Funding for Green Bridge Raised- Restoration to Proceed

Photo taken in 2013

DES MOINES, IOWA-  March 2013: The Green Bridge, officially known as the 5th Avenue or Jackson Street Bridge, was closed to all traffic- cyclists and pedestrians alike. The reason: Structural deterioration, especially among the pinned connections combined with concerns involving the restoration efforts that occurred 20 years ago, after the 1898 structure was converted to recreational traffic. There were worries that the work of art, courtesy of George E. King, who had his bridge building business in Des Moines at around the turn of the century, would end up like the YMCA Riverfront Building and the Methodist Hospital- a pile of rubble!

October 2015- two years later: After two years of efforts and contributions by people of all aspects, the Green Bridge will be rebuilt, thanks to a total of $2.3 million that was raised by the Save the Green Bridge organization through businesses, residents, cyclists, historians, and even bridge-lovers. Even the local bridge company, Jensen Construction contributed in the cause with the bridge inspection which revealed that it could be rehabilitated and reused for less money than the cost for demolition and replacement.

As part of the accomplished goal, Confluence Brewery, located in Des Moines’ southside near the bridge, is producing and selling the Bridge Builder’s Ale, a special beer that is scheduled to be on sale today. A special event will take place this evening at the Brewery, with proceeds going to the new lighting on the bridge. With the money raised and then some, plans are in the work to reconstruct the bridge by building a new deck with some observation points, strengthening the piers, and repairing the steel parts of the bridge. This will be underway come next year with the bridge being reopened by 2017.  The Chronicles will feature an interview to provide more information on the fund-raising efforts and the plans to revitalize the bridge after being closed for two years. This will be featured very soon.

To sum up the efforts to save the Green Bridge, Des Moines has lost some great architectural works during the years the structure was closed off to all traffic. Apart from the CGW Railroad Bridge being removed in 2014 and the historic riverside retaining wall near the Martin Luther King Bridge being replaced, 2015 brought forth the loss of the Younkers Building because of fire a year earlier, the historic Methodist Hospital and the YMCA Riverside Building to implosion. And while Younkers was a loss that was out of the hands of the City, the loss of the Y and Methodist Hospital could have been avoided. Yet its sequential implosions in both buildings provided a good tune to the song by ELO entitled “Don’t Let Me Down.” And while the demolition contractor may be a big fan of the 70s rock group, he will be disappointed to know that the song has a true meaning for a landmark that the majority of Des Moines have fought hard to save- a rarity that does not deserve to be brought down; a rarity that will reopen soon. That means the song will go on, and the demo contractor will have to perfect his ELO song elsewhere. 😉

You can still donate to the bridge project byusing this link:

Interview to follow, click on the highlighted links for more video and info…..


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Linz Railroad Bridge to be Demolished

The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider

The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider

69% of the voters want a new bridge. Demolition and replacement to commence soon.

LINZ, AUSTRIA- The elections in Linz and the region of Upper Austria brought a lot of surprises as far as results are concerned, with the Austrian Volkspartei and the Free Democrats taking the first two places and the political mentality shifting right. The mentality of the citizens of Linz seems to in the right as well, as the majority of the population voted to say good-bye to the old lady over the Danube River today.

After nearly two years of campaigning for and against a new bridge, 68.1% of the population voted in favor of demolishing the three-span curved Whipple through truss bridge, which had been serving traffic for over a century. Already, Linz’s mayor Klaus Luger had already started planning for a new crossing, whose construction is scheduled to begin sometime next year and is expected to last 2-3 years. The new crossing will be a three-span tied-arch bridge with Warren truss features, providing six lanes of traffic including rail and bike lanes. The question was whether a two-bridge solution would be realistic in financial terms. Today’s vote sent a clear message, favoring Luger’s campaign to remove the old structure and put his prized work in its new place.

However, the bridge, which had its Historic Significance status removed by the Austrian Heritage Office last year, may have an afterlife, for plans are in the making to convert the center span into a floating park, resting on pontoons and located adjacent to the new bridge. Whether this plan of salvaging one of the three spans will bear fruit depends on the amount of money and support available. Yet the plan will be similar to the proposal to convert the truss spans of the eastern half of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge into passive housing. The 1936 bridge has been replaced with a cable-stayed span and is being dismantled for that purpose.

Still after years of effort, it appears that the majority would like to see the bridge go, as it has lived its useful life. And while the group and other preservationists are still asking why, they can be given credit for getting the message out there, and receiving as much support despite fighting a battle that is now lost.  One can hope that a small part of history can be saved and reused as a marker indicating how important the bridge was to the history of Linz as well as civil engineering.

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Vote on the Linz Railroad Bridge on 27 September

All photos courtesy of the City of Linz

Photo courtesy of the City of Linz

Vote on the Two-Bridge-Solution to determine the bridge’s fate

LINZ, AUSTRIA- After countless debates and arguments for and against the demolition of a key landmark in the city of Linz, citizens will go to the polls to decide whether to keep the 115-year old Linz Railroad Bridge over the Danube River and have a replacement span alongside it, or to send it off in a pile of rubble. The vote will take place tomorrow and the Chronicles will inform you of the results once they have them. Planners on both sides have been working on proposals on converting the old bridge into a pedestrian- bike trail crossing on one hand, but also a new structure to accommodate all traffic on the other. Arguments for saving the bridge include keeping its structural integrity and integrating it into the cityscape of Linz, while showing people the history of bridge and its contribution during the age of industrialization. Together with the Styregg Bridge, they are the only two Danube crossings in Linz that are more than 110 years old, with the former still serving rail traffic despite turning 130 years old this year. The Austrian Railways, which used to share the bridge with vehicular traffic, has not used the Railroad Bridge since 2013, thus clearing the way for the repurposing proposal.  Opponents have claimed that the cost for renovating the bridge and re-purposing it for recreational use would be more than the cost of a one-bridge solution. In addition, claims of the structure’s instability and it being closed to traffic during the winter instead of salting the roadway were brought up recently during several meetings between both parties. And despite this practice existing in the United States, realigning the roadway would be an inconvenience, according to opponents.

Nevertheless, there are enough arguments for and against the bridge, some of which can also be seen in the videos below. It is more of the question of not only the number of voters going to the polls, but also if the heart lies with keeping the old lady for generations to come or if it is time to let it go. No matter the result though, construction of the new bridge will take 2-3 years to complete with or without the steel bridge in its place.

Here are the videos of the campaign for saving the bridge and voting for the two bridge solution:

An interview was conducted a year ago with the Save the Bridge Initiative, which you can click here for details.



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BB Comer Bridge Update: Economic Impact of Tourism Study Arrives.

BB Comer Bridge in Jackson County, AL.  Photo taken by David Kennamer and submitted by Julie Bowers

BB Comer Bridge in Jackson County, AL. Photo taken by David Kennamer and submitted by Julie Bowers

SCOTSBORO, ALABAMA- While the fire that destroyed the Full Throttle Saloon complex near Sturgis, South Dakota made headlines, espcially because of the magnitude of the blaze and the damage it inflicted on the complex’s two restored historic bridges, another headline quietly made the scene at the same time and is being posted here, despite its tardiness. This is a press release provided by the BB Comer Bridge Foundation on the Economic Impact Study on the Preservation of the BB Comer Bridge (info on the bridge here).

The study, written by Anthony Dixon, Ph.D. was funded in part by a grant from the
National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) in March, 2015. The 37 page study
was delivered to Comer Bridge Foundation and NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges on
Frday, September 4, 2015. “The study was requested because, although, inherently
the our groups know that retaining the bridge will sustain itself through hospitality,
retail and events, we didn’t know how it will effect Scottsboro and Jackson County
revenues and we are delighted to read the results,” stated Charles Holderfield,
President of Comer Bridge Foundation. “We still have to finish paying for the
report and feel that will be easier when everyone can read what it has to say about
the potential to Save Our Bridge.”
“We read report to say the best outcome is a public / private partnership that can
conduct the events throughout the years and if that is followed benefits from 1 to 3
million dollars in new money to the area is possible. The study looked only at the
impact of tourism events and “new” visitors to the area. The numbers were figured
using conservative, moderate and very conservative estimates. The highlight of the
report was the real boost that a trail that was able to use the Comer Bridge would
bring to the area, and that surprised us. Given that the study will be very important
to the Land Trust of Northern Alabama and to adjacent counties looking at those
same benefits.”
This study will be presented as a whole to the City of Scottsboro and Jackson
County in their working sessions later in September, but in the interest of time, the group
wants everyone to have as much access to the document. We are seeking input
input through social media and the website and any questions will be answered to
the best of our abilities.
“The removal of the bridge is being planned, I had a call from HRI the contractor
just the other week – they are hoping to avoid blowing it up which is a great thing.
The Tourism Authority is one way to stop the planned demolition and to start the
process of rejuvenation of the area because we don’t have a place for this bridge to
be moved. Sure a span or two could go elsewhere but this bridge is one of
Alabama’s Treasures, it was placed on the 2015 Places in Peril. This report didn’t go
into conclusions of what should be done, just what might be achieved if people
were to understand that it is a resource and not beyond it’s time, stated Julie
Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA. “We are doing work in many states and
this report is quite exciting to our other bridge friends who want to rebuild to retain
our rural heritage.”

The copy of the final report can be accessed via link below. Questions can be referred to Charles Holderfield at 256.486.0442 or Julie Bowers at 641.260.1262.


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In Pursuit of the Truth


Honesty is a commodity that is lacking in society today- Why love when we can cheat? Why donate when we can steal? Why talk when we can be silent? Why be selfless when we can be selfish? Why present our fears to others when we can hide them?  Why present our success based on our own merits when we can plagarize others? Why agree with someone when we can violate their rights? Why help others when we can hurt them? Why be honest when we can lie?

It is not in our nature to take for our own pleasure, nor is it in our nature to spit on the food that is given by others, nor ignore the culture of others, nor destroy what is theirs just so we can build something that is ours for a limited time.

If honesty is based on the number of trophies we have on our walls, the amount of friends on facebook, the number of awards accrued, and the amount of fame in the media, then there is something wrong with us.

Because after all, we are all humans- in pursuit of the truth; in pursuit of the reason for our existence; in pursuit of what is planned out for us; in pursuit of our own happiness through our own charity….

But this all comes at the cost of our own greed and selfishness, which can destroy us as much as it can destroy society in general…

And with that, the truth about ourselves.

So on this day, let’s take a minute to honor not only those who have made a difference for the good of society, but also ourselves for finding the truth about ourselves and making use of it for the benefit of others. We have a lot to be proud of, more than what we have done to our neighbors. We as brave souls, were placed here on this Earth are here for a reason, and that is the only goal we should be pursuing. But we must also remember, each of us have a sense of good to help our neighbors and those in need, even if those we help try to hurt us. We are all friends, all family, all in pursuit of one commodity that we seem to forget,

….and that is the truth.

The Flensburg Files and sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to dedicate this in honor of those whose lives were cut short by the terror attacks of 11 September 2001. While we still don’t know exactly what caused these attacks, we do know that our lives have changed in ways we never dreamed of. We’re now living in the world of the unknown, where the truth is the only powerful weapon to defeat those who changed the world forever. We may not know in our lifetime how this happened, but the truth will come out eventually, which if so, it will set our society free of tyranny, bring closure to this tragic event, and set us free both as a person as well as in spirit. 

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Full Throttle Saloon Destroyed By Fire

Photos taken by James McCray after the relocation to Full Throttle Saloon

Bridges severely damaged in the fire- future in doubt

STURGIS, SOUTH DAKOTA-  A key icon symbolizing the great American bike trip is gone, and with it, most likely two symbols of America’s architectural past.  The Full Throttle Saloon, the world’s largest biker bar and one of the key meeting points of the annual Motorcycle Rally that takes place every summer in August, was lost by a great fire early this morning (September 8th). Fire crews were called to the site at 12:30am (Mountain Standard Time) or 8:30am Berlin Time this morning when smoke was coming out of the building. Despite attempts by the firemen to put out the smoke and flames inside the building, they were forced to battle the fire from outside, when the heat and smoke became too unbearable. Thanks to high winds and a possible gas line leak, the building complex was engulfed in flames at 2:30am and collapsed a half hour later, according to reports from the fire department and local news. No one was injured in the fire, nor was there anyone in the locked building at the time of the fire. The building complex and all its relics and symbols were considered a total loss. The Rapid City Journal has a gallery of photos taken after the fire, which can be viewed here.  Many videos were posted of the fire, but this one below shows the damage to one of the bridges and its decking:

As far as the two bridges are concerned, their futures are in doubt, as fire burned away the wood decking of both spans, leaving a truss superstructure standing. This is the first time since 2013 that a fire did considerable damage to a historic steel truss bridge. The Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa was set ablaze during the Historic Bridge Weekend in August 2013, causing significant damage to the bridge decking and bridge parts. That bridge has since been repaired and is being used as a venue for summer open-air concerts. The two bridges damaged by the Full Throttle Saloon fire were each built in 1912 and had spanned the Belle Fourche River before being relocated to the Saloon in 2008, to be used as an observatory deck for concerts and other events. Both bridges were built by the Canton Bridge Company in Ohio and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The difference between the two is the length and bridge type. The shorter span, measured at 79 feet, is a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings, decorated with X-lattice at the top- typical of the Canton bridges. The longer span is a Pennsylvania Petit with A-frame portal bracings and V-laced vertical posts. The bridge is approximately 200 feet long.

While the cause of the fire is being investigated by the state fire marshal, scores of letters of support are being poured in on the Saloon’s website and facebook pages in hopes that the place will be rebuilt. Whether and how this will happen, let alone whether these two bridges will be reconstructed or converted to scrap metal will depend on a series of inspections to be conducted by engineers and other architectural experts. These will be conducted in the coming months. But for now, tourists, bikers and bridge enthusiasts are mourning the loss of one of the most popular gatherings in the country, littered with vintage signs and other items that had once provided a nostalgia of a now bygone era, where the biker can pack little but travel cross country to see the wild west, stopping at places like this one for a good beer and good company. For many, Full Throttle will be missed, but another better one will take its place. And hopefully, the bridges and the salvageable can be used as part of a bigger meeting point for bikers.

Note: The Full Throttle Saloon won the Amman Awards for the Best Example of Historic Bridge Reuse in 2011. It was also the site of the 75th annual Motorcycle Rally this year. More on that here. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the future of Full Throttle after the blaze. You can visit their facebook page to provide them with some support for rebuilding the facility.

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The Bridges of New Ulm, Minnesota

6th Street Overpass in New Ulm. Photo taken by the author in 2010

Going back to the series on Ulm and New Ulm with sister column The Flensburg Files, we will take a look at the bridges in the American counterpart. Located along the Minnesota River at the junction of the Big Cottonwood River, New Ulm, with a population of 13,400, has some of the characteristics of Main Street USA. Yet as you pass through, everything you see is German, from names to buildings and monuments, as well as the market square and the Oktoberfest.

New Ulm is served by two key highways: Minnesota Hwy. 15 between St. Cloud and Iowa going north to south, and US Hwy. 14 between Mankato and Rochester in the east and Walnut Grove and Brookings to the west. The railroad line owned by Canadian Pacific runs parallel to this highway. These highways and railroad had once made New Ulm a key trading center when it was established in 1854 and rebuilt after the Dakota War of 1862. With that came the crossings along the Minnesota and Cottonwood Rivers, which helped serve this purpose. Today, the highways are modernized and with that, longer and wider bridges to serve traffic- at least for the east-west route as New Ulm and Mankato are located only 15 miles from each other, making commuting easier. Yet many traces of history can also be found mainly to the south of New Ulm, where historic bridges once stood but today only a pair of vintage railroad bridges are still standing. This guide takes you through the city of New Ulm and the historic bridges that had once existed but have been replaced. The purpose is to remind visitors of their existence and the bridge companies that were responsible for turning New Ulm into a city of commerce, a title still held as proudly today as its German heritage. Most of the bridges profiled are located to the south and east, with a pair of outlyers to the north. You can find them on this map, when clicking here.

6th Street Arch Underpass:

The stone arch bridge spans 6th Street North, carrying the Canadian Pacific Railroad. The 38 foot long stone arch bridge was constructed in 1909 and had originally served both the east-west route (owned by CP) and a north-south route which was once owned by the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad. That line connected New Ulm with Winthrop (in the north) and Storm Lake, Iowa (in the south) until its abandonment in 1970. The bridge now only serves the CP route, but it serves as a key entrance to German Park, located just to the west of this bridge in the northern part of the business district.

12th Street Overpass in New Ulm. Photo taken by John Marvig in September 2011, shortly afterwards it was replaced.

12th Street Overpass: 

This bridge is located at the far end of New Ulm, spanning 12th Street North, carrying CP Railroad. Built in 1911, the 30-foot bridge featured a plate girder decorated with wooden railties. However, due to structural concerns, the bridge was replaced with a combination steel and concrete structure in 2012. It still serves traffic today.

Redstone Bridge (side view). Photo taken by John Marvig in January 2013

Redstone Railroad Bridge

Located over the Minnesota River opposite the city center, the Redstone Bridge is the longest of the bridges in New Ulm and one of the longest of the railroad bridges spanning the Minnesota River. The 880 foot long bridge, consisting of two quadrangular truss spans with Town Lattice portal bracings and a 207-foot long swing span built of Pratt design and featuring a beam-style with heels portals, was built in 1880 by the Leighton Bridge and Iron Works Company in New York. It originally served the main line of Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, connecting New Ulm and St. Peter. However, the line was detoured in 1971 to have it connected with Mankato, thus rendering the line to St. Peter useless. The bridge still serves rail traffic but only to the quarry near the Courtland Cutoff before it terminates. The piers of the swing span was reinforced with concrete in 2014 to stabilize the structure, but overall, the bridge is still in use and maintains its historic significance. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Portal view of the approach span. Photo taken by John Marvig in May 2015


DM&E Cottonwood River Railroad Bridge west of the Minnesota River in New Ulm. Photo taken by John Marvig in May 2015

D,M&E Cottonwood River Railroad Bridge:

Located only a half mile northwest of Redstone Bridge, the Cottonwood River crossing is the longest bridge over the Cottonwood River (and the last crossing before its confluence with the Minnesota River only 600 feet to the east) at 733 feet total. The bridge features two quadrangular truss main spans with A-frame portal braces, each measured at 157 feet, with the rest being wooden trestle approach spans. These were replaced with concrete and steel trestle spans in 2009. The bridge was built in 1913, using the piers of the 1890 span, which had deteriorated to a point where replacement was necessary. The bridge continues to serve rail traffic to Mankato today, for it is the main line served by Canadian Pacific Railroad. 

Poor Farm Bridge before its replacement. Photo courtesy of HABS HAER

Poor Farm Bridge before its replacement. Photo courtesy of HABS HAER

Poor Farm Bridge:

Located just west of MN Hwy. 15 on Cottonwood Street, Poor Farm Bridge represented a lone example of a bridge built by the Security Bridge Company based in Billings, Montana. The structure was built in 1907 and featured a pin-connected Pratt through truss with Howe lattice portal bracings with heel bracings, with a total measurement of 155 feet. The bridge continued to serve traffic until a cracked eyebar in the bottom chord led to its closure in February 1991. It was replaced with its present structure 3 years later.  Had the advancement of historic bridge preservation been as predominant as it is right now, chances would have been likely that this bridge would have been standing, serving light traffic or at least be used as a pedestrian crossing. But the lack of technology pertaining to fixing broken iron and steel beams contributed to its demise.

Portal view with the builder's plaque. Photo courtesy of HABS HAER

Portal view with the builder’s plaque. Photo courtesy of HABS HAER

Courtland Cutoff 1

Courtland Cutoff Bridge

Located over the Minnesota River 300 feet north of the present 20th Street Bridge, the Courtland Cutoff Bridge featured two Pratt through truss spans with Town lattice portal bracings supported by 45° heels. The bridge’s end posts and vertical posts were both V-laced, and it appeared to be built of iron. Although there are no records as to who built the 1892 bridge, the portal bracings and the builders plaques are typical of that built by Massilion Bridge Company in Ohio. But more information is needed to confirm this argument. The 335-foot bridge served traffic until 1978, when the present bridge was built on a new alignment. By 1980, the bridge was moved to the history books with the parts being reused for other purposes. Today, like the truss bridge, the Courtland Cutoff serves as a shortcut to Mankato without having to drive through down town New Ulm.

Courtland Cutoff 2



Metzen Bridge:

Spanning the Cottonwood River east of the present Hwy. 15 crossing, the Metzen Bridge was built in 1880 and named after a nearby farm that had existed since the establishment of New Ulm in 1854. The bridge was built in 1880 and represents an example of a typical Wrought Iron Bridge Company bridge with its ornamental Town Lattice portal bracings and builder’s plaques. The 441-foot bridge featured a pin-connected Whipple through truss span (148 feet) and steel approach spans. Until 1932, the bridge was the primary crossing for Hwy. 15 going south of New Ulm. After a new crossing was built on a new alignment 700 feet to the west, the ownership of the Metzen Bridge was switched over to the city, which owned it until its removal in 1981. The bridge originally was located where Shag Road makes a sharp right going north and east towards the Cottonwood River Railroad Bridge. It originally was called Bridge Street because of the bridge. Yet Bridge Street terminates nears the Jensen Motors site, 250 feet north of the bridge. Had the bridge been standing, it would have been listed on the National Register because of its rare truss design. Ideally, it would have an excellent crossing for a bike trail leaving New Ulm going either south or along the Cottonwood.



Hwy 15 B 1

Broadway Avenue Bridge (Hwy. 15)

Built in 1932 replacing the Metzen Bridge, the Broadway Avenue Bridge featured a continuous deck truss design using a combination Howe and Pratt designs. The connections were riveted. At 66o feet, the bridge was the second longest along the Cottonwood River. It was built on a new alignment alongside the Milwaukee Viaduct, a steel viaduct built in 1899 that had served the New Ulm-Madelia-Fairmont line until 1971. The purpose was to eliminate the dangerous curves presented by the Metzen Bridge, making the straightened road safer for travellers entering and leaving New Ulm. This was kept in mind in 1983, when the bridge was replaced with its present structure.


Hwy 15 B 2



Flandrau State Park Bridge (CSAH 13)

Together with the Minnesota River Crossing at Hwys. 14 and 15, the Flandrau Bridge represented a classic example of a multiple span steel truss bridge built by the Illinois Steel Bridge Company. This bridge was built in 1921 and featured a two-span Camelback truss bridge with A-frame portal bracing and riveted connections. It provided travellers with a direct access to Flandrau State Park from the south until its replacement in 1962.



Hwy. 14 Minnesota River Bridge

Together with the Flandrau State Park Bridge, this bridge was built by the Illinois Steel Company in 1922. It featured a Parker through truss main span with two Warren pony truss approach spans (all with riveted connections), totalling a span of 350 feet. The A-frame portal bracings were replaced with Howe lattice portal bracings in 1939 to accomodate the increasing height of trucks crossing the Minnesota River going in and out of New Ulm. In 1963, as part of the plan to widen the highway to four lanes, the bridge was replaced with its present structure. Today, the crossing still serves Hwy. 14 between New Ulm and Mankato as well as Hwy. 15 between New Ulm and St. Cloud, providing New Ulm with commerce from the north and east.



This article is part of a series on the cities of New Ulm, Minnesota and Ulm/ Neu Ulm, Germany, produced together with sister column, The Flensburg Files. To access the articles in the series, please click on the symbols for access….

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Many thanks to Pete Wilson from Minnesota Department of Transportation for his help in finding some information and photos on the bridges, as well as John Marvig for allowing the author to use some of his photos. 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 60: Unusual Howe Lattice Truss Bridges

Photos taken by MnDOT

Photos taken by MnDOT

Our 60th mystery bridge ironically runs parallel to a highway bearing the same number running through another Minnesota county- Blue Earth! The exceptions though are the following:

  • These are two unusual bridges that have long since been recycled for reuse- at least three times over the course of 35+ years, and
  • They are located in the southern part of the county, whereas the major expressway is in the northern half, where Mankato, Lake Crystal and Janesville are located.

The bridges are similar in length and width, but the designs are rather strange. They both feature a Howe truss design but resembling a Howe Lattice portal bracing of a through truss bridge, like these bridges:

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

Kelly Lane Bridge in Harrison County, Iowa. Photo  courtesy of Craig Guttau, used with permission

Salisbury Bridge in Meeker County. Photo taken in December 2010

Salisbury Bridge in Meeker County. Photo taken in December 2010

The engineer behind the construction of the bridges- each being built in 1911 shortly before the standardized truss designs were implemented- used light steel, supported by thick gusset plates as seen in the pictures below:



Also noticeable were the diagonal outer beams supporting the trusses  to ensure that the trusses remained stable when the cars crossed them. This unusual contraption leads the historian to believe that despite the building date being 1911, that the truss bridges consisted of parts from an even bigger truss bridge or larger building that had existed. It was not rare to have truss bridges constructed using steel parts from old buildings, as is seen today with the bowstring arch bridges at Kent Park in Johnson County as well as the ones built in 1945-6 in Crawford County– both in Iowa. All of them are still in service serving light weight traffic. This is even more noticeable as the connections seemed to be welded together instead of pin-connected or even riveted.

Sadly, both bridges are long gone. As you can see in the links, one bridge over the slough portion of the Maple River south of Mapleton was replaced in 1978, the other east of Amboy spanning Rice Creekwas replaced in 1980. Still a lot of mysteries are left over from the bridges- namely who built the bridges and how were they built. Even more curious is whether the construction date of 1911 for both bridges were given by the bridge inventory or if they were relocated or reassembled at an unknown time.

Any ideas? Put them here in the contact form and we’ll add them to the database in the website, where the bridges are posted. More Blue Earth County bridges will come later on, as the numbers are huge and many bridges have a history of their own.

Happy Bridgehunting and researching! :-)

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 59: An Undiscovered Waddell Truss

Photos courtesy of MnDOT

Photos courtesy of MnDOT

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

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

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

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


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

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Film Feature: The Building of the Fehmarn Bridge in Germany

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In the past 5-7 years, we have seen an increase in the number of films and documentaries that were either produced by public TV stations for live viewing, or had been produced years back but were recently discovered and posted on several video platforms, among them, YouTube. Many of them feature structures that are well known on a regional scale but not as well-known on a national or even international scale. Therefore, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will feature a Film Feature looking at the structure, either in terms of construction and/or significance or in some cases, disaster which engineers can learn from. Most of these film features will be placed under the page Literature of the Week under the subcategory Films and Documentaries, although a separate page is being considered, should the Film Feature receive numerous views and other accolades.


While digging up some information on ways to save this bridge, I came across a documentary produced over 50 years ago on this important crossing. The Fehmarn Bridge connects Germany with Fehmarn Island and is part of the Migratory Route connecting Hamburg and Copenhagen. Built in 1963, the bridge was the first one in the world that used a now-very common construction type- the basket handle tied-arch bridge. The bridge is one of two major centerpieces at the center of one of the biggest controversies in Europe, where the German Railways, German Government and the Danish Government are pushing for two tunnels and an expressway through the island of Fehmarn. However, the plan has been met with stiff opposition from politicians, locals, evnironmentalists and even bridge enthusiasts. More on the story can be found by clicking on the links below:

The Fight to Save Fehmarn Island from Progress (Flensburg Files)

Fehmarn Bridge (The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles)

But if there was another reason why such a project should be reconsidered has to do with the motive behind building the Fehmarn Bridge in the first place. The bridge was supposed to provide a key link to the island with the option of including ferry service from the island to Denmark, yet as small and environmentally sensitive as the island is, the roadway was reduced to only two lanes- the railroad line, only one track. It took 5-6 years to construct this important crossing, and this with all the factors involved: weather, wave currents and environmental factors which led to some careful efforts to build a structure that will last, but will little impact on the island. Here’s the 48-minute documentary looking at the construction of the bridge from start to finish. Even though the language of the film is in German, the film and photos speak more volumes than what is mentioned.

Viel Spaß beim Anschauen des Filmes! :-)

To conclude this film feature, I would like to show you another film of the train trip to Fehmarn Island via Fehmarn Bridge. By even looking ahead towards the bridge and crossing it, it gives vacationers like me another incentive to visit the island. For many, it would be a first time to explore this place of beauty. For those like me, it would be a second at least, loving the island and the bridge more than the first time. :-)

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