Highlights Of The 2013 ISPC Conference In Lansing, Michigan

Photos courtesy of Lansing Community College, used with permission.


Have you ever wondered how many historic bridges that were in dire state that they were candidates for demolition but were fully restored to look like it was brand new?  Every year since 2009,  Lansing Community College and Vern Mesler have held a three-day seminar featuring presentations from experts in historic bridges, preservation, steel welding and history, as well as demonstrations on how to remove pack rust, sandblast and straighten out beams with the welding machine, replacing steel components, including eyebars, and disassembling and reassembling truss bridges.  This year’s event brought in over 200 participants, including some from Europe, and featured many presenters, including Michael Mort, who provided people with a guide on how to save a historic bridge, Cynthia Brubaker of Ball State University, who talked about the Indiana bridge companies based on information brought to the history department recently, and Christopher Marston and Kevin Whitford, who talked about Moose Brook Bridge in New Hampshire and how it was restored.

Nathan Holth was also at the conference and talked about his book on Chicago’s Movable Bridges, which was released in the fall of last year. He agreed to provide the readers with some highlights of the event, including his presentation and some other facts that will encourage people to attend next year’s event. The Chronicles has a couple pictures to support the event that took place last month, during the first weekend of March. Yet they are only a tiny fraction of the bunch that one can see either through the ISPC Conference page on facebook, or through Nathan Holth himself.

Highlights from Mr. Holth:

My presentation on creative bridge engineering, past and present of Chicago, immediately followed an introduction by the president of the College. The president actually stayed and watched my presentation; he doesn’t always stay after he introduces the conference. My presentation was well received based on comments I got. We had a presentation about the Indiana Bridge Company from Ball State University. The good news out of this is that Ball State has a ton of archived materials from the company and is slowly digitizing them all and making it available online. Soon to be released are “bridge cards” that list all the bridges the company ever built, which should help identify bridges we don’t know who built. There also were several presentations of a more technical nature that were of interest to the many engineers in attendance. Some of the content in these presentations focused on updates in ongoing research to find ways to make riveting, welding and other historic bridge restoration techniques standardized and acceptable by groups like AASHTO and highway agencies. These updates indicate that research progress has been made, but at the same time more research needs to be completed as some challenges and problems remain. The day two demonstrations also went very well. The Lansing Community College staff that demonstrates and works with the attendees do a fantastic job and everyone seems to have a good time. Unique this year was a cast iron brazing demonstration using some broken manhole covers donated by East Jordan Iron Works.

Photos (all courtesy of Lansing Community College):

Vern Mesler demonstrating the process of sandblasting metal. Mesler has been the coordinator of the conference since 2009.
Ready, set, weld!!!
Overview of the demonstration with the participants looking on.


Author’s Note: A pair of books dealing with restoration and Chicago’s Bridges are in the possession of the author and will be profiled in the Book of the Month series, together with the interview with Nathan Holth and Michael Mort.