Monday, February 8, 2016

Bridge-in-a-Week, January 2016 - Here's how it got done!

The prep work, done before the week the team was here actually building the bridge, is explained in the previous post: Have you ever built a bridge in one week? Would you like to?

Now, here is the day-by-day play-by-play, of the week of construction.


On Saturday, January 23rd, Allen, Russell, and Clay were waiting in the airport in San Pedro Sula, a 3 - 4 hour drive from Gracias, to pick up the incoming team. As the team was through customs and loading into our vehicles at around 3:30, the rest of the day involved just finishing the trip to Gracias.


This huge hole, under the landing, is an important
structural element. When filled with cement,
the immense weight will keep the whole bridge
from collapsing into the river from the tension
of the cables. 

With the huge hole, in the photo above, filled with
concrete and stones, these short wall forms were
added, and the weldments were set in place, ready
for the addition of more concrete.
Sunday morning it was chilly! The work started early, as members of our work crew, who live near our home, came to the house to help Allen load the hand tools and last minute items into the vehicle. Allen brought thermoses of coffee from home, and picked up the team from their hotel in Gracias. The group bought baleadas to eat for breakfast during the hour long drive out to the bridge site.

A finished landing, awaiting side walls. The
weldments protrude from the side, and the pieces of
rebar sticking up into the air will connect the
side walls to the landing.
At the site of the bridge-to-be, on the side of the river nearer to Platanares, about 30 - 35 volunteers from the villages were ready to work! With combined effort, the group completed the digging of a hole which, once concrete was poured into it, would become one footer and the landing for that side of the bridge. The concrete mixer was started up, and batches of concrete were mixed, hauled to the hole in buckets, and poured in. Unfortunately, after only two batches of concrete were completed, the mixer broke! While some of the group worked on trying to fix the mixer, the Honduran volunteers just settled in to mixing concrete by hand - something they are very used to doing. The work was slower, but it got done!

By the end of the day the footers and floor of the landing of the bridge on the Platanares side had been poured, with the appropriate weldments embedded in the concrete.


Volunteers mixed LOTS of concrete down by the
river, and carried it up to the landing sites in
five gallon bucketloads. 
On the second work day, Russell (with his broken foot) worked on the other side of the river (the Santa Rosita side), leading a mixed crew of gringos, volunteers, and some of our regular construction guys, basically repeating the work which had been done on the other side of the river the previous day. Meanwhile, on the Platanares side of the river, Allen led a crew in putting up concrete forms to create the side rails of the bridge landing. This part also incorporates weldments. At the end of Monday, one side of the river had a complete landing, with side rails, while the other side had a landing without side rails.


Side rails, showing the weldments where
the side cables will be attached

On Tuesday, the railings (with their embedded weldments) were poured on the Santa Rosita side of the river. While that was happening, on the other side of the river the spools of cable were being unrolled, and as each cable  left its spool, it was walked down a cliff, over the river,  and up the other (less steep) side. Then the end of the cable which left the spool last, was connected to the weldments on the Platanares side of the river - where the landing and railings had been completed already. The bridge required a total of 10 cables - 4 under the deck and three cables on each side of the bridge.


Everyone took the day off of working on the bridge on Wednesday. Allen took the gringos out to see a feeding center, and they also visited our coffee farm. Mostly, it was a day of recuperation. Meanwhile, Russell drove Clay and Cynthia and our friend Ben Dearing (who helped with the bridge construction during his visit) to the airport in San Pedro Sula, to catch departing flights. Steve Spanos, the team leader, went along for the ride. They hit some bad traffic, so the trip took much longer than normal. Steve and Russell got back to Gracias around midnight.


Cables, lying on the ground from one side of the
river to the other, waiting to be connected
Steve Spanos, bravely leading his team
Back to work on the bridge, first thing! Since Tuesday, the cables had been laying across the river. On Thursday, the work of attaching the cables to the weldments on the other bridge landing took place. Each of the ten cables had to be pulled up into place, and then a winch was used to tighten them up, until there was about 2 feet of sag in each cable. Once the wooden beams and deck, which weigh over 10,000 pounds, are added to the bridge, the total sag should be around 5 1/2 feet.

With all ten cables attached and tightened, the workers began the task of adding the crossways beams, and then nailing on the planks which make up the deck of the bridge.


In this photo you can see the beams,
going across the bridge from side to
side, the deck planks, on top of the
beams, and the suspenders, which are
short vertical pieces of cable attaching
the side cables to the cables below the
deck of the bridge.
On Friday the work continued on the deck, and the workers also added the suspenders, which are vertical cables attaching the side cables to the bridge deck.


The final day of work - also the day when the team would begin their return trip - saw the completion of the bridge deck and the suspenders. The final process in the construction was balancing the bridge, so that the deck is level from side to side. This bridge needed a small adjustment, so they loosened the fasteners on one of the cables, allowed it to sag just a bit more, and then re-tightened the connection, so that the bridge deck wouldn't slant to one side.

The finished bridge!
Every day during this week, our intrepid US team ate ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch, since the site was too remote to purchase food locally.

At the end of every work day, all of the tools had to be secured. This required carrying them to locations on each side of the river. On the Platanares side, the tools were carried 400'  up a very steep slope to the truck, loaded into the truck, driven about a mile, then unloaded again into a secure building. On the Santa Rosita side the hillside isn't quite as steep, and the tools were carried about a half a mile (without the use of a vehicle), to be locked up for use the next day.

US team standing on finished bridge
We are so grateful to the visiting team members and Edgewater Alliance Church, for all of their contributions to this great project! Also, thank you to Eric Linden and Michelle Spanos, for posting photos of the construction on FB, where I could pilfer them for use in this blog post.


Anonymous said...

Wow! That is amazing.
I do have one question. I have built several backyard rope bridges (just for fun), and so almost everything made sense. The one thing that I did not understand was how the beams (that went from side to side, just on top of the cables), were attached to the cables. What attaches them and how did the people manage to get them attached?

I love reading about all of your construction projects, thank you for posting them.

Trish said...

Tracy, that's a great question. Allen explained it to me, but I figured it was too much detail for the blog post. However, since you asked, here's your answer:

Each beam had two holes drilled in it, at the same distance apart as the two outside cables below the deck. A 5" spike was driven into each hole, with about an inch and a half of the spike hanging down below the beam, so that the beams were held in place by the pressure of the cables up against the spikes. The beams were further hold in place when the planks were nailed to them.

Does that explanation make sense? Perhaps you can see why I decided not to try to explain this in the blog, LOL.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!! :)

Kristal said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing the details. I am going to show the boys so they can get even more excited to make a trip there to build a bridge!

Trish said...

Thanks Kristal - I'm glad you find the info useful! I'm looking forward to the opportunity to meet your boys.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for explaining.
I do think that I understand now. It is amazing how a few simple materials can be put togther into something so useful.