Opiki toll bridge: graceful relic of a thriving flax industry

A day after posting a guest post on the haunted bridge in New Zealand, the blogger referred me to another bridge that is of interest. It was built a century ago and served as a toll bridge until it was replaced by another toll bridge in 1969. The suspension bridge still stands today but as a relict, yet its history is worth reading as much as visiting it. Details here. Enjoy! 🙂

envirohistory NZ

When driving north along State Highway 56 through the low-lying plains flanking the Manawatu River, a traveller cannot help but notice a suspension bridge to the north of the current road, a tall industrial chimney incongruously positioned at the western end of its span [click here to view map]. Now, its suspension wires dangle without purpose, as if suspended in time as well as space, but this graceful structure still strikes a dignified – if somewhat ghostly profile – on the landscape, hinting at an important role it played in the local economy in the not too distant past.

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“Ghost bridge” – Wildbore cache no. 2

envirohistory NZ

Old and new Raumai Bridge 1973.jpg The old and new Raumai Bridges in 1973, before the old bridge was demolished. This view is looking north-west from No.4 Line. Palmerston North Library courtesy Manawatu Evening Standard

Those who have travelled up the eastern side of Pohangina Valley, to visit Totara Reserve, for example, will have crossed the Raumai Bridge. Those with more life experience may also the old Raumai Bridge, a bridge with a troubled past.

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BHC Pic of the Week 11

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This Bridge Pic of the Week features not just one, but three pics- all of which are of the same bridge. The Rochsburg Suspension is a hidden gem that can be easily missed if a cyclist or tourist does not pay attention to where one is going. The bridge is deep in the Valley of the Zwickau Mulde River, located in the vicinity of Lunzenau. One has to drive over 200 meters down in zig-zagging motion, going through narrow streets lined with houses, plus a railroad underpass in order to get to the bridge. The best photos of the bridge are taken with the castle in the background, as it provides a great backdrop, especially on a nice day like this one, regardless of which angle to choose. I have two of them picked out to give you an idea: this one and the one below:

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However, do not be surprised if you see remnance of an older bridge, situated opposite the side of the castle as you cross. I took this one below while at the parking lot next to the bridge:

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There is a history that goes along with the Rochsburg Bridge. The present bridge (in the background here)  was built in 2011 and is the fourth bridge at this location. The first bridge was built in 1878. The second one replaced it in 1936. Both were destroyed by floodwaters. The bridge in the foreground in this picture here is what is left of the combination cantuilever/suspension bridge that was built in 1954. Unlike the previous two, that bridge survived the Great Flood of 2002 but the structure weakened to a point where construiction of the new was needed. The current bridge was built alongside the old one until it was finished in 2011. Afterwards, this section of bridge was saved and put on display, which was decorated with photos and history of the bridges.

In either case, the Rochsburg Suspension Bridge is a neat crossing that takes you across the river and towards the castle. You can get some great views of the river and Rochsburg while at the same time, learn some history of how the castle and the bridge itself came ínto being. And therefore this bridge is our Pic of the Week.

 

Note: This is the last regular entry of the Chronicles for now. I’m on holiday/vacation for the next three weeks and therefore, the Chronicles will be on semi-hiatus. However, enjoy the articles posted as well as the tour guides. More will come when the author returns to duty in August. 🙂

You can also follow him through the Flensburg Files. He plans on doing a series on American road trip, looking at it from his own perspective. You can click here, which will redirect you to trhe sister column.

 

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Historic Bridge to be dwarfed by a higher, modern viaduct

Photos taken by Craig Philpott

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SMITHFLAT (EL DORADO COUNTY), CALIFORNIA- Our next stop on the bridgehunting tour is the Mosquito Road Bridge in El Dorado County, California. Spanning the South Fork American River north of Smithflat, this suspension bridge is very characteristic for its unusual design. It’s a towerless suspension bridge, which means the cables supporting the trussed roadway is anchored by mini-towers that are on the rocks on both sides of the river. Some photos and a film of the contraption will show you what it looks like. The bridge has a wooden deck but approaching the bridge from either side is dangerous because of the steep hills and curves drivers have to endure in order to cross the 245-foot span. The suspension bridge was built in 1939, yet its history goes a lot further back than that, with records of it being built in 1914 and even 40 years earlier.

But times are changing and with that, a new bridge is about to be built. According to county officials, construction will soon begin on a new bridge, which will take two years to complete. It will be three times as long as the suspension bridge and 400 feet higher. A rendering of what the new bridge will look like can be found in the video below.

Unlike most bridge replacements, this one will be a win-win situation. While the new bridge will provide a straighter road going across the bridge with drivers getting a spectacular view of the deep river valley, they will still be treated by the suspension bridge down below that will remain in place and still in use. The suspension bridge is on the National Register for its unique design built during the Works Progress Administration era and like before the bridge, after the bridge, it will still be used for recreation and fishing. For the county with a variety of pre-1950 concrete arch, slabs and steel truss bridges, this project will be of great benefit with regards to tourism.

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Mystery Bridges Nr. 101: Die Geschwisterbrücken bei Schweizertal

The Bridge at Neuschweizerthal. By Aagnverglaser [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
BURGSTÄDT (GERMANY)- Located 10 river kilometers north of Chemnitz, one will find a pair of through truss bridges that had once served a rail line but will soon have a new purpose. Both span the River Chemnitz in the conglomerate community of Markersdorf-Taura but are very close together, connecting the district of Schweitzerthal-Amselgrund and Neuschweizerthal. Unique about these two bridges is that they look nearly identical in terms of its aesthetical appearance. They are both Warren through trusses, whose connections are welded and whose portal and strut bracings are the same. They feature Howe lattice, shaped in a trapezoidal fashion and supported by angled heel bracings (45°) that can be found at not only the diagonal end post (60°) but also at every single beam supported- both diagonal as well as vertical beams. This is really rare for a through truss bridge to have heel struts be connected to all the beams that form the panel.  The difference between the two is how they are constructed. The longer of the sister bridges has a straight portal approach and is 67 meters long. This is located next to the train station at Neuschweizerthal. The shorter of the two is located only 200 meters away around the curve, 100 meters away from the train station Amselgrund. That bridge has a 60° skew that was needed to support the curve. It is only seven meters shorter.  Both bridges were built around 1902 even though there is no record of the bridge builder, let alone the reason behind building the two crossings close together instead of leading the rail line along the river. Yet the reason for pinpointing the date to 1902 is the fact that these bridges were common during that time. In addition to that, it was built at the same time as the rail line connecting Chemnitz and Wechselburg. For a century, this line served freight service along the river because of the industries located nearby, especially in the industrial district in the north of Chemnitz.  Together with the Glauchau-Wurzen line, which it merged with at Wechselburg, the line was discontinued after 2002 due to the lack of profitablility combined with the Great Flood of 2002, which caused billions of Euros in damage to infrastructure and industry.

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The shorter bridge at Amselgrund. Photo taken in July 2018

In 2007, the Chemnitztal Cycling Association purchased the entire stretch to be converted into a rails-to-trails for cyclists and pedestrians and the line is being extended as of present. At the same time, a dandy horse-rail-line connecting Markersdorf-Taura and Schweizerthal went into service to provide a scenic tour for two kilometers. However, with the extension of the bike trail going through both communities, the days of the dandy horse may come to an end.

Currently, both bridges are being rehabilitated, refurbished and retrofitted for use of the bike trail. According to information by the Chemnitz Free Press, construction on the new stretch of bike trail between Claussnitz and Schweitzerthal started in April 2018, which includes these two bridges, plus another one south of Markersdorf-Taura. This six kilometer stretch is scheduled to be paved and open to traffic, pending on weather, by 2020 latest. As one can see in the photos here, plus in the BHC’s facebook page, work has progressed immensely in several segments, including the span at Schweizerthal. I was not able to get much of a photo of the bridge. However, I was lucky to get a few detailed shots of the shorter crossing and its skewed setting. As the decking had railroad track on it, there was no way to get a closer look at the beams to see if there were any inscriptions on there. But after the reconstruction is complete, maybe there is a chance to get a closer look at the bridge.

But then again, maybe some of the readers may have more information about these two sibling bridges, which will have a third life ahead of them. Do you have any information on the bridges’ history? Feel free to comment or send an e-mail. Any information may be of great help.

 

And for those who thought it was not allowed to walk on the grounds near the bridge, let me rest assure you no equipment or bridge parts were damaged during the photo session and it is only for the purpose of historic research for this blog. A book on the bridges in Saxony is being considered and perhaps you can be of great help there, just as a peace offering. Thank you. J

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 100: The Bridge at Fischweg in Chemnitz

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CHEMNITZ (GERMANY)- I’m going to be very honest for this mystery bridge, which is the 100th structure I’ve posted since launching the series in 2011. It was very, VERY difficult to decide which one to post next, for there was a large selection to choose from, ranging from an abandoned bridge along Route 66, a three-span through truss bridge in Oklahoma, a suspension bridge in India and this bridge. After some thorough consideration, I decided to go with the way that is the best in terms of my own merit as the structures have been mentioned by others in one way or another.

So here it comes: a through truss bridge that has been sitting on private land for a very long time, on the outskirts of a city that was for some time named after a Communist. Found by accident but not before almost getting my Volkswagen rammed into by a lorry behind me, who was cussing at me in Polish as he passed me by, after having parked my car off to the side. 😉

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OK, the Polish guy part was fake news, but looking at the rest of the picture, one can see that you don’t need to fact-check this beauty.  The bridge is located just off Highway 107, three kilometers north of the Motorway A4 and the Exit Chemnitz-Glösa. It sits on private land next to the restaurant and hotel Landgasthof Draisdorf, around the curve.  It is an eight-panel Pratt through truss bridge, built using welded connections- meaning the beams are held together by gusset plates and are not inserted into the plates, like we would see in other truss bridges. The end posts are typical for many European truss bridges built during its time: vertical instead of angled. The portal and strut bracings feature V-laced bracings with curved heel bracings. The middle strut heels appear to be subdivided.  The bridge can be seen from the highway- although it is not recommended to stop because the highway curves around the Landgasthof and one could risk such a rear- ender plus an explanation with the police to follow.  The bridge is about 5-6 meters tall, about 30-35 meters long and 3 meters wide, judging by my presence at the bridge and the photos I took of the bridge. While the bridge is one of five known in Chemnitz, this is the only through truss bridge within the city limits, counting the village of Draisdorf, where it sits.

The fun part comes with the history of the bridge. My first judgement of the bridge was that it was located over the River Chemnitz at Heinersdorfer Strasse and it was pulled offsite and to its current location after a new bridge was constructed 100 meters to the south. The truss bridge was replaced by a new bridge in 2005.  You can see the points mentioned on the map. However, research by the Saxony Ministry of Historic Monuments and Preservation (D: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Sachsen) in Dresden indicated that this truss bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse but at Fischweg near the cemetary in Glösa, only 400 meters south of the motorway exit. The map indicates that a bridge does exist but in a form of a bike and pedestrian crossing for the street ends on the grounds of a factory nearby. The date of construction of the bridge is 1900 and is currently listed in the Preservation Handbook for the State of Saxony (Denkmalschutzliste).

This leads us to the following questions which your help would be much appreciated in contributing whatever information may be of use:

  1. Is the date 1900 correct? Sometimes the year is used because of a lack of clarity in terms of when exactly it was built and open to traffic.
  2. If the bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse, what did the previous structure look like? When was it built and was it built by the same bridge builder as this bridge?
  3. Independent of what was mentioned in nr. 2, who was the bridge builder for this bridge?
  4. When was the current structure at Heinersdorfer Strasse built and what happened to the old structure?
  5. What factors led to the replacement of this bridge and who led the efforts in saving it for reuse?

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It’s not every day that a person and/or party steps forward to purchase the bridge and keep it for reuse. The bridge is privately owned and judging by my observations, it is being used as a picnic area with a porch swing attached to the top strut bracing. For most historic bridges that are purchased by private groups-namely homeowners, they are normally used for picnic areas and other forms of recreation more than for pedestrian and bike crossings because of liability reasons. It is different in comparison with private parties in the form of associations, park and recreational groups and the community that have more resources (including financial) to make sure the crossing is safe for reuse. But nevertheless, this bridge is safe and will most likely be in the hands of the homeowner until the need to get rid of it is near. When that happens, it can be hoped that the bridge is put back over the Chemnitz as a bike crossing. With the Chemnitztal Bike Path being extended and paved to Wechselburg, it would not be a surprise if this bridge was called to duty again given its preservation status and the interest in keeping it for generations to come.

And this is what makes this unexpected stop the most memorable- finding out the unknown about a structure like this one, which is truly a hidden gem.

And as we are on the same page, the next mystery bridge will go further downstream where a pair of structures are being refitted for bike use. More on this one in the next article. In the meantime, enjoy the photos here as well as on BHC’s facebook page.  And as for the aforementioned bridges at the beginning of the page, they will come later.

 

Author’s Note: Chemnitz was once named Karl-Marx-Stadt when it was under the rule of the German Democratic Republic. It even had a head statue of Karl Marx that can still be seen today. From 1953 until 1990, it was known that way.

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Historic Red Bridge, Kansas City, Missouri

Catherine Sherman

The Old Red Bridge over the Blue River in Kansas City, Missouri, is near the first river crossing on the Santa Fe Trail, the first of many rivers to cross on the long trail to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The last time I visited Santa Fe, New Mexico, I saw a sign at the end of Santa Fe Trail.  Not unusual, since it was Santa Fe, after all.  But I realized then that I’ve lived near the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail in the Kansas City area for decades, but I didn’t think much about it despite signs mentioning it everywhere. Sometimes you have to leave a place to really see it.

This Santa Fe Trail sign is in Santa Fe, New Mexico, near the end point of the Santa Fe Trail.

I recently visited the Old Red Bridge in Kansas City, Missouri, for the first time. I’ve driven…

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