The Rhine Bridges of Wesel (NRW)

The ruins of the approach spans of the Railroad Bridge in Wesel. Photo taken by Daniel Ullrich Threedots, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

Located along the River Rhine northwest of Duisburg in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the town of Wesel, with a population of 60,200 inhabitants, is one of the towns in Germany that had been scarred by the history of conquest. It had been captured by the Spanish in 1590, then was the focal point of a tug-a-war between the Spaniards and the Dutch until the French captured it in 1672. The Prussians entered the picture in the 17th Century only to fight with the French over the city for the next century. After the Battle of Waterloo and the subsequent fall of Napoleon in 1813, Wesel became part of Prussia, which later became Germany with the unification of several small states and kingdoms and the ratification of the treaty in 1871. The town was a strategic point for weaponry during World War II, which made it an easy target for attack by the Allied Troops. After three different bombing attacks on February and March of 1945, the city was reduced to rubble; the population was reduced from 25,000 inhabitants in 1939 to only 1,900 by the end of World War II in May 1945.

Despite some of the architecture that withstood the test of time, much of Wesel has been reconstructed to its former glory since the end of World War II, with a newly rebuilt market square and cathedral, as well as Berlin Gate. Yet one can find some ruins of the city that had once been fortified but was one of the key industrial ports along the lower portion of the Rhine River.

This includes a pair of bridges that spanned the river. Both spans had been built before 1900, yet their fate landed in the hands of German dictator Adolf Hitler, who ordered every single bridge along the Rhine and its tributaries to be blown up after Wesel was sacked by bombs on February 19th. The railroad bridge that had existed north of Wesel was the last crossing over the Rhine before it was detonated. The bridge remains are still visible to see. The roadway bridge was rebuilt using a prefabricated truss design, and it lasted for over 60 years until it was replaced in 2009. The history of the two bridges and their fates will be summarized here. It includes video of the two bridges to give you an insight on what they had looked like prior to and after1945.

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Wesel Railroad Bridge:

On 1 MArch, 1874, the Wesel Railroad Bridge was opened to traffic. It was built by the Cologne Railroad Company and was part of the railroad line that had connected Paris with Hamburg, via Münster and Bremen. It is unknown who designed the bridge, but it was one of a few bridges that were put on display at the World Exhibition in Vienna in 1873 and received accolades for their architectural work. It is known that the railroad bridge was the longest Rhine crossing in Germany and was last crossing standing when it was destroyed in March 1945. The bridge had a total length of almost 2km (1,950 meters) and featured four main spans, each of a curved Whipple through truss, six additional truss spans, plus 97 stone arch approach spans- 65 on the west side of the Rhine and 32 on the east side where Wesel is located. The truss beams had welded connections, which were typical for European truss bridges built during the last three decades of the 19th Century.

Source: N.N. / Johann Heinrich Schönscheidt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Source: N.N. / Johann Heinrich Schönscheidt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The fate of the railroad bridge coincited with the fate of the rail line that passed through Wesel. Despite its length, the bridge was imploded on March 10th, 1945 under the direction of General Alfred Schlemm. The troops and much of Wesel were under attack during the last month, including the bombings that started February 12th and ended on the 19th, destroying much of the city. As American, Canadian and British troops advanced towards the town under the operation “Varsity”, Schlemm and his troops set the bombs on the main spans and during the morning hours of the 10th, the bridge was detonated. Hours later, the Allied Troops took the town without much resistance with only 80+ casualties. The Wesel Railroad Bridge outlived the Ludendorff in Remagen (southeast of Bonn) by three days.

Plans to rebuild the railroad was abandoned and the Hamburg-Paris rail line was later rerouted through Duisburg and later Düsseldorf. The truss bridge piers were later removed in 1968 to allow for ships along the Rhine to pass. What is left of the old railroad bridge are the approach spans, which you can see in the videos and picture below. The railroad bridge has since been considered a historic landmark because of its design and association with German industrial history.

Source: ᛗᚨᚱᚲᚢᛊ ᚨᛒᚱᚨᛗ, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Wesel Highway Bridge:

Unlike the railroad bridge spanning the Rhine, the highway bridge was rebuilt towards the end of World War II. Since 1945, the bridge has been rebuilt twice. The Wesel Highway Bridge was first built in 1917 and featured a continuous cantilever through truss bridge with Warren truss design. Like the railroad bridge, the highway bridge was detonated by the fleeing Nazi soldiers in an attempt to slow the advencement of Allied troops. Little did they realize, they found a creative way to re-erect a crossing, using the technology that was based on an invention in Great Britain: The Bailey Truss.

As soon as the troops captured Wesel, they constructed a temporary bridge, made of pontoons, to enable the passage of troops and equipment and to speed up the process of ending the war, which was successful with the capitulation of Germany on May 7, 1945. With the war over, came the reconstruction of Germany and that included important crossings like this one. In October 1945, English troops constructed a multiple-span Bailey Truss bridge over the Rhine, featuring two bridges, each carrying one lane of traffic and with a speed limit of 25 km/h (15 mph). The Montgomery Bridge, named after Bernard Law Montgomery, who led troops through North Africa, Italy and the Normandy, was the second longest Bailey crossing behind a crossing at Rees. Nicknamed the Gummibrücke, this bridge was in service until a newer, more stable crossing could be put into place.

As you can see in the video here, the bridge in the foreground was the successor to the Bailey Truss . It was a continuous through truss span using the simple Warren design with riveted connections. It was built in 1953 by a consortium of three companies and served traffic until 2009. Because of its narrowness, it was considered structurally obsolete, resulting in the construction of the new, but present structure, as you can see in the background.

The present structure took four years to build but in the end, the bridge was opened to traffic on 30 November, 2009 and right after that, the truss bridge was dismantled. Some parts can still be seen near the present day structure. The bridge features a bottle-shaped A-frame tower with stayed cables. At 772 meters in length, it’s 200 meters longer than the truss bridge. Thanks to a width of 27.5 meters, the bridge can carry four lanes of traffic along the Highway 58.

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Fazit:

The bridges of Wesel once provided a main artery over the Rhine and services for the residents. Because of the war, much of the city was destroyed and relicts from the war can be seen today, especially with the railroad bridge that once was part of Wesel. Yet the destruction of both bridges showed that through the use of technology, combined with the resiliency of locals to have a crossing open, that newer bridges can be built that are sturdier and can carry more than their predecessors. They helped with the rebuilding efforts of Wesel and to this day, made the town a stronger and more intact community than during the war. Still the scars will forever remain on the landscape and they must not be forgotten when talking about war in the classroom and its impact on society. World War II presents an example of a war that must never happen again, and that speaking from experience of those who witnessed it first hand and afterwards…..

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 158: The Missing Bridge at Hemenswarft

Approximately one kilometer east of Südwesthörn along the North Sea Coast in Schleswig-Holstein is a missing bridge. The bridge is located behind the vacation home complex , Haus Hemenswarft, a combination of vacation home complex with amneties, including playground. One can see the missing piers on both sides of the stream Alte Sielzug, a waterway that empties into the North Sea but is regulated by a nearby dam at Südwesthörn. Even from the bike trail Am Seedeich, one can see the piers.

I tried to focus in on one of the piers with my Canon EOS250 camera, and it reveals that both piers were narrow, which means the bridge was probably used for pedestrians and cyclists. The width of the bridge is most likely between two and three meters. This means the most likely bet is that a beam bridge had existed because this bridge type fulfills the criteria of accommodating peds and bikers while maintaining the maximum width of the bridge. It is unlikely that other bridge types, such as arch, truss or even a covered bridge would fit over the pier unless there were additional angle supports supporting the (extended) deck. A suspension bridge or even a cable-stayed bridge would be pushing the limit for one could construct a tower and support the decking with cables, but these towers would have to be narrow but not in the way that a person cannot cross the bridge. Furthermore, it would have to accommodate the high winds and the rising and lowering tides- both are typical of the North Sea.

Nevertheless, the type of bridge is the first of the questions we have about this crossing. Even though the piers appear to be 40-50 years old, judging by their modern shapes and the material of concrete used, the question focuses on when exactly was the bridge built and by whom. And last but not least, why was the bridge removed? Because the waters of the Alte Sielzug, like the North Sea, is really salty, there is a chance that the salt ate away at the materials used for the bridge, thus making the bridge too dangerous to use because of its potential of structural failure, resulting in its removal. The road leading to the bridge has been abandoned for some time, primarily because of this route that is now being used.

To sum up:

  1. Which type of bridge was this built?
  2. When was the bridge built and by whom?
  3. What were the dimensions of the bridge?
  4. When and why way the bridge removed.

And for that, you now have the podium and know what to do in case you know more about this bridge. 🙂 Good luck and happy bridgehunting, folks.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 156: A Pair of Twins in the former District of Schleswig

All photos taken in August 2021

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After a three-week absence due to vacation, I’m back online in the Chronicles, playing catch-up due to some bridge-related events that happened while I was away. But I thought I would show you some of the bridges I visited during my vacation, namely the former district of Schleswig.

This district featured a region where the northern half now belongs to Denmark; the southern half to the German state of Schleswig-Holstein and it extended as far south as the Baltic-North Sea Canal and as far north as the area between Kolding and Esbjerg and includes towns like Schleswig, Flensburg, Dagebüll, Husum and Kappeln on the German side, as well as Sonderburg, Hoyer, Abernaa, Haderslev and Ribe on the Danish side. The region was a focus of two military conflicts in 1851 and again in 1864, plus German conquest under Hitler from 1940 on, when the army invaded and occupied all of Denmark. The country was reestablished in 1945 when the war end. The region of Schleswig was cut in half thanks to a referendum in 1920, and the German-Danish border today is based on that historic vote, although minorities exist on both sides of the border. Flensburg is considered a border town with 30% of the Danish population living there- the highest for a community in Germany- even though it’s technically located in Germany.

And this takes us to this mystery bridge, which features not only one bridge, but two very identical structures located on the road connecting Aventoft in Germany and Tonder on the Danish side- only five kilometers apart. The bridges themselves span the River Vida- only a kilometer apart from each other!

The bridges themselves feature a cross between a Schwedler and a Parker pony truss span because of their polygonal upper chords. The connections are welded, which places the construction date to sometime between 1890 and 1920. There are no inscriptions in the metal of the bridge. They are between 25 and 30 meters long and have a width of 3.5 meters each.

What is unique about the bridges are its outriggers. These diagonal beams that are formed at a 70° angle and found on the outer portions of a truss bridge to support the panels and lower chords of the structure. The outriggers of this bridge is found at an 80° angle, but pointed towards the inner portion of the bridge. Furthermore these outriggers are filled in, thus making it one of the most unique truss bridges I’ve ever seen.

There is no information on the bridge’s history through any of the websites devoted to even architecture and infrastructure, nor are there any local records of the bridge’s history, even in Danish. The only websites that had a photo of the bridge was a Komoot website focusing on a tour along the German-Danish border and a fishing website looking at places where to fish in Denmark.

This is why the search for the bridges’ history falls to the locals on either side of the border. What we would like to know is the following:

  1. When were the bridges built?
  2. Who designed and built the two structures?
  3. What are the exact dimensions of the bridge
  4. Are there any stories behind the bridges? Since they are located right at the border, they played a key role in border controls and the like.

Do you have any stories, history and facts behind them? Then provide a comment below or send them to me, using the contact details provided here.

I’ve restarted my project to write about the bridges of Schleswig-Holstein and would like to add the bridges to the list of others that will be highlighted. If you are interested in contributing, feel free to do so. Details on my project can be found here.

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Rader Hochbrücke (aka Europabrücke) in Rendsburg to be replaced

Oblique view of Europebruecke near Rendsburg. Photo taken in May 2011

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The days of the tallest and longest bridge in Schleswig-Holstein are about to be numbered. The Rader Hochbrücke is a multiple span cantilever deck plate girder viaduct that spans the Baltic-North Sea Canal, carrying the Motorway 7 between Flensburg and Kiel. It’s also known as the Europabrücke because the motorway, which is the longest in Germany, connects Denmark (and subsequentially, Scandanavia) with Austria (and other parts of southern and eastern Europe) and also is one of the most heavily-travelled bridges in the state. The 1491-meter long bridge is so heavily travelled that cracks, rust and other ailments are showing on the almost half-century old viaduct, which has a main span of 271 meters and a height of nearly 60 meters. The viaduct has only four lanes of traffic, which makes it functionally obsolete due to high traffic congestion on the bridge. Smoke and other ailments from the ships passing underneath have added to the misery to the bridge.

Therefore, planning is underway to replace the entire viaduct with a brand new one. Beginning in 2022, crews will construct one half of the bridge which will be used temporarily for motorway traffic upon ist completion. Once traffic is diverted onto that span, the old viaduct will be demolished and in its place, the second half of the new bridge will be built. When the new bridge is completed by 2027, the structure will carry six lanes of traffic in total- three in each direction.

Unique about the new bridge, as you will see in the illustration below, is that the piers will be V-shaped and the cantilever design will be similar to that of the 1972 structure. In other words, the newer bridge will be fancier than the structure at present. It’s a win-win situation for the region of Rendsburg, which prides itself of its beloved High Bridge and Rail Loop, for two reasons:

  1. There will be relief in terms of traffic in and around the city, reducing congestion and diverting unnecessary travel away from the city and
  2. The city will be greeted with a unique bridge that will be appealing to tourists and bridgehunters alike. It will be not only modern but also unique.

And with that, a film on this project, courtesy of DEGES:

TIP:

Even though the Motorway will remain open to traffic, construction will hinder traffic due to the machinery at the site. As a shortcut, you can take the Motorway 215 to Kiel, then follow Highway B76 to Schleswig via Eckernförde, crossing the Prince Heinrich Bridge that spans the Canal. Another alternative would feature taking the Motorway 23 along the North Sea coast from Hamburg. This changes to Highway B 5 after Heide. At Husum, follow Highway B 200 to Flensburg.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on this project.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 149: An Inundated Bridge in Czechia with Possible Links to Melan and von Emperger

Photos taken by Lara Vajrychová

Our next mystery bridge returns us to Czechia, but this time to the far western part of the country, along the Odrava (CZ: Ohri/ D: Eger). The River Odrava starts in eastern Bavaria and snakes away along the foot of the Ore Mountains past Cheb and Carlsbad (Karoly Vary) before emptying into the River Elbe at Litomerice, south of Usti nad Labem (Aussig). The river is laden with dozens of historic bridges dating back to the early 1900s, many of which can even be seen via satillite in a geo-app, like Google Maps.

This bridge is one of them. The structure is located in the middle of Lake Jesenice, located east of the nearest city of Cheb. The structure features a through arch span made of concrete, yet the characteristics resemble the rainbow arch bridge that was invented and patented by James B. Marsh around 1909. While his patented rainbow arch bridges were built solely in the United States, his design was based on another bridge design that was patented by Austrian engineer, Josef Melan. Melan patented his arch design in 1890 and under the direction of another Austrian,  Frederick von Emperger, built the first arch bridge 1894 in Rock Rapids, Iowa. That bridge, now located at Emma Sater Park, was the first of its kind to use reinforced concrete arch in an elliptical fashion.

Melan Bridge at Emma Sater Park in Rock Rapids, Iowa. Photo taken in 2009

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The Melan System, which links steel and concrete construction, won significant market-shares in European and American bridge-building as early as the 1890s and was awarded a gold medal at the World Exposition in Paris in 1900. Melan had published his work on concrete arches in conjunction with iron arches in 1893. Many Melan arch spans followed after the construction in Rock Rapids, including a multiple span arch bridge in Steyr in 1898 and the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana.  While he left a mark in terms of bridges and buildings especially in the New York and Boston areas, von Emperger’s stay in the US was short-lived and therefore, only this example of the Melan Arch Bridge still exists. He returned to Vienna in 1898, where he was active both as a bridge builder as well as in politics until his death in 1942, one year after Melan’s and six years after Marsh’s.

When looking at the crossing at Lake Jesenice, the structure has a rainbow arch feature, yet unlike the Marsh arch, where the arches are anchored in the wingwall above the water level, the arches here start at the abutment on deck level. Nevertheless, as the region was once part of the Habsburg Kingdom (Austrian-Hungarian Empire) until their defeat after World War I in 1918, the possibility of either Melan or von Emperger having built this bridge exists, yet the question is solely, when was the bridge built. Judging by its appearance, the bridge is well over a century old, which falls into the era when the Marsh Arch bridges were being built by the dozens in the USA. It would be a possibility that Marsh’s design was modified in order for it to stand out in comparison with the original. Yet records revealed that Marsh had abandoned  the Melan arches and had developed his signature arch in order to avoid paying Melan royalties. The bridge at Lake Jenesice was most likely built between 1898 and 1912 using the Austrian design.

As for the history of Lake Jesenice , this is an artificial lake that was created through a dam project which ran from 1957 to its completion in 1961. The bridge used to carry a road between Velká Všeboř and Cheb. It used to span the Wondreb which was a tributary of the Odrava. When the dam was completed, the Wondreb and other smaller tributaries became part of the lake and the bridge was left to inundate. The towns of Jesenice and Dřenice also disappeared because of the creation of the lake.  At high levels one can only see the arch stick out, yet during the drough in recent years in Europe, the bridge has become fully accessible by foot.  The Lake has become a recreational point for campers and tourists wishing to explore the region along the Odrava, as the area has campgrounds and other natural parks. In the past, this lake as well as neighboring city Carlsbad were health resort regions where children and their families could recover from the illnesses caused by emissions of coal and other pollutants in the nearby Black Triangle Region, where the former Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany met. Yet with new forests being grown since the Revolution of 1989 and the subsequent Reunification of Germany in 1990, the area where Czechia, Poland and Germany meet today is becoming as equally important as the area around Lake Jenesice.

Close-up of the railings and its deteriorating state

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The days of the arch bridge at Lake Jesenice may be numbered, sadly. According to bridgehunter, Lara Vajrychová, there have been talks of tearing down the arch bridge for safety reasons. Whether or not that will happen remains open. Still it would be a sad loss to see a piece of architectural work that had once belonged to one of the villages that was inundated by the dam project disappear, especially one that may have been built by the founding fathers of the Melan arch whose design was picked up by James Marsh for his design. Nevertheless, before its final demise, one needs to find out more about the bridge in terms of the date of construction and the bridge contractor to answer the questions that were made with regard to its possible connection with either Melan or von Emperger.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 146: An Abandoned Railroad Bridge at a Once Important Airbase in Czechia

Our next mystery bridge takes us into the mountains, but this time to the area between Ustí nad Labem (Aussig) and Liberec in northern Czechia in the region of Bohemia. The Hradčany Airport is a former military airbase located near the town of Ralsko. It’s situated in the area of confluence between the Ralsko and Ploučnice Rivers.  Originally, the area was used for military combat training during the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as after the establishment of Czechoslovakia. When Nazi Germany occupied the country in 1938, the area was converted to a military airbase by the Wehrmacht, which included new runways and hangers for their fighter jets. It was one of the most important bases fort he eastern front during World War II. 

As part of the measure to expel German residents out of their country, Czechoslovakia reclaimed the airbase but only for a short time, as it later became part of Soviet Army when it became a socialist republic. Again, the airbase became an important point of axis for the Soviet Union, especially during the Prague Spring of 1968, when troops entered the city and ended the revolution with military force. For 30 years, the  Hradčany Airbase was an important military base for the Soviets to ensure that none of the communist states were influenced by the capitalist West.

After the fall of the communist party from power in 1989, withdrawal of Soviet troops was negotiated in February 1990. The last soldier left the district in May 1991. The district lost its military status in the same year. On January 1, 1992 the village of Ralsko was established by joining of nine villages together. Between 1993 and 2004 the area was extensively cleaned up from chemical contamination and searched for unexploded ammunition. To this day, all that remains are ruins of the airport that are beset by vandals. The area has been also used for drag racing and dance parties, yet there have been plans to convert the former base into a recreational area.

And this takes us to this bridge, the Stary zeleznicni most, a former railroad bridge located north of the former airbase. This was discovered by Czech bridgehunter Lara Vajrychová during a recent trip to the area. The structure is approximately 200 meters long and features a combination Lattice and Bailey truss design. The portal bracings are I-beam with bedstead endposts. The connections are for the most part pinned, based on Bailey truss building techniques, yet the top and bottom chords have riveted connections.

It is unknown when the structure was built but we do know that the railroad line served as an important link to the airbase from the north. It could be that the Germans had built this prior to the start of World War II as soon as Czechoslovakia was taken over in 1938. Should this argument be true, then the bridge survived the bombings unscathed, which enabled Soviet and American troops to use the bridge and the rail line to march into Germany in 1945.  By the same token, if the crossing was damaged, it was likely that the Soviets rebuilt the bridge and used it to provide materials and artillery to quash any uprisings, yet that would have happened between the time the country became a communist state in 1948 and the time before the Prague Spring, 20 years later.

And this is where your help is needed here: In your opinion, were the Germans or the Russians responsible for this important crossing that made the now former airbase a key axis point (Stützpunkt) until 1990.  What kind of truss design is this and who was behind ist construction? 

And for that, the forum is open.

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Photos:

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Czechoslovakia was split into Czech Republic and Slovakia through a Velvet Divorce, which happened on January 1, 1993. On January 1, 2021, the Czech Republic was renamed Czechia.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 144: A Small Unusual Bridge in the Ruins of a Large Military Complex

The best discoveries are found in your backyard. This mystery bridge fits the historian stereotype like a glove and can be found in the southeastern part of Glauchau in the area now designated as a natural reserve, behind the Rudolph Virchow Hospital and adjacent Agricola High School.  We found this bridge as pure coincidence, while we were hiking and taking pictures on a Sunday afternoon. The structure is a two-span deck arch bridge all made with metal, and the connections are welded. The bridge has a total length of 25 meters and it appeared that it used to span a body of water which has since shrunk in size, leaving the area the bridge crosses to be nothing more but a dry ravine to be forded because much of the decking on the bridge is in critical condition with missing or cracked flooring. The bridge used to carry an abandoned road, which we later found that it led to the hospital grounds and given its width, it was probably used only for cars and pedestrians only.

The bridge has a unique feature that is rare to find for bridges built during its time. One side of the bridge exposes the arch section where only a couple vertical beams support the arches. Both the arches as well as the center piers are tubular and are welded together. On the opposite end, the arches are covered with paneling resembling an appearance of a faux pas arch span: a beam bridge that is decorated with only the outer arches, whose spandrels are covered with paneling, thus making the bridge look like a real arch bridge but it’s merely a beam bridge that functions as the crossing supporting traffic.

It is unknown when the bridge was built, let alone who built it, but the area where the bridge was discovered by accident belongs to a natural area known as the Rümpfwald, an area that is the size of 10 football pitches that extends from the hospital, along the cemetary and past Bismarck Tower going south and east towards Rottenbach Creek and the adjacent forest near Niederlungwitz and St. Egidien, located six kilometers southeast of Glauchau’s Railway station. A map featuring both the forest and the bridge shows you the size of the natural area.

Before the habitat was created, it was once a military complex with a long history, most of which still hangs a dark cloud over Glauchau to this day.  In 1914, a military complex was established under the name Friedrich August Kaserne, which covered an area including the hospital, and the western half of Rümpfwald. Originally used for the German army, it was made irrelevant when Germany was forced to reduce its military to a quarter of ist size through the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Nevertheless, when Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, the military base was reactivated and used as a concentration camp for political prisoners. By 1936, it became a base for the Wehrmacht- the Nazi army. By 1945, the Soviet troops took over the eastern half of Germany and with that, the military base in Glauchau, which would later be expanded to include the production of weaponry and tanks as well as a practice area. The Soviets occupied the base until 1993, when the last Russian troops left the base. Afterwards, the entire complex was razed to the ground and the area was converted to a natural area, yet some of the relicts from the past still exist today….

….including this bridge. Given its current, deteriorating state, the bridge will most likely succumb to nature as the arches and the superstructure have corroded to a point where a full rehabilitation would be deemed impossible. Yet given the fact that this bridge is one of the most neglected of all of Glauchau’s bridges, it would be a shame to see it disappear without knowing about its history. While only a small portion of the military base has been preserved as a mini-library, perhaps there is a place for this unique bridge, even if the dark past of the military days in Glauchau have long since disappeared…..

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  The Watchman’s post and the Historic Gate to the military base at Wolffersdorfstrasse and the north entrance to the hospital were preserved, restored and converted to a library. The smallest library in Germany was completed in 2009 and received the 2011 Pegasus Award, the most important award of the EU devoted to preserving places of historic interest. More information on the project can be found here.  Ironically, book booth, a phone booth is located on the opposite end of the street at Virchowstrasse. There, you can donate your books and take one from the booth with. It’s next to a panel of what was part of the Berlin Wall.

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Plans are in the making to expand the Virchow Hospital further into the forest and former military compound, which includes rehabilitation areas and a health care sector. When the work starts remains open.

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BHC Newsflyer: 13 March, 2021

Cobban Bridge in Chippewa County, WI: Officially doomed after failed attempts to relocate it

To listen to the podcast, click here. WordPress version found here.

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Headlines:

Close-up of the fire at the Mt. Zion Covered Bridge. Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office

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Mt. Zion Covered Bridge in Kentucky Destroyed by Arson

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2021/03/11/fire-destroys-iconic-covered-bridge-in-kentucky/

Video:

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Broadway Bridge in Frankfort. Photo taken by James MacCray

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Future of Broadway Bridge in Doubt because of Insurance Issue

Link: https://www.state-journal.com/news/insurance-question-clouds-broadway-bridge-s-future/article_44ff6c32-8073-11eb-b2bf-c7a141ba6b4e.html

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Save-Broadway-Bridge-108589957397738/

Tilton Island Truesdell Truss Bridge. Photo taken by Royce and Bobette Hailey

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Change in Ownership for Bridge and Island in New Hampshire

Link: https://www.concordmonitor.com/tilton-northfield-nh-park-39315636

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500-year old bridges in Yorkshire, England rebuilt despite Covid-19 delays

Link: Collapsed 500-year-old Yorkshire bridges finally rebuilt after Covid and weather delays – New Civil Engineer

Bleicher Hag Bridge in Ulm- Now Demolished

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Bleicher Hag Bridge in Ulm, Germany Demolished; Ludwig Erhardt Bridge to be Rehabilitated

Link: https://www.augsburger-allgemeine.de/neu-ulm/Wie-die-Brueckenkiller-in-Ulm-ein-historisches-Bauwerk-entfernen-id59201891.html

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The winners of the 2020 Brückenpreis Award in Germany

Link: https://www.brueckenbaupreis.de/retheklappbruecke-in-hamburg-und-trumpf-steg-in-ditzingen-gewinnen-deutschen-brueckenbaupreis-2020/

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ASCE Bridge Photo Contest: https://source.asce.org/three-keys-to-taking-a-great-bridge-photo/

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Cobban Truss Bridge to be Demolished after Failed Proposal to Relocate It– On BHC facebook page.

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2020 Author’s Choice Awards- Mr Smith takes his picks

Photo by Aleksey Kuprikov on Pexels.com

And now, before we announce the winners of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards, I have a few favorites that I hand-picked that deserve international recognition. 2020 was a year like no other. Apart from head-scratcher stories of bridges being torn down, we had an innummeral number of natural disasters that were impossible to follow, especially when it came to bridge casualties. We had some bonehead stories of people downing bridges with their weight that was 10 times as much as what the limit was and therefore they were given the Timmy for that (click on the link that will lead you to the picture and the reason behind it.) But despite this we also had a wide selection of success stories in connection with historic bridge preservation. This include two rare historic bridges that had long since disappeared but have now reappeared with bright futures ahead of them. It also include the in-kind reconstruction of historic bridges, yet most importantly, they also include historic bridges that were discovered and we had never heard of before- until last year.

And so with that in mind, I have some personal favorites that deserve international recognition- both in the US as well as international- awarded in six categories, beginning with the first one:

Best example of reused bridge:

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The Castlewood Thacher Truss Bridge in South Dakota:

One of three hybrid Thacher through truss bridges left in the US, the bridge used to span the Big Sioux River near Castlewood until it disappeared from the radar after 1990. Many pontists, including myself, looked for it for three decades until my cousin, Jennifer Heath, found it at the Threshing Grounds in Twin Brooks. Apparently the product of the King Bridge Company, built in 1894, was relocated to this site in 1998 and restored for car use, in-kind. Still being used but we’re still scratching our heads as to how it managed to disappear from our radar for a very long time…..

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/07/castlewood-bridge-in-a-new-home-on-the-threshing-grounds/

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International:

Plaka Bridge in Greece:

Built in 1866, this bridge was unique for its arch design. It was destroyed by floods in 2015 but it took five years of painstaking efforts to put the bridge back together again, finding and matching each stone and reinforcing it with concrete to restore it like it was before the tragedy. Putting it back together again like a puzzle will definitely make for a puzzle game using this unique bridge as an example. Stay tuned.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/02/19/plaka-bridge-in-greece-restored/

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Hirschgrundbrücke in Glauchau:

While it has not been opened yet for the construction of the South Park Gardens is progressing, this four-span arch bridge connecting the Park with the Castle Complex was completely restored after 2.5 years of rebuilding the 17th Century structure which had been abandoned for four decades. Keeping the outer arches, the bridge was rebuilt using a skeletal structure that was later covered with concrete. The stones from the original bridge was used as a façade. When open to the public in the spring, one will see the bridge that looks like the original but has a function where people can cross it. And with the skeleton, it will be around for a very long time.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/06/update-on-the-hirschgrundbrucke-in-glauchau-saxony/

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Worst example of reused bridge:

Northern Avenue Bridge in Boston

This one definitely deserves a whole box of tomatoes. Instead of rehabilitating the truss bridge and repurposing it for bike and public transportation use, designers unveiled a new bridge that tries to mimic the old span but is too futuristic. Watch the video and see for yourself. My take: Better to build a futuristic span, scrap the historic icon and get it over with.

Link: https://www.northernavebridgebos.com/about & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcWEvjdsAUQ

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International:

Demolishing the Pilchowicki Bridge in Poland for a Motion Picture Film-

Paramount Pictures and Tom Cruz should both be ashamed of themselves. As part of a scene in the film, Mission Impossible, this historic bridge, spanning a lake, was supposed to be blown up, then rebuilt mimicking the original structure. The bridge had served a railroad and spans a lake. The plan was tabled after a huge international cry to save the structure. Nevertheless, the thwarted plan shows that America has long been famous for: Using historic places for their purpose then redo it without thinking about the historic value that was lost in the process.

Links: https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/07/24/concern-over-reports-that-historic-bridge-in-poland-will-be-blown-up-for-tom-cruise-film/ & https://www.thefirstnews.com/article/so-long-tom-historic-bridge-saved-from-tom-cruise-bomb-14980

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Salvageable Mentioned:

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Okoboji Truss Bridge at Parks Marina in Iowa-

A one of a kind Thacher pony truss, this bridge went from being a swing bridge crossing connecting East and West Lake Okoboji, to a Little Sioux River crossing that was eventually washed out by flooding in 2011, to the storage bin, and now, to its new home- Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji. The owner had one big heart to salvage it. Plus it was in pristine condition when it was relocated to its now fourth home. A real winner.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/the-okoboji-bridge-at-parks-marina/

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International:

Dömitz Railroad Bridge between Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania in Germany-

World War II had a lasting after-effect on Germany’s infrastructure as hundreds of thousands of historic bridges were destroyed, either through bombs or through Hitler’s policies of destroying every single crossing to slow the advancement of the Allied Troops. Yet the Dömitz Railroad Bridge, spanning the River Elbe, represents a rare example of a bridge that survived not only the effects of WWII, but also the East-West division that followed, as the Mecklenburg side was completely removed to keep people from fleeing to Lower Saxony. All that remains are the structures on the Lower Saxony side- preserved as a monument symbolizing the two wars and the division that was lasting for almost a half century before 1990.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/domitz-railroad-bridge/

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Spectacular Bridge Disaster

Forest Fires along the West Coast- 2020 was the year of disasters in a literal sense of the word. Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought the world to a near standstill, 2020 was the year where records were smashed for natural disasters, including hurricanes and in particular- forest fires. While 20% of the US battled one hurricane after another, 70% of the western half of the country, ranging from the West Coast all the way to Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas dealt with record-setting forest fires, caused by drought, record-setting heatwaves and high winds. Hardest hit area was in California, Washington and even Oregon. Covered bridges and other historic structures took a massive hit, though some survived the blazes miraculously. And even some that did survive, presented some frightening photo scenes that symbolizes the dire need to act on climate change and global warming before our Earth becomes the next Genesis in Star Trek.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/great-western-fires-destroy-iconic-historic-bridges/  &  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/catastrophic-inferno-hits-western-united-states-photos-noble-reporters-worlds-iconic-news-media-site/  & https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/no-comment-nr-2-the-great-california-fire/

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Bonehead Story:

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Demolition of the Historic Millbrook Bridge in Illinois-

Inaction has consequences. Indifference has even more painful consequences. Instead of fixing a crumbling pier that could have left the 123-year old, three-span through truss bridge in tact, Kendall County and the Village of Millbrook saw dollar signs in their eyes and went ahead with demolishing the entire structure for $476,000, coming out of- you guessed it- our taxpayer money. Cheapest way but at our expense anyway- duh!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/08/26/historic-millbrook-bridge-demolished/

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Planned Demolition of the Bridges of Westchester County, New York-

While Kendall County succeeded in senselessly tearing down the last truss bridge in the county, Westchester County is planning on tearing down its remaining through truss bridges, even though the contract has not been let out just yet. The bridges have been abandoned for quite some time but they are all in great shape and would make for pedestrian and bike crossings if money was spent to rehabilitate and repurpose them. Refer to the examples of the Calhoun and Saginaw County historic bridges in Michigan, as well as those restored in Winneshiek, Fayette, Madison, Johnson, Jones and Linn Counties in Iowa.  Calling Julie Bowers and Nels Raynor!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/10/the-bridges-of-westchester-county-new-york/

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Collapse of Westphalia Bridge due to overweight truck-

To the truck driver who drove a load over the bridge whose weight was four times the weight limit, let alone bring down the 128-year old product of the Kansas City Bridge Company: It’s Timmy time! “One, …. two,….. three! DUH!!!!”  The incident happened on August 17th 2020 and the beauty of this is, upon suggesting headache bars for protecting the bridge, county engineers claimed they were a liability. LAME excuse!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/08/18/truck-driver-narrowly-escapes-when-missouri-bridge-collapses-truckers-4-truckers/

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International:

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Waldcafé Bridge in Lunzenau, Saxony-

Located near the Göhren Viaduct in the vicinity of Burgstädt and Mittweida, this open-spandrel stone arch bridge used to span the Zwickau Mulde and was a key accessory to the fourth tallest viaduct in Saxony. Yet it was not valuable enough to be demolished and replaced during the year. The 124-year old bridge was in good shape and had another 30 years of use left. This one has gotten heads scratching.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/waldcafe-bridge-in-gohren-to-be-replaced/

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Collapse of Bridge in Nova Scotia due to overweight truck-

It is unknown which is more embarrassing: Driving a truck across a 60+ year old truss bridge that is scheduled to be torn down or doing the same and being filmed at the same time. In any case, the driver got the biggest embarrassment in addition to getting the Timmy in French: “Un,…. deux,…… toi! DUH!!!” The incident happened on July 8th.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/historic-bridge-in-nova-scotia-collapses-because-of-truck-reminder-to-obey-weight-and-height-limits/

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Spectacular Bridge Find:

Root Bridges in Meghalaya State in India-

Consisting of vine bridges dating back hundreds of years, this area has become a celebrity since its discovery early last year. People in different fields of work from engineers to natural scientists are working to figure out how these vined bridges were created and how they have maintained themselves without having been altered by mankind. This region is one of the World’s Top Wonders that should be visited, regardless whether you are a pontist or a natural scientist.

Link:  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/18/living-root-bridges-in-the-tropical-forests-of-meghalaya-state-india/

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Puente de Occidente in Colombia-

This structure deserves special recognition not only because it turned 125 years old in 2020. The bridge is the longest of its kind on the South American continent and it took eight years to build. There’s an interesting story behind this bridge that is worth the read…..

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/1895-this-suspension-bridge-in-colombia-is-still-the-second-longest-span-of-its-kind-on-the-continent/

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The Bridges of Schwerin, Germany-

For bridge tours on the international front, I would recommend the bridges of Schwerin. It features seven iron bridges, three unique modern bridges, a wooden truss span, a former swing span and  a multiple span arch bridge that is as old as the castle itself, Schwerin’s centerpiece and also home of the state parliament. This was a big steal for the author as the day trip was worth it.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/03/the-bridges-of-schwerin/

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USA:

Thomas Viaduct in Maryland-

Little is written about the multiple-span stone built in 1835, except that it’s still the oldest functioning viaduct of its kind in the US and one stemming from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad era.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/25/thomas-viaduct-in-maryland/

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The Bridge Daheim in New York-

Geoff Hobbs brought the bridge to the attention of the pontist community in July 2020, only to find that the bridge belonged to a mansion that has a unique history. As a bonus, the structure is still standing as with the now derelict mansion.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/mystery-bridge-nr-132-the-bridge-daheim/

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The Bridges of Jefferson Proving Grounds in Indiana-

The Proving Grounds used to be a military base that covered sections of four counties in Indiana. The place is loaded with history, as not only many buildings have remained largely in tact but also the Grounds’ dozen bridges or so. Satolli Glassmeyer provided us with a tour of the area and you can find it in this film.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/23/the-bridges-of-jefferson-proving-grounds-in-indiana-hyb/

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Now that the favorites have been announced and awarded, it is now the voter’s turn to select their winners, featured in nine categories of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards. And for that, we will go right, this way…… =>

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Wartime Bridge: The Legacy of the Bailey Truss

Photo taken by Kevin Skow.

One will find this one anywhere. Even on the backroads like this one: a single span truss span spanning Soldier River just south of Iowa Hwy. 141 in Crawford County. The bridge was erected here in 1957 to replace a span destroyed during the great flood of 1945. At 90 feet, one would think a through truss span could have fit here. Yet the span is a pony truss and it was put together in layers and put together with bolts. A set of Tinker Toys that was put together easily with the purpose of ensuring even the heaviest vehicles- in this case, farm equipment like tractors- would be allowed to cross it. One has to assume that it was imported somewhere where it had a purpose.

And it was. This span is an example of a Bailey Truss bridge. And even though one can find them here and there, in the farmlands of Iowa to the steep hills of central Saxony, even to the far east, such as India, Australia and New Zealand.  Bailey Trusses were unique because all they require is a few metal beams and bolts, combined with manpower, and the bridge is put together in an instant.  Bailey Trusses were the works of a brillant engineer and and without his expertise, it would not have won World War II. As Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, the British commander, once said. ”It was the best thing in that line we ever had; without the Bailey Bridge we should not have won the war.”

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Who was that brillant engineer?  Sir Donald Coleman Bailey.

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Source: Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer / Public domain

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Bailey was born on 15 September, 1901 in Rotherham in Yorkshire. He obtained a degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Sheffield in 1923 and was a civil servant in the War Department when the war broke out in 1939.  The concept of the Bailey Truss was developed in 1936, when Bailey scribbled the design on the back of an envelope. His idea was that prefabricated sections that were interchangable could be deployed to the war front and, with steel pins, soldiers could construct the span, which would be anchored on one side and connected on the other side by the use of force. No heavy equipment would be needed to construct a temporary span, and the parts could be transported with the basic equipment or with man power from one place to another because of their lightweight. Constructing them would be easy for it could be achieved within hours, instead of months. For the war effort, the concept of makeshift bridge construction in the shortest time span possible was of utmost importance in order to win the war.

Firstly ignored, Bailey’s truss design was accepted in 1941 when the Ministry of Supply requested that Bailey construct a full scale span completed by May 1st.  The design was successfully tested at the Experimental Bridging Establishment (EBE), in Christchurch, Hampshire, with several parts being provided by Braithwaite & Co. The first prototype was tested in 1941. For early tests, the bridge was laid across a field, about 2 feet (0.61 m) above the ground, and several Mark V tanks were filled with pig iron and stacked upon each other. Another prototype was constructed in 1943 at Stanpit Marsh also in Dorset and was proven successful. That span still exists to this day. After a series of successful trials, the Corps of Royal Engineers introduced the Bailey Truss as a means of construction in 1942 and companies began constructing parts for the Bailey Truss to be transported to the war front.

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Use in World War II:

The first Bailey Truss was constructed over Medjerda River near Medjez el Bab in Tunisia on the night of 26 November 1942 by the by 237 Field Company R.E. After learning about the bridge‘s success, both the Canadians and Americans embraced the truss and started their own production to complement that of  Britain. Detroit Steel Products Company, the American Elevator Company and the Commercial Shearing and Stamping Company were three of dozens of companies that constructed the Bailey Trusses in the US, which was known as the Portable Panel Bridge. In total, over 600 firms were involved in the making of over 200 miles of bridges using the Bailey design,  composing of 500,000 tons, or 700,000 panels of bridging during the war- at the height of the war, the number was at 20,000 panels that were produced and transported. Bailey Trusses were used successfully for transporting military equipment and supplies during the war, including the Normandy and Italy. American troops built over 3200 Bailey Trusses in Italy as they advanced through the Alps into Germany from the south.  The longest bridge there was located over the Sangro and had a span of 1200 feet.

Bailey Trusses were also implemented in Germany, when hundreds of key structures were imploded by the Nazis as a way to slowing or stopping the advancement of Allied Troops. This included the bridges along the Rivers Rhine and Main. Canadians were credited for building the longest Bailey Bridge during the war. The Blackfriars Bridge, a 1814 foot long (558 meters) over the River Rhine at Rees, in North Rhine-Westphalia, was the longest span in the world when it opened to traffic on 28 March, 1945.

US Army soldiers working together to put a Bailey Truss span in place at the site of the crossing at Wesel (NRW). Source: Beck, Alfred M., et al, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Even when the war ended on May 7th, 1945, Bailey trusses were in use as temporary crossings while the bridges were either repaired or rebuilt throughout Germany. It had a dual purpose: To help displaced residence get around and to allow for the transportation of necessary goods needed while the country was being rebuilt. Some of them were made permanent, while others, including the major crossings along the Rhine, Main and Elbe were temporary, allowing time for the original structures to be either repaired or rebuilt fully.

Bailey Truss span erected over damaged arch bridge in Italy in 1944. Source: War Office official photographer / Public domain

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After World War II:

When the war was over, there was a surplus of Bailey spans that were available for reuse. This allowed for Americans, British and Canadians alike to reuse them for various projects. Many of them made their way to Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, where counties in the western half of the state needed at least temporary crossings to replace the spans that were destroyed during the floods of 1945 and again in 1952. Some examples still remain in use today. Bailey trusses were used as temporary crossings as bridges were being replaced. In the case of a viaduct in Maryland, the Bailey spans were built prior to the original trestle being replaced with steel trestles.

Large numbers of Bailey truss spans were built in mountainous areas in California where constructing bridges to accomodate travelers was difficult because of the steep, rocky terrain. Some of the spans were part of the ACROW bridge- temporarily built as moveable bridges. The Fore River Bridge and the Lynn Baschule Bridge both in Massachusetts are classic examples of such Bailey Trusses used. Bailey trusses were also used as extra support for the truss bridge, as is the case with the Haiti Island Bridge in New York, which happened in 2007. The span and the truss bridge itself were replaced three years later.

Ontario had the largest number of Bailey truss spans for the years after the war, with the spans being built in and around Toronto in response to damages caused by Hurricane Hazel. The Finch Avenue Bridge is the last of its kind and is now a historic landmark. The Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission used some for their office and as walkways. And lastly, Australia built several Bailey bridges, including the world record holder, a 2585-foot (788 meter), two-lane structure over the Derwent River at Hobart, which was constructed in 1975. It served as a temporary structure before the Tasman Bridge was opened to traffic on October 8, 1977. Later, Bailey Truss Bridges were constructed in the far east, including northern Africa, Suriname, and India. Many of them, like the trestle at Wadi el Kuf in Lybia were built by the British during the time of its Empire.

Bailey bridge, Wadi el Kuf, Libya. Constructed by the British Army, shortly after World War II. Source: Jollyswagman on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

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The Legacy of Bailey:

Many scholars and even those who served in the military during WWII believed that the Bailey Truss was the key to mobilizing Allied Troops and securing a victory over Germany and Italy in World War II. As a result, Mr. Bailey received several international accolades for his work. In Britain alone, he was given the Knighthood on 1 January, 1946 and the Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau exactly two years later. By that time, Bailey was living in Southbourne in Bournemouth and was unaware that he had been knighted until one of the girls at the bank had informed him about it. Bailey would live out his days in Bournemouth, where he died in 1985.

He was considered a quiet man but one where he left a footprint with his truss bridge design, which is still widely used in bridge construction, big and small. And while the successes of World War II fell to the common person who fought for freedom and democracy, Bailey was considered one that played a key role, not only in helping bring an end to the war, but to help rebuild the areas ravaged by war with the Bailey Truss. And when you see a bridge like this one below, one will see how the use of simple parts and tools, combined with the use of manpower could make a work of simple art, something we still see today on our roads.

The Prototype Bailey Bridge at Stanpit Marsh. Photo by Eugene Birchall for wiki

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Memorials:

There are not many memorials dedicated to Bailey, even in Britain, for most of the places where he lived have been razed and replaced with newer housing. Yet the prototype Bailey span at Stanpit Marsh still exists today and his birthplace at 24 Albany Street in Rotherham still stands albeit privately owned. Yet there are some companies that specialize in Bailey trusses, including one in Alabama that bears its name. Bailey trusses were rarely used in films, except one based on the battle of Arnhem, A Bridge Too Far, released in 1977. There, the Bailey Truss Bridge was used in the film.

It is really hoped that a statue and/or additional honors, even a museum would be created honoring Bailey for his life and works. 75 years after the end of the great war, nothing of that sort has been considered. This should be considered, especially as talk of the significance of World War II is disappearing together with the War Generation and the children of the Baby Boom that followed. For historians, bridge enthusiasts, teachers and the public in general, it would produce some great talks about the common man who did great things and became Sir Donald Bailey in the end.

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