Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tioga Bridge Revival

After years in the making, the restoration of the stunning Tioga Bridge in Northwest Indiana is complete.

Erected in 1890 by the iconic Wrought Iron Bridge Company,this majestic 2-span Whipple Truss stretches over 450 feet across the Tippecanoe River near Monticello. Also known as the Paper Mill Bridge, the bridge was designed by engineer Craven Smith. It sports some very impressive portal decorations including cresting and finials that have been painstakingly replicated in the reconstruction. It also features unique ribbon lacing of the eyebars that make up the lower chords, a trait that is only found in a handful of bridges remaining today. I was surprised by the lack of sway bracing between the trusses of such a tall bridge, but apparently Mr. Smith felt that the massive portal bracing would be adequate to keep everything aligned properly. Over 120 years have passed since it was erected and so far he seems to have been right.

The bridge has been a local landmark of the area for a long time, having been featured on post cards as early as the 1920's. The bridge is also noted for sitting very low to the water, an attribute that likely comes from the building of the Oakdale Dam in 1925 which led to the creation of Lake Freeman and Lake Shafer. There was talk of raising the bridge up several feet, but at this point I'm not sure if that was included in the restoration or not. Having been this height for some 85 years doesn't seem to have caused any problems.

Hopefully this restoration will promote more visits from tourists in this very popular region of the state. The bridge no longer carries motorized traffic, but should see plenty of pedestrian use in the coming years.

Photo taken by Tom Hall. This and many other can be seen on Bridgehunter

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