Mystery Bridge Nr. 40: A Whipple Truss Bridge in Japan

Photo taken by John Paul Catton, author of the ‘Sword, Mirror, Jewel’ fantasy trilogy’ Used with permission

 

The next mystery bridge takes us over 20,000 kilometers away from home, to the country of Japan.  With over 127 million inhabitants and despite the tragedies that have affected them for years- namely the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which effectively ended World War II,  and the triple disaster at Fukushima three years ago (earthquake, followed by a tsunami that wiped many cities off the map and the worst nuclear disaster since 1986)- Japan maintains an unusually fast-paced but honor-obsessed culture, which makes the country stand out among other industrialized countries in the world. The country is famous for its sushi and rice, and thanks to its decades of developing modern technology, Japan is the third most powerful country in the world with regards to the world economy.

Many people do not really think much about Japanese heritage as the population is always on the move. And it is no wonder why  historic bridges are almost next to never mentioned. Yet John Paul Catton, who is the author of the Sword, Mirror, Jewel Fantasy series and webmaster of Planet 303 (Adventures in a Post-Fictional World), happened to find this jewel, while providing readers with a tour of the Japanese city of Asakusa.  The city is part of the perfecture of neighboring Taito, which is part of the Japanese capital of Tokyo.  As for the bridge itself, it has a history of its own. The truss design is clearly marked: A Whipple pony truss with pinned connections. This design was patented by Squire Whipple in 1841, and set the precedent for the development of the bowstring arch bridge in general, which started populating the American landscape in the late 1860s. The Norman’s Kill Bridge near Albany, New York, built in 1869, is one of the earliest examples of this truss type.

The Whipple truss bridge at Asakusa, according to Catton, used to be located in Fukugawa, which is southeast of Yamaguchi on the extreme southwest end of Japan. It was relocated to this place in Asakusa in recent times, perhaps 10-20 years ago,  given the newness of the abutments, and the roadway that runs underneath the span. While no exact dimensions have been found on this bridge, one can assume that the span is between 20 and 30 meters long. Because welded and riveted connections were introduced in 1910 to replace the pinned connections, one can assume that the bridge was originally constructed in the time period between 1865 and 1880, and whoever designed the span was either a disciple of Squire Whipple himself, or he borrowed the design from him (or his colleagues) to use when building it at Fukugawa. Because Fukugawa is 918 kilometers (570 miles) southwest of Asakusa (in Tokyo), the feat of relocating the span to its current place must have been a Herculean one, because of the exorbitant costs combined with obstacles in transporting it (Think of the mountainous landscape, combined with potential earthquakes, which overshadow the well-knitted infrastructure).  Such a feat is rare to find in the United States, yet attempts are underway to relocate a truss bridge from Pennsylvania to Alabama as part of a major project, supported by Alabama DOT and a private group wanting to save the BB Comer Bridge. If approve, this record distance of transporting a historic bridge from A to B, will surely be broken.

This bridge was first mentioned through bridgehunter.com, though a thorough article about the bridge and the request for information about the bridge’s history has not been written until now. Therefore, the Chronicles needs your help regarding finding the following information:

1. When was this bridge built?

2. Who was the bridge builder? Was he a disciple of Whipple or did he work for a firm in Japan (or elsewhere)?

3. Where exactly was this bridge located in Fukugawa?

4. Because of the fact that the bridge is one of the oldest left in Japan, what was the motive behind relocating the span to Asakusa?

5. When did the relocation take place and how?

Send your information to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. As soon as all the questions have been answered, there will be a follow-up to this article in the Chronicles.

Japan does take pride in its culture, and how (and why) this bridge was relocated remains a mystery, except for the fact that they really care about it, considering it one of the important landmarks of Japanese history. The Chronicles is working together to make sure the bridge’s history and its association with the development of the Japanese infrastructure comes to light. More on this Mystery Bridge will follow.

Fast Fact: Fukugawa is located between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two cities that were destroyed by two atomic bombs in 1945. President Truman ordered the bombs to be dropped after Germany surrendered to the Allies in May. Hiroshima was destroyed on 6 August, 1945, Nagasaki followed three days later. Japan surrendered on 2 September, 1945, when Emperor Hirohito signed the surrender papers on the USS Missouri, with General Douglas MacArthur overseeing the process. How nuclear radiation affected Fukugawa as a result of the two bombs, remains an unknown factor.

The author of the Chronciles would like to thank John Paul Catton for the use of the photo.

 

 

Posted in Bridge Profile Europe and elsewhere, Mystery Bridge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

In School in Germany: The Pocket Guide to Industrial History

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

 

Joint article and forum with sister column the Flensburg Files in conjunction with the series on In School in Germany. Except this example focuses on Infrastructure, using Historic Bridges as an Example.

A while back, shortly before my debut teaching about industrialization in the US and Germany between 1870 and 1914, I had put out a question as to how to approach the topic of infrastructure in that era, in particular when it comes to bridge building, and how it ties in with the usage and proliferation of the material of steel- a replacement to iron. For more information on this inquiry, please click here for details.

Here is the follow-up on this particular topic, which has me thinking about a creative way of getting students acquainted with infrastructure and industrialization:

During the block-session, which consists of two 45-minute sessions into a 90-minute one, students had an opportunity to write down their notes in a small pocket brochure, compiled on my part. This is what the pocket brochure looked like:

The notes to be taken by the students (consisting of high school juniors) were in connection with a series of mini-presentations that they were supposed to give, based on the following topics that were given to them to prepare two weeks beforehand:

Iron and Steel

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871

The Chicago School of Architecture

Railroads

Bridges

Canals

The Automobile

The Roads

Inventions (Electricity, the Telephone, etc.)

Each presentation was 3-5 minutes long, with questions to follow.  The exception to the topic was the one on bridges, presented by yours truly.  The topics were presented in a way that materials go first, for they played hand-to-hand in the development of other forms of infrastructure and transportation.

The results were astounding. Lots of information on American and European inventors making their marks, yet one would need a couple more sessions to digest all the information presented.  Some questions in connection with this topic you can find in the Files’ article here.

The problem with presenting infrastructure and industrialization is that the development of both Germany/Europe and the US was exponential, that it would be difficult to cover everything. It even applies for bridges, as dozens of American and European bridge builders were responsible for hundreds of bridge designs and bridge examples that existed during that time (and still do today). Plus some of the bridge builders of that time period had their own colorful history that is worth mentioning; especially when it comes to those immigrating to the US from what is today Germany, Poland, Austria, France and Hungary (where they were once known as The French Kingdom, Prussia and later the German Empire, Austro-Hungarian (or Habsburg Empire) and the Russian Empire (as Poland became part of the empire in 1795 as part of a partition agreement with Prussia)).

The end result was a compromise presented by the history teacher upon evaluating the session: a pocket guide to certain aspects of infrastructure with a focus on a country and some key examples worth noting. If divided up into the aforementioned topics, it would make the most sense, as for each aspect, one can present some key facts that are relevant to the topic of infrastructure and industrialization, along with some fun exercises . Plus if the booklet is 10-15 pages per topic, it will be sufficient enough for pupils to get a whiff of the aspects of history that have been left at the wayside, while the remaining artefacts become a distant memory,  but at the same time, be encouraged to preserve what is left of history or take measures that matter to them. After all, when we talk about environment and protection, our heritage technically belongs to this fragile umbrella.

For the pontists and historians alike, some ideas of how to construct such a booklet pertaining to bridges is a tricky one, for especially in the United States, the topics and the number of bridge builder and bridge examples have to be narrowed down to only a handful of examples. So if we look at the proposal for such a booklet for Germany, we have the following:

Part I: German emigrants- focusing on John Roebling, Albert Fink, Gustav Lindenthal, Wendell Bollmann, Joseph Strauss und Lawrence H. Johnson

Part II: German bridge engineers (who stayed in Germany)- Friedrich Voss, Hermann Matthäus, Gustav Eifel, Hermann Gerber, Franz Meyer

Part III: Areas of bridge building- Cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Halle (Saale), Leipzig, etc.- choosing three; Canals (Baltic-North Sea, Dortmund-Ems, Elbe-Lübeck) and a pair of River Examples

Part IV: Notable Works- using two bridge examples, like the Rendsburg High Bridge, for example, and presenting some interesting facts about them.

If you were asked to construct a booklet similar to the one mentioned here, for the US, how would you structure it? What contents would you put in there and what examples would you include?  You can place your comments here, on the facebook pages under the Flensburg Files and/or Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, or in the LinkedIn page under The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  Do not be surprised if you have a question coming from either the author or one of the readers pertaining to a booklet on a similar topic but pertaining to Canada or another country.

Those wishing for a copy of the booklet I made for my history class or a power point presentation on bridges in Germany and the US can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Please be aware that both are in German and that if you want the English version, you will have to wait a couple weeks.

And now to the Files’ Guessing Quiz pertaining to Industrial History, which you can click on here.

Posted in Education in Germany, Food for thought, Forum, Interesting Bridge Facts, News, Pop Quiz | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystery Bridge 39: The fallen Burwell (Nebraska) Bridge

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Burwell,_Nebraska_fallen_bridge_2.JPG

A few weeks back, we received a photo with some information pertaining to this bridge. Located over the North Loup River on what remained of 7th Avenue at present-day Riverside Park, the Bridge at Burwell (coined as Old Burwell Bridge in the bridgehunter.com website) has some mysteries of its own to be solved- in particular, what the bridge looked like and when it was built. What is clear, according to records from the Nebraska Historical Society, floodwaters washed out this bridge- deemed as the lone crossing going in and out of Burwell- on 25 June, 1939. The Nebraska Department of Roads and Irrigation responded by constructing a new crossing a year later, featuring a steel plate girder crossing located 3/4 mile east of the original crossing, where Highways 11 and 91 cross today.

The fallen north portion of the original bridge is all that remains of the Old Burwell Bridge today. Judging by its Art Deco design, the crossing must have been built between 1912 and 1920, when concrete girders, using similar designs, were used either as a substitute to steel or even as a complement to the material that had been used almost exclusively for bridge building up until then. Already, the standardization of bridges had started, where state road departments introduced strict standards in bridge building, including new bridge designs made of concrete, like the girder as seen in the photo above.

Bolson Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa. The 1924 bridge represents an example of standardized truss bridges used during this time. Photo taken in 2007

The question is whether this crossing had been a full-blown concrete girder bridge with more than one span, or whether the fallen span had once been an approach span for another bigger bridge type, like a riveted truss bridge, for example. For the second argument one needs to add the fact that truss bridges were built using riveted connections instead of pinned ones, but despite its sturdiness, they are sometimes prone to flooding, where the span is washed away. Many truss bridges had girder approach spans as they were sturdier than wooden ones, and they enabled passengers to cross the bridge safely.

Keeping these arguments in mind, we have a couple questions to answer with regard to the Old Burwell Bridge:

1. Was the crossing a full fledged concrete beam or girder bridge or was it an approach span to another bigger bridge type, like a truss bridge?

2. When was this bridge built and who was the bridge builder?

3. What were the dimensions of the bridge before flooding washed it away?

Answers to this question can be posted here or on the Chronicles’ facebook page. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Inquiring minds would like to know about the bridge’s history, and the Chronicles is there to help solve the mystery.

 

Posted in Bridge Profile USA, Mystery Bridge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chambers Ford Bridge for Sale. Any Takers?

1890 Clinton Bridge Company span. Photos taken by Quinn Phelan

Belle Plaine, Iowa-  Tama County: one of many Iowa counties that has more than two dozen pre-1945 bridges left in the state. This includes the steel truss Black Bridge spanning the Iowa River and the Lincoln Highway Bridge near Toledo, whose railings bear the highway’s name and which was replicated in the form of a butter sculpture seen at the Iowa State Fair last year. Yet it is one of many counties with many structurally deficient bridges, many of them being closed to traffic in the past three years.
The Chambers Ford Bridge is one of them. Located over the Iowa River at 380th Avenue, 3 miles west of Belle Plaine, this two-span bridge features steel Pratt through trusses, but each of them are different because of the their portal bracings, as well as the date of construction.

The older and longer of the spans was one of the first ones built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Company in Clinton. It was constructed in 1890 and had a span of 155 feet with wooden trestle approaches. 13 years later, with the wooden approaches deteriorating beyond repair, the county hired another Iowa bridge builder, George E. King to construct a replacement approach span in a form of a Pratt through truss bridge, totaling 140 feet long and costing $3,987. The total length of the bridge is 345 feet long.

1903 George E. King portion of the bridge

Since 2007 the bridge has been closed to traffic and has been the target of vandalism, as parts of the wooden decking was set ablaze by arsonists, causing damage to the bridge, albeit not as severe as the incident at Bunker Mill Bridge near Kalona, last August.  Missing bolts and other bridge parts have also been reported. Yet times are changing, and the county engineer plans to replace this bridge with a pre-cast concrete bridge. However, as the truss bridge is a national historic landmark- having been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1998- the Tama County Engineer is offering the bridge to any takers willing to relocate it for reuse, regardless of whether it is only one of the two truss spans or both. The reason for this is to garner interest from parties interested in finding a new home for the structure.

At the same time, the bridge’s history will be documented, thanks in part to an agreement made between the county, the cultural resources office of the Iowa Department of Transportation in Ames, and Wapsi Valley Archeology, Inc. in Anamosa, where all stories, photos and postcards are being collected and will be used in a booklet to be published for libraries in Tama County and beyond, as well as IaDOT.

If you are interested in purchasing the bridge, please contact the Tama County Engineer, using the contact details here. If you wish to contribute to the booklet, the contact details for Wapsi Valley Archeology and Kristy Medanic (who is in charge of this project) is found here. The preservation and relocation of the Chambers Ford Bridge will make up for losing a pair of key historic bridges in 2007 at Toledo and Chelsea as well as another last year at Traer, yet it could also serve as a motive to preserving the remaining bridges of their kind in the county, for there are plenty of them- closed to traffic because of age and deficiencies- to go around and enough interest from other groups to take them for reuse. The Chronicles will follow-up on the developments of the bridge project set to begin soon.

Historian Kristy Medanic of Wapsi Valley Archaeology, Inc. at 515-233-1146. – See more at: http://www.tamatoledonews.com/page/content.detail/id/547218/Historic-Chambers-Ford-Bridge-needs-a-new-home.html?nav=5006#sthash.ug7DTyx8.dpuf
Historian Kristy Medanic of Wapsi Valley Archaeology, Inc. at 515-233-1146. – See more at: http://www.tamatoledonews.com/page/content.detail/id/547218/Historic-Chambers-Ford-Bridge-needs-a-new-home.html?nav=5006#sthash.ug7DTyx8.dpuf
Posted in Bridge Preservation, Bridge Profile USA, For sale- Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to teach Infrastructural History in School

Waddell Truss Bridge at Volga State Preserve. Photo taken in August 2011

 

Joint Article with Sister Column:

 In connection with Files’ series on In School in Germany. More on the series can be found here.

History- a subject that goes beyond borders and looks at things that we never knew about, getting us to think about them, putting them in the context of our own lives and the environment we are living in. It goes beyond the borders of geography and how the countries were developed. It goes beyond arena of sports events and looks at the development of each kind and how the men and women contributed to it. It digs deeper into how the country was mapped out in terms of landscape, networks of infrastructure and the social aspects which led to revolution and redesign by reformists and those who wanted to make their place better than before.  In other words, one has to dig deeper to find the truth and challenge what had been written in the past but was now rebuked because of new evidence.

In school, especially on the secondary level, history is a must, and it is important that students know about the history of their country and the rest of the world for two reasons:

1. To help them become acquainted with their own region and country and discover who they are and where they came from and

2. To encourage them to find out more about themselves and where they live, by looking and exploiting the aspects that are seldom mentioned.

As there are certain requirements written by law and because of certain time constraints, only a peck of the history that exists is even taught in the schools, and when it is taught, it is with the traditional social form of teaching: the book and frontal teaching (German: Frontal Unterricht). It is not surprising that the interest in history among youngsters up to 18 is near the bottom of the food chain, in both countries- more so in the US than in Germany because of the strive of educators to have the students achieve high results in the international tests for math, reading and sciences. But as we see in the PISA studies, and which will be discussed in the Files’ article about Frontal Teaching, sometimes student involvement and allowing them to discover something new can encourage a positive education result, even better than the recent studies.

But even with these constraints, the teacher can make some space for some new things that cannot be found in books themselves- at least not yet, that is. And when students are encouraged to do some work on their own, whether it is analysing a text and writing a review about it or presenting about it, then they will benefit from it in a way that they can add the knowledge to what was taught in the past and have fun doing it. This is where the topic of Industrialization and Infrastructure enters the picture.

During my internship at a Gymnasium in Germany, I had an opportunity to dig deeper into the history of the development of Germany in the 1800s by looking at aspects like the creation of democracy, Otto von Bismarck’s creation of the German state in 1871 and how Germany became a super power and remained so until the end of World War I. At the present time the students are talking about Germany, Europe and the age of industrialization between 1871 and 1914, where several aspects, such as imperialism, socialism, worker’s union and environment are being introduced. Even the expansion of the transportation infrastructure and the landscape made of steel will be mentioned. Believe it or not, this is the topic the author of the Chronicles and Files is about to do.

Talking about the infrastructure and comparing it between Germany and the US does produce their similarities in terms of inventions and the development of materials for the construction of buildings, railroads and bridges, yet how does a teacher present these aspects to the students without boring them.  Let’s look at the topic of bridges, for example. There are two different arguments for and against presenting this topic. The contra part would be the simple fact that a bridge is a bridge, crossing a ravine connecting point A and point B. If it fails or is too old, then it is replaced. The pro part to this topic feature the arguments about unique bridge designs, bridge builders that were common, including those who immigrated to the States from Germany, like Ralph Mojeski, Lawrence Johnson, Albert Fink, and Gustav Lindenthal, to name a few. Then there is the switch from iron to steel mainly because of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and lastly the consolidation of 28 bridge builders into the American Bridge Company in 1901 and its competition from other bridge builders in the west, as well as outside the country.

Nathan Holth once presented this topic as a whole during his time as a student teacher (his PPT presentation can be seen here). Some of the unique features, include the builder’s plaque, portal bracing of the truss bridge and ornamental features can enable historians to determine how the development of bridges came about in the US between 1871 and 1914. As I will be the second pontist to present this in a couple weeks time, the topic will be on a wider scale as Germany and US have some similarities with regard to bridge construction. The difference is with regards to the fact that the German concentration seems to be more on canals and railways than with highways, like in the US. Also the full establishment of steel companies, like Thuyssen-Krupp before 1871 enabled Germany to expand the steel-building landscape, constructing bridges and high-rise buildings in large cities, like Berlin and Hamburg, in addition to its fleet of ships.

The question is if one wants to present bridge building in connection with the industrialization- be it in the US, Germany, Europe or when comparing between two countries, what aspects are important and should be presented to the students, keeping in mind that the topic is industrialization, and the time frame is betweenthe 1870s and 1914, the time of World War I?  Which aspects should the students research on in their own spare time? And lastly how should it be taught in high school in comparison to college?

Put your comments here or on the Files’ or Chronicles’ facebook pages as to how you would approach an exotic topic like this, while keeping the topic of Industrialization in mind.  The results of the session, which will be in a couple weeks, will be presented in the Files and sister column the Chronicles.

 

 

Posted in Misc., News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Otranto Bridge in Iowa Gone!

Otranto Bridge in Mitchell County. Photo taken by Jason D. Smith in August 2011

Whereabouts of Historic Bridge in Mitchell County after Reported Dismantling Unknown.

The Otranto Bridge, spanning the Cedar River at St. Angsar, was unique because of its unusual truss design- the Camelback Pennsylvania Petit, one of two remaining in Iowa, according to a report by the Chronicles two years ago. The 170-foot long bridge was built by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Works Company in 1899 and had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1998.

That is until news came out of its disappearance from view today.

According to the Mason City Globe Gazette, the steel truss bridge was dismantled last week, and it is unknown where the bridge has gone to next. While it is unknown when or how it was taken down, Mitchell County officials had been working together with other parties to determine the bridge’s future, after flooding last summer undermined the eastern wingwalls, destabilizing the structure and raising questions of how the bridge could be salvaged. Cost for repairs had been estimated at $5000. The bridge had been made obsolete by a new bridge in 1999 and privately owned by the Will Morrow family. Interest in the bridge had increased since the flooding with plans of relocating the bridge for reuse. This includes the possibility of reusing it at Sunny Brae Golf Course, the same facility that is interested in the Giliecie Bridge in Winneshiek County, according to reports by the Mitchell County Press News in November 2013. Even the county historical society was interested in the purchase of the bridge to keep in place.

With the bridge removed, the question is what is the future for the bridge. Could it be that an owner has been found and it was just a question of finding temporary storage until it could be reset on new foundations? Or was the bridge such a liability issue that there was no choice but to tear it down?  If the latter was the case, then it would be a travesty for all involved: the county, state and people associated with the bridge.  The Morrow family was not contacted at the time of the bridge removal, meaning they could be the wild card as to determining what had happened to the bridge. But then again too, others may be interested in the bridge for their purposes.

In either case, the Otranto Bridge is gone and its destination is the unknown. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest.

 

Posted in Bridge Profile USA, FYI Bridge Newsflash, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on the BB Comer Bridge in Alabama: Collaboration underway with CBF and NSRGA

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

Author’s note:  Here is an update on the pursuit to purchase the BB Comer Bridge, spanning the Tennessee River at Scottsboro, Alabama. At the moment, collaboration is in progress to purchase the 1930 structure, featuring a cantilever truss span and steel approaches. More information about the bridge can be found here.  This is the press release provided by the Comer Bridge Foundation:

SCOTTSBORO, AL, March 11, 2014 — Attorneys for the Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) and The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA) are drafting an agreement that will authorize the two bridge-preservation groups to work collaboratively to save, preserve and repurpose the B.B. Comer Bridge, which crosses the Tennessee River near Scottsboro, Alabama. Local attorneys Bill Tally and Justin Lackey are representing CBF and NSRGA, respectively.
“NSRGA/CBF wants to provide jobs, training and education in areas from hospitality, event management, security and maintenance,” shared Julie Bowers, executive director of Workin’ Bridges, the consulting arm of NSRGA. “We want the bridge to become a habit for wellness and serenity, and a place where wildlife and human life are celebrated. Food, fun, music and historic preservation go hand-in-hand, and it is up to us to decide what importance preservation of our past makes in the threads of life for our future.”
Once the agreement is approved by the board of directors for each of the nonprofit organizations, the collaboration will submit a formal purchase plan to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which currently owns the bridge.
Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in October 2013, the historic bridge will now be submitted for national recognition by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
Workin’ Bridges prepared a preliminary concept plan and elevation for the area around and on the bridge that Bowers shared with local and state officials in February. Bowers’ efforts to bring the City of Scottsboro and Jackson County into the collaboration were unsuccessful despite positive response from Alabama’s Department of Commerce, Made in Alabama and the Alabama Film Office during February meetings in Montgomery.
The NSRGA/CBF collaboration addressed a list of criteria provided by ALDOT Division Engineer Johnny L. Harris that defines the next steps required to change the intent of ALDOT’s contract with HRI Bridge Construction from demolition to repurposing. These criteria are based on ownership, construction and restoration practices, permitting, inspections, and a maintenance plan. Harris noted that the demolition funds can be used to preserve and repurpose the bridge if all criteria are met and approved by the Federal Highway Administration.
For more information about the CBF and efforts to save the bridge, visit the CBF website at www.comerbridge.org and consider liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation.

 

Posted in Bridge Profile USA, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mystery Bridge Nr. 38: The Aqueducts of Rome

Aqua Alexandrina in Rome. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aqua_Alexandrina_02.jpg

If one ties this article in with the Mystery Bridge article about the aqueduct in Ravenna, Italy, then one should consider this part II in the search for information and answers to the role of Theoderich the Great in restoring the architecture and infrastructure during his regime. As mentioned briefly in the article about the Ravenna Aqueduct, the Ostrogoth leader defeated and later murdered Odoacre in 493 to become the second king of Italy. His predecessor had established the Italian kingdom after dethroning the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustus, son of Orestes, in 476 and held power until his death, but not before having a tumultuous last four years through war with the Ostrogoth. Theoderich ruled until his death in 526, and left a legacy that is disputable in the books. Architecturally, he spearheaded the construction of basilicas and other monuments- mostly in Ravenna, but also in other cities, like Rome and Verona.

Yet, as we saw in the article about Ravenna, he also led efforts to restoring the infrastructure- in particular, aqueducts. The question is: apart from the Ravenna aqueduct, what other aqueducts did he build?

Let’s look at the ones in Rome, for instance. Situated on the Tiber River, the present-day Italian capital once had a central network of aqueducts, which channeled water into and around the walled city from the Mediterranean Sea. 11 of them totaling over 320 kilometers were constructed between 312 BC with the Aqua Appia and 226 AD  with the Aqua Alexandrina (as shown in the picture above). Restoration of the viaducts started in the third century AD to improve the flow of water into Rome, but was interrupted with the invasion of the Germanic Tribes beginning in the 4th Century, at the time of the partition of the Roman Empire into East and West in 395. As they did throughout the region, the invaders destroyed the aqueducts and other forms of infrastructure until the Western Empire ceased to exist in 476.

Restoration did not start again until Theoderich the Great took power. Like in the times before 476, the infrastructure was the responsibility of the local governments and private residents, for the Italian kingdom was in a transition phase and did not have enough money available to reestablish itself and its institutions. Theoderich was very conservative in his plans to rebuild the infrastructure and chose the most important areas first for development: namely, Ravenna and Rome, but also in Verona and other smaller cities. While Ravenna was very important for him, and it was important to supply clean water to a city surrounded by marshland, his focus was also on restoring the aqueducts in Rome. While he had provided support to the local government to rebuild the aqueducts, he hastened the process in ca. 509 due to political corruption and other delays.

Many sources, written between 1980 and 1995 have not mentioned much about which aqueducts were restored during Theoderich’s era, and some even credited Belisarius for restoring key aqueducts after he captured Rome in 538, 12 years after Theoderich’s death. This was part of the plan of East Roman emperor Justinian to drive the Ostrogoths away from Italy and recapture parts of the lost land of the Roman Empire. Yet more information has come to light as to how the Ostrogoth restored the aqueducts during his 33-year reign over Italy, and therefore, as part of the project on the restoration of the infrastructure in Italy during Theoderich’s regime, the question is:

Which aqueducts in Rome were restored during Theoderich’s regime and who engineered these restoration efforts?

What other forms of infrastructure (not just aqueducts but also roads, bridges and canals) did Theoderich oversee in restoring for reuse for the population living in Italy?

Place your comments here or send the info via e-mail to the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Other contact info can be found in the article on Ravenna’s aqueduct, where some information  is being sough about this one as well. You can click here to view the article. Any articles and leads on the infrastructure in Rome and Italy during Theoderich’s regime will be most helpful in completing this project.

 

 

Posted in Forum, Mystery Bridge, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Oldest Bridge Book

Question for the Forum:

Here is an interesting question for you readers to start off with:

What was the oldest known bridge book you have ever read? When was it written and what was the title?

Do you know about a bridge book that is the oldest ever written?

There is an explanation that warrants this question for discussion:

I’ve been quite busy with my latest bridge project I’m doing for a history professor at the University in Jena, Germany on Roman Aqueducts, focusing on the reconstruction of the ones in Italy after Theoderich the Great took power in 493 AD. Going through the sources to find enough information can be a chore, as a there are a few books about this topic, not to mention some of the inscriptions in Latin that had to be deciphered into English to determine when the aqueducts were built, let alone rebuilt upon orders of the Goth. As I was going through the work, I happened to find a book on Roman Aqueducts, located right in the library at the University!

The author of the book is Esther van Deman and the title: “The Building of Roman Aqueducts” It featured nine examples of aqueducts that were built between 20 BC and 250 AD, with four of them being rebuilt after 476 AD, when the Western Roman Empire ceased to exist with Odoacre taking power in Italy. It also featured the art of constructing them, using various materials ordered by the emperors, beginning with Augustus, and designing them using the stone or brick arches that were engineered by the Roman builders with the goal of bringing water to the region. After all, the Romans needed water for all sorts of purposes, including the public baths in many cities, irrigation, plumbing, and even drinking.

But when was this book published?  1984?  1977?   1966?

1934!!!!

The Carnegie Institute of Washington, DC published this work, which contained information and photos eighty years ago! This meant that with the exception of bridge examples presented by the bridge companies, like King, Wrought Iron Bridge, Clinton, or even the ones in Canton, Ohio or Pittsburgh, bridge books were being produced at least eighty years ago, with photos and all. But was this book the oldest ever published?

Doubtful!   My assumption was the book on the Great American Bridges by Donald Jackson was the oldest one ever written about (historic) bridges, being published in 1984- fifty years later. Yet I also discovered a couple more books written a year later about bridges in Pennsylvania and Australia. Yet if my assumptions are wrong by sixty years, then this means that there were many books- ancient ones- that had existed before that.

So let’s start with the forum by answering the questions I brought forward at the beginning: the oldest book you have written and the oldest known book that exists about bridges. Place your comments here or through the social network pages bearing the Chronicles’ name, with hopes that other stories will come to light.

As I’m on the same page regarding Roman Aqueducts……

 

Posted in Food for thought, Forum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Question for the Forum: Parker or Not?

Side view of the bridge. Photos courtesy of Nathan Holth.

In connection with the series on the dire state of Massachusetts’ historic bridges and plans to demolish and replace them, here is a unique bridge that is worth mentioning. Located over the Powwow River in Amesbury, the Main Street Bridge is known as one of the smallest swing bridges that still exists in the country, albeit no longer functional. Built in 1891 by the Boston Bridge Works, the green-colored bridge is 110 feet long with a vertical clearance of between 10 and 11 feet. The roadway width is 23 feet. The bridge was rehabilitated in 1998 by replacing the original flooring with steel stringers with a concrete decking, thus rendering the truss structure as non-functional but more of a decoration. Yet, the bridge is considered historical to state standards and is still being used today by residents.

Transversal view

 

The unique part of the bridge is the truss design, for despite its riveted connections, the truss has a polygonal top chord with the center (swing) panel having an A-frame in the middle. Even weirder is the fact that the outer panels have the characteristics of a Parker design, whereas everything else seems to be a hybrid of a Warren and Thacher design. This creates a problem as to determine what truss type this bridge really is. Was there a Parker variant of the Thacher truss that was patented after 1884 (the year the actual Thacher truss was introduced), or was there a totally different truss type that was experimented by a bridge engineer wanting to leave a mark in his legacy? It is unclear how to determine the bridge type with this bridge, for it is not necessarily an outright Parker, nor a Thacher, nor a Warren. What do you think this bridge is?

More about this bridge via HistoricBridges.org, where more pictures and information on its history can be found here.

Posted in Bridge Profile USA, Forum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment