Road Trips

17 bridges in Putnam County, part 1

All five regular readers of my blog know how much I love to find an old bridge. That’s because stone arch, concrete arch, covered, and iron and steel truss bridges so often have real character, something that modern bridges generally lack.

Every time I pass through Putnam County, Indiana, I find a bridge that I really enjoy, so I decided I’d spend a whole day bridgehunting there. I picked up my friend Dawn on the way, because she likes a road trip as much as I do. In a packed day, we saw 11 iron and steel truss bridges, five wooden covered bridges, and one lonely concrete arch bridge – 17 bridges in all. This is way more bridges than I can show you in a single post, so I’ll show the best iron and steel bridges today and the best covered bridges next time.

I thought we’d see a lot of steel bridges painted green, since that seems to be Indiana’s standard color for them, but this turned out to be the only one. It was also the only one with a steel deck, which makes a neat zippy sound when you drive over it.

Mill Creek Bridge

Notice my friend Dawn standing on the right near this bridge’s two massive trusses meet. Without her in the photo, you might be fooled that this is a little bridge on a one-lane road.

Mill Creek Bridge

The most cheerful bridge of the day was the Hibbs Ford Bridge, restored in 2006 to celebrate its 100th birthday.

Hibbs Ford Bridge

The Houck Iron Bridge was closed to traffic, hence the grass growing on the deck. Built in 1920, the Houck Iron Bridge seems to be a latecomer among iron bridges. Among surviving truss bridges I’ve seen, iron was more common in the 19th century and steel in the 20th. (UPDATE 9 April 2011: This bridge is to be moved to Delphi, IN, for reuse.)

Houck Iron Bridge

Crow’s Bridge was probably the least ornate truss bridge of the day. It’s so plain I’m not going to bother showing it! This photo shows one of the bridge’s abutments with the construction foreman’s name in relief. He carved his name backwards into a plank before it went into the abutment’s formwork. After the concrete dried and the formwork was removed, his name was destined to endure.

Crows Bridge

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, rust was the most common bridge color of the day. This is the McCoy Road bridge.

McCoy Road Bridge

And this is the Dicks Road Bridge. This style of wooden deck was typical of the iron and steel bridges we saw.

Dicks Road Bridge

If you’d like to see more photos from the day, or find out where any of these bridges are located so you can find them yourself, click any photo to go to my Flickr space.

We also saw the Cooper Iron Bridge on this trip. I also enjoyed the iron bridge in Aurora on an earlier trip.

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4 thoughts on “17 bridges in Putnam County, part 1

  1. Lone Primate says:

    You’re certainly right about that second bridge; I mistook it for a waist-shot. Having my attention drawn to the actual scale was kind of startling. Neat effect, actually. :)

    That first bridge in green is the kind I kind of prize. They used to be everywhere in southern Ontario but they’re getting scarce so I like to photograph them when I can. Haven’t seen a green one yet, though. :)

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    • We saw two other bridges like that first massive one on this trip! They look like they’re built to carry very large and heavy traffic, yet they’re out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe the farmers out there have big equipment they move down these roads.

      Bridges like these are disappearing from the Indiana landscape, too. 30 years ago you’d encounter them all the time, but anymore counties like to replace rather than repair.

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      • Lone Primate says:

        Well, much as we’d like to hope otherwise, I think bridges have a certain lifespan, and I get the impression that pony truss bridges proliferated in the early 20th century because they were inexpensive and very easy to build quickly. I think they were the… what do you call them? big ugly bridges, or something like that?… of the day. Built, and then pretty much left to corrode till their job was done, when future politicians with deeper pockets and more motorists to tax and serve could up the ante. They did save one, recently, in Bolton here in Ontario, but it’s closed to traffic and likely to remain so. So, for a while, it’ll be a quaint pedestrian bridge and fishing spot amidst the homes…

        Part of the reason I like them so much is that they speak of a time when urban places I’m familiar with were rural and sparsely-populated enough that what I know as six-lane thoroughfares could be serviced by one-lane bridges feeding two lanes. That’s still true in some places but not many. I’m actually hoping to blog about one in the next couple of days. Stay tuned. ;)

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        • It’s a shame those old truss bridges can’t be saved. Indiana has a neat program where some truss bridges are eligible to be dismantled, moved, and reassembled elsewhere. Also, some larger truss bridges in Indiana have been “twinned,” by building another bridge next to it, to allow greater traffic flow. There’s a great multi-span Parker through truss bridge not far from where I work, with a modern concrete slab bridge right next to it. The Parker carries eastbound lanes, the new bridge, the westbound.

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