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 drawbridge consists of three spans. Two of the spans are a Warren through truss design with riveted connections and a curved portal bracing that is ornamental in design. The third span is a single leaf bascule span that also has a Warren truss design but it is pony and subdivided. That span lifts in a 90° to allow for boats, yachts and other motorized watercraft to pass through. When the drawbridge is lifted, the gates are lowered to cars and trains and auto drivers are expected to wait 10-15 minutes between the time the span is lifted and the time the span is lowered and open to traffic.
When looking at the design closely, the trusses look similar to an SKR design, a standardized railroad truss design that was patented by Gottwald 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). But when looking through the records and newspaper articles more closely, they represent a totally different story about the bridge’s history. And it dates back to the time where the Baltic-North Sea Canal was built.
The Original Crossing at Taterpfahl
The origins of the present-day crossing at Lindaunis takes us to Taterpfahl, located near the North Sea Outlet of the Canal near the towns of Brunsbüttel and Kudensee in the District of Dithmarschen. Work began on a swing bridge on August 28, 1893, which would cross the newly built canal and carry rail traffic along the North Sea Coast. The land had been dredged for the canal a couple years earlier and it was of utmost importance to provide a railroad crossing for passengers wishing to leave Hamburg for the coastal islands and Denmark. The contract for the bridge was let to two bridge building firms located in Dusseldorf in the present-day state of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW). The truss design was the responsibility of the family firm Harkort. That company had been a household name for anything with iron and steel for architecture and infrastructure since its foundation in 1674. It was at its peak when the bridge was built (it would succumb in 1930). The technical aspects of the swing span was the responsibility of Haniel and Lueg, a firm that was founded by Heinrich Lueg and Franz Haniel, Jr. in 1872 and was famous for the construction of the Oberkassel Bridge in Dusseldorf, which was built in 1896.
It took a good year until the crossing at Taterpfahl was completed and open to rail traffic on August 30, 1894. The bridge featured a two-span through truss bridge that is also a swing span. The tenant station was on the outside of the truss in the center. A Warren pony truss span on the south side of the canal functioned as an approach span. The bridge survived a major mishap when a ship collided with the swing span on November 4th, 1897 causing significant damage to the machinery designed to open the span for ships. The bridge was closed to both rail and boat traffic for weeks, while repairs were made to the swing span and the wrecked ship was removed from the site.
The Journey to Lindaunis
The bridge remained in service for 26 years until the Hochdonn Viaduct, located 12 canal kilometers to the northeast at Hochdonn was built and opened to traffic on June 11, 1920. At the same time, the swing bridge was decommissioned and set in an open format. The rail line through Taterpfahl was rerouted to its present-day route from St. Michaelisdonn via the viaduct to Vaale-Wacken. Only the section of the original rail line north of the canal exists today, going from St. Michaelisdonn going towards the canal before turning right, terminating in Brunsbüttel at the port near the highway bridge. The section south of the canal has been removed with a small exception that can be found near Kudensee at the present-day ferry.
While the story of the bridge’s time at Taterpfahl ended with the opening of the Hochdonn Viaduct and the rerouting of the rail line, the second chapter in the bridge’s life was about to begin. In 1921, the through truss swing section was taken off the piers and placed onto a series of boats for its journey to its next home at Lindaunis/ Schlei. To get there, it was transported through the canal before reaching the entrance to the Baltic Sea at Kiel. From there, it went up the coast before reaching the mouth of the Schlei at Kappeln. After passing through the swing bridge, it went another 20 kilometers to its new home. It was supposed to replace the original crossing- a swing bridge, whose center span is a deck plate girder and was flanked with two Schwedler through truss spans. It had been in service since 1881. The Taterpfahl span arrived in 1925 and two years later, was open to traffic.
The Lindaunis/Schlei Bridge as of Today
The bridge still functions today just like it did when it was open in 1927. The bridge has one lane 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. In 2012 new electronic system was installed at the tenant’s station to ensure that the span functions efficiently and with no complications.
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.
Sadly though, the days of the Lindaunis/Schlei Bridge will soon be numbered. Since my last visit with family in 2020, construction started on a replacement span at the site, where it will feature one lane for rail traffic, one for vehicular traffic and one for pedestrians and bikes. The new bridge is expected to open by 2023. At the same time, the drawbridge and swing span imported from Taterpfahl will be removed. At the present time, there is no word on whether or where the old structure will be relocated. Given the current state of the bridge, it would be a shame to convert the spans into scrap without thinking of a new home to be used as a pedestrian crossing, let alone a memorial using one of the two spans. Discussions have not taken place formally on the future of the old spans, but given the information presented here, nothing says we cannot reuse a historical monument. There are some ideas on its future uses, as long as the bridge keeps its structural integrity in tact, let alone its standing as a state monument.
The question is, are the locals interested? We will find out between now and the time the new bridge opens in 2023…..