KING BRIDGE COMPANY NEWS
By Allan King Sloan
Unfortunately, there is more sad news, but some happy, on the preservation front. Two historic King bridges that have been high on the agenda for preservation, the Hojack Swing Bridge in Rochester, N.Y. and the Jacob’s Creek Bridge in Hopewell, N.J. are moving into the demolition/removal process after years of effort on the part of local preservationists to save them. The same fate is awaiting OLD NAN, the bascule bridge used for over 100 years by trains on the New York to Boston railroad line near New London, Connecticut.
With the loss of Old Nan and Hojack, there will be no more moveable King built railroad bridges left standing in the Northeast. However, two King built railroad structures in New York State that are not moveable are being rehabilitated and should last for some time to come. Restoration is underway on both the Rosendale Viaduct in Ulster County, N.Y. the ‘Up-side-down” bridge across the Erie Canal in Lockport, N.Y.
Here are the details:
After over 100 years of continuous service, Old Nan will be replaced by a new bascule bridge scheduled to be opened in 2013. The $104.7 million project was begun by Amtrak in 2010 and will involve relocating the rail bed and building a new replacement bascule bridge down river from the current bridge. Here is the description from the Amtrak project summary:
“One of the most complex capital projects, partially funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Niantic River Bridge is an Amtrak-owned century-old bridge that serves as a key link for passenger and freight rail traffic between New York and Boston. Because it is no longer economical to repair the bridge, it requires full replacement to provide reliable rail operation. Its replacement will enable Amtrak to increase speeds on and near the bridge and minimize traffic and delays. Construction is scheduled to be completed in May 2013.
“The new Niantic River Bridge will replace one of the oldest movable bridges in the country, a two-track, bascule (rolling lift) bridge that was built in 1907, which has been in continuous operation ever since. The bridge is one of five movable bridges along the Northeast Corridor rail line between New Haven, Conn. and Boston, Massachusetts.”
“One of the most remarkable projects of the King (Movable) Bridge Company was “Old Nan” across the Niantic River between Niantic and Waterford, Conn. It is the oldest of the five movable bridges still operating on the rail line between Boston and New York and is used daily by Amtrak Acela high-speed trains. The bridge was built in 1907 to replace a swing-span bridge and has been in continuous operation ever since.”
This project will remove the last major King bridge from the company’s inventory in New England, once an important market for its bridges. What is left are some standard beam girder bridges built for various railroads, some abandoned, some in occasional use but still in place.
See Old Nan
THE HOJACK SWING BRIDGE
After at least a decade of attempts by a loyal group of civic minded preservationists led by photographer, Richard Margolis, to save one of the last remaining railroad turntable bridges in the country, CSX, the owner of the Hojack bridge, built by the King Bridge Company in 1905, is arranging for its demise. Abetted by the U.S. Coast Guard’s finding that the bridge is “a hazard to navigation” on the Genesee River (it has really not hindered boat traffic for over 100 years) a demolition contract is in the works to remove the structure. The powers that be in Rochester have not seen fit to aid in attempts to save this historic structure despite heroic efforts on the part of the preservation community, including the Landmark Society of Western New York. The boating community which has had to live with the “obstacle” for over a century had always had an ambivalent relation to the bridge, some using it as a landmark and traffic controller, others wishing it were not there. It will be interesting to see how this group reacts to the removal process. While removing the superstructure may be relatively easy, removing the turntable structure which is mostly under water could be tricky and time consuming and could create more navigational hazards than exists today. Those in Rochester who appreciate their industrial and engineering heritage should be sad. Richard Margolis is preparing a book that documents the history of the bridge and the efforts to save it.
Details can be found at: The Hojack Swing Bridge.
THE UP-SIDE DOWN BRIDGE LOCKPORT
We have learned from Tom Callahan, the owner of the historic hydraulic works abutting the Erie Canal locks in Lockport, that the railroad company that owns this unique truss bridge built across the canal by the King Bridge Company in 1901, is undertaking a project to rehabilitate it for continued rail use. Freight and excursion trains still rumble across this interesting structure. The site of these locks is one of the nation’s most important industrial and transportation venues in the nation not only for the role of the locks played in the development of the nation’s march westward but also because of the development of technology of using water to power the adjacent factories and mills that grew up beside the canal. The rivets on the bridge are being replaced by bolts and Tom is working with the contractors to fix up the walkway which provides the best vantage point for viewing the locks.
Details can be found at: The Up-side Down Bridge Lockport
THE ROSENDALE VIADUCT
After some unfortunate local controversy, the project to rehabilitate this imposing railroad trestle which was featured in the King Bridge Company catalogues of the 1890s is moving ahead. The following is the entry in Wikipedia on the subject:
“The trestle was rebuilt in 1895 by the King Bridge Company to address public concerns regarding its stability, and it has been repeatedly reinforced throughout its existence. Concern over the sturdiness of the trestle has persisted since its opening, and was a major reason Conrail closed the Wallkill Valley rail line in 1977. After the rail line’s closure, Conrail sold the bridge in 1986 for one dollar to a private businessman who tried unsuccessfully to operate the trestle as a bungee jumping platform in the 1990s. A similar attempt was made the following decade. The trestle was seized by the county in 2009 for tax nonpayment, and is being renovated as a pedestrian walkway for the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.” See the following for more details:
Our family charitable gift fund has provided some funds to the Open Space Institute to help the project along.
JACOB’S CREEK BRIDGE, HOPEWELL, N.J.
We also must report some sad new concerning one of the most interesting of the King Pratt trusses, the bridge across Jacobs Creek in Hopewell New Jersey built by the King Bridge Company in 1882 at the site where George Washington’s army forded the creek to attack the Hessians in Trenton after the famous voyage across the Delaware River from Valley Forge in 1775. In 2002 this bridge was rehabilitated by the County and was thought at the time to be safe for a while longer. It was used by us to illustrate the value the local community assigned to it to preserve this old piece of industrial architecture in an historic location in a paper presented to the Historic Bridge Conference in Columbus in 2008. However, apparently under pressure from a local industrial plant which wanted to have more up to date highway access to their nearby facility, the town political mavens decided that the bridge should be removed and relocated so that a new bridge could be built in its place. For those interested in historic preservation, this story should be followed. It has been listed as “Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey” The latest news is at: http://www.savethevictorytrail.com/ See also: Jacob’s Creek Bridge
THE PIANO BRIDGE, DUBINA, TEXAS
We have learned from Julie Bowers, enthusiastic pontist and old bridge restorer, that there is restoration work now planned for the Piano Bridge, a Pratt truss built by the King Bridge Company in 1885 and a local landmark. It has been closed to traffic for some time, but is still a favorite place for couples to come for wedding pictures, etc. It was pictured on the calendar featuring historic bridges of Texas some years ago and is one of a number of King bridges that have been restored in Texas where the preservation movement is strong and active. The other King built bridges that have been restored include the Faust Street Bridge in New Braunfels, the Moore’s Crossing Bridge in Travis County, the Alton Bridge in Denton County, and the Bullman Bowstring in Hamilton County.
James Baughn’s bridgehunter web site has up-to-date information on what is happening to the Piano Bridge
. See Piano Bridge.
This website is one of the best sources for finding information on old bridges, including King’s. James has a section which lists bridges by builder which includes 114 listed for the King Bridge Company.
THE SINGING BRIDGE, FRANKFORT KENTUCKY
We understand from the Bridgehunter website that the rehabilitation work on this King bridge of 1893 and featured in the company catalogues of the era has been completed. Luckily, it has been considered as an important local landmark not far from the State capitol. For more details see:
MULTI-SPAN TRUSS BRIDGE BENTONSPORT, IOWA
This summer we received an email from Laura Deao of the Historic Greef General Store in Bentonville, Iowa pointing out that our website did not mention a remarkable King Bridge crossing the Des Moines River between Bentonville and Vernon in Van Buren County. This five span structure is probably one of the longest King bridges still standing and well documented by others, if not by us until now. It is particularly interesting to the King family because the while the original bridge was built in 1882 while Zenas King was still in charge of the company, the replacement was built by George King’s company, Zenas’s nephew, who started his career with his uncle, in 1903. It is now open for pedestrians only. The following is the description from the historicbridges website:
“There are several extremely rare and significant pin-connected truss bridges on the lower section of the Des Moines River. Each are distinguished as rare surviving examples of large, multi-span examples of their type. Among them, the Bentonsport Bridge stands out as a large, relatively complete, and early example. The bridge is a long, five-span truss bridge. Each span contains eight panels. One of the central spans was replaced after it was damaged in a flood in 1903. The span was replaced by the George E. King Bridge Company of Des Moines, Iowa, which was a spinoff of the King Bridge Company who built the original bridge.”
For details see the following:
THE BIG JIM BOWSTRING, INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA
Back in February, we received an email from Anthony Dillon of New Castle, Indiana which said; “Here is a King Bridge that you may or may not be aware of. It is known as the Big Jim Bridge and was originally part of a 2 span structure over Sugar Creek near Crawfordsville, Montgomery County, Indiana. When this bridge was replaced, 1 span of it was moved over Lye Creek in Northern Montgomery County where it remained until being abandoned around 1980. In the late 1990’s this bridge was given to the Indianapolis Parks Department and was restored over the old Central Canal behind the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Upon visiting it in 2010 I found it being rehabilitated again with a new paint job and some changes to the guardrail system. It is a 91′ pony truss of 9 panels and is used for pedestrian and light vehicles only. “ Thanks, Anthony.
BEAM GIRDER BRIDGE, MILLERSBURG, INDIANA
These railroad beam girders, the main product of the King Bridge Company after the turn of the century, are still in use in many parts of the country. Unlike the King bowstrings, Trusses, and Turntables, these beam girders seem to be able to withstand the tides of history.
THE KING BRIDGE COMPANY MAKING TURNTABLES FOR RAILROAD ROUNDHOUSES?
Early in 2011 we received an email from Mexico requesting information on a turntable evidently built by the King Bridge Company for a railway round house in Chihuahua. This was the first we heard of the Company making turntables for roundhouses, but evidently they did. The technology was evidently based on the turntables part of the swing bridge patent Zenas King developed in the 1860s and 70s but no mention of this type of work was illustrated in the company catalogues of the era. Here is the message we received:
“Hi my name is Gerardo Ibarra, I´m working for General Electric located in
Mexico, and I would like to know some technical information about a turntable
railway who is installed in our service shop from Chihuahuas city, in this
equipment just we found this information ( Manufacturing by King Bridge Company
Ohio ), then first question… the company is working until now?…… You could
give us technical service for reparation or maintenance ?…… Or could you
recommend a workshop certificated to do this reparation here in México ?…..”
Obviously we were of little help, but we did receive the following note from Nathan Holth of historicbridges:
“You probably have already seen this, but in case you haven’t I found a King Bridge Company turntable design mentioned in a historical text here:
Just click the link and scroll down to see some drawings on a few pages there. (page 201 ff)
If anyone has more information on this aspect of the King Bridge Company’s work, we would be very interested.