amusing planet

Story Sunday: Can Opener Bridge

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Can Opener Bridge Image One
Photo Credit: Amusing Planet
Photo Author: Mark Clifton
Click for a larger view.

At 11 foot 8 inches [sic], the Norfolk Southern-Gregson Street Overpass, located in Durham, [NC] […], is a bit too short. The federal government recommends that bridges on public roads should have a clearance of at least 14 feet [but], when this railroad trestle was built in the 1940s, there were no standards for minimum clearance. As a result, trucks would frequently hit the bridge and get its roof scrapped [sic] off.

Durhan resident Jürgen Henn has been witnessing these crashes for years from across the street where he worked. Wishing to share these hilarious mishaps with the rest of the world, Henn set up a video camera in April 2008 and began recording them for his ever popular website 11foot8.com. By the end of 2015, more than one hundred trucks had their tops violently ripped off. These scalping videos, which are also available on his YouTube Channel, have racked up millions of views bringing this particular bridge, nicknamed “the can opener”, a fair amount of international fame.

As Jürgen Henn explains in his website [sic], the bridge cannot be raised because doing so would require the tracks to be raised for several miles to adjust the incline. North Carolina Railroad doesn’t want to pay for the enormous expense it would entail. The bridge cannot be lowered either because there is a major sewer line running only four feet under the street.

Can Opener Bridge Image Two
Photo Credit: Amusing Planet
Photo Author: Mark Clifton
Click for a larger view.

Instead, the city authorities installed an alert system that detects when an over-height truck tries to pass under and flashes yellow warning lights several feet ahead of the bridge. [However], many drivers either do not pay attention or fail to heed the warning and crash into the bridge. The railroad department, who owns the bridge, installed a heavy steel crash beam in front of the bridge that takes most of the impact, protecting the actual structure of the train trestle. This crash beam is hit so often that it had to be replaced at least once.

As far as both parties are concerned, the city of Durham and North Carolina Railroad, adequate steps have been taken to solve the problem. The railroad authorities’ concern is with the bridge and the rails above, not the trucks, [hence], the beam. The city, on the other hand, has posted prominent “low clearance” signs from [three] blocks away, leading up to the trestle, over and above the automatic warning system that is triggered by vehicles that are too tall. Apparently, these measures are not enough to prevent accidents. On average there is one crash every month.

When Henn interviewed a few drivers as they deflated their tires to lower their vehicles enough to free them, some told him that they didn’t know their trucks’ heights, while others insisted they didn’t see the signs. Durham officials are now trying out a new tactic. A few months ago, they installed a traffic signal at the intersection before the bridge and hooked up the height sensor to it. When an over-height truck approaches the intersection, the light turns red and stays red for a long time. The light eventually turns green but, the city hopes that the long delay will give the drivers enough time to realize their truck will not fit under the bridge. Unfortunately for the drivers, and to the delight of the rest, the bridge continues to shave the tops of over-height vehicles.

The Infamous Can Opener Bridge
Amusing Planet
Kaushik Patowary
December 17, 2016

I can attest to this bridge, personally. I lived in Durham for two years in the middle 90s. Why those folks don’t turn off onto Peabody Street or Pettigrew Street, coming from the other side, I don’t know. They just plow right under it. It is right behind Brightleaf Square. ~Vic

Jürgen Henn’s Website
Henn’s YouTube Channel

Additional:
11 Feet, 8 Inches… (99% Invisible/Kurt Kohlstedt/08-29-2016)
Durham’s Bridge of Death Will Decapitate Any Tall Truck (Bloomberg/John Metcalfe/10-25-2012)
Trucks Have Hit This Low Bridge More Than 100 Times… (Vox/Timothy B. Lee/01-06-2016)
A Little Off The Top… (Indy Week/Danny Hooley/01-06-2016)
Norfolk Southern–Gregson Street Overpass (Wikipedia)

Compilation of Crashes

Scoop Saturday: The Hairy Eagle

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The Hairy Eagle Image One
Photo Credit: Sandra Roe
Photos @ 1020
The Onondaga Historical Association
Amusing Planet

In a small, dimly lit back room of the Onondaga Historical Association in Syracuse, New York, is a unique and priceless treasure…a civil-war era decorative eagle. [It is] made entirely out of hair, contributed by leading politicians, and their wives, most notably…President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. The artifact came about when the US Sanitary Commission, a volunteer agency working for the health of Union soldiers during the war, needed money for its efforts. [They] reached out to President Lincoln soliciting, a lock of hair as large as he [could] spare. Lincoln communicated the request to other members of the parliament and a surprisingly large number of politicians, and their wives, responded positively. [They donated] their hair for the Brooklyn jewelers Spies & Champney to weave a national symbol out of it.

The Hairy Eagle Image Two
Photo Credit: The Onondaga Historical Association
Former Onondaga Historical Association Director Carolyn Wright
1959
Amusing Planet

The large showpiece, nicknamed the Hairy Eagle, featured an American eagle, perched on top of half a globe, spreading its wings and, surrounded with swirls and flowers. The eagle’s head was made from Lincoln’s hair, its back, from Vice President Hannibal Hamlin’s hair, its beak, from Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase’s hair and, its wings, from the various senators’ hair. The wives’ hair, meanwhile, was used to create the floral arrangement, surmounted by the eagle and globe. The eagle became an immediate attraction when it was debuted at Metropolitan Sanitary Fair, organized to raise funds for the benefit of Union soldiers. Running for three weeks in April 1864, the fair featured events, attractions, auctions, raffles and more. For the entry fee of $2, visitors could view spectacular floral arrangements in the Temple of Flora, watch dances performed by the Fair’s Native American Troupe, enjoy Dutch cuisine at the Knickerbocker Kitchen and even buy a piece of Plymouth Rock. Tens of thousands of people visited the Hairy Eagle during this time. Underneath it, a small visitor book was kept, in which guests were able to sign their name on the payment of one dollar. The goal was to raise $1,000.

The Hairy Eagle Image Three
Photo Credit: Sandy Roe
Photos @ 1020
Onondaga Historical Association
Amusing Planet

It’s not known whether the goal of $1000 and 1000 signatures was reached but, reports of the fair compiled three years later noted that the book was so popular that, 400 signatures and $400 were collected within the first three days of the Fair. The Hairy Eagle was meant to be presented to the Lincolns as a gift after the fair ended but, the wreath never made its way to the White House. Instead, it hung in the window of the Champney & Smitten shop in Brooklyn for many years before disappearing for decades. In the 1920s, F.T. Champney’s wife Ida donated the eagle to Onondaga Historical Association, where it has remained ever since.

Additional Reading:
Civil War Era Eagle Sculpture
(Smithsonian Magazine/Jason Emerson/September 23, 2021)

Syracuse

Weird S*** Wednesday: The Silent People

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The Silent People Image One
Photo Credit: Timo Newton-Syms & Amusing Planet

In looking thru odd stories, this caught my attention. From Oddity Central:

A Creepy Art Installation Freaking People Out on Google Maps

By Spooky on May 15th, 2020
An eerie art installation located in a barren field in the Finnish countryside recently went viral after someone accidentally stumbled upon it while searching on Google Maps. With quarantine and isolation measures still in place in many countries around the world, people are spending a lot of time online looking for cool places to visit once they can travel again. Many are using free tools, like Google Maps, and end [up] going deeper down the rabbit hole than they originally anticipated. That’s probably how some people recently discovered The Silent People, […] creepy-looking [figures] that left them scratching their heads about why anyone would fill a field with hundreds of scarecrows and dress them as real people.

Seen from afar, The Silent People [site] looks like a perfectly still army of people all facing the same way. It’s only when you take a closer look that you realize it’s made up of wooden frames covered in human clothes and heads made of [peat], which does a surprisingly good job of emulating human hair. Even knowing that it’s an art installation, you still feel uneasy looking at the almost one thousand still [bodies] but, knowing absolutely nothing about it and [suddenly] finding it on Google Maps can really freak a person out.

The Silent People Image Two
Photo Credit: Antti T. Nissinen & Amusing Planet

From Amusing Planet:

Hiljainen Kansa: The Silent People of Suomussalmi, Finland

By Kaushik Patowary on March 28, 2015
Motorists driving along Highway 5, about 30 km north of the small town of Suomussalmi, in north-eastern Finland, are greeted by a peculiar sight. A crowd of almost a thousand figures stand silently on a field near the road. In the morning with light behind them, this motionless army appears morose, even menacing. But, when a light breeze picks up their colorful dresses and blows them around their still bodies, they appear to have sprung into life.

This army of scarecrow-like figures called “The Silent People” or “Hiljainen Kansa” in Finnish, were the creation of local artist Reijo Kela. They were first displayed in 1988 in a field in Lassila, a neighbourhood of Helsinki. Later in 1994, these were on display in the Market Place of Helsinki’s Senate Square, then on the banks of the river Jalonuoma, Ämmänsaari and finally moved to this location in 1994 itself.

Additional Reading:
The Silent People (Atlas Obscura)