The first Media Tip of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, and a first bridge book/genre in a long time, this tip takes us to Cleveland State University and to the Wilbur & Sara Ruth Watson Bridge Book Collection. This website was found by chance while searching for some bridge information and it’s one that is considered a jewel.
Dr. Sara Ruth Watson donated a series of rare books written and collected by her father Wilbur J. Watson to the Michael Schwarz Library at the University in 1983. Wilbur was a well-renowned civil engineer and bridge designer who founded the Watson Engineering Company in Cleveland. He authored several books including one that was produced together with her daughters, Ruth and Emily. The Emily M. Watson Endowment Fund was created three years later and focused on the collection of civil engineering works, including that of the Watson Company.
The Schwarz Library has recently been digitized with several works written by Watson on Cleveland’s bridges that can be found online. Yet this website features a gallery of photos collected by Watson during his lifetime, sixteen chapters worth with structures found throughout the US, Canada and Europe, including some in the southern and western half of Germany. They are categorized based on the chronological period of bridge construction, stemming from pre-1890, all the way to the 1920s. Feel free to access the site and the literature written by Watson, et. al.
This Mystery Bridge entry is a joint-article written with The Flensburg Files as part of the series on the 100th Anniversary of the German-Danish Border and German-Danish Friendship.
One can see it from Google-Maps and if the skies are clear, from an airplane. Yet this mystery bridge is rather hidden in the forest and can only be reached by bike or on foot- assuming you don’t have a border to cross. This bridge is located right at the German-Danish border at Zollsiedlung, a district of Harrislee that is north of Flensburg and south of the Danish cities of Krusau and Pattburg.
It’s three kilometers north of the Bridge of Friendship at Wassersleben, which is also a German-Danish pedestrian crossing. And like that bridge, this one crosses the Stream Krusau, which empties into the Flensburg Fjord. The crossing is known as the northermost in Germany and this since the creation of the German-Danish border in 1920. The bridge is accessible only by bike or on foot for there’s no cars allowed at the border.
What is known is that the bridge is a concrete beam bridge, yet judging by its wear and tear, it was probably built in the 1970s or 80s. It’s 12-15 meters long and narrow enough for one car to cross, even though the Madeskovvej is solely for bike and pedestrian use, unless you have a private residence nearby.
What is unknown is when exactly it was built and whether there was a previous structure at this location. If there was, then what did it look like?
We do know is that the bridge is owned by the Danes and is at the border that was established through a referendum in 1920. Flensburg and the areas of Tondern, Sonderburg, Apenrade, Hoyer, Husum, Schleswig and Rendsburg belonged to the former state of Schleswig which had been fought over three times between Denmark and the former Prussian (and later German) Empire. With Germany having lost World War I and being forced to pay reparations to France, Britain and the USA, the Versailles Treaty included a clause that allowed residents in the region to vote on moving the border, which had stopped at Sonderburg and Tonder in the north but had a potential to be pushed as far south as the Baltic-North Sea Canal . The present border was established through a referendum that was conducted on 10 February and 14 March, 1920, respectively, where the northern half (Sonderburg, Apenrade and Tondern) voted to be annexed by Denmark, while the southern half and Flensburg voted to remain in Germany. The votes were unanimous despite both areas having strong minorities. Flensburg remained a border town, despite having survived World War II with damages due to the bomb raids. Today, both the Danes and German are able to cross the border and do their shopping and commerce in their respective neighboring countries.
While at the bridge, it was fenced off because of restrictions due to the Corona Virus but also due to the Swine Flu that has been a major concern since 2015. Still, it didn’t stop the photographer from stealing a couple pics before moving on with hiking in the Tunnel Valley (Tunneltal), where the Krusau flows towards Niehuus. While walking towards the area, one has to wonder how this bridge came about? Any ideas?
A separate article on the German-Danish border will be posted in the Flensburg Files. If you want to tour Flensburg’s bridges, click here.
For the first time in three weeks we are presenting our Bridgehunter’s Chronicles‘ Pic of the Week, looking at photos of bridges taken by the author once a week. The pics to come for the next month will look at the bridges in the region where the author took his vacation with his family- namely the Far North of Germany, known by locals as the Hohe Norden, where the German states of Mecklenburg-Pommerania and Schleswig-Holstein are located…….
…..and of course, the Hanseatic City of Hamburg, with a population of 1.9 million inhabitants. While the city has a lot to offer, such as the Elbphilharmonie, the Reeperbahn, the Green City of Wilhelmsburg and the harbor, it is home to over 2300 bridges of all kinds, some dating back to the days of Kersten Miles. Many bridges dating back a century ago survived the ariel bombings from World War II. Then there some dating to the days of modernization- bridges of sleek design but have become popular in many bridge books and among the locals……
….like the Köhlbrand Bridge. With a height of nearly 54 meters and a total length of 3.4 kilometers, the cable-stayed suspension bridge is hard to miss when passing through the city both by boat as well as by car. It took approximately four years to build this gigantic structure, whose span is approximately 325 meters. It crosses the harbor, carrying a major road that leads to Hafen City in the center of the city, crossing four additional bridges, including the Freihafenbrücke, in the process. One will start crossing the Köhlbrand after leaving the Motorway 7. If you stay on the Motorway 7 going towards Flensburg, you will see the bridge on the right before entering the Elbtunnel.
And although you would most likely miss a photo of the bridge when traveling normal speeds on the Motorway 7, we were caught in a 25 kilometer traffic jam, crawling at no faster than 20 km/h at times, which presented us with a possibility to capture multiple shots of the bridge from our location. With me at the wheel, my wife took a series of pictures of the bridge, including this black and white shot, showing an oblique view of the structure. Needless to say, this was a real steal, looking at the structure up close and personal, yet from a distance. We have a sample of more which you can find via facebook by clicking here below:
Sadly, the bridge’s days are soon to be numbered, A sharp increase in car and shipping traffic, combined with wear and tear have prompted officials from Hamburg and Berlin to plan for its replacement. Instead of a new bridge, a tunnel is expected to be built. To ensure federal funding is available, the major highway will be upgraded to a federal highway (Bundesstrasse). The plan is to have a new crossing in place by 2030. Whether it will happen or not remains to be seen, especially in light of the Corona Virus and impact on bridge building and the shipment of materials needed to build Köhlbrand’s replacement. It is unknown whether the current structure will remain in place, even though it is protected by Germany’s Cultural Heritage Laws (Denkmalschutz). More will follow as the story unfolds. In the meantime, if you are stuck in traffic in Hamburg next time, take some time and pay homage to this unique structure, while she’s still sky-high and emitting its structural beauty throughout this Hanseatic City.
Our next Wartime Bridge takes us to the village of Dömitz. The town is located on the River Elbe in the German state of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (MV) and is known for its lone crossing that connected MV and Lower Saxony, the Dömitz Elbe River Bridge.
While there are two crossings that exist, our focus is on the railroad bridge, which was built in 1873 and at the time of its opening, it was the longest bridge in Germany, with a length of just under one kilometer (exact: 986 meters). World War II and the subsequent division into East and West Germany- including the infamous border, doomed the structure for all that is left are 16 pony truss spans on the Lower Saxony side. All totaling 660 meters from its portal to the very last span before reaching the river.
Question to the forum:
Before writing more about the structure’s history here’s a pop quiz:
How many spans did the Dömitz Railroad Bridge have before it was bombed during World War II?
PKP PLK, which is the owner of the bridge, has not yet signed a contract for photos on the bridge At the end of 2019, a film crew inspected the bridge. The meeting was attended, among others, by representatives of the Polish Army Film producer Robert Golba does not say directly that the bridge, which […]
This week’s pic of the week takes us back to Saxony and to the city of Chemnitz. I haven’t done much bridge photography this year on the count of the Corona Virus and the subsequent lockdown we were all in. Since the beginning of May, we’ve been loosening up the restrictions and when I photographed this bridge recently, it was just after the state government allowed for festivals to take place. For many that had been cooped up in their homes, it was a relief to be out and about, even if it meant wearing mouth masks in public to ensure nobody gets sick.
The Medieval Festival took place at the Rabenstein Castle this past weekend; it was one of the first of such festivals to take place in public. The castle is located near another historic jewel, namely this viaduct.
The Rabenstein Viaduct was built in 1897 and it features a main span- a cantilever deck Warren truss with riveted connections, supported by two concrete arch approach spans. It was built to serve the local railroad line that connected Chemnitz Central Station with the town of Wüstenbrand. Trains used this line until it was discontinued by 1950. In the early 1980s, the East German government provided funding to repurpose the structure for pedestrian use, which it still does to this day. It’s a great place for hikers, as they can see the village of Rabenstein, with its historic houses below, as well as hills in the background, where Chemnitz is located. The viaduct has been listed by the Saxony Ministry of Heritage and Historic Places (Denkmalschutz) for its unique design and its connection with the industrial and transportational history for the region of Chemnitz. The viaduct is expected to be rehabilitated in the coming years to make the structure safer to use, yet the organization that owns the viaduct is collecting donations in order for the rehabilitation to happen. Information on how to help can be found in the link below. There you can also read up on the history of the Wüstenbrand Railline.
The viaduct is located about 400 meters from the Rabenstein Castle, yet finding it was a real difficulty because of the steep hills combined with thick forests and curvy hiking trails. Even vast portions of Rabenstein were lying on hills and the streets that connected the main highway with the castle and nearby campground made driving treacherous and hiking a challenge. Still no matter where you go, you will still reach the bridge regardless of which end you enter. When you are there, then it’s only five minutes tot he castle but not before climbing down to the main highway, which runs past the castle, first. You will see that with the pics that I present you of the bridge. A real treat if you love the history of bridges and railroads, but also love the great outdoors.
This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to the German city of Cologne and the Hohenzollern Bridge. The bridge spans the River Rhine and has a beautiful backdrop with the Cathedral of Cologne (Kölner Dom) in the background. The bridge was built in 1911 by four different people who devised a concept for the bridge and carried out the project: Paul von Breitenbach, Rudolf Schmidt, Fritz Beermann and Friedrich Dirksen. It features three spans of steel through arches but in a way that there are three passages- one passage has one arch per span or three in total when crossing the river. In other words, a total of nine arch arches are featured in this collosal crossing. The bridge was destroyed during World War II but was rebuilt using the collapsed spans in 1946. It was later rehabilitated to accommodate rail traffic in 1986. Today, it is the most heavily traveled bridge in Germany with as many as 1200 trains crossing the bridge daily, including regional and long distance (InterCity and ICE) but also international trains from neighboring France, the Netherlands and Belgium. Unique about this bridge are the statues of famed persons on horseback, which you can find on each end of the bridge. Two of them originated from the Cathedral Bridge, which was the predecessor to the Hohenzollern Bridge. All of them featured the Prussian Emperor named Friedrich.
Another feature worth noting are the love locks. Love locks are locks placed on the bridge’s railings by two people in love with each other. During my visit to the bridge in 2010, the entire railing where the pedestrian sidewalk was located was decorated with different colors of love locks. While they may symbolize love on the bridge, they can also cause damage to the bridge itself if the locks provide too much weight on the railings. While they may not be much of a problem at this bridge, other notable crossings, includng the bridges in Paris have had issues with this theme to a point where the locks had to be removed for the purpose of safety. Some bridges do provide areas where to put love locks on, but off to the side and not directly on the structure itself.
My visit to Cologne was brief as I was facing a two-hour delay waiting for my connecting train to Frankfurt and to my eventual destination of home. Yet with the bridge located near the train station, it’s worth the wait just to steal a few shots before heading home. That was the beauty behind getting this pic. This location has been used hundreds of times, rain or shine. But no matter when, the scenery appears different everytime you get a picture of the bridge and the cathedral. This was taken before s storm came with high winds and dense rainfall- resulting in train services in North Rhine Westphalia to be shut down shortly after I took my train to Frankfurt. But nevertheless, even with overcast skies and windy conditions, the shot was worth it, just as much as the quick visit to the bridge while waiting for a couple hours. As a pontist, you can afford the visit while waiting. 🙂
Many cities have places where miracles happen and people remember them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Minneapolis Miracle of 2018 in professional football, visiting the Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, or even the parting of the Red Sea- the last two points dealing with Christianity. Then there’s the liberation of Europe in 1945 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent German Reunification of 1989-90 from the historical standpoint.
In the sense of infrastructure- in particular, bridges, if there’s a place where miracles did happen, one needs to travel to Dresden and to this bridge. There are several nicknames to describe the Loschwitz Cantilever Truss Bridge, which spans the River Elbe and connects the two suburbs of Blasewitz and Loschwitz. The most common is the Blue Miracle (Blaue Wunder in German). It has nothing to do with the bridge’s color nor does it have to do with its perfect photo with a blue backdrop. It has to do with the fact that the bridge, built by Claus Köpcke in 1893 has survived death three times- two of which came towards the end of World War II.
While Dresden was bombed a total of six times from 1944 to 1945, the city was hit the hardest during the infamous raid on February 13-16, 1945. British and American air troopers dropped thousands of tons of bombs onto the city, effectively destroying the entire city center and its prized architectural jewels, such as the Semper Opera House, the Castle of Dresden, and the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche), all of them dated back to the Baroque Period of the 17th Century. 80% of the entire city was in flames with as many as 30-40,000 people perishing. Temperatures from flames rose to 10,000° Celsius- hot enough to melt metal and vaporize people nearby. The Dresden Bombings are comparable with the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because of the intensity and the impact on the structural landscape of the city.
The bridge itself sustained damage to the trusses and decking during the air raids but they were minor enough that repairs were made to the structure and the crossing was back in service again. While the other crossings were damaged to a point where they were impassable, the Loschwitz Bridge survived its first miracle.
Shortly before the end of the War, the bridge had its second miracle. And there were five people to thank for this- two of whom were honored for their work. Before Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on May 1, he had ordered every bridge to be imploded to impede the march of Allied Troops that were encroaching Berlin on all sides. Already destroyed were all the crossings along the Rivers Oder and Neisse in present-day Brandenburg, Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania, it was hoped that the crossings along the Elbe would follow suit and be met with dynamite. And this despite thousands of refugees evacuating areas already bombed out because of the raids.
Places like Dresden, where tens of thousands were homeless and looking for ways to escape the war, even if it meant surrendering to the approaching enemy unconditionally. With crossings, like the Carola and Augustus Bridges severely damaged or destroyed, it was hoped that the Blue Miracle would go down with them. However, on 7 May, two men- Paul Zickler and Erich Stöckel- made sure it didn’t happen. The two men defused the bombs by splicing the cables disabling the bombs and later removing the dynamite that would have brought the bridge down. However, three other men- Max Mühle, Carl Bouché and bridge commander Wirth also contributed to the cause. The bridge was saved and had its second miracle. Ironically, Germany capitulated to the Allies in Berlin that same day, thus bringing the European theater to a close. A monument commemorating this courageous event and honoring the two men can be found at the bridge along the pedestrian path on the Blasewitz side of the structure. Why the plan to blow up the bridge was foiled remains unknown to this day. However variables such as protests by the locals as well as the acceptance that the war was no longer winnable must not be left out.
The third close call was the plan to tear down the bridge and replace it on a new alignment, presented by the Socialist Party (SED) in 1967, but it was met with opposition and after almost two decades, the project was scrapped by 1985.
Fast forwarding to the present, the Blue Miracle is still standing, tall and strong. It has earned its nickname after 125 years of literal wear and tear. It has survived all the extremities that most historic bridges built of steel would have succumbed to. It survived a blazing inferno through war, while the rest of Dresden burned to the ground. It survived the worst of winters, such as that of 1978/79 that crippled both East and West Germany. It survived several windstorms, including Kyrill in 2007, which leveled forests and buildings and caused widespread power outages. It survived severe flooding- most notably those in 2002 and 2013 which put much of Dresden under water. And lastly, it survived the gravitational pull caused by the weight of vehicles and street cars traveling across it. All of this has not affected the bridge’s beauty as it is one of the most beloved and photographed not only in Dresden but also along the River Elbe. While some pushed for its demise, others made sure their plans never bore fruit, hence allowing for the bridge to stand for generations to come.
The Blue Miracle at present. The bridge has become an attraction both during the daytime, but also at night, thanks to the addition of LED lighting in 2011. The bridge is still used by commuters entering Dresden from the south, even though another bridge- the Waldschlösschenbrücke, built down stream- has taken the stress off the bridge since its opening in 2013. The bridge will be getting a much-needed facelift beginning in 2025 but when it is done, the crossing will continue to carry traffic and its historic flare as one of Dresden’s greatest places of interest will remain for locals and tourists to see. Already a book has been written about the bridge but from a photographer’s perspective. There will be more written and talked about with this bridge- the Blue Miracle: the structure that not only connects the south of Dresden, but one that has been in use through the best and worst of times. And that is thanks to five people who made it happen before the end of a war that was long lost and that people yearned for a new start.
The German term “Blaue Wunder erleben” originated from the name of the bridge in Dresden and implies that the person got an unexpected and sometimes unwanted surprise because of something done that was considered illegal.
Our next mystery bridge takes us to the Lausitz (Lusatia) region of eastern Saxony and the remains of this bridge. The bridge is located in the village of Zentendorf, located along the River Neisse at the German-Polish border. It approximately a kilometer north of the easternmost point in Germany and another kilometer south of the railroad bridge that connects Niesky and Weglieniec. It’s 20 kilometers south of the nearest city of Rothenburg (Lausitz/Lusatia), which is home of the Saxony Police University.
The bridge remains is on the Saxony side of the River Neisse, yet its mystery remains completely open for research and interpretation. It features a single span closed spandrel concrete arch span, yet the rest of the bridge has long since disappeared. Furthermore, there’s absolutely no information on the bridge’s history anywhere to be found- not even on a bridge website, like brueckenweb.de or structurae.net. Therefore we have no idea what the bridge looked like, let alone when it was built and who was responsible for it.
We do have speculation that this bridge was one of many along the Neisse to have been imploded towards the end of World War II, as Nazi troops were ordered to detonate every bridge to slow the advances of Soviet troops, an act that was considered futile as Allied troops were already inside Germany in March, liberating every village and region in its path enroute to Berlin, where Hitler was holed up and eventually committed suicide on May 1st. Germany surrendered six days later. Ironically, the railroad bridge, a Warren deck truss span, survived the war and remained in service until 2015, when it was replaced. Like the bridge in Fürstenberg (near Eisenhüttenstadt), the structure was never replaced but that was mainly due to another crossing at Deschka, only a few kilometers to the south, that is still open. Because of its dwindling population of close to 300 people plus financial constraints, the villagers of Zentendorf find it unnnecessary to replace the structure in their village.
Still, to close the book on the bridge’s history, we should solve it first. Therefore, any information on the bridge’s history is more than welcomed. You can find more pics of the bridge in another website; the link is found at the end of this article.
Good luck in the research and happy bridgehunting until we meet again. 🙂