By Edith Tucker
December 31, 2014
GORHAM — The restored 1918 Moose Brook Pony
Howe Truss Bridge, after being nearly destroyed in an arson fire on May 20,
2004, a decade ago — has been shipped back to the town in which it first carried
Boston & Maine Railroad trains and later snowmobiles for 86 years.
It is now being looked after by the Gorham Historical Society, which is seeking to find a suitable spot near the rail road museum on which to reassemble it so that tourists, engineers, and bridge and rail aficionados can appreciate its now-unusual features. An interpretive display and informational panels will be fabricated and installed.
But, most exciting, according to Tim Andrews of Barns & Bridges of New England in Gilford, clear Lexan panels will be used to cover two of the inspection panels that were on the original sides of the bridge, so that rail bridge maintenance crews could check the integrity of the wood trusses and braces and tighten any loose nuts and bolts on the vertical steel tension rods.
Using Lexan will allow visitors to see the trusses and understand how the Howe truss system, patented in 1840, works, Andrews explained. The other inspection panels will be made of wood, replicating the appearance of the original ones.
A similar bridge, the 1918 Snyder Brook Pony Howe Truss Bridge was recently lifted from its abutments in Randolph so that the dilapidating one of the pair can be rebuilt during the upcoming summer. The scale of the Moose Brook Bridge is one-third larger than the Snyder Brook Bridge, according to Andrews. Once back in place, the Snyder Brook Bridge will be the only Pony Howe Truss Bridge in the U. S. in its original location.
It took some five years after the 2004 fire but thanks to the efforts of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, Andrews, and engineering Professor Dario Gasparini at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, the cast iron and steel parts were measured, documented and salvaged. The wood trusses were also documented and measured before Andrews constructed replacements in 2011.
The project received a $270,000 grant through the U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s covered bridge preservation program, according to an article in the Cleveland “Plain Dealer.” A little over half — $138,000 — paid for the reconstruction work that Andrews completed in Gilford plus the transportation of the disassembled bridge to the Midwest. The balance — $132,000 — was used for research, including the instruments needed to do the structural testing under the Gasparini’s direction.
It took longer than originally expected to get the trusses to Case Western because four iron shoes that had cracked in the heat of the arson fire had to be meticulously repaired by an expert in Lansing, Mich., “The Plain Dealer” reported.
Gasparini’s research included attaching 43 sensors to the Douglas fir wood trusses and the vertical steel rods that hold the wood in place. The sensors measured the strain on the rods as well as the wood’s moisture and temperature.
Andrews, who has secured an $110,000 contract that likely will not cover all costs, anticipates that he will be in Gorham by late spring-early summer to assemble the Moose Brook Bridge somewhere near the railroad museum..
Tim Andrews, owner of
Barns & Bridges of New England - Guilford, replicated the 1918 Moose Brook Pony
Howe Truss Bridge
trusses that were essentially destroyed in an arson fire on May 20, 2004. He took this photo of the partially completed first
one on March 24, 2011. The fully restored bridge has been returned to Gorham to be reassembled in 2015 near the railroad museum,
after being used for research at Case Western in Cleveland, Ohio. (Tim Andrews photo).