Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Good and Bad about Bridges AND another old home place

Location: Dillon State Park; Zanesville, Ohio
(click pic to enlarge)

One of the reason why I chose this campground was to be close enough to visit another town that I lived in when I was a child. I'm guessing I would have been about 11 or 12 years of age, but not exactly sure. Since we moved around about every year or two, the places, dates and things get blurry. Of course 50 years may contribute some to that blurriness. 

The year; 1967. The date; Friday, December 15th. Ten days before Christmas. Location: An Ohio River bridge crossing between Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Kanauga, Ohio. The bridge was named the Silver Bridge because it was the first bridge in the country to be painted with aluminum paint. Everyone from that area and most Civil Engineers are familiar with the story. The suspension bridge was built in 1928 using new technology at that time. It was the first bridge that used large quantities of "heat treated carbon steel". It made the steel stronger and designers used it to cast the "eye bars" that made up the steel chains that served as the suspenders for the bridge. Before this "new steel", designers would simply add more structural things to the bridge to compensate for any miscalculations or faulty assumptions. Designers thought they had all the answer now and could design the bridge without any extra members. They thought they knew exactly what load the material could handle and submitted their design. They also had to figure how much traffic loading the bridge needed to carry so they used the car in use at that time; the Model "T". The Model "T' weighed in at about 1,500 pounds. In contrast, the cars in 1967 weighed about 4,000 pounds. An increase of about 3 times the original amount. But the increased load just speeded up the inevitable. A defect was cast into one of the "eye bars" as it was being made. It was a very small crack, so small, that it could have only been detected by using modern technology. The people that cast it and inspected it could not have seen it. Once the bridge was assembled, the crack was hidden. Like a festering wound, it grew a little bit every year as the weather fluctuated between one hundred degrees in the summer to below zero in the winter. The two extremes pulled and pushed on the crack. The weight of the vehicles increase every year and the maximum hauling loads of trucks went from 10,000 pounds to 60,000 pounds. Even after decades of weather changes, increased traffic loads on the bridge, snow, rain and vehicle exhaust your human eye could not have seen the crack.

Just like bending a paper clip back and forth, eventually, it will break. The paper clip was the "eye bar" with the crack and the last bend happened on that fateful day of December 15, 1967. The bridge was full of holiday shoppers and workers on their way home. Everyone was probably looking forward to the weekend. But in less than a minute, the bridge and 31vehicles were in the cold Ohio River. Forty six people died and the country was in shock. The TV news reported the bridge collapse and everyone wondered about the bridges they crossed every day. The Federal government looked into the collapse. The bridge was pulled out of the river and layed on the bank with each piece in the place it was in before the collapse. This detailed investigation is what lead to the discovery of the crack and highlighted such things as fatigue cracking, corrosion cracking and using redundant members. The country was outraged that there wasn't an inspection program of all bridges to help prevent such tragedies. The Federal government set up protocols and inspection standards for all of the states to follow in the inspection of their bridges. That program is still going on today with every bridge being inspected on a regular basis to help ensure the safety of all bridges. You can still hear of a bridge that collapses like the one in Minneapolis, but those are rare. Today's bridges are the safest and strongest.

When it came time to rebuild the Silver Bridge, the company my father worked with got the project. My father was chosen as the Project Superintendent and we again moved to a new
The New Silver Bridge
town. Housing must have been hard to come by because we had to stay in a motel for nearly a month until we found a place. The new temporary hometown was named New Haven, West Virginia and the house was on top of a mountain. My older sister must have been 16 because for some reason the state gave her a driver's license which she used to nearly kill me. We were coming off the mountain which was always a little exciting. Well, this time, my sister was driving and I was riding when the next thing I heard was "I wonder how far we can coast if I turn the key off". Even at my younger age, I knew that without the key on, there would be no power steering and no power brakes. She turned off the key before I had a chance to tell her anything or before I could jump out of the car. Sure enough, she got a surprise real quick. Proof that she turned the key back on is that she and I survived that ride.

I found the old home place, or at least I think I did. Everything looked different. The house had been remodeled and they did a good job of it. I stopped long enough to take a picture, then left. The public swimming pool is still there after nearly 50 years and looked exactly the same. The old pool hall that marked the place where we turned off the highway to go up the mountain looks to have been gone a long time.
The old public pool still looks the same.
The pool hall used to be on the right, the hill straight ahead

Of course go right and UP!


Curves, of course

The house? Maybe, maybe not.
This is the second old home place that I've found and I'm reconsidering finding any more. Some things are best left in the past with the memories we have from that time. I am reminded of a line from a movie. Ya'll will have to guess which movie. The line goes something like,"when the legend becomes fact, print the legend". I'll decide before I get to the next old homeplace area.

As I was driving around today getting my prescription refilled at Walmart, I found the most interesting office building. We need more like this. This company definitely has a good sense of humor and doesn't care what others think. Thumbs up to them.
An Office building. The dark spots are windows
 Tomorrow is moving day. I have a planned stop on the way to the campground to get three new Goodyear tires. After reading more and more about failures from the foreign made tires that came on Liberty, I have decided to replace them with Goodyear Marthon tires. I will also go up a level in load range to a "D" instead of "C". This is all good and should restore my confidence as I tow down the road. The next campground will be the first Corp of Engineers campground I've stayed at and I'm interested in comparing it to some of the state parks.

Ya'll take care of each other. Cya down the road.


  1. I can't wait to hear what Aunt Phyl says about that story. I agree. Very interesting building.

  2. Well baby brother this is one story you win! Your memory is correct but it was an adventure on the wild side. I thought you would enjoy the ride! Who would have ever thought just because a car is turned off that all power would be turned off..who knew. So once again your sister saved your life...once I could finally stop and turn the car back on! And of course you had to tell on me when we got home and I had to hear that I almost killed The Baby.
    The old house had a garage underground like a basement and the pic is different. Sam thinks maybe you were at one of the houses behind ours. After going up the hill the road curved to the left then our road went straight but before our house there was a road to the left that went behind our house. Maybe that road was where you were? Sam and I went there in about 1994 and I didnt recognize anything except our old house once he got me to it. So you did much better than I could have done. Wahama High had a multi story building up the hill on the right and single story building on the left. He said they've torn down the multi story building and only have the single story left.
    Your posts always amaze know all the details about Dads jobs..all I ever remember is what he was building...not the how r why..other than a bridge falling. I guess you were on your engineering path even when we were kids!
    Great pictures and memories...and yes our memories are probably better than how things actually are now. He safe

  3. Hi Darrell...Met you on the boat tour today. It was very nice talking with another solo RV'er. You have a great blog. Here is mine. I will post later tonight.