Lindaunis/ Schlei Drawbridge

Panoramic view of the bridge- Photo taken in April 2011

Schleswig-Holstein has a lot of opportunities for tourists wanting to spend a few days there, regardless of where and what interests they have. The land is almost a peninsula, with the Baltic Sea lining up along the eastern end of the state, the North Sea along the western edge. And then there is the isthmus located at Flensburg which is about 60 kilometers wide and connects the state with neighboring Denmark. While much of the region is flat, the state is known for its lakes; among them is a chain of lakes, stretching about 45 kilometers from its starting point in Schleswig until it empties into the Baltic Sea between Kappeln and Eckerfoerde. Each of the seven lakes is connected by a strait, but there are only a total of three crossings one can choose.

The Lindaunis/ Schlei Drawbridge is one of the crossings that is worth a visit; if one chooses to spend an hour that is. The bridge is located over the Schlei Strait at the village of Lindaunis, located on the north end of the strait. It carries a local street connecting Lindaunis with neighboring Riesby as well as the railline connecting Flensburg and Kiel via Eckerfoerde. Since the railway station no longer exists- the building now houses a restaurant overlooking the chain of lakes- one has to get off at the nearest station, which is Riesby- located about 7 kilometers south of the bridge- and then backtrack along the main road until reaching the destination. Not to worry though, the way to the bridge has been marked so that no one gets lost.

The bridge consists of two spans- a Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections and an arch-shaped portal bracing, and a bascule span, which is commonly known as a draw bridge. The draw bridge, also built of a Warren truss design but has no overhead bracing, opens in a single leaf form, which means that the entire span is lifted to a vertical 80° angle to allow sailboats, yachts, and other boats to pass through the crossing. The bridge was an example of an SKR Bridge, a standardized railroad bridge that was developed by German civil engineer, Gottwalt Schaper, who worked for Krupp Steel (now Thuysen-Krupp) as well as the minister of transportation from 1919 until his death in 1942. The initials stood for Schaper, Krupp, and Reichsbahn (the name of the railroad in Germany during his lifetime). This structure was an early example of the SKR design that was used at the time of its completion in 1927. However it was later used both as temporary bridges as well as permanent railroad crossings after World War II, when most of the country’s bridges were destroyed- either through bombings by Allied troops or by the Nazis who detonated them in an attempt to stave off the advancing troops- and the crossings were needed as part of the reconstruction process.

Lindaunis Bridge- portal view and with the drawbridge open for boat traffic; Photo taken in April 2011

The bridge still functions today just like it did when it was open in 1927. The bridge has one land which is shared by both car and rail traffic. This is regulated through traffic signals, where one lane is allowed to use it at a time. The bascule span is opened every hour at 15 minutes before the hour and stays open for approximately 15 minutes to allow for boat traffic to pass through it. Pending on the season, the draw bridge operates from dawn to dusk and is controlled by an operator, whose tenant’s office is on the north end of the draw bridge span. While the drawbridge originally functioned on the use of chains, it was later replaced with hydraulics in 1975. As part of the plan to renovate the bridge beginning in 2012, a new electronic system will be installed at the tenant’s station to ensure that the span functions efficiently and with no complications.

The drawbridge span. Photo taken in April 2011

Since 1997, the bridge has been listed as culturally and technically significant because of its unique design and its early example of the SKR truss that was used at the time of its construction. This means the bridge is protected by law (Denkmalschutzgesetz) and that no alteration to the structure is to be made. Should the bridge sustain any damage and must be reconstructed, then it must be done exactly the way it was before the mishap. The Lindaunis is the oldest bridge still in operation in the state and attempts are being made to ensure that the bridge will continue to function within the next 40-50 years. Like in many towns and villages in Germany and elsewhere, the village of Lindaunis is touting its success around this unique piece of infrastructural wonder through its restaurant located in the old station near the bridge and providing tourists with a glimpse of the bridge and how it works. From a pontist’s point of view, it may be difficult to make that 7km journey from Riesby to Lindaunis by bike, but in the end, the journey is worth the effort as one can see the bridge, not only in terms of its beauty but also in its functionality as a truss bridge with a bascule span. When both go together and the bascule span opens to boat traffic, one can simply awe in the landscape as each boat glides along the Schlei and the bridge remains in an open position until the last boat goes through and the span closes for the cars and trains to use.

After this bridge, the next stop will be a pair of bridges in the capital of Kiel- one of which represents a unique example of a movable bridge that will raise the eyebrows of many engineers.







Muengsten Viaduct near Solingen, Germany: Extensive Renovation Underway

Photo taken by Herrad Elisabeth Taubenheim in 2009; used with permission

At 465 meters long and 107 meters high, the Muengsten Viaduct, located in the vicinity of Wuppertal in central North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany has been, since its opening in 1897, the highest bridge built in Germany.  Spanning the steep Wupper River near the village of Muengsten, the steel deck arch bridge was built in three years’ time under the direction of Anton von Rieppel, who was a industrialist working for the company “Maschinefabrik Augsburg Nuremberg” (now known today as MAN AG), and was responsible for the invention of an elevated street car (Rieppel Traeger) that is supported by horizontal beams above the car, and was eventually used for the Schwebebahn routes in neighboring Wuppertal as well as in Dresden in eastern Saxony. Originally used for passenger railway service between Remscheid and Solingen, it future is in doubt as concerns involving its structural weaknesses, which had originally resulted in the reduction of speed to only 10 km/h for all trains, has now resulted in no trains crossing the bridge until the problems are corrected. Since November of last year, the viaduct was closed to all rail traffic, forcing passengers to find alternatives by bus and the German railway company (Die Bahn) to find detours to carry its freight over the Wupper.

Attempts of allowing trains to cross the viaduct have failed to bear fruit. Even though Die Bahn filed for permission by the Office of Railways (EBA) to allow trains weighing up to 69.9 tons to cross the bridge, it only applied to empty trains. To allow train and passengers to cross the viaduct would require a weight limit of at least 81 tons. In the end, the EBA agreed to allow only trains of up to 72 tons with a 10-ton axel load to cross the structure. Unfortunately, recent events at the beginning of this week may force the bridge to be closed permanently if the problems are not resolved as soon as possible. Attempts to cross the bridge using empty rail cars failed due to too much weight from the axel. The end result is that the weight limit will have to be reconfigured by Die Bahn, and the bridge will have to be strengthened so that the guidelines by the EBA are met.

The Muengsten Viaduct has been considered historically significant by the German Heritage Laws (Denkmalschutzgesetz) and is the focus of a massive rehabilitation effort to be carried out over the next five years at the cost of over $30 million. When it is completed by 2016, it will be able to serve rail traffic both ways on a regular basis for the next 30 years. In the meantime, passengers travelling between Remscheid and Solingen will have to resort to bus service until the EBA allows trains to partially use the bridge until the renovation is completed. The question is: how long will the complications last. The answer is unknown at the moment, except that it lies with the EBA and Die Bahn.


Note: At the bottom of the valley underneath the viaduct, a park was constructed in 2006 commemorating the historic structure. A transporter ferry, attached to the arch superstructure, can carry passengers across the Wupper.  The Muengsten Viaduct was originally christened the Kaiser Wilhelm I Bridge, the name that was used until it was replaced with the present name in 1918, the same time as the end of World War I. Kaiser Wilhelm I. was the first emperor of Germany when the country was created in 1871. His son Wilhelm II. took over at the time of his father’s death in 1888 and led the country until its defeat in the war 30 years later.


Thanks to Herrad Elisabeth Taubenheim for allowing the use of the photo for the article.