Iron Bridge Reopens After Six Months

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Century-old, two span pedestrian bridge to be part of new bike trail.

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AUE (SAXONY), GERMANY- Back in March of this year, many hikers were irritated with the fact that their favorite crossing over the Zwickau Mulde, connecting Bad Schlema with points to the east and south, was closed to all traffic. They were forced to take a detour 3-4 kilometers away or even ditch the notion of going by foot and driving by car. Since the beginning of this month, the Iron Bridge has been in use again, six months after it was closed to traffic. The two-span Parker bowstring arch bridge spans the Zwickau Mulde and was built in 1900, replacing a covered bridge that was destroyed in a flooding. And while the truss superstructure remains the same as is, some work was done on the bridge to ensure that it is safer for use, even for cyclists. For instance, new railings were installed to ensure that no one falls off the bridge. At 1.5 meters high, they are 0.5 meters higher than the originals. Furthermore, new acorn-colored varnished wooden decking replaced the previous one that was developing cracks and dry-rot after years of extremities due to weather. The decking is thicker and will be able to withstand stresses caused by increased in traffic by bikers and pedestrians.

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The rehabilitation is part of the project to construct the Mulde Bike Route, taking it off its current path that shares a street connecting Bad Schlema and Aue and running it along the river. At the same time, the Carlsbad Route is being extended, which will cross the bridge and end at Bad Schlema at the railway station. Currently, the bike trail starts in Carlsbad (Karoly Vary in the Czech Republic), and after going through the mountains and over the border at Johanngeorgenstadt, joins the Mulde Bike Trail at Wolfsgrün and terminates in Aue.  Despite the completion of the rehabilitation, which costed approximately 430,000 Euros, the realignment of the trail, combined with a new bridge over the rail-line Zwickau-Aue, a new picnic area on the eastern side of the Iron Bridge and the rehabilitation of the Stone Arch Bridge at Bad Schlema will delay the completion of the entire project until 2020, at the earliest.  Therefore the bridge will continue its local traffic until then, and people will have to put up with vehicular traffic along the original route along the Mulde.

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The Chronicles will continue to keep you posted on the latest regarding the project.

 

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Feature Video: The Bridges of Venice

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By Livioandronico2013 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Back in January 2018, I posted a guest column on the bridges of Venice, Italy, taken by a travel blogger, who discovered the many hidden sites of Venice that are worth seeing, as a person visits the bridges along the Grand Canal and other waterways that make the city famous. A video was posted recently on the same subject, yet the focus was on the bridges themselves, filmed from all angles including the surroundings.

To give you a better idea of what to expect from the bridges of Venice, here’s the nine-minute video which will give you more than enough reasons to go to Venice. Enjoy! 🙂

 

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Spectacular Bridge Falls- The Top 10 and Film

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In connection with the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, a couple of videos came to mind that I came across recently. Prior to the disaster, there has been a debate as to determining which bridge disasters should be in the top 10, for there are several sources that have their own set- be it in terms of history, natural disasters or even structural failures. Here are a couple examples of bridge disasters that feature the top 10 prior to the Genoa disaster. The first one focuses on disasters in terms of structural failure combined with history.

 

This video focuses on natural disasters and bridge failures, originating from Russia…..

Now here is the homework assignment for you: How would you rank your top 10 bridge disasters? What criteria would you set before finding your ten best examples? Would your focus be on the international stage or would you prefer local examples? And would you agree that your top 10 would be based on natural disasters, structural failures, both or neither of them?

Have a look at the videos and then look for your top ten bridge collapses. You may comment here or on the Chronicles’ facebook page.

Good luck! 🙂

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 102: An Ancient Bridge near an Ancient Steel Factory

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Photos taken in August 2018

Our 102nd mystery bridge keeps us in Saxony but takes us deep into the mountains and further into history. The Frohnau Hammer is one of three iron hammering facilities left in operation in Saxony and the first historic site to ever be declared a state historic monument. Dating back to the 15th century, it was an iron mill that operated during the iron rush before it was converted into mills producing flax, oil, copper products and even scissors. Yet its return to glory came in 1621 when it became an iron hammer mill, producing sharp tools made of the abundant resource. It was very popular during the 17th and 18th centuries before closing in 1895. It was the first historic site declared by the state in 1907 and today, a tour of the facility can be given. A museum across the road used to be a manion that was owned by the blacksmith running the facility. A 230-year old linden tree also occupies the faciity and is protected by law.

And this leads us to the mystery bridge. This rather small stone arch bridge, approximately 20 meters in length, spans the River Flöha, carrying the road connecting Frohnau and the Annaberg portion of Annaberg-Buchholz (AB). One needs to keep in mind that even though AB was officially declared a city in 1949 and has remained a joint community legally ever since, the double-community has existed since the 15th century and even had villages of Frohnau, Geyersdorf and Kleinrückerswalde that belonged to the conglomerate. This would explain the engravings of AB on the west side of the arch at the keystone. On the railings, the western side is all made of stone, decorated with iron street lamps. On the eastern side of the bridge we have a different set of markings worth noting. For instance, we have the railings with the letters A and F. One needs to assume that they stand for Annaberg and Frohnau, respectively, and the bridge served as a border crossing between the two villages. Why A instead of AB as seen in the keystone is unclear. But in the keystone on the eastern side, the building date is 1805, which was directly in the period of high productivity at the Hammer.

The question is whether the blacksmith ordered the bridge to be built, or he constructed it himself with the help of his workers. Or did the community order it to be built, and the Hammer had no involvement but benefited the use of the crossing because the previous one was no longer feasible due to age?

This is one that require some research to solve this case. Look at the pics below and if you know anything else about the bridge, then send a comment. If anything, the bridge deserves to be mentioned as part of the tour complex of the Frohnau Hammer. Good luck and looking forward to your findings! 🙂

 

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While we are still on the topic of bridges and Saxony, the Flensburg Files recently completed a three-part quiz on the German state of Saxony, designed to test your knowledge on the history and culture of this unique state, starting with part 1 on Sächsisch, part 2 on the general facts and part 3 on the inventions that we have Saxony’s  creators to thank. To access them, go to this page and scroll down to Saxony. Good luck! 🙂

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BHC Pic of the Week 11

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This Bridge Pic of the Week features not just one, but three pics- all of which are of the same bridge. The Rochsburg Suspension is a hidden gem that can be easily missed if a cyclist or tourist does not pay attention to where one is going. The bridge is deep in the Valley of the Zwickau Mulde River, located in the vicinity of Lunzenau. One has to drive over 200 meters down in zig-zagging motion, going through narrow streets lined with houses, plus a railroad underpass in order to get to the bridge. The best photos of the bridge are taken with the castle in the background, as it provides a great backdrop, especially on a nice day like this one, regardless of which angle to choose. I have two of them picked out to give you an idea: this one and the one below:

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However, do not be surprised if you see remnance of an older bridge, situated opposite the side of the castle as you cross. I took this one below while at the parking lot next to the bridge:

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There is a history that goes along with the Rochsburg Bridge. The present bridge (in the background here)  was built in 2011 and is the fourth bridge at this location. The first bridge was built in 1878. The second one replaced it in 1936. Both were destroyed by floodwaters. The bridge in the foreground in this picture here is what is left of the combination cantuilever/suspension bridge that was built in 1954. Unlike the previous two, that bridge survived the Great Flood of 2002 but the structure weakened to a point where construiction of the new was needed. The current bridge was built alongside the old one until it was finished in 2011. Afterwards, this section of bridge was saved and put on display, which was decorated with photos and history of the bridges.

In either case, the Rochsburg Suspension Bridge is a neat crossing that takes you across the river and towards the castle. You can get some great views of the river and Rochsburg while at the same time, learn some history of how the castle and the bridge itself came ínto being. And therefore this bridge is our Pic of the Week.

 

Note: This is the last regular entry of the Chronicles for now. I’m on holiday/vacation for the next three weeks and therefore, the Chronicles will be on semi-hiatus. However, enjoy the articles posted as well as the tour guides. More will come when the author returns to duty in August. 🙂

You can also follow him through the Flensburg Files. He plans on doing a series on American road trip, looking at it from his own perspective. You can click here, which will redirect you to trhe sister column.

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 100: The Bridge at Fischweg in Chemnitz

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CHEMNITZ (GERMANY)- I’m going to be very honest for this mystery bridge, which is the 100th structure I’ve posted since launching the series in 2011. It was very, VERY difficult to decide which one to post next, for there was a large selection to choose from, ranging from an abandoned bridge along Route 66, a three-span through truss bridge in Oklahoma, a suspension bridge in India and this bridge. After some thorough consideration, I decided to go with the way that is the best in terms of my own merit as the structures have been mentioned by others in one way or another.

So here it comes: a through truss bridge that has been sitting on private land for a very long time, on the outskirts of a city that was for some time named after a Communist. Found by accident but not before almost getting my Volkswagen rammed into by a lorry behind me, who was cussing at me in Polish as he passed me by, after having parked my car off to the side. 😉

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OK, the Polish guy part was fake news, but looking at the rest of the picture, one can see that you don’t need to fact-check this beauty.  The bridge is located just off Highway 107, three kilometers north of the Motorway A4 and the Exit Chemnitz-Glösa. It sits on private land next to the restaurant and hotel Landgasthof Draisdorf, around the curve.  It is an eight-panel Pratt through truss bridge, built using welded connections- meaning the beams are held together by gusset plates and are not inserted into the plates, like we would see in other truss bridges. The end posts are typical for many European truss bridges built during its time: vertical instead of angled. The portal and strut bracings feature V-laced bracings with curved heel bracings. The middle strut heels appear to be subdivided.  The bridge can be seen from the highway- although it is not recommended to stop because the highway curves around the Landgasthof and one could risk such a rear- ender plus an explanation with the police to follow.  The bridge is about 5-6 meters tall, about 30-35 meters long and 3 meters wide, judging by my presence at the bridge and the photos I took of the bridge. While the bridge is one of five known in Chemnitz, this is the only through truss bridge within the city limits, counting the village of Draisdorf, where it sits.

The fun part comes with the history of the bridge. My first judgement of the bridge was that it was located over the River Chemnitz at Heinersdorfer Strasse and it was pulled offsite and to its current location after a new bridge was constructed 100 meters to the south. The truss bridge was replaced by a new bridge in 2005.  You can see the points mentioned on the map. However, research by the Saxony Ministry of Historic Monuments and Preservation (D: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Sachsen) in Dresden indicated that this truss bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse but at Fischweg near the cemetary in Glösa, only 400 meters south of the motorway exit. The map indicates that a bridge does exist but in a form of a bike and pedestrian crossing for the street ends on the grounds of a factory nearby. The date of construction of the bridge is 1900 and is currently listed in the Preservation Handbook for the State of Saxony (Denkmalschutzliste).

This leads us to the following questions which your help would be much appreciated in contributing whatever information may be of use:

  1. Is the date 1900 correct? Sometimes the year is used because of a lack of clarity in terms of when exactly it was built and open to traffic.
  2. If the bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse, what did the previous structure look like? When was it built and was it built by the same bridge builder as this bridge?
  3. Independent of what was mentioned in nr. 2, who was the bridge builder for this bridge?
  4. When was the current structure at Heinersdorfer Strasse built and what happened to the old structure?
  5. What factors led to the replacement of this bridge and who led the efforts in saving it for reuse?

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It’s not every day that a person and/or party steps forward to purchase the bridge and keep it for reuse. The bridge is privately owned and judging by my observations, it is being used as a picnic area with a porch swing attached to the top strut bracing. For most historic bridges that are purchased by private groups-namely homeowners, they are normally used for picnic areas and other forms of recreation more than for pedestrian and bike crossings because of liability reasons. It is different in comparison with private parties in the form of associations, park and recreational groups and the community that have more resources (including financial) to make sure the crossing is safe for reuse. But nevertheless, this bridge is safe and will most likely be in the hands of the homeowner until the need to get rid of it is near. When that happens, it can be hoped that the bridge is put back over the Chemnitz as a bike crossing. With the Chemnitztal Bike Path being extended and paved to Wechselburg, it would not be a surprise if this bridge was called to duty again given its preservation status and the interest in keeping it for generations to come.

And this is what makes this unexpected stop the most memorable- finding out the unknown about a structure like this one, which is truly a hidden gem.

And as we are on the same page, the next mystery bridge will go further downstream where a pair of structures are being refitted for bike use. More on this one in the next article. In the meantime, enjoy the photos here as well as on BHC’s facebook page.  And as for the aforementioned bridges at the beginning of the page, they will come later.

 

Author’s Note: Chemnitz was once named Karl-Marx-Stadt when it was under the rule of the German Democratic Republic. It even had a head statue of Karl Marx that can still be seen today. From 1953 until 1990, it was known that way.

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Bridges Should Be Beautiful by Ian Firth

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Abstract from ted.com: Bridges need to be functional, safe and durable, but they should also be elegant and beautiful, says structural engineer Ian Firth. In this mesmerizing tour of bridges old and new, Firth explores the potential for innovation and variety in this essential structure — and how spectacular ones reveal our connectivity, unleash our creativity and hint at our identity.

Author’s Note: This video came about via tip from one of the pontists in one of the social network sites devoted to historic bridges and serves as a reminder to another article published a week earlier on by Scottish engineers suggesting American bridge builders look for sources of inspiration in places outside their borders. In the past two decades, many new structures have been built to supplant other, fancier historic bridges, whose design presents an appealing taste to the public. The mentality of quantity versus quality at the lowest possible cost but at the same time with little or no maintenance for a century has resulted in blocks of concrete with no character ruling the rivers and streams with little or no aesthetic value. This myth is just a fantasy and is miles away from reality that we see on highways and in cities today. No wonder that protests against such projects to replace historic bridges with boring, bland modern structures presented by agencies with dilluted and questionable facts are increasing sharply, as we are seeing with the debate over the future of Frank Wood Memorial Bridge in Maine, for example.  The advice to take from the article (accessed here) and by looking at the video below is this: If a bridge needs to be replaced, find a way to reuse the structure for other purposes and if a new bridge is needed, please with an aesthetic appeal that the community will be happy with. Sometimes looking to Europe, Asia or even Africa will help engineers be creative and place quality over quantity. Better is looking at the bridge designs that have been discarded and experimenting with them. After all, money does not matter to bridge building. Communities and the lives of the People living there do, though.

Enjoy the Ted Talk Video  below. 🙂

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