Mystery Bridge Nr. 116: A unique bridge in the mountains built by a well-known engineer?

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The next mystery bridge takes us further towards the Czech Republic, right into the town of Olbernhau. With a population of 11,000 inhabitants, the community is known as the City of Seven Valleys, because of the valley of the River Flöha and ist six other tributaries that meet there. Because of that, the community has many historic bridges that one needs plenty of time to visit, even though the length of the crossings are short enough to equal either one 50 foot pony truss span or one arch span of between 15 and 20 meters.

Nevertheless, our focus of this mystery bridge is the longest of the spans, a railroad bridge spanning the River Flöha on the far eastern edge of town, right at the Czech Border. Its exact location can be found in the map below. The bridge is easy to find for when heading east, you cross both the railroad tracks and the bridge before turning right. The railroad bridge is on the right-hand side.

The railroad bridge is one of the most unusual of truss bridges in Europe and beyond. The 68-meter long crossing features a skewed span, where the truss panels are placed parallel of each other along the tracks but in a slanted position at around 60°. That means the truss panel on the left side starts first and after 20 meters, the right one. While there are no portal bracings that support the two truss panelings, the horizontal strut bracings- five panels of them- hold the trusses together. The struts consist of the system of Pratt-heel bracings angled at 15° with the center portion being M-framed. The truss bridge itself is a camelback Lattice truss design with riveted connections, yet they are not the typical truss designs used for the bridges. These have stiffened connections similar to the designs patented by Claus Köpke, an engineer responsible for the construction of the Blaue Wunder Brücke, Marienbrücke and the Alberthafenbrücken all in Dresden as well as a railroad bridge in Riesa. Köpke started his career as a bridge engineer, building bridges from 1872 until his death in 1911. And while he left his mark in the greater Dresden area and parts of Thuringia, it is unknown whether he built many crossings in the Ore Mountains, let alone at this location.

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The bridge was built in 1895, according to historic records and is the longest of the bridges, not only in Olbernhau but also along the rail line and the River Flöha. The construction of the bridge was part of the extension of the rail line from Olbernhau to Neuhausen, running along the Czech border. The crossing is part of the rail line that connected Pockau-Lengenfeld and Neuhausen, where the line was completed at Olbernhau in 1873, and 12 years later, extended to Nauhausen. The line was shut down in 2001 due to structural issues along the tracks and other infrastructure, yet was reactivated in 2011 after years of campaigning on the part of the mayor of Olbernhau combined with renovating the line, its train stations, and the crossings along the River Flöha. Today, the Deutsche Bahn Regional Services operates the line as it terminates in Flöha.

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The bridge is listed as a German heritage site and has been since 1998, yet still its historical significance is unknown. Did Köpke oversee the construction of the bridge as part of the rail project? If not, was he responsible for the design and another bridge builder took to the task? If neither that nor that, who was the genius behind this design? This question remains open for both the readers and bridge fans, as well as the locals in and around Olbernhau. If you have any information on the bridge builder behind this bridge, please contact the Chronicles. Whatever information is useful will be added here and the Office of German Heritage (Büro für Denkmalschutz) will be able to add this to the file that exists to this day. Whatever you can find will be much useful for the region and its enriched historic heritage.

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In other words, your contribution will be of utmost use. Thank you for your support.

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