Two Local Clubs Team Up For Bridge Project

May 30, 2015

Pictures by Roger Richard, John Higgins and Larry Gomes
Story Larry Gomes

Club members from the Milan Trail Huggers ATV Club and the White Mt. Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club teamed up to build a new bridge from Rt. 110A to Gord's Corner Store.  This was the first major project for the Milan Trail Huggers and it was one of the pre-requisites for getting the Groveton to West Milan OHRV Trail open. 

State officials did not want any ATV traffic going out on Rt. 110 to get to the store.  Since there is a river between the store and the trail, that river needed to be crossed by a bridge.  Planning for this project began last year with meetings between the Town of Milan, the Milan Fire Department and landowners to determine the best place to cross the north branch of the Ammonoosuc River.

Complicating the crossing was a stand-pipe that is used by the Milan Fire Department for drawing water from the river for their trucks.  The bridge had to be placed so that it would not block access to the stand pipe.  Eventually the spot was picked and the club had exactly 11' of space to work with.  This meant the bridge could be no wider than 9' to allow one foot of clearance on each side of the bridge and the bridge had to be a minimum of 65' long.

The next stop was Chapman Scrap Metal and Demolition in Gorham and after hearing about the project, owner Bob Chapman and his son Bud decided to donate the steel needed for the bridge frame to help out with the project.  They also donated the trucking for moving the steel from their steel yard in Milan to the welding yard in Berlin and from the welding yard to the bridge site in West Milan.   Many thanks to Bob and Bud for this very generous donation!

Thanks also go out to Barry Kelly at White Mountain Lumber.  They supplied the decking and railings at a discount for the project and they also donated a large front-end loader which was needed to load the 66' long bridge onto Chapman's trailer after it had been welded together.

Steve Binette from Ray's Electric in Berlin donated a Case excavator and his operator Jason for unloading the steel bridge and placing it over the river.  Leo Chaloux from Chaloux Excavating in Stark donated a CAT excavator and his time to also help with the unloading and placement of the bridge.  These two operators worked flawlessly as a team to safely unload the bridge and place it over the river without a single problem.  Thanks to both of these local companies for their equipment and most importantly their experience in getting this critical job done.

Gordy and Janet Roberge from Gord's Corner Store donated the funds needed to purchase the lumber and also paid to have dirt work done on the bridge site.  They have been trying to get a trail to their store for years so this was the culmination of a long-term effort.  As Gordy said, "The new economy for the North Country is recreation and we have to participate in that new economy in as many ways as possible for us to survive.  We have always promoted outdoor recreation by renting canoes and kayaks as part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, running guided bird watching tours, hunting and fishing expeditions.  The one area we were not able to tap into was motorized recreation.  This is our first step by being connected into the Ride the Wilds network and we hope to be connected to the snowmobile trails sometime in the future".

Club members from both of the clubs were also glad to see this project get done.  Many are residents and camp owners who stop at Gord's Corner Store when they are trailering to the nearest parking lot to unload their ATV's or snowmobiles.  One member remarked, now I can just jump on my ATV and ride down to the store to get my pizza!

Gordy and Janet took good care of the volunteers by cooking burgers and dogs for lunch and providing lots of ice cold water and soda all day.  It was so hot, that the crew drank several cases of water during the project.  Gordy and Janet also donated gas for the WMRR generator and diesel for the excavators.

Here are some pictures of the entire project:

The steel for the bridge came from the old Groveton Mill where it had served as an alignment table for welding heavy equipment together. 
There were two 9' wide by 33' long sections built with 18" high steel beams that were welded together to create the 66-foot long bridge.
The above picture shows the two sections at Cross Machine in Berlin just prior to the welding operation.

John Higgins and John Martel work together to pre-cut all the lumber needed to build the bridge. 
Here they are cutting the 4" x 4" posts to be used for the railings.  Both men are members of the NH ATV Club
who made the trip up from central NH.


Bob Chapman and his son Buddy donated the steel needed for the bridge and used their heavy equipment to move it to the bridge site.


On Saturday morning, the bridge was already on site at Gord's store.  It had to be trucked in on Friday since the State does not
issue oversize load permits on weekends.  The Chapman crew had to use a special 80' long expandable trailer to move the bridge frame
along with "Oversize Load" signage and a pilot car.


Excavator owner-operator Leo Chaloux took off his bucket and just used the arm of his excavator for lifting.  Here Larry Gomes
and Leo Couture set the 1/2 chains needed to do the lift.

With the front chains set, Larry works with Ray's Electric operator Jason to get the back chains set.  Larry had looked up
the lifting capacity of both excavators and determined the Case Excavator needed to take more of the load, so the back chains were
set about 1/3rd of the way in from the back of the steel frame.

Working together, the excavators were just barely able to lift the steel frame off the trailer and set it safely on the ground.
On paper, there should have been plenty of reserve capacity, but the steel must have been heavier than
our initial calculations so it took the maximum lifting capacity of both machines.

Now that the frame is on the ground, Ralph Churchill repositions the chains for the move down to the river bank.


The two excavators work together to bring the large bridge frame down the hill while the entire crew watches.

This is the crossing location for the new bridge.  Note the pavement on the right side of the picture which was the location of
the old Rt. 110 bridge crossing years ago.  The new bridge is going back into that same location.

Leo Chaloux sets up his laser level while his friend Randy Holt holds the measuring stick.  After comparing the level of
one bank to the other, they found there was only a 4-inch difference.  Before the bridge was put in place, one of
the excavators removed the 4-inches of dirt from this side to the bridge would be perfectly level across the river.

WMRR member Dave Lemeire uses the club torch to blow holes in the steel for attaching the 2" x 10" stringers.

With the stringers bolted into place, the Case excavator repositions so it can swing the end of the bridge
out over the river.

The bridge is now hanging halfway over the river and the Case excavator makes the trip around to the other side.
Note the rail road ties that were put down under the steel so the river bank would not be damaged
when the bridge was slid across.

With 50' of chain fastened to the end of the bridge, the Case excavator was able to pull it across while the CAT excavator pushed the other end.

With the cement blocks in position, it was time to lift the bridge onto the blocks.  The bridge had to be put on blocks for two reasons:
1) Space was needed underneath in case the fire department needed to dig up their stand pipe 
2) The bottom of the bridge beam had to be at least as high as the highway bridge in case of a flood

With the bridge in place on its blocks, it was finally time to install the decking.  The lumber crew had already cut all of the decking
to length so it just needed to be carried onto the bridge and nailed into place.  To provide extra support in the middle of the
decking, three 2" x 8" boards were run down the center of the bridge resting on the diagonal cross members.
Without these center boards, the bridge would have needed 4" x 6" decking, tripling the cost.

Half the decking boards were delivered to each end of the bridge and two crews raced each other to the center. 
Silver Rider's member Ray Borbeau had marked the stringers every 4' with alignment marks so the boards could be squared up
as they were put down.  Once the boards were in place they were nailed down to the stringers and the
center support planks using a Paslode nail gun.

WMRR club members Roger Richard (left on bridge) figured out the post spacing while Eric Johnson nails in supports
for the post braces.  Other members of the bridge building crew not shown in the picture included Jim Feldhouse,
Milan Trail Huggers president and Mike Ramsey, Milan Trail Huggers Vice President. 
John Martel (right) works on setting old railroad ties in place to hold the dirt ramps that will lead up to the bridge.

Milan Trail Huggers member Gary Bouchard uses an electric drill powered by the WMRR welder to drive 10" timber lags to
hold the railroad ties together.  Note the cable running across between the two sets of ties that will keep the walls from falling
outward when the dirt is added.  The cable was twisted tight using a 2" x 4" after the walls were finished. 
Meanwhile up on the bridge, another crew is installing braces to each of the support posts.

With the railings done, the final job remaining is to finish the retaining walls for the ramp at the east end of the bridge.

WMRR groomer operator Leo Couture uses the club torche to cut holes in the beams so that a 5" angle iron can be bolted
to the bottom of the beams to hold the cement blocks in place.  With the angle iron on one side and the dirt ramp on the other side,
the blocks are locked in place.

After a long day, the bridge is complete.  The ramp on the west side of the bridge had to be angled to allow room for
the Milan fire trucks to be able to pull up to the stand pipe.  Note the 2" x 4"'s that were used to tighten the cables
that will keep the retaining walls from falling outward.

Shown from another angle, the bridge was just able to be fit into the available space.  On the east side, the stairway
that is part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail did not have to be moved.

Our thanks go out to the many volunteers from several clubs who participated in this project.  In a few weeks, ATV's will be rolling over this bridge and we hope snowmobiles will follow in a year or two.

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