Home to the mountains, the tundra and the fjords, Norway, with a population of 5.4 million inhabitants, is one of Earth’s finest natural wonders. The country is a tourist magnet for those wanting to visit the country’s landscapes, witness the midnight sun and/or Auroras and experience its cold, sea climate, something you cannot find in other regions in Europe. While Norway has a wide network of roads and bridges spanning rivers and fjords and connecting villages, most of the area are only accessible via ferries and cruise ships because of the treacherous landscapes and the weather patterns that are unpredictable.
To reduce the amount of time it takes to go from the southern tip of the country to the northern part, the Norwegian government has introduced a massive project of its own. It’s known as the “Floating Highway,” but it’s basically a system of tunnels and bridges going through its landscape and connecting Trondheim in the north to Kristiansand (west of Oslo) to the south. Known as the “New E39 Project,” it was launched in 2018 and is expected to be completed before 2040 at a cost of $47 billion.
Despite this, there are growing concerns about this project, because of increasing high costs and (because of the current crisis in Europe) lack of materials needed for the project. Mainly three questions come to mind:
Is this project feasible or if it is “a bridge too far?”
Who will benefit from this project when it is completed?
Will this project be an engineering achievement or a disaster that should have been averted?
A documentary on this project can be found below. Watch the documentary and feel free to comment on it, either here in the Chronicles or in its social media pages. Enjoy the film and looking forward to your comments. 🙂
It was India’s first sea bridge when it opened 108 years ago. It held the title as the longest sea bridge and the only connection between the Indian mainland and Rameswaram Island until 2010. It has been considered one of the world’s most dangerous bridges because of its narrowness and its proximity, crossing the Arabian Sea, known for its treacherous storms. It has been battered by cyclones and high waves and because of the sea’s saltiness, has been prone to corrosion. For 108 years, despite the use and abuse, the bridge was the only one that the Indian Railways had used.
The Pamban Railroad Bridge is a 2.1 km long railroad bridge that features a double-leaf bascule main span in a form of a Scherzer design, functioning using a lever to allow ships to pass. The bascule spans are operated by hand, making it one of the last of its kind to exist. The approach spans are deck plate girders. Going across the bridge would require trains to travel a snail’s pace of 10-20 km/h- causing awe among tourists and headaches for Indian Railways as it supplies goods between islands. But that is about to change.
Workers are building a new bridge alongside the old span. The bridge will be longer than the old one (2.3 km long) and it will be wide enough to provide two-tracks of rail service going in each direction. The main span will feature a vertical lift span that will be 63 meters long and will be high enough for ships to pass. The lift span will operate by computer thus eliminating the need for manpower. There will be 100 girder spans functioning as approach spans averaging 18 meters. The new bridge itself will be three meters higher than the old one. There’s a video on the new span that will provide you with some details on what the bridge will look like when it is completed.
The bridge is expected to open to traffic in 2023. It will serve as a relief to not only rail traffic, which will be able to travel up to 80 km/h on the new span in both directions, but also to the vehicular viaduct located parallel to the railroad span that has been in use for 12 years now. A plus for tourism and for commerce in the region.
As far as the old span is concerned, its future is open. While there is a chance that it could be repurposed as a bike and pedestrian trail bridge, which would make the world record books for being the longest rail-to-trail bridge, chances are more likely that it will be (at least partially) removed with metal parts being shipped to sea to be reused as coral reefs. The Bascule spans will most likely be preserved and used as a monument- and rightfully so because of its historic significance. No matter what happens, the Pamban Bridge will remain in the history books because of its feat but also because of its contribution to India’s transportation development, especially during the time before its independence in 1947. Here are two clips of the old bridge to give you an idea how the bridge still works and to a certain degree, why a new span is necessity.
There are thousands of metal truss bridges in Indiana that were discovered and documented in the 50 years James Cooper was in the field of historic bridge preservation and one could make a list of bridges that would not have existed as long as they did, had it not been for his contribution to his work. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that only a handful of truss bridges were used primarily for building purposes between 1880 and 1920, such as the Pratt, Whipple, Warren, Warren, Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Parker designs. Then we have the question of bridge builders who not only competed with each other for bridge-building contracts, but they also merged with each other and consolidated the businesses. Classic example was the creation of the American Bridge Company in 1900, which featured 28 bridge builders including Wrought Iron Bridge, Lassig Bridge and Iron Works and even Masillon Bridge Company.
Little do we pay attention to are the details of the truss bridge, such as connections, portal and strut bracings, types of beams used for the trusses, railings and most importantly, plaques and other ornaments. Most of these “decorations” indicated that the bridge builder wanted to leave their mark and make it fancier for the passers-by. In short, the more “decorations” the more likely it will be appreciated by the locals, and in terms of historic bridge preservation, the more likely it will be documented and preserved in the present for future generations to see.
In this film documentary, courtesy of Mike Daffron and Satolli Glassmeyer, we have one truss bridge that represented a classic example of a typical Pratt through truss bridge, yet its unique portal bracings and the stone abutments used for construction made it a unique structure that needed to be saved. The Stone Arch Road Bridge is located on a road where a stone arch bridge does exist nearby (will write more later), but is the more beautiful of the two bridges. The bridge spans Nineveh Creek near the community but in the Attebury Fish and Wildlife Preserves and was open to traffic in 1886. The bridge was fully restored in 2011 and has been serving vehicular traffic ever since. How the bridge was built and all the other details about it, you will find in the videos below.
In response to the latest 10-year anniversary campaign on bridges used for music albums, one of the readers sent a request to expand the campaign to bridges being used as a form of advertisement. When we understand bridges and advertisements, we think of print ads from over a century ago where bridge builders placed ads for bridges that are available to be built where people need them. One of the leading bridge builders who aggressively marketed bridges to vast areas in the US was the Wrought Iron Bridge Company before it folded into the American Bridge Consortium in 1901. Another was the King Bridge Company, where after Zenas‘ successful campaign in marketing and building bridges, his son George continued on with the tradition. In both instances, print adverts led to successful contracts and in the end, several examplaries still exist throughout the US
Enter the age of TV and electronic media and we see bridges being used as a backdrop for commercials- namely, non-bridge commercials, mostly dealing with cars. Two examples can be seen here. The first one is a 1960s car commercial where a covered bridge was used as a backdrop for a new car:
The second was a Super Bowl advert by a tire firm, where fallen trees and a beaver played a role in saving the driver’s life, keeping him from being washed away on a truss bridge:
The question is, what other bridge adverts have you seen, regardless of print or electronic? Feel free to share your stories and videos both here in the comment section or on the Chronicles‘ facebook or twitter websites. The stories and the adverts can be enclosed via link and can be explained in any language, be it English, German, French, Japanese, Arabic or any other language. The image of bridges in an advert is everything. It’s your turn now…….
Don’t forget, we’re also collecting stories in the following areas below:
Army bases, or at least the remains of army bases, have become a ground for research for historic artefacts and to determine its history- both during ist time of operation as well as the time prior to their establishments. Both in Europe as well as in the United States, military bases were built at the expense of places of residence and/or natural or historic interest because they served as key logistical points for either testing new weapons or transporting military equipment to defend the territories. This was especially the case during the Cold War, as the US established dozens of military bases in the western half of Germany, including the existing bases at Rammstein, Grafenwöhr and near Kaiserslautern. In addition, military bases existed in the US, where they were used for experimenting with new weapons and producing new defense mechanisms to fend off the enemy. In this case, it was the Communist Bloc with the Soviet Union leading the way.
The Jefferson Proving Ground was one of the military bases that played a key role in US history. In 1940, 56,000 acres of land was purchased by the army to establish a military base. Work began to establish the base but at the cost of residential housing and historic places that had existed. Opened in 1941, the Jefferson Proving Grounds covered much of southern Indiana in parts of Jefferson, Jennings and Ripley Counties. It was on the list of closures in 1989 as part of the plan to realign the military but was actually closed down in 1995. Since then, the place has been considered vacant except in some areas that are still run by the military. Some of the places on the former base have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Jefferson Proving Ground provides some interesting facts and some discoveries that make researching the former military base and its history attractive. In a documentary by Satolli Glassmeyer of History in Your Own Backyard, you will have an opportunity to see the historic places that have a key role in the history oft he military base. Some of the relicts and historic buildings survived the transformation of going from a small residential area, to a military base to now a „ghost town“.
Surprising about the Jefferson Proving Grounds are the numerous historic bridges that still exist on the former military base, as he will show you in this documentary below. Most of the structures are arch bridges made of stone, but there are quite of few truss bridges, including two overhead truss spans. To learn more about them, check on the links at the end of the article. For now, enjoy the film.
One of the most historic of bridges in the US a person should visit is the Thomas Viaduct. The viaduct features eight spans of stone arch (each one has a span of 58 feet or 18 meters) with a total length of 612 feet (187 meters). It’s 59 feet in height. Built in 1835, it was named after Philip Thomas, the first president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, which had built, owned and operated the viaduct. The bridge’s last rehabilitation project happened almost 90 years ago. Since then, it has been in use with no known repairs done to it. The bridge can be found in Maryland, between Elkridge and Relay, along the Patapsco River.
The rest of the story and photos can be seen in this film produced by an avid railroader. Produced in 2019, this narrator shows you all the views of this gorgeous viaduct while telling you some more interesting facts about it. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂
The 130th Mystery Bridge takes us to the south of Germany to one of what Germans would call a “Soda-Brücke”. These are bridges that were built as part of the plan to construct a major road or highway only to have the project be abandoned with these structures considered in English to be “The Bridge to Nowhere.” The State of Bavaria has dozens of Soda Bridges that exist as they were part of Adolf Hitler’s grand project to build and expand the German Autobahn (Motorway) system to be used for the war efforts. Known as the Reichsautobahn, most of the total original length of 3900 kilometers are being used today, which include the three most traveled Motorways: the A4 Cologne-Dresden-Görlitz, A9 Berlin-Nuremberg-Munich and the A7 Flensburg-Hamburg-Ulm-Füssen (Bavaria). At almost 1000 kilometers, the A 7 remains to be the longest in Germany.
This Soda Bridge is located along what was supposed to be the Reichsautobahn nr. 87. This stretch of highway was constructed between 1938 and 1940, the same time as this bridge was built. This is located near Straubing in southeastern Bavaria and when it was built, it has a total span of 40 meters and a length of about 80 meters. Like most Autobahn-Bridges built during the Third Reich, the span was made of concrete, whereas the abutments and wingwalls were built using brick. Like with the rest of the stretch of Autobahn, it was never completed as the war halted the completion of the route and this bridge became expendable. As a result, you see the bridge like it is in this film clip:
This was found by chance, which makes researching more fun to do. 🙂
After the war, talks of finishing the motorway were in motion until the 1960s when the plan was abandoned for good. Why? Much of the stretch going towards the River Danube had an average grade of 5-6%, making it potentially dangerous for trucks to travel on the stretch. Henceforth, much of this stretch was either abandoned or converted into local highway use- this bridge was one that belonged to the former. The motorway was finished but relocated 6-8 kilometers away from the original route and was renamed Motorway 3, which is being used today, connecting Deggendorf with Cologne via Würzburg and Frankfurt. Another Motorway A 87 was in the planning but for the Stuttgart area. That plan was never realized.
Yet this still does not solve the mystery of how many other Soda Bridges that existed along the original Reichsautobahn 87, let alone how the route was followed exactly, and lastly, who was behind the design? This is where we open the page for discussion. Feel free to comment here or in the Chronicles’ facebook page or group page German History and Nostalgia.
Our next Wartime Bridge story takes us to northeastern Poland and to the town of Jastrowie. With a population of 8900 inhabitants, the community is located on the edge of the Gwda River valley. Germans have translated the river’s name into Küddow. During World Was II, Jastrowie was a stronghold for Nazi soldiers especially as a railroad line had existed and it was needed to ship war supplies and other materials to the areas needed, especially as soldiers on the eastern front tried to invade the Soviet Union and were only 60 kilometers away from Moscow by the end of 1941.
By the beginning of 1945, with the Nazis fighting a losing battle with the Allies encroaching Germany and its capital Berlin from all sides, Soviet troops were making strides as the soliders, tired and worn out from the fighting, were fleeing towards Germany, marching through Poland along the way. Despite Adolf Hitler’s orders to fight to the very end, there were only three options for the Nazi soldiers:
1. Fight until death,
2. Slow the advancement of Soviets to buy time to retreat and eventually regroup or
3. Desert the army and if caught, accept the terms of surrender with the hope of returning home to their families.
In the case of this bridge at Jastrowie, it was the attempt of carrying out option 2 that went as awry as it could be. The railroad bridge was built in 1914 and spans the River Gwda east of Jastrowie. It can be seen from the State 189 Bridge as it is approximately 300 meters away to the south. While it is unknown who built the bridge, the inscriptions on the truss beams indicated that a Union Steel Company may have fabricated the steel parts to put together the polygonal Warren deck truss design. Because Poland was part of the German Empire until the end of World War I, it is most likely that the company came from the German side.
Attempts to blow up the bridge to slow the advancement of Soviet troops happened on 2 February, 1945 as Nazi soldiers tried to bring the bridge to the ground using explosives. Unfortunately, due to a lack of explosives and other materials needed to destroy the bridge, combined with the quick advancement of the encroaching soldiers and opposition from locals in the area, only one side of the bridge came down, the other was still attached leaving the truss span hanging on one side. It has been in this partially collapsed position ever since. A video shows the partially collapsed span in full detail:
While the Soviets captured the city on the same day, they would remain in the region for another 44 years. Although Poland was reestablished as a country, it became part of Soviet control through the Potsdam Agreement of 1945, when Germany, and eventually the rest of Europe was divided into East and West. While under Soviet control, residents of Jastrowie were forced to resettle further westward as much of the population were of German descent. It was part of the practice by the Soviet Union and the eastern European countries that had been under control of Nazi Germany but were later reestablished as individual states. People of German descent were rounded up and deported to what later became the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), their assets seized and redistributed among the native populations, including the Polish in Poland and the Slavics in what later becamse Czechoslovakia.
Because the town was emptied, the bridge and the rail line were both abandoned and have remained ever since, thus making it an important and popular tourist stop for bridge enthusiasts and photographers. Even some Polish bloggers have written about the bridge, one of which can be found here and is loaded with detailed photos of the bridge. More information about the bridge is found there but in Polish.
The Jastrowie Bridge is one of many historic structures that survived the Nazi attempts of being blown up for the sake of stopping the advancement of troops and delaying the inevitable. It is however one of the community’s prized historical treasures that serves as a reminder of how the residents survived two different occupations- one of which included the forced deportation to East Germany following the end of the war. It is also fortunate that the bridge has remained in tact for the purpose of future research on its history. While the chances of it being restored and reused as a bike trail crossing along the River Gwda is slim, historians can take the opportunity to learn about the structure’s history, not only tracing the history of Union Steel but also find out who was behind the construction of its unique design. A relict as a memorial makes a community stand out as one that has gone through a lot over the years. And that in itself makes it an attraction for historians, bridge fans, photographers and tourists alike.
Poland was occupied three times since its establishment in 1595: The Polish Partition happened from 1795 to 1918 in which the country was divided into three parts: the eastern part belonged to the Russian Empire, the southern part to the Habsburg Empire (Austro-Hungarian) and the western part to Prussia, which later became the German Empire through its creation in 1871. After being reestablished via Versailles Treaty in 1918, Poland was an autonomy until September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded and eventually captured the country. It remained under control until the Soviets drove them away in warfare successfully in 1945. After being part of the administration, Poland became a puppet of Communism until free elections of 1989, which led to it becoming an independent country. For more information on Polish history, click here.
Located in the southern part of the district of Stendal, the city of Tangermünde is located on the River Elbe in the northern part of the German state of Saxony Anhalt. The city has over 10,400 inhabitants and is famous for its historic architecture dating back to the Medieval period. It’s one of only a handful of walled cities left in Germany that is in tact and one can find many historic places within the walls of the city, such as the towers, St. Stephan’s Church, Elbe Gate, and the historic city hall. The hanseatic city survived almost unscathed during World War II, for only a few trussed houses (Fachwerkhäuser) were destroyed.
Yet one of the city’s prized historic works, the Elbe River Crossing, was destroyed, leaving a scar on the city.
The Tangermünde Bridge was built in 1933, after taking two years of construction. The 833-meter long bridge features a steel through arch main span (at 115 meters) with a height of 15 meters and a vertical clearance of 9 meters. There were a total of 24 spans featuring many forms of steel girders, through and pony alike. The bridge remained in service for only 12 years. On 12 April, 1945, in an attempt to hinder the advancing American army, Nazi soldiers blew up the crossing while retreating towards Berlin. Nevertheless, to avoid being sent to Soviet camps, sections of the 9th and 12th Wehrmacht armies (Germany) surrendered to the Americans. They had used the destroyed spans to help residents fleeing the advancing Soviet army. A temporary crossing was constructed afterwards.
Here are some videos of the Tangermünde Crossing after it was destroyed by explosives. This was filmed after the Nazis surrendered to American troops. The gravity of the destruction of the bridge was huge and was a symbol of the destruction that would be bestowed upon in all of Germany.
The Tangermünde Crossing was rebuilt by the Soviets and the East Germans after Tangermünde became part of East Germany in 1950. They recycled the bridge parts and rebuilt a multiple-span crossing that featured as a main span a curved Pratt through truss with welded connections. Ist portal was I-beam with 45° angle heels. The remaining spans featured Bailey trusses, both pony as well as through truss. A tunnel view oft he Bailey through truss can be found in a blog which you can read here.
The structure lasted through the Fall of the Wall before it was replaced with the current structure, a steel through arch that mimicks that of the 1933 span. The bridge itself is almost twice as long as the original span, having a total length of nearly 1.5 km. It was built nearly two kilometers to the north of the old span, which remained in use until it was closed to all traffic in 2001 when the new bridge opened to traffic. The old structure was removed two years later. At the same time, the main highway, B-188, was rerouted, thus bypassing much of the city and having only local traffic going through town.
Today, the Tangermünde Crossing still serves local traffic. Its design has fit into the rest of the city’s historic landscape, much of which has been restored since 1990. Yet as we celebrate the end of World War II, many people remember how their prized work was destroyed towards the end of the war in a cowardly attempt to prevent the inevitable. And because the city was for the most part spared, Tangermünde has continued to become a tourist attraction. People can go back to the Medieval times and enjoy the architecture, before heading to the River Elbe to see the structural beauty. Despite being one of the youngest crossings along the Elbe, it is one with a story to tell to children and grandchildren alike.
This short film documentary takes us to Avoyelles Parish, and this bridge, located out in the country. The Sarto Swing Bridge was built in 1916 by the Austin Brothers Bridge Company of Dallas, Texas at a cost of over $5200. The structure, spanning the Bayou des Glaises, was the first bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places, when it was nominated in 1989, the year after it was closed. Dave Baker of KATC-TV provides you with a quick glimpse into the bridge’s history and what you can see at the bridge site. The bridge is open to pedestrians.