Clifton Suspension Bridge Turns 150

Deck view of the bridge. Photo courtesy of Laura Hilton

150th Anniversary Celebrations to take place in December with concert, bridge walk and fireworks

BRISTOL (UK)- Before John Roebling made his mark with the construction of wire suspension bridges in Cincinnati (1869) and Brooklyn (1883), suspension bridges were built using chain cables to support the wooden decking. Chained suspension bridges are one of the oldest and rarest to build. The Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of a few examples of such bridges that can be found in Europe. Built in 1864, the bridge was one of the prized works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a well-known bridge engineer who constructed numerous landmarks on the British Isle for three decades, during the time where Victorian architecture was becoming popular.  In fact, Brunel was 23 when construction of the bridge started in 1831, and it was his first solo project.  He died just before the project was completed 33 years later. The bridge was eventually dedicated in his honor upon its completion by his colleagues, William Barlow and John Hawkshaw.  Spanning the Avon Gorge between Clifton in Bristol and Leigh Woods in North Somerset, the bridge is one of the key symbols of Bristol, as it can be seen on several postcards and other souvenirs. Over 8,800 cars cross the structure daily. And the bridge has set some historic marks worth noting. With its decking being 75m (or 245 feet) above the River Avon, the bridge was the highest structure in the world built above the water when it was built, and it became the source of its first bungee jumping event in 1979. The last ever Concorde flight went over the bridge in 2003, the bridge was the centerpiece of the 200th birthday of Brunel in 2006 and the passing of the Olympic torch occurred on the bridge in 2012, enroute to London, the venue of the Summer Games.

Now there is another reason for celebration: the bridge turns 150 years old.

To honor the bridge and Brunel, the communities the bridge serves, together with the Volunteers of the Brunel Suspension Bridge are hosting the 150th anniversary celebrations, scheduled to take place beginning December 6th, with the procession taking place December 8th, the 150th anniversary of the bridge’s dedication and opening. A reenactment of the opening ceremony is being scheduled for that day, while a treasure hunt is scheduled for the 6th.  More information can be found via link (here) as well as the Clifton Suspension Bridge’s facebook page (here). Additional events will follow, which includes the bridge walk in January (more information here.) A concert is scheduled to take place on 22 November. According to Laura Hilton, the ceremonies also include the opening of the new visitors’ center and lastly, even a musical piece, TV programme, theatrical and computer app are planned honoring the bridge. While the bridge has attracted 1 million visitors and 4 million motorists annually, the number is expected to increase when the celebrations are in full swing in December.

Even if you do not have the opportunity to visit the bridge during the celebrations, the visitors’ center is open daily and provides guided tours, providing people with a chance to learn about Brunel and the construction of the bridge. For more information, please click here for details.

While the Clifton Suspension Bridge has received many accolades over the years because of its historic significance and magnificant design, it may have another title or two in January, for the bridge is nominated for the Othmar H. Ammann Awards by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles for Bridge of the Year for 2014. Voting for the bridge is scheduled for December with the winner being announced in January. More information to follow.

Opening ceremony of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in 1864. Photo courtesy of Laure Hilton

 

 

 

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Swing Bridge in Lübeck to be Rehabilitated

Photo taken in October 2013

Lübeck, Germany-  It is touted as the third oldest swing bridge in Germany and one of the last two swing bridges remaining in Schleswig-Holstein. Now the 1892 Drehbrücke, spanning the Trave River between Lübeck’s suburbs of St. Lorenz and the City Center (or Altstadt (Old Town)) is receiving a much-needed facelift.

The Crane ENAK lifted the truss span out of the water and the structure was transported to an undisclosed location, where it will be rehabilitated. The three curved Howe trusses (the center one dividing the street) will be sandblasted and redone, while the hydraulic motorwill be overhauled. The project is expected to take seven months to complete at a cost of 3.6 million Euros, and will cause some headaches for travellers having to use the Holsten Bridge and Puppebrücke, both located 1 kilometer south of the crossing to drive to St. Lorenz, as Willy Brandt Alle, where the bridge is located, will be closed during the reconstruction period.

Listed as a German Heritage Site, the Drehbrücke once served as a joint railroad and street crossing until the 1980s when the line was abandoned and the bridge became a two-way divided crossing. Its mechanism features a hydraulic motor, which lifts the bridge 16 meters before the rollers turn the bridge to a 70° angle. A video showing the bridge in the open position before closing can be found here:

This is the second bridge that Lübeck is replacing or restoring since 2013. The Posehlbrücke spanning the Elbe-Lübeck Canal in the eastern part of Lübeck was replaced last year, despite being built in 1956. The City is catching up on rehabilitating or replacing many of its bridges because of structural deficiencies found in the inspection reports so far, trying to eliminate the title of the “Stadt der Maroden Brücken” (Raw translation: City of Broken Down Bridges). But recognizing the structural integrity and historic significance of the bridge together with it popularity among residents, the city has taken a conservative approach and is keeping a piece of history by giving it a much-needed rehabilitation, so that it can serve traffic for another 122 years. And it is no surprise: the bridge will be 125 years old in 2017 and by that time, the it will function just like new- right in time for the celebration. :-)  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you updated on the progress of this bridge.

A video captioning the lifting of the bridge can be seen below, but German station NDR1 has pictures of the event, which you can click here.

Last year, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles did a special coverage on Lübeck’s historic bridges, including this bridge. More on the bridges that should be visited can be found here. They include pictures which you can click on the links for access. The city’s bridges finished in second place on the international scale and third all around in the Othmar H. Ammann Awards last year under the category of City Tour Guide.

 

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Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges Coming Down

Fairfax (left) and Platt Purchase (right). Photo taken by James Baughn in Aug. 2011

KANSAS CITY-  The Kansas City Royals baseball team finally snapped out of their doldrums this year and not only reached the playoffs in Major League Baseball for the first time since 1985, but was two runs shy of winning their first World Series in 29 years.  Yet the city has lost over half its pre-1945 bridges during that time span. With the Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges coming down this year, the trend seems to be continuing without slowing down.

Work is underway to replace the twin cantilever Warren through truss bridges that span the Missouri River, carrying US Hwy. 69 from I-635 in Kansas City into Wyandotte County Kansas. The spans feature a southbound span built in 1935 and a northbound span built 22 years later. Specifically, here are some details about the bridges:

Photo taken by the author in August 2011

Fairfax Bridge:

Location: Missouri River at US Hwy. 69 southbound

Built: 1935 by the Kansas City Bridge Company

Length: 2,594 feet total; largest span is 470 feet

Width: 20 feet

Last rehabilitated: 1979

Photo taken by the author in Aug. 2011

Platte Purchase Bridge:

Location: Missouri River at US 69 northbound

Built: 1957 (presumably by the same company)

Length: 2,601 feet; largest span is 474 feet

Width: 25.9 feet

Last rehabilitated: 1997

The plan is to replace the twin spans with one span that will accommodate six lanes of traffic. The project has already started with the southbound lanes being shifted onto the Platte Purchase Bridge and the Fairfax Bridge being demolished first. As soon as the new bridge is completed by late 2016, the Platte Purchase Bridge will follow suit. Both of the bridges, which had once collected tolls until 2000, had been made available for taking by the Missouri Department of Transportation until May of this year, when no takers were announced and the decision was made to turn these beautiful spans into a pile of scrap metal. The Fairfax Bridge, named after the city in Kansas, had been considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places The Platte Purchase Bridge was named after the Platte Purchase of 1836, where Missouri annexed the northwestern part of the state along the Missouri River up to the Iowa border, including the suburbs that belong to Kansas City today. That purchase was in violation of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which drew the border between the free states and territories of the north and those of the south, including Missouri. Yet the two are the latest casualties of truss bridges along the Missouri River that are dwindling rapidly in numbers. Since 1990, over 80% of the pre-1950 bridges along the second longest waterway in the United States have been replaced with only a handful of examples being kept for recreational and historic purposes. This includes the Paseo Bridge, located downstream in Kansas City. The 1950 suspension bridge over the Missouri River carrying I-29 was replaced by the Christopher Bond Bridge in 2010 and later removed. While Kansas City still has a large number of historic bridges, including those along the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, as will be shown in the Chronicles’ tour guide, the numbers are decreasing. And with the Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges coming down within the next two years, we could see numerous other examples being torn down in favor of modern but bland structures less appealing to travelers and tourists. While the Royals may have woken up after a long sleep and suddenly become contenders again, it is time for the rest of the city to wake up, look at their heritage and see to it that some of it is saved before it is too late- before we can only see them on youtube videos, as seen below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mBydOiZ02g

More on the bridge replacement project can be found here.

 

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Selling a Historic Bridge on Craigslist: Unusual Concept, But…..

Oblique view of entire structure. Photos taken by Calvin Sneed, used with permission.

 

Bridge for sale. A two-span steel through truss bridge built of Pratt design that includes a Queenpost approach span, which curves at 15°  to the left towards the house on the hill. Built in 1901 by the Southern States Bridge Company of Birmingham, Alabama, the bridge is located two miles from the site of Davy Crockett’s birthplace in Washington County, Tennessee at Glaze’s Ford. Last used 31 years ago but is now privately owned with the structure fenced off to all people. The bridge is available for reuse, but get this: The bridge and the house is availeable on the most improbable platform- Craigslist!

Founded by Craig Newmark in 1995, Craigslist features a list of items available for purchase by others wanting to part ways with them. This not only includes personal items, such as clothing, office supplies, and cars, but also buildings and other property. Since its introduction in San Francisco, Craigslist has spread throughout the US and the rest of the world, where there is a Craigslist for the big city with an area of up to 200 square miles. That means if one lives in Potsdam, Germany, then the nearest Craigslist is in neighboring Berlin. If you live in Breckinridge/Wahpeton in North Dakota, the nearest List can be found in Fargo-Moorhead. Having bridges on Craigslist is not as surprising as having a Mansion available because of their face value in comparison to what the seller is asking for. Yet unlike eBay, there is no bidding for the product. That’s why one will not find such a large piece of property on eBay- at least not yet. But bartering is also possible through Craigslist, where one can bid to the lowest to obtain the product.  In addition, job and dating services can also be found on Craigslist, thus making the platform the electronic version of the classified ads, but on a larger scale than the coverage you get when reading the local newspaper.  Yet despite the advantages of selling items through Craigslist, there has been an increase in crime involving people doing business with Craigslist. This includes an increase in murders through Craigslist since 2000, as well as complaints involving the sales and bartering practices, which have become numerous in the last decade.

Nevertheless, Craigslist has become the last resort to rid the items big or small, without having to run into problems with bureaucracy. In the case involving this bridge, the structure was given to the property owner by the local government for free because of liability purposes. Now the owner is selling her house and property, and assuming the bridge is on her property, that structure as well. The bridge appears to be in excellent shape, in comparison with many abandoned bridges that deteriorate to a point of collapse and subsequent removal. Given the proximity of the bridge near the site of one of the brave soldiers who fought and died for the Alamo in 1836, the bridge has the potential of becoming a key bike trail link. And even not, the bridge can be relocated elsewhere for reuse using funds from the state and national government for the project.

But is Craigslist the right platform for selling a historic bridge? Or should the bridge be sold through other entities, like the county or state? What are the reasons for your argument? Click on the sources below and comment on them here as well as in the Chronicles’ LinkedIn and Facebook pages. You can also add the question of how you would try and sell the bridge if you were in the shoes of the property owner.

More on Craig’s List and its history can be found here, as well as the problems involving purchasing large items through them (here).

Special thanks to Calvin Sneed for the use of his photos in this article. These are only a fraction of the ones you can find via bridgehunter.com, which you can click here. The history of Davy Crockett is also found here.  Note that the bridge is only used as an example while in reality, there is no confirmation as to whether the bridge is included on Craigslist. It is stated that it is on the homeowner’s property, which is on Craigslist.

 

 

 

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The “Recycled” Bridges of Doniphan County, Kansas

Duncan Creek Bridge near Blair. All photos courtesy of Robert Elder.

Located along the Missouri River west of St. Joseph, Doniphan County, Kansas has a rather unique set of historic bridges. Unlike the standard designs that were used during the renaissance of bridge construction between 1880 and 1930, many of the bridges found in this county were built using unusual designs that were considered absurd in the eyes of bridge engineers and politicians alike, but considered a work of art in the eyes of historians and preservationists today. Also unique are the fact that these bridges were recycled and reused in locations that are still sparesly used today. It does not necessairily mean that they were relocated per se. Some of these bridges were rebuilt, using steel parts taken from other  bridges that were dismantled and scrapped. Reason for this is due to a lack of financing for hiring contractors to build bridges, using steel from mills from the east, the county commissioners during that time found creative ways of reusing the steel parts to construct “new” used bridges. While they have not been considered eligible for the National Register just yet, due to a lack of information on their history, they will surely be considered in the coming years, when local authorities and the Kansas State Historical Society will relook at these bridges and determine which ones are historically significant.

Six bridges are being profiled in this tour guide article. Five of them are located within 10 miles’ distance of US Hwy. 36, which slices through the county.  One of them is a railroad bridge over the Missouri River at St. Joseph. The sixth bridge is located 20 miles south of St. Joseph along the tributary of the Missouri, just west of its confluence with the second longest river in the US. Only one of the six bridges profiled here has been replaced. While there are four other pre-1920 steel truss bridges and a half dozen wooden stringer bridges still in use in the county, these six are the créme dela créme because of their unique design and their construction, using recycled steel parts. We’ll start off with the first bridge:

Duncan Creek Bridge (see photo above)

Location: Duncan Creek at Randolph Rd. near Blair. 3 miles north of Hwy. 36

Bridge Type: Pin-connected Parker through truss with four panels

Date of construction: 1935

Status:  In use.

Comments:  The Blair Bridge is perhaps the smallest of any Parker through truss bridges built in the history of bridge building in the US, with the main span of only 86 feet (the total length is 91 feet) and only four panels. Normally one would find four panels on a pony truss bridge. Yet looking at the pinned connections, the portal and strut bracings  as well as the V-laced bracing on the bridge’s top chord, it appears that the bridge was assembled using parts from a bridge dismantled before the date of construction. It is clear that the date of construction is not accurate. It is possible that either the bridge was relocated to this place or it was put together on sight using parts from a pre-1900 structure(s). Evidence is pointing to the latter because of its unusual appearance, which would have violated the standardized truss codes put in place by the state when they introduced 7+ panel Parker trusses with riveted connections in ca. 1915. Whoever was the genius behind this bridge has yet to be discovered through research. In either case, the bridge still retains its original form today and is open to traffic.

 

Cottonwood Creek Bridge

Cottonwood Creek Bridge

Location: Cottonwood Creek on Larkinburg Rd., 3 miles west of Hwy. 7, 4.6 miles SSE of Bendena and 12 miles S of Hwy. 36

Bridge Type:  Pin-connected Pratt through truss, with A-frame portal bracings and a shortened middle panel

Date of construction: Before 1900

Status: Still in use on a minimum maintenance road

Comments:  At a total length of only 75 feet, the Bendena Bridge is one of the shortest Pratt through trusses built in the history of bridge building. While the bridge has a total of five panels (typical of a 100-foot through truss span), the middle panel is only a third of the length of the other four panels. This leads to the question of whether this bridge was rebuilt using parts from another bridge or if it was relocated here but the panel was shortened in length to accomodate the crossing over a small creek. It is clear that the bridge originated from a period up to 1910 for pinned connections were popular during that time.

Doniphan Bridge

Doniphan Bridge

Location: Tributary of Missouri River on Monument Rd., 1.2 miles E of Doniphan and 0.3 miles W of the Missouri River

Bridge Type:  Waddell Pony Truss with riveted connections

Date of Construction: ca. 1920

Status: In use

Comments:  The Doniphan Bridge represents an example of an earlier use of welded and riveted connections. It is considered a Waddell truss because of the subdivided connections which are not found in a kingpost pony truss design. Yet how it was resembled is unusual because of the use of steel I and H-beams that were bolted and welded together. It is possible that this bridge was assembled using steel parts from a building or a bridge. Given the excessive use of steel for heavier crossings and sturdier buildings, it is possible that this bridge was constructed between 1915 and 1940. More information is needed to determine its construction date. In either case, the unusual appearance of the bridge makes it eligible for some accolades on the state level, at least.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Creek Bridge

Location: Charlie Creek at 190th Rd., 3 miles south of Hwy. 36 and 2.3 miles west of Hwy. 220

Bridge Type: Stone arch bridge with 35° skew

Status: Replaced with a concrete culvert

Comments: The Charlie Creek Bridge was a unique crossing for two reasons: 1. It was a stone arch bridge that was built before 1920 and 2. Despite having a total length of 30-40 feet, the bridge was built oin a 35- 40° skew, thus allowing the creek to flow freely underneath the road. This was something that the county engineer kept in mind, when this bridge was replaced with a concrete culvert crossing in 2010, as it too has a skew similar to the old one.

 

 

Old Hwy. 36 Bridge

 

Old Hwy. 36 Viaduct

Location: Old railroad grade on Old US Hwy. 36, 600 feet south of US Hwy. 36, three miles E of Troy.

Bridge Type: Concrete through girder with Art Deco design

Status: Open to traffic

Comments: Before the highway was straightened out 20 years ago, the original highway presented curves and stops through even the smallest of communities. The viaduct, which crosses a once-used railroad line connecting Troy and St. Joseph, was once part of the original highway, which had a sharp double curve going over the tracks. With the realignment of the highway to eliminate this dangerous curve, the highway was relegated to a county road and the bridge became the responsibility of the county engineer. Today, the bridge, built using the textbooks standardized bridge designs in the 1920s, is still in use, carrying a gravel road. It can be seen from the new alignment just to the south.

St. Joesph-Elwood Railroad Bridge

St. Joseph and Elwood Missouri River Railroad Bridge

Location: Missouri River 0.4 miles north of Pony Express (US 36) Bridge between Elwood (KS) and St. Joseph (MO).

Bridge Type: Pennsylvania Petit (3 approach spans) and Polygonal Warren Through Truss Swing Span.

Built: 1906

Status: Still in use but plans include abandoning the line and crossing.

Comments:  This railroad crossing is the second span at thus location between St. Joseph and Elwood, carrying the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge. It is one of three remaining swing bridges and one of only six movable bridges left over the Missouri River, plus one of two that are still in operation. Yet plans call for the line and the bridge to abandoned, thus triggering an initiative to convert this crossing into a rail-to-trail line. If successful, the bridge will share similar stories with Poughkeepsie Viaduct in New York and the Booneville Bridge in neighboring Missouri, the latter of which appears to have their dream of a bike trail crossing come true. More on the project to follow as information is revealed.

To summarize, the Doniphan County bridges may be ordinary because the county is one of the more sparsely populated in Kansas, yet their historical and aesthetic value make them jewels found in an empty and highly weeded field. The bridges are worth hundreds of photos and many hours of research to determine how the county found ways to make use of old parts into fancy srtuctures. Especially with the ones in Blair, Bendena and Doniphan, their construction history and designs will definitely make them candidates for the National Register. And this apart from the nomination by the Chronicles for the 2014 Ammann Awards for Best Kept Secret in the field of Tour Guide.

The Author wishes to thank Robert Elder for the use of his photos for this article/tour guide and for providing some interesting facts in the bridgehunter.com website. You can click on the title of the bridges to go to the individual bridge pages for more info and to contribute to the discussion forum 

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Now Taking Entries for the 2014 Ammann Awards

 

2014 has been the year where instead of destroying historic bridges, governments and the private sectors have been working on saving them. Whether they are steel truss bridges, suspension bridges with stone towers, or covered bridges made of wood, the trend has grown from tearing down history to saving it. Every year, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles hosts the Othmar H. Ammann Awards, given to person and/or groups who took the extra time and spent the extra financial resources to save and reuse the historic bridges for future generations to use.

This year’s Ammann Awards is no different. Even though we have some honorable bridges to bring to light, including the Firth of Forth Bridge in England, the Fehmarn Bridge in Germany and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in the US who are all entering their golden years- especially the third example as it was the last one built by Mr. Ammann himself, the Ammann Awards is given out to people and organizations who made a difference in preserving, photographing and presenting historic bridges for others to visit.  Between now and December 1st, the Chronicles is taking entries in the following categories:

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

BEST PHOTO

BEST KEPT SECRET divided up into individual bridge and tour guide featuring multiple historic bridges in a city or district

MYSTERY BRIDGE

BEST PRESERVATION PRACTICE

and

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR

Entries are categorized into US and International.

More information on the guidelines can be found under the Page Othmar H. Ammann Awards or by clicking here.  If you have a person or bridge that deserves accolades on a national and international scale, please send your nominations to Jason Smith at the Chronicles. The address: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.

Deadline for all entries is December 1st. Afterwards, voting will commence throughout the month of December, ending on January 6th. Winners will be announced on January 7th. While ballots will be available in paper format, we will be doing the voting process a bit differently this year, to encourage more participation. More on that when the voting commences on December 3rd.  All photo entries must have a captioning on there and will be posted here in the Chronicles as well as on the Chronicles’ flickr page.  All mystery bridges mentioned as articles in the Chronicles as well as examples of preserved historic bridges are automatically entered in the contest.  If you have any questions regarding nominations, please contact the Chronicles to ensure that everything is clarified. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles wishes everyone best of luck and we’re looking forward to your nominations. For more on the winners of the 2013 Ammann Awards, please click here, but note that there are two articles relating to the winners of the Awards.

Oakland Mills Bridge over the Skunk River at Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Built in 1876. Photo taken in August 2011

German:  Haben Sie eine Brücke, die eine Anerkennung für die beste Restaurierung braucht? Oder kennen Sie jemand, der/die für mehrere Jahre Brücken restaurierte? Oder vielleicht haben Sie das beste Foto einer Brücke? Seit 2011 hat der Column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles den “Othmar H. Ammann” Preis  für sechs Kategorien veranstaltet, unter anderem für das beste Foto, die beste restaurierte historische Brücke, die beste Stadt/Region mit mehreren historischen Brücken sowie die Brücke des Jahres. Falls Sie eine Brücke, die eine Anerkennung auf internationaler Ebene brauchen, bitte informieren Sie Jason Smith beim Bridgehunter’s Chronicles unter die Adresse: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  Termin für alle Nominierungen ist der 1. Dezember und Sie werden ab 3. Dezember die Gelegenheit haben, ihre Lieblingskandidat online oder per Mail zu wählen. Die Gewinner werden am 7. Januar 2015 im Chronicles bekanntgegeben. Mehr Infos über den Preis klicken Sie hier. Da finden Sie die Gewinner des Preises vom 2013. 

Posted in Ammann Awards, Bridge Preservation, Bridge Profile Europe and elsewhere, Bridge Profile USA, Bridge Tour, FYI Bridge Newsflash, Mystery Bridge, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flensburg-Bridgehunter Merchandise on Sale through Café Press

 

Rosedale Bridge. Photo taken in September 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hubby Bridge

Location: Des Moines River at Opal Lane in Boone County

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

Built: 1909

Removed: 1975

Length: 660 feet (160 feet per span)

 

Chestnut Ford Bridge:

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

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

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

Removed: 1975?

Length: 480 feet (180 feet per span)

 

Hanley Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River near Jester Park in Polk County

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

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

Removed: 1975

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

 

Corydon Bridge:

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

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

Built: 1889

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

Length: 312 feet total (156 feet per span)

 

Snyder Bridge:

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

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

Built: 1898

Removed: ca. 1975

Length: 444 feet total (148 feet per span)

 

Hwy. 98 Bridge:

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

Bridge type: Steel plate girder

Built: 1955

Replaced: 1973 with higher span

Length: 360 feet

The highway was later changed to Hwy. 210

 

What is needed from these bridges are the following:

1. More photos to better describe the structure

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

3. Information and photos of the removal of the bridge

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos taken in September 2010

BNSF Trestle:

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

Bridge Type: Wooden Trestle

Year Built: 1936

Length: 190 feet (36 feet main span)

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

Bridge 5101A

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

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

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

Length: 61.4 feet (main span: 60 feet)

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

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

Bridge 5054

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

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

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

Length: 75.1 feet (main span: 73.2 feet)

Status: Open to traffic but scheduled for replacement

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

Bridge R0122

Location: Redwood River at north entrance to Camden State Park

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

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

Length: 50.2 feet (main span: 47.3 feet)

Status: Open to traffic but scheduled for replacement.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Photo courtesy of the Jefferson Highway Archives/ Facebook Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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