The 75th mystery bridge in the Chronicles takes us to a small but empty town of Beloit, in northwestern Iowa. Located on the Big Sioux River just east of Canton, Beloit was founded in the 1880s and was once a bustling community of almost 2,000 inhabitants. It used to be famous for its state children’s orphanage. Founded in 1890, the orphanage owned over 400 acres of farm land and had cared for over 1000 boys and girls ages 12 and under before closing down in 1944 and relocating to Ames in 1949. Augustana College was also located in Beloit for awhile before moving first to Canton and eventually to its current location in Sioux Falls, 30 miles up the river. Beloit was also a railroad hub, having served passengers coming in from Sioux Falls, Sioux City and even Rock Rapids. With all of them now gone, the community that used to have over 2,500 inhabitants (counting the orphans and college students) has now become a ghost town with not more than 20 residents living there and a lot of empty and dilapidated buildings and places that used to hold fond memories of what Beloit used to be like back in days of horse and buggy as well as the railroad.
Many people connected with Beloit in one way or another may be familiar with the Beloit Bridge, our mystery bridge. Located over the Big Sioux River, this bridge was the lone crossing serving Beloit for almost 80 years, yet little is known of who built it, how long it was and whether there was a predecessor- either a wooden/iron bridge or a ferry. We do know that the bridge was a Pennsylvania through truss with M-frame portals thickened with V-laced bracings, and pinned connections. It was built in 1897 and for 74 years, served traffic in the community. It is unknown how long the bridge was but estimates point to somewhere between 200 and 300 feet for the main span plus the approach spans. Records show that anyone going across the bridge faster than a walk was fined $10, which is equivalent to $300 in today’s standards. A plaque used to exist on the portal bracings, as seen in the picture below, and its design matches that of a handful of bridge builders that had once populated the state with through truss bridges. This includes A.H. Austin, Clinton Bridge and Iron Works, and King Bridge Company. Given the high number of Pennsylvania truss bridges built in the state, all money is being bet on Clinton, but research and a lot of luck is needed to confirm this. The plaques were removed in the 1940s and have not been seen ever since. Perhaps with the closure of the orphanage, they were simply taken off the portals and given to someone as a keepsake ornament.
But what else do we know about the bridge? The dates of its existence and its connection with Beloit is clear. But who built the structure and was there one before that? If you have pictures and information that will be of some help, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles and share some stories. The Beloit Bridge has a key role in the existence of a once thriving farm community and one that brought children, college students and even visitors together during its rather short existence. While we know a lot about Augustana College and the children’s home, plus many historic buildings that served customers, this bridge is definitely part of the community’s heritage and through your help, we can solve the mystery of the bridge that connected Beloit with the outside.
Four-span Camelback through truss reopened to traffic after a two-year rehabilitation program.
BLOOMINGTON, MINNESOTA (USA)- The people of the City of Bloomington wanted their bridge back. People attached to the bridge wanted it back. Developers of the Mall of America Expansion Project wanted their bridge back. Now, after a two-year project and being closed down to all traffic for 14 years, the Long Meadow Bridge, spanning the lake bearing its name at the site of Old Cedar Avenue, is back. Since last weekend, the 860-foot long bridge, built by the Illinois Steel Company in 1920, has been opened to cyclists and pedestrians, thus restoring the key link between Bloomington and Burnsville. The project was part of the plan to provide better access to the Mall of America, where over $9 million was spent on the project. Upon first observations of the bridge in 2011, the question remained just how this mammoth of a task was to be completed. Here is a short summary of how it was done:
The Bridge before the Project (Photos taken by the author in 2011)
The lower stringers were removed from the bridge, thus leaving the truss superstructure as a skeleton. They were replaced with new, modern ones with thick I-beam frames that would withstand the extremeties. The original ones were so corroded that they could not be salvaged. In addition, the piers and footing of the bridge were replaced. This was done by lifting the bridge span onto towered scaffolding, allowing the workers to replace the gusset plates, lower beams and the piers themselves. All of the gusset plates and most of the piers and abutments were replaced, thus giving the bottom half of the bridge a new modern form. Once the bridge spans were placed back onto the newly built piers, new concrete decking was added, as well as new coat of paint on the trusses, and finally new railings and lighting. A photo gallery of the whole project, courtesy of the City of Bloomington, can be seen in detail by clicking here. However, a few pics from the gallery were taken out to show a preview of how the project was completed.
With the bridge open to traffic, people will once again have the opportunity to use a historic structure for their own use- observing wildlife, walking with family, biking or even shopping if they wish to visit the Mall of America. It has revitalized the historic Cedar Avenue Route, which includes the Minnesota River crossing. But more importantly, the project shows that with a lot of political effort, combined with financial resources and technical know-how, even the most difficult issues can be resolved without having to scrap a piece of history to waste. Such problems on other bridges would have warranted their demolition and replacement. However, the city of Bloomington, the state of Minnesota, and many people attached to the bridge stuck together to the very end, withstanding all possible opposition and hesitancy, to make sure that the bridge is brought back to it rightful owners, which is theirs. With this mammoth project behind them, comes the first accolades. Apart from its listing on the National Register, one of its first awards coming up is the Ammann Awards for Best Example of a Preserved Historic Bridge. It has just become the first candidate. Many more will come, but you have a chance to vote on it come December. Stay tuned. 🙂
This (and the next) Mystery Bridge takes us back to Lyon County, Iowa and a couple pictures I came across of this bridge, whose information is missing. Here’s the story behind the Golf Course Road Bridge (also known as Two Mile Bridge), located north of Rock Rapids:
During the Winter Break of 1998, I took my camera and did some bridgehunting along the Rock and Big Sioux Rivers, looking for the location of this bridge. As seen in the map below, the bridge used to span the Rock River north of the site of its replacement and the golf course. It was a seven-panel Pratt through truss bridge with riveted connections. The portal bracings are Lattice-style, consisting of two-storied rows of three rhombus Howes. 45° heel bracings are found at the bottom of the portals as well as at the overhead struts, which are V-laced. According to records from the Lyon County Highway Department, the date of construction is 1900, although given its age, it could be that it was constructed much earlier in the early 1890s, for at the turn of the century, most through truss bridges used one-row Howe Lattice portals, as well as portals with lettering, such as A, W or even M-frames. The total length of the bridge was 244 feet, 130 feet belonged to the main span.
Sadly, the bridge was replaced by its current structure, a three-span concrete girder bridge with a curved roadway, in 1980. Its total length was 300 feet and still today, serves county highway A 16, the main access to Rock Rapids and the golf course to the east of the Rock Rapids. The bridge was built on a new alignment and the old structure was removed once it was opened to traffic. The steel cylindrical piers can still be seen today as the area is now privately owned but controlled by wild overgrowth.
We still don’t know when exactly it was built or whether there was a previous structure in its place. The builder’s name was not mentioned in any of the county records, however newspapers and oral history can help solve this mystery. Can you help? Leave your comments here or contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles. The pic can be seen at the Historical Society as they too are looking for some information on the bridges in and around Rock Rapids. This includes the crossings to the south of town and between Rock Rapids and Doon. If you know of any bridges in that area as well as photos, you can contact the Chronicles as well and they will be added to this page, as well as forwarded to the museum.
In the meantime, if you want to visit what’s left of Two Mile Bridge, a map with some pics taken by the author are below:
1870s Whipple through truss bridge found after decades of abandonment
FORT RILEY, KANSAS- Finding bridge relicts is like going on a treasure hunt: You never know what you find until you open the box hidden for many years to see what’s inside and know more about the origins. Bridgehunting has become a popular hobby among historians, photographers and even those who enjoy the great outdoors, for when finding the bridge, you would like to find more information about it.
It can also be a curse, for when more people visit the bridge you find, the more likely the property owners will find ways to keep them off the land where the bridge is located, even if it means tearing it down. This was the case with the discovery of the Spring Hill Bridge in Warren County, Iowa. Within a year after I found the abandoned bridge, it was removed from the scenery for good. This was despite the fact that it was on a minimum maintenance road owned by the county.
With the discovery of the Clarks Creek Bridge near Fort Riley, Kansas recently, which has become of furor for discussion on its historic significance and design, there is hope that the bridge can be listed on the National Register of Historic Places; ideally restored for reuse. The bridge is located on an abandoned portion of Humboldt Road north of I-70. The structure was spotted via Googlemaps back in August, but it took the effort of Nick Schmiedler to get to the bridge to see for itself what it looked like.
And for him, he found a diamond in the rough that is now one of the bridge candidates for this year’s Ammann Awards. Here are some facts about this bridge that are of interest. The bridge is a Whipple through truss, constructed of iron and is between 120 and 170 feet long. The portal bracings are Town Lattice with curved heel bracings. A plaque on the bridge indicates the work of the King Bridge Company of Cleveland with a construction date of the 1870s. When exactly the bridge was built is unknown, yet this bridge could be the oldest Whipple through truss bridge built in the US, as most of King’s bridges up until now have dated back to the 1880s. Furthermore, most of King’s bridges built between 1875 and 1920 have consisted of Pratt through truss, thus making this spana rarity to find. It is unknown when the bridge was abandoned, but overgrowth has dominated the structure, thus making it difficult to photograph it. The bridge is on private property and there is no indication of whether and how the owners wish to preserve the bridge- not yet, that is.
Do you know more about this bridge? Click here to the bridgehunter.com website and post your comments. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles by using the e-mail address in the Contact Details. The more information needed, the more likely the bridge would warrant being posted to the NRHP, and furthermore, the more owners and other interested parties can take advantage of financial benefits and experts neededto restore the bridge. Some more pics taken by Mr. Schmiedler are below but you can find more on the bridgehunter website.
Bridge Removal in connection with the Abandonment of the Railroad Line between Gera and Wünschendorf via Liebschwitz. Current route to be detoured through Gera-Zwötzen
GERA (THURINGIA), GERMANY- It spanned the White Elster River on a rail line dating back to 1875. A historic icon for an former East German city that had once thrived on the textile and mining industries. Now, after 124 years in service, the Liebschwitz Viaduct, located in the south of Gera at the streets of Zoitz and Salzstrasse is being taken down. The Baltimore petit deck truss with Warren truss and deck girder spans is 226 meters long and had a total of eleven spans. The main spans over the White Elster and Salzstrasse featured a curve, which because of its one track limit, trains had to cross at slow speeds. According to information from the local newspaper OTZ, based in Gera, the bridge was opened to traffic on 1 December, 1892, serving the line between the suburb of Liebschwitz and the village of Wünschendorf, located 10 kilometers to the south of Gera. The bridge used to be a two-track crossing before the Soviets forced the local government to dismantle one of the tracks as part of the reparation costs associated with World War II. This practice occurred often in the Soviet-occupied zone, which became East Germany (German Democratic Republic) and resulted in one-track lines in many parts of the country. Thanks to little maintenance on the bridge, the structure, which had bolted and riveted connections, deteriorated bit-by-bit to a point where trains were traveling at a maximum speed of only 20 km/h by 2002.
By 2006, officials from the German Railways and the City of Gera were working on a plan to rehabilitate the bridge so that its lifespan would be expanded and it could better accomodate train servic between Gera and Plauen via Greiz. However, the cost of 10 million Euros ($12 million) to renovate the bridge proved to be too exorbitant. End result: rerouting the line through Gera-Zwötzen enroute to Wünschendorf, which included two-tracking theline, rehabilitating and reviving the Elster Crossing at the Zwötzen station, and abandoning the rail line, which includes decommisioning the stations Gera East and Gera Liebschwitz. The new route has just recently opened to traffic and officials at the German Railways just recently celebrated the decommissioning of the viaduct and the old line with vintage trains using them for the last time on 21 October. From December 14th onwards, all trains between Plauen and Gera will use the new route via Zwötzen. This includes Regional Express trains which will provide services to Hof, Saalfeld, Erfurt and Leipzig from Gera, respectively. Beginning in 2017, the tracks along the Liebschwitz line will be ripped out, and the viaduct, with its 124-year history, will become history at the hands of the wrecking crew. There has been no interested parties who have stepped up to take the viaduct, yet given its location, lack of interest on the part of the locals and the German Railways’ track record with historic bridges, chances are likely the bridge will disappear from the scene quietly. And with that, a 140-year history with a small piece of history.
A map with the location of the bridge and the new detoured rail line can be found here:
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is doing an upgrade of the tour guides of the bridge-laden regions the author visited, by relocating them to the wordpress version of the column and updating them with maps and information. This includes the series on the Bridges along the Baltic-North Sea Canal in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, which the author visited in 2011. Unlike the areavoices version, the tour will be done in reverse order starting with part I on the Grand Canal, followed by part II on the Rendsburg High Bridge, part III on the Alter Eider Canal, which runs parallel to the Grand Canal between Rendsburg and Kiel, and lastly, the bridges in Kiel, the state capital and where the canal empties into the Baltic Sea after a 90-km trip across the state.
Our first stop on the tour of the canal area in northern and central Schleswig-Holstein is the bridges along the Grand Canal itself, known as the Baltic-North Sea Canal (in German: Nord-Ostsee Kanal.To understand more about the canal, one has to look at the history of it, which is plentiful in color. We already know that the first canal followed the same path as the river Eider, swerving about like a snake through Knoop, Rathmannsdorf, Kluvensiek and Schinkeln, running parallel to the present day canal between Kiel and Rendsburg before taking a more northerly route in the direction of Friedrichstadt and Tönnern before emptying into the North Sea. As the decades wore on however, the boat traffic increased in size and volume and despite its unique construction, the canal locks, let alone the double-leaf bascule bridges built to cater to horse and buggy at that time, were no longer able to accommodate the marine traffic. Therefore beginning in 1887, engineers of the German Navy embarked on a plan to construct a newer and wider canal that would run straighter than the Alter Eider and on a shorter length than its predecessor so that in the end, the Grand Canal would flow southwesterly from Rendsburg, past Gruenental and Hochdonn, and emptying into the North Sea at Brunsbüttel, approximately 65 km south of Friedrichstadt. The length totalled 90 km, which is more than half the distance of the Eider Canal. While the canal was built as a means of providing a short naval route instead of going around Denmark, the Grand Canal today serves as a shortcut for the shipping and commerce.
Ten Bridges serve the Canal, including the Rendsburg High Bridge. Yet because of its historic and technical significance, a separate article accompanies this one as part of the series on the Bridges of the Grand Canal. The following profiles features bridges that you can see when travelling along the canal, going from Kiel to Brunsbüttel:
Prince Heinrich and Olympia Bridges: The twin bridges, with the identical shape and color are the first bridges to see when entering the Grand Canal from the Kiel side. They are located 700 meters from the first canal lock from the side of the Baltic Sea. Yet they have been together since 1996. Before that, there was a true landmark that was part of Kiel’s heritage. While the first bridge consisted of a combination of a pontoon and swing bridge, which opened to allow ships to pass, the 1912 truss and trestle bridge replaced the 17-year old temporary structure. It was one of the first architectural artwork designed by Friedrich Voss, the same person who built the Rendsburg High Bridge (which will be discussed in a separate article), and the Friedrichstadt Arch Bridge (which you will find here). The 320 meter long bridge featured two deck trusses supported by steel trestles resembling a bow tie and a 110 meter long subdivided Warren through truss with riveted connections and a V-frame portal bracing (also subdivided). A link with post cards of the bridge can be found here. While the bridge sustained substantial damage during World War II, it was repaired and served as a single lane bridge connecting Kiel and its suburb Holtenau until 1972, when an additional bridge was deemed necessary as part of the plan to convert the road into an expressway. The Olympia Bridge was 150 meters longer than Prince Heinrich, yet the decision on which bridge type to build remains to this day a controversial subject. While the majority of the residents favored an identical truss design, their plea fell on deaf ears as the Kiel city council voted for a steel deck girder bridge. For 19 years, the two bridges served traffic, with the Olympia Bridge serving traffic going to Holtenau; Prince Heinrich going to Kiel. Yet due to extreme corrosion on the truss bridge, the two communities voted unanimously in 1990 to replace the 1912 bridge with an identical deck girder bridge. Again the decision was against the will of the majority who favored a cable-stayed bridge instead of the design chosen by then state representative Gerhard Stoltenberg. The truss bridge was demolished during the summer of 1992. During the dismantling process, the eastern approach span collapsed on its own in August, taking two cranes with. Fortunately no one was injured. As soon as the bridge was removed, the replacement span was built, taking 58 months complete. Reason: design and construction flaws combined with increasing costs resulted in delays in its construction and impatience among the Kiel city council. Yet when the new span was completed, the bridge resembled its sister span the Olympia Bridge. Since 1997, both bridges have been serving the expressway connecting Kiel and Holtenau with the replacement bridge serving the role once taken by Prince Heinrich. Yet for many in Kiel, the bridges serve as an eyesore for the decision to build a modern bridge was against their will for they wanted something that the city can be proud of and not something bland. The aesthetics of the bridge today are questionable even from the author’s point of view, but if there is a consolation, the bridges serve as a marker
Located just 10 km west of the Olympia and Prince Heinrich Bridges, this bridge is unique because of its unique design. Made of steel, this bridge features a half-pony and half deck arch design. Built in 1894 by Hermann Muthesius, it used to feature a through truss design in a form of a Howe design. Its decking featured rail traffic between Kiel and Flensburg for the eastern half and vehicular traffic for the western half. A picture of the bridge can be found here. Yet, as mentioned in the bridge quiz a few weeks ago, the bridge became a safety hazard by the early 1950s, as collisions at the portal entry were the norm- in many cases with injuries involved. Henceforth, beginning in 1952 and lasting for two years, the through truss portion and the concrete portal entries were removed, the roadways were reallocated and separated with a barrier to ensure through traffic and better passage, additional steel supports were added to the deck arch sections, and the entire bridge was stripped down to resemble its present form today. The stripped down version of the Levensau Bridge was reopened to traffic in 1954 and continued to be the lone link between Kiel and Levensau for another 20 years. An additional bridge was added to relieve the bridge of heavy masses of traffic in 1974. The bridge still remains in use, yet its days will soon be numbered. Plans are in the making to demolish the bridge and replace it with a tied arch span as part of the plans to widen and deepen the Grand Canal. Specifically, the new span will be built on top of the old span, which will then be dismantled one-by-one until only the abutments are left. They will be preserved and used as observation points as well as a place of habitats for a rare species of bats that exist inside. At present, no work has been done on the bridge due to funding and regulatory issues. Yet when the green light is given, the project is expected to be completed with three years.
Rendsburg’s Highway Bridge and Tunnel:
About a third of the way down the canal we come to Rendsburg, a city of 30,000 that once prided itself on the cast iron industry, but is now simply a tourist trap. Rendsburg is a rather quiet community with friendly people who enjoy talking about its heritage and history. And the city should be proud of it, especially when it comes to its bridges. Several bascule bridges were erected over the Alt Eider Canal in and around Rendsburg, most of which were built by the cast iron company Carlshütte (for more information, please refer to Part I and the Kluvensiek Bridge). Yet as iron became a fad of the past thanks to the coming of steel, so was the canal itself as the Grand Canal replaced it and effectively made these bridges obsolete. Today another landmark overshadows the city, which we’ll talk about in the next article with the Rendsburg High Bridge, yet two other crossings existed over the Grand Canal: The City Tunnel and the Europe Bridge. The City Tunnel was built in 1961, replacing the steel swing bridge, built using a cantilever truss design. That bridge featured two spans, each with a turning wheel, that would turn outwards to allow ships to pass. Because of the traffic congestion along the main street going through Rendsburg which the bridge carried, combined with the rust and corrosion and the hindrance of marine traffic, that bridge was taken out of service in favor of two tunnels, each one carrying one-way traffic. Two additional tunnels for bikes and pedestrians were added in 1965. At the same time of the construction of the tunnel, plans were approved to construct an Autobahn-Bridge spanning the Grand Canal. The 1491 meter long bridge (with a 221 meter main span) was christened the Raderbrücke (or Europabrücke), as it not only connected Flensburg and Hamburg via A7, but it created the longest Autobahn in not only Germany (at 961 kilometers in length), but Europe, connecting Flensburg with Füssen in Bavaria, but Scandanavia (namely Kolding, Aalborg, Copenhagen and Stockholm) with the Alps region (and with it, Austria and Switzerland). The bridge has been serving traffic since its opening in 1972. However, plans are in place to replace the entire structure to better accommodate Motorway A7 beginning in 2018. A new span will be built alongside the current one, which after that bridge is open to traffic, will be torn down and replaced. All in all, two bridges with three lanes in each direction will be in service by 2026.
Oblique view of Grünental Bridge. Photo taken in 1987 by Rainer Butenschön, used with permission
Located near the town of Beldorf, this 1892 structure, featuring a half through and half arch bridge and serving a local road and railroad line. Little has been mentioned about this bridge except for the fact that it is most likely the second bridge built along the canal by Hermann Muthesius, the same person who built the Levensau Bridge near Kiel. Furthermore, it was one of two bridges in Schleswig-Holstein that carried both vehicular and rail traffic (the Heide- Neumuenster Line). The Lindaunis Schlei drawbridge is the other bridge. The bridge served traffic for 92 years before severe rust and corrosion on the superstructure led to first a severe weight restriction, forbidding trucks from using the bridge, later the German Railways to cease train service across the bridge, and finally its eventual replacement with the present structure, a Warren through truss bridge with no vertical beams. The arch bridge, deemed unsafe even for pedestrian use, was taken off its foundation using two massive cranes in 1988 and cut up and hauled away for scrap metal. Only the brick abutments, once used as portal entrance before its partial demolition in 1952, remain as observation decks. Unique is the fact that the state shield of Schleswig-Holstein, made of iron, can be seen while passing under the new bridge.
Main span of Hochdonn Bridge. Photo taken by Rainer Butenschön. Used with permission
Featuring Warren deck truss approaches supported by steel bowtie-like trestle towers and a Camelback Warren through truss main span over the canal, the 2218 meter long Hochdonn Viaduct cannot be missed while travelling along the Grand Canal. Built between 1913 and 1920, this bridge is possibly the third bridge built by Friedrich Voss, who had previously built the Prince Heinrich Bridge near Kiel in 1912 and the Rendsburg High Bridge , one year later. It replaced a swing bridge located west of Hochdonn, which was removed and replaced with a ferry today. Since its opening in 1920, the bridge has been serving rail traffic between Hamburg and the Island of Sylt, located at the German-Danish border. The only work done on this bridge was between 2005 and 2008, when the deck truss trestle spans were rehabilitated and the 42 meter high main span was replaced with a replica of the original bridge. In historic standards, it would have compromised the bridge’s historical integrity, but given the circumstances, and the fact that the truss swapping was necessary because the original span sustained severe corrosion making the rehabilitation impossible, it was deemed necessary to carry out this work while keeping the bridge’s integrity in tact. It has worked, as the bridge is still considered historically significant on the state level. A link with detailed photos of the bridge can be found here.
Deck truss approach spans. Photo taken by Rainer Butenschön, used with permission
The last two bridges crossing the canal are not only the westernmost bridges, but they serve the main artery connecting Hamburg and the Island of Sylt, passing through the cities of Itzehoe, Husum and Heide. The Hohenhorn Viaduct, built in 1989, is the younger of the two bridges, and serves the Autobahn motorway 23, which connects Heide and Hamburg. It was built as a relief to the main highway 5, although stretches of them have been replaced by the motorway since then. It still serves traffic today. The 390 meter long bridge features a similar main-span steel cantilever bridge to that of the Europa Bridge, but it one of the shortest bridges along the canal.
At 2831 meters long, the Brunsbüttel Bridge, the last bridge before approaching the North Sea, serves the Main Highway 5, which runs along the North Sea coast. Built in 1983, the bridge, which featured a Warren through truss main span and two deck girder approach spans, is not only the longest bridge over the Grand Canal, but it is also one of the longest bridges in Germany. Given the landscape where the bridge is located, the bridge can be easily seen from a distance of as far as 10 kilometers in both directions.
To sum up the tour of the Bridges along the Baltic-North Sea Canal, the canal is rich in history, not only in its construction and how the towns profited from it, but also the bridges that either used to cross it or still cross it. There are many bridges in shapes and sized that a person can see. Yet there is one bridge that was left out of all this, which we will get to as we approach Part II: The Rendsburg High Bridge.
Here’s a map with the complete guide of the bridges along the Baltic North Sea Canal, which features both the Grand Canal and the Alt Eider, which the former supplanted. This includes both the Rendsburg High Bridge, which will be in part II and the Alt Eider, which will be in part III. Kiel is not included in the map as there is a separate one, but will be featured in Part IV.
Special Thanks to Rainer Butenschön for the photos of the Hochdonn and Grünental Bridges and for allowing the author to use a couple of them for this article.
Located seven km (or four miles) south of the fourth largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, Husum, at the junction of the Eider and Treene Rivers, seven kilometers inward from the North Sea, Friedrichstadt appears to be a typical small town in the northernmost state of Germany with rows of small houses, farmland scenery with cattle and sheep grazing in the fields, and people greeting each other with “Moin! Moin!”. The town prides itself on its tourism and the typical specialties with fish, just like the rest of the cities up north. But Friedrichstadt also prides itself on its history and multiculture. Founded in 1623 by King Friedrich III and despite surviving four wars with its neighbors plus persecution of certain races, Friedrichstadt is one of the cultural points of interest, where large groups of Dutch, Frisans, Danes, Jews and Germans speaking northern dialects have lived for almost 400 years. It was a center commerce point for trade with empires from Russia, Scandanavia and Prussia, but is now a tourist attraction, where thousands of tourists from over 100 countries visit every year.
The town was built using Amsterdam as the ante-type, featuring canals that slice through the town of 2,300, but encircling its beloved Dutch-style houses, and like the Dutch capital, the city is loaded with bridges of different types and coming from different eras of time. Eighteen Bridges can be found in this city, including two major crossings over the Eider just outside the city limits and some key notables in the town itself. Each of the crossings can be reached by foot, by bike, or by boat, with most of them telling a story or having a picture showing its history, making the town proud of its history and heritage. While one can write a library about the town’s 18 bridges, which is unusual for small town standards (a town of that size could have 3-5 bridges on average pending on location), this guide shows you the most important bridges you will see when spending a few hours in this quiet but important historic town. Each bridge has a brief history, but photos for you to see, courtesy of not only yours truly, but also many contributors, who were willing to step forward to help. The credits will be provided at the end of the article. So without further ado, we’ll start with the outer edge of town with the two Eider Bridges and work our way towards the Treene.
Friedrichstadt Arch Bridge
Spanning the Eider River at the southwest end of town, this bridge represents one of the finest works of Friedrich Voss, who had constructed six bridges along the Baltic-North Sea Canal, including the Rendsburg High Bridge. Built in 1916, three years after the world-renowned bridge was open to rail traffic, the Friedrichstadt Arch Bridge features three spans- the center span being a two-part draw bridge; the outer spans being steel through arch bridges. Up until the 1950s, it was a toll bridge, where money was gathered based on the size of the vehicles and the goods being carried across. That means one could pay 400 Pfennig for driving a truck across but only 20 Pfennig when walking across. The tolls have long since been lifted and the draw bridge span is seldom used nowadays, the bridge has received its regular wear and tear as it serves traffic in and out of Friedirchstadt from the south, connecting the town with Heide. It just recently celebrated its 100th anniversary with a marathon and other celebrations. Despite being renovated only once (in 2006), the bridge still can handle a sizeable amount of traffic today and is expected to continue to do so.
The Friedrichstadt Railroad Bridge
This bridge is one of the more popular structures in Schleswig Holstein and northern Germany. First built in 1887, the bridge featured multiple-span truss bridges with a swing span at the river crossing, with the purpose of providing passengers with rail service between Hamburg and the Island of Sylt, located in the North Sea at the Danish Border. The first bridge featured five bowstring arch spans on the north end of the Eider, followed by two Whipple through truss spans that were separated by a bowstring arch span, as shown in the picture below:
In 1908, the spans were replaced, one by one with another set of trusses, which featured from south to north one Pennsylvania through truss with A-frame portal bracings, one bowstring arch swing span, another Pennsylvania through truss and five polygonal Warren through truss spans. Photographer H.D. Kienitz provided a diagram of what the spans looked like below:
Five years later, an identical was built alongside the 1908 bridge and for 74 years, the bridge provided two-way traffic before a major reconstruction job took place in 1987 and lasted seven years. It consisted of replacing the bowstring arch swing span with a polygonal Warren through truss swing span that was operated electronically and removing the 1908 span in its entirety, reducing the number of tracks on the railline to only one. This is what the bridge looks like before and after the facelift:
The Friedrichstadt Railroad bridge still serves traffic today, which consists of the NOB Train services, which stops regularly at Friedrichstadt, and the InterCity lines, which starts at Westerland on the Island of Sylt and runs through Hamburg going to destinations in the south. It is unknown whether there will be another two-track bridge built at this site soon. It depends on the number of passengers travelling through the western part of Schleswig-Holstein and the problem with bottlenecks at this site. Right now, with four national raillines and the options available for rail travel in the region, it appears unlikely. That might change in the five years….
Fast Fact:Apart from the InterCity line connecting Sylt and Hamburg, the three other national lines include Hamburg-Luebeck- Copenhagen (crossing the Fehmarnsund Bridge), Hamburg-Rendsburg-Flensburg-Kolding (crossing the Rendsburg High Bridge) and Hamburg-Neumuenster-Kiel, the latter two of which carry ICE-Train services, whereas the second and third lines have international connections to Scandanavia.
The Arch Bridges of Friedrichstadt:
It is unknown how many arch bridges were built during the time of the town’s infancy. But if one counts the Eider crossing, there are four arch bridges that still serve Friedrichstadt today, regardless of its shape and form. While there is little to no information about the Red Arch Bridge, located behind the main highway, as well as the modern arch bridge located near the police station (both in Ostersielzug), the most famous of the bridges is the Stone Arch Bridge, which is located at the eastern entrance to the market square. Built in 1773, the bridge is one of the oldest structures still standing in Germany. The one-span structure was renovated in 1981 by strengthening and widening it to provide traffic across the canal, which continues to do so today. It is one of the most photographed places in the town and provides tourists who eat at the ice cream parlor next to it with a picturesque background of the city.
Wooden Bridges in Friedrichstadt
It is unknown how many wooden bridges existed in Friedrichstadt, for they differed on location and design. But today there are at least four bridges remaining that were built made of wood, most of which feature triangular deck trusses supporting wooden support piers and three of which can be found along the northern Mitteburgwall canal, the same one where the Stone Arch Bridge is located. A pair of notable bridges should be noted here. The Middle Bridge, located next to the Stone Arch Bridge, is known as the Holmertor Bridge and featured a bascule bridge supported by a wooden tower, as depicted in a painting provided by the city. It was replaced at the end of the 19th century. The Kuhbruecke (Cows Bridge) is located at the mouth of the Treene adjacent to the Blue Bridge and is the third bridge located at the site. A lock is located right next to it and protects the town from flooding from the Treene River.
Blue Bridge. Photo taken by the author in 2012
The final bridge on this tour is the Blue Bridge. Located over the Treene River in the district of Westersielzug, this bridge is the only one in the city that features a double leaf bascule bridge, one of the most common types of bridges to be found in Schleswig-Holstein. Yet this bridge represents a historic symbol for the city as about a handful of these bridges were constructed in the 1800s, including this bridge which was recently profiled as a Mystery Bridge and is also in the running for the Ammann Awards. That bridge was located in the same district as the Blue Bridge, according to the City Archives. Serving as a gateway to the historic city center from the north (and the train station), the Blue Bridge was constructed in 1991 to serve as a historic marker to the bridges that have long since been lost. However, the main spans were lifted only once in its lifetime. Reason? While the plan was to use the Treene as a thoroughfare, it was blocked thanks to a fixed span located to the west of the bridge. Since then, the bridge practically serves as a fixed span, even though technically it is a bascule bridge. Nevertheless, it is mentioned a great deal through boat tours and other notes in the travel guides and is a treat to those wanting to visit Friedrichstadt.
Author’s Note: The fixed span mentioned here has been in service since the 1970s. Its predecessor was the Kreisbahnbrücke, a polygonal Warren pony truss bridge that used to carry trolly traffic to the city from the train station.
To sum up, Friedrichstadt is a city full of history and surprises, no matter which aspect one is interested in. The city has 18 bridges, which is unusual, however, each one tells a story, which is worth listening to or reading about when spending time there, regardless of bridge type and size. The city may be small, but its history and heritage makes Friedrichstadt a must-see place when visiting Schleswig-Holstein.
A map of the bridges is enclosed so you know of their location:
The author would like to thank Christiane Thomsen at the Friedrichstadt City Archives, Rainer Butenschoen, Dietrich Doose and H.D. Kienitz for their help in providing information and photos on the bridges in Friedrichstadt.