Huron Mtns Trip, Pt. 13: “Two Bridges Too Far”

October, 2012.

Return to Part 12

Day 7, continued.
Leaving Kingsford behind, I knew of a potentially disused railroad bridge just a few blocks away in Breitung that might prove entertaining. It spanned high across the Menominee River to Wisconsin, but we would probably have to hike about another mile along the tracks.


Here we were. The rails were a little shinier than I would’ve liked, but so far no signs of impending danger.


I walked out to approximately the state line before turning back.


Recalling how my comrade Devnull met his end, I didn’t want any of that so I scramdaddled the hell out of there.




Looks like a few good bonfires may’ve been lit up here as well, by the scorch marks:


According to an article in the Iron Mountain Daily News, three Michigan teenagers were killed (and a fourth wounded) under this bridge while swimming on July 31st of 2008 by Army veteran Scott Johnson, who was shooting at them with a rifle from the Wisconsin side.

I had no idea this tragedy occurred there until I began writing this post, as there was no memorial present at the site like you usually see in Detroit. An NBC News article goes into even more gory detail on the killer's motives. It even made it into the New Yorker.


Johnson later mentioned the bridge again in a speech he made before he was sentenced. “The train bridge has been washed in the blood that I spilled,” he said. “The beauty of that place has been cursed by my actions. My memorial is made of iron and concrete.”

Yikes.


Anyway, moving on to less-grisly matters...

The Historic American Engineering Record says that the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, & Pacific RR reached Iron Mountain in 1886, so this is probably the second bridge built on this site, completed in 1902. 


The date 1902 was stamped into the concrete of this footing:


According to HistoricBridges.org the span is historically significant, and has a span length of 207 feet. They note it was also used by the Escanaba & Lake Superior RR, and call it "one of the most unusual bridges ever to be encountered." They then launch into a very technical description of why this is, which I admittedly skimmed through, but can be read in full by clicking the link.


The reasoning behind the unorthodox design, HistoricBridges asserts, was that it "reduced the materials required for the bridge, while also avoiding unwanted stresses that were present in other designs." It was also chosen due to the steep geography found here.

Not sure what this sticker says...CITY OF CHICAGO?


We now continued toward Menominee, da Yoopee’s southernmost city, by shooting down US 41. My plan was to take M-35 along the lakeshore to get back up toward Escanaba afterward. As you can see by that map, Menominee is at a latitude about equivalent to that of Gaylord, in the Lower Peninsula. Not too many parts of da Mitten can claim to be fur’der norf dan da Yoopee, eh.


Just before rolling into town we spotted this old schoolhouse. Anxious to explore something in a new county, I sent Navi to scope it out real quick, but he reported it to be full of stored auto parts belonging to the mechanic’s garage next door. As I would later learn, this schoolhouse belonged to the now defunct village of Wallace.

On we continued, until a cool old factory caught our eye:


Apparently a still-operating furniture factory. Home of da Lloyd Loom since 1906, eh! Moving on toward downtown, we stopped at the Menominee County Courthouse, our fourth one of the day:


Had we been here a year or two earlier, we might have had our way with an abandoned Lloyd Theater, but signs of impending renovation were evident:




Respectable downtown:


We decided to hit up the Menominee North Pier Light before getting grub and beers:


Nearby we scoped this old bucket tied up to the Wisconsin side of the river:


It was a cold, windy motherfucker outside today, so we hastened over the bascule bridge for a quick couple pics before racing back to the Michigan side for a warm bar. View up the Menominee River:


By the style of the hull, I would guess that this boat could be up to 100 years old.


The topography barely visible on the horizon here is that of Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula:


This was also my first real look at Green Bay.

The ship is the former William H. Dobner (Dorner…? I can’t quite make it out with all the rust). Google searches turn up little for either possibility.


We didn’t see any easy way on board, and it seemed to still be in active use as a storage unit of sorts, so we turned and walked back to Michigan, past the proudly still-operating paper mill.

Wasting no time after dinner we headed up the shore to the north side of Escanaba where I knew of an old crumbling ruin of a bridge spanning the river. Again we were racing the sunset, but as we were making our last turn to get to this now disconnected neighborhood, we halted in our tracks at the sight of an unexpected ruin of considerable size:


We were so caught off-guard that after trading the quick raised-eyebrow glance that only serial trespassers like us can trade, we decided to go do the bridge real quick first, then come back to this hulking plant that sat across from some potentially watchful houses.


This bridge looks like it used to connect a small residential neighborhood to the rest of Escanaba via North First Street, but for whatever reason that must no longer have been important at some point. 


The Historic American Engineering Survey (HAER) called it the "County Route 517 Bridge" in the c.1978 report on the Upper Peninsula. It was built in 1911 they wrote, a massive concrete girder bridge that was "in ruins" even back then, with its southernmost spans removed. The 16 spans still standing at that time measured 630 feet long and 20 feet wide.


Now it drops massive chunks into the Escanaba River while trees take root in its ever-narrowing roadbed.


Even the steel railroad trestle next to it is of a unique old-school type, and still used. Beneath it, and on the other side of it you can see the ruined footings of apparently even older bridges:


Some dude commented on my Panoramio photo of this truss bridge, saying that this steel "lattice-through-truss" design was common on the Chicago & Northwestern RR, so it may have been built by them for the Wisconsin Central RR.

The HAER confirms this, saying that it was built by the Lassig Bridge & Iron CO. of Chicago in 1892.


We discussed the ruined building we had passed on the way here, and the fact that as we passed it we saw an open gate where we could drive right the hell in, despite a few NO TRESPASSING signs.


We decided that this was the best course of action—a lightning assault; a quick go in and get out, since the sun was about set anyway. Run through and get our pics and leave before anyone had a chance to react to our presence.


Turns out this is the former Delta County Roadhouse, or so I've been told...


...So now I have to wonder if the closure of this place was what subsequently prompted the disuse of the County Route 517 Bridge, since nothing much else remains in this corner of town besides a few houses, and since the road commission would have been the very agency responsible for the bridge's upkeep anyway.


They were both probably done away with as a cost-cutting measure, and the road commission moved to a newer facility in a better location that wouldn’t need a bridge.


Too bad for the residents in that neighborhood, I guess. Now they have a place for their kids to skateboard and drink Old Style.


I think every budding teenager needs an abandoned ruin to play around in. It's the Michigan way.


Unfortunately I can't find any sources readily available talking about this site in depth, or confirming what it actually is.


The complex was actually quite large:


I imagine this is where Delta County’s fleet of massive wing plows were parked, awaiting the call to do battle against the White Plague.


Speaking of the White Plague, we were only 12 hours away from seeing the first snowfall of the year, and it was only October 4th!




Oh hey, there’s Lake Michigan:


Specifically, that’s Little Bay de Noc. It was now nightfall, and we were feeling the cold in our shutter-fingers, so retreat was in order. I had designs on stopping to see the ruins of the Nahma Burner along US-2 on our way back to the Mackinac Bridge, but it would be dark well before we got there, so I’ll save that for another trip. Our plan was to get a motel in the Manistique area that had TV so Navi could catch another sports game.

CLICK for part 14


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1 comment:

  1. I worked there for a few months in the summer of 1982 as a mechanic's helper/gofer. It was a maintenance facility for the Delta County Road Commission. That shoreline probably never got developed for housing or water related business,I would guess, because it is very shallow out for probably 1/2 mile. Maybe silt from the Escanaba River mouth settles through there.

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