Bridge Repair – correcting an oops

Bridge Repair – correcting an oops

“Mister Straw, I need your help,” the county engineer said to my grandfather. “We have a dragline in the creek and we hope you can help us pull it out.”

The engineer went on to explain that they were installing a new bridge on one of the county roads. They had fabricated a new concrete bridge to replace the old wooden structure. They had cast a new concrete deck but had retained the original wooden abutments. During the back filling of the road bed, one of the abutments had been pushed off vertical and collapsed under the weight of the new bridge.

One end of the bridge had fallen into the creek. They had brought out the drag line to try to raise the bridge and now it was in the creek too – on its side.

Daddy Straw surveyed the situation and assured him that he could recover both the machine and save the bridge. Back at the shop he had my Dad and my uncle collect cribbing and jacks. HE then had one of the other employees drive the shop crane to the job site.

The shop crane or winch truck as he called it was made from a Ford lat bed truck with most of the body removed. There was a large boom mounted on the back. The rear axle had been replaced with one from a motor grader. A huge winch form a bulldozer was drive by the truck’s PTO. The operator’s seat faced the rear of the truck. Driving it to the job site meant an uncomfortable neck strain for the driver.

First they recovered the fallen machine using the old winch truck. Next, they set about raising the bridge.

My dad and his brother took on the task of wrestling the heavy hydraulic jacks and cribbing timbers down the creek bank and under the concrete bridge.

They built a base and began raising the structure a few inches at a time and re-cribbing with wood. It took about three weeks but they were able to raise the bridge back to the level of the roadway without damaging the bridge section.

Next my grandfather fabricated steel supports out of heavy H beams and my dad and his brother were assigned the task of snaking them down the creek bank and setting them in pace under the bridge. The dug down and created a concrete base to set he beams on.

Once that end of the bridge was stabilized, they move to the other end and temporarily lifted that end off the wooded supports. They cut out the wood and fabricated another steel support for that end. They then carefully set the bridge in its final resting place.

I am always amazed at the stories of how my Grandfather who had only a third grade education was called upon to bail out engineers and others who were supposedly more educated than him. I guess his education at the School of Hard Knocks as he called it was a pretty good one.

The remains of the winch truck we found near the old shop building