In 2004 the Mountain Quarries Railroad bridge, better known as "No Hands" bridge,
was placed on the register of national historic places. (see original Auburn Journal article below.) At that
time, plaques and an interpretive sign were installed with ceremony. Late in 2010, thieves unceremoniouly stole the
brass plaques. April 16, 2011, with the thanks of many groups and efforts, new plaques were installed and a small
re-dedication gathering took place. The groups and persons involved in replacing these plaques include the Placer County
Historical Society, the Western States Trail Foundation, the Placer County Historical Foundation, the Western States 100
Mile Endurance Run, Protect the American River Canyons (PARC) and John Brun Masonry.
Below in the photos below, you see Supervising Ranger Mike Lynch giving a presentation on the history of
the bridge and its historical status. He then hands out tokens of appreciation to representatives of the involved groups. Next
they prepare for the grand reveal, and finally a shot of the new plaques in place.
"No Hands Bridge", A National Historic Place
This page includes an article featured in the Auburn Journal newspaper and a couple photos I've taken to go along with it here on this site.
Fittingly, a boulder from a rich limestone deposit in Cool now marks the Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge's new listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Limestone for making cement and refining sugar provided the impetus for the Pacific Portland Cement Co. to build a 7-mile rail line from Auburn to the Cool quarry to transport the rock. The bridge was the most costly part of the construction project, both in dollars and lives.
The work was completed in 1912 at a cost of $300,000 and while the rail is long gone, the bridge has continued on as a revered, picturesque link over the American River between Placer and El Dorado counties.
Unveiled Sunday in a ceremony at the bridge's Placer County end, the boulder is embedded with a bronze plaque commemorating the National Register listing.
The rock will soon get a second plaque, with information from the Placer County Historical Society on the history of the bridge.
Just so no one will go away with questions unanswered on the landmark, the state Parks Department has added an interpretive sign that details everything from the bridge’s pioneering use of reinforced concrete to the three lives lost during bridge construction, to its use today as the final American River crossing of the Western States 100-mile endurance run and Tevis Cup 100-mile ride.
With funding from the Placer County Historic Museum Foundation, it was an endurance equestrian who provided the paperwork and final push in Washington D.C. bureaucratic circles to gain the National Register listing. Tevis Cup-champion rider Hal Hall, of Auburn, was present Sunday to provide a short history of the bridge, and his own bridge-listing efforts spanning 21/2 years.
Hall said one of the key challenges he faced was providing enough information to establish the bridge as historically significant, not just a much-loved, well-trod landmark. One of the plusses was the bridge's listing as significant with the American Society of Civil Engineers, he said.
Tony Rossman, of the Western States Endurance Run Foundation, described the designation on the National Register as an important crossing in its own right in a quest for trail protections from Congress.
"Our ultimate goal is in five years to have a congressional designation for the Western States Trail (the 100-mile route from Squaw Valley to Auburn) as a national historic trail," Rossman said.
About 60 people attended the ceremony. The actual designation took place in February.
Parks officials have said the National Register listing offers no protection against eventual construction of the long-delayed Auburn dam. Water from the dam would inundate the 70-foot-high bridge.
For now, hikers, runners and equestrians can cross the span nicknamed No Hands Bridge and realize they're walking across an official historic structure. So says the National Register of Historic Places.
"This is living history and it's very much alive," said state Department of Parks Ranger Mike Lynch.
The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.