Historic Structures and Glasses: Restore vs. Replacement in Simpler Terms

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Co-written with sister column, FF new logo

The discussion about the preservation and reuse of historic places has existed since the 1950s, thanks to the preservation laws that have been in place. The German Preservation Laws were passed in 1958, whereas the Historic Preservation Laws that established the National Park Service and National Register of Historic Places in the USA were enacted in 1966. Both serve the lone purpose of identifying and designating places unique to the cultural identity and history of their respective countries. Furthermore, these places are protected from any sort of modernization that would otherwise alter or destroy the structure in its original form. Protected places often receive tax credits, grants and other amenities that are normally and often not granted if it is not protected or even nominated for listing as a historic site.  This applies to not only buildings and bridges but also to roadways and highways, windmills, towers of any sorts, forts and castles, citadels and educational institutions and even memorials commemorating important events.

Dedicating and designating sites often receive mixed reactions, from overwhelming joy because they can better enjoy the sites and educate the younger generations, to disgruntlement because they want to relieve themselves of a potential liability.

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Since working with a preservation group in western Saxony on saving the Bockau Arch Bridge, a seven-span stone arch bridge that spans the Zwickau Mulde between Bockau and Zschorlau, six kilometers southwest of Aue, the theme involving this structure has been ownership. The bridge has been closed to all traffic since August 2017 while a replacement is being built on a new alignment. Once the new bridge opens, the 150-year old structure will come down unless someone is willing to step in and take over ownership and the responsibilities involved. . Taking the structure means paying for its maintenance and assuming all responsibility for anything that could potentially happen. And this is the key here: Ownership.

Who wants to own a piece of history? To examine this, let’s look at a basic example of a commodity where two thirds of the world’s population wear on a regular basis- the author included as well: glasses.

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The author’s sunglasses: the older model from 2005 on top; the newest pair from 2018 at the bottom.

Ever since Marco Polo’s invention, glasses have been improved, innovated and modernized to not only make the person look great in appearance. It also helps them to better see the environment surrounding them, regardless of whether they are near-sighted or far sighted, have astigmatism or require bi-focals to read, or if they want protect their eyes from the sun in the form of shades. Glasses can be plastic or metal (or even both). And like the historic structures, the materials can be recycled if no one wants them. Yet by the same token, many of us love to keep them for the purpose of memories or give them away to those who need them. For over 30 years, I have worn nine pairs of glasses and two pairs of sunglasses; this does not count the eight years that I primarily wore contact lenses, which was during my time in high school and college. Like our historic structures, glasses have a life span. They are worn until the frames develop rust and corrosion, the vision changes or they are broken.

In some cases, many look for a new frames because they want to “look cool” in front of their peers. The “look cool” mentality has overtaken society to a point where it can be applicable to about everything: cars, clothing, houses and especially historic places and structures of interest. Basically, people just ignore the significance of these structures and things that had been built in the past, which hold memories, contribute to the development of a country, region or even community, or are simply fashionable. Still in spite of all this, one has to do something about the glasses, just as much one has to do something about the historic building.

So let’s take these two pairs of sunglasses, for example. Like in the picture above, the top one I was prescribed by an optometrist in 2005; the bottom one most recently in June 2018. The top one is a combination of plastic and steel- the temples, ends and hinges are made of steel; the eye wires are plastic. The lenses are made with Carl Zeiss branded glass with a sealcoat covering to protect it from scratches.  The bottom ones are plastic- frames, temples and nosepiece; the lenses are plastic but with a sealcoat protectant and dimmers to protect the eyes from the sun. The brand name is generic- no name.  The difference is that the changes in the eyes required new sunglasses for the purpose of driving or doing work outside.  As I wear the new sunglasses, which are not as high quality but is “cool,” according to standards, the question is what to do with the old sunglasses?

There are enough options to go around, even if the sunglasses are not considered significant. One can keep the old pair for memory purposes. Good if you have enough space for them. One can give them away to someone who needs them. If they are non-prescription lenses, that is much easier than those with a prescription. With the prescription lenses, one will need to remove them from the frame before giving them away. Then there is the option of handing them into the glasses provider, who takes the pair apart and allows for the materials to be recycled.  More likely one will return the old pair to the provider to be recycled and reused than it would be to give them away because of the factors of age, quality of the materials and glass parts and especially the questions with the lenses themselves. One can keep the pair, but it would be the same as leaving them out of sight and out of mind.

And this mentality can be implemented to any historic structure. People strive for cooler, more modern buildings, infrastructure or the like, but do not pay attention to the significance of the structure they are replacing in terms of learning about the past and figuring its reuse in the future. While some of  these “oldtimers “ are eventually vacated and abandoned, most of them are eventually torn down with the materials being reused for other purposes; parts of sentimental values, such as finials, statues and plaques, are donated to museums and other associations to be put on display.

The Bridge at Pointer’s Ridge. Built in 1910 by the Western Bridge Company of Omaha, NE. The Big Sioux River crossing was one of five bridges removed after years of abandonment in 2012. Photo taken in 1999 when it was still open.

One of examples that comes to mind when looking at this mentality are the bridges of Minnehaha County in South Dakota. The most populous county in the state whose county seat is Sioux Falls (also the largest city in the state), the county used to have dozens of historic truss bridges that served rail and automobile traffic. As of present, 30 known truss bridges exists in the county, down from 43 in 1990, and half as many as in 1980.  At least six of them are abandoned awaiting reuse. This includes a rails-to-road bridge that was replaced in 1997 but has been sitting alongside a gravel road just outside Dell Rapids ever since.  A big highlight came with the fall of five truss bridges between Dell Rapids and Crooks in 2012, which included three through truss spans- two of which had crossed the Big Sioux. All three were eligible for the National Register. The reasons behind the removal were simple: Abandoned for too long and liability was too much to handle

This leads me to my last point on the glasses principle: what if the structures are protected by law, listed as a historic monument?  Let’s look at the glasses principle again to answer that question. Imagine you have a couple sets of glasses you don’t want to part ways with, even as you clean your room or  flat. What do you do with them? In the case of my old sunglasses, the answer is simple- I keep them for one can reuse them for other purposes. Even if I allow my own daughter to use them for decorating dolls or giant teddy bears, or even for artwork, the old pair is mine, if and only if I want to keep them and allow for use by someone else under my care.  The only way I would not keep the old sunglasses is if I really want to get rid of them and no one wants them.

Big Sioux River Crossing at 255th Street: One of five bridges removed in 2012 after decades of abandonment. Photo taken in 1999.

For historic places, this is where we have somewhat of a grey area. If you treat the historic place as if it is protected and provide great care for it, then there is a guarantee that it will remain in its original, pristine condition. The problem is if you want to get rid of it and your place is protected by law. Here you must find the right person who will take as good care of it as you do with your glasses. And that is not easy because the owner must have the financial security and the willpower just to do that. Then the person taking it over does not automatically do what he/she pleases. If protected under preservation laws you must treat it as if it is yours but it is actually not, just like renting a house.  Half the places that have been torn down despite its designation as a historical site was because of the lack of ownership and their willingness to do something to their liking. Even if there are options for restoration available, if no one wants it, it has to go, even if it means taking it off the historic registry list to do that.  Sometimes properties are reclaimed at the very last second, just like the old glasses, because of the need to save it. While one can easily do that with glasses, it is difficult to do that with historic places, for replacement contracts often include removal clauses for the old structure, something that is very difficult to rescind without taking the matter to court.

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In reference to the project on the Bockau Arch Bridge in Germany, we are actually at that point. Despite its protection as a historic structure, its designation was taken off recently, thus allowing for the contract for the new bridge at the expense of the old structure to proceed. Yet, like with the pair of old glasses, last ditch attempts are being made to stop the process for there are possible suitors willing to take over the old structure and repurpose it for bike and pedestrian use. While neither of the communities have expressed interest, despite convincing arguments that the bridge can be maintained at a price that is 100 times less than the calculated amount, the group working to save the bridge is forming an association which will feature a network of patrons in the region, willing to chip in to own the bridge privately. Despite this, the debate on ownership and the bridge’s future lies in the hands of the state parliament because the bridge carries a federal highway, which is maintained on the state and national levels. Will it become like the old pair of glasses that is saved the last second will be decided upon later this fall.

To summarize briefly on the glasses principle, glasses and buildings each have a short lifespan because of their functionality and appearance. We tend to favor the latter more than the former and therefore, replace them with newer, more modern and stylish things to keep up with the pace. However, the older structures, just like the discarded pair of glasses, are downgraded on the scale, despite its protection under laws and ownership. When listed as a historical site, the proprietor works for and together with the government to ensure its upkeep, just like lending old glasses to someone for use, as long as the person knows he/she is “borrowing” it. When it is not listed , they are either abandoned or torn down, just like storing the glasses in the drawers or even having them recycled. However the decision is final if and only if no one wants it, and this could be a last-second thing.

The Bridge at Iverson Crossing south of Sioux Falls. Built in 1897, added to the National Register in 1996. Now privately owned. Photo taken in 1998.

We cannot plan ahead for things that need to be built, expanded or even replaced, for there may be someone with a strong backbone and staunch support who will step in the last minute to stake their claim. This applies to replacing older, historic structures with modern ones that have less taste and value. In the face of environmental issues we’re seeing globally on a daily basis, we have to use and reuse buildings and other structures to prevent the waste of materials that are becoming rarer to use, the destruction of natural habitats that may never recover but most importantly, remind the younger generations of our history and how we got this far. While some of us have little memories of our old glasses in schools with the exception of school class and party photos, almost all of us have memories of our experiences at, in, or on a historic structure that deserves to be recognized and kept for others to see. It’s just a matter of handling them, like the glasses we are wearing.

 

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Bridges Should Be Beautiful by Ian Firth

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Abstract from ted.com: Bridges need to be functional, safe and durable, but they should also be elegant and beautiful, says structural engineer Ian Firth. In this mesmerizing tour of bridges old and new, Firth explores the potential for innovation and variety in this essential structure — and how spectacular ones reveal our connectivity, unleash our creativity and hint at our identity.

Author’s Note: This video came about via tip from one of the pontists in one of the social network sites devoted to historic bridges and serves as a reminder to another article published a week earlier on by Scottish engineers suggesting American bridge builders look for sources of inspiration in places outside their borders. In the past two decades, many new structures have been built to supplant other, fancier historic bridges, whose design presents an appealing taste to the public. The mentality of quantity versus quality at the lowest possible cost but at the same time with little or no maintenance for a century has resulted in blocks of concrete with no character ruling the rivers and streams with little or no aesthetic value. This myth is just a fantasy and is miles away from reality that we see on highways and in cities today. No wonder that protests against such projects to replace historic bridges with boring, bland modern structures presented by agencies with dilluted and questionable facts are increasing sharply, as we are seeing with the debate over the future of Frank Wood Memorial Bridge in Maine, for example.  The advice to take from the article (accessed here) and by looking at the video below is this: If a bridge needs to be replaced, find a way to reuse the structure for other purposes and if a new bridge is needed, please with an aesthetic appeal that the community will be happy with. Sometimes looking to Europe, Asia or even Africa will help engineers be creative and place quality over quantity. Better is looking at the bridge designs that have been discarded and experimenting with them. After all, money does not matter to bridge building. Communities and the lives of the People living there do, though.

Enjoy the Ted Talk Video  below. 🙂

Video:

 

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Chemnitz Viaduct Spared Demolition

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1901 Viaduct no longer part of the plan to modernize the Hook south of Chemnitz based on decision by Ministry in Berlin.

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CHEMNITZ, GERMANY- The Hook in Chemnitz, located in the central part of the German State of Saxony, is a 2.8 kilometer railroad bypass that encircles the southern part of the City Center. It includes the railway Stations of Chemnitz-Mitte, Chemnitz-Süd and Chemnitz Central (Hauptbahnhof). The entire Stretch is 65 years old, has been considered outdated and not suitable for modern (long-distance) trains, especially as the City is working together with the German Railways (The Bahn) to have long-distance trains passing through Chemnitz for the first time in 15 years. Yet the good news is that this missing link is a big step closer to reality. The German Ministry of Railways in Berlin, on Friday, approved an 80 Million Euro Project to reconstruct the Hook, which will feature new railroad tracks between Mitte and Central, new train stations at Mitte and Süd, upgrading them to fulfill modern (and also) handicap standards, the removal of a functionally obsolete bridge at Mitte and the replacement of four bridges.

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One of the bridges that is not part of the plans is the Chemnitz Viaduct, a 117-year old K-Frame arch viaduct that the City and local Groups have fought for over six years to save and preserve. The story behind this bridge can be found in an earlier article written by the Chronicles here. According to a 227-page Report by the Railway Ministry in Berlin (Eisenbahnbundesamt) and confirmed by German Station MDR-Sachsen, a clause stated explicitely that plans for a five-span modern arch bridge is not in the interest of the German Preservation Laws and the German Government:

Der geplante Abriss des Chemnitztalviaduktes wird aus denkmalschutzrechtlichen Gründen abgelehnt. (EN: The planned demolition of the Chemnitz Viaduct has been rejected because of its Status as a Legally-Preserved Monument).

The decision has been met with relief for many and a victory for others, as the viaduct has been considered part of Chemnitz’s history, even though it is the second crossing at this spot. Its predecessor was a 12-span concrete arch bridge that was built in 1884 crossing the River Chemnitz and Annaberger Strasse, serving the Nuremberg-Hof-Zwickau-Dresden Magistrate. Due to flood risks, a steel arch viaduct built 20 meters higher and 50 meters north of the site was built in 1900-01 and the arch span was later removed. The Viaduct has been serving rail traffi ever since.  Plans for demolishing the viaduct was first presented in 2003 as the Bahn had presented a proposal to modernise the Hook. The plan was met with a high, sturdy wall of resistance, which featured online petitions, presentations, initiatives and even a structural study by bridge engineers with experience restoring historic bridges– All of them supported restoring the historic bridge and making it suitable for long-distance trains, in particular the InterCity trains from Cologne and Nuremberg. As with the measure involving the Frank Wood Bridge in Maine, they even brought this matter to court, where the Office for Preserved Artefacts (Denkmalschutzamt) decided to forward the matter to the Ministry of Railway in Berlin, with success on the part of the historic bridge and the City of Chemnitz.

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The Railroad Overpass at Chemnitz Süd, one of five bridges along the Hook that will become history in 2019

 

With this decision, the Bahn has decided to proceed with the plan of modernizing the Hook without the Viaduct. Construction is expected to begin in the Fall 2019 and should last four years. The bridges expected to be replaced will include a 1920s bridge at Chemnitz-Süd, a concrete overpass at Chemnitz-Mitte stemming from the East German times and two smaller bridges. As for the Chemnitz Viaduct, the bridge will not be renovated before 2022 which gives all parties time to come up with a plan to restore the bridge to accomodate rail traffic and calculate how much time is needed to complete the second phase of the project along the Hook.

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This will not affect the reintroduction of InterCity trains for delays in electrifying the line between Glauchau and Weimar via Jena combined with problems with modernizing the rail line south of Hof in Bavaria will most likely result in the use of diesel trains for the IC-trains before the electrification project is completed by 2030. Furthermore, the IC-line to Rostock via Leipzig and Berlin will most likely be in service before 2020, which will put Chemnitz back on the map and  in the Fernverkehrsnetz (Long-distance Train Network) for the first time since the last ICE-Train passed through in early 2002.

 

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Iron Bridge at Aue Closed for Rehabilitation

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Two-span iron truss span over the Mulde River one of eight crossings facing construction in the next year.

AUE (SAXONY), GERMANY- Construction is heating up this summer as many roads and highways in Germany are being reconstructed, retaining walls in the mountain regions are being rehabilitated and dozens of bridges are being restored to their former glory. The most striking is the fact that not just one, two or three bridges, but as many as nine bridges spanning the River Mulde in western Saxony are being scheduled for work in one way or another. Apart from building a new cable-stayed suspension bridge at Schlunzig (south of Glauchau), three bridges in Glauchau alone are being beautified, including the Hirschgrund at the castle complex, 400 meters from the river. The oldest covered Bridge in Zwickau (the Röhrensteg) is being restored and is taking longer than expected.  The Cainsdorf Bridge south of Zwickau is being planned for replacement.  Everyone knows about the Bockau Arch Bridge replacement project near Aue and its pending future after the new bridge opens next year. Then we have a crossing at the Eibenstock Reservoir, built in 1980, plus the 151-year old stone arch bridge in Wilkau-Hasslau that have cracks in the concrete and will need to be closed for repairs, forcing drivers to make detours of over 25 kilometers per bridge.

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And then we have this bridge- a pedestrian bridge between Schlema and Aue that is now closed to all traffic. Workers recently closed the over 115-year old structure as they plan to rehabilitate the two-span Parker through truss span, whose predecessor was a wooden covered bridge. According to the Free Press in Aue, the decking of the bridge will be rebuilt and then integrated into the Mulde Bike Trail network. The trail itself is in the middle of construction and when completed this fall, it will run parallel to the river from Aue to Schlema, crossing the Iron Bridge. It currently shares a street connecting the two communities, but sharp curves and steep hills make it dangerous for cyclists and drivers alike. The catch to the problem however is with the railroad crossing. Because the current gates, used for pedestrians, are not suitable for cyclists, officials are looking at three options, all of them will cost as much as the project itself, which is 500,000 Euros (ca. $620,000).  The first option is a modern railroad crossing guards like at the train station Bad Schlema. Another is a tunnel under the railroad tracks, which will require multiple closures of the rail line between Aue and Zwickau. And then there is a bridge that would cross over the tracks before gliding down towards the historic structure. Officials believe the third variant would be built and open by 2019. In either case while the bridge renovations may be cheap, the solution for the railroad crossing on the east end may be the one that could break the bank. Still, when the project is finish, cyclists can go from Eibenstock to Schlema without having any interruptions with detours, etc. There is hope that this stretch can be extended to Hartenstein (five river kilometers from Schlema), which would include restoring the Schlema Stone Arch Bridge. But because of lack of funding, chances are likely that after the fusion between Aue and Schlema, financial resources will be available to make both projects happen. The interest is there but in praxis, it is a different ball game.

But for now, the Aue-Schlema has priority while the story continues with the other stretch….

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Eger Bridge near Reichenbach to be Rehabbed

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Stone arch Bridge from the 1800s to be remodeled and connected to the regional bike Trail.

REICHENBACH (VOGTLAND), SAXONY (GERMANY)-  Not far from the battleground crossing at Bockau (near Aue) is another historic bridge that one of the committee members recommended me to visit. Spanning the River Göltzsch, which is the same river that is crossed by the Göltzsch Viaduct near Greiz, the Eger Bridge is located in the village of Mühlwand, approximately three kilometers from Reichenbach and just as many kilometers away from the Motorway 72 Viaduct. This structure was built in 1769, replacing three previous spans that had been constructed in 1573, 1755 and 1758, respectively, all made of wood. The bridge is a two-span stone arch structure with a span of 20 meters; two arch spans have a lengths of 8 meters and 3.6 meters, whereas the width is 5.25 meters. It has been redundant because of the concrete span that was built alongside it in 1987 but had been left open for pedestrians to use until a pair of floods caused extansive damage to the arches in 2002 and 2013; the latter forced the closure of the bridge to everyone. Upon my visit to the bridge most recently, one can see the extent of the damage to the structure, where the concrete railings have fallen apart and the stones used for the arches are exposed. It is a surprise that the bridge did not collapse earlier like it happened in Great Britain during the infamous Christmas Day floods of 2015.

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The replacement span on the left.

Even more of a surprise is the amount of support the locals have for saving the bridge. As recently as January of this year, members of the local town councils in Reichenbach and the surrounding areas, together with the Saxony Ministry of Business and Transportation voted in favor of renovating the bridge, at a cost of 1.5 Million Euros. This includes the cost for constructing the approach to the bridge, connecting the structure with a nearby bike trail approximately 200 meters away. The costs will be shared through a private-public partnership between the state, a private Entity L.I.S.T Inc., and the City of Reichenbach, who will take over ownership of the bridge once the project is completed. How the bridge will be renovated remains unclear, but it appears that the structure will have to be rebuilt from the ground up, as it has been seen with many arch bridges in eastern Germany- the Camsdorf Bridge in Jena, which was done in 2005, and the upcoming project with the Hirschgrund Bridge at the Castle Complex in Glauchau. Private and public partnerships are becoming the norm for bridge Building in both Germany as well as the US, where public and private entities join together to share the costs for projects like this one. There are some advantages and disadvantages to the project, which will be saved for a separate article. However one can say the cost for renovating the bridge depends on not only the size of the structure, but to what extent does the bridge need to be fixed. In the case of the Eger Bridge, as the damage is extensive, the cost can be much higher than the cost for simply redoing the decking.

 

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Still, the renovation of the Eger Bridge is a blessing for the region, and especially for the Göltzsch Valley, for there are over three dozen stone arch bridges, big and small, spanning the river. This makes for a treat for bikers who are using the bike trail that runs parallel to the river and used to be a rail line connecting Greiz with Cheb (Eger) in the Czech Republic.  For this bridge, there is a lot of history to learn about this, which thanks to this PPP initiative, will be preserved for vistors in Germany, Europe and Areas outside there.

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Some interesting Facts about the Eger Bridge include the following:

  1. The bridge used to serve an interregional road connecting Altenburg (Thuringia) with Cheb (Eger) in the Czech Republic. It was a major trading route in the Vogtland region.
  2. The bridge was used many times by Napoleon’s Army during his conquest from 1806 to 1814- Napoleon himself crossed the bridge on 12 May, 1812 and again on 3 August, 1813.
  3. It was a major stop for the horse-and-buggy passenger and postal express during the first half of the 1800s. That route connected Dresden and Leipzig with Cheb and Nuremberg. It was equivalent to the Pony Express in the States (1861-65)
  4. It was located next to the Alaunawerk, which was a beer tavern beginning in 1703 but was converted into a restaurant afterwards. It burned to the ground in 1853, but the stone wall along the river next to the bridge remains.

Map:

 

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge Day 7: Don Quixote’s Windmills

April 24th, 2018. A beautiful day in the village of Bockau. A wonderful chance to photograph the Bockau Arch Bridge. But sadly this may be the last time doing it. While a total of 25 people gathered at the site of the Bockau Arch Bridge, the consensus is pointing towards the digger and wrecking ball to this almost 150-year old structure. Neither the mayor of Bockau, nor the one in Zschorlau want it left standing. A member of the Saxony Ministry of Construction and Transportation claims that the construction of the new bridge on new alignment and with that the demolition of the old bridge is a done deal. This is especially given because the new bridge was being constructed in a natural habitat and according to agreement, both bridges must not exist.  And given the aggression presented by members of the representatives from Dresden, it appears that they favor the transformation of Bockau into a modern village is more important than simply saving relicts of the past.  So this day may be the last I get a shot of this structure and a gorgeous view from on top, like these ones:

So with all the skepticism that I just posted, the question is why are we still fighting for the bridge if the State of Saxony wants it their way with the bridge?  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nicht leicher als das:

Despite claims that the construction of the new bridge is a done deal and that the old structure would need to be removed, there are a few silver linings that were mentioned during today’s meeting. First of all, attempts to compromise were presented, some of which were to the disliking of one party or another, others were worth considering. The first compromise was presented by the mayors of Albernau and Bockau, where the bridge would be partially removed with the remaining two spans to be converted to an observation pier. That was completely rejected as it would be the same as demolishing the bridge plus the consensus is to keep the entire crossing over the river. As the bridge is protected by the Preservation Laws, it would be taken off the list if the bridge was altered in any way. To especially the mayor of Bockau who strove to see the bridge disappear, the suggestion to cut the bridge into bits is as bitter as eating pickled gizzards.

Onto option 2, which is redo the contract which would include keeping the bridge in its place. The reason behind it was the lack of communication behind what to do with the old bridge. When the contract was let for the new bridge, there was no information as to whether the contractor has the right to remove the old structure, nor was there any public input or even a referendum. Good idea but with one catch: The contract would need up to five years, and no further construction would be done on the new bridge. Furthermore, it needs approvement by both Dresden as well as the federal government, both of whom had originally given the green light for the current project. An attempt to partially redo the contract to omit the removal of the old sturcture is currently being considered.

And henceforth we look at option three, which is looking for new ownership. It is concluded that once the new bridge is open, the old bridge no longer will be the care of the federal government as it carries a federal highway (B 283). As neither Zschorlau nor Bockau want to take it, we must look at some interested third parties or partake on a joint public-private venture to own and maintain the bridge. Despite jumping the gun with claims that no one wants the bridge, there are enough parties in terms of persons and organizations who might take over. This include bike organizations as the bridge crosses the Mulde Bike Trail, a rails-to-trails route that connects Adorf with Aue. The person who takes over will need to ensure that the bridge is properly maintained and inspected and take over responsibility for any incidents and accidents that may happen. The advantage is the fact that if the bridge was handed over, it will be in the state as it was before it was closed, like this:

Originally, 1.2 million Euros would have been needed to refurbish the bridge which given its current condition it was not necessary. One needs to fill in the cracks and ensure the arches are ok, which they are:

The lone catch is that the clock is ticking. Since the meeting, we have not even a full year to find a new owner or come up with a reasonable concept that will be to the liking of the parties involved. Despite the claims of lack of feasiblity and the lack of want with regards to the bridge, we did conclude that if we could come up with a plan to keep the bridge in tact, the historic structure is ours for the keeping. The condition is that the north approach would need to be rebuilt to provide access for pedestrians and cyclists. Because of the Mulde Bike Trail and its potential to become a “bike-autobahn”, the bridge would be a perfect, easiest and safest crossing connecting two communities. However, all it needs is support from both the public and private sectors. No support, no plan, and that means no bridge.

And with that, no more photos of such a beautiful old stone lady……

…..holding a dandelion in its stone cracks……

waiting to give it to her supporters, including Ms. Ulrike Kahl, who was interviewed after the meeting.

And why Saxony needs a bike-autobahn along the Mulde, let alone how the German Preservation Laws work in comparison to the American one can be found in the coming articles. Stay tuned.

Help needed: What success stories have you had with public-private partnerships with bridges? What concepts would you present to convince all parties to keep the bridge in place? What practices have worked in the past. Any ideas, contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact form below:

Will accept all ideas in German, Spanish and French as well. All ideas are welcome.

 

A news story by German public TV station MDR was carried out on the same day and can be seen here.  Follow-ups will come. 🙂

 

Sonnebrücke in Kirchberg (Saxony), Germany

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All  photos taken in March 2018

Between Schneeberg and Zwickau in western Saxony is a small town of Kirchberg. With a population of 8,700 inhabitants, Kirchberg straddles the Rödelbach River, which empties into the Zwickau Mulde River in Wilkau-Hasslau, approximately five kilometers north of the town. In addition to that, Kirchberg is known as the City with Seven Hills, as all seven hills surround the small community, protecting it from the weather extremities, especially in the winter time. Yet it is most difficult to get to the next available towns because of the winding roads one needs to go through. And Kirchberg is one of the most expanded communities with the least population density in Saxony, for 12 Kilometers of area in all directions belong to the community, including all of the small suburbs.

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While Kirchberg has a rather historic but sleepy town center (because buisness usually closes at 3:00pm on weekdays, non on Saturdays), a church on the hill and a couple notable historic bridges along the Rödelbach, one bridge in particular is the focus of this article because of ist unusual design and a classic example of a restored truss bridge. The Sonnebrücke Truss Bridge spans the Rödelbach on the east end of Kirchberg (see map below). The bridge, built in 1882, is unique because of its unusual design.

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For instance, the bridge is a pony truss built on a 45° skew. The skewed formation is easy to detect because one can see it from the main highway on ground level and from the hillside on the north bank of the river, it resembles a shoe. The harder part is identifying the truss type for from a distance, it appears to be a bowstring arch span. Yet when taking a closer look, the bridge is actually a Parker pony truss, mainly because of the slight bends of the upper chord per panel. The 24.5 meter truss bridge has nine panels with the highest panel being 1.7 meters tall.  How the bridge was built is the most difficult of all because you can only see the details up close while on the bridge. For instance, the bridge has welded connections, meaning that the beams are attached with gusset plates and welded nails. Given its age, this type of practice was first introduced in the 1880s and the Sonnebrücke is one of the first bridges built using this type of practice. It is one of the rarest bridges whose upper chord consists of a rare type that is seldomly found in truss bridges. While most truss bridges used H, I and T beams for their upper chords and end posts, this one has upper chords whose parts consists of L-shaped beams welded together making it appear like a cross-shaped beam. No truss bridge in the eastern half of Germany has such an unusual chord like that. It is even rarer when compared to the American Phoenix column, which was used on many iron truss bridges in the 1870s and 80s and has round-shaped columns with 4-8 points in the corners.

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The Kingdom of Saxony authorized the construction of the Sonnenbrücke in 1882 as part of the railroad project connecting Wilkau-Haslau with Carlsfeld via Kirchberg and Schönheide near the present-day Eibenstock Reservoir. From 1882 until its discontinuation in 1967, passenger and freight trains crossed this bridge daily. It was one of 54 bridges that the line went over, which included six viaducts in and near the Mulde River. Even though the line was discontinued in its entirety by 1980, the Sonnebrücke is one of only a handful of crossings remaining on the line, which has been dismantled in large sections but abandoned on other stretches of track, including the line between Schönheide and Carlsfeld. When the line was discontinued in sections and tracks were taken out, all the bridges and viaducts were removed with steel parts recycled for other uses. Attempts to save some of the viaducts were put down due to lack of financial resources and pressure by the East German government to support the communist system by making use of every resource possible. The Sonnebrücke remained hidden from view for another 40+ years until city officials collaborated with locals and a pair of restoration companies in Saxony to restore and repurpose the structure for recreational use. This happened in 2014 at a cost of 90,000 Euros. There, the bridge was sandblasted and repainted black, some parts were replaced because of the rust and corrosion, and a new flooring made of wood replaced the rail decking which no longer served its function.

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Today, the Sonnebrücke continues to cross the Rödelbach River but has a new function, which is to provide cyclists and pedestrians with an opportunity to explore the town along the river. This bridge and another crossing at the Hauptstrassebrücke are both part of the former rail line that had once had trains going through Kirchberg, stopping at two stations in town. Today, it carries as a bike trail and even though only a section of the former rail line is used as a rails to trails, the Sonnebrücke and the line that crossed over serves not only as a reminder of a railroad that had once been part of Kirchberg’s history and heritage but also as an example of an unusual truss bridge which had long since been forgotten but the city took care that it received a new purpose in life.  It definitely shows that even with a small portion of money, one can make use of it and make it like it was brand new.

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And with few historic artefacts left in our world, we need more examples of history being restored for generations to learn about. 🙂

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