2017 Ammann Awards Results: Part 2

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Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, Wisconsin. Winner of the Bridge of the Year Awards. Photo taken by Troy Hess.

Just 12 hours after publishing the press release of Part 1 of the Ammann Award winners, there was a lot of positive feedback from our Readers, especially in the category of Best Photo, where Chauncy Neumann came out the winner in that category, followed by Esko Räntilla and lastly, Kevin Skow- just to name the top three of the top six winners of the Awards. However, just after posting the first half of the results, I contacted the winner of Lifetime Achievement Award for an interview, informing him that he had won and asking him if he would be interviewed about his work. His response: cool as heckfire, let’s do it! 🙂 There are two reasons for Nels Raynor to be honored for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first has to do with his many years of hard work in restoring numerous bridges, especially with his company BACH Steel, located in Michigan. There will be more on his successes when the interview is finished and posted. The second has to do with a historic bridge he restored that won an accolade this year. That will come in a bit. But looking at the results, Raynor was in a dog-eat-dog battle with silver medalist James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com throughout most of the competition until he pulled away with 245 votes to Baughn’s 105 in the waning days of the voting process. The Bronze and Tourquois Medals had to be split up among three people in each standing, all of whom had at least 104 votes but the margin between third and fourth place was only a single vote. Nevertheless, the finishing results look like this:

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

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The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River at Schlema

TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:

This category was the only one in the Ammann Awards where each candidate successfully vied for first place and stayed there before being dethroned by another one. Even the bridges in a small town of Rochlitz, southeast of Leipzig, took first place honors for a few days before being outvoted by silver medalist, Winnepeg (Canada) and bronze medalist, St. Petersburg (Russia). It finished in fourth with 92 votes, five less than St. Petersburg.  It also marked a first where a candidate was entered twice due to additional bridges that were added after the first run. That was with Glauchau (Saxony), Germany, which finished fifth in the 2016 Awards but because of four additional bridges, plus information from local historians and local publicity from the newspapers, it was reentered in the 2017 competition. It finished fifth, receiving the Quartzite Medal, after receiving 56 votes, far outdoing Quebec City, London (UK) and Cambridge (UK). The winner of the Tour Guide International Award goes to the bridges in the Aue-Schneeberg Region in western Saxony, Germany. Featuring the bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde, Schwarzwasser and Schlema Rivers, the region, which has bridges in the cities of Aue, Schneeberg, Schlema and even Zschorlau finished with 126 votes, after lagging behind Glauchau until the second-to-last day, thus receiving the Gold medal. More Information on the bridges in the region can be found here. Here are the rest of the results:

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Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown (Lehigh Co.), PA  Photo by HABS-HAER

TOUR GUIDE USA:

There are many characteristics that make this year’s winner a treat to visit. Lehigh County, Pennsylvania has a wide array of covered bridges as well as arch bridges. They include, on the one hand, the Geiger and Rex Covered Bridges- both the oldest still in use- but also the oldest stone arch bridge in Reading  (built in 1824) and the Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown, a 1913 arch viaduct that is the longest in the county. That was probably the main reason why the majority of voters selected Lehigh County as this year’s Tour Guide winner. After tangling with Clinton County, New York, Lehigh County received the gold medal with 201 votes, 71 more than Clinton County, which received the Ore Medal with 131 votes. Silver and Bronze go to the bridges in northern West Virginia, where Marshall County finished second with 149 votes and Wheeling finished with only two votes less. Civil war-based arch bridges in Bridges to the Past in Hardin County received tourquois with 132 votes. While the Cleveland Browns Football Team are walking away from the most humiliating football Season on record with an 0-16 record, the people of Cleveland are taking pride in the city’s bridges with 131 voters checking the City in for a fifth place finish and a Quartzite Medal. Here is the final tally of the top six of 14 candidates.

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The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge at its new location in Conway, AR. Winner of the Best Preservation Practice Awards. Photo taken by Wayne Keller

BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE

In perhaps the most intensive finish in the history of the Ammann Awards, the race came down to two bridges, each with its own preservation Story. The Springfield Bowstring Arch was perhaps one of the most successful bridge preservation stories on record, as crews saved the leaning 1871 iron bowstring arch bridge from disaster by dismantling it as well as rebuilding it at its new location at a park in Conway in Faulkner County, Arkansas.  For Nels Raynor, Julie Bowers and crew, this 18-month project, which included several volunteers, consultants and historians, was one of the shortest and most successful on record, for it usually takes 2-3 years to accomplish such a feat. But for the crew, it was the most successful story in the company’s history and one of the best in bridge preservation history.

It had some massive competition from another bridge, located in Des Moines, Iowa, in the Green Bridge. The 1898 three-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored on site with new cassion piers and truss bridge parts as well as new decking and lighting and became a posterboy in the face of the city council’s attempts to modernize the Des Moines River crossings by replacing arch bridges with faux arches. Grand Avenue fell victim with Locust and Court Avenues coming up on their plans. With their success Story, perhaps the City will rethink the way they treat their historic structures as they have been on the onslaught by those who think newer and leaner is better. Both Green and Springfield had raced neck-on-neck, changing leads at least two dozen times in the last two weeks of the competition before Springfield finally edged the Green Bridge for Gold Medal by a score of 1720 votes to the silver medalist’s 1682. Bronze went to the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente in Santos, Brazil, with 717 votes. This category had more bowstring arch bridges in the top six than in the past, as the crossings at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Ohio and at Merrimack College near Boston finished in fourth and fifth respectively. The Ore Medal for sixth place goes to the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota, which the Minnesota River crossing garnered 366 votes. 6126 votes were recorded in this category, which was the second best behind the last category of the Awards.

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Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, WI: Winner of Bridge of the Year.

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

With 7160 votes total for 13 candidates, the Bridge of the Year category set a new record for the highest number of votes recorded  in the history of the Ammann Awards. None of the candidates received less than 200 votes each but there was a fierce competition for first place among five bridge candidates which lasted until the final four days of voting. It was then that 1800 voters selected the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the Cobban Bridge. The 1908 product of Modern Steel Structures Company is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but its future is in peril after county officials voted to close off the bridge to all traffic last year, deeming it unsafe. Officials want to see the bridge replaced by 2021, but locals would like to see the bridge saved and rehabilitated for reuse. There has been on ongoing debate on what to do with the bridge. Despite claims that the cost for rehabilitating the bridge is prohibitive, figures have been revealed as overexaggerating. Could the Cobban Bridge be the next Green Bridge of Des Moines? 2018 will be the decisive year for residents of Chippewa County and the state of Wisconsin as to what will become the lone truss bridge of its design in the state, let alone the last of its kind in the country.

Apart from the Cobban Bridge receiving gold, the silver medal winner went to the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 617 votes, two thirds shy of the triple crown for BACH Steel. The duo truss bridges of Pulp Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire received the bronze with 589 votes, despite having competed with Cobban, fourth place finisher Hvita Bridge in Iceland (which received 580 votes) and the Wave in Glauchau, Germany for first place. Pulp Mill had traded leads with Cobban several times before the last rush put it out of reach by a long shot. The Wave finished tied for 10th with the Green Bridge in Des Moines and well out of medal range. Despite being arsoned for the second time in over a decade, the Cedar Covered Bridge near Winterset, Iowa received the Quartzite and finished fifth with 435 votes, 11 votes more than the ore medal winner, the Covered Bridges of New Brunswick, Canada, the topic of discussion and many stories because of closures due to structural issues and drivers falling through the flooring. Here is the tally in detail:

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And with that ends the most intensive but exciting 2017 Ammann Awards. Observing the voting process and watching people get engaged made this round as exciting as the Holiday Season itself, even though the latter was shorter than normal due to Christmas Eve falling on thr Fourth Advent which meant shorter Holiday Shopping and time for Christmas Markets. In any case, with plans of other Websites, like Bridgehunter.com planning to go international and the Chronicles providiing more coverage, including bridge tours, bridge book profiles, interviews and others, it is hoped that the 2018 Ammann Awards will be bigger and more exciting than this year.

While the author of the Chronicles picks his favorites to be published in the next article, those interested in submitting bridges, photos and more should keep in mind that nominations officially begin on October 3rd and end December 3rd. Voting will proceed right afterwards, ending on January 8th, 2019. Winners to be announced on January 12th. For details, click here and/or contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles if you have any questions.

For now, let’s have a look at the Author’s Choice Awards, which follows this article and I must warn you: If you are a fan of Judge Marilyn Milian of the People’s Court, you will have a blast at what she could have said to the stories that made headlines in 2017. Stay tuned! 🙂

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2017 Ammann Award Results: Part 1

Rock Island Rail-to-Trail Bridge in Little Rock, AR at night. Photo taken by Chauncy Neuman, winner of this year’s Best Photo Award

New Olympic-Style Medal System to the Top Six Finishers

Record Number of Voter Participation

SCHNEEBERG (SAXONY), GERMANY- 2018 is here, and with it, the revealing of the winners of the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards. This year’s awards ceremony is far different than in years’ past. For instance, instead of announcing the winners in nummerical order from top to bottom, the top six winners receive a medal in a combination of Olympics and Ore Mountain form. That means the top three finishers receive the typical Olympic medals, whereas 4th to 6th place finishers receive medals typical of the Ore Mountain region in Saxony in eastern Germany, the new home for this column (specifically, in Schneeberg). That means tourquoise, copper and iron ore to those respective finishers. To view the total number of candidates please click here for details, including how they finished.

This year’s awards set some impressive records that can only be bested by more participation and more awareness of the historic bridges that we have left in general. For instance, we had records smashed for the highest number of voter turnout in each of the nine categories. Furthermore, there were at least seven lead changes in each category, which was also a first. In four of the categories, there were lead changes with at least four of the candidates. In another category, each of the candidates took a shot at first place and stayed at the top for at least a week before it was dethroned in favor of another one. In summary, no leader was safe regardless of margin that was built with its second place competitor. 🙂

And with that we will take a look at the winners of the 2017 Ammann Awards, divided up into two parts so that the readers are not overwhelmed with the content. The winners of the 2017 Author’s Choice, where the author himself picks his favorites, will follow. But for now, let’s see what the voters have chosen for bridge favorites beginning with…..

 

BEST PHOTO:

This year’s Best Photo Category brought in not only double the number of candidates as last year (12 entries) but also double as many candidates that vied for first place as last year- there was a battle among three candidates for the top spot for the 2016 Awards. All six candidates finished in the top six with Chauncy Neumann bringing home the gold for his night photo of the Rock Island Railroad Bridge in Little Rock, AR., a fine example of a rail-to-trail crossing that still has its use in its second life today. His photo can be seen in the Chronicles’ facebook page as well as an avatar for the Chronicles’ twitter page. The silver medal went to Esko Räntilla for his stone arch bridge, built in the 1700s spanning a small creek in Finnland. That photo can be seen in the Chronicles’ wordpress page. Third place finisher receiving the bronze was Kevin Skow for his shot of the pony truss bridge Mill Creek in Kansas. His photo can be seen on the Chronicles’ twitter page. All of them will remain to be seen until mid-July before they become part of the header rotating page for the Chronicles’ wordpress page. The rest of the results:

Draschwitz Bridge north of Zeitz in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt: Winner of the Best Kept Secret International Award

BEST KEPT SECRET INDIVIDUAL BRIDGE:

This category is divided up into American and International Bridges and focuses on historic and unique bridges that receive little to no attention compared to other historic bridges, like the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges in the States. In the international part of the category, we had 14 entries from three continents with four vying for the top spot. In the end, the winner of award goes to a small village north of Zeitz in Germany and this unusual bridge, the Draschwitz Truss Bridge over the White Elster River. This bridge is unique because of its v-laced top chord. The story behind it can be found here. Silver goes to the suspension bridge at Betsiboka in Madagascar, whereas Bronze goes to another unique arch bridge in Greece nominated by Inge Kanakaris-Wirtl, the Plakidas Bridge. The rest of the top six include:

Sarto Bridge in Louisiana. Photo taken by Cliff Darby

In the States, we had ten entries, featuring bridges from all over the country. This included a “dead bridge”- one that has been extant for many years, yet one decided to nominate it post humously. As in the international portion, four of the ten vied for the top spot, but in the end, the Sarto Bridge, spanning the Bayou des Glaises at Big BendAvoyelles Parish, Louisiana came out the winner by a slim margin, outlasting the Johnson Bridge in Stillwater County (Montana) by five votes. That “dead bridge” mentioned earlier, was Sugar Island Bridge in Kankakee Illinois, came in third with 88 votes- a bronze medal well earned a century after it was converted into a pile of scrap metal. The bridge was destroyed by a tornado in 1916 and was replaced afterwards.  The rest of the top six include:

Geneva Creek Bridge in Muscatine, Iowa. Winner of the Mystery Bridge Award. Photo taken by Luke Harden

 

MYSTERY BRIDGE:

Twelve bridges were entered in this category, of which three came from the States and the rest from Germany. Still, the winners of both the international and American competition were clearly decisive with the American bridge winning the all around by a wide margin. That was with the Geneva Creek Bridge in Muscatine, Iowa, a Bedstead Howe pony truss that features two spans and was relocated at an unknown time. Information on that is enclosed here. The ancient arch bridge in Erfurt won the international division but came in second in the all around. That bridge spans a small waterfall that empties into the Diversion Channel on the south end of the city in Thuringia. It may be the oldest extant structure in the city’s history. For more, click here. Not far behind was another competitor from the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, a thatched-roof covered truss bridge in St. Peter-Ording, whose unique story can be found here. The rest of the standings include:

The rest of the winners can be found in Part 2. Click here to get there. 🙂

Ancient Arch Bridge at Pförtchen Bridge in Erfurt. Winner of the Ammann Awards for Mystery Bridge International

 

 

 

2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards Voting Ballot

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Newly restored Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, MN. Photo taken by MnDOT

Instructions: For each category, simply click on the candidates you favor to win and hit submit. You have an unlimited amount of choices. When you are finished voting, please close this page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNDER THE BRIDGES OF NORWICH

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Viewed from the water, the river Wensum above Bishop’s Bridge is almost unknown territory. It is still rather unusual to explore the river through Norwich from a boat. Since the day of this family expedition to do just that (more than half a century ago) it has been possible to board a river cruise at Elm Hill Quay and go down stream from Fye Bridge, but beyond that the upper reaches of the river are still virtually a mysterious waterway. In fact you can navigate all the way through the City as far as the New Mills which form a barrier between the upper and lower reaches of the river Wensum. The problem with venturing above Bishop’s Bridge is that all the major boat hirers prohibit taking their craft above this point. We got round this difficulty by hiring our launch from Nobby Clarke at Thorpe, who wasn’t so fussy.

Duke Street Bridge Duke Street…

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An Interview with John Marvig

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Photo of John Marvig in front of the (now extant) Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone County, Iowa

When we think of historic bridges, we think of roadway bridges built of metal or stone, having truss, arch, suspension or beam designs, each of which has a well-documented history pertaining to the date of construction and the builders, as well as its significance to the community and infrastructure. It is rare to find history of railroad bridges that had made a different in a community…..

….that is unless you are John Marvig.

Since his 6th grade year, Marvig has been travelling the Midwestern US, photographing and documenting historic and modern railroad bridges for his website. Since its inauguration in 2011, the website has over 1200 bridges, big and small, covering eleven states and counting. The secret to the Chaska (Minnesota) native’s success as a railroad bridge photographer and writer I wanted to find out through this interview, as Marvig won the 2016 Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement, the youngest person to ever have received this distinction. Here are some Q&As conducted with this now sophomore at Iowa State University, majoring in Civil Engineering:

BHC: What got you interested in historic bridges; in particular, railroad bridges?

Marvig: When I was a kid, there was a bridge on I-494 in South Saint Paul known as the Wakota Bridge. That old tied arch structure always interested me, and I always took note when we drove to my grandparents farm in Wisconsin. Along the way, there were a number of other bridges I would take notice of from a young age. When I was younger, I had also wanted a model railroad. One thing led to another, and I would be taking pictures of a local railroad bridge by the fall of my 6th grade year. It grew from there, and became a full blown passion (or obsession, depending on how you look at it). Another bridge, an old railroad swing bridge located in my hometown of Chaska was always fascinating to me, since it only continued to exist in memory. Seeing the history that was lost really encouraged me to peruse my passion.

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North Redwood Railroad Bridge. Photos taken by John Marvig and avbailable via website.

BHC: What got you interested in historic bridges; in particular, railroad bridges?

Marvig: Creating my website was an idea that was formulated in a 7th grade technology class where we learned basic coding. John Weeks runs a website with numerous bridge photos on it, which also captivated my interest. From an early and very basic website to the full blown site it is now, it has steadily grown. I have well over 1000 bridges documented, I am just waiting to get the pages created! The hardest part is coding the pages. I manually code them, instead of using a form which automatically creates the pages (similar to Bridgehunter). This allows me the flexibility to change pages to meet the needs of the specific structure or the intended audience. However, this can be very time consuming. A page I have been working on for the Eads Bridge in Saint Louis took nearly 4 hours from start to finish to create. I continue to anticipate the site growing steadily. I have a waiting list of pages to add of over 350, and that list grows often.

 

BHC: Your focus on your website is railroad bridges. What makes them special in comparison to highway bridges?

Marvig: Railroad bridges, in my opinion, are the pinnacle of American engineering. While highway bridges were not built to carry a heavy load, railroad bridges were constructed to carry a load of many times a typical highway bridge. This results in some bridges that are engineered to perfection. In addition, railroad companies rarely reported construction of bridges and oftentimes did weird things such as relocation of spans. This makes it a unique challenge to document and research these structures.

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Crookston Railroad Bridge.

BHC:  Many railroad companies try to repel photographers and bridgehunters from photographing RR bridges. Why is that and how did you successfully managed to do that?

Marvig: Railroad companies are afraid of the liabilities of people being on their property. I have gotten around this by using public access, asking other landowners or walking along the riverbanks to the structure. My most important goal is to stay safe and set a positive example for others.

 

BHC:  Set a positive example- what examples?

Marvig: Two ways to look at this. The first is safety and to obey the rules. Walking on railroad property or bridges is very dangerous, and I try to use it as a last resort to get to bridges. On my site, I generally make notes of how I got to the bridge so others will hopefully follow that route. The other positive example I like to set is the strive for preservation and passion I demonstrate. I hope this spreads to others and we can see a positive turnaround in bridge preservation.

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Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque. This span was one of several from the 1868 span over the Mississippi River

BHC:  Did you have any confrontations with landowners accusing you of trespassing or other items? Many bridgehunters have dealt with this problem over the years- yours truly included on many occasions.

Marvig: I have. While I generally find that landowners are more than happy to talk to myself and my father, who often accompanies me on these trips, I have seen some people I hope not to deal with again. I would say 90% of people are nice and usually interested, and oftentimes tell their life story. I have however had instances of some real cranks. I’ve had hunters “accidentally” shoot my direction, I’ve had ladies in trailers yell at me because I’m parked on a public gravel road and I’ve had others claim a public road is theirs. However, a vast majority are some of the nicest people I’ve met; and in a few cases people I’ve kept in contact with.

 

BHC:  Bridge historians, like Eric Delony have often mentioned of railroad companies being very hesitant re. nominating railroad bridges deemed historic on the National Register because of their historic significance. From your experience, is this the case and if so, why is that?

Marvig: This is true. One example is the Redstone Bridge in New Ulm, Minnesota. The railroad has refused to nominate the structure repeatedly, even though the state attempted to get them to. This structure is an 1880 swing span, and one of the oldest known in America. Despite this, if the railroad chooses to demolish it, nobody can do anything about it. Fortunately, the State of Minnesota has said they will not let Canadian pacific demolish the structure, and when it is abandoned it should be preserved.

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Redstone Bridge spanning the Minnesota River in New Ulm.

BHC: Is the Redstone Bridge still in service?

Marvig: Yeah, its part of a spur to a quarry. I’m really hoping it is abandoned soon. With CP not doing well financially, I really hope that we can see a step in preservation made within the next decade

For more on the bridge, please check out the Tour Guide on the Bridges of New Ulm by clicking here. People in New Ulm as well as officials at the State Historic Preservation Office in St. Paul are interested in saving this bridge and nominate it on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

BHC:  What can be done to convince railroad companies to nominate their bridges to the Nat. Reg. as well as restore the bridge for future use? What examples have been mentioned?

Marvig: In my opinion, the only real thing that can be done is to make it worth it for them financially.  If an incentive was offered to a railroad to bypass historic bridges and preserve them, I’m quite sure they would be willing.

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Colfax Railroad Bridge in Wisconsin

BHC: Which RR bridges have you been involved in which has been successfully inducted into the National Register?

Marvig: While I do not believe any of the bridges I’ve helped preserve are listed as a separate listing on the NR, the railroad bridge across Main Street in Carver, MN (about 10 minutes from home) was to be demolished in 2011, but I worked with the city to preserve it. I believe it might be listed as a contributing resource currently.

 

 BHC:  Which RR Bridges you were involved in was converted into a Rails for Trails Crossing?

Marvig: Currently, I have not had any converted to trails. However, the bridge in Carver is eventually scheduled to become a trail. In addition, I’ve been working with the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis to preserve and convert the Short Line Bridge. The Missouri River Bridge in Bismarck is another example of a structure I am working to get preserved for this use.

 

 BHC: Which Railroad Bridge is your all time favorite?

Marvig: It’s hard to determine what my favorite bridge is, as there are a large number of structures I love. The Redstone Bridge in New Ulm, as well as the northwestern bridge in Eau Claire are two of my favorite bridges. These were both built in 1880 and are extremely old examples of rare truss types.

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Chicago and Northwestern Viaduct in Eau Claire, Wisonsin. This quintuple Warren deck truss bridge is now a bike trail crossing.

 

 BHC: If there is a person who is interested in bridge photography, what tips would you give him/her?

Marvig: As for tips for others, I would suggest starting with places you have passion for. If there is a bridge in town that you want to know more about, go take some pictures. Unique and historic bridges are going the way of the dodo bird in the United States, and photography is a form of preservation.

 

 BHC: And what about establishing a website like you have? The last question includes the use of social media, wordpress and the question of making a magazine out of it.

Marvig: To create a website, be prepared to have a large chunk of time taken up. The initial coding is tough, and manually adding pages is a long process. Research is also essential. I think I’ve spent several hundred dollars on research since 2010, as google doesn’t provide all answers. My biggest advice though is to create your website to be expandable. Make sure it has as many features as you want. I have 1200 pages on my site currently, and I’m working on reviewing and adding new features to these pages. It’s a lot easier to correct 12 pages than 1200.

Regarding social media, that isn’t my strong point. However it is essential to be able to reach out to a new audience to educate and inform about historic bridges. When I first started doing bridges in 2009, social media was a rather new invention, and I did not invest time heavily in it. Currently, I spread my message of bridges through both Facebook, and Instagram.

BHC: Thank you for your time for this interview.

Marvig: No problem.

To learn more about his work, click onto his website here. There you can find details of every bridge he’s visited, which includes its history and dimensions, as well as the number of trains crossing it daily (for most crossings). He has updated his website regularly and therefore, it is necessary to visit the site often. Enjoy some railroad facts and figures. 🙂

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Bridges — LIPSTICKMOTO

It’s not a real phobia or anything. I only know this now that I know people who truly do suffer from actual phobias. But, I am really afraid of bridges. My already humming bird fast heart beats faster, palms sweat. Just driving over them is enough to make me quite a bit uncomfortable. But, I […]

via Bridges — LIPSTICKMOTO

Kassberg Bridge to be Rehabilitated

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150-year old historic bridge to be closed until Fall 2019 for renovations.

CHEMNITZ, GERMANY-  When travelling through Chemnitz in central Saxony, one will be amazed by the architecture the city has to offer. Be it from the age of industrialization, the Communist era or even the present, the city has a wide-array to choose from, which will please the eyes of the tourists, making them want to spend time there in the third largest city in the state.  Chemnitz has over 100 historic bridges that are a century old or more, most of them are arch structures made of stone, concrete or a combination of the two. But each one tells a story of how it was built and how it has served the city.

Take for instance, the Karl-Schmidt-Rottluft Bridge, on the west side of the city center. Spanning the Chemnitz River and Fabrikstrasse carrying the Ramp leading to the suburb of Kassberg, this bridge has a character in itself. The dark brown-colored stone arch bridge has been serving traffic for over 150 years, running parallel to the Bierbrücke located just to the north by about 80 meters. The five-span arch bridge features variable sizes of the arches to accomodate the ravine: two of the largest for the river, one of the widest for Fabrikstrasse and the narrowest for pedestrians, all totalling approximately 120 meters- three times as long as the Bierbrücke. The bridge was named after Karl-Schmidt-Rottluft, an expressionist painter during the (inter) war period.

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Despite its services over the year, the City of Chemnitz plans to shut down the bridge beginning in the Spring 2018 allow for extensive rennovations. The 2.8 million Euro project ($4.3 million) will include extensive work on the retaining walls and stairway connecting crossing and Fabrikstrasse below. Furthermore, repairs to the arches and renewing the decking and railings will be in the plans. The State of Saxony provided two million ($3.2 million) for the project as part of the initiative “Bridges in the Future”, which was started in 2015 and is designed to restore many of the state’s historic bridges while replacing many in dire need and beyond repair. The City of Chemnitz needed to cover the rest of the cost. The project is scheduled to be completed by October 2019.

Despite the inconvenience people will have to deal with during the 1.5 year closure, the renovation is a must, based on my many visits since the beginning of this year. Many cracks were showing in the arches and attempts to shore up the spans using concrete made the under half of the arch appear derelict. Furthermore, debris on the stone materials made the bridge in general appear dirty. Then there is the multiple spider webs hanging from the bridge, making the structure really spooky, as seen in the picture below.

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Yet on hindsight, the bridge and the nearby pub, bearing Kassberg’s name, have a unique setting which warrants such a project. While many engineers and planners have evicted owners from their businesses because of new bridges to be built, the planners for this project ensured that this will never happen, especially as the pub crafts its own microbrew, hosts many cultural events and even has a museum focusing on the district. For this bridge, it is a blessing that it will be restored to its natural beauty, while ensuring that it will continue to safely provide services to drivers and pedestrians alike.

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From a historian’s point of view, this bridge warrants more information on its history. If you have some to share, please use the contact details here and write to the author. A tour guide in English will be made available in the next year, in connection with the city’s 875th anniversary celebrations.

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Source: Chemnitz Free Press

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