Two Bridge Projects Completed in Record Time

November 10, 2012

Pictures by Dan O'Reilly
Story by Larry Gomes

A large crew of volunteers showed up to work on two critical bridge projects on PT109.  The first project of the day was to strip a rotted wood deck off a 27-foot long bridge and install a new temporary deck.  The second project involved moving a bridge to cover a 4' deep water bar that had been flooded by a beaver dam.

The day started with Eric Johnson, John Higgins, Andy Thibodeau and Dan O'Reilly arriving at the bridge site early and removing the two railings.  They were careful to keep the railings intact so they could be reinstalled after the deck had been replaced. 

Meanwhile another group of volunteers had gathered at the WMRR clubhouse to load up with decking and tools.  That crew consisted of Matt Godbout, Bob McCourt, Larry Gomes and Andy Gomes. 

Since the club did not have any decking for the project, the State of NH had donated some old bridges to the club.  The catch was these bridges had to be taken apart.  Luckily club members Bob Roderique and Ray Borbeau had gotten together during the previous week to take those bridges apart and transport the decking to the WMRR clubhouse so the Saturday crew could just load the lumber and go.

Once the trailers were loaded, the crew drove out to the bridge site and joined the dismantling process that was already in progress.  When they arrived, the railings had already been removed, but the crew was having trouble removing the decking.  The wood was so rotted, it was just coming up in pieces.

Matt Godbout came up with the solution.  He backed up his dump truck, wrapped a chain around 5 of the timbers and pulled them out.  The idea worked pretty well except some of the more rotted pieces dropped into the river.  So Dan O'Reilly and Bob McCourt took up positions downstream to fish out any wood that floated down the river.  In less than an hour, the bridge deck had been removed. 

Crew members then worked their way down the beams using battery powered saws to cut the old stringers loose from the steel beams.  New stringers were then bolted into place and the new decking was laid down and nailed into place.  Runners were then installed and finally the railings were refit to the new bridge deck.

This is a temporary repair to get us through the winter using 2" x 8" decking.  Next summer this temporary deck will be removed and replaced with 4" x 6" decking capable of supporting truck traffic.  The club also plans to install 2 more steel I-Beams to provide more support for the bridge deck.

Here are some pictures from Saturday:


Matt's truck is hooked up and ready to pull out the first bridge section.  Note there are several deck boards that have broken ends and are
missing due to the poor condition of the timbers.


The bridge section is yanked out and pulled to the dirt where it can be safely cut up for disposal.


The crew cuts up the old bridge decking and tosses it into Matt's dump truck.  Left to right is John Higgins, Eric Johnson, Andy Gomes, Andy Thibodeau,
Bob McCourt and Larry Gomes.  The first load of old timbers when to John and Eric's camp where they will use it for kindling wood.
The second load was so rotted that it went to the Berlin transfer station for recycling.


Larry and Andy Gomes work their way down the bridge rails removing the old stringers.  Larry used a battery powered saws-all to cut the
wood loose from the bolts.  Then he used a metal cutting blade to cut off the old rusted bolts to make room for the new bolts.


The steel beams are now ready for the new stringers to be bolted on.


The crew places the new decking onto  the stringers.  The pink flag tape is there to remind our crew members not to step beyond that
line or they will end up in the river.  Left to right is Bob McCourt, Andy Gomes and Andy Thibodeau.


The new deck is now complete.  The bridge is only 12' wide instead of 14' wide since we are using donated materials. 
The planks were set 1" apart so a bar will fit between them making them easier to remove next summer.  Note the string on
the right side that was used to line up the planks.  Even though its a temporary bridge, the crew still takes pride in their work.


With the railings installed the final width of the bridge is only 9' 6".  With just 6" to spare, our groomer operators had better be careful or they may take out those railings.


Our second project of the day was the installation of an recycled bridge over this water bar.  Here Eric Johnson nails 1/2 of the bridge
into the center beam using pilot holes that Larry Gomes just drilled.  Last year this water bar was almost dry. 
Now it has 4' of water in it because of a beaver dam that has brought the water level up almost even with the trail.  
The plan is to trap the beavers out and dismantle the dam, but if things don't go according to plan,
at least we will have a way to get through this section of trail.


Larry uses his tractor bucket to lift the second half of the bridge into place while Eric guides it down onto the center support beam while
Bob McCourt, Andy Thibodeau and Andy Gomes look on.  In the background you can see Andy Thibodeau's 4-passenger ATV
that dragged in one of the bridge sections plus brought in several crew members.  The other bridge section was dragged in by the tractor.

This is the largest beaver lodge we have ever seen.  It is about 7 feet tall and has a 15 foot diameter.
The dam they built is all also very big standing over 5' tall.  It will not be easy to take it down once the beavers are gone.


We would like to thank all of the volunteers who helped out on this project.  It was November 1st when we first found heard reports from the White Mountain National Forest staff that we might have a problem with a rotted bridge.   The next day, club members Mike Roy and Dick MacDonald were on the scene taking measurements and assessing the problem.  A few days later, materials were being put together by club members and 9 days later the problem was fixed.  Its a testament to the spirit of cooperation between the WMNF, the State of NH, the club and our dedicated volunteers that all worked together for a quick solution.

If you would like to join us on future trail projects, please watch our website for work day notices.  We are always looking for new volunteers to join our team.


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