2014 Ammann Awards: The Author Chooses the Best Bridge Stories

Bentonsport Bridge spanning the Des Moines River in Van Buren County, Iowa. Photo taken in December 2014

To start off the Author’s Choice Award version of the 2014 Ammann Awards, presented by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, I would like to present you with an overture which is in connection with this year’s theme: Bigger is not always better. Enjoy!


This year’s Author’s Choice Awards features some of the most interesting stories of how people have come together to save their valued work. However, we have a story of a bridge found underneath a pub, as well as a failed attempt to salvage a historic bridge, and a disaster caused by gravity. And finally stupidity at its finest- caught on tape and youtubed! So without further ado, here are my pics for 2014:

Most Spectacular Disaster:


Ledbetter Bridge in Kentucky- Spanning the Tennessee River, this 1931 three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge was one of the latter works of architectural art built by Polish engineer, Ralph Modjeski (1861-1940). The bridge no longer exists as it was removed last month, several weeks after a replacement span 700 feet downstream opened to traffic, but one cannot help but watch sections of the bridge collapse on its own, as seen in the photo gallery here.  After reporting one of the approach spans dropping by two feet in 24 hours, officials fenced off the entire bridge, only to later watch sections of it fall on the shoreline. Cause: Erosion undermining the piers, plus some vultures perching on the railings of the affected spans, as the photographer stated.


Cherryvale Bridge in New Brunswick, Canada- Covered bridges have been especially hardest hit this year, as fire, oversized trucks and natural disasters have damaged or destroyed over three dozen bridges in North America and elsewhere. The Cherryvale Bridge in the province of New Brunswick was one of those unfortunate victims, as floodwaters knocked the 1870s wooden structure off its foundations in May, and the structure flowed downstream before being smashed against a concrete bridge carrying a highway. More on this story hereAs beloved as they are, covered bridges are usually rebuilt by demand from residents. This is the case as well, but will it happen with this bridge? We’ll have to see….


Best Historic Bridge Find:


Rocky Balboa Railroad Bridge in Durham, North Carolina- This railroad underpass, featuring a 100-year old deck plate girder span, may be a typical bridge accomodating rail traffic. But (and the music from Rocky Balboa will support this), it has had a record of annihilating semi trucks and trailers, as well as tractors, busses, and other overweight vehicles. This DESPITE having every form of warning system and sign in place. Here’s a video to prove it:



The Parade Bridge in Norwood (South) Australia- Australia has a wide variety of metal, concrete and wooden bridges dating back to the early 1800s. This bridge, located underneath a pub, was found by chance by the owner as the venue was undergoing extensive renovations. Made of parapet and cobblestone and built in the 1850s, this bridge has a unique history, which can be found here.

Honorable mentioned: The Kersten Miles Bridge in Hamburg, Germany- Built in 1897 and named after the mayor of Hamburg during the Medieval times, this arch bridge is one of the darlings of Hamburg one needs to see, if one wants to know which of the 2,500+ bridges should be visited in the second largest city in Germany. Apart from its ornamental appearance and the fact that the bridge is made of brick, a recent discovery of a pflaster mosaic underneath one of the spans is another reason to visit this unique landmark. More on this discovery can be found here.

Best Way to Salvage a Historic Bridge: USA:

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span- The 1936 eastern half, consisting of cantilever truss spans, was replaced with a cable-stayed span with concrete girders last year and is still being dismantled even as we speak. Yet one person is looking at salvaging parts of the bridge for sustainable housing developments. Although it would look unusual to today’s housing standards, as seen in the article here, it would at least preserve the legacy of the eastern half of the bridge, which partially collapsed in the earthquake in 1989.

Also worth mentioning: Devil’s Elbow Bridge in Pukaski County, Missouri- The Freedom Prime Bridge and this bridge were two of the candidates considered for the author’s choice awards. Yet while Freedom received some accoldaes for best preservation example, this 1923 two-span Parker truss bridge got this one for two reasons: 1. The bridge was part of the Mother Road (Route 66) and because of the importance of the crossings along the highway that had once connected Chicago and Los Angeles, efforts are being undertaken to save what is left of this historic highway. 2. The bridge underwent an extensive renovation, which included new decking, sandblasting and repainting the trusses and making the bridge look just like it was when opened 91 years ago. The bridge should set an example for a pair of other crossings that have recently been rendered unsafe and whose futures are in doubt. More here

International: Katzenbuckel Bridge in Ebenhausen, Bavaria (Germany)- Spanning a rail line near Augsburg in Bavaria, this arch bridge was in the way of progress, for the German Railways want to expand the line and electrify it. The solution: Instead of razing the structure because of its historic significance, the plan is to raise the bridge to better accomodate traffic. Impressive but also one that will have other regions with similar bridges to consider this option, for there are enough candidates to go around. More on the plan can be found here.

Photo taken by James Baughn










Worst Example of Restoring/Using a Historic Bridge

USA:  Blue River US 40 Bridge in Kansas City, Missouri- Preservationists and locals are scratching their heads about this 1931 bridge, a steel through arch bridge that is the product of a pair of local bridge builders. The bridge was dismantled to make way for its replacement in August, but in a way that the parts were cut apart and left in a pile, waiting to be taken to its new home in Grandview. Photos of the bridge before and after its dismantling can be found here. Given the “logic” behind this process, the first and foremost question that comes to mind is: How are you going to put the structure back together again without altering its historic integrity? Or are you going to scrap it? My prediction: Its induction into Nathan Holth’s Wall of Shame.

International: Kramer Bridge in Erfurt, Germany- This bridge in the news but in a negative sense. The face of Thuringia’s capital was the focus of a drug operation, used in the German mystery series, Tatort (Scene of the Crime). The episode was aired in December and drew fire from viewers who deemed both the usage and the content to be inappropriate. Shortly after the release, two of the three actors resigned and the German channel MDR decided to scrap the Erfurt series. Lessons on how Tatort should be produced and how places of interest should be used without degrading it should be given by those who have been with the series for over 2 out of the four decades of its existence on German TV, including the likes of Ulike Folkerts, Axel Prahl and Jan Josef Lieffers, who play investigators for their cities (Ludwigshafen and Muenster, respectively.)


Biggest Bonehead Story We had a lot of candidates for this category, many of whom just could not learn to shorten the height of and/or lighten the weight of the load. The end result: covered bridges losing their tops and other bridges dropping to the ravine with their load on it. Yet only two examples really standout and should serve as a signal to truck drivers to NOT rely solely on GPS and assumptions, but to obey the traffic signs, or face liabiity.

Pollock’s Mill Bridge in Jefferson, Pennsylvania- Spanning Ten Mile Creek near Jefferson, this single span Whipple through truss bridge, built in 1878 by the Massilon Bridge Company in Ohio is one of the last remaining iron bridges in western Pennsylvania. Yet it almost became a hunk of twisted metal after a tanker truck tried crossing the structure, only to fall partially through the decking. To make matters worse, the driver dumped liquid contents into the stream to lighten the load and keep it from collapsing. A double-environmental catastrophe. Yet with two trucks following him, he should have known better than to first drive through the height restricted underpass located just a half mile before the bridge and then try crossing this bridge, right? Leadership prevents stupid things from happening. Fortunately, the bridge will be repaired and nothing was severely adversed in the water. However, as the article stated here, it could have been worse…..

Watford Bridge in North Dakota- Spanning the Little Missouri River at US Hwy. 85, this Warren through truss with V-laced portal bracings has dealt with a lot in the 55 years in service, especially as it is located near the Bakken Oil Fields. This includes oversized vehicles crossing it and damaging the overhead bracing. Sometimes stupidity is best shown on video, and the truck driver probably did not realized how much of an idiot he was for ignoring the height restrictions until watching the amateur video taken by another truck driver and his passenger, who  spiced it up with some commentary (Note- some comments may not be suitable for children under 13.)


This sums up my picks for 2014. As you can see, we had some interesting stories, all caught on photos and film in hopes that drivers pay attention to their load when using the bridges. Because even the most modern bridges can only take so much. Take this advice in mind: Less is Always More, regardless of the gas price.  After watching the videos and reading the articles pertaining to the bridge picks, have a look at the winners of the 2014 Ammann Awards coming up in the next article…..


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Berlin: The Bridges and the Wall


Oberbaum Bridge and Viaduct spanning the Spree in Berlin. Photo taken in June 2010



This is a joint article with sister column The Flensburg Files and is part of the Files’ series on the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and German Reunification. For more information on this series, please click here for details.

Berlin: The capital of Germany and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. With 3.5 million inhabitants, the city is the cultural center and a major tourist attraction for people to see. A person can take a morning boat tour along the Spree, have lunch at a Christmas market at Alexanderplatz, see the entire city from the TV Tower (Fernsehturm), take in a concert with the city’s philharmonic orchestra at Gendarmen Market, visit the museums along Unter den Linden, consume and buy tons of books at Dussmann in Mitte, and lastly, eat a Vietnamese meal at a restaurant at Prenzlauer Berg. This is a typical day for a tourist visiting Berlin. With children, it would be crime not to visit the Zoo and Tiergarten in Charlottenburg.

Yet Berlin (like the rest of Germany) for almost five decades had been a chessboard for conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. The City was divided into four sectors in accordance to the Yalta Agreement signed on the eve of the end of World War II, yet instead of helping the Germans in the eastern sector rebuild their livelihood, the Soviets erected the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961, keeping the easterners from fleeing to West Berlin. For 28 years the Wall became the symbol of a divided Germany with each half having a different government and different mentality. This held true until 1989, when protests by the hundreds of thousands, resulted in the fall of the East German dictator, and subsequentially, the fall of the Wall. The first border opened on 9 November, 1989 and by the beginning of 1990, the Wall was but a memory and Berlin, reunited.

The 40+ kilometer long Berlin Wall not only surrounded West Berlin and closed off any possibilities to escape, it also blocked access to the bridges that spanned many of Berlin’s waterways, whether it was the Spree, the Teltow Canal or Wannsee. Many of the important crossings became the bridges to nowhere for 28 years, until the Wall fell and the crossings were reopened for the first time. Some of the bridges became the point of exchanges of Soviet and western agents, others allowed only westerners to visit East Berlin but not the other way around. But nonetheless, all of the crossings are open today, and people can use the bridges without having to show the border guards their passports, let alone fear for being arrested and charged of espionage.

The Chronicles will feature six well-known crossings that had once been either closed off by border guards or walled off completely, to show how important they were both during the Cold War as well as at the time of the Fall of the Wall, and to compare their relevance then to today, as Berlin celebrates its anniversary of the revolution that ushered in a new and peaceful era. A couple of these crossings have recently been torn down but not before leaving a historical marker indicating their importance in connection with one of the most painful times Berlin and the world faced.

One of the restored towers at the central span

Oberbaumbrücke and Viaduct

Location: Spree River at Am Oberbaum between Friedrichshain and Kreuzburg

Built: 1896; rebuilt in 1948 and 1995

Description and History:  The Oberbaumbrücke is one of Berlin’s prized treasures. The bridge features two levels of brick arch spans- the lower deck has six arches plus a steel beam center span to allow for ships to pass. That serves vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The upper deck features brick arches creating an arcade below for people to walk underneath. The center span features a steel deck arch span. The outerriver spans feature steel deck trusses that cross the streets below. Since 1995, the upper deck has served subway traffic. The bridge is highly ornamented with gothic towers, using the tower of the Mitteltorturm in Prenzlau (located 90 km north of Berlin) as a reference. The largest of the two are located at the center span of the bridge.The total length of the bridge is 150 meters not counting the steel truss viaducts on the Kreuzburg end. The  bridge suffered substantial damage in World War II with the gothic towers being destroyed and the upper deck being damaged to a point where no vehicles could cross. Although it remained in place, it was closed to traffic with the completion of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Yet with the fall of the Wall in 1989, plans were undertaken to restore the bridge to its original form. This was done between 1992 and its completion in 1996 with the steel center arch span being built by world famous architect, Santiago Calatrava.  Since then, the bridge has retained its original features, although remnants of the Cold War can be seen- the watch tower and portions of the Berlin Wall can be seen at the bridge, serving as a reminder of a divided Berlin during the 28-year period of the Wall. Since 1991, the boroughs of Friedrichshain and Kreuzburg have been a joint community and since 1998, festivities have occurred on the bridge, including a water fight between residents of the two communities as well as an art festival.

Former East German watch tower now an elevator to the subway stop at the bridge’s top deck

Oblique view of the arches




View of Glienicker Brücke from Babelsberg Park. Source: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glienicker_Br%C3%BCcke#mediaviewer/File:Glienicker_Br%C3%BCcke.JPG


Glienicke Bridge

Location: Havel River at Bundesstrasse 1 between Berlin- Wannsee, Babelsberg and Potsdam

Built: 1907 (current bridge); rebuilt in 1947

The 128 meter long Glienicke Bridge is located at the very southwest portion of Berlin. Built in 1907 by the Hakort Bridge Company of Duisburg under the direction of Eduard Fürstenau, this steel cantilever Warren truss bridge is the third crossing at this site, with the first crossing made of wood being built in 1670 followed by a stone arch bridge replacing it in 1834. Despite protests by residents of Potsdam and Berlin, that bridge was demolished in 1904 as part of the plan to expand the Teltow Canal. Construction on the new bridge began two years later. The bridge became the key link between the two cities afterwards, with the federal highway 1 crossing it. It was widened to accommodate traffic in 1937 and was the most traveled highway until it was partially destroyed at the close of World War II in 1945.

It was rebuilt in its original form two years later but became the dividing point between the Soviet Zone and that of the US and later its allies. When the Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961, a barrier  and border control area was constructed at the Potsdam end to prevent East Germans from fleeing into West Berlin. Up to 1989, only one escape attempt was successfully made, which was a Trabant car smashing through the wall in 1988, smuggling three people across the border into West Berlin.  If there was a bridge where Soviet and Western Spies were exchanged often, this bridge was the place. Between 1962 and 1986, three exchanges of spies took place, based on agreements made between the US and Soviet Union. A video of the “Bridge of Agents”, as coined by many, can be seen below.



After the Wall fell in 1989, the bridge was reopened and later restored to accommodate traffic between Berlin and Potsdam, and to this day, the key link between the two cities has been reestablished. Despite dismantling the wall and the border areas, a memorial and museum dedicated to this key crossing, was built near the stone columns on the Potsdam side. It is open daily for those wanting to visit the bridge and learn about its unique history.



Bösebrücke at Bornholmerstrasse. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_-_B%C3%B6sebr%C3%BCcke_am_S-Bahnhof_Bornholmer_Stra%C3%9Fe_(7592723062).jpg


Location: Railroad and Light Rail Lines at Bornholmerstrasse between Prenzlauer Berg and Gesundbrunnen

Built: 1916

The Bösebrücke is 320 meters long and features a steel through arch design, with the upper chord and approach spans being a Warren truss design. The bridge was one of a few that survived World War II but was even more unique for it was the first border crossing to be opened on the night of 9-10 November, 1989, allowing people to cross between East and West Berlin. A video of the event can be seen below. Several memorials can be found on or near the bridge commemorating this historic event, for the bridge served as an example of how a border literally became a bridge. Other border crossings followed and within 48 hours, the border crossings were open, and the Wall came tumbling down, piece by piece. The bridge still serves as a key crossing today, although its significance has diminished since 1989. The Bösebrücke does not necessarily mean “Bad Bridge,” it was named after Wilhelm Böse, who was one of many opponents of Adolf Hitler that led a resistance movement in an attempt to bring him down. Unfortunately he failed and was subsequentially executed on 21 April, 1944.



Photo of the Knesebeck Bridge taken in 1955. Photo courtesy of the German Archives (Bundesarchiv) Source: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_Br%C3%BCcken_%C3%BCber_den_Teltowkanal#mediaviewer/File:Bundesarchiv_B_145_Bild-F003013-0004,_Berlin,_Zonengrenze,_Grenz%C3%BCbergang.jpg


Location: Teltow Canal at Berlin Zehlendorf

Built: 1906, demolished in 1990, new structure built in 2009

Named after a prominent politician Leo Wilhelm Robert Karl von dem Knesebeck, this crossing featured a Warren through truss design with Warren portal bracings, all covered with ornamental decorations. This bridge was the most ornamental of the bridges along the Berlin Wall, yet it was made obsolete with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. A barrier was constructed at the bridge’s east portal and remained there until 1989. The bridge was torn down after the Fall of the Wall and replaced with a temporary crossing. A permanent crossing- a steel beam contraption- was built in 2009 and has provided drivers with a crossing over the Teltow Canal ever since.


The S-Bahn Crossing at Liesenstrasse

Location: Liesenstrasse, Gartenstrasse, and Ackerstrasse between Berlin-Mitte and Berlin-Gesundbrunnen, north of Stettin Station

Built: 1892 replacing a bridge built in 1843, abandoned since 1952

Featuring two curved Whipple through truss spans and one plate girder span, the Liesenstrasse Bridge once featured a rail line that started at Stettin Station and headed north towards Poland. It was one of a few bridges that survived unscathed by World War II, but unfortunately, with the destruction of the Stettin Station thanks to Russian bombs, combined with the construction of the Berlin Wall along Liesenstrasse in 1961, the crossing was rendered useless and has been sitting abandoned for 62 years. Even after the Berlin Wall fell, no consideration was made regarding the future of the bridge and the rail line. However, most recently, a grassroots group was formed with the goal of converting the bridge and the rail line to a bike trail. Already a presentation was given during the German heritage days, but more help is needed. More information on the bridge and the preservation group can be found here and here. The bridge is already protected by preservation laws, and is in an area where tourists can find several cemetaries nearby, as well as remnants of the Berlin Wall on the western side of the bridge.


Truss crossing and the Berlin Wall. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AWiener_Br%C3%BCcke_Berlin_01.jpg

Wiener Brücke

Location: Landwehrkanal at Karl-Kunger-Strasse in Berlin-Kreuzburg

Built: 1896 (concrete arch bridge), destroyed in 1945, replaced with truss bridge in 1946, removed in 2000

The last bridge to be profiled here is the Wiener Brücke (Vienna Bridge), a bridge with a tragic story behind it, especially as you see in the picture above. The original bridge consisted of a closed-spandrel concrete arch bridge with ornamental features resembling round emblems on the spandrels, Hermann Rhode and E. Simanski were the engineers behind the bridge that took a year to build. On 23 April, 1945, in an attempt to hinder the advancement of the Soviet Army, the Nazi troops detonated the arch bridge. Two of the emblems survived the blasts and were recovered and later taken to a cemetary at Berlin-Heiligensee to serve as a memorial for the people lost in the war. It took 12 years until its replacement was erected- a Warren half-deck and half pony truss span, which connected Kreuzburg with Treptow. Yet the crossing was made obsolete less than four years later with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The bridge remained unused until the Wall fell and the crossing was reopened to traffic. Yet it would only serve pedestrian traffic until it was finally demolished in 2000. At the present time, no replacement was planned.


There are many other crossings that are worth mentioning, but these are the key ones that serve as a reminder of how the Berlin Wall effectively kept people from crossing between the two halves of Berlin during the Cold War. And even if Berlin is a unified city today, with no external influence from the allies, one cannot forget about the history of how it was divided, and how these bridges kept the city together through the times of war and after the Wall finally fell and Germany was reunified.

To learn more about the Berlin Wall, check out the Flensburg Files as it has an article on this subject (click here) while its facebook page has details on the Rise and Fall of the Wall and its 25th anniversary celebrations.

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2014 Ammann Awards: Voting Now Underway

Split Rock Bridge in Pipestone County, MN Photo taken by Sebsatian Renfield

And now the moment of truth: Who will win the 2014 Ammann Awards in their respective categories?

Voting is now underway after taking in a substantial number of candidates on both the national and international levels and constructing a new voting platform that will make voting much easier than in the past.  Using the voting platform Poll Daddy, provided by Forum Communications and its subsidiary and cousin of the Chronicles, The Grand Forks Herald, you will have an opportunity to not only vote on the candidates you think deserve the awards (there are no limitations and your votes will be annonymous), but also keep track of the number of votes tallied in each category.

The procedure is simple: Just click on the links to the categories below, look at the candidates, click onto the links to Poll Daddy and then, click on your favorite candidate to vote.

With the exception of Best Photo and Mystery Bridge, each candidate has a short summary with links for more information. In the category Mystery Bridge, click directly on the name of the candidate to access the photos and stories of these structures before voting. The voting process is open to everybody, and you are free to forward the polls to others interested. Please keep in mind that voting will close on January 6th, the Day of Epiphany. This will give you time to go through the candidates and vote on your favorites. If you have any further questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles.

Without further ado, happy voting! :-)

Categories with the polls:

Best Photo

Mystery Bridge

Best Kept Secret

Bridge of the Year 

Lifetime Achievement

Best Example of Restored Historic Bridge


Special thanks to Kari Lucin at the Grand Forks Herald for all her efforts and help in getting this happen. 

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2014 Ammann Awards for Best Photo

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

Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, UK. Photo taken by Laura Hilton

Bunker Mill Bridge in Kalona, Iowa. Submitted by Julie Bowers and Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge

Vischr’s Ferry Bridge in New York State. Photo taken by Marc Scotti

Millau Viaduct in France. Photo taken by Jet Lowe

Linn Cove Viaduct in North Carolina. (this and next photo). Photo taken by Calvin Snead

Jack’s Reef Bridge in New York. Photo taken by Marc Scotti

Sutliff Bridge near Solon, Iowa. Photo taken by Caleb Howard

Forth Roadway Bridge in Scotland (Next two photos) Photos taken by Mark Watson

Hamme Bridge in Belgium. Photo taken by Harry van Royen

Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, MN Photo taken by John Weeks III

Firth of Forth Railway Bridge in Scotland (Next two photos). Photo taken by Mark Watson

Erie Railroad Double Truss Bridge in Rochester, New York. Photo taken by Marc Scotti

Monk’s Bridge at Ballasalla, Isle of Man, UK Photo submitted by Liz Boakes

Waterford Truss Bridge near Farmington, MN Photo taken by Healy Construction and submitted by Julie Bowers

Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson


Front Yard Bridge in Washington state. Photo submitted by K.A. Erickson

Calahwa River Bridge near Forks, WA Photo submitted by K.A. Erickson

Split Rock Bridge (Bridge 5744) in Pipestone County, MN Photo taken by Sebsatian Renfield

Black Hammer Twp. Bridge. (Bridge L4013) Photo taken by Katherine Haun

Once you have a chance to look at the photos, please click on the link below and vote for your favorite candidate. Note: As the photos are divided into the categories of USA bridges and International, there are two links you need to be aware of:

USA Bridge Photos: