By BRIAN GRAVES
Former Newschannel 9 anchor Calvin Sneed brought his passion to save the truss bridges “of character” to the Museum Center at Five Points Thursday night, and left carrying the cause of restoring one of Bradley County’s oldest bridges with him.
“Everybody’s got a steel truss bridge in their background. Everybody grew up with one that’s probably not there anymore.,” Sneed said.
The veteran newsman recently released a coffee table book called, “Building Bridges: From Our Past To Our Future,” which contains numerous photographs he has taken of this endangered species of engineering marvels.
One of those bridges, which happens to be in Bradley County’s backyard, was the first in a series of bridges of which he highlighted the histories and backgrounds.
It also is now one of his happy projects to help preserve.
“Most of you may not recognize this bridge and you may not have seen it in 30 years,” Sneed explained. “Some of you may not know it’s still around.”
Sneed was describing the old Dobbs Ford Bridge, which was constructed in 1878 to cross Candies Creek.
“That was four generations ago on the way to Harrison,” he said. “The bridge was determined to be too weak and too narrow to carry the heavier traffic, but somebody thought well enough of this old gentleman to save its life.”
“It was bought and paid for by the owners of a local golf course, who moved it three miles downstream,” Sneed said. “They just picked it up, put it on a flatbed and hauled it away.”
Although the golf course has long since disappeared, “this gallant old gentleman still crosses Candies Creek.”
“Unfortunately with the closing of the golf course, nobody every gets to see this anymore,” Sneed said. “I had to traverse some weed to get to it.”
Sneed said the engineering process of building truss bridges has all but been discarded.
“Most of those engineers are no longer with us,” Sneed said. “When we entered the digital age, all of the mechanics of building these types of bridges, that have stood the test of time and are still with us, is still there. But, truss bridges are more expensive to build than the newer modern designs.”
“Why should we try to preserve these works of art? Because the engineers who built them had no idea they were creating an art form,” he said.
One of those in the audience was Cameron Fischer, chairman of the Greenway Board.
Fisher mentioned the Greenway Board is now trying to preserve the Dobbs Ford Bridge.
“We haven’t really talked about it much, but it’s still in really good shape,” Fischer said. “We are going to have a Candies Creek Greenway and that bridge is going to be the centerpiece of the first phase.”
Fischer said the bridge will need “a little bit of work,” including some new entrances and approaches and probably some rails.”
“This is going to be a very exciting project once it starts,” Fischer said.
Sneed later commented to the Daily Banner about the local bridge and the efforts to preserve it.
“If there is any steel truss bridge worthy of rescue and restoration, it is the elegant Dobbs Ford Bridge,” Sneed said. “It served its community well for many years, and was fortunate to be moved in 1990 to a location that allowed it to be saved from the wrecking ball.”
“I applaud the community and Cameron Fischer’s group, to once again return Dobbs Ford to a position prominence in Cleveland and Bradley County,” he said.
He noted Dobbs Ford is one of the oldest steel truss bridges in the state “and one of only a few still with us in Southeast Tennessee.
“The community should be proud of this bridge, and the restoration efforts that will recognize it once again,” Sneed said. “It’s job is not over, but its future is certain.”
Signed copies of Sneed’s book are now available for purchase at the Museum Store. Proceeds from the book will go toward helping produce a second book of bridges Sneed plans to release later this year.
Sneed’s appearance was part of the Happy Hour series at the museum, and was held in conjunction with the opening of its newest exhibit, “Dixie Highway: Gateway to the South.”
The Dixie Highway exhibit is sponsored by Wright Bros. Construction Co., Inc.
Photo displays were designed and created by the Bandy Heritage Center.
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