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.
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I inspected this bridge very closely inside the open spandrel, and it appears to have an outer facade that was added many years after the original open-spandrel bridge was built. There is evidence of the addition upon close inspection. The bridge owner may have wanted to strengthen it somewhat and felt the outer concrete would do that sufficiently.
The KCS is a busy railroad. In the first 30 minutes I was there, two trains both in the same eastbound direction were noted.
Very impressive structure.
This elegant gentleman is still with us.
Heavy rain had swollen the Big Black River when I visited yesterday and in 90 minutes, I only counted 12 cars. Fast moving water, but the entire bridge spans the river, and the piers were in pretty good shape visually.
Thankfully, the potholes on the east side probably keep a lot of the thru traffic down.
Carry on, fine old gentleman.
Well it does pay to ask a lot of questions. Turns out the locals are correct. The middle span was indeed disassembled and relocated north to the Chauga River and re-purposed as the Cobb Bridge. The reason the dates of construction don't match up, is because all 3 spans of the old U.S. 123 Bridge were built in 1940 across the Tugaloo River. I heard back from one of the NC state bridge inspectors who told me that even though the middle span was taken apart in 1962 and reassembled elsewhere, the construction date of the span itself remains 1940. I have fixed the Cobb Bridge and U.S. 123 Bridge notations to reflect this.
I was told the same thing when I arrived a couple of months ago to extensively photograph the two spans over the Tugaloo, and also the Cobb over the Chauga. I had heard from fishermen that day that the middle span was indeed taken apart and reassembled as the Cobb Bridge. I also noticed the same configurations as you did Matthew, on the portal bracing and the internal sway's, and I closely examined the steel and measurements from both bridges. While there are some similarities, the problem for me is, the dates don't match up.. the nearby U.S. 123 bridge that replaced this one opened in 1962 and these 3 trusses were in operation up to that point. But the Cobb Bridge's information shows that it was built in 1940. Cobb might have been strengthened later with steel from the middle bridge from here (which I kind of doubt), but it could not have been the same exact bridge Camelback.
An update.. I hiked to this bridge in 2016 and spent four hours taking many pictures from underneath it. Later, I spent time on the adjacent Hickman-Lockhart while not impeding traffic and also photographed each railroad span several times. Never saw any police, although I'll admit to timing my photography to lulls in the traffic flow. I don't seek trouble while bridge-hunting and ordinarily will try to avoid it, however I won't let someone keep me from lawfully enjoying the passion of taking pictures of a beautiful bridge. Got great pictures in this case. But nonetheless, my defense would have stood, had I encountered any resistance.
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.