Results and Discussion
“The workshop fills a national preservation need to better understand and be sensitive to historic metal-truss bridge fabrication technologies, with both training on the history of iron metallurgy and truss technology, along with hands-on practical training in using the relatively lost art of riveting, along with careful application of welding technology, to make non-destructive and compatible repairs that limit the loss of a truss bridge‟s historic fabric. The multi-disciplinary curriculum is directed at practitioners, including government officials, engineers, consultants, and contractors, who often have limited training and understanding of old iron, and due to this lack of practical experience choose to replace truss members and connections with modern materials when it may not be necessary and detrimental to the characteristics that give a truss bridge its historical and technological significance.” (Harshbarger 2009).
Patrick Harshbarger, Principal Historian/Architectural Historian, Hunter Research Inc. (and Newsletter Editor for the Society for Industrial Archeology) has recognized, as have many preservationists, the need for greater exposure to the details of metals restoration methods among a wide variety of practitioners on a national level. This project successfully demonstrated to a diverse audience restoration methods for cast iron, wrought iron and historic steel through practical demonstrations; shared research relevant to metals restoration in historic preservation; and addressed engineering concerns related to historic metals.
Among the results of implementing this project, several stand out.
- In-depth training for a core group of professional instructors was key in preparation for a successful Workshop, for contributing to ongoing research and curriculum development, and for demonstrating the effectiveness of the training methods.
- Recruiting and funding university students resulted in a valuable experience for future engineers and historic preservationists to attain a greater awareness of historic metals and feasible restoration methods early in their careers.
- The opportunity for hands-on involvement by participants during the demonstrations of restoration methods was invaluable in conveying both an understanding of the methods and a practical sense of what is entailed in using or specifying these methods for historic preservation projects.
- Interaction and exchange of information among the variety of people who came together for the Workshop was a rare and much appreciated opportunity for participants.
- The involvement of businesses whose work relates to the processes or the equipment for metals restoration was educational both for Workshop participants and for the business representatives themselves.
- The web-based videos, widely accessible, have already become an important resource for people trying to
save a historic metal structure or to become aware of restoration methods.
Professional Development of Trainers
To prepare the LCC welding staff for the hands-on demonstrations, one-day workshops were scheduled and implemented on a regular basis during the year prior to the March 2010 Workshop. These workshops were open to the public and gave the staff an opportunity to sharpen their skills in the following methods: heating and driving rivets, welding cast iron, heat-straightening, and welding historic metals. The success of these training workshops was affirmed by the written comments from the March 2010 Workshop participants (on Participant Feedback Forms and in later communications):
- The enthusiasm and energy of the instructors, their helpfulness-all coupled with their great knowledge and experience
- The hands on activities were tremendous, the staff was very knowledgeable, and patience was abundant, the facility was perfect for this conference/training
- All instructions thoroughly explained the processes used
- Every instructor was always patient, never dismissive, and encouraging with each of us as we wrestled with this equipment, all of which is potentially dangerous if not handled carefully. They really know how to teach, and that hands-on experience was valuable.
Through in-depth training of professional instructors, this project resulted in a core group of staff both proficient in the restoration methods and expert in the craft of training others. This sustained professional development made possible their effective demonstrations and hands-on guidance during the Workshop, critical to the project’s goal that engineers and historic preservationists, who need not become experts in the specific restoration processes, gain an understanding of how the processes work to be confident recommending them within the scope of work of a preservation project.
Contributing to the success of the pre-Workshop training sessions was careful planning (including appropriate equipment and materials) and the enthusiasm, dedication, and collegiality of the LCC staff who worked on this project.
Training for Future Engineers
To advance the craftsman’s legacy in engineering education, five $600 scholarships were awarded to university/college students to attend the March 2010 Workshop. Supporting students to participate in the Workshop contributed to one of the goals of the project, namely that future engineers gain a better understanding of historic preservation and of restoration methods early in their careers to carry forward in their future work. The scholarships were advertised through engineering departments and historic preservation programs at universities, as well as in all advertising related to the Workshop. Recruitment efforts resulted in the selection of four engineering students and an artist craftsman to attend the Workshop. The following students attended all three days of the Workshop (included are excerpts from their applications for an indication of their particular interest in this opportunity):
Robert Carr, Ferris State University
The content of this workshop will build my understanding of steel bridges and structures. It will help me to understand how to design better structures. I also hope that the knowledge gained from this workshop will allow me to become knowledgeable in steel preservation techniques that I can carry with me through my career.
Matthew Daly, Eastern Michigan University
In 2007 I received my Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering with a focus in transportation at Montana State University. My desire to work with historic structures has brought me to Eastern Michigan University’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation where I am in my second semester in the program’s preservation technology and materials conservation discipline. This workshop will augment the courses I’m currently taking and will provide invaluable information for my final project this semester on the historic uses of iron and steel.
Rick DeTroyer, College for Creative Studies
I envision using the techniques learned in this workshop to enhance my metal working abilities in my art studio and to include the restoration of historic cast iron fences, handrails and details on historic buildings.
Tim Francisco, Michigan State University
After working on the Michigan State University Steel Bridge Team for almost 4 years, I have developed a significant interest in the design of bridges, as well as their construction and maintenance.
Kyle MacMillian, Lansing Community College and Lawrence Technological University
These old bridges are amazing in the fact that they can withstand 100 years with minor maintenance, and most of the bridges I work with at MDOT can barely last 50 years. This is part of the reason that I am so interested in these historical bridges. I feel this workshop would open a realm of new insight on current day bridges and those of historic value.
Value of Hands-on Demonstrations
The Preservation of Historic Iron and Steel in Bridges and Other Metal Structures project provided those attending the three day workshop and viewing the six informational web-based videos demonstrations of proven preservation techniques for the restoration of historic metals. Integrated into the demonstrations on Day 2 and Day 3 of the Workshop were opportunities for participants to handle the equipment and try out the restoration methods under the attentive guidance of well trained staff. For almost all participants, this was the first time they had used a field rivet hammer or held a welding torch.
Written feedback from participants provided compelling evidence that the hands-on activities were the most beneficial and appreciated by the workshop participants. “Hands-on, it is one thing to hear about a technique but much more helpful to do it” was one of many positive comments about the experience shared through the Workshop Participant Feedback Form.
Participants were very receptive to using the equipment. Their eagerness to participate in the hands- on demonstrations and not simply watch, whatever their profession, was somewhat of a surprise. “I never handled a rivet hammer or a welding torch in my life, before walking into the welding lab this week. … that hands-on experience was valuable. What a rare opportunity for us historians!” (Robert M. Frame III, Ph.D., Senior Historian, Historic Preservation, Mead & Hunt, Inc.)
Clearly there is enormous value in exposing a variety of people, even those who are not responsible for doing the actual restoration work, to restoration methods through first hand experiences and opportunities not only to observe demonstrations but also to participate actively in the process.
Interaction and Exchange of Information
One of the many benefits of the Workshop was the exchange of information among participants and between demonstrators and participants. This exchange was enriched by the fact that the Workshop attracted such a diverse group of people. Unlike an engineering conference attended primarily by engineers or a blacksmith convention attended mostly by blacksmiths, the Workshop brought engineers, transportation officials, contractors, historic preservationists and others together in a setting conducive to interaction and with a schedule designed to encourage discussion and the sharing of expertise, interests and concerns. When asked about the value of the Workshop, many participants indicated that this interaction was one of the highlights, such as the following:
Interaction with other participants and source data for tools, equipment, etc I enjoyed the wide variety of participants which allowed questions of theory and practice to be explored
Some exchanges resulted in ideas for other processes or equipment that could be used in metals restoration. For example, during the rivet removal demonstration, one of the participants (Rod LeMasters, Sales Engineer, P.E. at U.S. Bridge, Ohio) recommended Arcair® SLICE systems for removing rivets and pins. Plans have been made at Lansing Community College to purchase this system and to demonstrate this method during a future workshop on the preservation of historic metals.
Involvement of Business
Collaboration between Lansing Community College and local and international businesses whose work relates to the processes or the equipment for metals restoration was educational both for Workshop participants and for the business representatives themselves. The involvement of businesses resulted in three important contributions to the workshop: an extensive display of rivet equipment from Michigan Pneumatic Tool, a heat-straightening demonstration from National Bridge Company, and representation from The Lincoln Electric Company for welding processes.
Jeff Dever, Project Coordinator/Technician for Michigan Pneumatic Tool, Inc. (Detroit), an expert in the repair and maintenance of rivet equipment, got an opportunity to see the equipment in action and use it himself in a metals restoration application, an experience that gave him a greater understanding of the riveting process and the rivet hammer and a firsthand look at its application in historic preservation. In addition, he worked with welding processes that increased his confidence in using them in his work. The large display of rivet hammers and different styles of rivets from Michigan Pneumatic Tool was of great interest to Workshop participants and of significant educational value.
Dan Garijo of the National Bridge Company (Okemos, Michigan) demonstrated the use of heating methods to straighten steel. The Workshop provided him an opportunity to teach the skills he uses in his work. Feedback from participants made it clear that they valued his excellent teaching style and his ability to address the technical questions of the audience based on considerable work experience in this field. His involvement with the Workshop made him aware of the impressive facilities available at Lansing Community College and the suitability of LCC’s West Campus as a venue for this kind of demonstration.
The Lincoln Electric Company has an established relationship with Lansing Community College, having supplied state-of-the-art welding equipment to LCC’s welding facility over the years. Lincoln Electric supported the Workshop by sending Lon Yost (Senior Application Engineer) to make a presentation during Day 1 on research performed at the company’s international headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, and by sending a district salesman to Day 3 to be available to observe the welding demonstrations and to answer participants’ questions.
Web-based Videos as Valuable Resource
The videos produced as part of this project have proved to be especially valuable as a web-based resource for information about metals restoration processes that are not widely known nor widely documented in a form available to the general public. There is already evidence that the videos have become an important resource for people trying to save a historic metal structure or to become aware of restoration methods.