Mystery Bridges Nr. 101: Die Geschwisterbrücken bei Schweizertal

The Bridge at Neuschweizerthal. By Aagnverglaser [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
BURGSTÄDT (GERMANY)- Located 10 river kilometers north of Chemnitz, one will find a pair of through truss bridges that had once served a rail line but will soon have a new purpose. Both span the River Chemnitz in the conglomerate community of Markersdorf-Taura but are very close together, connecting the district of Schweitzerthal-Amselgrund and Neuschweizerthal. Unique about these two bridges is that they look nearly identical in terms of its aesthetical appearance. They are both Warren through trusses, whose connections are welded and whose portal and strut bracings are the same. They feature Howe lattice, shaped in a trapezoidal fashion and supported by angled heel bracings (45°) that can be found at not only the diagonal end post (60°) but also at every single beam supported- both diagonal as well as vertical beams. This is really rare for a through truss bridge to have heel struts be connected to all the beams that form the panel.  The difference between the two is how they are constructed. The longer of the sister bridges has a straight portal approach and is 67 meters long. This is located next to the train station at Neuschweizerthal. The shorter of the two is located only 200 meters away around the curve, 100 meters away from the train station Amselgrund. That bridge has a 60° skew that was needed to support the curve. It is only seven meters shorter.  Both bridges were built around 1902 even though there is no record of the bridge builder, let alone the reason behind building the two crossings close together instead of leading the rail line along the river. Yet the reason for pinpointing the date to 1902 is the fact that these bridges were common during that time. In addition to that, it was built at the same time as the rail line connecting Chemnitz and Wechselburg. For a century, this line served freight service along the river because of the industries located nearby, especially in the industrial district in the north of Chemnitz.  Together with the Glauchau-Wurzen line, which it merged with at Wechselburg, the line was discontinued after 2002 due to the lack of profitablility combined with the Great Flood of 2002, which caused billions of Euros in damage to infrastructure and industry.

amselgrund
The shorter bridge at Amselgrund. Photo taken in July 2018

In 2007, the Chemnitztal Cycling Association purchased the entire stretch to be converted into a rails-to-trails for cyclists and pedestrians and the line is being extended as of present. At the same time, a dandy horse-rail-line connecting Markersdorf-Taura and Schweizerthal went into service to provide a scenic tour for two kilometers. However, with the extension of the bike trail going through both communities, the days of the dandy horse may come to an end.

Currently, both bridges are being rehabilitated, refurbished and retrofitted for use of the bike trail. According to information by the Chemnitz Free Press, construction on the new stretch of bike trail between Claussnitz and Schweitzerthal started in April 2018, which includes these two bridges, plus another one south of Markersdorf-Taura. This six kilometer stretch is scheduled to be paved and open to traffic, pending on weather, by 2020 latest. As one can see in the photos here, plus in the BHC’s facebook page, work has progressed immensely in several segments, including the span at Schweizerthal. I was not able to get much of a photo of the bridge. However, I was lucky to get a few detailed shots of the shorter crossing and its skewed setting. As the decking had railroad track on it, there was no way to get a closer look at the beams to see if there were any inscriptions on there. But after the reconstruction is complete, maybe there is a chance to get a closer look at the bridge.

But then again, maybe some of the readers may have more information about these two sibling bridges, which will have a third life ahead of them. Do you have any information on the bridges’ history? Feel free to comment or send an e-mail. Any information may be of great help.

 

And for those who thought it was not allowed to walk on the grounds near the bridge, let me rest assure you no equipment or bridge parts were damaged during the photo session and it is only for the purpose of historic research for this blog. A book on the bridges in Saxony is being considered and perhaps you can be of great help there, just as a peace offering. Thank you. J

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