Obituary: Eric Delony (1944-2018)

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Eric Delony (right) with fellow historian and preservationist Mary-Ann Savage at the Bollmann Truss Bridge in Savage, Maryland. Photo taken in 2014

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Author’s update: Funeral Arrangements are being planned for historic bridge preservationist Eric Delony, who died on October 23rd. According to Information from Christopher Marston, it is being scheduled for January 2019. When and where has yet to be determined, but the Chronicles will inform you in due time as soon as everything is finalized.

Mr. Marston, who worked with Eric for many years, write a much-detailed version of the obituary, honoring him for his three decades-plus work in documenting and saving historic bridges, much more than what the Chronicles covered when having honored him with the Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement. This was done in 2016. With his permission, the detail of his life and work are written below. More Information on him and the stories behind his historic bridge preservation will follow. For now, enjoy reading about Mr. Delony from Christopher’s point of view:

Eric N. DeLony, who served as Chief of the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) from 1987 to 2003, died on October 23, 2018, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Over his career, Eric became known as a pioneer in historic bridge documentation and preservation and one of the nation’s leading experts in historic bridges. In recognition of his achievements, Eric was the recipient of the 2000 General Tools Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Society for Industrial Archeology.

 

Early Years at HAER

After graduating from the Ohio State University in 1968, Eric was first hired as a summer architect on the New England Textile Mills Survey, a joint project of the Smithsonian (under the leadership of Robert Vogel) and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). The following year he became a member of the Mohawk-Hudson Area Survey, HAER’s very first field team. This ambitious project documented several industrial sites and bridges in the Albany area, and team members were challenged to devise new recording techniques for manufacturing and engineering structures. His detailed drawing of the Troy Gasholder remains the logo of the Society for Industrial Archeology to this day. Once he completed his Master’s in Historic Preservation at Columbia University under James Marston Fitch (where he first met his lifelong friend and colleague, preservation educator Chester Liebs), Eric was hired as HAER’s first full-time employee in 1971. HAER began recording a variety of bridges and other industrial structure types as part of state inventories and themed surveys. These included surveys of the Baltimore & Ohio and Erie railroads, Paterson and Lowell mill towns, and later mining, steel, power, and maritime-related sites, among others. Eric also helped initiate “SWAT teams” to record endangered structures prior to demolition. By 1987, Eric DeLony had been promoted to Chief of HAER.

 

HAER Historic Bridge Program

In collaboration with Emory Kemp of West Virginia University, Eric began developing the HAER Historic Bridge Program in 1973, which would become the first comprehensive national program to identify and protect historic bridges. Through Eric’s efforts, HAER developed partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and state historic preservation offices (SHPOs). The first goal of the program was to promote comprehensive historic bridge inventories in each state. When inventories were required by law in 1987, Eric’s initiative became a catalyst in making highway bridges the first class of historic structures to be nationally evaluated.

After the preliminary state bridge inventories were completed, HAER partnered with state departments of transportation (DOTs) to undertake HAER summer documentation projects that would more intensively document representative bridges, with the first taking place in Ohio in 1986. Using funding from a variety of partners like the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOTs, and historic groups, HAER recording teams collaborated with national and local experts to produce large-format photographs, histories, and drawings of hundreds of historic bridges in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, from 1987-2001. Eric also worked with engineering professors such as Dario Gasparini at Case Western, Stephen Buonopane at Bucknell, and Ben Schafer at Johns Hopkins to hire students to compile detailed engineering analyses of a variety of historic bridge types, going beyond traditional architectural history reports. In appreciation of Eric’s initiatives, the White House and ACHP presented HAER’s Historic Bridge Program with a National Historic Preservation Award in 1992.

In addition to the nation’s highway bridges, the historic roads and bridges in the National Park system were also deteriorating from neglect and overuse. HAER developed a pilot project in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1988 to survey the historic and significant transportation-related structures and designed landscapes at various NPS units. With support from FHWA and NPS, this program expanded in 1989 and continued until 2002 to document the roads and bridges of large western national parks, national battlefields, and eastern parkways. HAER also partnered with New York and Connecticut to record several historic local parkways. The drawings of these projects are compiled in America’s National Park Roads and Parkways: Drawings from the Historic American Engineering Record (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2004).

Eric DeLony was also influential in HAER’s involvement with a third major initiative involving FHWA and historic bridges. Realizing that covered bridges were a beloved but endangered resource, Vermont Senator James Jeffords proposed legislation to save them. The resulting National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation (NHCBP) Program was established by FHWA in 1998 as part of the TEA-21 transportation bill. HAER received research funding beginning in 2002 to document the nation’s most significant covered bridges, as well as developing other educational initiatives including engineering studies, a traveling exhibition, national conferences, and National Historic Landmark nominations. With the benefit of continued FHWA support, HAER Project Leader Christopher Marston has continued Eric’s vision and is in the process of finalizing several research projects. These include the 2015 publication Covered Bridges and the Birth of American Engineering, co-edited with Justine Christianson, and dedicated to Eric DeLony. Rehabilitation Guidelines for Historic Covered Bridges will be published later in 2018.

 

Nationwide Advocacy

Eric was a longtime member of the Society for Industrial Archeology (SIA) and developed the SIA Historic Bridge Symposium beginning in the early 1980s to allow experts to share research and preservation experiences. Eric attended his last one in 2011; the 25th was held in 2016 in cooperation with the Historic Bridge Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. He was also an active participant with the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s Committee on Historic Preservation and Archaeology in Transportation (ADC50) beginning in the 1990s, which was comprised of professionals from state DOTs, SHPOs, and consultants involved in preservation issues on federally funded transportation projects. Research and best practices on preserving and maintaining historic bridges was always a major focus of the committee. As a subcontractor to Parsons Brinckerhoff, Eric DeLony co-authored A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types with Robert Jackson, for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCPRP Project 25-25, Task 15) in 2005.

Not satisfied to just record historic bridges, Eric was also determined to see as many bridges as possible saved and preserved. Some of the projects that Eric championed included: the 1828 Blaine S-Bridge and the 1868 Zoarville Station Bridge in Ohio; the 1869 Henszey’s Bridge in Pennsylvania; and the 1858 Aldrich Change Bridge in New York. As Ohio DOT’s Tom Barrett reflected, “Through Eric’s encouragement, I feel that the historic bridge inventory in Ohio has stabilized and improved in many ways. We strive to explore all plausible alternatives to demolition and find ways to educate everyone on proper rehabilitation and design solutions. Hard-fought successes here and nationwide in bridge preservation will always be a part of Eric’s legacy.”

Eric’s advocacy extended beyond bridges to roads as well. As Preserving the Historic Road conference founder Paul Daniel Marriott stated, “Eric appreciated that roads and bridges were intertwined. He was one of the first people to acknowledge that historic research and advocacy [were needed] for historic roads. Eric DeLony was instrumental in establishing the historic roads movement.”

 

International Influence

Eric studied at Ironbridge with Sir Neil Cossons in 1971-72 as a Fulbright Scholar, and this experience led him to encourage collaboration between HAER and industrial archeologists and preservationists in Europe and other countries. Eric consistently hired International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) foreign exchange students for his summer field teams beginning in 1984.

He represented the United States at several meetings of the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH). He also worked with several prominent European scholars, such as Barrie Trinder at Ironbridge and Louis Bergeron at Le Creusot, on various publications, exhibitions, and conferences. Another issue that Eric championed has finally shown dividends; after several decades, the U.S. delegation finally nominated the Brooklyn Bridge as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

 

Post-career Legacy

After retiring to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2003, Eric became a bridge preservation consultant. Maintaining “The Pontists” email list, he advocated for various bridge preservation causes and initiatives, and continued to write and teach.

An avid collector of rare books, technical reports, and images of historic bridges, Eric donated his collection to two prestigious archives. The “Eric DeLony Collection of the History of Bridges and Bridge Construction” was established in 2010 at The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. In 2013, the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri received the “Eric N. DeLony Engineering & Bridge Collection.”

After health issues removed him from public life, Eric continued to receive various honors acknowledging his legacy. Beginning in 2014, David Wright of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges established the Eric DeLony Scholarship, an annual prize awarded to a college student interested in historic preservation. Eric was also a recipient of the 2016 Othmar H. Amman Award for Lifetime Achievement from The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.

Eric DeLony was truly a pioneer in the world of historic bridge documentation, preservation, and advocacy. The 3,000+ bridges in the HAER Collection at the Library of Congress, and hundreds of examples of preserved historic bridges across the country are all a testament to his lifelong determination and passion for saving historic bridges.

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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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Hopfenbrücke in Vogtland

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All photos taken in June 2018 after the rehabilitation and reopening of the bridge.

While travelling along the main artery connecting Munich with Berlin, the Motorway 9, one ought to consider turning off at Schleiz and following the Highway B 282 and E 49 in the direction of Plauen for a good 15 Kilometers to the east, heading into the small but rather active village of Mühltroff. With a population of 1800 inhabitants, Mühltroff straddles the river Wisenta and is one of the oldest villages in Saxony; it was first mentioned in 1274 and was officially declared a town by the district of Plauen in 1327. It was once a fishing community and ist shield reflects the hertitage of the community. With its historic houses lining up along the Wisenta, Mühltroff resembles Little Venice alá Vogtland, even though fishing no longer exists today, and only three bridges are known to exist.

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One of them is the focus of the author’s stop on the journey, the Hopfenbrücke.  The structure is one of the oldest in Saxony, having been built in 1396, and was the main crossing connecting the eastern and western halves of the village until after World War II. The structure features a one-span stone-brick arch bridge, which is anchored by houses on both sides of the Wisenta. Judging by the setting of the bridge, on each corner of its abutment was a historic house, and it appeared that there was an entrance on both sides at one time, resembling the housed bridges that were built during that time- among them that exist today still are the Krämerbrücke in Erfurt and the Rathausbrücke in Bamberg. Sadly, despite its historic appeal, the houses on the western side will become history for one became a garden a couple decades ago and the other will be removed before the end of 2018, according to recent newspaper articles.

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The name Hopfenbrücke has nothing to do with the beer route nor a brewery for Mühltroff had neighter of them according to record. In fact, the community has a palace dating back to 1349, a windmill dating back to the 14th century and a textile industry that started in the 15th Century and is one of the key aspects of Mühltroff to this day.  The Hopfensbrücke was named after the Hopf Family, whose house was next to the bridge and who also owned a shop at the structure until the beginning of the 1900s. The road it carried was a main route connecting Schleiz and Plauen, where horse and buggy first crossed, followed by cars. By the end of the second World War, there was a need to realign the road, especially to accomodate the military vehicles that had to be stationed near the border that had once divided Germany until 1990 when it became Saxony and Thuringia on the northeastern edge and Bavaria to the southwest. Therefore, another arch bridge was built to the north of the bridge, but unlike its neighbor, it was a Luten arch span and was made of concrete. That structure still carries traffic, and one can see the stone arch bridge 100 meters away while crossing the Wisenta.

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The bridge was reopened recently after having been closed for rehabilitation. The cost for the work was 460,000 Euros and it consisted of strengthening the arches, removing the concrete facade covering the arch span and making repairs to the structure. It had been damaged by flooding in 2013 and was declared unsafe to cross. However, with the grand opening last Friday (the 7th of June), the community welcomed the bridge back with open arms. And it was good that way; despite its population and size, Mühltroff happens to be one of the livelier of the communities, with people walking the streets even in the evenings, music being played in the apartments, and apartments having colorful facades to make it look attractive to the tourists. Even the market square, which starts at the historic bridge and goes down the main street to the castle is narrow and enclosed, but lively. Next to the bridge across from the City Hall is the East German Museum, where people can visit, see the artefacts that were typical during that period before 1990 and learn about its history.

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But inspite that, the people are happy to have their historic bridge back. After 600 years, the structure still symbolizes the community and its heritage- a former fishing community that is still today the Little Venice of the Vogtland. One can see the palace and historic windmill, but the visit is not complete without seeing the bridge, the structure that will hopefully continue its service for another 600 years. So take some time in Mühltroff and don’t forget the bridge. 😉

 

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Mühltroff is only three kilometers east of the Saxony/Thuringia border. It had belonged to the District of Gera and on the Thuringian side from 1949 until March 1992, two years after Germany reunited. It became part of Saxony in April 1992 and merged with neighboring Pausa to become a joint community in 2013. Today, the community belongs to the Vogtland District, whose county seat is (none other than) Plauen, which is 22 kilometers to the east.

Map of Mühltroff and Hopfenbrücke:

 

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Frank Wood Bridge Raising Funds for Independent Inspector

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Go Fund Me campaign to raise $15,000 to hire an independent contractor to look at options to restore the 1932 historic truss bridge

BRUNSWICK & TOPSHAM, MAINE- Conflicts between the Maine Department of Transportation on one end and locals from both Brunswick and Topsham as well as preservation officials have reached new heights for recent public meetings regarding the future of the three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge have produced intensive strife, and locals have turned to other alternatives to ensure the 1932 product of Boston Bridge Works remains in place for years to come.

Since 30 March, the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Memorial Bridge has undertaken a campaign to raise funds for an independent contractor to conduct a structural survey and present an objective alternative to replacing the historic bridge- favoring the preservation and restoration of the structure. The contractor has had experience in restoring bridges of this caliber in the New England states and East Coast, and the cost for such an engineering study is estimated to be $15,000. To donate to the project, please click onto the link here:  https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-frank-j-wood-bridge

Every single dollar will help a great deal for the project. Already at the time of this posting, over half of the funds have been raised. Your help will ensure the other half will be raised, and the counterarguments to MaineDOT’s claim of the bridge being at the end of its useful life be presented as objectively and professionally as possible.

During the last meeting, which spawned this fund-raising effort, officials from  MaineDOT presented proposals for replacing the historic bridge using studies conducted by a bridge engineering firm that had no experience in restoring historic bridges. All the proposals presented were rejected flatly by residents and officials from the National Advisory on the Council for Historic Preservation and Maine Preservation, both of whom had requested the DOT to look at the cost for restoring the historic bridge, but was met with refusal. According to members of the Friends committee as well as locals, the meeting between both sides produced biased results and little room to comment on the alternatives to replacing the bridge, angering locals and proponents of restoring the truss bridge to a point where the committee has decided to forego the findings of the DOT and embark on this daring measure. Public sentiment for the bridge is very strong for reasons that restoring the bridge is cost-efficient and presents the two communities and their historic mills and wetlands with a sense of historic pride and heritage.  A youtube video of the bridge and the two communities is an excellent example of the willingness to fight to keep the bridge:

 

 

Furthermore, at 30 feet wide, the bridge can hold two lanes of vehicular traffic plus an additional lane for bikes and pedestrians, even though a pedestrian portion practically exists on the truss bridge.

The battle for the objective truth is getting intense and it will set the precedent for any future preservation plans for other historic bridges in the region, nationwide and beyond. As mentioned in an interview with the Chronicles last year (click here for details) , the communities will even take the legal path if MaineDOT continues to refuse to listen to the needs of the residents affected by the bridge controversy and shove its new bridge down their throats against their will. Last month’s meeting has taken this matter one step closer to the danger zone. Whether this independent study on the future of the historic bridge, which especially includes alternatives to replacing the bridge that still has years of life left, will defuse the conflict depends solely on the willingness of both sides to come away with a proposal that will satisfy everyone.

The Chronicles will continue to monitor the latest developments on the bridge. In the meantime, if you have a dime to help, take a couple minutes of your time and do the right thing. Donate to save the bridge.

 

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Kassberg Bridge to Be Rehabilitated

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150-year old historic bridge to be closed until Fall 2019 for renovations.

CHEMNITZ, GERMANY-  When travelling through Chemnitz in central Saxony, one will be amazed by the architecture the city has to offer. Be it from the age of industrialization, the Communist era or even the present, the city has a wide-array to choose from, which will please the eyes of the tourists, making them want to spend time there in the third largest city in the state.  Chemnitz has over 100 historic bridges that are a century old or more, most of them are arch structures made of stone, concrete or a combination of the two. But each one tells a story of how it was built and how it has served the city.

Take for instance, the Karl-Schmidt-Rottluft Bridge, on the west side of the city center. Spanning the Chemnitz River and Fabrikstrasse carrying the Ramp leading to the suburb of Kassberg, this bridge has a character in itself. The dark brown-colored stone arch bridge has been serving traffic for over 150 years, running parallel to the Bierbrücke located just to the north by about 80 meters. The five-span arch bridge features variable sizes of the arches to accomodate the ravine: two of the largest for the river, one of the widest for Fabrikstrasse and the narrowest for pedestrians, all totalling approximately 120 meters- three times as long as the Bierbrücke. The bridge was named after Karl-Schmidt-Rottluft, an expressionist painter during the (inter) war period.

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Despite its services over the year, the City of Chemnitz plans to shut down the bridge beginning in the Spring 2018 allow for extensive rennovations. The 2.8 million Euro project ($4.3 million) will include extensive work on the retaining walls and stairway connecting crossing and Fabrikstrasse below. Furthermore, repairs to the arches and renewing the decking and railings will be in the plans. The State of Saxony provided two million ($3.2 million) for the project as part of the initiative “Bridges in the Future”, which was started in 2015 and is designed to restore many of the state’s historic bridges while replacing many in dire need and beyond repair. The City of Chemnitz needed to cover the rest of the cost. The project is scheduled to be completed by October 2019.

Despite the inconvenience people will have to deal with during the 1.5 year closure, the renovation is a must, based on my many visits since the beginning of this year. Many cracks were showing in the arches and attempts to shore up the spans using concrete made the under half of the arch appear derelict. Furthermore, debris on the stone materials made the bridge in general appear dirty. Then there is the multiple spider webs hanging from the bridge, making the structure really spooky, as seen in the picture below.

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Yet on hindsight, the bridge and the nearby pub, bearing Kassberg’s name, have a unique setting which warrants such a project. While many engineers and planners have evicted owners from their businesses because of new bridges to be built, the planners for this project ensured that this will never happen, especially as the pub crafts its own microbrew, hosts many cultural events and even has a museum focusing on the district. For this bridge, it is a blessing that it will be restored to its natural beauty, while ensuring that it will continue to safely provide services to drivers and pedestrians alike.

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From a historian’s point of view, this bridge warrants more information on its history. If you have some to share, please use the contact details here and write to the author. A tour guide in English will be made available in the next year, in connection with the city’s 875th anniversary celebrations.

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Source: Chemnitz Free Press

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Thought of the Day: Maintenance Is Preservation

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This photo was taken by fellow pontist Will Truax which needs no explanation. This sign can be found at the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts, which is a National Historical Site. Albeit not a historic bridge, you can find our more about its history here. This saying applies to all historic places, inlcuding bridges, something that we seem to forget nowadays, in the age of modernization and waste.

Some Food for Thought! 🙂

 

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What to Do With a Historic Bridge: The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge in Germany

Photos taken in September 2017

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Our next stop on the bridgehunting tour, especially along the Zwickauer Mulde in western Saxony is the town of Bad Schlema. This town of 5,600 inhabitants is located deep in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) where the river meets the River Schlema. It was once a key junction of two rail lines: the still existing north-south railroad that connects the community with Aue and Johanngeorgenstadt to the south as well as to Zwickau-Werdau-Leipzig to the north. The other is a short line going west to Schneeberg that used to provide passenger and freight serviceS but has been extant for over 60 years. Both lines were vital for transporting iron ore from the mined regions to the processing plants in the larger cities in the mountains. Nowadays the current line provides access for people wishing to visit the radon health resort in Bad Schlema, which has existed for over a century as well as the Christmas markets in Aue, Schwarzenberg and Schneeberg.

And while the train station at Bad Schlema still provides passenger service on the north-south axis, the surroundings that made the station famous are all but a faded memory. This included the Leonhardt Paper Company, the Hoffmann Machine Factory and Tölle Machinery, the third of which manufactured iron products. By 2006, the last remaining factory, the paper manufacturer, became a memory thanks to the wrecking ball.  The only relict remaining that serves as a reminder of the good old days of mining and paper production are a pair of historic bridges spanning the Zwickauer Mulde: a truss bridge dating back to the Communist era and a stone arch bridge that had existed since the creation of the rail line, but is in disarray to a point where questions are being raised as to which bridge should be saved and which one should go.

 

Before going to my investigative reporting, look at the slide show below and ask yourselves this question: Which bridge would you want to see saved and which one would you like to see gone? And what are your reasons for your decision? And how old do you think these two structures are?

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After doing some thinking about it, let’s take a look at the history behind the two bridges, which is in connection with the railroad itself. Between 1856 and 1860, the railroad company decided to construct a line going into the Ore Mountain region in western Saxony, where it was rich in various metals and miners had been working the region for generations. The line started from Zwickau and by 1860, the line arrived in Aue before terminating at Johanngeorgenstadt, near the present-day Czech border by 1868. Between Aue and Schlema, the rail line made a hook going around the mountain, running parallel to the Zwickauer Mulde. Because of its narrowness, combined with dangers of rock slides and curves, a decision was made to straighten the line in 1895, which included building a tunnel between the stations of Aue and Schlema, the latter was named Niederschlema at that time. As seen in the map and illustration, the distance was trimmed by half, and a single-span duo-truss bridge eliminated a single-lane bridge, thus making it easier and quicker to ship people and goods between Aue and points to the north and west. At the same time, another bypass north of Niederschlema was built going north to Hartenstein, which ran parallel to the Zwickauer Mulde and the present-day road connecting both towns. The realignment project was completely finished by 1900, but it came at the cost of the original rail line and the Stone Arch Bridge itself.

The response, according to Dr. Oliver Titzmann was an overwhelming support by the paper company to take the redundant line and bridge and make it their property. In an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Dr. Titzmann, the town historian and member of the Bad Schlema City Council, has done a lot of research on the railroad and the Stone Arch Bridge itself. That bridge was built in 1860 and featured two Luten arches as main spans, plus a pair of shorter arch spans as approaches. Upon personal observations, the bridge was built using two different types of rock: sandstone and quartzite, the first of which appears harder on the surface. The spans are skewed at 30°, which is unusual for arch bridges, yet its purpose still remains the same: to provide the river with free-flowing passage without damaging the structure. While there is no concrete information on the structure’s dimensions, upon personal visit, it appeared to be 65-70 meters long and 12-14 meters wide.   According to information by the historian, as well as reports by the Chemnitz Free Press, the Bridge was made redundant by a Communist-era through truss bridge, built using a Warren design in the 1980s, and served the line going through the paper factory until it was closed down in the mid-1990s. Abandoned since then and fenced off to prevent trespassers from crossing it, the community would like to see the Stone Arch Bridge rehabilitated and reused with the truss bridge being removed because it’s an eyesore.   Dr. Titzmann has been a vocal supporter for saving the Stone Arch Bridge, the last of the original crossings  along the Zwickau-Aue branch of the north-south line and integrating it into the Mulde Bike Trail, which currently shares the road to Hartenstein from the train Station in Bad Schlema.  Like the overwhelming support by the now extant paper factory during ist existence a century ago, support is enormous among the community for reusing the Stone Arch Bridge, which has been abandoned for almost four decades. Already the company owning the eastern bank of the river where the Bridge is located, Wismut Mining Works, has worked on clearing space for the bike trail, which has cost them over 300,000 Euros to date. The State of Saxony has already contributed 145,000 Euros for the rehabilitation of the structure.

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A surveyor at the Stone Arch Bridge in 2009. Photo taken by Marcel Weidlich (Chemnitz Free Press)

The plan, according to Dr. Titzmann is simple: as seen in the map, the bike trail is to follow the original railroad line, but running underneath the tunnel at the Bad Schlema train station, utilizing the Stone Arch Bridge, and going past the Wismut Mining Works, using the Poppenwald Road that goes there, as it was originally part of the line, before joining the current bike trail in use at Hartenstein.

The problem, according to Dr. Titzmann, is more complicated than expected:  “The center pier of the bridge has been undermined over the years, thanks to flooding and erosion,” Titzmann stated during the interview. “Therefore, as a person can see, the roadway at the center of the bridge is sinking.”  Aware of the complications, the community is working together with the state in securing additional funding to rebuild the bridge, keeping it in its original form to avoid being scratched from the Denkmalschutz book. This is the German equivalent to the National Register of Historic Places in the United States, except the bridge is listed on the state level because of its design and connection with the history of the paper and mining industries in the Erzgebirge.  The state level is one of three that are used to list historic places in the Denkmalschutz Book, along with local and national levels. Had the Stone Arch Bridge been listed in American standards, it would have fallen under the criterien of A (Events) and C (Design and Construction). Yet while funding for rehabilitating bridges in the States has become scarce, in Germany, money is kept available by the federal and state governments to encourage ambitious projects like this one, even if the project is complicated because of the aforementioned reasons.

The reconstruction project falls on the state level and it is a matter of time before the state of Saxony provides some additional funding in order for the project to move forward. The cost for rebuilding the bridge alone will take between 120,000 and 150,000 Euros, which consists of stripping the bridge down, while retaining the original stonework, rebuild the center pier, and then rebuild the structure, piece by piece before adding the decking and railing. The reconstruction of bridges in this style is very common in Germany, with the Camsdorf Bridge in Jena (Thuringia) being the closest example to the Stone Arch Bridge in Bad Schlema. That bridge, built in 1913 and rebuilt in 1946, was reconstructed and widened to accommodate more trams and cyclists. Completed in 2005, the project had taken two years.

Once the Stone Arch Bridge is completed, the rest of the bike trail can be built, thus reactivating a part of history that had not existed for over a century. Already a section of the bike trail north of the train station had been built on the west end of the river approaching the bridge but if funding and support arrive in a timely manner, the project could be finished in two years or less. This includes the removal of the truss bridge.

In the meantime, as funding and technical know-how is being pursued to realize this project, cyclists are still fighting with traffic along the road between Bad Schlema and Hartenstein, one of a few stretches of the 240-km long Zwickauer Mulde Bike Trail. And even though a stretch of rail line between Aue and Wolfsgrün has been part of the Mulde system for seven-plus years, when the renovation of the bridge and realignment of the bike trail are both completed, an additional 10 km of rails to trails will be added, which will mean less stress while on the road, but at the same time, more opportunity to enjoy the Zwickauer Mulde, the natural landscape and a little history about the line passing through the region, which had once connected Leipzig with the Czech Republic and provided goods and services.

And when the bridge is finished, one will only see the arch bridge that was once abandoned but is now a historic site- seen by the train leaving Bad Schlema for Zwickau instead of the Communist eyesore, which many will not shed a tear once it’s gone.