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Author nearly sells out of first book on bridges, plans a sequel

Holly Viers • Feb 8, 2018 at 9:30 PM

Since he was 5 years old, Kingsport native Calvin Sneed has been captivated by steel truss and concrete arch bridges.

This lifelong fascination led him to publish his first book, “Building Bridges from Our Past to the Future,” last summer. The book includes original photos of bridges from throughout the southern U.S., and its success has inspired him to work on a sequel.

“These bridges are architectural wonders,” Sneed said. “They’re elegant, they’re stately and they are magnificent in the way that they’re structured. We don’t build bridges like that anymore.”

Beginnings

Though Sneed said he’s been “in love with” steel truss and concrete arch bridges since he was 5 years old, his fascination came into focus five years later while visiting relatives in Marshall County, Tennessee.

During his visit, a steel truss bridge piqued his interest. He enjoyed looking at the bridge every time he and his family drove by, but one day he discovered a construction crew was working on tearing it down.

“(The foreman) explained to me that they were building (a new park) right there, and to handle all of the extra traffic that was going to be coming to this new park, they had to tear the bridge down and build a new one,” Sneed said. “That didn’t explain it for me.  ... It only made me angrier, and from that grew the fascination for steel truss bridges that I have had all of my life.”

The first book

Sneed released his first book on bridges last June. The book features photos of bridges in Tennessee, Southeast Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, Western North Carolina and upper Georgia.

He had 500 copies printed and has sold all but 48. The book can be purchased for $35 plus tax at I Love Books in the Fort Henry Mall, or it can be ordered on Sneed’s website, ilovebridgesandtunnels.com.

Since releasing the book, Sneed said, he’s enjoyed talking with people about the memorable bridges from their past.

“I’ve found that everybody has a truss bridge in their background,” Sneed said. “Everybody remembers one. … So now, I like to think that because of me taking pictures of bridges, people are starting to remember those good feelings that they had growing up, because it touches that nerve.”

The next book

Sneed is actively working on his second bridge book. He said it will be larger and cover a wider geographical area, including Southern Indiana, Western Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia.

He hopes to publish the book this summer to coincide with the one year anniversary of his first book’s release.

Bridge preservation

A strong advocate of preserving history, Sneed is devoting much of his time to bridge preservation. He said many steel truss and concrete arch bridges are being torn down and replaced with new bridges, which he believes is a mistake.

“They’re just unceremoniously blowing them into the water; they’re dynamiting them and building these new bridges that, to me, are just boring,” Sneed said. “(The new bridges) get you to across the road or they get you across the river, across the creek, across the valley, and they do so with absolutely no elegance whatsoever.”

Sneed has lent his voice to a number of bridge preservation projects. He is also planning to launch a campaign to save Kingsport’s Hammond Bridge, which Sneed said is on Tennessee’s list to be replaced.

“I feel like in the latter part of my life, I want to do something that preserves an art form and that preserves history before it’s gone,” Sneed said. “Because once it’s gone, once you tear that bridge down, all you’re going to have are pictures of it and memories.”

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