Mystery Bridge 20: The bridge that used to house a bike shop

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Photos taken in May 2010

Flensburg, Germany. Located at the German-Danish border, the city of 90,000 inhabitants is home to two universities, a top-class handball team (SG Flensburg-Handewitt) and 800 years of history involving shipping and trade. It is deep in the heart of the Angel region, whose inhabitants invaded England in the 4th Century and became the first group to introduce the English language. There’s the local breweries of Hansen’s and the Flensburger, the latter of which have produced over a dozen types of beer that can still be tasted today.  And lastly, it is the birthplace of the rum industry, where over a dozen rum distilleries and another dozen sugar processing plants dominated the region up until the 1950s. The distilleries of Pott and Johanssen still exist today with over 300 years of tradition.

Then there are the bridges. Over a dozen bridges serve the city and a radius of 10 kilometers, much of them feature girder types like this one, the mystery bridge which can be found at the junction of Angelburger Strasse and the Suederhofenden at the southern tip of Flensburg’s city center.  It is unknown when it was built, except to say that because pony girder bridges were commonly used for railroad bridges during the first three decades of the 20th century, that it is assumed it was constructed in the 1920s. It used to serve a rail line connecting Flensburg’s railway station (located to the south of the city center) and the docking area (located in the vicinity of the Schiffsfahrtmuseum, Hansen’s brewery and a collection of clipper ships). This line has been abandoned for some years and with that, the bridge, one of at least six serving the spur, is still in tact.

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V-laced truss bracing that supports the bridge’s decking

Now why choose a girder bridge like this one, apart from its unusual truss railings resembling a Howe truss style and the bottom truss bracing resembling V-lacing which can be seen while walking under the structure? Have a look at the following photos taken while visiting Flensburg in 2010 and take a wild guess, asking why the northern abutment is what it is in the picture:

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FL Up1FL Up4After looking at the northern abutment, one is probably asking whether it is possible to house a business or residence in the abutment. While it may be inconceivable in the United States, it is common in Germany and other places in Europe. In places like Berlin, Halle (Saale) and Frankfurt (Main), one can see many businesses embedded in the brick or concrete abutment and wall with trains passing over them without incident. The reason is simple: the population density which makes this move a necessity and the proximity to railway stations and other important points where people can board the trains provide it with an opportunity to catch any passers-by. Judging by the appearance on the abutment at the railroad underpass in Flensburg- with the words “Fahrräder” above the entrance and window, which was walled in, and the bike wheel facing the street passing under the bridge- it appears that the northern abutment of the railroad used to have a bike business. The question is, when was the area abandoned and why. Furthermore, were the original inhabitants the Petersens, whose bike business is now located up the hill at Hafermarkt 19, approximately 300 meters east of the bridge? And lastly, why was the northern abutment of the bridge holed in to create a business in the first place? Who was the mastermind behind this scheme?

Before touring Flensburg’s bridges, the Chronicles is gathering information on the bridge’s history. If you have any information on this bridge that will be useful, please contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at You can also add your comments and facts about the bridge under Comments at the end of this article or on the Bridgehunter’s Chronicle’s facebook page.  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is an online column that focuses on historic bridges, with a specialty in solving mysteries of such historic bridges like this one in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

While in Flensburg, there is another bridge whose information is lacking and will be shown in the next Mystery Bridge article. Stay tuned and enjoy the rum and the discussion on this bridge.

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