Mystery Bridge Nr. 49: Silent Shade Swing Bridge in Mississippi

Photo taken by Craig Hanchey in 2009

The next Mystery Bridge takes us down to Mississippi and to this bridge: the Silent Shade Swing Bridge. The bridge is difficult to find for it is located over the Yazoo River, 25 migratory miles north of Yazoo City between US Highways 49W and 49E at the Humphreys and LeFlore County border. The bridge is visible from Silent Shade Road, located to the east of the river. The reason for its lack of visibility is because of the fact that the bridge has been abandoned for at least two decades. Yet the bridge has a lot of history that needs to be excavated, especially as it has been a subject of debate among historians and pontists. According to the data provided from the state of Mississippi, the bridge has a total length of 394 feet, 274 feet of which features a swing through truss span with a Warren design. The roadway width is 14.4 feet. The NBI data indicated that the bridge was built here in 1927, and this is where the debate starts.

If one looks at the picture more closely, there are two main factors that one has to look at. The first is the connecting trusses. While the bottom connections are riveted-meaning that the beams are slid together and welded shut like one wearing a pair of gloves- much of the truss is pin-connected, meaning the beams are bolted together like the elbow connecting the upper and lower arm of the human body. Pin-connected trusses were phased out in favor of riveted trusses as part of the standardized bridge plans introduced between 1915 and 1920. This brings up the next factor, which is the bridge’s portal and strut bracings. The Silent Shade Bridge has Howe lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings, while the strut bracings also have heel bracings. This is not typical of truss bridges built in the 1920s, for through truss bridges featured portal bracings resembling the alphabet, like the A, WV, W and even X frame portal bracings, as shown in the examples below:

Winnebago River Bridge located between Mason City and Charles City. Build date: 1925. Photo taken in July 1999

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

With these two flaws in mind, one has to ask himself whether the Silent Shade Swing Bridge was relocated to this spot from its place of origin and if so, where. It is clear that unless the bridge builder was so stubborn that he bucked the standardized bridge plans provided by the state, that the Silent Shade Swing Bridge was built before 1900. The author’s guess is between 1880 and 1895 with the bridge builder being one of the 28 that eventually became part of the American Bridge Company Conglomerate, which was established in 1901. The question is how far from the truth is he off and therefore, your help is needed.

The bridge community would like to know the following:

1. Whether the bridge was originally built here or relocated and if the latter, where was its place of origin?

2. If the bridge was relocated, when was it originally built?

3. Who was the bridge builder who built the structure and/or relocated it to its present site?

4. When was the bridge discontinued and left abandoned?

Because the bridge is so unique because of its truss design and the use of a rare bridge type over a less-travelled river in comparison to the Mississippi, the bridge will most likely receive some accolades in the future, such as a National Register listing, and eventually be used as a bike trail crossing, assuming it can be swung back into place from its open position. But you can help by solving the mystery of this bridge. Send your comments and data to the Chronicles or post them on the Chronicles’ facebook page or the comment page of, which has some info of the bridge’s location and photos here.

Nathan Holth commented that if the bridge was built in 1927, then he was president of the US. If it actually was built in 1927, then perhaps he should be sworn in as US president. After all, the history of a bridge like the Silent Shade is full of surprises, much of which will help rewrite the history of American architecture and transportation.

Author’s Note: Special thanks to Craig Hanchey for allowing his photo to be used for this article.

Also: The bridge is located approx. 70 miles east of the Mississippi River and Greenville as well as 120 miles north of the state capital of Jackson. 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 48: Disappearing Des Moines River Bridge in Murray County

Overview with view of the trusses. All photos courtesy of MnDOT










This mystery bridge article is in connection with the book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River, which actually starts here in Murray County, Minnesota. For more information on the project and how you can help contribute to the project, please click here for more details.

Bridge Facts:

Bridge Type: Pratt half hip pony truss with riveted connections

Location: Des Moines River at Jeep Trail, 0.3 miles east of County Highway 42 at Sec. 21/28 Des Moines River Township

Construction Date: 1929

Located over the Des Moines River seven miles south of the village of Dovray and only 0.3 miles east of County Highway 42, this Jeep Trail bridge (known to Minnesota DOT as Bridge L-1602) may represent a typical truss bridge with little or no history on it, except from those living near it. Yet its uniqueness and the mystery makes it something worth researching and talking about. For instance, the bridge is a half-hip Pratt pony truss bridge, with a span of 49 feet. The bridge type itself was the only one used for the Des Moines River crossing as a single span, both in Minnesota as well as in Iowa. More unique is the fact that the connections are riveted. One can detect this by finding the gusset plates at the bottom chord at the second panel as well as the top chord at the outer panels, where the diagonal beams and end post meet. Normally one would find half hips with pinned connections, but as the bridge was built here in 1929, the riveted truss design represents a break from the state standardized truss designs that were introduced 15 years earlier, and the half hips were supposed to be phased out in favor of heavier pony trusses featuring (polygonal) Pratt and Warren designs.

But the question is did this bridge break this standard with its construction at Jeep Trail in 1929 or was this bridge built earlier- before the standardized trusses were introduced- and was relocated here? If the latter is true, then the next question is where this bridge originated from.  The unfortunate part with this bridge was the fact that it was removed from service after 1990 with the road being vacated between County Hwy. 42 and County Hwy. 67. While returning home to Jackson from Marshall during my days in high school, my father and I crossed the bridge at 42 and the Jeep Trail Bridge was seen from a distance because of the flatness of the landscape and lack of trees. Yet when trying to find and photograph the bridge during my time in college in 1998, the bridge was not to be found. Furthermore, the road was fenced off. It is possible that because of the sparse usage of the road, and bridge that it was rendered useless by the county and was given to a local farmer for use. Had that bridge remained opened, there would have been a chance to inspect the bridge to see which of the two arguments would stand out as true: being brought in in 1929 or being originally built in 1929. Lastly, regardless of which one was true, the last question is who was responsible for the construction of the bridge.

Now it’s the local’s turn. What do you know about the bridge and its history? Any information? Send it over to Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact details here. The bridge will be included in the book on the bridges along the Des Moines River and therefore, any information on its history will be useful for the reader. Any stories and facts about it will be much appreciated. In the meantime, enjoy the photos of the bridge in hopes that some memories will be kindled and people with some facts will step forward to talk about it. :-)

All photos are courtesy of Minnesota DOT, whom the author thanks for the usage for the article and the book project.

Quick Note: The bridge is located 11 miles east of Slayton, the county seat of Murray County, and 9 miles east of Avoca. It is located approximately 13 river miles southeast of Lake Shetek, the source of the river.


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Mystery Bridge Nr. 47: The Twin Bridges over the Des Moines River in Minnesota

Sherman Bridge northwest of Windom. Photos taken in 1962 by MnDOT










The next mystery bridge features two bridges and is part of the book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River (for more, click here). This one takes us to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, located north of Jackson County, where the author grew up, and a main throughfare that crosses the river three times in the same county, County Road 15. The road enters the county from neighboring Murray County at Talcot Lake and after crossing the third Des Moines River bridge, terminates at US Hwy. 71 north of the county seat Windom.

Two of the Des Moines River crossings are featured here because they are literally identical. Both bridges feature Pratt half-hip through truss designs, with M-frame portal bracings and V-lace endposts. They are both approximately 80 feet long, despite the fact that the difference in total length between the two are only 40 feet apart. Both were built before or around 1900 but the information is very sketchy- sometimes “suspect” because of questionable data. The only difference is the location of the two- one is next to a golf course just outside of Windom, the other is only four miles to the west after the river bends to flow southeasterly.  To be specific as far as what bridges the author is talking about, here is what we know about the two bridges:

Side view of the Sherman Bridge. Photo courtesy of MnDOT










Sherman Bridge :

Location: Des Moines River at the Golf Course, 0.3 miles west of County Road 13  at Sec. 21 Great Bend Twp.

Length: 141 feet total (main span: 80 feet)

Replaced: 1960? with a concrete slab bridge

Thompson Bridge Photo taken in 1962 by MnDOT











Thompson Bridge

Location: Des Moines River, 0.4 miles north of County Road 40 at Sec. 14/15 Springfield Township.

Length: 95 feet total (77 feet main span)

Replaced: 1963 with a wooden trestle bridge

Questions remain open regarding the history of the two bridges. First and foremost is the question of the date of construction and the bridge builder. Judging by the features of the two spans, they were most likely built by the same company at about the same time. Some possible bridge builders that did business in Cottonwood County include Raymond and Campbell of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Hennepin Bridge Company of Minneapolis and Joliet Bridge Company of Joliet, Illinois. Judging by the markings of three bridges built in neighboring Jackson County during the time frame between 1880 and 1905, they appear to be the work of Raymond and Campbell, for its agent, George C. Wise had conducted business in the region between 1880 and 1910, both under the auspices of R & C as well as an independent contractor. He had built at least a dozen bridges in Jackson County and most likely did business in Cottonwood County. Yet more evidence in the form of newspaper articles and other information would be needed to confirm this. Joliet Bridge most likely built the Dempsey Bridge, located five miles northwest of Windom over the Des Moines River, but more information is needed to determine if it built other bridges at that time. The same applies to Hennepin Bridge Company, one of many bridge companies operated by members of the Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders which featured the Hewett family, Commodore Jones and Alexander Bayne.

The other question deals with the replacement date for the two bridges- in particular, the Sherman Bridge. National Bridge Inventory database and even the history books have the bridge being replaced in 1960, yet according to records and photos provided by Minnesota Dept. of Transportation, the bridge was still standing as of 1962. This leads to the question of whether the Sherman and the Thompson were replaced at the same time and if so, when. While working on a book on the bridges in neighboring Jackson County, an error was found in the NBI and state historical society records indicating a through truss bridge in Jackson being built in 1930, when city records pin-pointed its construction date of 1907, built by Joliet. This means that in the case of the two bridges, further information will need to be found as to when they were constructed and when they were replaced, in order to update all records to reflect on their history.

This is where you come in. If you have any information on the history of the Sherman and Thompson Bridges including photos of their existence and even replacement, the author would be much greatful if he could use them for the book project. Please send them to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at:  Any information on the two bridges will be useful to complete their history. It is very rare to have twin bridges sharing the same road with little knowledge. Yet through your help, you can solve their mystery.  Looking forward to the information that is forthcoming.

Thompson Bridge. Photo taken in the 1940s by MnDOT


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Historic Bridges along the Des Moines River- book project

Murray Bridge spanning the Des Moines River in Humboldt County. Built in 1905 by A.H. Austin. Photo taken in September 2010

Growing up in Jackson County, Minnesota, I was acquainted with historic bridges that had once crossed the Des Moines River, remembering the thousands times I had crossed the Petersburg Rd. Bridge, located just north of my grandma’s place when I visited her, or paying homage to those in the northern part of the county. They were unique because of their individual character and history. They were also part of our past, which the future generations have little to no knowledge about.

Despite almost all of them disappearing to progress, I wrote a book about Jackson County’s historic bridges in 2007 and again in 2012, featuring the bridges along the Des Moines River, where over a dozen bridges had once crossed the major river, now there are only 9 left in use.  Realizing the popularity of the books on “disappearing” historic bridges on book shelves in the libraries and book stores, it is time to take this subject to the next level- which is scrolling down the Des Moines River, digging up interesting bridge facts for readers to look at.

Petersburg Road Bridge in Jackson, Minnesota. Built in 1907, the bridge was torn down in 1995. Photo taken in 1992.









I’m looking for any information and old photos of bridges (as well as photos of old bridges before they disappeared) along the Des Moines River for use in a book bearing the above-mentioned title.

One has to keep in mind that the Des Moines River started in two different places. The west branch starts at Lake Shetek in Murray County and snakes its way through Cottonwood and Jackson Counties before making a straight shot going southeast. The east branch starts in Jackson County east of Alpha, and after meandering through Martin, Emmet and Kossuth Counties, joins the west branch south of Humboldt before slicing Iowa in half, passing through Des Moines, Red Rock Lake, and Ottumwa before emptying into the Mississippi River south of Keokuk. The total length of the river is 525 miles (845 km). Like the border it temporarily forms between Iowa and Missouri before its confluence at Keokuk, the river in Iowa also represents the border between the bridges builders from the east coast that built various iron bridges in the eastern half of the state and the bridges built by those who were based in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and all points to the west. Examples of bridges built by both sides of the spectrum are found in some history books, and some can be visited today by tourists and passers-by alike. This includes the Kilbourn, Bentonsport, Eveland, Bellefont and Horn’s Ferry Bridges, as well as bridges in Des Moines, Ottumwa, and Fort Dodge. Also a bonus is the number of railroad trestles that were built along the river, one of which was named after Kate Shelly, the girl who informed the station tenant of the bridge being washed out in a storm and stopped an incoming passenger train before it fell into the river.

Kilen Woods State Park Bridge in Jackson County, Minnesota. Built in 1913, replaced in 2004. Photo taken in 1994

If you have any information, stories and photos that you care to share in the book project, please contact me via e-mail at: For photos, please let me know the source so that it is cited in the book accordingly. Some mystery bridge articles in connection with some bridges along the river will be posted in the Chronicles and will be listed in the page entitled Forums and Inquiries under the title: Mystery Bridges. If you have any questions about the project or have anything that will contribute to the project, let me know and I’ll be happy to take them on. The Chronicles will keep you up to date as to how the book project is going and when it will be completed and ready for publishing. It is hoped that it will be finished in 2-3 years but it depends on the information found and how book will be created.

There is the Mississippi River bridge book set. Two other river books are in the works by a couple other pontists. Many cities have their own books on the history of bridges. It is hoped that the Des Moines River bridge book will be another one for readers to look at and cherish for years to come.


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Tree Falls on Skunk River Bridge

Photos taken in August 2011

AMES, IOWA-  The Cambridge Bridge, located at Ken Maril Road spanning the Skunk River in the south of Ames, is one of a few abandoned historic bridges that has received its lion’s share of visitors. Whether it is a runner crossing it as part of his round, a fisherman using it to catch a good bite, or a photographer stopping to get a few shots, the bridge is popular among locals, even if it has been abandoned for almost 25 years now. The bridge features an iron through truss bridge with a Warren design plus a riveted steel pony truss with a subdivided Warren design. The through truss was built in 1876 originally at a mill near Cambridge, located four miles south of Ames. Its builder was the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The bridge spanned the Skunk River and was 80 feet long. After 40 years of service, the bridge was relocated north to Ames to span the same river but to accommodate residents  living in the southern part of the city. There the 80-foot pony truss span was added, making the total length of the bridge to be 163 feet. The bridge continued to serve traffic until its closure in 1990. Up until now, the bridge has literally remained in place, with pedestrians and cyclists using the structure on a regular basis. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1998 as the iron span is the oldest of its kind left in Iowa.

Jogger running towards the bridge.

Now its future is in doubt after a tree fell onto the bridge. It is unknown when or how it happened, but one of the photographers recently visited the bridge during his bridgehunting tour through Iowa and found a couple trees that had fallen on the pony truss span. The damage appears to be minor as bent railings and dents in the truss span were reported. In addition, some tree parts are leaning against one of the piers, causing the decking to be uneven. Photos of the damage can be found here (photos 59-67).  This is leading to questions as to how to remove the debris without further damaging or even destroying the structure. Furthermore, discussion will most likely be brought up as to how to deal with the bridge in the future- whether it should be repaired and left open to pedestrian traffic or if it should be relocated to one of the parks in and around Ames. The city and the county historical society is looking into this matter in hopes that a solution can be found as soon as possible. Given its status on the National Register, it is highly unlikely that the bridge will be torn down. However, with as much use as this bridge has had since its closure, officials know that doing nothing is not an option and whatever action is taken, will require input from local residents and those associated with the bridge.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments. In the meantime, as a bonus, enjoy the photos and an earlier article written by Luke Harden on the bridges in Ames, which includes a further write-up on this bridge.

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Rendsburg High Bridge

Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011


Location: Baltic-North Sea Canal at Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Description: Main span: Cantilever Warren through truss with transporter (main span), steel trestle approach span (south) and loop approach (north)

Length: 7 km (total) Of which: 2468 main span; loop approach 4.5 km

Built: 1913 by Friedrich Voss and  C.H. Jocho of Dortmund


Travelling north to Flensburg on the Schleswig-Holstein-Express (the SHE) one evening in May 2010, I was chatting with four passengers heading home to the Rum capital of the world, talking about break-ups, broken marriages and partners cheating on them, when we suddenly found ourselves taking off from the ground. To think that most of the German state is flat consists of mainly farmland and coastal areas, to go from travelling on the ground to travelling in the air in a matter of seconds is like Eliott and E.T. flying in the air by bike. Yet the sound of metal to metal contact, especially when going over the steel towers revealed that whatever we were crossing was huge, the spectacular view of the lights of the town below and the body of water covered in emerald green lights was gorgeous.  After going through the steel truss mechanism, we made our descent in a curly-Q fashion before touching the ground and stopping at our next station. Our conversation had stopped in favor of the structure’s admiration, a sign that homage needed to be paid to a gigantic symbol that bridges the past with the present, the lover on one place with one in the other, and the impossible with the reality.

Especially the last one is what describes the Rendsburg High Bridge, spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal in Rendsburg, located between Hamburg and Flensburg. The bridge was the masterpiece of Friedrich Voss, who had built two other structures along the Grand Canal at Hochdonn and Kiel as well as numerous others in the northern half of the country, concluding the two-span arch bridge at Friedrichstadt. It took 1.5 years to build the main attraction along the canal, which after 101 years, it still serves as the anchor that makes the Grand Canal and Rendsburg the place to visit.  What Voss did with the bridge was unthinkable, impossible and even insane in the eyes of many locals during that time. While steel trestles and a through truss design were his signatures for long-span structures like the aforementioned bridges, Voss needed a main span that would carry both horse and buggy (and later cars) as well as rail traffic. Henceforth as one of the feats, Voss chose the cantilever Warren span, whose roadway would serve rail traffic connecting Hamburg and Neumünster to the south and Flensburg and Scandanavia to the north. Hanging from the main span is the transporter span, which even today carries cars, bikes and pedestrians across the canal between Rendsburg and Aldorf. The transporter operates four times an hour in both directions during the day and takes 4-5 minutes to cross, half as long as when crossing the entire bridge via SHE.

Even more unique is the north approach. Already in existence was the train station for it served rail traffic between Kiel and Husum, the problem came with how the approach span should descend from 50 meters above water to just over zero. This was where Voss referred to the history books and chose the loop approach. Using the Hastings Spiral Bridge as reference, the loop approach provides travelers with an opportunity to gradually glide down from the bridge, making a circle of 360°. The 1895 bridge over the Mississippi River was the first bridge to feature this loop approach for engineers and bridge builders at Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Works had the problem of the bridge extending into Hasting’s business district, which already had numerous buildings and traffic at that time. Therefore, the south approach consisted of the loop approach, thus encouraging cars to glide down into the city center like a marble.

The problem was similar with the north approach, as it consisted of much of Rendsburg’s city center and housing area, combined with remnants of the old canal and the harbor area connected with the new canal. Therefore, Voss and his men devised a plan where a loop approach would feature first a series of steel trestles at the height of between 40 and 50 meters above water level, followed by earthen berms with concrete arch spans crossing main streets,  after the descent of 40 meters. A Warren deck truss span crosses the rail line as it approaches the end of the loop. The total length of this loop approach alone is 4.5 km. The area the loop encircles consists of housing and therefore was later named Schleife.

On 1 October, 1913, after 1.5 years of work, Voss and 350 of his men from the bridge-building firm C.H. Jucho of Dortmund completed the work and the bridge was open to traffic. The bridge and transporter complex has operated almost unaltered ever since, sustaining minimal damage in World War II. The bridge was rehabilitated with rust protectant being added to the steel bridge between 1993 and 2012. The rail line was electrified in 1995, which resulted in the portal and strut bracings of the through truss span being lifted. Instead of the two-rhombus portal bracing, the main span now had A-frame portals, high enough for trains to pass through.

I had a chance to visit the bridge again in 2011, this time filming the crossing of the bridge and its transporter, but also following the path of the bridge from the start of the loop approach on the ground to the main span. While I never got a chance to see the Spiral Bridge as it was torn down in 1951, the Rendsburg High Bridge is nothing anyone has ever seen before. It is amazing just to be in a small suburb that is encircled by the loop approach, listening to trains cross it on an hourly basis. Its tall and towering trestles cannot be missed when travelling through Rendsburg. But the main span is just as amazing, for it has a total height of 68 meters, visible from 20 kilometers, making it one of the tallest structures along the Grand Canal.  But I also noticed that the bridge with its wonderful work of art has not yet been recognized on the national and international scale. With the Vizcaya Bridge being nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013, the Firth of Forth Bridge scheduled to be nominated in 2015, the Rendsburg High Bridge Complex should be considered another UNESCO site as well because of the engineering feats that Voss accomplished in building this superstructure but also because the bridge still functions as a normal crossing of its kind today, just like it did when it opened to traffic in 1913. This is something that has made Rendsburg famous and makes it one of the wonderful works of art in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany and central Europe. Already it was given the Historische Wahrzeichen der Ingenieurbaukunst in Deutschland Award (Historic Recognition of the Works of Engineering in Germany) in 2013, on its 100th birthday. Chances are, more accolades will follow for this iron lady, whose total length of 7 kilometers (2,400 m main span) still makes it the longest railway bridge in Germany.

To close this documentary about this bridge, the third and most important part of the Tour along the Grand Canal, there is a saying that applies to any bridge enthusiast. You are never a true pontist unless you visit at least a couple key engineering works. In my book, one should really pay homage to the Rendsburg High Bridge. It is an engineering work of achievement that is underrated and something that awes every engineer to this day. Every engineer has his creative talents, which Voss had when building this bridge. It has withstood the test of time and is still a work of art one should see, when visiting Germany. It is hoped that it will one day be a UNESCO site. It will eventually for it deserves this honor.

Author’s note:

You can view the photos of the Rendsburg High Bridge via facebook site. Click here to have a look at every aspect photographed during my visit in 2011.

Some videos of the bridge can be viewed below as well:


And some links to provide you with some more information on the Rendsburg High Bridge:


Lastly, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is sending off its logo, which goes by the design of the main span of the Rendsburg High Bridge. From now on, it will use a new logo, using another bridge to be profiled very soon, also located in Schleswig-Holstein, the Fehmarn Bridge. Here’s a farewell with many thanks to the old iron lady for being the source of inspiration into creating this unique logo:



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2014 Historic Bridge Weekend Highlights

Mackinac Bridge at night. One of the key bridges on the places to visit list for this year’s HB Weekend. Photo taken by Nathan Holth of

From north to south, all of Michigan has been covered. Although this year’s historic bridge weekend may have produced fewer numbers than in the past (due to it taking place in the shoulder season- after summer break), it provided participants with a visit to Michigan’s finest bridges, whether it was the Mackinac Bridge (as seen above) or the bridges in Grand Rapids, or even the states concrete camelback arch bridges. In either case, Michigan has a wide variety of bridges that are worth visiting, as described by Rick McOmber. McOmber is one of the correspondents of, a website founded by Nathan Holth, this year’s coordinator. He has agreed to provide you with some highlights of the events. Photos of the events were taken by Nathan Holth with some more available by clicking here.  Here are the highlights from McOmber:

On September 5-7, 2014 the historic bridge weekend was held in Michigan. Although not as many people attended as previous years it was still a very productive and exciting weekend. I know I could have done a better job of posting details about this gathering earlier but thanks to everyone for spreading the word on their respective websites. This year attendees include James Baughn and his mom from Missouri, Todd Wilson from Pittsburgh and locals Nathan Holth and I.
Friday Sept 5, 2014
Once the strong thunderstorms cleared our trip began as Todd, Nathan and I left East Lansing, MI and headed north on I-75. Before checking in at our hotel in St Ignace, a few night photos were in order for the Mackinac Bridge. Crossing this beautiful suspension bridge at night with the 552 ft. towers lit up is an amazing experience. James and his mother were also in Northern Michigan Friday visiting bridges on their way up.

International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie Michigan/Ontario. Photos taken by Nathan Holth

International Railroad Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie Michigan/Ontario






Saturday Sept 6, 2014
We awoke to sunny skies Saturday so we returned to the Mackinac Bridge early to obtain some side views. Some painting/maintenance work was in progress but the on-site workers were kind enough to uncover some plastic covering on the Steinman plaque so we all could get photos. James captured some excellent pictures of the Mackinac Bridge later on in the day as he took a ferry tour. Once our morning photos were complete we drove to Sault St. Marie and crossed the border to Canada. This afforded us some spectacular vantage points of the International Bridge along with the Int. swing dam bridge; portal views of the 8 span pin-connected railroad bridge and Canadian locks. We ate lunch then drove back to Sault St. Marie USA where we drove a top the campus of Lake Superior St University so we could take aerial photos of the Int. Bridge. (Thanks for researching this location Nathan) We paid a quick visit to the Soo locks before departing to photo document the Ashmun St through arch bridge. This 1935 span was a favorite among all of us. We then headed west so we could visit the deck cantilever Cut River Bridge. Using the walkway we were able some get some adequate side photographs. We continued west on Route 2, stopped at a scenic byway to get distant views of the Mackinac bridge. Shortly after we met up with the Baughns at the Bridge View Park. After a brief visit we drove to Charlevoix to photo a double leaf bascule along with warren through rail bridge now a part of a rail trail. Although late in the day we began an adventuresome trek on the back roads of Michigan to a rehabbed pin connected pony truss (Iron Road) bridge. We headed south to Grayling, MI where there was enough daylight to photo the Au Sable River bridge which is a rigid frame with unique railings. After that we drove into town to eat at Dawson & Stevens which is a 1950’s theme restaurant to discuss the day’s events and relax.

Mottville Bridge, one of a handful of camelback concrete arch bridges left in Michigan

Sunday Sept 7, 2014
Weather cooperated again with sunny skies and once our lavish breakfast at Tim Horton’s was complete James joined Todd, Nathan and I for the Sunday tour. Our goal was to visit Grand Rapids area and bridges in southwest Michigan. Before stopping in Grand Rapids we visited a Pratt Through Railroad Bridge in Lowell and the Burroughs St Camelback pony truss. While In Grand Rapids we visited the 6th St, Blue Rail Bridge, North Park St, Indian Mounds,  a lattice girder bridge. Fortunately we were able to get nice pictures of the significant 1924 Pine Island drive concrete curved chord through girder before modern Armco railings were installed. We left the greater Kent county area and drove down to one of feature bridges of the trip, 1879 New Richmond swing pony truss bridge. The King Bridge Co Whipple was next in Allegan, MI, one of only 3 whipple examples in Michigan. We stopped for lunch and then it was on to the city of Plainwell for some of our states best ice cream, a good way to break up the day. We drove next to Mottville which was another key bridge of the trip to visit (270 Ft concrete curved chord through girder bridge) and an engineering landmark designated by MDOT. We continued on to St Joseph County, MI to visit several pin connected trusses Marantette, Haybridge Rd, and the ½ Mile road through truss. We drove to the M-86 Camelback pony truss before this span is moved at a later date. We had enough daylight to dip into Lagrange County, Indiana to see the IN-120 Bridge and glad it was still standing. This through truss has serious section loss at the lower chord connection points.
That concluded our trip as the group closed out the weekend dining in East Lansing, MI Sunday evening. From Sault St. Marie to LaGrange County, IN it was another fun time had by all and successful historic bridge weekend. Our long distance travel awards go to Todd and James, we thank you for visiting  “Pure Michigan”. I thank you Todd for arranging our efficient and fun to drive VW Passat rental car. Nathan we all appreciate your meticulous trip mapping each day. For additional questions on trip details or photos contact anyone of us. I look forward to seeing everyone at the 2015 Historic Bridge Weekend Event!
Rick McOmber -

A list of bridges visited can be found by clicking here. Planning is in the works to highlight the bridges to visit in Sault Ste. Marie and Grand Rapids to give you an idea which historic bridges to visit while in Michigan, in addition to the Historic Bridge Park near Kalmazoo.They will be posted here as soon as the tour guides are finished.

As far as the 2015 Historic Bridge Weekend are concerned, the venue is still open, although ideas of hosting one in Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa had been brought up prior to the event. Even though it is early to plan, if you have any suggestions for visiting historic bridges for next year’s event, please contact the author of the Chronicles, Nathan Holth at, Todd Wilson at Bridgemapper or James Baughn at to present your ideas. Who knows, your place may be on our agenda for visiting next year. The Chronicles will keep you in the loop regarding the Historic Bridge Weekend as well as other upcoming events pertaining to historic bridges and preservation.

The author would like to thank the organizers of the 2014 Historic Bridge Weekend for the write-up and photos, some of the latter of which were posted here as highlights.

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Beaver destroys historic bridge in Bavaria

KUTZENHAUSEN-BUCH/ AUGSBURG- The Rothbrücke, located in the district of Augsburg in the community of Kutzenhausen has been in the news recently because of a rather interesting story that is making residents and Bavarians scratch their heads as to how this could happen. The 40-50 foot long beam bridge with concrete decking that spans a small creek has come under attack from an unlikely source, and it has caused the mayor to pursue measures to demolish and replace the bridge with haste. Beavers have been busy taking the bridge apart, piece by piece, where they have undermined the bridge’s abutments and wingwalls by digging several holes behind it, as well as along the shoreline surrounding it. The abutment supports the decking of the bridge, whereas the wingwalls allows water to flow freely under the bridge and keep the dirt back. The end result of the beaver’s work has been the area having several holes and tunnels at and behind the abutments, making it look like Swiss cheese, according to reports by the newspaper, Augsburger Allgemeine. The problem was first discovered in 2010, resulting in the weight limit of 3.5 tones being imposed on the bridge. But it was not enough for the beavers to widen their tunnel network and bring the bridge to a point of collapse. According to the mayor, Rupert Kugelbrey, the abutments are so undermined that the bridge could collapse at any moment.  While the bridge has been closed off to all traffic including pedestrians since the end of February of this year, plans are now in the making to remove the bridge at the earliest possible convenience for safety reasons. Whether there will be a replacement for the 40+ year old bridge to follow remains open. But it has provided locals and pontists with some humor, as the beaver is being talked about among the social network community. And it is no wonder, for beavers have a potential to bring down trees and dam up streams, causing flooding. That they have the potential to destroy bridges by undermining important parts is something that is going to have engineers look at other ways to keep wild animals from destroying other bridges, regardless of age and materials used.  For this beaver, it will have to find other bridges to undermine, once the Rothbrücke is removed, but not before receiving the Chronicles’ Author’s Choice Awards in the process, which will be presented next year.

Respect. :-)

More on the bridge can be found here. A photo of the bridge and the damage done by the beaver can be found here.


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New Logo/ New Products For Sale

Fehmarn Bridge in Germany. Used as the new logo for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Photo taken in September 2014

Looking for the right gift for Christmas, or a calendar with bridges and scenery because you have not found one in stores yet? You are just in luck! :-)

In time for the holiday season, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and its sister column the Flensburg Files have new items available to order and give to your friend or loved one. Click here in the Flensburg Bridgehunter Online Shop, and you will have an opportunity to buy a new 2015 calendar, mugs and coffee cups with their respective logos on there, Christmas ornaments and new at the shop, photos of bridges taken by the author with some interesting facts about them. The platform for the shop, Cafe Press, has some deals regarding shipping and other opportunities. Check out the shop by clicking here.

Proceeds will go to various bridge projects in the works. Among them include two books on bridges in Iowa, one in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, as well as a couple bridge preservation projects that are going on at the present time.  If there is an item or photo that you would like to order but is not at the online shop, please let the author know and there are ways to get it to you as soon as possible. If you have any questions or want more information on the bridge projects, please him know as well.

The merchandise sold through Cafe Press feature a new logo. The old logo, depicting the Rendsburg High Bridge in Germany, will be phased out in favor of one featuring another German bridge. The Fehmarnsundbrücke (EN: Fehmarn Bridge) was built in 1963 and is the first bridge in the world to feature a basket-handle tied arch span. Connecting Fehmarn Island and Scandanavia with the rest of Germany and Europe via Migratory Bird Route, the future of the steel lady is in limbo for reasons to be mentioned in an article to be posted later in the fall.  In support of the bridge, it is featured in the new logo that follows a pattern similar to the one featured in the Flensburg Files, but only with acronyms. You will see more of the new logo when articles are being presented in the near future, but not before giving the old iron lady of Rendsburg its proper send-off, as will be seen in the next article.

Reminder: The Chronicles is still taking on articles and information on the best example of a restored historic bridge as well as tour guides on regions with historically significant bridges. They will be nominated for this year’s Ammann Awards. More information can be found here.

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Dunlap’s Creek Bridge to be Rehabilitated

Side view. Photo courtesy of the HABS HAER Record

At first, the bridge seems to be a typical steel arch bridge in a small Pennsylvania community of Brownsville, located approximately 40 miles south of Pittsburgh, along the Monogahela River. However, instead of tearing down the structure, as it has been described in a textbook fashion by PennDOT, this bridge is due to be rehabilitated.

So what’s so special about Dunlap’s Creek Bridge, an 80-foot long bridge that reminds the author of the Blackfriar’s Road Bridge in London?

The bridge is definitely older than Blackfriar’s Road Bridge. It was built in 1869 and still serves traffic over the River Thames.

This bridge was built much earlier- 1839, to be exact!

Dunlap was the product of Captain Richard Delafield, the person who designed the bridge. The bridge consists of a Howe Lattice deck arch bridge, made of cast iron that was manufactured by Herbertson Foundry in town. Keys and Searight were the contractors for the bridge. The bridge was built 60 years after the first cast iron bridge in the world was constructed at Coalbrookdale, England, the structure that is still standing today. Yet Dunlap set the standard for the following developments:

1. The bridge set the standard for the introduction of the Howe Truss, designed and patented by William Howe in 1840, one year later. It is possible that Howe either influenced Delafield into using this design or used this bridge as a reference for his design.

2. The bridge was used as references for other arch bridges of this fashion, for hundreds of bridges of this type were used for crossings, big and small, in the US and Europe, built between the 1850s and 1900, a fraction of which are still standing today.


The bridge is the first one to be built in the USA, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978 and is one of 76 bridges honored internationally for its unique design and historic significance. Now the 1839 bridge, which took three years to build and is the fourth crossing at this site, is scheduled to be rehabilitated. Plans are in the making to strengthen the arches, replace the roadway, and there is a possibility that the encasement installed in the 1920s will be removed, exposing the covered half of the cast iron arch. No details of how the bridge will exactly be restored, but PennDOT is looking at the restoration cost of up to $3.7 million, according to a report from the Post Gazette in Pittsburgh. The plan is to make it more attractive for tourists once the project is completed.

Builder’s plaque. Photo taken by James Baughn

A link with all the information about the bridge and its history can be found here. The Chronicles will keep you updated on the project as it comes.


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