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Constructing a modern-day covered bridge with a semi-van trailer

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  • Constructing a modern-day covered bridge with a semi-van trailer

    For a few years now, I have had a dream of building a covered bridge on my property, large enough to drive an automobile (Studebaker) through. I recently purchased a retired 53-foot long van trailer with 99 inch inside width that I found for sale locally on Facebook. I also purchased sixteen large, used concrete blocks (made from waste ready-mix concrete at the batch plant) that were sitting piled up in a local gravel pit, to be used for the foundation at each end of the bridge.

    When deciding to use a van trailer for a bridge, I concluded that it would be plenty strong enough for a car, being that loaded forklifts drive in and out of them on a regular basis. But, after further inspection of the trailer floor support framework (or lack there of, as the thin van sidewalls apparently provide floor support), I feel it necessary to purchase some heavy H or I-beams (10" or 12" height), which I am still looking to find for cheap. If I am unable to find such used beams for a reasonable price, I will consider a retired semi flatbed trailer or a pair of long truck frames welded together for the van trailer to rest upon. I do not trust the sidewalls of this van trailer for adequate floor strength as one wall has outward bow to it, perhaps that is why it was retired from service.

    With that said, I installed four of the concrete blocks on the west-side of the gully this week, but will wait until I have the beams (or flatbed or truck frames) on hand before I place the blocks on the east-side of the gully as I may change the distance separating the the two foundations slightly. Furthermore, I am constructing a dam made of field stone (harvested from the nearby field) about twenty-five feet downstream from the bridge, as I want the gully to retain water under and around the bridge. I intend to cut window openings in the walls of the 'covered bridge' so that passer-throughs can look outward and see water, as there is otherwise only water flowing through the gully in early spring or after heavy downpours of rain. So, now for some photos:

    Looking into the gully, with some fieldstone dumped in it for the making of a dam (need to haul-over at least twice as much more stone). I hauled the concrete blocks in from the east side, then carried them one at a time from my equipment trailer with the excavator and then sat them at the bottom of the gully. Then I drove the excavator up hill where shown (looking west), and reached down and picked them back up one at a time and placed them into the level trench. Getting the blocks situated/oriented just right was a bit of a hassle by myself, but with the aid of a rock and a tree branch, I got it done.

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    The pathway up the hill eventually leads to my home.

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    Here is the van trailer, um, I mean future covered bridge. The concrete 2' x 2' x 4' long blocks on the equipment trailer each way about 2000 lbs.

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    Looking towards the east, with the concrete blocks in place for the west end of the bridge. I placed a railroad tie atop for the frame to sit on, as the blocks have a center tongue protruding upwards that would be inadequate for the frame to rest on.

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    In case you think that this is a bridge to nowhere, it actually is for a trail (nearly 1/2 mile long) that leads from my home to my parents home which is across the wetland shown here. The short bushy trees are in the wetland, with cattails and swamp grass hidden from view. The road shown was built about twenty-two years ago for forest management and for cattle to cross, with a woven poly fabric underlayment holding the roadbed from sinking into the wetland.
    (Me, my dad and his hired hand, built this wetland road during the winter. Once the thick grass and willow brush was dozed to the side, the lack of insulation allowed the wet ground to freeze deep enough to back a loaded gravel truck on. I guess we were ice road trucking?)


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    That's all for now, folks!
    sigpic
    In the middle of MinneSTUDEa.

  • #2
    Using a flat bed is a good ideal. Semi trailers are very weak. They are just strong enough in the right places to carry the load. The sides and top are just a covering to keep the load dry and do not add any load support . A trailer is not strong enough or wide enough to drive a car safely over for long periods of time. Atv's yes. But not cars. Good luck!

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    • #3
      You, (in a land of "Real Winters"), Buzzard (living off the grid), and Gord (within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands)...are all in danger of being discovered by the "Fun Police." Thanks for the short respite of daydreaming. Looks like an excellent place for a private picnic area, a hammock between a couple of trees, quiet meditation, and peace from a world in turmoil. Your photos had me expanding your project to include a windmill-powered well pump providing a pond for year-round enjoyment to include a Courier & Ives winter scene.

      All along the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to New England, there are private bridges constructed out of necessity. Some are better (safer) than others. I have observed that the best ones along swift creeks & streams are built with a slant toward the onrushing water so that in the event of flooding, the force of the pressure will (hopefully) hold them down instead of lifting and washing them downstream.

      For you, it is a project that I hope you complete and enjoy the challenge. For me, I look forward to additional reports as you find needed materials to continue. I'll just keep daydreaming and enjoying the project vicariously.

      Let me at the controls of that excavator and STAND BACK!

      John Clary
      Greer, SC

      SDC member since 1975

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      • #4
        My god-son did something similar across the creek on his farm. He used multiple telephone polls as the frame. Your opening may be too wide for that, but it sure works well for him.

        How about inviting the local chapters up to your property for a cruise so we can see your masterpiece?

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        • #5
          And I thought I had a lot of equipment. I'm in awe. Keep posting, I'm enjoying your adventures immensely.

          Bob

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          • #6
            Here's a video of using oxen to pull a covered bridge in place (you'll have to skip through the ads first).

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFi7_9kZQfQ
            Dan Peterson
            Montpelier, VT
            1960 Lark V-8 Convertible
            1960 Lark V-8 Convertible (parts car)

            Comment


            • #7
              Brent,
              What a lovely piece of property. It looks like you are having even more fun than I am. Besides my excavator is smaller than yours!
              For your pond, I am in the middle of installing a 24 volt solar powered water pump to give me a surplus of winter water. If all goes as planned it will pump whenever there is reasonable brightness (sunshine) as I am in no hurry to have the water transferred to additional storage tanks. Luck with your bridge.
              Bill

              Dan,
              Thanks for the oxen post-Too cool!

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              • #8
                Another thing that makes a good bridge is a railroad flatcar.

                I really envy you rural folks with lots of room to spread out and have cars, basements for train layouts, and shop buildings large enough to have all the tools you want.

                But I made my choices and will be happy with them.
                RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

                17A-S2 - 50 Commander convertible
                10G-C1 - 51 Champion starlight coupe
                10G-Q4 - 51 Champion business coupe
                4H-K5 - 53 Commander starliner hardtop
                5H-D5 - 54 Commander Conestoga wagon
                56B-D4 - 56 Commander station wagon
                60V-L6 - 60 Lark convertible

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thank you all for the kind and inspirational words.
                  I found a pair of used 10" high x 62 feet long H-beams on Facebook that are about 100 miles away from me. If they are straight enough, I think they would be adequate for my application. I would need to cut them in half so that I could transport them on my equipment trailer, but the owner of the beams does not have a cutting torch. I may need to go look at the beams, and maybe there is a local handyman with a cutting torch that I could hire to cut them. I am hoping the owner will reply with a free alternative.

                  I hope to have the local Studebaker club chapter out to my residence late next summer or autumn, but only if I get more accomplished around here. I have been neglecting a 1963 Daytona hardtop project in my garage for a long time, would like to get that out of my garage and on the road by then.
                  sigpic
                  In the middle of MinneSTUDEa.

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                  • #10
                    I'm in awe of your project. We do not make such things here in sprawling suburbia. Please keep us updated, and good luck with it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Buzzard View Post
                      Brent,
                      What a lovely piece of property. It looks like you are having even more fun than I am. Besides my excavator is smaller than yours!
                      For your pond, I am in the middle of installing a 24 volt solar powered water pump to give me a surplus of winter water. If all goes as planned it will pump whenever there is reasonable brightness (sunshine) as I am in no hurry to have the water transferred to additional storage tanks. Luck with your bridge.
                      Bill

                      Dan,
                      Thanks for the oxen post-Too cool!
                      Speaking of ponds, I dug one downhill from my house back in the late fall of 2012, using my dad's 690 John Deere excavator and hauled the spoil away with my old Mack truck. For more description and photos of that project (and problems), you can go to the following links (they are arranged from newest to oldest):
                      https://www.bigmacktrucks.com/topic/...comment-151218
                      https://www.bigmacktrucks.com/topic/...comment-146865
                      https://www.bigmacktrucks.com/topic/...comment-145568
                      https://www.bigmacktrucks.com/topic/...964-mack-c600/

                      Please let me know if the links do not work.
                      Last edited by Milaca; 09-24-2020, 07:10 PM.
                      sigpic
                      In the middle of MinneSTUDEa.

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                      • #12
                        Fun watching your project Brent!! That pond you dug looks more like a small lake to me. Keep the story coming, there's lots of interest in your follies. Bill

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