KPC NEWS SERVICE
ALBION — After standing for 111 years, a steel bridge is being taken down.
Bridge 135, a steel truss bridge on C.R. 175N over the CSX Railroad tracks in rural Noble County, has been there since before automobiles were even commonplace. When the bridge was built in 1906, Ford Motor Co. was just three years old at the time, and the advent of the assembly line to speed up car production still was years away.
The bridge is certainly a relic of a period before the first cars and trucks started puttering around Noble County.
It’s narrow — so narrow, in fact, that only one vehicle can cross at a time. It’s wooden, with a deck made out of planks instead of concrete or asphalt like any modern-day bridge. And it’s weak — compared to new bridges at least — with a light load rating that prohibits anything but passenger vehicles from going over it.
Bridge 135 is actually one of three nearly identical structures around Albion; the other two span the railroad tracks on C.R. 400E and C.R. 225E. But it will be the first to go.
Bridge 135 is scheduled to be dismantled this year and won’t be replaced.
The other two also will be torn down in the coming years, but they’ll be replaced with modern bridges.
All three of the bridges were built and maintained by the railroad. Last year, Noble County struck a deal with CSX to get funding help to replace the other two bridges, while agreeing to allow the railroad to remove Bridge 135.
The bridge sits on an S-curve, so it would have been prohibitively expensive to remove it and replace it with a straight connection on a road that gets only a handful of cars per day, Noble County Highway Department engineer Zach Smith said.
“It’s very low volume. We estimate between 15 to 20 vehicles per day,” Smith said.
Because there’s so little traffic, the bridge also had become a target for vandalism. It’s tagged with a rainbow of colors and all kinds of messages, including, of course, some lewd and offensive graffiti.
“It’s the place where either kids or other people meet up to hang out,” Smith said. “We’ve had a lot of vandalism.”
CSX will pay for and manage the demolition, which is expected to happen sometime this year, Smith said, but he hasn’t received any definitive timeline. The railroad wanted to take it down in the fall, but that didn’t happen before winter set in. Now he expects demolition to occur sometime soon.
C.R. 175N will be dead-ended on both sides after the bridge is taken out. When asked why a street-level crossing couldn’t be put in instead of a new bridge, Smith said railroads are strongly opposed to establishing new crossings, which need to be maintained and also can be a safety issue for drivers and trains.
The county has received federal funding for replacement of the other two steel truss bridges, so a historical survey of the structures will be part of the design process for them, Smith said.
At the very least, residents will have a couple years to appreciate the two other 1906-style bridges before they’re replaced, Smith said.
What else was happening in 1906
Bridge 135 near Albion was built in 1906, and it’s being torn down this year. Here’s what was happening 111 years ago:
n Noble County was 80 years old.
n The county population was around 23,750 (47,500 now).
n The Noble County Jail wouldn’t get electricity for two years.
n Theodore Roosevelt was president.
n Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii weren’t states yet.
n The San Francisco Earthquake destroys the city and kill more than 3,000.