After many entries and votes for the best historic bridges and the people who have made a difference, the Historic Bridge Month has come to a close, but not before announcing the winners of the Othmar H. Ammann Awards for Excellence in the following categories:
Lifetime Legacy Award:
Vern Mesler: It is rare that there are people in the world who are experts in welding or any profession dealing with the steel industry. It is even rarer if a particular welder is also a bridgelover. But Vern Mesler, who has been in the welding business for over 30 years is one that has gone the extra mile to use his expertise to save historic bridges. He has not only offered courses in these two areas to those interested in taking up the profession of welding and historic bridge preservation, but he went further by creating a historic bridge park in Calhoun County, featuring his finished works of historic bridges that he put his expertise into use and preserved. All of his examples can be found in his newsletters the VJM Craftsman Newsletter. The author of the Chronicles has sent him some interview questions which he will send back to be posted. Mr. Mesler can take pride in his work as he has not only won the Lifetime Legacy Award but also the Best Kept Secret Award for his historic bridge park in Michigan. The Bridgehunter‘s Chronicles would like to congratulate him for his work.
Julie Bowers: Inspired by a local bowstring arch bridge in Poweshiek County (The McIntyre Bridge), Ms. Bowers put her marketing strategy and expertise in historic bridge preservation into use with the founding of Workin‘ Bridges, an organization devoted to consulting, marketing and doing estimates on historic bridges to be preserved for reuse. Already she has been successful with many bridges in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, just to name a few. The Chronicles has done an interview with her via e-mail and will post the success story in the next posting.
Best Snapshot Award:
High Level Arch Bridge in Akron (Ohio)- 32 votes: This oblique photo, taken by John Goold from the bottom of the structure shows a detailed look at the 1953 cantilever truss structure and the way it graces across the river and parking lot. This bridge should be considered a poster boy for all of these types that are coming down in vast numbers; especially in response to the I-35W Bridge collapse in August, 2007. This structure is not spared from this massive slaughter as it is slated for replacement as soon as the funding is approved (which could be either 2012 or 2013), unless attempts are made to rehabilitate it to prolong its functional life.
Dotson Bridge near Sanborn (Minnesota)- 29 votes: John Marvig had to fight through a half a mile of bushes, tall green grass and trees to discover and photograph this railroad bridge, a 1920s lattice through truss bridge that was once part of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad route going from Sanborn to Sherburn and Fairmont, but was abandoned in the 1980s because of flood damage to the structure and the lack of service on the route. The bridge was named after a village that had once existed in the age of the Great Expansion (1870s) but all that is left of its memory is this piece of natural artwork. It is owned by the state department of natural resources but one has to get permission from nearby residents to get to the bridge.
Link with info: http://pegnsean.net/~johnm/CNWCottonwoodRiverBridge.html
Other participants (with number of votes): Snowmobile Whipple Truss Bridge in northern New York state- taken by Marc Scotti (21); Riverside Bridge in Ozark (Missouri), taken by Daniel Shortt (13); Railroad/Pedestrian Bridge in New York state- taken by Marc Scotti (7); Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge-abandoned, in Rock Island (Illinois), taken by John Weeks III (6)
Note: The author would like to thank the students of the Departments of Civil Engineering, City Planning, and Building and Energy Technology at the University of Applied Science in Erfurt, Germany for voting on the historic bridge photos.
Best Kept Secret Award:
Historic Bridge Park in Calhoun County (Michigan): This park, located not far from I-94 in south central Michigan, features a half-dozen vintage truss bridges, dating as far back as 1880; all of which were dismantled at their original sites, sandblasted, rewelded, and reassembled at their new location in the park. This includes the Charlotte Highway Bridge, a 1886 Whipple through truss bridge, and the Bauer Road Bridge, a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with very ornamental and rare portal bracings. The mastermind behind the park is Vern Mesler as he has received many awards for his park and has inspired other groups to form parks similar to his. One of which was discovered in Iowa this past summer at F.W. Kent Park near Iowa City, which houses eight truss bridges. Mesler can add one more award to his collection with the Lifetime Legacy Award for his work.
Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg (Germany): The first time that I crossed or even heard of this bridge was in May 2010 while on a train trip from Hamburg to Flensburg. Since that time information has been collected and it is sufficient enough to justify its prize on the international scale; especially given the fact that despite its rare design- a cantilever truss bridge with a transporter span over the Baltic-North Sea Canal combined with a loop approach supported by steel trestles and brick arch spans- and the fact that it was one of many bridges built in Germany by Friedrich Voss (this one was built in 1913), the bridge is under-recognized by the international bridge community. Even some pontists in the US had never heard about this bridge until it was presented at the Historic Bridge Conferences in Pittsburgh (2010) and St. Louis (2011). Perhaps this recognition combined with an article to come in the Chronicles will help this bridge find its place on the international scale.
In addition to that, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles also has its own pics for historic bridges both in the US as well on the international scale that deserve to be recognized. Without further ado, here are the pics for 2011:
BRIDGEHUNTER CHRONICLES‘ BRIDGE PICS:
Best Example of Historic Bridge Reuse:
Full Throttle Saloon and Bridges in Sturgis (South Dakota): What was Michael Ballard thinking when he purchased a two-span through truss bridge (a Pennsylvania petit and a Pratt) and moved them to the world‘s largest and most popular motorcycle restaurant, bar and grandstand at Sturgis to be used as decoration and a grandstand for concerts? Well, nobody knows the answer to that question but Mr. Ballard himself. Yet maybe when he receives word of the award he is about to receive for his creativity in saving a historic bridge from becoming a pile of scrap metal and making it a popular tourist attraction, perhaps he will provide readers with a secret to his successful push to making his two bridges and his venue the place to visit while on a road trip through the country. The Bridgehunter‘s Chronicles has sent him a couple questions about this and as soon as an answer arrives, you will have an opportunity to read it for yourself.
Krämerbrücke in Erfurt (Germany): The Kramer Bridge in the state capital of Thuringia in central Germany is perhaps the only bridge left in Europe whose arch design supports housing. The London Bridge was the other bridge, before its relocation to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1969. The bridge is part of the historic district considered a World Heritage Site and still houses small shops today ranging from local specialties to unique gifts for people to have. Further information on the bridge will come in a later column on the bridges in Erfurt. In the meantime….
Worst Example of Historic Bridge Reuse:
Rock Island Railroad Bridge at Inver Grove Heights (Minnesota)
This story is rather a tragic one for bridge lovers and locals interested in history. We have one of the most unique bridges in the country that spanned the Mississippi River bordering Dakota and Washington Counties south of St. Paul, built in 1894 by a bridge company in Pittsburgh. It was a double-decker bridge (with the lower deck carrying vehicular traffic and the upper deck carrying rail traffic) with seven Pratt truss spans, a Baltimore petit swing span and four Vierendeel truss spans (in the row from the Dakota side to the Washington side). It was closed to traffic in 1999 and was left abandoned until it was reduced down to a quarter of the entire structure in 2010- namely two Pratt spans on the Dakota side. It was then converted into a pier with welded trusses constructed as approach spans. In the eyes of many pontists and those knowing the bridge, while two spans were salvaged, the bridge is still considered a total loss, as cutting the spans up into blocks without finding other alternatives to using it for pedestrian use, combined with Washington County’s unwillingness to cooperate in the mitigation efforts resulted in a bridge altered to a point of no acknowledgement of its historic value.
The Salvageable Mentioned:
Horn’s Ferry Bridge in Marion County (Iowa)
Located just below the Red Rock Dam over the Des Moines River 30 km south of Pella, the bridge was one of the longest vehicular bridges over the Des Moines River, let alone the state of Iowa. The bridge was built in 1882 and consisted of (from west to east) seven pony truss spans, one Camelback through truss span, one riveted Pratt through truss span and one riveted Warren pony truss span. While it was closed in 1982 when the new bridge, located upstream from the old one was open, it was open to pedestrians and cyclists for another 10 years until August 1992, when half the bridge fell into the river because one of the piers failed. After removing the wreckage and additional trusses, the remaining spans were salvaged and are now piers overlooking each other’s banks and adjacent campground. While the major superstructure, the first built over the Des Moines River in Marion County was a major loss, the county did an excellent job of saving what is left of the historic structure and is still a major attraction for tourists and campers.
Note: The author is looking for additional information and photos of the bridge before its collapse in 1992 for an article in the Chronicles as well as a book on Iowa’s truss bridges.
Links to photos: http://www.bridgehunter.com/ia/marion/bh49471/
The Worst Reason to Destroy a Bridge:
Fort Keogh Bridge near Miles City (Montana): This bridge is the rarest over the Yellowstone River as it consists of two Pennsylvania Petit through truss main spans and a pony truss approach span, built in 1902 by the Hewett Bridge Company in Minneapolis (the same builder responsible for the Salisbury Bridge in Minnesota). Yet floodwaters caused the pony truss bridge to partially collapse and one of the main spans to tilt by 10°. Natural solution: tear the whole structure down even though it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge cannot be saved says the state historical society, yet one has to look at examples of bridges in similar shape like this that were dismantled (with bridge parts fixed) and reassembled, as is the case with the State Street Bridge in Saginaw County (Michigan) If the bridge still stands at the time of the awards, one should contact Nathan Holth, Vern Mesler and Julie Bowers for options and an estimate.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_mcmt/5947278628/in/set-72157624985190546/ (Collection of photos of the Ft. Keogh Bridge after the flood damage)
Honorably Mentioned: Drayton Bridge in Oslo (North Dakota): This story was rather tragic. One wants to see the 1950s style Turner truss bridge with an unusual design (endposts not supported by piers), only to be denied the chance twice- once by inclimate weather and the second time because it was removed right after the spring floods in May. Todd Wilson of Bridgemapper once commented “Why are some of the unique bridges gone before one wants to see it?” Ask the Minnesota and North Dakota Departments of Transportation, as I do not have a clue either; especially as the bridge would have been a centerpiece for a bike trail for the people of Oslo and along the Red River…..
The Bridges in Saalfeld (Germany): On an international scale, here is a stupid reason for demolishing a bridge: because of the lack of money to maintain it. The southern Thuringian city of 25,000 inhabitants received this award because of the plan to remove not one, but EIGHT bridges! Even more insane is the fact that they are all pedestrian bridges built in the 1970s and 80s- two over the main highways going through the city and six along the two tributaries feeding the Saale River, the main river passing through the community. While this solution may be a short-term fix to save money, in the long term, it will create headaches for many pedestrians and cyclists for they will have to bike to the nearest vehicular bridge to cross and many of these structures are not suitable for this type of traffic. Smooth move on the part of the city government who plans on executing this plan beginning in 2012. Sad part is the fact that other cities are thinking that same idea, including Zittau, located on the Neisse River at the German-Polish border, which plans on removing two of its bridges beginning next year for similar reasons.
Link (German): http://www.otz.de/web/zgt/suche/detail/-/specific/Rueckbau-der-Bruecken-minderer-Qualitaet-in-Saalfeld-beschlossen-556950036
The Best Find of a Historic Bridge:
Spring Hill Bridge in Warren County (Iowa)
Iowa has a number of truss bridges that have been sitting out of use for many years, but manage to find its place in the nature. Some of them, like the Bellefont and Evelyn Bridges along the Des Moines River and the Hardin City Bridge near Steamboat Rock have been documented and are awaiting reuse for recreation purposes. Perhaps this 1909 Clinton Bridge and Iron Company Parker through truss structure should belong to the ranks of the “diamonds in the rough needing attention and recognition.” The structure was found by the author by accident coming back from the Historic Bridge Conference in St. Louis in August of this year. Even though the bridge has been closed for at least 10 years, it appears that the structure spanning the South River is in good shape and is being used for recreational purposes by local residents living up the hill from the structure. The only caveat to this bridge is accessing it, as the south approach has eroded to a point where the road ends a half a mile from the bridge. Access from the north end is possible, albeit it is privately owned.
Kluvensiek Draw Bridge near Rendsburg (Germany): This is one of a few places that still exists along the Old Eider Canal, the predecessor to the Baltic-North Sea Canal which connects Kiel (the capital of Schleswig-Holstein) and Heide (where the North Sea is located). The drawbridge, built in 1850 by a company in Rendsburg, only received minimal attention through magazines and local newspaper articles. However, given the fact that the iron ornamental towers- which was part of a double-leaf bascule bridge which was in service for 40 years until the canal was decommissioned- is still intact despite the canal being partially filled in and can be seen from the nearby highway, the bridge is definitely worth a stop for a photo opportunity. (Please see link where the bridge is mentioned:http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2011/07/28/touring-the-bridges-along-the-grand-canal-part-i/)
The Biggest Bonehead Story:
Thieves stealing an entire bridge in New Castle (Pennsylvania) for the price of metal:
With prices of metal flying sky high within the last five years and the economic conditions being unstable, one would actually show some restraint and not steal one’s personal belongings just to sell it for the price of a commodity, like scrap metal, right? Not with these thieves as a group of four people dismantled an entire 50 foot stringer bridge, sitting abandoned over a small creek, with blow torches, loaded them up onto trucks and took it to the steel yards for money. While they were eventually arrested for grand theft, the total loss for the bridge was over $100,000 and they set the precedent for others to follow, as reports of missing bridge parts were reported in Mississippi and at least six other states. Stupidity and desperation does have its rewards, but at the expense of others (including their lives), as this incredible act is on par with a story of an electrician’s attempts to steal copper from a live 200 volt transformer on an power line pole in Texas! I will not go into detail as to what happened there….. This story far outguns one’s attempts of crossing the Fryer’s Ford Bridge in Arkansas in May of this year- and dropping it into the river in the process- by over a mile and therefore receives the award outright.