There is nothing more satisfying for craftsmen after months of hard physical labor than to experience a moment when there is no doubt your labors paid off: “Like Magic.”
Restoration work for the Gale Road Bridge began in the Fall of 2000 at the Calhoun County garage in Marshall, Michigan. It was the third historic bridge restored and erected in the Calhoun County Historic Bridge Park, a one-span wrought iron Pratt through-truss (122 ft long) built in 1897 by the Lafayette Bridge Company of Lafayette, Indiana, for Ingham County, Michigan.
Crane mats were set across the Dickinson Creek and wetland in fall of 2001 in preparation for the erection of the Gale Road Bridge in the Historic Bridge Park. The Gale Road Bridge floor beams were set on the crane mats and erection of the restored bridge began. During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the erection of metal truss bridges on rural county roads typically started with wood piling set in the riverbed, then the floor beams set on top of the wood cribbing and a gin pole used to lift the bridge members. This historic method was brought back for use in the early twenty first century to erect the restored Gale Road Bridge in the park. With the engineering and fabrication support from Dr. Frank Hatfield, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University, and the historic bridge craftsmen, Wayne Conklin and Rob Denniston, we fabricated and assembled a gin pole on the stringer beams of the Gale Road Bridge. It required a lot of hard physical labor with chain-falls, wrenches, clamps, and a hand-operated ratchet winch (a “come-a-long”) to maneuver and set in place the gin pole to lift large structural members of the bridge.
During the three seasons of 2001 and 2002 the restoration and erection of the Gale Road Bridge continued, and on June 13, 2002, the bridge was rededicated and open for Historic Bridge Park visitors to enjoy. It had been a challenging job. Many would say “it can’t be done,” but that never entered my mind. Maybe there was some “magic.”
Vern Mesler 2021