Interview with Sue Threader and Kate Castle of Rochester Bridge

From Left: Pictured are Kate Castle (Senior Engineer) & Sue Threader (Bridge Clerk) at Rochester Bridge Trust.

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Love builds bridges where there are none, and bridges are built with the love and care that only bridge engineers can give them. Yet for a bridge to last forever, tender loving care is needed by the same engineers to ensure they are maintained not only by their function as a crossing but also by its outer appearance. In order to ensure they are properly maintained and to understand how bridges work, education and only education is the key. 

When looking at the Rochester Bridge, we look at a unique structure that features not only one crossing, but as many as four: Two roadway structures, one walkway for maintenance and one two-track railroad structure. Each one coming from different generations- a lattice iron bridge dating back to the Victorian era, a three-span steel arch bridge built in 1910s and the youngest bridge is over 50 years old and made of concrete and steel. But there are more things about the bridge that goes way beyond the structures that exist. We have the ornamental warden houses on each end of the arch bridge, the architecture mimicking the Roman times and each corner having a statue of the lion; the lion is the bridge’s mascot. There’s the bridge chapel which had many lives apart from being a church. It is now a meeting place for the bridge trust. And one mustn’t forget the Esplanade with its ornate walkway to allow for tourists to be in awe of the structure and get as many photos as possible.

The bridge has maintained its composure as a structure that not only functions, but also looks attractive to visitors but in part because of the regular maintenance it has received. It has also been a poster boy for learning about bridges and how they are built and maintained. After all, the first bridge at this site dates back to the Roman Empire, built using stone. The bridge has been rebuilt at least four times before the Victorian era when the present-day railroad bridge was built. And the rest was history.

To ensure that the public can appreciate the beauty of the bridge and understand how bridges are built and cared for, the bridge underwent an 18-month extensive rehabilitation project that included everything that needed to be fixed, cleaned and in some cases, renewed so that the bridge looks like new. In addition, further ways of educating the public about this bridge including the use of technology has brought the public closer to the topic of bridges, how they are built and more importantly, how they are maintained with tender loving care. This project has reaped awards as the bridge has received accolades from several institutions nationally and internationally.

And that includes the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards, where the Rochester Bridge won in the category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Kate Castle won in the category Lifetime Achievement. We decided to interview both her and Sue Threader, about the entire project to get an inside look at the bridge, the Rochester Bridge Trust, the bridges’ restoration project and how the bridge has become one of Rochester England’s prized attractions. So without further ado, here are some things we know about the bridge from their aspects:

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1. (Both) How would you summarize the Rochester Bridge in terms of its description and history?

The first Rochester Bridge was constructed by the Romans, around the time of their invasion in 43AD. The Roman bridge crossed the River Medway on the line of Watling Street, the main Roman road running from London to Richborough and Dover on the Kent coast. 

After centuries of maintenance and repair, the Roman bridge was washed away by flood waters and ice in 1381.

Ten years later we have the medieval stone bridge, which was constructed some hundred yards upriver of the Roman ruins. Then in the 1850s the Victorians replaced that bridge and Sir William Cubitt built his new bridge on the route of the original Roman crossing.

Today we have three bridges. The Old Bridge (1914) a reconstruction of the Victorian bridge; the New Bridge (1970) and the often-overlooked Service Bridge.

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2. What is the role of the Rochester Bridge Trust?

The Rochester Bridge Trust (RBT) was founded in 1399 by Sir John de Cobham and Sir Robert Knolles to ensure the provision of passage over, under or across the River Medway between Rochester and Strood, in perpetuity. They petitioned King Richard II for the organisation (now a registered charity) to be created, and they sought donations of land and money from other wealthy landowners. These donations formed the basis of the current estate of the Rochester Bridge Trust and fund all works.

Today, that means maintaining the three bridges (two road, and one carrying services). This includes managing the Trust’s historic estate to ensure there are enough funds to carry out any work; and supporting engineering and agricultural education, to ensure the expertise we require continues to be developed.

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3. In the RBT Website, there is a lion named Langdon, who entertains the younger visitors who want to see the bridge. Who was behind the creation of Langdon and why? What role does he play with the bridge?

Langdon the Lion is our education mascot and has his own dedicated website: https://rochesterbridgetrust.org.uk/

His inspiration comes from the lion statues that decorate the Old Bridge, with his name taken from Langdon Manor Farm, one of the first properties to be donated to the Trust and still under the charity’s ownership today.

We introduce Langdon to children with this story: https://rochesterbridgetrust.org.uk/meet-langdon/legend-langdon-lion/

His role is to help inspire young people to take an interest in bridges and civil engineering.

4. Tell us in simple terms about the restoration project on the Rochester Bridge based on the following questions

    a. Why was the restoration needed?  

It is essential that large bridges are properly maintained. Although our team carries out regular routine maintenance, there comes a time when more extensive work is needed to make sure the crossings remain safe and secure. It’s a bit like the schedule of services you might have with a car – you routinely keep it clean, change the oil and replace the bulbs, but after a large number of miles, the timing belt needs to be replaced. We had reached the point where the Trust’s three bridges at Rochester needed some more major work, and so we carried out the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project.

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    b. What areas of the bridge needed to be restored?

This is a brief introduction to the works. The New Bridge was built in the late 1960s and some parts, such as the lighting, parapet and expansion joints, had reached the end of their serviceable life and needed to be replaced.

The lighting on the Old Bridge needed a review and it was time to improve its efficiency and install LEDs to reduce the environmental impact. Because of the bridge’s Grade II listed status, the existing lights were refurbished and upgraded and some additional matching lanterns were specially designed. We also carried out numerous unseen works to repair steel and concrete, as well as a complete re-waterproofing and re-laying of the roadway.

A new roof was installed on the Service Bridge.

Rochester Esplanade was constructed in 1856, from the remains of the old medieval bridge. The structure and river wall needed some attention and a new drainage system was installed. The whole area in front of the Bridge Chamber was landscaped and new benches added, together with information about the history of the bridges.

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    c. How was the bridge restored?

A major programme of engineering works was carried out over a period of 18 months. Hundreds of different activities took place along the length of the bridges and surrounding area. Much of the work was unseen by the public because it took place on the huge scaffold beneath the deck, which alone cost well over a million pounds.

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    d. How was traffic impacted by the restoration project?

Traffic impact was kept to a minimum. During the whole 18-month project there were fewer than 100 hours of bridge closure, and then only in one direction. Works were carried out in phases and mostly at night, using single lane closures to ensure traffic could continue to flow.

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    e. How was the project financed? Did you do any fundraisers prior to the project?

The £12m project was paid for privately, by the Rochester Bridge Trust, using funds generated by the historic estate. There was no cost to the public.

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    f. Which engineering firms/ construction companies were involved with the project?

The work was carried out by lead contractor FM Conway and a team of specialist sub-contractors.

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    g. When did the restoration begin and how long did the project last?

The refurbishment began in April 2019. There was a temporary closure while covid-safety measures were implemented at the start of the pandemic, with the works taking 18 months. The project was completed ahead of schedule in December 2021.

All the carbon generated during this project has been offset with the planting of more than 8,000 trees to create a new woodland.

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    h. How is the Rochester Bridge different now than before the project?

The three bridges have now been put into the best possible condition for the future, meaning that no major interventions – excluding the unexpected – should be required for many years to come.

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  1. Are there any missing items that need to be taken care of on the bridge?

There are no missing items on the bridge. The nature of bridge maintenance means there are always activities to be carried out.

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5. What was your reaction to winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category of Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge? What statement does it have with historic bridge preservation in your opinion?

This refurbishment was a significant project for us and we are very pleased to see Rochester Bridge recognised in these international awards.

We spent many years preparing for this project and ensuring everything would be carried out to the best possible standard, prioritising quality over cost. To see such an interest in our refurbishment, and to have people from all over the world voting for our bridge shows how much they appreciated our efforts and our Old Bridge.

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6. What roles did you play in the project (including title and description):

    a. Kate Castle
As the Bridge Programme Manager I worked alongside the Bridge Clerk to ensure all elements of the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project were carried out according to plan.

    b. Sue Threader

I am the Bridge Clerk [Chief Executive] of the Rochester Bridge Trust, and I oversaw the whole project.

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7. What is your career background prior to joining the RBT?

    a. Kate Castle
I graduated with a degree in civil engineering at the University of Surrey in 2002 and my background is in traffic and road safety engineering. I’ve worked for both the client and consultancy design sign, including Transport for London and Hyder Consulting. During these differing roles I gained project management experience which gave me a combination of skills that was vital during the refurbishment project. I joined the Trust in 2020, having been part of the wider team at then Bridge Engineer Arcadis since early 2013.

    b. Sue Threader
I graduated with a degree in civil and structural engineering from the University of Sheffield in 1988. I’ve worked for several local authorities as a civil engineer and transportation planner before joining the international engineering consultancy, WSP Group plc, in 1998 as a Technical Director. Moving back to the public sector in 2001, I held the post of Deputy Chief Executive and firstly Director of Services, then Director of Resources, for a district council in Surrey. I joined the Rochester Bridge Trust in 2006.

I am also a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Engineers and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Archives Panel. I was awarded an honorary doctorate of science by the University of West London and an Outstanding Contribution Award from the ICE in recognition of my work to promote civil engineering to young people.

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8. Why did you choose your respective posts at RBT?

    a. Kate Castle
Having worked with the Rochester Bridge Trust for many years I already knew the structures and the breadth of interesting engineering involved in the site. It’s great to be able to contribute to this important historic river crossing.

    b. Sue Threader

As a civil engineer with an interest in history, the Rochester Bridge Trust brings together two of my favourite topics. It’s also a pleasure to be able to work for the same organisation that previously employed my engineering hero, Sir William Cubitt.

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9. Kate Castle, the crew at Bridge Boys, based in California, nominated you for Lifetime Achievement which you won decisively in the voting. Congratulations on winning the title! What are your reactions to winning the awards?

I’m overwhelmed! It’s wonderful to have my work recognised. During the project I took a lot of trouble creating virtual tours of the bridges as a replacement to the hard hat tours that covid prevented. To know that my explanations were appreciated and helped to bring the engineering to life all around the world is really special. Thank you to the Bridge Boys for nominating me and to everyone who felt my work was worthy of this award.

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10. (Kate Castle) What makes this bridge special to you, in your opinion?

All bridges are brilliant because they do an important job connecting people. This set of bridges is particularly special because of the extensive history that came before us – our archives om the Trust’s history are amazing and to be continuing that story is both a challenge and a joy. It’s also great to work on a local landmark, the Old Bridge’s bowstring-shaped trusses are an integral part of the Rochester landscape.

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11. (Kate Castle) What elements of a historic bridge are important and that people should appreciate? 

For me it’s the little details, such as ornamentation. We have lots of lions, heraldry, fruit, rams, crowns and more and it really emphasises the care and attention lavished on the Old Bridge when it was constructed. The Victorians who built our bridge wanted it to be beautiful as well as functional.

Some historic bridges tell their story in their structure too, for example the piers of our Old Bridge are older than the bowstring-shaped trusses – identifying the different phases within the structure can lead to the discovery of interesting stories.

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12. (Kate Castle) And that of the Rochester Bridge in your opinion?

That also.

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13. (Both of you) If there is a historic bridge that has as high value as the Rochester Bridge, what advice would you give to the group wanting to save the bridge?

Keep up with regular maintenance because it’s more efficient to do that, in terms of both cost and carbon usage, than having to completely replace a bridge when it’s been allowed to deteriorate too much to save.

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14. What is next for the bridge: Are you planning on writing a book about the project?

The project is fully documented in our archives which cover more than 600 years of the bridge’s history (the period since the foundation of the Rochester Bridge Trust).

As for what’s next? We never sit back and think, we fixed that bridge, so we can stop. We’re constantly looking for the next challenge and improvement.

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Thank you to Sue Threader and Kate Castle for the exclusive interview and for the stories behind the bridge. Congratulations once again on winning the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards for Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and to Kate Castle for Lifetime Achievement. 🙂

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Before ending this article, I would like to present you with a small clip of the bridge and the restoration project. While this was released in 2020, it will show you all the aspects of the project, as well as provide you with an overview of the bridge from ariel to ground view. Enjoy!

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BHC Newsflyer: May 7, 2022

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

To listen to the podcast, click here or on the Spotify link below:

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Headlines:

Source: FP Hay, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Historic Bridge in Bath, England to Remain Closed after Finding Complex Issues

Article: https://www.newcivilengineer.com/latest/baths-cleveland-bridge-repairs-delayed-by-complex-engineering-issues-03-05-2022/?tkn=1

Bridge Info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Bridge

Bridge Restoration Project: https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/cleveland-bridge-renovation-project/essential-maintenance-update

Tour Guide on the Bridges of Bath (Trip Advisor): https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g186370-Activities-c47-t5-Bath_Somerset_England.html

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Photo taken in 2010

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Repairs Being Undertaken On Historic Bridge in Denmark- Refitting it In Time for the Tour de France

Article: https://www.yacht.de/aktuell/panorama/christian-x-bruecke-in-sonderborg-bleibt-gesperrt

Bridge Info: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kong_Christian_den_X%E2%80%99s_Bro

Info on Tour de France:  https://www.letour.fr/en/overall-route

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Source: Radagast, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Lawsuit because of Negligence Filed over Death of Teenager at Historic Bridge in Ottawa, Canada

Article: https://nationalpost.com/news/local-news/family-of-ottawa-boy-who-died-in-jump-from-prince-of-wales-bridge-sues-city-of-ottawa-for-negligence/wcm/68a0c242-24c4-4366-91df-974c74cbf5e0?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR2W3bnNE4TvpJP791MHVQPFrTioh4mJbz59FttzGSB9CgzdEFcOGw407Wo#Echobox=1651581063

Bridge Info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_William_Commanda_Bridge

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Source: cannonhillchronicles (see Info on the Mangaweka Gorge)

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Grand Opening of the New Mangaweka Bridge in New Zealand Earlier than Planned

Article: https://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/news/300580066/opening-date-brought-forward-for-new-mangaweka-bridge

Project and Bridge Info: https://www.rangitikei.govt.nz/district/projects/mangaweka-bridge-replacement

Information on the Mangaweka Gorge and Bridge: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2022/05/07/mangaweka-gorge/

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Source: Memestorm at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

New Walkway to be Installed on the Historic Connel Bridge in Scotland

Article: https://www.newcivilengineer.com/latest/unique-temporary-walkway-to-be-installed-on-historic-scots-bridge-during-refurb-28-04-2022/

Bridge Info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connel_Bridge

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Photo by _ Harvey on Pexels.com

Book Release and Celebration of Life Planned for Late Author of the Website Devoted to Irish Waterways and Bridges Planned for June

Article: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2022/05/05/invitation-to-book-launch-and-remembering-brian-irish-waterways-history/

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The Bridges of Grimma (Saxony), Germany

Poppelmann Bridge at Volkshausplatz and City Center. Photos taken in August 2021

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Located on the River Mulde between Leipzig and Dresden is the city of Grimma. With a population of 28,700 inhabitants, Grimma is geographically located at the junction of the flat lands to the north and the hills and lakes region to the south. The name is of Sorbian origin and means a region that is at or below sea level, surrounded by water. The city has had its share of flooding in its 1000+ year history, but for each disaster it faces, it emerges bigger and better than before. It has survived six floods plus the bombings of the second World War only to become a more attractive community for people to live. Much of Grimma’s architecture today either originates from the Baroque period or mimick’s that because the original was destroyed. Grimma’s city center has many small shops in historic buildings that are over two centuries old. The historic city hall is one of them. The largest building in the city is the St. Augustin, a combination of high school and chuch located along the Mulde. To the south of the city near the dam is the castle, where the Margraves of Meissen and the Electors of Saxony once resided.  Grimma is the largest city along the River Mulde in Saxony and is a major stop for cyclists riding along the Mulde. In terms of land size, it’s the fourth largest in the state of Saxony. And when it comes to bridges, Grimma has a storied history behind two of the city’s most popular attractions.

Eight bridges within a radius of 10 kilometers can be found in Grimma, including the Motorway 14 Bridge and a bridge south of Grimma at Grossboden, all but two spans the River Mulde. Yet the most important of the city’s bridges are the Grimma Suspension Bridge and the Poppelmann Arch Bridge because of its history of being rebuilt after each disaster and also because of their unique designs. These two bridges, plus an arch bridge along a former railroad line, the arch bridge at Grossboden and the Mill Run Bridge will be featured in the Top Five Bridge Pics when visiting Grimma. The other bridges will be mentioned in one way or another in reference to the bridges profiled here in this tour guide.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the bridges in Grimma and find five bridge reasons to convince you to visit this fine community.

Poppelmann Arch Bridge

Location: Mulde River at Volkhausplatz and Muldenufer

Type: Stone arch bridge with tubular steel arch main span. Five arch spans exist.

Built: 1719 replacing earlier spans dating back to 1292. Rebuilt seven times, the last being in 2012

Length: 143 meters, 7.3 meters wide

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The Poppelmann Bridge has perhaps one of the most storied histories of bridge building not only in Saxony, but on the international front. Its first crossing dates back to the 13th Century. Counting the reconstruction in 2021, it has been rebuilt at least ten times in over 900 years of its existence. It was built and rebuilt using at least five different bridge types: arch bridge, covered bridge, metal truss bridge, suspension bridge and modern beam bridge. It is also considered one of the most ornamental bridges in Saxony, as today’s bridge is covered with ornamental lighting, and has a Baroque-style shield representing Saxony. To go into detail about the bridge would require a separate article but there is a book that was written about this bridge that was published in 2017.  But to give you some facts about this bridge:

The ornamental monument with the seal of Saxony, constructed with the bridge in 1719. Source: Joeb07, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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The bridge in its current form was constructed in 1719 by Mathias Poppelmann. It was the fourth crossing at this location as the previous ones were destroyed either during warfare or flooding. For almost a Centruy before Poppelmann built this bridge, there was no crossing and attempts to garner support had failed. Mr. Poppelmann had left his signature in bridge building in Saxony, which included not only the construction of the Augustus Bridge in Dresden, but also the Poppelmann design, where the covered bridge is the main span and the approach spans are made of red stone arch. Dozens were built in Saxony during his time as bridge engineer, yet sans covered bridge, only two of his examples exist today, here and in Waldheim. The Poppelmann Bridge in his current form had existed for over 170 years with the covered bridge having been rebuilt in 1816, three years after it was destroyed during the war with Napoleon.

In 1894, in response to the increase in traffic, the bridge was rebuilt. The covered bridge was replaced with a Schwedler pony truss span while the arches were strengthened. It was in service until the span was imploded by the fleeing Nazi troops on 15 April, 1945. It was rebuilt with an improvised suspension bridge right after the war, but was replaced with a deck truss bridge two years later. The bridge was extensively rehabbed in 1972 which included a permanent deck truss span. It remained in service until 1996 when the bridge was rehabbed again, this time with a concrete deck arch center span. At the same time, a taller span was constructed, located 100 meters north of the structure, which has been serving traffic ever since. The historic bridge was reopened in 1999 but little did the City of Grimma realize that a flood of biblical proportions would cause massive destruction to much of the city and this bridge.

The Poppelmann Bridge after the 2002 Floods. When this was taken in 2009, two additional arches were removed. Source: Joeb07, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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On August 13, 2002, massive floodwaters caused extensive damage to the bridge. The newly built center span was dislodged from the bridge and was washed away. The two arches that had supported the main span was damaged to the point that they were not salvageable. The bridge was rebuilt from the bottom up, rebuilding the arches that could be saved and removing the ones that were not. A new center span, featuring a tubular arch design, was chosen as its replacement. On August 12, 2012, after a three-year project, the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and cyclists. It survived the 2013 floods unscathed, while other areas to the north of Grimma was affected the worst.

Today’s Poppelmann Arch Bridge is open to pedestrians and cyclists and is conveniently located next to the parking lot that accommodates visitors to the shopping center and sports complex. The Poppelmann Bridge is the best accessory to Grimma’s city center as it presents a backdrop to the historic buildings that exist on the western side of the river, including the St. Augustin and the historic City Hall.

More on the bridge, including historic photos and the like here: http://www.poeppelmannbruecke.de/

Grimma Suspension Bridge

Location: Mulde River at Colditzer Weg and Bärenburg Castle

Type: All-steel wire suspension bridge

Built: 1924, rebuilt in 1949 and again in 2004

Length: 80 meters

The Grimma Suspension Bridge can be easily accessed by both car as well as through the Mulde Bike Trail as both run along the river. The bridge itself is the longest suspension bridge in Saxony and is one of six suspension bridges along the Mulde/ Zwickau Mulde. The suspension bridge is a photographer’s paradise as it presents a beautiful backdrop from both sides of the river. On the west side of the river is Bärenburg Castle located on the hill. Two eateries and a hotel are located nearby. On the east end is nothing but nature as the city park and forest cover much of the eastern side of the Mulde. The bridge is located 30 meters from the dam and one could find a perfect side view from that area, with or without the dam.  The bridge is unique as the entire structure is all built using steel. The roadway is supported by Warren trusses which even curves around the western entrance. The cables and suspenders are all wired and pin-connected.  The towers have three different portals with a V-laced bracing at the top, followed by vertical beams and lastly an A-frame portal bracing whose bottom endpost extends to the bridge deck. It’s one of the most ornamental of bridges in Saxony, competing with the likes of neighboring Poppelmann Bridge, the Blue Miracle Bridge in Dresden and the Paradiesbrücke upstream in Zwickau.

The bridge has survived a bombing attack before the end of World War II as well as several flooding events, among others, in 1954, 2002 and 2013. It has been rebuilt twice: in 1949 and again after the flood disaster in 2004. Repairs were made in response to the flood damage two years earlier and the bridge reopened again in 2015.  Located near the dam, a memorial was erected in 2006 that was dedicated to the Great Flood in 2002 with people who risked their lives to save many others, some of which were profiled in newspapers and magazines.

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Source: Falk2, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Rabenstein Railroad Bridge (now extant)

Location: River Mulde south of the Grimma Suspension Bridge at the Rabenstein Observation Point

Type: Metal Through Truss Bridge

Built: 1876 (first crossing); replaced in 1931; destroyed in 1945; removed afterwards

When biking south along the Mulde bike trail, one will find  piers and abutments of a bridge that once existed. The Rabenstein Bridge was built as part of the construction of a rail line that connected Grimma with Grossboden. The original railroad station was located adjacent to the market square. The original span, built in 1876, featured a two-span Schwedler through truss with skewed portal bracings. How the portals looked like remains unclear, but post card photos reveal how the end posts are skewed at the piers.

Source: Brück & Sohn Kunstverlag Meißen, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Because of the increase in rail traffic and the structural weakness of the bridge, the spans were replaced by multiple-span Warren through truss bridges in 1931, built with riveted connections and with I-beam portal bracings supported by heels. All but the easternmost span were imploded in April 1945 by the Nazis in an attempt to slow the advancement of Russian and American troops from the east. Grimma came under Soviet control and eventually became part of East Germany by 1949. Because of chronic material shortage, rail lines and bridges deemed expendable were removed with the steel recycled and reused for other purposes. That was the case with the rail line as it was relocated to the western side of the Mulde and up the hill making the original line useless. A new station at Leipziger Strasse near the city center was constructed which still operates to this day.  The tracks of the old line and the remaining span were both removed in the 1960s, though when exactly it happened is unknown. The Mulde Bike Trail now uses the track remains along the eastern side of the river.

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Mulde Bike Trail Arch Bridge

Location: Small hiking path near the Grimma Dam and Suspension Bridge

Type: Stone Arch Bridge

Built: 1876

This bridge is hard to find, unless you happen to hike the trails in the city forest on the eastern side of the River Mulde. It is unknown who was behind the design and construction of this short crossing, which is no longer than 10 meters long and 3 meters high, but it was once part of the railroad line that had passed through Grimma until 1945. It’s now a rail-to-trail that is part of the Mulde Bike Trail. When going under the bridge towards the dam, one must pay attention to the mud that exists, partially because of the water run off from the hills into the river, 30 meters away.

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Kössern Bridge

Location: Mulde River near Grossboden

Bridge Type: Eight-span stone arch bridge

Built: 1887-88

Dimensions: 142.5 meters long, 22.5 meters wide

As a bonus, one should drive 6 kilometers south along the Mulde to this bridge. This bridge is easy to photograph as there is plenty of grass land on the eastern side of the river which makes it perfect for a photo with a heavily-forested background. The bridge is located only two kilometers from the train station in Grossboden, which serves train traffic to this day between Leipzig and Freiberg via Grimma and Wurzen. The bridge is the first roadway crossing over the Mulde north of the confluence between the Zwickau and Freiberg Mulde at Sermuth. Not far from the bridge is an abandoned railroad bridge made of girder spans.

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Fazit:

Grimma is a quick stop for a visit, with many possibilities to satisfy travelers for a good hour or so. If you are a pontist, the city has two historic bridges with a storied history in the Suspension and Poppelmann Bridges and three more bridges whose history belongs in the books and are worth a visit. It’s a junction between a well-traveled bike trail and some well-travelled highways. Speaking from experience of spending a couple hours there with my family, Grimma is worth the stop no matter where you go. 🙂

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Author’s Note: A Biography on Mathias Poppelmann will appear in the next year as the author is currently collecting some bridge examples that were built by the engineer, namely the Poppelmann Bridges with the combination covered bridge with stone arch approaches. If you know of some postcards, photos and other information on these bridges, feel free to use my contact form (here) and send it over. Thank you for your help in this matter. 🙂

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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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