The Bridges of Waldheim (Saxony), Germany

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Diedenhain Viaduct

 

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The next bridge tour takes us to the central part of the German state of Saxony. Yet there we would refer to that region as being Chemnitz and the surrounding area. Unfortunately we have to go another 30 kilometers to the north and east, past the nearest cities of Mittweida and Burgstadt to get to this small town known as Waldheim.

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Rauschenthal Viaduct

When passing through the community of Waldheim, with its population of approximately 8,300 inhabitants, the first impression would be that the community is just a typically small town that is tucked away deep into the steep hills of the River Zschopau. It does have a small town square that is shaped like a triangle when going past it, yet it is one where the historic buildings, many of which are between 100 and 150 years old, have been restored to their original form. This includes its famous city hall next to the Zschopau River crossing, which was built over 200 years ago and is still in use today. Many associate Waldheim with its famous castle, which was mentioned in 1271 and was converted to a penitentiary in 1716. Many well-known people, such as Karl May, were imprisoned there for an unspecified period of time. It was also used by the Nazis during World War II, many of whom in turn were put into prison, with some of them executed, by the Soviets in 1950 during the year of the Waldheim Trials.

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Historic Town Hall and Bridge in Waldheim

But ignoring the dark past of the prison, Waldheim does have two positive aspects that are worth noting: It has numerous parks as well as hiking and biking trails, which allows for people with a chance to see the town, as well as the hills and forests along the River Zschopau. Most importantly, though, Waldheim has a large number of historic bridges in and around the community. In fact, three railway viaducts and two bridges that are over a century and a half old each can be found directly in the city itself. One of the two bridges used to be a covered bridge with stone arch approaches. Two of the viaducts are still in service as region-trains operated by the MRB pass through Waldheim as they head to either Chemnitz or Riesa. The third one has been out of use but plans are in the works to make it a recreational crossing. Furthermore, one can find five more bridges to the south of Waldheim in the area of Kriebstein plus another seven more near the town of Limmritz. They include the railroad viaducts that once became part of the Bankrottmeile between Waldheim and the last railroad viaduct in Limmritz, before the Zschopau merges with the Freiberg Mulde. A few smaller road crossings in Meinsberg and Mimmritz rounds off the tour of the “bridge-enriched” region that few tourists pay attention to- but they should. 😉

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Heiligborn Viaduct at dusk

With that in mind, the question is where are these bridges located and what do we know about them? Using Google Maps, photos from a pair of visits to the area and some information and facts from local sources, I’ve developed a tour guide so that when the next person takes a trip to the region, one should take some time and visit them. Keep in mind that Waldheim does have some excellent eateries in and around the city center, including one at the stone arch bridge in town. In case you need food and refreshments, plus a little entertainment, they are highly recommended. As parking is limited in the city center, it is best to sit your car in the parks nearby. Many of these bridges are easily accessible by bike or by foot, with a pair of exceptions.

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Kriebethal Railroad near the Kübler and Niethammer (Wepa) Paper Company

Without further ado, let’s have a look at these structures in detail:

All you need to do is click onto one of the bridges and read up on the information. Each bridge has a series of photos which unless noted, have been taken by the photographer. To access them, just scroll down the information to the end and click on Photos. Enjoy the gallery. 🙂

The map also includes a hiking trail along the Bankrottmeile, a 7.5 kilometer stretch of line between Waldheim and Limmritz whose history can be found under fast fact and in the map.

 

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The Waldheim Trials was the Soviet version of the Nuremberg Trials of 1946, held under the auspisces of the western allies of the US, Great Britain and France. The eastern version was held in the Waldheim prison and involved thousands of Nazi prisoners who were charged with various crimes. 3,400 of them were put into prison while 32 were executed. The Waldheim Trials was considered arbitrary for the chanrges, convictions and sentencing were all prepared well in advance of the prisoners being tried for their crimes.

Diagram of the six viaduct along the Bankrottmeile. Diagram courtesy of Lithographie und Druck von Hermann Höhne, Dresden; Verlag A. Hauschild in … / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

The Chemnitz-Riesa Railroad Line was built from 1847 until its completion and opening in 1852. It’s considered one of the oldest operating rail lines in Germany. Apart from Waldheim, it passes through Mittweida and Döbeln, both nearby cities. The line has been electrified for over 30 years and has been used as a commuter route, for the MRB-Raillines and the Vogtlandbahn run services straight through, whereas the Chemnitz-Bahn Rail Services operates along the line only from Chemnitz to Mittweida. As many as ten viaducts were built for the line, two of them were filled in the 1990s. Six of the viaducts in and around the Waldheim-Limmritz area belong to the “Bankrottmeile”, where the cost for building the viaducts far outweighed the budget of the Chemnitz-Riesa line, resulting in the railroad company going into bankruptcy. The six bridges still stand today. In addition, two tunnels were built but were removed as part of the electrification project.

More information on the bridges of Waldheim can be found here:

https://www.stadt-waldheim.de/portal/seiten/waldheimer-viadukte-900000069-26400.html

https://waldheim-sachsen.de/content/waldheim/strassenbezeichnungen/bruecken.html

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Limmritz Viaduct

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