Historic Steel Bridge Relocated from Stark to Berlin's Dead River

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Reporter
(Front Page)

September 10, 2014

BERLIN — The White Mountain Ridge Runners (WMRR) Snowmobile Club spent four days this spring restoring the historic Paris Road truss bridge. The steel bridge was used for many years in Stark, and Harley Mason bought it after a new Paris Road bridge was installed by the State. The Snowmobile Club bought it from him in 2013 for use as a replacement for the no-longer useable bridge located behind the Notre Dame Arena.

“Of course, no one in the Club had ever restored a bridge before, so we were not entirely sure how to go about it,” explained assistant trailmaster Larry Gomes, a Stark camp owner. “After asking for advice from many people, we decided that we needed heavy-duty sand-blasting equipment.  We called Brian Ruel, president of the Presidential Range Riders Snowmobile Club who also works for Pro-Quip Equipment Rentals and Sales in Gorham, and he set us up with a brand-new heavy-duty compressor and provided us with the company’s in-house sand-blasting equipment — a point-and-shoot Texas Blaster.”

Ruel also gave excellent advice on what protective gear and blasting media to use. “We purchased Tyvek work suit, a sandblast hood and a respirator,” Gomes said. Trailmaster Bryan MacDonald bought a pallet load of 60-pound Patriot Blast media at a discount from Sanel, his employer.  MacDonald and Matt Godbout hauled various materials to a sand pit in Stark where the bridge was stored. Gomes picked up the needed equipment from Pro-Quip and met up with WMRR club president Bob Rodrigue and they set up the sand blasting equipment.

“It took a few adjustments, but by 10 a.m.,the blasting was well underway,” Gomes explained. “Once the unit was adjusted, you could keep the nozzle moving at a slow but steady pace, peeling off a three-inch wide swath of paint and rust.  “Every couple of hours, the clear plastic window in front of the sand-blast hood would get too dull to see out of so the old window would be taken out and a new one slid in,” he continued.

Heat built up in both the Tyvek suit and hood, and the plastic hood fogged up. “The only solution was to roll up part of the hood, letting in some flying debris,” Gomes recalled. “By the end of the day, we both felt as though we’d taken a bath in sand.”

Dalton Binette joined the sand-blasting effort, that took two-and-a-half-days to finish. Binette and Gomes rigged up chains, and Mason, his son, and another helper used a large front-end loader and a skid steer to lift the bridge and move cement blocks into position.  Then some wooden blocks were put on top, and when the bridge was lowered there was a clearance of about 30 inches, allowing the sand-blasting of the bottom of the bridge to proceed and it was finally finished up at noon on the third day of work.

After lunch that day, club treasurer George Falardeau arrived with a brand-new airless paint sprayer, capable of spraying a gallon of paint in only minutes. “He said my idea that we could hand-paint the bridge would take two or three days,” Gomes recalled.  “Once this sprayer was set up and running, it took just over four hours per coat to paint the entire bridge. Not only was the gun fast, but it also put on a coat of paint that was thicker than a hand-brushed coat.” Both a primer and a finish coat of hunter green Rust-O-Leum paint were applied.

The Club’s next work day was one of the most challenging that anyone could remember, Gomes recalled. “The goal was to move a 45-foot-long 14-foot-wide truss bridge from Stark to Berlin and then install it on abutments across the Dead River.  It took four excavators, a bucket loader, a large truck and trailer plus a dozen volunteers, but at the end of the day, the bridge was sitting safely over the Dead River.

At 7 a.m., the crew — Eric Johnson, John Higgins, Pete Johnson and Larry Gomes — arrived and installed heavy-duty half-inch chains on each corner of the bridge connected to a steel I-beam to which they rigged up a lifting chain.  Mason supplied a large bucket loader and excavator to lift the bridge onto the trailer.  Once the chains were in place, they were attached to the loader and the excavator, and the bridge was lifted into the air and loaded onto the trailer. Chapman Steel and Demolition of Gorham generously donated both the transport truck and trailer, Gomes explained.

Their crew consisted of “Bud” Chapman driving the transport truck and Matt Lentendre driving an escort truck. Bud lined the flatbed trailer up with the bridge and the excavator and loader lifted it up high enough so the trailer could be backed under it. The bridge was then lowered and strapped down on the trailer for its ride to Berlin.  After a 12-mile trip, the Berlin Police Department provided traffic control on the City’s streets, and the bridge arrived safely at Arena.

Two excavators — one donated by Matt Godbout of MG Excavation and the other by the Berlin Water Works — were waiting there along with more volunteers: welder Shaun Roy, groomer operator Pete Peare, and Roger Richard, as well as project vets — Mike Godbout and Dalton Binette.  Other volunteers and donors included Steve Binette, Serge Levielle, Dave Lemiere, Carl Bull, Joe Cote, Richard Dagesse, and Kate Gomes.

After Chapman's truck pulled into position, the volunteers got the chains and steel beams reinstalled and the two excavators lifted the bridge while the truck pulled out from under it.  The two excavators then inched their way towards the river and dropped the center of the bridge on top of the abutment on the Arena side of the river.

MG Construction had a second excavator on the opposite side of the river that was then used to pull the bridge the rest of the way across the river.  Once the bridge was resting on the both shores, Godbout built the abutment on the western shore using interlocking concrete blocks.

“When the bridge was then lifted onto the blocks, however, the crew found out that they were not quite square with the bridge,” Gomes recalled.  “So they lifted the bridge off, set it down on the river bank and repositioned the concrete blocks. When the bridge was lifted back into place, it fit perfectly!

“Once the crew marked the concrete blocks, some concrete of the concrete ridges were chipped out to create a flat surface for the bridge pads,” he continued. The final step was putting back some of the rocks along the shoreline and installing silt fencing to prevent any loose soil from washing into the river.

Now that the bridge is in place, Gomes explained, planking must be installed so that snowmobiles and pedestrians can cross the River. This work is slated for completion before the snow flies, well before snowmobiles will use the reconnected trail to reach downtown.

On Aug. 30, White Mountain Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club assistant trailmaster and project manager Larry Gomes,
a Stark camp owner, showed off the Club’s latest project — the restoration and installation of Stark’s old steel
Paris Road Bridge  so that it now spans the Dead River behind the Notre Dame Arena in Berlin.
Decking will soon be installed and more fill added to ramp up onto the bridge. (Photo by Edith Tucker).


To see more about this history of the bridge, click HERE.


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