The BeginningsOf all the weird hobbies (and there are some truly weird ones), a fascination of bridges seems to rank up there on the "weird scale." However, I became interested in bridges at an early age. When I began planning the beginnings of this website, I determined there would be two parts to it: an engineering perspective, and a historical perspective.
Northwestern High Bridge; Eau Claire, Wisconsin (2012)
Growing up in a suburb of Minneapolis, I was taught from a young age to respect history. With my father holding a degree in High School History Education,
I found a new appreciation for all types of history.
Red Jacket Trestle; Mankato, Minnesota (2012)
In addition, as I grew up; I often went to visit family in Western Wisconsin. Driving along I-494 and I-94, there were two major bridges that always captivated me.
The original bridge on I-494 over the Mississippi River constantly amazed me, as well as the Union Pacific bridge over the Red Cedar River near Menomonie.
Through my childhood, I almost always took note to my surroundings and the bridges that I came across through the years.
Rockford Rail Bridge; Rockford, Illinois (2015)
The First PicturesAs I got older, I really started to become interested in bridges. By 2009, I was beginning to take photographs of the structures. The first bridge I photographed was the Carver Bridge, near where I lived. I also became interested in the Chaska Swing Bridge, a long lost relic in my hometown. In turn, I began researching these bridges for fun.
Carver Railroad Bridge; Carver, Minnesota (2011)
The WebsiteBy 2010, I took what I had learned in a middle school programming class and applied it to my research. I created a very rudimentary website with the help of a few contacts. This original site briefly explored the history of the railroad and the bridge for each structure. It also had a limited selection of areas through three states.
In 2013, after a trip expanding into Illinois (my fifth state), I decided to do a top to bottom overhaul of the website. This included new features, revised narratives and further emphasis on preservation and history. In addition, the improved website allowed for further expansions into other states.
Janesville Rail Bridge; Janesville, Wisconsin (2014)
ExpansionsSince my first photos, I have done many expansions into new areas. Eau Claire (2011), Des Moines (2012), Eastern Wisconsin (2014), Chicago Area (2015), Eastern Nebraska (2015) and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (2016) all round out some of my biggest expansions. One of my favorite parts of these expansions has been the increased awareness and knowledge I have gained of other structures. Pushing my limits into 11 states, I have gotten to see many of the most unique railroad bridges the midwest has to offer.
I plan to continue expansions to places such as Kansas and Missouri over the coming years; as well as focusing on the original areas.
Saltillo Trail Bridge; Saltillo, Nebraska (2015)
FutureIn the fall of 2016, I will be attending Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa for civil engineering. I hope that I can apply what I learn there, and a career to preserving historic bridges. In addition, I plan to continue to bring high class documentation of railroad bridges through the Midwest, continuing to expand my coverage area.
Wells Rail Bridge; Wells, Michigan (2016)
Services I offer
Along with documentation and information listed on this site; I offer services to help with individual needs.
As always, information and photos listed on this site are free to use for non-commercial purposes with proper citations. Please contact me for photo use beforehand. I also can help with research, individual documentation projects and creating historical narratives for public use. These include, but are not limited to such things as National Register of Historic Places nominations, historical plaques and museum narratives.
I am always eager to help, and can be contacted at marvigj27(at)gmail(dot)com.
Elmen Park Rail Bridge; Sioux Falls, South Dakota (2014)
Why This MattersThrough the 1970s and 1980s, the Midwest lost quite a bit of transportation heritage to abandonments and reconstruction projects. Many unique railroad bridges were destroyed and scrapped instead of preserved for future generations to see. Currently, a second major wave of demolition has begun on railroad bridges. This has been triggered by increased traffic and failures in some historic bridges.
Because of this, historic railroad bridges are being destroyed at an alarming rate, which has only increased. Years of deferred maintenance has led these structures to the end of the useful railroad service lives.
However, I have continued to document and push for preservation of these structures. Preservation in some form is almost always a feasible and favorable option in the public eye.
My main goal is to document these bridges, before they are gone. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I hope that my words and photos can be left to future generations to admire.
Northwestern Bridge after trail conversion; Great Example of Preservation (2016)
Want to Help?As my trips become increasingly lengthy, and more time is spent on the road, the cost escalates quickly. If you appreciate what I am doing, please consider giving a small donation towards my cause. Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated to help cover the cost of gas, hotels, time and wear on my vehicle, hosting of my site and other things. These small donations can go a long ways towards trips and research costs.
In addition to helping me, there are many other great ways to help preserve our transportation heritage.
One major way is to contact your local politicians, and let them know this matters to you.
A second way is to help groups with preservation. Local historical societies, websites like this and private parties oftentimes collaborate to preserve structures. Historic bridges can be relocated to parks or reused privately. In the digital age we live in, petitions and groups can be formed simply online to impact an event. Using these to try to preserve or persuade can oftentimes be significant assets.
CGW Des Moines River Bridge, Demolished 2013; Des Moines, Iowa (2012)
Special Thank You!A special thank you goes out to all who have made this site successful and supported my efforts. Especially a big thank you to my parents for their support, and my bridgehunter colleagues for their knowledge, expertise and time invested into my ongoing project!
An extra big shout out goes to the museums and archives who have helped with research!
© Copyright 2010- John Marvig and Contributors. All Rights Reserved