Best Kept Secret: Munksbrücke near Ockholm

This past summer, my family and I had an opportunity to visit the North Sea coast near Dagebüll. The town of 2,500 inhabitants is located 65 km west of Flensburg and 30 km northwest of Husum. Not far from the mainland are the Halligen Islands. These small islands serve as wave breakers and are located between three and 15 kilometers off the mainland. With a couple exceptions, these islands can be accessed by foot during low tide (Ebbe) and only by boat at high tide (Flut). The influence of the tides can also be seen in the canals and waterways that exists on the mainland, which are controlled by a series of dams and dikes. This system has been in use since the Great Flood of 1961, which flooded half of Schleswig-Holstein and almost all of Hamburg, killing hundreds of residents and causing billions of US Dollars in damages. Yet the dikes are being improved as the water levels are increasing as a result of Climate Change.

Located eight kilometers to the south of Dagebüll is this bridge. Located over the Bongsiel Canal, this bridge is located in an area that is out of the way, serving a local road near Ockholm. Unique about this bridge is the fact that it is the oldest of its kind left in the state. Constructed in 1886, this bridge is 31 meters long and features a bowstring pony arch bridge with welded connections. The bridge is a year older than the swing bridge at Klevendeich near Hamburg.

Like with truss bridges in North America, the Munksbrück features welded connections, where the truss parts are bolted together by hand, supported by gusset plates. They were the forerunners to truss bridges with riveted connections, where the truss parts are slid into the gusset plates like a person wearing a glove and then bolted shut. Most of the truss bridges in Europe were built using this system of connections until the 1920s when riveted connections were introduced. Most truss bridges today are molded together offsite before sliding it into place.

Contrary to the tire tracks left on the bridge and the wear and tear, this bridge was restored in 2019. According to the engineering firm Grassl, the abutments were rebuilt, mimicking the original ones when it was built in 1886. Furthermore, the bridge itself was restored, in-kind. This means truss parts were sandblasted , strengthened and then repainted to protect them from corrosion. Some parts were most likely replaced in the process. Furthermore, a new wooden decking was installed which includes a drainage mechanism where the water is drained into the canal. The bridge was never widened, which means the one-lane bridge restriction was left in place. Based on my observation during our visit in 2021, road-users were paying attention to the oncoming traffic to ensure that those who have the right-of-way can use it. In American standards, it would be considered impossible for today’s bridges must have a minimum of three lanes- two for cars and one for pedestrians and sidewalks. A total of at least 35 feet in width, which puts the remaining truss bridges in service in danger of being replaced; the trusses sent to the recycling centers for reuse. One of the caveats I have as an American is when the bridge wobbles.
From an American bridge building perspective, it would call for an immediate replacement for a crossing must sit still when something crosses it. However if one does the homework correctly, he/she will find that a truss bridge vibration is normal as it undergoes regular stress caused by loads going across it. It’s just a mere question of how much of a load the bridge can tolerate. Yet from a neutral perspective, one needs to check and ensure that no damage is done to the diagonal beams or better yet, havea weight limit to ensure only light vehicles can cross the bridge. After all, a concrete bridge, built in the 1960s is located just a kilometer away from the bridge, clearly visible from the truss bridge.

There is very little information about this bridge except to say that it is the second crossing currently in service. The bridge is located only 200 meters away from a nearby restaurant that bears the same name. Unfortunately because of the Covid-19 epidemic, the restaurant is out of business, having been closed for quite some time. Likewise, many restaurants in this region has born the brunt of the epidemic for 70% of the restaurants located outside communities, like Dagebüll, Husum and Niebüll have shuttered because of Covid-19 lockdowns and other restrictions. As long as the epidemic exists, the way of life will be restricted unless we be active in our efforts to contain and defeat it. This includes getting the shot and even the boosters that are and will continue to be available. But it also making some fundamental changes in terms of our travel habits, such as reducing capacity at public events and on flights. The less is more approach cannot come at a better time than now. Already Schleswig-Holstein is leading the pack in these aspects and more and it is hoped that other states in Germany, as well as other countries, such as the US will follow suit. If in doubt, ask the politicians in Kiel. They will show you the path.

The (now shuttered) Restaurant bearing the bridge’s name.

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But once the epidemic is over, perhaps places like this restaurant will reopen. If that is a case, it makes for a perfect stop to enjoy the meal and see the bridge. The Munksbrück Bridge is one diamond that one has to see while in the region where the Halligen Islands are located. It has maintained its structural integrity, even more so with its recent facelift. As long as the bridge is properly maintained and drivers pay attention to the other man on the (opposite end of the) bridge, the structure will remain in service for generations to come. It’s a trip that was not regrettable and is recommended to everyone, pontist or non-pontist.

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Author’s note: I’m looking for more information on this bridge’s history, especially in terms of its builder. It’s in connection with the bridge book I’m compiling on Schleswig-Holstein’s bridges. For more information, click here. My contact info is here. Thanks in advance for your help and happy bridgehunting, folks.

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💉🌉BHC

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