancy bridges- some rolling back bridge types that had been scrutinized by many bridge engineers and politicians and some that are pure eye-openers. Donald Trump vowed to invest billions of dollars in funding to improve the infrastructure and build great bridges. How can he do that? He should use the playbook of the bridge types that have been rendered useless in the past but are being used in other countries. That means if he wants to make America great again, he needs some signature structures like the Bollmann Bridge in Savage, MD, The Hulton Bridge near Pittsburgh and even the arch bridges along California’s coast. If he continues the policies of building cable-stayed bridges, like the Kit Carson Bridge in Kansas City or the Fort Steuben Bridge near Wheeling, WV, he will make America blander and more boring than it is right now. So Mr. Trump, I challenge you to make America Great by not only preserving our American heritage and history but also build your fancy bridges that we want to see for generations to come. Put the Twitter down and get to work. Any ugliness on the landscape and we will make sure these eyesores are gone at the same time as you are, which will be much quicker than you think. If Russia and China can do it and the Europeans can preserve their past heritage, so can the United States of America, the Republic to which it stands, one nation, under God and under several prophets from Jesus Christ to Muhammad to Siddartha Buddha, indivisible, with liberty, justice and equality to all, regardless of preference.


And now to the Ammann Award results………