Mystery Bridge Nr. 83: The Twin Bridges of Salisbury, CT

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Postcard courtesy of Dana and Ray Klein

After some time looking at the mystery bridges in the German state of Saxony, our next Mystery Bridge takes us back to the United States and the community of Salisbury in northwestern Connecticut. With a population of 3655 inhabitants, the town, incorporated in 1741, is part of the New York Metropolitan Region, which encompasses the entire state. Salisbury is laden with many historic buildings dating back to the time of its incorporation, some are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Because of its proximity to Mount Frissell in Massachusetts, the community is situated on the highest point in the state, with an elevation of 2380 feet above sea level. And lastly, the community has six lakes and several ponds. And with that come many bridges, although in high numbers.

And with the high number of bridges in the community, come the difficulties of finding rare structures and mystery bridges with missing information, like these two bridges in the postcard above.

Posted recently on bridgehunter.com by Dana and Ray Klein, one can see clearly that the bridge on the left was for pedestrians- on the right for horse and buggy and later, the Model T cars. The setting is around the turn of the century because of their design and appearance. Given the high number of trees and the given facts above, the twin bridges spanned a waterway connecting a pair of lakes and/or ponds. The question here is where exactly the bridge is located.

A closer look at the two bridges show that the material used for construction was clearly iron (most likely, cast iron), for two reasons:

  1. The pedestrian bridge features a curved design, namely curved endposts, and appears to have some artistic designs on the trusses, similar to the ones found at Central Park in New York City. These bridges were built in various areas between 1865 and 1880. It’s unknown what exactly the truss type was given the transversal view in the postcard.
  2. The vehicular bridge featured a Parker pony truss span, using the earliest design by C.H. Parker when it was patented in 1884. The connections were pin-connected, but unlike other regular Parker designs built after 1890, the upper chord consists of eyebar beams built in short lengths per panel with four or five put together. The vertical and diagonal beams are integrated into this mechanism and pins are used to connect all of them. In the picture, you can see how far apart they are, in comparison with conventional pin-connections, whose vertical beams are inserted into the upper chord, and pins are used solely for the diagonal beams. When Parker introduced his design, wrought iron was already being used, even though it was being phased out in favor of steel because of its flexibility and tolerance to heat. From 1890 onwards, all truss bridges were being built using this material. Therefore, because iron was used for circular designs and ornaments, in comparison to steel used for other geometrical shapes, such as rectangular ones, the bridge was built between 1885 and 1890.

Both bridges are long gone, but it would be curious to know the following questions:

  1. Where were the bridges located?
  2. When were the bridges built? The Parker was most likely between 1885 and 1890, while the pedestrian span was built before 1885.
  3. Who built the bridge?
  4. What were the dimensions of the two bridges?  For both, it appears to have the length of between 40 and 70 feet. The pedestrian span had a width of between 10 and 20 feet; the vehicular one, between 15 and 25 feet.
  5. When were they removed? Most likely because of the progressive development of the infrastructure combined with population growth, they were gone before 1960 latest, unless they were relocated. If relocated, where could one see the bridge today?

Do you know about the bridges, then send the author a line or post the information on the Chronicles’ facebook page. You can also comment on bridgehunter.com, where the postcard came from. In either case, we would like to know more about the structures.

So happy bridgehunting! 🙂

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Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge: A Unique Cable-Stay Along the Mulde

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Wolkenburg (Saxony)/ Limbach-Oberfrohna/ Glauchau- The last of the three bridges profiled here that is debuting along the Zwickauer Mulde is the Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge. Before going further with this bridge, we need to clarify what this bridge looks like as well as its aesthetic value. The current structure, open since May Day this year is actually a cable-stayed suspension bridge, a bridge type where suspenders actually support the roadway from the tower. When looking at them from an American’s point of view, cable-stayed bridges are bland in appearance, ranking them up there with concrete slab/girder bridges that represent a sour taste to the land-/ or even cityscape. This can be best exemplified with two bridges that come to mind: The Fort Steuben and the Russell-Ironton Bridges. Both of them spanned the Ohio River; both of them have the characteristic A-frame tower, whose cables support the roadway; both of them replaced historic bridges that had a lot of characteristic and aesthetic appeal but were neglected by the department of transportation in a successful bid to have them replaced. Both of them have been demolished, leaving nothing but documentation on websites owned by James Baughn and Nathan Holth, respectively. Both bridges are prone to having problems in the short-term involving the cables and the roadway because, like other modern bridge types, there is too much (heavy) traffic using it. We’re even seeing it with a pair of bridges in Germany, which will be mentioned later on.

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But while these cable-stayed bridges are being looked down upon like the other concrete spans in America, pursued by Donald Trump and Elaine Chao with some statues of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and a new quasi-national flag of the US (sorry, I have to be sarcastic with this analogy), cable-stayed bridges in Europe, from an outsider’s point of view, can be viewed as a treat, especially for pedestrians and cyclists using them while on the bike trail. One in three cities in Germany has at least one of this type. And while there are some standard examples that exist, most of the cable-stayed bridges we find here are designed in such an unusual way, that they are screaming for people to stop by to pay homage; whether it is because of tilted towers, curved or even rounded roadways, ….

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or in the case of this bridge, a single tower that is leaning outwards towards the river bank, whose primary cables- all draped over a pointed tower- are supporting the deck. The deck itself has a pony girder approach span with a Warren pony truss main span that crosses the Zwickauer Mulde.

 

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The bridge replaced a century-old structure that consisted of a wire suspension bridge, going by the textbook guidelines that were created by another German engineer, John Roebling. Roebling’s concept was strands of thick wire that were spun together to create the main cables that were anchored between the towers and the ground anchors on shore. The best examples of his design were the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge (1869) and the Brooklyn Bridge (1883, though he died during its construction). The original Wolkenburg Bridge featured heavy cables  combined with vertical suspenders that supported the narrow walkway. The walkway itself was fenced with heavy wire but not trussed like one will see in many suspension bridges today, such as the Golden Gate Bridge or the suspension bridges in New York designed by Othmar H. Ammann.

 

Flooding in 2013 caused extensive damage to the bridge’s roadway and cables to a point where officials in Limbach-Oberfrohna, where Wolkenburg is part of the conglomerate, as well as local officials decided to demolish the bridge, including the tower, which was arched and made of concrete. It took more than three years, combined with lots of money and politicking before the conglomerate let the contract to the firm of Iroplan, based in Chemnitz, and its architect, Klaus Lenz, to build a new bridge at the site of the old one.

 

Construction started in 2016 with the leaning tower and foundations. The roadway was assembled offsite, featuring sliding and welding connections, judging by the author’s observations during his visit. The roadway was lifted into place by crane in November that year, and after attaching the cables between the tower and the roadway, the bridge was completed. What was not completed at the time of the visit in March were the roadway leading to the bridge, the dike to keep the water in the river, and painting the bridge. The bridge was still grey and silver.  The cost for constructing the 80 meter long and two meter wide cable-stayed bridge was 1.2 million Euros.

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After many delays and headaches, people have their bridge back. At the May Day opening, where many people participated, mayor Jesko Vogel led the opening with a bang, as cannons were fired and a historic theater group from Glauchau were on hand for some entertainment. Refreshments were provided by the fire department. While the suspension bridge will forever be in the memories of many who live in Wolkenburg, this bridge reopens a connection between Eichenwald Forest and the mill area, both are northeast of the historic city center. The bridge will be a new icon  for Wolkenburg, providing a picturesque view from the historic city center and its churches and castle on the hill. And contrary to common belief regarding cable-stayed bridges, the Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge serves as an example of a bridge of this kind that, if designed with a good aesthetic taste, can be used for any form of traffic,

 

even if this bridge is open for pedestrians and fishermen only.  😉

 

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Lunzenau Pedestrian Bridge Opens to Traffic

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Lunzernau Bridge in the final stages of construction. Photos taken in March 2017

One-of-a-kind bridge replaces a two-span bowstring arch bridge and re-establishes connection in small village in Saxony.

LUNZENAU/ GLAUCHAU- During my bike tour along the Zwickauer Mulde this year, I was greeted with new bridges that had replaced structures that were, on the one hand, damaged by flooding, but on the other hand, appeared bland and needed a makeover. After the Wernsdorf Wave near Glauchau, another bridge is making its debut, but one that restores a key connection in a small community that is nestled in a deep river valley and provides various recreational possibilities.

 

Enter the Lunzenau Pedestrian Bridge, also known to locals as Küblers Bridge.

 

This bridge is located on the north end of the town of Luzenau, just off the Mulde Bike Trail, located at Schaisdorfer Flur near Eichelberg.  Biking past the bridge back in March, the bridge was already installed in place and in the final stages of completion, which included constructing the approaches and adding lighting to the deck. Since 22 June, the bridge is now in use for pedestrians and cyclists, thus restoring a vital connection between Friedrichstraße where a couple factories had once stood, and Burgstädter Straße and the park and sports complex on the opposite end.

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Close-up of the truss span and wingwalls

The two-span, 75 meter bridge replaced a two-span bowstring through arch bridge that was built in 1889 and was christened the “Augustus-Johanna-Brücke,” named after the royal couple in Saxony at that time. The bridge was dedicated on 13 July that year and provided access to the factories located at Schaisdorfer Flur, where Friedrichstraße is now located. The structure had a Parker truss design with pinned and welded connections. The endposts were vertical- a rarity for bowstring Parker designs. The portal bracings consisted of a beam bent into a trapezoidal fashion, yet the struts have straight beams with 50° heel bracings. Despite being rehabilitated in the 1950s, the bridge had maintained its original form and continued use until it was damaged by floodwaters in 2013 and subsequentially condemned in December 2014. After securing funding for the project in May 2015, the contract was given in December that same year and in January, the project began with the removal of the truss spans with the crane and the demolition of the eastern approach spans and abutments. This was followed by rehabilitating the center pier and adding a new concrete foundation at the top to anchor the new spans at the center. The new approaches and abutments were built at the same time. In January of this year, the new spans were brought in by truck and installed with the crane. During my visit in March, the roadway had already been installed, as workers took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and tried finishing ahead of schedule.

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Close-up of the V-shaped towers and restored stone pier.

In terms of the bridge’s appearance, the structure, painted in red (trusses), white (railings) and blue (tower), is a real eye-opener that will surely become one of the town’s key landmarks. The bridge is a cantilever pony truss bridge, designed as a Warren truss, but having one tower, planted in the middle of the river, supporting the two spans that each extend to the abutments on the river bank. Its tower is V-shaped, extending outwards. The bridge had welded connections as the tubular steel beams were assembled together at the bridge-building firm before being carried to the bridge site by truck and put together by cranes.  The bridge’s design follows the examples of two bridges: the towers mimic those of the three cable-stayed bridges being installed in New York City; the cantilever truss follows closely to the Paradiesbrücke, a more ornamental but almost 120-year old structure that spans the same river but located upstream in Zwickau.  With the Lunzenau Bridge in service, we have two one-tower cantilever Warren truss bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde- a rarity in Europe and even North America- but the newer bridge is sleak and really colorful, an attraction that will get many bikers and pedestrians to stop by to pay a visit.

The dedication ceremony was met with very positive feedback as dozens gathered to cross this new bridge. This included members from the construction company that built the bridge, from the District Mittelsachsen, Mayor Ronny Hofmann and even Pastor Gerd Flessing who oversees the local church. “Without the funding, careful planning and participation of everyone in this project, this project would never have been realized,” said Hofmann in an interview with the Chemnitz Free Press. “This bridge is a real jewel and I’m thankful everyone had a chance to be involved in this.” That comment is completely true in that aspect. Those who chimed in on the structure got themselves a real gem that will be up for many awards for its design. The bridge will indeed gain from all who have seen it and recommended it to others.

 

This goes beyond my impressions of the bridge and my providing support for the town for this fine work. 🙂

 

Check out the town’s website, which has some details on its bridge and history.

 

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Wernsdorfer Welle Brücke Open To Bike Traffic

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Photo taken at the opening by Glauchau City

Vital link between Wernsdorf and Glauchau Restored with one of the most unique crossings along the Zwickauer Mulde

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GLAUCHAU (SAXONY)- The closing of the link between Glauchau and Mosel via Wernsdorf because of a bridge that was no longer usable due to flood damage was a hindrance for bikers using the Mulde Bike Trail. Construction of the bridge, which included the bridge’s removal took longer than expected due to unfavorable weather conditions and the reconstruction of the bike trail approaching the bridge. Despite all the complaints and confusion, even at the grand opening, the wait was worth it.

Dozens of people gathered on June 20 at the grand opening of the Wernsdorf Wave Bridge. The bridge spans the Zwickauer Mulde, approximately a half a kilometer west of the village of Wernsdorf, and three kilometers south of Glauchau. This is the third crossing in its history at the site, but one whose aesthetical value will cause bikers and bridge-lovers to stop for a break or even a photo opportunity. The bridge features a three-span suspension bridge, but one that is unlike any suspension bridge built to standards. The roadway is draped over the pylons, creating a wave-like setting when crossing the structure. Only a handful of these bridges exist in Germany, the nearest example being the Dragon Tail Bridge near Ronneburg, 30 kilometers west of Glauchau in eastern Thuringia.

From the top of the pylon to the bottommost part of the dip has a height difference of up to 2 meters. The entire length of the bridge is 110 meters with the width of the roadway being 5 meters. Because of the dimensions, no cars or other motorized vehicles are allowed to cross, which has caused some dismay for those wishing to access the neighboring towns of Dennheritz and Schlunzig, among them, seniors ages 65 and over, which represents the majority of the population of Wernsdorf and Dennheritz as well as nearly half of Glauchau’s population.

Yet despite this, having the Wernsdorf Wave Bridge will mean that cyclists will no longer have to share the road with automobile drivers between Schlunzig and Glauchau, especially in areas in and around the Reservior, where a lot of recreational activities are taking place during the summer, including swimming, hiking and many forms of sports activities including soccer. Furthermore, with the construction of the new Mulde crossing at Schlunzig, car drivers will have better access between Dennheritz and Wernsdorf, and places in the southern end of Glauchau. This is probably the reason behind the decision of Glauchau’s mayor Peter Dresler to designate the Wave Bridge for bikes, walkers and even equestrians!

But while that plan for autos is in the making, people driving past Wernsdorf will have a chance to see an attraction which is hoped will become one of the key signatures of not only Glauchau and Wernsdorf, but also along the Mulde. With the Wave Bridge being the third crossing open this year behind one at Lunzernau (near Penig) and Wolkenburg, the Mulde Bike Trail will have three new bridges in use, each one presenting a unique design that will not only cause many to stop and awe, but will change the landscape of the ccommunities they serve. The Wernsdorf Wave Bridge is one that brings three communities together, even if it is for recreational use. 😉

Click on the highlighted links in the text to look at photos of the ribbon cutting ceremony as well as some comments, courtesy of the Chemnitz Free Press and the tourist group Glauchau City. The map with the location of the bridge is below.

 

As for the other two bridges…….. 🙂

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 82: Bienertstrasse Bridge near Dresden, Germany

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Bienertstrasse Bridge in Dresden (suburb: Plauen). Photos taken in June 2017

Our next mystery bridge is a diamond in the rough, in a literal sense of the word. When travelling along the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate by train, one can find a lot of surprises along the way, especially as far as bridges are concerned. I have a couple tour guides in the making that prove this theory. Some of the surprises a person can see along the way are hidden and requires some bridgehunting, as was the case with Glauchau. But this mystery bridge was a one found purely by chance.

Located 1.5 hours east that city along the rail line, this bridge spans the Weisseritz River in the suburb of Plauen, located between Dresden and Freital, the former having jurisdiction. The street it carries is Bienertstrasse, and it is located 350 meters southeast of the S-bahn station Dresden-Plauen (light rail is the English equivalent).  The bridge is part of the local bike trail network that extends from Dresden through Freital and then through Rabenau Forest going uphill.

Looking at the structure itself, the bridge is a Howe lattice pony truss with welded connections. The endposts are vertical but have a slight curve towards the top, resembling a bottle with a thin rectangular block on top. There are curved gusset plates at the top and bottom chords as well as the mid-point in the panel where the diagonal beams intersect. Engraved geometrical designs are noticeable in the end posts, which if following the patterns of the truss bridge design, places the construction date to between 1880 and 1900. Yet postcards and old photos indicated that the bridge was built in 1893, replacing a brick arch bridge, which was washed away by flash floods. Despite 80% of the city being destroyed during World War II, much of which came with the infamous air raid of 13 February 1945, which turned the once Baroque city into a blazing inferno and wiped out 60% of the city’s population, this bridge retains its pristine form and is still open to traffic.

But for how long?

Already there has been talk about replacing this bridge because of the need to open another crossing and relieve traffic at the neighboring ones at Würzburger Strasse and Altplauen Strasse, each of which are 400 meters away from this bridge in each direction. The bridge had been damaged by the Great Flood of 2002, which wiped out every other bridge in its path and damaging one in three of the remaining crossings to a point where replacement was a necessity.  Given its proximity to the mountain areas and to Dresden, the Weisseritz is notorious for its flash floods, which has caused city planners to consider long-term planning to encourage the free-flow of water enroute to the Elbe River, 8 kilometers from the site of this bridge. Given the densely populated area of the suburbs lining along the Weisseritz, it would make the most sense. However, opponents of the plan to replace the Biernertstrasse Bridge disagree. Apart from its historic significance, many, including the German bike association ADFC, have claimed that there is not enough traffic to justify replacing the bridge. In addition, the bridge serves as a key link for bikers going to other suburbs or even to Dresden itself. Given the high number of cyclists pedaling their way around the metropolitan area, combined with an ever-growing network of bike trails, that argument is well-justified.

For now, the bridge is safe and open to cyclists and pedestrians. Yet it is unknown if this bridge will remain a fixed crossing or if it will be lifted 1-2 meters as was the case with the Red Bridge in Des Moines, or if it will be replaced. What may serve as insurance and keep the developers’ hands off the structure is listing it as a technical monument in accordance to the German Historic Preservation Laws.  Yet despite its unique design and the fact that the bridge was built in 1893, we don’t know who was behind the design and construction of this bridge. And therefore, we need your help.

What do you know about this bridge? What about its predecessor? Tell us about it. The photos and the map with the location of the bridge is below. 🙂

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Raymond and Campbell- Council Bluffs, Iowa

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Moscow Mills Bridge Photo taken by James Baughn in 2008

 

Another bridge builder worth mentioning and listing in the Bridge Builder’s Directory is a company based in Council Bluffs, Iowa named Raymond and Campbell. While only one bridge example remains which is credited to the name of the firm, multiple newspaper sources claimed that dozens of bridges were built  by this company during the last two decades of the 19th century, with more claimed to have been built by the company’s primary agent, George C. Wise, who later established his own business with his brothers. This included the bridges in Jackson County, Minnesota, one of the bridge builders’ primary customers. According to research done by the author for a bridge book on this topic, from 1883 until 1907, between 10 and 17 bridges were credited to the company’s name and to that of George C. Wise. This includes all but four crossings along the West Branch of the Des Moines river as well as those along the Little Sioux River. By 1955, all of them were replaced with current structures.

Yet the question we still have is what other counties and states did Raymond and Campbell do business with and how many bridges were built?  Before opening the question for forum and adding some examples to this article, let’s have a look at the history of the company and its primary agent, George C. Wise:

Little has been written about the company partly because there are only a few records of its existence.  However, the company was unique for the founders originated from the northern third of North America and migrated to Iowa to make their living there. E.W. Raymond (1842-?) originated from Lockport, NY and made his way down through Illinois, before settling in Council Bluffs in 1868. Charles Edward Henry Campbell (1850-1902) was a Canadian from Prince Edward Island, who immigrated to the US in 1867, eventually settling down in Omaha, located across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs. Together, the gentlemen founded the bridge building company in September 1874. It is unknown how long the company stayed in business, except the fact that Raymond and Campbell, during the 1880s, had employed about 50 workers and made over $200,000 worth of business.[1]  Apart from Mr. Wise, Raymond and Campbell did have an agent for a short time, who would later reach his fame in bridge building through constructing magnificent bridges and patenting his own truss bridge design. That gentleman was John Alexander Low Waddell, and much of his work still exists today. (Click on this link to see his profile)

As for the company’s primary agent,  George C. Wise, Raymond and Campbell hired him in 1875 as an agent for the upper Midwest. Born in Huntingdon County, PA in 1851, Mr. Wise served in the Army for five years, was involved in many military conflicts with Native Americans in Nebraska and Wyoming, as well as serving as an escort for the peace commissioners in brokering a truce with Sitting Bull and his Northern Sioux tribe in the Black Hills in July and August of 1875. Shortly after the peace agreement was signed, he was honourably discharged from the Army and emigrated to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he worked for Raymond and Campbell. According to the Pottawattamie County history books, Mr. Wise worked there until he established his own bridge building accounts and worked independently in 1883. He oversaw the construction of crossings in Minnesota and other places and even had his brothers join the business, some of whom continued the business after he retired from the business in 1907. George spent the rest of his life involved in public affairs in Council Bluffs until his death in 1916.

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Moscow Mills Bridge. Photo taken by James Baughn in 2016

The only known bridge that is still standing today is the Moscow Mills Bridge. Built by Raymond and Campbell in 1885, this Pratt through truss bridge with a three-layered combination of Town Lattice and X-frame portal bracings and pinned connections has a length of 214 feet (the main span is 177 feet). Closed for over a decade, the bridge is sitting idle with overgrowth covering the portal bracings and part of the top chord. Yet plans are in the making to convert this bridge into a recreational crossing in the future, as county officials would like to utilize the bridge as part of a city park. Before doing that though, the bridge will need to be rehabilitated and a new deck. This bridge is located over the Cuivre River on the east end of Moscow Mills in Lincoln County, Missouri.

 

Other examples of bridges built by Raymond and Campbell but no longer exist include the following (this is an ongoing list as more examples will be added here.)

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North Bridge in Jackson, MN  Photo courtesy of the Jackson County Historical Society

State Street (a.k.a. North) Bridge in Jackson, MN:  Spanning the West Fork Des Moines River at State Street and Ashley Park, this bridge has had its own history which could easily be written into a booklet and sold at the County Historical Society. The bridge was unique because it was the first structure built over the river in Jackson. It was rebuilt seven times over the course of 150 years, counting the current structure. Three of which were credited to Raymond and Campbell and especially to George C. Wise, who was the county’s primary provider of bridges. The first structure was built during the winter of 1866/67,  using oak pile and hewn wood courtesy of Welch Ashley. It lasted only a couple months as it was destroyed in an ice jam. It was rebuilt later that year and lasted 12 years until a contract was awarded to Raymond and Campbell to build a new structure in 1879. The iron structure measured 194 feet and had a width of 22 feet. It survived less than two years as flooding and an ice jam took out the structure in March 1881. It was one of several bridges along the river that was destroyed that spring. The county contacted Wise again for a fourth structure, which was built later that summer. The structure only lasted 15 years and Wise was asked to build a stronger structure in 1896, which upon its completion, featured a Pratt through truss with M-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. The bridge was a permanent fix, providing access to the east and north of Jackson for 58 years. The bridge used to carry two primary highways (US 71 and 16) until it was realigned through a new crossing at the junction of Springfield Parkway and Third Street (near the now demolished St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church) in 1924. That bridge eventually was relocated to the site of the last Wise structure in 1955, after city officials revealed that the bridge was no longer able to carry traffic because of structural issues. The North Bridge was the site of many accidents and stories involving floods and ice jams, yet inspite of its checkered history, it was only one of a few rare stories of bridges built either by Raymond and Campbell, George C. Wise or both. This one clearly belongs to the third category, especially as Wise continued to have Jackson County as its primary customer until his retirement in 1907.

 

 

 

Source page:

[1] Waddell, Dr. John Alexander Low and John Lyle Harrington. “The Principal Professional Papers of Dr. J.A.L. Waddell” unpublished manscript. Downloaded from Google Books Online 10 November, 2008; Keatley, John H. “The History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa.” Council Bluffs, IA, 1883, p. 50  Downloaded from Google Books Online 10 November, 2008. Stewart, James: E-mail correspondence, 10 November, 2008,  Roenfeld, Ryan of the Pottawattamie County Historical Society: E-mail correspondence 29 October, 2008.

[2] Roenfeld, Ryan of the Pottawattamie County Historical Society: E-mail correspondence 29 October, 2008; Stewart, James: E-mail correspondence, 10 November, 2008; George C. Wise obituary Pottawattamie County Genealogy. Obtained on 3 November, 2008.

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The Bridges of Rochlitz, Germany

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Zassnitz Suspension Bridge. Photos taken in March and May 2017

While cities, like Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden have many well-known bridges that are either fancy in design or over 80 years old, there are many town and villages, with an exceptionally high number of these structures, but whose history and design make them appealing to tourists, historians and photographers alike. One could just say that when discovered, these bridges would make a great tour guide, let alone a great platform for research.

Little is written about the historic bridges in Rochlitz. Located seven kilometers east of Geithain and 30 kilometers southeast of Leipzig, the town of only 6,500 inhabitants is situated along the Zwickauer Mulde River, at the junction of highways 7 (from Geithain and Leipzig), 175 (from Glauchau and Zwickau) and 107 (from Grimma and Meissen). The town is famous for its castle, built in the 1400s and still houses administrative and judicial offices today. It also has a historic market square with its historic town hall and fountain, as well as its historic Postmeile and Hospital, both originating from the 1600s. And finally, Rochlitz has a long row of historic buildings lining up along the main street, which is divided with a wide center island that is lined with trees and statues.

The town used to be a hub for regional and freight train services, as a line between Glauchau and Wurzen once served passenger trains from 1890 until its decommission in 2004. Another line connecting Waldheim and Narsdorf with Penig and Geithain passed through Rochlitz but was abandoned after 1998. Unlike many American railroad companies, like the now defunct Chicago-Rock Island-Pacific Railways, which used to remove bridges, crossings and rails upon abandoning the line, these two rail lines are still visible when passing through Rochlitz. As a consequence, one can see many remnants that had once been associated with the Mulde rail routes before being shut down, including the railroad station, rails, and even bridges.

Three railroad bridges spanning the Zwickauer Mulde in Rochlitz are still standing, despite having been out of service for almost two decades, all of whom are still in great condition with some minor damages and rust. One of them, located near the Castle, is the second longest known railroad crossing along the river behind the Göhren Viaduct at Lunzernau, just 12 river kilometers upstream. And this goes together perfectly with a highway bridge built of brick and the river’s signature crossings- two pedestrian suspension bridges with truss features, which makes up for eleven of such crossings between Aue and Wurzen via Glauchau and Zwickau that are anchored by towers, five being suspension bridges.

Map of Rochlitz and the Bridges:

 

This tour guide will provide you with a tour of these six crossings, plus an addition two bridges at the Castle and two shorter crossings found by accident while biking along an abandoned section of the Waldheim-Narsdorf Line. All-in-all, ten bridges will be profiled- six of which are along the Mulde, but three are directly in Rochlitz. One located to the south at Fischheim and two to the north will be included. The city of Rochlitz had already profiled two of the crossings along the river for their website prior to my recent visit. However, when reading the tour guide in English (you can also switch to German or other languages via Google-Translator, if you wish), the city will probably think about expanding its information to include the other crossings left out. Furthermore, with five abandoned crossings profiled, it will provide a basis for possible discussion regarding either revitalizing the rail line between Glauchau and Wurzen or converting that stretch to a rails-to-trails route, based on the success stories of many in the United States.

 

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the first crossing…..

 

Schaukelsteg Fischheim:

Our first bridge on tour is the Schaukelsteg. Located over the Zwickauer Mulde, this 1958 bridge connects the villages of Szörnig and Fischheim, approximately three kilometers south of Rochlitz. The bridge itself is one of the rarest a person can find in Germany. It is a combination of a wire suspension bridge and cantilever  Warren truss with riveted connections- the former of which is the main span; the latter as approach spans. What is even more unique is the fact that the wire cables are anchored at the top chord of the cantilever truss spans, while the cables run through the looped suspenders, which supports the decking. The towers, albeit anchored on piers that are well above the river levels, are triangle-shaped with the pointed end down. Only one other bridge was built using such a design, which was located in Rochsburg. It was built at the same time as this bridge but was replaced in 2012.

The Schaukelsteg was first mentioned in 1871, when it was built as a wooden crossing. It was destroyed by flooding and subsequentially replaced by a wire suspension bridge in 1907. At that time, it was a typical suspension bridge supported by vertical towers. It lasted for 47 years until it was washed away by flooding in 1954, which destroyed one in six bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde. It took four years until this structure came about and has survived two more major floodings events ever since, including the 2002 floods, which happened right after the bridge was restored. Like in the 1871 bridge, this bridge serves pedestrian and bike traffic, although at one time, the 1907 suspension bridge was once a toll bridge, having collected 10 Pfennig per person for crossing the bridge in the daytime, 20 Pfennig at night or when crossing by bike and 30 Pfennig when crossing with a load. This was needed to maintain costs for operating the structure. Today, the bridge is considered a free bridge and is part of the Mulde Bike Train System.

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Zassnitz Railroad Viaduct:

Located at the Castle on the south end of Rochlitz, the Zassnitz Railroad Viaduct is the longest railroad viaduct along the Glauchau-Wurzen Railroad Line, with a length of 243 meters. It is the second longest along the Zwickauer Mulde behind the Göhren Viaduct, a bridge that is three times as long. The bridge was built in 1872 when the Penig-Rochlitz section of the Glauchau-Wurzen line was opened, yet the current structure appears to have been built right after World War II because of the newness of the steel used in the contraption. The bridge features, from south to north, three spans of deck plate girder approach spans, five Warren deck truss main spans across the Mulde- the trusses are subdivided and have riveted connections- and four concrete beam approach spans on the city end. Since 2002, the line has been out of use, and with it, the bridge, which flanks the Castle and can be seen in the foreground. Yet talks about revitalizing the line is still ongoing. Should it bear fruit, the bridge may need some rehabilitative work, as some trusses are rusted and the concrete approach spans are cracked. But it remains to be seen if the line will ever be in use again.

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Zassnitz Suspension Bridge:

Not more than 300 meters away, we have the Zassnitz Suspension Bridge. Built in 1956-7, the current structure serves pedestrian traffic, providing access to the old town from the Mulde Bike Trail. Its construction is similar to the suspension bridge at Fischheim, yet with one catch: It is a pure suspension bridge, whose cables are anchored at the towers, which are triangular shaped and whose pointed end is upwards. However, the pointed end is capped by a curved , which guides the cable directly over the tower before being anchored on its outer side. The towers themselves are A-shaped, but at a transversal view, the bracings are also A-frame.  Like the suspension bridge at Fischheim, the bridge was washed away by floods in 1954 and was therefore reconstructed afterwards, but east of its original site. First built as a wooden covered bridge in 1502, later replaced with a wire suspension bridge in 1889, which had survived 65 years before that tragic event, the Zassnitz Suspension Bridge is the oldest known crossing in Rochlitz. It is one of the key attractions in the town and is listed as a technical historical site by the German Preservation Laws.

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Rochlitz Highway Bridge:

Spanning the Zwickauer Mulde on the east end of Rochlitz, this city bridge is the lone crossing going in and out of Rochlitz, and apart from carrying two major highways going south and east towards Glauchau and Mittweida respectively, this 115 meter long bridge is famous because of two historic feats:

 

  1. It set a record for the shortest amount of time needed to construct an arch bridge. Using red granite from a quarry in Mittweida, workers needed only seven months to construct this arch bridge, which features five arches, the of the longest being over the Mulde. This also included the demolition of its predecessor as it was deemed functionally obsolete.

 

  1. It was also the site where American troops marched into Rochlitz on 15 April, 1945 without a single shot fired. Realizing that resisting the Allied troops was no longer an option despite desperate pleas by Hitler and other Nazi officials to fight to the very death, citizens agreed to terms of an unconditional surrender at the bridge. This was symbolic for Rochlitz was one of only a few historic towns that survived without being destroyed by bombs. The bridge itself was one of a few that survived Nazi attempts of blowing it up in a feeble attempt to halt the movements of the armies. A plaque at the east end of the bridge explains how the bridge and the town were both spared.

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Rochlitz-Narsdorf Railroad Bridge (a.k.a. East Bridge):

From the highway bridge, one needs to bike another two kilometers along the Zwickauer Mulde, rounding the historic town, before reaching the first of two railroad bridges. The East Bridge is one of the most unique of the railroad bridges along the river. The railroad bridge features three spans of a deck Howe truss bridge, built in a curved fashion. The trusses are welded together and has curved endpoints, which makes it one of the fanciest railroad bridges in eastern Germany. Workers needed a year and a half to build this 170-meter structure, from October 1891 until its opening on 28 March, 1893.

From then on, until the rail line was discontinued in 1998, the bridge served passenger and freight services, although reports indicated that traffic was limited because of little demand for train service to Narsdorf and Waldheim. The bridge has been out of use for almost 20 years, yet it still retains its original form, despite having survived the floods of 2002 and 2013.

 

While plans are in the making to convert the old line into a bike trail, chances are very likely that this bridge will have a new function, providing cyclists with a link between Waldheim and Rochlitz and with that, the two bike trails that bear the name Mulde, but with the two different branches (Zwickauer and Freiberger). Should this happen, it would eliminate the sharp curves and extremely narrow tunnel that is offered on the Zwickauer Mulde, where cyclists are required to dismount before passing through.

 

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Rochlitz-Colditz Railroad Bridge (a.k.a. North Bridge):

Only 200 meters from the East Bridge, we have the North Bridge. When leaving the train station Rochlitz enroute to Colditz and the final destination Wurzen, the line branches off into the eastern line (going across the East Bridge) and the northern line and this bridge. This 100 meter long structure features three spans of a deck plate girder design, carrying one track of traffic. As a bonus, it also has a bottom deck, which carries bike and pedestrian traffic along the Mulde bike trail, but hanging off the side and supported by still steel suspenders. In fact, between the narrow tunnel at East Bridge and the northern end of this bridge, the trail consists of a catwalk, which hugs the river bank between the two railroad bridges before crossing on the North Bridge. Afterwards, the path continues on the ground as a paved route going along the eastern side of the river. The railroad bridge itself appears to have been built after World War II and is structurally in good condition. Yet being out of service for over 15 years, there are concerns about what to do with the railroad bridge, let alone with the line itself. While it will still continue its use as a hanger for the bike trail crossing/ catwalk, the question remains whether it makes sense to continue this use or if the trail could be directly on the bridge itself.

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Geithain-Rochlitz Tunnels:

When biking along the Talweg from Königsfeld, located west of Rochlitz, and the garden house district in the western part of the town, one can find a couple unique arch bridges spanning driveways and the Frelsbach Creek. Both of them are made of stone and cement, and have spans of 10 meters. Both of them are part of the former Geithain-Rochlitz railroad route that used to pass through Rochlitz enroute to Narsdorf and Walheim before it was abandoned. The bridges are still standing and should the former railroad route was converted to a bike trail, one will be treated by the crossings which are over 120 years old and still in pristine condition.

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Rochlitz Castle Bridges

The last bridges in this tour guide are the ones surrounding the Rochlitz Castle. The castle was built on the site of an imperial castle that had been built in the 10th century. From 1143 until the 18th century, the castle had been part of the margraves of Wettin, who were responsible for expanding the castle during the next four centuries, with much of the work being done in the 14th Century to include romanesque wings, a secondary residence, hunting field and a church, just to name a few. Since 1852, the castle has housed governmental offices, which includes judicial offices that are responsible for the district of Mittelsachsen. 40 years later, a museum opened and has provided tourists with a chance to learn about the castle’s history and its relationship with the Wettin family.  The castle is surrounded by the Zwickauer Mulde on the south end, the Hellerbach Creek to the west, and moats to the east and north. It was obvious that bridges were needed to provide access to the castle.

Two of the bridges worth noting are multiple span arch bridges. A short span can be found at the east entrance to the castle at the church. That bridge features two spans made of stone and cement. The bridge is arranged in a slanted formation, providing tourists with a climb from the streets of the old town into the castle. The longest of the bridges known to exist is a four-span stone arch bridge, spanning the Hellerbach at the western entrance to the castle. It is about 100 meters long and at least 20 meters tall, visible from the Zassnitz Suspension Bridge. Both bridges appear to have been built in the 11th or 12th century and were probably renovated some centuries later. They still maintain their original integrity although we don’t know how many more bridges can be found at the castle. It is possible that when touring the castle one can find one or two more at the site.

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To learn more about the bridges and of Rochlitz, here are a list of links for you to click on:

City of Rochlitz:

http://www.rochlitz.de/home/

Rochlitz Castle:

http://www.schloss-rochlitz.de/de/startseite/

The Zwickauer Mulde Bike Trail:

http://www.mulderadweg.de/

The Bridges of Rochlitz:

http://www.rochlitz.de/wirtschaft-und-tourismus/tourismus/sehenswuerdigkeiten/bruecken/

 

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