A Tribute to Eric DeLony

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, as well as members of the historic bridge community, preservations, historians and the like are sadden to hear of the recent passing of Eric DeLony. He died last week at the age of 74. He spearheaded efforts in documenting and preserving historic bridges in the United States during his time at the Historic American Engineering Record for over three decades. He had served as Chief from 1987 until his retirement in 2003. I had met him once while in New Mexico in 1999 and had been in touch with him many times via e-mail talking a lot about historic bridges and all the problems pertaining to preservation vs modernization and found him to be open and a “walking encyclopedia” on many bridge-related subjects. It was through his influence that hundreds of historic bridges have been saved and reused for recreational purposes. It was also through him that we have the likes of Kitty Henderson, Julie Bowers, Nathan Holth, James Baughn and Todd Wilson, who have continued their efforts in the work of historic bridges, picking up where he had left off. It was also through his inspiration that the Chronicles, launched in 2010, is what it is today.

I did a tribute to Eric in January 2017 as part of the 50h anniversary of the National Register of Historic Places and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. I’m reposting this in his honor, thanking him for his five decades of dedication and service. Our hearts go out to his family, colleagues, friends and those who knew him all these years, with two words to tell him:

Thanks, Eric.

The Bridgehunter's Chronicles

Shaw Bridge at Claverack, New York. Photo courtesy of Jet Lowe of HABS/HAER

A gifted person provides society with a gift to make it better. A person with unusual talents shapes society to benefit all.

For Eric DeLony, a person with a passion for historic bridges not only leads efforts to save them but teaches and encourages bridge lovers and historians to love them and follow his lead. My first contact with him came in 2005 when I wrote my first documents for a Master’s class on American History at the University of Jena in Germany. For the next eight years, despite not being able to meet him in person due to time and travel expenses, I kept in contact with him and he provided some great insights to any topic pertaining to historic bridges, preservation and careers available. Eric was a walking encyclopedia and forefather of historic preservation. Graduating…

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Wilischthal Viaduct Renovated and In Service

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ZSCHOPAU (SAXONY), GERMANY-  Four kilometers to the south of Zschopau in the village of Wilischthal, deep in the valley of the river that bears the same name as the city of 9,600 is a piece of artwork that most recently got a much-needed facelift. The Wilischthal Viaduct was built in 1901 and features a series of different arch types. The main span is an open-spandrel arch bridge which stretches 31 meters across the River Zschopau.  The three approach spans, each of which are over 10 meters, spans a rail line connecting Annaberg-Buchholz with Riesa and Chemnitz on the east side next to the main highway, S228, a state highway. The entire bridge was built using natural stone, taking well over a year to build. It was open in 1901.  For 10 years, the bridge had been open for only one lane of traffic. Now the bridge has been reopened to traffic and two cars can meet from each direction. Furthermore, pedestrians can cross it without any hindrance.  According to news story from the Chemnitz Free Press, bridge was rehabilitated at the cost of 1.3 million Euros ($2.1 million) and included replacing the decking with a wider one (the original deck width was 6 meters; the new one is now three meters wider) and installing beautiful blue railings. Furthermore, the arches were strengthened to accomodate heavier loads. All of the renovation work lasted two years and it included partial and full closures, thus making access to nearby villages  Gelenau and Scharfenstein difficult.

Nevertheless, the renovation was worth it during my visit at the bridge. There will be more photos of the bridge to come as the tour guide on the bridges in Zschopau is being made, but the whole bridge itself looks just like new.

And for a 117-year old bridge, this IS telling. 🙂




Floating Bridge in China

Most recently, one of the followers on my Twitter page posted a gif-pic of this bridge. This is located in China, spanning a very deep gorge. Obviously the bridge is a pontoon otherwise it would not be spanning a river that forms this gorgeous gorge. But the way the car crosses creates a wavy scenery that can be experienced from each vantage point, even from inside the car. Enjoy this short clip and if you want to help, tell us about the bridge and where in China it is located. Surely there will be more bridge enthusiasts who will pay homage to this unique structure while visiting other interesting places in China, from the Great Wall to Shanghai, Hong Kong to the Himalayans.




Nonprofit Sues State, FHWA Over Historic Bridge Replacement


The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a nonprofit, is suing the state of Pennsylvania and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) over the replacement of a historic bridge that has spanned the Tinicum Creek since the War of 1812. PennDOT has been trying to replace the Headquarters Road Bridge’s stone foundation for the last 10 years due to its age — the bridge has been closed since 2011, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Source: Nonprofit Sues State, FHWA Over Historic Bridge Replacement

Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge- Day 10: Hot and Steamy

This entry on the campaign to save the Bockau Arch Bridge (Rechenhausbrücke) can best be described in two words: hot and steamy! In the literal sense of the word, as I was approaching the Restaurant Rechenhaus where our meeting took place a few nights ago, I was greeted by barricades and steam rising from the road. First thought was whether the work had started to dismantle the old bridge even though the Petition to save the structure was still going through the state parliament in Dresden. That in itself would have breached the contract, signed in 2017, to keep the bridge in tact until the new structure was open to traffic. But with the drive to take the bridge down by members of the state parliament, combined with the rejection of the ownership of the bridge by the Mayors of Bockau and Zschorlau as was seen at the meeting in April, and lastly, the concrete bed that was poured directly into the Zwickau Mulde, which had violated natural preservation laws, it would not have been a surprise from my standpoint, speaking from experience helping others to preserve several bridges in the USA and Austria.

Fortunately, I was only greeted by this kind of steam…….

This was steam coming from a freshly paved road, as workers had already put the tar on there and flattened it with the steamroller. Hot enough to melt my shoes and not having time to take the longer detour, I took the chance and balanced the newly built narrow curbs that were installed to support the new road.  A balance act with a large backpack that reminded me of the time I balanced on a deck truss bridge in Missouri taking pictures, as seen below:

Mr Smith

But when I got to the Rechenhaus Restaurant, located next to the two structures, it was just as hot and steamy in terms of the debate among our group members. If you wanted to warm up after a cold and rainy trip, one would not need the heater for that.  😉  We were currently in the middle of the debate as to what measures are available at our disposals, which ones would be feasible and which ones would not make the best sense. This included a formal complaint to the state and federal governments to put the demolition on hold until the Petition has been looked at and thoroughly; should the old bridge need to come down, the structure and its history will need to be documented thoroughly as it is still a German cultural heritage site.

Yet the time is still ticking and despite interested parties in purchasing the old bridge, there are four key deadlines to pay attention to:

November 22nd: The last “Petitionsausschuss” Hearing for the year in Saxony. If the issue with the old bridge is not settled beforehand, it falls into the new year in January.  As the bridge is still owned by the federal government and the Petition has been approved by the German parliament in Berlin, the last day of the hearing is the 14th of December.

December 25th (or even before that): The new B-283 Bridge will open to traffic, thus ending the 16-month long detour through Schneeberg in order to get from Aue to the Eibenstock Reservoir through Bockau. It will also end the 30-minute detour from one end of Bockau to the other with snail’s pace speed limits, potholes and (especially) additional construction.

17th January 2019: The last chance to debate on the bridge’s future in the Saxony state parliament. If the majority in Dresden says “yes” to private ownership of the bridge, then the group won. If not, then the decision falls to the federal government. If Berlin overrules the decision, then either the state can take the matter to the German Supreme Court in Karlsruhe or concede to defeat, allowing the private entity to take ownership. If Berlin favors the state of Saxony in its decision to remove the old bridge, then unless some legal measures are carried out to halt the process, the quest to save the bridge Comes to an end, and arrangements will be needed to remove the bridge from the Denkmalschutz (Cultural Heritage) List and commence with the demolition.

Spring 2019: This will most likely be judgement day for the old Bockau Arch Bridge, for either the structure will be under new ownership or demolition will commence once the snow melts and all the historical aspects are taken care of.

Like in other European countries, Germany has one of the strictest preservation laws which discourages demolishing the bridge. This means the bridge is protected until the Ministry of Culture and Preservation is forced to take the bridge off the list thus allowing for the demolition of the historic structure.  While the bridge is still listed, the plan to proceed with the planned construction of the new bridge and the demolition of the old one has led to the  Ministry having their hands tied behind their back because the contract explicitely said that the old bridge would be removed once the new one opens.  This situation is familiar for it happened to the historic railroad bridge over the River Danube in Linz, but this was because the referendum to save the bridge failed by a landslide margin.

Which brings up to the question you may have: What about a referendum? This was brought up at the meeting but was rejected due to time reasons, plus the stiff requirements- namely, the minimum requirement of 14,000 signatures would be needed. As sparsely populated as the region where the bridge is located, and as divided as the people are, one would need a lot of outside support to pull this one off. And even if the number was reached, the recipients- namely the district of Aue, which includes Zschorlau, Bockau and Schneeberg, would have to arrange a “snap” referendum which would require an absolute majority, which the Friends group does NOT have.

So what are we doing now?  We wait? No we’re not. We keep writing? Yes we are. Are we looking at alternatives to stop the demolition of the old bridge? You betcha! 🙂  We’ve started with a letter demanding a round table discussion with the ministries involved, including that of transport and finance, while putting a halt to the demolition plans. We have been looking for legal measures to file for injunction until the petitions are heard and decided upon. And we arre fighting on, which has reaped rewards up until now.

One of which includes new members of the organization and more interested parties willing to join in the crusade.

If you are interested in joining the organization Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge, please click onto the link Aufnahmeantrag  below, print it out and complete it, then send it back to the people responsible for taking them on, namely:

Ulrike Kahl: ulrike.kahl@gruene-erzgebirge.de or

Hermann Meier: hermann.meier50@gmx.de

For those in English: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com



The story on the fate of the Rechenhausbrücke (Bockau Arch Bridge) continues………



BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 24


This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to the Valley of the River Zschopau. Located in the central part of the German state of Saxony, the river has its starting point in the Fichtel Mountains north of Oberwiesenthal at the German-Czech border. Then the river snakes its way through the Ore Mountains for  130 Kilometers, creating valleys that are up to a kilometer deep and are very steep for driving.

And with these steep hills come numerous historic bridges that are either very tall or are hidden from view except when discovered with the lens of the camera and with a beautiful scenic background, as you can see here in this pic.

This was taken in the small village of Wilisch, 4 kilometers south of Zschopau. This bridge is one of four structures that are all within walking distance- all of them are well over a century old. This Town Lattice iron truss viaduct is located just west of the train Station and can be seen from the arch bridge that is right next to it. Dating back to the 1870s, the bridge used to serve a railroad running alongside the River Wilisch toward Gelenau. That river empties into the Zschopau, just 150 meters from this bridge.

Even though it has been abandoned for many decades, the bridge presents a gorgeous view with the camera, like you can see here, taken right in the middle of autumn with the leaves changing.

And what can we say? Speechless and beautiful. ❤  🙂




The Bridges of Bilbao

The Bridges of Bilbao

Month at a Time Travel

A bridge seems an apt metaphor for the events of the past week. Before leaving the Basque Country to start our month in Madrid, we went to see Bilbao and revel in its river crossings.

San Anton closeup San Antón Bridge on the Nervión River

Bilbao is the biggest city in the Basque Country. Formerly a declining industrial center of dilapidated shipyards and run-down steel mills, it is now a bright and revitalized city. Meandering through Bilbao is the once-polluted Nervión River, now remediated and crossed by a series inspiring bridges.

San Anton and market Mercado de la Ribera, largest covered market in Europe

We started at Bilbao’s oldest bridge, the 13th century San Anton Bridge, for centuries the city’s only river crossing. From its medieval arch, the juxtaposition of the old San Antón church alongside the modern Ribera Market illustrates the span of Bilbao’s history and the progress of its revival.

Ribera.jpg San Francisco Bridge


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The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge: Film and Documentary

Source: By N509FZ [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia CommonsBy N509FZ [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
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HONG KONG/ MACAU/ ZHUHAI (CHINA)- The idea took 35 years to bear fruit. It took nine years to build. And the idea came from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. Now the 55 kilometer bridge is open, connecting Hong Kong  on one end and Zhuhai (China) and Macau on the other.  The HMZ Bridge was dedicated to traffic today, with over 700 officials attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony that would allow traffic to cross the bridge for the first time ever.  Consisting of three different cable-stayed suspension bridges, over 29 kilometers of main bridge spans and 6.7 kilometers of undersea tunnel, plus the remaining kilometers for approach spans, this bridge provides direct access to Hong Kong’s International Airport, the city itself and Lantau Island from Mainland China, built at a cost of over 20 billion Euros (or $30 billion).  Instead of three hours, travelers can expect to reach their destination in about 30 minutes. A feat that will surely stand for all time to come.  🙂

To better understand the importance of the bridge and what it looks like, a pair of documentaries are available for you to view.  One of which is an ariel view of the bridge. Another is a 20-minute documentary by a Chinese TV network which takes you across the bridge and provides you with some interesting facts about the bridge.

Before going further, let’s have a look at the longest piece of architectural landmark in mankind history 🙂 :