Mystery Bridge Nr. 177: The Devil’s Bridge (Teufelsbrücke) in Flensburg

Our tour around Flensburg, Germany this summer uncovered several unknown artefacts that we had not seen during our previous trips. One of the areas that is considered a diamond in the rough is the valley of the Lautrupsbach. This creek is found in the eastern part of the city and flows along Nordstrasse until it empties into the Flensburg Fjord at the junction with Ballastbrücke, where four multiple-story modern buildings are located.  There are at least six bridges along this creek plus a high waterfall where the creek makes a 20+ meter drop before it crosses the aforementioned main streets.

While the waterfall will be mentioned later on in The Flensburg Files, this mystery bridge article is about the Devil’s Bridge. It crosses Nordstrasse and Lautrupsbach, carrying Bismarckstrasse near the School of Theater (Theaterschule Flensburg). When driving on Nordstrasse, one could perceive it is a modern bridge with little or no value.

Hiking up the trail, we found that we were dead wrong.  Going up the trail, find that an arch bridge exists at Bismarckstrasse, crossing the trail and the creek right next to it. And while it is difficult to see it because of the covering of trees and other vegetation, the arch is quite decorated.  I bought a couple books at a bookstore in Kappeln, which talked about the rail service in Flensburg and the surrounding area, and found that it was one long bridge crossing more than just a creek, as you can see in my rough sketch of the bridge:

Many of you are wondering how this came to be. As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: “Nicht leichter als das.” (Not easier than this in German):

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The History of the Railroads in Flensburg in Short and Simple Terms:

To understand this bridge, we have to understand Flensburg’s railroad system, which is best compared to a bowl of spaghetti- well-networked but sometimes quite chaotic!

Flensburg is a border-city, located just south of Denmark and therefore all trains from Germany and the east (Holstein and Angeln) and all trains from Denmark and the North Sea region meet in Flensburg. But when the railroad was introduced in 1854, there were two termini but in one specific location: The Hafenspitze at Flensburg Fjord.  Specifically, from 1854 until the present-day international railway station was built in 1927, Flensburg had two railway stations- one on each side of the Fjord. On the western side where the historic old town was located, there was the terminus for all trains heading to the north and west-specifically to Husum and  Niebüll on the German side as well as Tonder, Fredericia and Kolding on the Danish side. It started with the English Bridge, a wooden bridge that connected the old town with the loading dock in the harbor that was built in 1854. It was short-lived for salt water undermined the piers and pilings and it was therefore removed in 1881. While a make-shift train stop built at that time served as a stop-gap, a real train station, with Victorian-style architecture opened to service in 1883. Johannes Otzen was the designer.

On the eastern end of the Fjord was another train station, and it was the terminus for a regular train route to Kiel as well as two narrow-gauge train routes- one to Satrup and Hörup and another to Glücksburg and Kappeln. When the present-day railroad station at Mühlendamm and Schleswiger Strasse opened in 1927, services started to cease operations for passenger services, beginning with the regular train services to Kiel, the North Sea region and Denmark. The narrow gauge routes were phased out so that by 1953, there were no more trains running these routes. At the same time, the two stations on each side of the Hafenspitze were removed and the railroad tracks were for the most part abandoned.  The Devil’s Bridge crossed these tracks coming from the eastern station along the Fjord.

The History of the Devil’s Bridge:

After introducing the history of the railroads in Flensburg, we will come back to this bridge. The Devil’s Bridge features not only one but two crossings, as you can see in the diagram above. The arch section crossed the Kiel railroad line until it was removed in 1928. Now it’s a trail that runs along the Lautrupsbach. The arch section is closed spandrel and its portals are decorated. It looks like a tunnel because it is partially buried with soil and vegetation. Therefore one can technically call it a tunnel.  It was used as a shelter during the air raids in World War II, although Flensburg escaped with only minor damage.

Close-up of one of the ornamental pegs on the arch portion of the bridge.

 The other section of the bridge was a two-span concrete beam bridge that spanned the two narrow-gauge raillines to Kappeln and Satrup.  The bridge was known to be haunted because of its spooky setting, especially at night. Even the horses would not dare pass through the bridge.  The entire structure was built in 1912 and it was for the purpose of connecting Flensburg with its suburb of Mürwik and further on to Glücksburg. Due to the expansion of housing and with that, the increase in the volume of traffic, the section of the bridge where the two narrow-gauge trains had existed was torn down and replaced with a modern, one-span beam structure, which was higher than the previous span. This happened in 1960.  Seven years before that, the tracks involved were removed and replaced with the present-day Nordstrasse which connects the harbor with the Osttangente, the bypass that runs east and south of Flensburg. There is no information on who designed and built the Devil’s Bridge, especially the original design of 1912.  Yet another mystery behind the bridge has to do with another crossing that is up the hill behind the Devil’s Bridge.

The arch-like abutment from the Kappeln-crossing

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Crossing Bridges

About 150 meters away from the Devil’s Bridge are the abutments of yet another bridge or two. On both sides of the Lautrupsbach, one can see the arch-like abutments that stick out of the ground, thus confirming that a bridge existed. Even the maps and sources confirm this as the narrow-gauge line crosses both the creek as well as the Kiel rail line, enroute to Kappeln. When the line was abandoned by 1953, both the tracks as well as the bridge were removed in their entirety as they were rendered useless and a hazard for hikers. There is no information nor photos of what the structure looked like, let alone when the structure was built and by whom. But judging by the fact that the abutments are diagonal from one another, one has to confirm that the bridge had a skewed setting, thus leading to three types that can be built with skewed portal entrances: stone arch (rare to find but possible), steel girder (likely after 1900) and truss (very likely regardless of whether the trusses are deck, pony or through). Because the railroad opened in 1881 and steel was becoming a popular and cheap commodity, my hunches are that the truss bridge was built at that spot and the arches were used as abutments to support the span.

The arched portion of the abutment opposite the Lautrupsbach and trail but ca. 30-40 meters away from the abutment on the trail side.

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Fazit- What are we looking for?

To summarize, the Devil’s Bridge features two bridges crossing three rail lines and Lautrupsbach, carrying Bismarckstrasse. The rail lines have since been replaced with a trail and Nordstrasse. Only one half of the 1912 bridge (the tunnel) still exists; the other half was replaced in 1960. We’re looking for the builders behind this complex, monstrous structure that has since been buried in time by cars and vegetation. Behind the Devil’s Bridge are the remains of a railroad bridge that once crossed the Kiel line, which ran through the tunnel portion of the Devil’s Bridge. We have no information on the bridge’s appearance, let alone who built the bridge and when it was built. Had it been built in 1881, it’s a truss bridge. If it’s 1900, then a girder. 

As I would like to add both in the book on Schleswig-Holstein’s bridges, if you have any information that may be useful, photos included, feel free to contact me, using the contract details enclosed here. Information on the book project can also be found in the Chronicles. Click here for details and feel free to contribute. Your help would be much appreciated. Spread the word.

And with that, we have another bridge along the Lautrupsbach that needs our attention. With that we move on to the next page. Until then, happy bridgehunting, folks. 🙂

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