This week’s Pic of the Week is in connection with a “Never say never” moment regarding a historic bridge that is hard to get to, unless you fight through weeds, rotten wood and potholes on abandoned roads to get it what you want.
This was one of them. The Filzwerk Truss Bridge is located on the south end of Hof at the junction of Ascher Strasse and Hofer Strasse. Like the Alsenberg Truss Bridge seen in another Pic of the Week article (see here), the bridge is a Pratt through truss with welded connections, approximately 35 meters long and spanning the same river- the Saale. Both were built between 1900 and 1920, but we don’t know much about the two…..
Or do we?
This bridge is located on the south side of the Filzwerk factory, a company that produced textile products until its closure a couple decades ago. It was since that time, half of the company was converted into a cultural events center, which garners tens of thousands of visitors to Hof every year. The other half is still in operation but has seen better days with empty buildings and lots, all of which are fenced off to the public.
Even when walking to the bridge from the north side, outside the fenced area and through the weeds and thorns that are waist high, you will be confronted by security guards and told to leave for trespassers pose a security threat in their eyes.
On the south side, however, you can access the bridge at the junction of the aforementioned streets. Even though the intersection is officially a T, it used to be a cross-road junction with the road leading to the factory and the truss bridge. The road is no longer passable by car as it is chained off. Yet you can go by foot as you cross three steel beam bridges- each with a length of 10-15 meters- before turning right and going directly onto the through truss span! You will be greeted with trapezoidal portal and strut bracings as you go across. Yet the north portal side has been fenced off by the factory to keep trespassers from entering the complex on the bridge end. The best photo shots can be found at either the oblique or portal views as a side view may be impossible to get unless it’s in the winter time.
Unlike the Alsenberg Truss Bridge, the Filzwerk Bridge appears to be in a lot better shape with its wooden decking intact, and there is a potential to reuse it in the future, but at a different location. However little is known about the bridge’s history nor are there any concrete plans at the present time for the bridge, for three other structures in and around Hof are either being replaced or rehabilitated. Therefore the bridge will most likely sit in place for long time until there is potential interest for the structure.
And it is probably a good thing too. The bridge is one of those potential hideouts kids can use, as long as they are careful and the bridge is not harmed in anyway.
Do you know more about this bridge (or even the Alsenberg Truss Bridge), send us a comment and other information using the contact details by clicking here.
TOURNAIS, BELGIUM- This article pays a tribute to the Pont de Trous, a bridge spanning the River Scheldt in the City of Tournai in Belgium. At the time of this posting, this bridge is all but a memory as it was pushed aside in the name of progress. The project to demolish the bridge started on August 9th as part of the project to deepen and widen the River Scheldt to allow ships to sail through France to join the Seine, which flows into the Atlantic. The bridge was built in 1290 to replace a wooden crossing and was the last of the military crossings of its kind in the world. However, as the city claimed the bridge is being rebuilt with the stones being saved for reuse, this was the scene of this “reconstruction project:”
A news report shows the details of this senseless destruction:
A new bridge mimicking the original historic character of the crossing is expected to be in place by the end of 2020. However, despite its McDonald’s arches that are being proposed, one has to ask if this was really necessary, given the fact that the bridge was part of Tournai’s old town. Featuring historic buildings, inside the fort and a cathedral, all from the same era as the bridge, the old town of Tournai has been a UNSESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. With the proposed rebuilding of the bridge, one has to ask himself if this was really a necessity. Do we need larger ships to pass through or if it makes sense to transport by land, which has enough highways and railways taking goods and persons to ports in the areas mentioned? Is it really necessary to have the bigger is better mentality or is less really more? And lastly, how much do we care about history in general?
With this demolition of one of the most historic bridges in the world, I’m reminded of a comment one of my students mentioned about history in class: “History is history. We need to worry about the future.” Yet history is important to understand the present and change it for our future and that of the next generation. Without history we will never know how we got to where we are now and what is expected to come. We will never know how we progressed with our infrastructure and how it contributed to forming a nation, partnerships with other nations and society that we have today. It’s like the environment we fighting to save: We’ll never know until there’s nothing left…….
……but a memory. If we even remember this bridge a generation later, or if all that is left in memory are Ronald’s Golden Arches…….
The next Mystery Bridge article is in connection with the last Newsflyer article published last week on Lake Eder (in German: Edersee) and how the receding water levels are revealing relicts of the past, including a pair of bridges. To give you a brief summary of its location, Edersee is located in the district of Waldeck-Frankenberg in the northern part of Hesse, between the cities of Kassel and Warburg (Westphalia) in central Germany. One needs two hours from Frankfurt/Main in order to reach the lake. Edersee is an artificial lake that was built on orders of Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm II beginning in 1911. The dam and reservoir, located near Hemfurth was completed in 1914, but not before three villages were emptied of their inhabitants and later inundated. One of the villages is Asel, where the village’s lone surviving structure still stands.
The Asel Bridge is known by many as the Bridge to Atlantis at Asel (in German: Aselerbrücke). The bridge used to cross the river Eder when it was built in 1890. It is a four-span stone arch bridge, whose builder is unknown. It used to connect Asel with Vöhl before it was inundated with the creation of the reservoir. Over time, the bridge could be seen when water levels were low during the warm months from April to August. However, in the past decade, the levels have been decreasing to a point where the bridge can be seen in its glory year round. Furthermore, access to the bridge is possible on both ends and people can see relicts from the village before its relocation up the hill. The bridge, which has seen increasing numbers of visitors annually, is a living example of the village that had to move aside in the name of progress, having survived the test of time for more than a century.
Yet another crossing, located towards the dam between Scheid and Bringhausen, was not that lucky and only remains of the structure can be seen at low water point. The Eder Bridge at Bringhausen was built in 1893, made of wood, but it is unknown what type of bridge it was before its destruction- whether it was a covered bridge, truss bridge or a beam bridge. We also don’t know who built the bridge and at what cost. What we do know is when Scheid was relocated and the village was destroyed, so was the bridge itself. Today, what is left are the approach spans- made of stone- and the piers that used to support the wooden bridge- made of stone and concrete.
And finally, the third structural ruins that is closest to the dam is the Werbebrücke. This was located in the village of Berich, which is two Kilometers southwest of Waldeck Castle on the North end. Berich was the original site of the dam, water mill and mine that were constructed in the 1750s. The 75-meter long, five-span, stone arch bridge, with concrete keystone arch supports followed in 1899, even though we don’t know who was behind the work. We do know that the bridge was inundated along with the rest of Berich when the Reservoir was created. It was only until 2010, when water levels started its constant drop, that scuba divers found the bridge remains and some relicts from the old village. Since then, one can see the relicts from shore, including the outer two of the five arches of the bridge.
Not much information on the three structures exists for they were either hidden somewhere or were lost in time due to the relocation and inundation to form the reservoir. As the dam at Hemfurth was one of four dams that were damaged extensively during the bombing raids of 1943, it is possible that fire and floods may have taken the rest of the documents. The dams were rebuilt after the end of World War II, using the Nazi prisoners of war as labor, as American forces rebuilt the area they occupied. Aside from their completion in 1947-49, they have been rehabilitated five times ever since.
Still the information presented on the three bridges at Asel, Berich and Scheid should be the starting point for research. What else do we know about the three bridges, aside from what was mentioned here? If you have some useful information to share, feel free to comment- either by e-mail or in the comment section below. To understand more about the Edersee, there are some useful links to help you. The facts can be found via wiki (here), but there is a website that has all the information on places of interests and activities for you to try (click here). There, you can keep an eye on water levels and plan for your next outing. A documentary on the history of Edersee via HNA can be accessed here.
The infamous Edersee bombing raid happened on 17 May, 1943, when the British Squadron Nr. 617 under the Command of Guy Gibson, used the roll-and-rotating bombs dropped at the reservoir to bomb the dams. Holes were created causing damage to the dams and massive flooding that reached depths of up to eight meters. As many as 749 people perished and hundreds of homes and factories were destroyed in the attacks. The Americans took over the region, together with Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg and started a rebuilding plan, using prisoners of war plus troops who remained in Germany. While the area was rebuilt in five years’ time, the process of rebuilding Germany to its pre-war state took three decades to complete due to complications from the Cold War with the Soviets, who occupied the northeastern part of Germany (today: Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Pommerania and “East” Berlin). This is despite the Britons and French occupying the rest of what became later known as West Germany.
Prior to the destruction of Berich, a new village was established in 1912, approximately 15 kilometers away. Neu-Berich is located near the border to North Rhine-Westphalia west of Landau. For more on its history (and to buy the book), click here.
Author’s note:This is the first podcast since the move and features all the events that happened over the past 2-3 weeks. The most current version of Newsflyer (for the week of August 5th, 2019) will follow.
Following up on my last Pic of the Week post, we have this week’s pic which is symbolic. With this bridge, I completed my series on historic bridges that were built along the Motorway 72 between Hof (Bavaria) and Chemnitz (Saxony). Consisting of the Koditz, Pirk, Pöhl, Reichenbach, Wilkau-Hasslau and this last bridge, the Friesenthal Viaduct located in the south of Plauen west of the exit Plauen-Ost, all six bridges were built between 1935 and 1940, of which half of them were left uncompleted for many years and it wasn’t until 1990, when the Motorway 72 was fully restored that it became a fully-functional throughway, where to this day, tens of thousands of cars, trucks and other utility vehicles use this mainly four-lane expressway, crossing these six viaducts and dozens of overpasses daily.
This last bridge I photographed has a unique story and some primary concerns on top of that. To better explain the bridge’s story, I produced a video with some commentary, which you can listen and watch here:
The next pair of pics will take us to the Oblernhau/Marienberg Region, deep in the heart of the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) in south central Saxony. As a general rule, if you can master the tough terrain of steep hills, going up and down like a roller coaster, very sharp curves- mostly combined with bumps and cracks, cobblestone roads that have the potential of being slick when wet and lastly, wild boar running in front of you like a school of raccoons, then you can manage anything. And even more so, some surprises may await you.
In this case, I found one by accident. It’s a multiple-span stone arch bridge that spans a bumpy and curvy cobblestone Highway B 171, a hilly and bumpy road, a deep gorge which also has a river running through. All of it is located in the town of Zölbitz in the district of Rittersberg. The bridge is very difficult to photograph, and because of many cars racing underneath- breaking the 50 km/h speed limit in the process- it is rather dangerous to photograph, no matter at which angle. This was my experience when I photographed this structure. Even with the tree obstructing the view, the bridge presents a nice green and hilly backdrop that is typical for the Ore Mountains. The locals call the bridge Kniebreche not only because of the name of the road, but also because of the way the road is shaped like a bending knee. If one adds the driving portion to the mix, then the trip is definitely a knee-breaker if one is too careless driving in the mountains.
While the bridge looks rather abandoned because of many cracks and plus its dark brown color and vegetable overgrowth on the decking, the Kniebreche Bridge is indeed still in use. The 145-year old structure, measured at a length of 63.4 meters, is still part of the rail line that connects Marienberg with Flöha. In the past it had stretched to Reitzenhain at the Czech border. Yet as of today, the line ends in Marienberg, and the rest has been abandoned with the rails removed and plans of converting the former rail route into a biking and hiking trail with the goal of connecting the latter with the Kammweg Trail, an international route that connects Germany with points in the Czech Republic, Poland and elsewhere. That route runs through Blankenhain, where the Selbitz Bridge is located and the two suspension bridges are scheduled to be built.
Back to the railroad’s history, the line was built between 1872 and 1875. The Chemnitz- Chomotau Railroad Company was in charge of the project but contracted out to a company in Berlin. Given the narrow valleys along the Black and Red Pockau Rivers, bridges, viaducts and dams were built to accommodate two tracks but only one of them was used. The Kniebreche Viaduct was one of them. The line was the most difficult to build, not only because of the steep narrow valleys but also because of the financing. The financial crisis of 1873 forced the contractor in Berlin to liquidate, and the railroad company itself, which did the planning and layout of the railline, to finish the job.
The Kniebreche Viaduct is located in that area where two-track bridges were built even though the purpose was for having a one-track line. It’s location against the steep cliffs of the valley represent a classic example of the struggles the railroad company had in constructing the line. Given as many curves as the highway has, it is not a surprise that the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) have been using the “red worms” for regional service and leaving the long-distance trains, such as the ICE-trains off the tracks. These types of trains are better off for the long-distance routes, especially between Dresden and the cities of Chemnitz, Erfurt, Leipzig and Prague, for the landscape is flatter and the two-track lines more manageable.
GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- In a follow-up to the last article on the reconstruction of the Hirschgrund Bridge at the Castle Complex in Glauchau, I decided to attend the informational meeting and tour of the bridge, which took place on May 11th at the front court of the castle. This meeting and tour, which was divided up into three different time slots, was part of the Day of Funding and Support sponsored by the State of Saxony, and its main focus is the work that is being done to the castle itself, which started in 2017 and is scheduled to be finished by 2025. Already finished is the construction of the front court of the castle, which features a series of flower gardens, bike racks, picnic areas and a multifunctional facility that can be used year round, including for ice skating, which is Glauchau’s past time together with its Christmas Market.
This event was also tied in with the city’s first ever arts and crafts fair, which took place inside the castle and included exhibits, workshops and an auction. Due to inclimate weather, comprising of heavy rain and cold weather, the attendance was down across the board. However, we did come away with something for our own best interests- me with bridges, my daughter with arts and my wife with some ideas on how to better the arts and crafts fair. 🙂 Inspite of this, this article is on the bridge itself for based on my meeting with a representative from a construction firm working on the bridge, here are some facts that will need to be taken into account.
For instance, while newspapers and even my own previous reports had mentioned about the bridge being reopened by July, that assumption was proven false, both verbally and on the posters. Right now, if all goes well, the project should be finished and the bridge reopened by the end of November 2019 (this year). There are several factors that contributed to this delay.
The first one has to do with the demolition of the bridge. According to the spokesperson at the meeting, while attempts were made to keep only the foundations and piers of the 1700s- built arch bridge, combined with the two outer arches as part of an agreement with the State Ministry of Culture and Heritage to save them, demolition of the bridge took a little more out than expected as many elements from the original bridge had to be removed because they could no longer be used for the load bearings. That means they were worn out and would not be useful for the reconstruction. A good example of the extensive work on the bridge regarding that aspect can be seen in the picture above. If this was in American standards, this entire arch bridge would have been completely removed, going against the Historic Preservation Laws that were designed to protect historic structures like this from being destroyed. While the preservation of the outer arches and the piers were a compromise, it should be considered a stroke of luck in the face of modernization, which is becoming the norm in our society, even at our expense.
With the removal of most of the bridge comes the preservation of more than 12,000 different grey-colored granite stones from the original structure. According to the representative from the construction firm, they will be incorporated, like I mentioned. The question is: how?
As a facade! 🙂
This would make the best sense especially after my inquiry with the city’s civil engineer who also has been watching this project very closely. As mentioned in the previous article, the bridge is being rebuilt, first starting with the arches, then following with layers of concrete slabs supported by a skeletal system of vertical and horizontal support beams that would hold the bridge in place. The stones from the previous structure would be used as both decking as well as for the facade. While the reconstruction of the arch bridges will not be in-kind, meaning rebuilding it just like building the arch bridge from scratch beginning with the arches and then filling them in, layer by layer, the use of the skeletal system with concrete support beams as a skeleton will ensure that the new bridge will be sturdier than its original predecessor. I learned that in 2004, wooden support beams were put into place underneath the arches to keep them from collapsing. While this would have been considered useless if the bridge was coming down anyway, it did keep the bridge intact, thus helping the construction workers save as much of the materials for the rebuild as possible. Otherwise, allowing the bridge to sit derelict and let it collapse would not only eliminate that possibility, it would have been dangerous to even approach it.
Granted that there is wooden support for all four of the bridge’s arches for the new structure, yet they were meant for building the two inner arches from the ground up and reinforcing the outer arches- for the former, they were following the recipe Romans used when building their arch bridges during their peak in power.
With that comes the skeletal system and the layered concrete, which brings up another interesting fact I learned at the meeting. The vertical beams mentioned in the previous article feature a combination of concrete with steel wiring. This concept is often used for American bridges, in particular, with beam bridges. In Germany, it is hardly spoken of for the majority of modern bridges built after 1945 have focused solely on steel, fabricated from the mills in western Germany as well as parts of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg in the east. With very few quarries, concrete is used rationally- mainly for abutments, piers and decking- much of it with other materials. In this case, the vertical beams have the American style of steel wiring drowned with concrete with the wiring sticking out. The main purpose here is as the concrete layers are built up, the top layer will be covered with a decking made of stone and concrete, providing a sturdy crossing for years to come.
Add railings of up to 1.7 meters high to ensure the safety of those crossing it, the bridge will have a width of 3.7 meters and a total length of 55.3 meters from the castle to the park, with LED lighting, making the new crossing an attractive site in addition to the castle itself. The bridge will be 9 meters tall, a few centimeters taller than its was before the complete makeover started last year.
While there were only a few people at each of the three tours in the morning due to the weather, most were eager to know more about the project and even some of them shared some memories of crossing the bridge before it was closed off due for safety reasons many years ago. Many had a chance to ask the representative more in details about what was being done with the bridge with a lot of curiosity. The atmosphere was mostly positive when I was there. But all had one thing in common- they would love to see their bridge back as it is part of the Castle Complex, connects with the park and is part of Glauchau’s history in general. In November of this year, this will come true.
There are three projects that are going on around Glauchau’s Castle Complex- all of them being funded by the state. The front courtyard at the castle’s entrance was finished in December, right in time for the Christmas market. The bridge will be finished by the end of November. The third project scheduled to begin in 2020 will be redeveloping the grounds inside the castle as much of the markets and festivals take place there. That project is expected to last 2-3 years.
T-shirts and apparel with the theme of the bridges along the Zwickau Mulde, with exemplaries of the ones in Glauchau, Zwickau and Rochlitz can be found in the online shop via word press. Click here and order one today. 🙂