BUGA- The German Garden and Horticulture Show 2011: Koblenz and the city’s bridges

(Continued from an article written by its sister column the Flensburg Files. Link: http://flensburgerfiles.areavoices.com/2011/10/27/buga-the-german-garden-and-horticulture-show-2011-koblenz/ )

Bird's eye view of the Mosel River crossings in Koblenz beginning with the Balduin Bridge in the foreground. Taken from the Ehrenbreitstein Castle

While most of the city’s bridges along the Rhine and Mosel Rivers are somewhat modern with a few of them being partially renovated, each bridge does have its set of history- one dealing with World War II and the other being individual because of its own design and history and appearance before the war.  Over two thirds of the city was destroyed during World War II- half by the Nazis trying to blow-up bridges in their path to avert pursuit from the Allies and the other half by the Allies in a successful attempt to bring the regime of Adolf Hitler to an end and with it the war itself. Yet tragedy did provide a blueprint for the city to rebuild the majority of these structures from scratch and repair those heavily damaged by the bombings.  The bridges along the Rhein and Mosel may not have the character as the ones that existed prior to the war, but they still present historians and bridge enthusiasts with an opportunity to learn about their history and the connection with Koblenz’s past. Therefore the top five pics have been chosen for tourists to visit next time the opportunity is ripe to visit the region. While the majority of them can be found in Koblenz, one in particular can be found 10 km away in Neuwied but can be seen from a distance from the Ehrenbreitstein Castle. And yes, a pair of honorably mentioned bridges will be mentioned here.

Balduin Bridge- This stone arch bridge, built in 1343, is the oldest bridge built in the city and one of the oldest bridges spanning the Mosel River, let alone one of the oldest of its type built in Germany. The bridge was constructed during the time of the rule of the Emperor of Trier but has experienced at least five changes in power as well as damage as a result of war. This included the destruction of half of the structure’s 14 arches during World War II. That section- from the north shore to the island was replaced with a beam span as part of the plan to channel the Mosel to allow shipping traffic to Trier in 1952. Nevertheless, the southern half of the bridge- which was rehabilitated in the 1970s to resemble its appearance in the 1300s, is part of the UNESCO Cultural Heritage site consisting of places along the Upper Rhein and Mosel Rivers. The current structure is 246 meters long and about 25 meters wide.


North span of the Mosel RR Bridge

Mosel River Railroad Crossing at Koblenz North- At a total of 270 meters long, this bridge is the second oldest structure in Koblenz, spanning the Mosel River and located next to the Balduin Bridge. Built in 1858, the bridge originally consisted of six arches spanning the northern half of the river and an iron cantilever bridge on the southern end. Unfortunately that half was obliterated in 1945 and was replaced with a steel beam span in 1975 after having a temporary structure built to serve traffic. The structure now serves InterCity traffic between Cologne and Mainz via Bingen.


Overview of the bridge

Pfaffendorf Bridge- Built in 1864 and rebuilt in 1953 after being destroyed in the war, this bridge is the oldest structure over the Rhein in Koblenz. It was originally a three span iron deck arch bridge with two towers on each end of the river, each serving as an entrance to the two towns. There was also a memorial on the bridge dedicated to Kaiser Wilhelm I, which was later added to one of the towers of the bridge. That remains in its place today. The structure used to serve rail traffic until it was converted into a vehicular bridge in 1933, leaving the Horchheim Bridge (located 2.3 km to the south) to handle railroad traffic. Today, a three span deck girder beam takes its place, built using the piers and the tower remains from its predecessor.

Built using the abutment and piers from the bridge destroyed in World War II

The bridge has a total length of 311.3 meters (main span is 104.6 meters) and carries Hwy. B 42 into Koblenz from the Pfaffendorf Tunnel, which opened in 1993. Plans are in the making to reconstruct the bridge beginning in 2012 due to structural concerns. It will last 3-4 years and cost up to 20 million Euros.


Approach arches of the Horchheim Bridge Note: the deck girder span on the far left is one of the main spans replacing the one destroyed in World War II

Horchheim Bridge- At a span of 312 meters long and 12.4 meters wide, this railroad bridge was built under the direction of Karl Heinrich Gispert Gilhausen in 1879 and consisted of a half pony-half deck iron arch bridge, built in three spans, with approaches consisting of four spans of concrete deck arches each. The contraption of the main spans resembled the span found at the Levensau Bridge, spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal west of Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein. As part of the plan to use this bridge exclusively for rail traffic and the Pfaffendorf Bridge for vehicular traffic, the bridge was widened in 1933 so that there were two lanes of rail traffic instead of one. Sadly the main spans became a pile of rubble and twisted metal in 1945 and a temporary bridge was erected two years later to help resume rail traffic, but only one lane. This bridge was replaced with a permanent structure in 1961, consisting of a steel deck girder bridge built on the piers of the 1879 span. The bridge has two lanes of rail traffic and a sidewalk for people to walk across the Rhine. It was reconstructed after structural concerns in 2009 and now is incorporated into the city’s bike trail system. As for the approach spans- the deck arches, they are still up and in service and can be seen directly from the boat going down the river.

Reference to the Levensau Bridge near Kiel: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levensauer_Hochbr%C3%BCcke


Gülsbrücke- Located at the westernmost end of Koblenz, this railroad bridge is a distant cousin of the Horchheim Bridge in terms of its type, a three-span iron arch bridge over the Mosel River that was built a year before the other bridge. Both bridges serve a stretch of railroad that started in Berlin and ended in Metz (France), stopping at Magdeburg and going through parts of northern Thuringia and Hesse. While sections of it have been abandoned, this stretch is still in operation as rail service stops at various places along the Mosel, providing tourists with some awesome views of the river valley and the villages located at the water. The bridge was reconstructed to better serve traffic in 1925, but sustained significant damage during the war that warranted repairs in 1947 and later renovations in 2000. While I did not have a chance to visit the bridge for time reasons, a link to this bridge is enclosed here: http://en.structurae.de/structures/data/index.cfm?id=s0036005




Neuwied Bridge from Ehrenbreitstein Castle.

Neuwied Bridge: Located just 10 km northwest of Koblenz, this bridge may be a typical cable-stayed suspension bridge with a length of 485 meters (the spans are 235.2, 38.4 and 212 meters respectively). But what makes this 1978 structure special are the following: 1. The tower has an A-shaped pylon that  does NOT support the roadway. Turned sideways, the 46 cables suspended from the tower support it. This was the poster boy for another cable-stayed bridge built in a similar fashion over the Mississippi River at Alton, Illinois in 1993. That span has an I-shaped pylon and replaced a multiple-span truss bridge built in the 1920s. The Neuwied Bridge replaced a truss bridge built as a temporary crossing in 1951 and was demolished once the structure is open.  Another reason for adding this bridge here is the fact that the A-shaped tower is really tall- 91.8 meters tall to be exact. The bridge is tall enough that one can see it from the Ehrenbreitstein Castle on the hill. Given its proximity to Koblenz and its unique features, the Neuwied Bridge deserves to be honorably mentioned.

Münzplatz Skyway Bridge:  Located at the northwest end of the historically renowned Münzplatz overlooking the Mosel, this unique bridge features three stories of apartments spanning a narrow street and a mural which can be found on the outer end at the entrance. While it is unknown when the original bridge was built, it appears that it was a duplicate of a bridge that was destroyed in the war.

 Mosel Freeway Pedestrian Bridge: This structure was built in 2004 to span the main highway and interchange and features a unique cable-stayed designed. In the middle there is a tower which supports four spans in each direction. This is a rather interesting design, but one whose examples can be seen elsewhere.

The Seilbahn from Deutsche Eck

But probably the most elegant of the crossings can be found with the cable car (German: Seilbahn) between the Deutsche Eck and Ehrenbreitstein Castle. Constructed for the BUGA, the cable car crossing not only provides the tourist with direct access to the castle on the hill from the old town, but it gives them a spectacular view of the city of  Koblenz, the Rhein and Mosel Rivers and all the places in between. It takes approximately 5-10 minutes to go in one direction and is expensive to go there, yet the money paid for the trip is well worth it.

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