Mystery Bridge Nr. 113: A viaduct near Wolkenstein that used to serve a six-gauge rail line


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A bit to the southeast of Wolkenstein in the Erzgebirge is remnants of a viaduct that can be seen from state highway 220 in the direction of Streckenwald. Or better yet, one could see the bridge from the Oberauer Weg in the direction of Wiesenbad, but you may mistake the crossing for an old dam and power station along the River Zschopau where it is located. Yet if you did what I did, you will see that it was clearly a bridge.

The viaduct spans the River Zschopau at the confluence with another smaller river, the Pressnitz. Judging by its appearance, the bridge was built using sandstone and concrete and is about 25 meters deep. Because there are two round piers left, the viaduct used to have three main spans plus the approach span- all totaling a length of 60 meters. The abutments have been left in place and it appears that the viaduct spans were removed by crane.

To get a closer look at the bridge, I had to zig-zag my way down the steep hill from Oberauer Weg then cross the railroad track but not before jumping two steep ditches in the process. Then fight through weeds, thorns and bushes to get to the bridge. As I walked towards the bridge I saw that rail ties, covered completely in moss, were still in the ground, signaling that the viaduct used to serve a rail line from Wolkenstein to points towards the Czech Republic. Unless you are an experienced climber, love to take on the likes of poisonous snakes and deal with ticks, I would suggest not taking the route and try an long-distance shot either from the state highway on the opposite river bank or by boating down the river. Even if you wait until the time of hibernation between October and March, one needs to beware that the rail line crossed is still in use. One may be fooled by the weeds growing in the rusty tracks and the dirty grey rail times, making them look like they’ve been abandoned. However, the rail signals can be found in the direction of Wolkenstein, as the rail line runs along the Zschopau between Annaberg-Buchholz and Chemnitz and stops at Wolkenstein every hour in both directions.

After a few shots, I did some research and found some more information on the bridge and its connection with its long-abandoned railroad line and found that it was, in fact, a one-track, six-gauge rail line. The viaduct was part of the line that had connected Wolkenstein and Jöhstadt, running along the River Pressnitz. The rail line had been in the planning since 1869 but the actual work started in 1890 and ended before the end of 1982- a 28km line that needed two years to complete. The six-gauge line featured as many as 25 bridges averaging 20-35 meters each, most of them crossed the River Pressnitz. At 54 meters, the bridge profiled here was the longest of the crossing, yet it is unclear what type of bridge it was- a deck plate girder or a deck truss (either Warren, Town Lattice or similar).

As for the line itself, like all the other six-gauge lines, it became scrutinized and a focus of the East German government efforts to discontinue them, removing the tracks and bridges to be recycled and reused for other purposes, such as weaponry and appliances due to shortages in materials. The line was shut down in 1984 and the tracks and bridges along the 28km stretch were removed and recycled. Fortunately, after the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunited in 1990, interest gathered right away to reactivate at least part of the line, which succeeded in 2000 as the museum rail line was put into service, using the rail line between Jöhstadt and Steinbach. It is unknown whether the line will stop there or continue its way back to Wolkenstein.

While a railroad website has some pictures of the remnants of the Wolkenstein-Jöhstadt six-gauge line, there are not many pictures of the railroad and bridges that used to exist prior to its decommission in 1984. Henceforth, if you have some photos to contribute, especially that of the viaduct near Wolkenstein profiled here, then feel free to contact them or Jason Smith at the Chronicles. Your help would be much appreciated. A map of the bridge and its location can be found below.