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.
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Nathan, please add my voice to yours. Definitely an American treasure worth of restoration and preservation.
Alex, the video gave me chills of the train crossing on the bridge, and the train horn is so nostalgic. Thanks for capturing and posting this part of Americana!
Drivers with 18-wheelers trying to drive across our elegant steel truss bridges that can't support the weight, sadly is not new. An 18-wheeler in the early 1960's led to the demise of the Eastman Road 4-span camelback Warren w/verticals truss bridge over the South Holston River in Kingsport, TN.. the driver made it across the first span, but the weight slowly dropped the second (channel) span into the river before he could clear it. The entire bridge was eventually taken out and not replaced. Fortunately, the next two-span Pratt bridge about 8 blocks away over a tributary on the same road still stands because he did not make it that far. That bridge is closed now and photographed as an historic ruin.
Make them and their companies pay for the bridge replacement. That might get everybody's attention.
These are also the same drivers who see the signs on how tall tunnel openings are, but still drive their trucks into them and wedge them tight.
Historic Marion County bridge and its 2 K-hybrid camelbacks demolished, 2016
I just couldn't let this grand ole gentleman disappear without paying homage to it.
Hiked to this portal entrance.... weeds, fallen trees and overgrowth may soon make the only way to get to it impassible.
Saw evidence that water is flowing into this entrance from further back, meaning the water is flowing downhill. That indicates that the south portal is at a higher elevation than the north portal more than 2,500 feet away. That makes sense, because USGS maps show the elevation of this portal is 1,355 ASL, the north portal elevation 25-hundred feet away is 1,326 ASL and further down Tunnel Hollow at the old New River Bridge on this abandoned line is at 1,225 ASL.
As a bridgehunter, I am not fond of cable-stayed bridges (there is a plethora of them on the Ohio River now), I can see the elegance and grace in them. They do have a place in the skyline of bridge majestry that I can appreciate. I tend to agree with Luke and Nathan on this particular one.
But I will have to admit, the historic cantilever that this one replaced, was the more elegant, more magnificient structure. Sorry to see it go, and sorry I did not get to see it before it was summarily dismissed and pulled down.
Echo that.. what a beautiful structure!
Turns out the new deck was for the new bridge that was about to start construction, replacing the through trusses. I was able to grab pictures about 2 months before the trusses were removed. T-DOT strengthened the decking and then took out the trusses, but utilized the original bridge piers.
Seems like there is one company that just makes prefab'ed steel truss bridges, and they just reassemble them on site at a crossing. Southwest Virginia has a bunch of them, too. They don't have as much character as the older ones, though.
Deleted the 3 photos Mr. Hollowell referred to. Admittedly, they were blurry although they didn't look to be when I uploaded them.
When I come across a bridge structure as magnificent as this one, it is difficult to contain my excitement.
I will try harder to keep that in check, sir.
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!