RON Bellomy, who calls himself the Trestle Troll for truckers who crush their trailers under downtown Davenport’s Brady Street viaduct, always asks them the same question: “Does the skin pull tight on your forehead when you hit the viaduct?”
None of these poor souls see any humor in the question.
Some say the impact is like being hit in the pit of the stomachs. Others curse. Some say they automatically duck.
Bellomy calls himself the Trestle Troll because his River Bend network of antique shops is the nearest place for truckers to go after smacking the low Brady Street viaduct, which they do with blind regularity.
Viaduct hits average out, according to Davenport police records, at one a month for the three downtown viaducts. In 2005, ’06 and ’07, there were 12 major crunches. So far in 2008, there have been five. Brady is the most “popular.”
Bellomy says the official Brady Street hitting average is low because some trucks have only minor damage and keep on going. “I think it’s about four a month for Brady alone,” says Bellomy, who keeps track in a black leather notebook. “Having been at my store for 37 years, that totals to 1,776 hits. Some drivers don’t stop; they are minor hits, just scraping the roofs of the trailers, or bending tall exhaust pipes. I can hear it happen. The police don’t know of such things.”
Bellomy is a close observer of drivers of tall rigs who aimlessly tool under the 11 foot, 8 inch Brady viaduct. The top of their trailers are peeled back like an opened can of sardines. Contents such as bags of dog food are spewed over the street and sidewalks. Cartons of orange juice once made a slippery mess that firefighters had to flush away. Scofflaws will go wild to swipe some spilled products.
Scavengers went crazy when a semi split in two and spilled Snicker bars all over Brady Street. Kids and grownups grabbed the candy bars by the armload. Equally popular was the spillage when a load of beer scattered all over the street.
One of the most memorable was in 1971 when a tall semi didn’t make it under the Brady viaduct with a load of live turkeys in wire pens. The pens split to pieces, feathers flying like a blizzard. Live turkeys ran all over downtown. Police and others did their best to catch them. Many were never caught.
Before truckers carried cell phones, they would come to Bellomy’s place to report the disaster to their terminals.
“Some guys would get fired on the phone. I’ve heard a lot of foul words being spouted by the trucker to those dispatchers or bosses,” Bellomy says.
People are surprised that the viaducts are still standing after all the battering. “Brady Street’s viaduct — as an example for the other two (Main and Harrison streets) — was built in 1902 like a fortress of iron, steel and concrete. The flimsy Fiberglas and aluminum trailers are no match for a chomp-chomp truck eater,” says Bellomy.
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“I’m so used to hearing those crashes that I know right away to call 911. They hit so hard that it jars my old brick buildings.”
Bellomy says he understands why the Brady viaduct is hit so regularly. “The drivers are looking ahead toward that steep hill. They don’t see the viaduct.”
He sees history in his duty as Trestle Troll. From each wreck, he picks up potato chip-like shards of aluminum that littered the street and sidewalk. He keeps them in a giant basket at his shop.
“I look upon them as artifacts,” he says.