Starting in the Fichtel Mountains in northeastern Bavaria, the River Pegnitz snakes its way through steep cliffs and deep forests enroute to Nuremberg. It’s hard to believe that one could build dozens of bridges and tunnels to accommodate rail traffic. But that was part of the concept for the construction of the Pegnitztal Railway in 1874. Using the section of the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistral at Schnabelwald as its starting point, the project to build the line took three years to complete, ending in 1877 to provide direct access to Bayreuth from Nuremberg. Originally the Magistral went through Bamberg but railroad officials chose Bayreuth as the quicker alternative. At Schnabelwald, the line branched off to the east, reaching Marktredwitz and ending at Cheb in the Czech Republic by 1879. As many as 23 railroad bridges and seven tunnels occupy the stretch between Schnabelwald and Hersbruck near Nuremberg. Many of them are of original construction. Two thirds of these bridges are truss spans mainly of Warren design.
Sadly, these bridges are in danger of being demolished and replaced. The German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) is planning to electrify the entire rail line to Nuremberg from Dresden (via Bayreuth and Hof) and Cheb (via Marktredwitz), respectively, to provide better and faster service among the cities. The plan is to have more passenger and freight service running on electricity by 2030, including Inter-City trains. And with that, all the bridges should be replaced.
Or should they? Residents of the communities have voiced their opposition to replacing the bridges due to their historic character, high costs for the concrete structures and the increase in noise in the region. Since 2012, the initiative to save the Pegnitztal Bridges has been in place with the goal of saving as many of the 23 structures as possible. There have been meetings, hiking events and the like since the initiative started and as of date, many people from the area have joined in the fight to protect these bridges and find more constructive ways to restore them and reuse them as part of the modern route. To determine what these bridges are all about, here’s a tour guide video on the bridges along the Pegnitztal Railroad with close-ups of them all.
The fight to save them have been mixed. Engineering surveys have recommended five of the 23 structures to be rehabilitated and fit for further use. Yet sadly, five of them are scheduled to be replaced. While one of them, a short, 20 meter span, was replaced in 2013, the following three were replaced in 2018, as seen in the video below. Currently, temporary bridges are being built while designs for the new structures are being determined. It is still unknown what will happen with the remaining 16 structures. But one thing is clear, the Initiative will continue to fight for every bridge until either the renovation or replacement job is completed. The German Railways have recently introduce measures to provide 180 billion Euros for rehabilitatinig bridges over the next ten years and have been able to compromise on some of the bridges. Yet still, they are baby steps in the name of progress, and more will have to be done to ensure a peaceful co-existence between a modern railline going northeast running on electricity and protecting the history of the structures, typical of the Pegnitztal Rail line, historically significant and definitely one that fits in the nature and is worth seeing while traveling along the Pegnitz.
Link with Information on the Bridges and the Initiative to Save them: http://www.bahnbruecken.info/