130-ton Bartonsville Covered Bridge moved into place
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | January 01,2013
Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Workmen use a chain-fall horizontal hoist to move the covered bridge in Rockingham inch by inch into place on Monday.
LOWER BARTONSVILLE — The new Bartonsville Covered Bridge was pulled to its final resting place Monday, inch by painstaking inch, by two special horizontal hoists on either side of the river.
The 130-ton bridge, which replaced the original 1870 Bartonsville Covered Bridge which was swept away by Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28, 2011, had been built parallel to its final location over the Williams River. It was moved about 40 feet upstream over seven hours by a series of heavy-equipment rollers and chain-fall hoists, a piece of equipment similar to a come-along.
The rollers were pulled by the chain fall, and slid on a metal track on top of wooden cribbing built on the new concrete abutment for the bridge.
Working in tandem on either side of the river, crews from Cold River Bridge pulled the bridge into place, along the metal track and rollers. It moved imperceptible inch by imperceptible inch.
The men took turns working the chain-fall hoist back and forth, with even the owner of Cold River Bridge Jim Hollar taking his turn with the equipment.
Bridge designer Phillip Pierce of Clough Harbour and Associates of Albany, N.Y., was on hand to watch the bridge moved into place,
“It’s pulling harder than I thought it would,” said Pierce, who said the new bridge was 17 feet longer at 168 feet and two feet taller than the original bridge. He said the bridge was “a few inches” wider to allow more ventilation in the trusses. He said it was the longer Town truss covered bridge in the United States, if not the world.
The Town lattice truss was designed and patented in 1820 by Connecticut bridge designer and architect Ithiel Town, Pierce said.
The new, stronger bridge will now allow fire trucks to cross, he said.
Pierce, one of four covered bridge designers in the United States, had worked as a consultant for the Agency of Transportation from 1992-95 evaluating the state’s 100 covered bridges. Rockingham’s public works consultant, Everett Hammond, said he sought out Pierce shortly after Irene because of his experience with covered bridges in general, and the Bartonsville Covered Bridge in particular.
Pierce said the construction crew opted not to use the traditional capstan method to put the bridge in place, which had been used in recent years in several covered bridge construction projects, because the chain-fall method was easier.
He said usually construction crews build the bridge on land, and then move it across the river using cribbing.
But in the case of Bartonsville, the new bridge was already over the river.
The low-key move was witnessed by a steady stream of visitors, including Pat and Jim Hetzer of Hudson, N.H., and their daughter Cher Hetzer-Keuenhoff, also of Hudson.
The Hetzers have been coming over regularly to watch the bridge being built, and Jim Hetzer had scavengered some scraps of lumber from the old bridge and built a birdfeeder for their home.
None of the old bridge was able to be used in the new bridge, although one of the original signs was located downstream.
The Cold River crew had spent the last three weeks dismantling the temporary bridge which had been serving the small village of Lower Bartonsville for the past 11 months.
Hollar, who grew up in Rockingham, said constructing the bridge was personally rewarding for himself and his crew, most of whom are from the Bellows Falls-Rockingham-Westminster area.
“I think it will be ‘Dad worked on this bridge,’ or ‘Grandpa worked on this bridge,’” said Hollar, taking a break from his turn at the hoist.
Pierce said the new bridge was as close as he could get it to a replica of the Town truss covered bridge, which was built by Sanford Granger after an earlier covered bridge was also swept away by flooding.
Pierce said the bridge, which was built with green lumber, “weighs a lot,” but will weigh about 10 tons less once the lumber dries. The bridge is built primarily of Douglas fir from the West Coast, as well as southern pine.
He said white oak planking would be used to cover the bridge deck as a “sacrificial layer,” and would be replaced after it is worn.
Hammond, Rockingham’s former public works director and a native of Bartonsville, said it would probably be the end of January before all the work is complete on the bridge and it is open to the public.
He said the town would be holding a celebration sometime in late to mid-January.
Hammond said the bridge now had to be lowered about two feet to its final resting place on its new concrete abutments, and some additional concrete poured, and approaches put in place.
“The bridge is a legacy that stays in the town and there’s a lot of pride here,” said Hollar, as his crew of 10 guys took a pizza break for the final 10 feet.
Shortly before 4 p.m., the bridge was in place, a milestone reached by the end of 2012.