If I hadn't gotten into television news, I would surely have been either a bridge designer or bridge architect. One obsession was stronger, and both go way back.
My earliest recollection of an intense fascination with steel truss bridges, came from the demolition of a two-span, Warren truss bridge (the U.S. Highway 31-A bridge over the Duck River) near my family's property at the Henry Horton State Park at Chapel Hill, Tennessee south of Nashville in the spring of 1965.
I was 10 years old, and that was the most magnificent "big thing" I had ever seen in my entire life. It was an elegant masterpiece, all that steel, standing against the sky, towering over the river, allowing cars and heavy trucks to cross the river high up.. a big thing for a little boy to comprehend.
When the Tennessee Highway Department (predecessor to T-DOT) which built it in 1929, demolished it the spring and summer of 1965, I was so angry I didn't speak for days. I took it very personally. In my little mind, those monsters had come in and torn down this monument to steel magnificence. It broke my heart. It wasn't until one of the highway engineers spoke to me at length at the request of my grandmother, did I forgive them for tearing it down.
It took a lot of convincing.
Although the highway department replaced it with a "steel continuous stringer (multi-beam or girder)," it made me no difference. It was a boring bridge, with no character, no elegance.
I have been in love with steel truss bridges ever since. It is an obsessive fascination with me.
Every single steel truss bridge still on the planet needs to be a National Historic Landmark. The fact that they are dying and fading away, is troubling.. replaced by concrete tee beams and pre-stressed concrete slabs with no character, no substance, no distinguishing features.
"21st Century Monuments to Mediocrity."
As bridge lovers, we need to do more to save these steel trusses. The Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga was only the beginning. Leave the Highway 33 Bridge in Union County, Tennessee, the Highway 70 Bridge in Kyles Ford, Tennessee, the Surgoinsville Bridge in Hawkins County, Tennessee, the Russell-Ironton Bridge on the Ohio River... all scheduled for demolition. The new bridges are not being built at the expense of the old ones...the steel is not being reunsed in the new bridges, so leave them up for pedestrian access. Place plaques on them, denoting historical aspects and moments they have witnessed. Those old bridges represent the heritage of the areas where they serve.
Before I die, I will visit probably the most magestic and elegant bridge on this website, based on what I have seen. All I want to do, is gaze upon the Thebes Bridge at Cape Giradeau, Missouri. That one bridge is tops in my book. I have never seen so many different truss styles strung together, as on that bridge. I may spend the whole day there.
Bridge Pictures by Calvin Sneed are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.bridgehunter.com.
If you want to use, copy or purchase the pictures I take, please contact me at email@example.com. They are copyrighted.
Nice detail in the pics!
Great photos, Alex! Older pics are hard to come by, and these are fantastic.
Please tell me where the blurred pictures are, and I will gladly remove them.
Your comments would have been much more appreciated, had you sent them to me privately, instead of in a public conversation. My email is posted.
But I realize that today's generation would rather criticize publically.
BTW.. where might we sample some of your photos?
I'll address some of the comments about "too many photos."
I am not a "shutterbug." I am a photographer by nature.. each picture I take, tells a story focusing on a subject, whether by angle, by lighting, by positioning, or by George.. there is a reason that picture needs to be taken. The bigger the bridge, the more opportunity to show the sheer majestry of the structure.
I guess I'm not like most bridge photographers. I get up close and personal with each structure, to document the way it was built and the method by which it was built, right down to each rivet, each beam, each truss, everything perfectly measured and formed. I become one with the framework. They don't make bridges the way the bridges spotlighted on Bridgehunter.com are made, and that method is something to be preserved.
I also take lots of pictures because with the frequency of demolition, many of these old splendid giants are living on borrowed time. The more pictures logged, the more of a record of how elegantly it was made.
Oh yeah... I guess I could take 3 or 4 pictures of a bridge and be content with every bridge looking exactly like the next one downriver, but I think bridgehunter.com is more than just a superficial glance at bridges. I feel like it is a collection of what makes a classic bridge special, what endears it to the history of the area where it's located, and what makes it part of the fabric of the era that it was built.
I have been a member of bridgehunter.com for years, and the website has never had a limit to the number of pictures that anyone can post. Although I cannot speak for him, I have indeed spoken with Mr. Baughn several times, and I don't believe he intended to place a limit on the number of pictures. I found him to be an avid bridgehunter, often in awe of these magnificent structures, and very appreciative of the contributions that are made that capture the elegance and engineering of them.
BTW, several sets of bridge pictures that I have taken have been selected by the National Park Service, several bridge building companies, city governments and universities, for educational purposes. Also, several sets I have taken of bridges in use have highlighted problems within a particular bridge's makeup, and bridge owners have thanked me for pointing out repairs that need to be made, to preserve the bridges.
Thanks for your support, fellow bridgehunters.. On to the next one!
Updated; new photos..
How are preservation efforts going?
This bridge has generated quite a bit of conversation, so I decided to visit.
It certainly looks like a cable-stayed bridge, but in fact, it is not a cable-stayed bridge. It is on private property, and after talking with the owner, he explained the bridge. He's in steel fabrication, and calls it a "beam-style" bridge, built by his father-in-law, 47 years ago.
He says he attached the cables on the side himself, and although they look like cable stays, they are there to keep his wife from accidently driving off the bridge, 30 feet below into Lookout Creek. Closer examination that I made indicates they do not support the weight of the bridge mid-section at all. If you look closely at Pictures 9, 17, 22 and 55 of the pics I took, you can see how the beams actually absorb all of the weight.. in fact, they have developed a sag in the middle. The owner is aware of that, and is working to fix it. After 47 years, they don't show any signs of undue stress.
He says the county condemned it several years ago, but lifted the condemnation after ending the county's maintenance right about where the entrance pics are. Frankly, I don't think the county wanted the responsibility.
Located this bridge in the records of the old Tennessee Highway Department, updated information, statistics and daylight pictures. A jewel of a find.. thanks Eddie and Daniel!
The info I found from the old Cincinnati Southern records, shows this is the original bridge from 1879.. the bridge supports were strengthened to handle larger coal cars around the turn of the century.
It's possible the pillars were rebuilt and stamped with the later date.
Is the old bridge still there?
I agree.. this was a dumb demolition.. tearing this bridge down and not even leaving it as an historic ruin is a bonehead decision somewhere in this county. Tearing this one down made no sense whatsoever..it's not as if it handled a ton of traffic. I'm glad I got to spend some quality time there.
I now have an app that monitors this website, that notifies me whenever the term "CSX Railroad" is changed. It changes it back because it is the correct term, then emails me to let me know it is changed back. Saves me a lot of time. Thank goodness for technology!
That's correct.. 1894 was the original build year for the structure itself on the Ohio, and it was relocated in 1960 by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, which is now part of CSX.
I could not resist the urge to go and see this majestic giant in person. The end railing supports from Daniel's elegant winter setting picture have been removed, and the bridge seems to have morphed into a rustic relic that fits perfectly into its surroundings, yet has seen better days. It also now supports a walking grate. Easy to believe that it once spanned the Ohio River; I was shocked at the tremendous girth and the huge support pillars. It seems to be much stronger than the bridges that support coal cars around it in the area.
Thanks for fixing that, Michael!
Jerry, you're right. I have located a picture of the plaque, but I don't know where the original was placed. It is, indeed, the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Thanks for the info!