150-year old historic bridge to be closed until Fall 2019 for renovations.
CHEMNITZ, GERMANY- When travelling through Chemnitz in central Saxony, one will be amazed by the architecture the city has to offer. Be it from the age of industrialization, the Communist era or even the present, the city has a wide-array to choose from, which will please the eyes of the tourists, making them want to spend time there in the third largest city in the state. Chemnitz has over 100 historic bridges that are a century old or more, most of them are arch structures made of stone, concrete or a combination of the two. But each one tells a story of how it was built and how it has served the city.
Take for instance, the Karl-Schmidt-Rottluft Bridge, on the west side of the city center. Spanning the Chemnitz River and Fabrikstrasse carrying the Ramp leading to the suburb of Kassberg, this bridge has a character in itself. The dark brown-colored stone arch bridge has been serving traffic for over 150 years, running parallel to the Bierbrücke located just to the north by about 80 meters. The five-span arch bridge features variable sizes of the arches to accomodate the ravine: two of the largest for the river, one of the widest for Fabrikstrasse and the narrowest for pedestrians, all totalling approximately 120 meters- three times as long as the Bierbrücke. The bridge was named after Karl-Schmidt-Rottluft, an expressionist painter during the (inter) war period.
Despite its services over the year, the City of Chemnitz plans to shut down the bridge beginning in the Spring 2018 allow for extensive rennovations. The 2.8 million Euro project ($4.3 million) will include extensive work on the retaining walls and stairway connecting crossing and Fabrikstrasse below. Furthermore, repairs to the arches and renewing the decking and railings will be in the plans. The State of Saxony provided two million ($3.2 million) for the project as part of the initiative “Bridges in the Future”, which was started in 2015 and is designed to restore many of the state’s historic bridges while replacing many in dire need and beyond repair. The City of Chemnitz needed to cover the rest of the cost. The project is scheduled to be completed by October 2019.
Despite the inconvenience people will have to deal with during the 1.5 year closure, the renovation is a must, based on my many visits since the beginning of this year. Many cracks were showing in the arches and attempts to shore up the spans using concrete made the under half of the arch appear derelict. Furthermore, debris on the stone materials made the bridge in general appear dirty. Then there is the multiple spider webs hanging from the bridge, making the structure really spooky, as seen in the picture below.
Yet on hindsight, the bridge and the nearby pub, bearing Kassberg’s name, have a unique setting which warrants such a project. While many engineers and planners have evicted owners from their businesses because of new bridges to be built, the planners for this project ensured that this will never happen, especially as the pub crafts its own microbrew, hosts many cultural events and even has a museum focusing on the district. For this bridge, it is a blessing that it will be restored to its natural beauty, while ensuring that it will continue to safely provide services to drivers and pedestrians alike.
From a historian’s point of view, this bridge warrants more information on its history. If you have some to share, please use the contact details here and write to the author. A tour guide in English will be made available in the next year, in connection with the city’s 875th anniversary celebrations.
Part three of the historic bridge tour in the western part of the Ore Mountain region (German: Erzgebirge) takes us northeast to Bad Schlema. When we think of the community of about 5,700 inhabitants and the word Bad, it does not refer to the condition of the town. Granted there are many derelict buildings whose historic value warrants renovation and conversion into a recreational facility of some sorts per building, while some houses and even bridges that are at least 50 years old and have cracks and missing siding are in need of some renovations. The word Bad in German stands for either bath(room) or health spa. In the case of Schlema, it is the latter. Nestled deep into the valley of the River Schlema, the houses, both modern and antique line up along the creek that is only 10 meters wide but cuts a huge gorge into the mountains enroute to the Zwickauer Mulde at the site of the Stone Arch Bridge (see article for more details). The health spa in Bad Schlema is over a century old and consists of radon bath house, hotel and resort and a park complex- all within approximately five acres of each other, the size of a typical rural American golf course, like the one at Loon Lake in Jackson County, Minnesota, where I spent most of my childhood. One can recognize the health spa area by the large tent that pops up as you drive on the road connecting Hartenstein and Bad Schlema heading west in the direction of Schneeberg. That road is part of Silver Road, the longest road in Saxony which starts in Zwickau and passes through Schneeberg and Schlema enroute to Freiberg and Saxony. It has a storied history in connection with mining of copper, Silver, iron and uranium and many sites in Schlema serve as memorials for the regional past time.
But as I mentioned in my previous article on the Stone Arch Bridge, Bad Schlema was once connected by a rail line, which branched off from the north-south route connecting Aue and Zwickau (enroute to Werdau and Leipzig), ran along the Schlema going past the north end of Schneeberg before terminating at Neustädtel to the northwest. Five stations provided access for people to board, including Oberschlema, Schneeberg and Neustädtel, yet by 1955 only the station at Niederschlema was still serving trains, but along the Zwickauer Mulde. That was later renamed Bad Schlema. The line to Niederschlema was discontinued and later dismantled to make way for the main highway (B169) that now connects Schneeberg with the Saxony Police Academy and all points westward. However, some relicts of the Schneeberg Line still exist in Bad Schlema, including the Oberschlema Train Station (now privately owned), flanked with three bridges.
But when comparing the bridges to the ones in Zschorlau (in the previous article), Schlema has many more small bridge crossings spanning the small river that empties into the Zwickauer Mulde- 44 to be exact! But unlike the crossings in the town south of Schneeberg, most of these bridges in Schlema are wooden crossings that serve private property on the opposite side of the bank. The exception is a crossing at a bus stop, which given the proximity of the road running parallel to the river, makes sense. That bridge and bus stop is co-owned by the community and the regional bus service RVE.
Yet there are some standouts that are worth noting, which you can find on the map below. Like in the ones for Aue and Zschorlau, the location of the bridges include some information and photos, which will help you find the bridges when visiting Bad Schlema. A lot of information is missing and therefore, if you have any you wish to add, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles and will add it accordingly.
Our next mystery bridge article features not just one, two or even five bridges. But 23 to be exact!
And the irony behind this is that they are all located in the small town of Zschorlau- a town of only 5,600 inhabitants!
Located three kilometers southwest of Schneeberg and six kilometers west of Aue, Zschorlau is a very quiet town, nestled away in the valley of the Zschorlaubach Creek, which starts in the mountains in the southwest of town and after feeding off from Filzteich Pond, located west of the Saxony Police Academy- Schneeberg Campus, curves around to the southeast, forming a glen and slicing the town in half. The Valley Road, connecting the community with Aue, was built in 1907 and along that highway, one will be greeted by Fachwerk houses in the town center, the Evangelical Church, and the St. Anna am Freundenstein visitor mine, where the annual matin shift, with music and food, takes place at Christmas time.
Along the Zschorlaubach, one will find 23 bridges connecting the north and south sides of the community. Most of them are publicly used to this day, providing access to areas to the south, such as the Eibenstock Reservoir, as well as to the north, which features Schneeberg and its suburbs. All but five of the bridges are at the most 15 years old. The remaining five that exist are all stone arch bridges that are at least 80 years old. The oldest bridge is 206 years old, is located at the site of the city pond, town hall and library and is still used as a crossing today albeit as a pedestrian and bike crossing. Other bridges appear to have been built using the same material- tungsten ore with granite and wolframite features. Yet we don’t know when they were built despite having the assumption that they were homemade thanks to the nearby mine at St. Anna. Nor do we know how many more bridges built of stone arch design and using this material had been built before they were replaced with their current structure, all beam spans and made of concrete. One can assume that between 1800 and 1940 the stone arch bridges were built only to have been replaced because of neglect thanks to World War II and the subsequent Communist rule that followed until the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunited.
As with the tour guide on the bridges in neighboring Aue, this tour guide features the remaining stone arch bridges in Zschorlau. Some information added to the photos are based on the inscriptions into the bridge itself. But the information is far from complete. What else do we know about the bridges that exist today still? What about the modern ones that exist- what were their predecessors like in terms of design and appearance and when were they built? One hint I will provide regarding the length and dimensions: the length of the remaining stone arch bridges are between 10 and 15 meters and the width between 8 and 10 meters, while two of the bridges were widened by 4 meters each- the last bridge to have been rehabilitated was in 2004.
But what else do we know about the bridges in Zschorlau? This is for you to stand up and shine with some information about them! Look at the map, click on the bridges and look at the crossings not marked (that are replaced). What can you tell us about them? Information and pics are welcome! 🙂
Our next stop on the bridgehunting tour, especially along the Zwickauer Mulde in western Saxony is the town of Bad Schlema. This town of 5,600 inhabitants is located deep in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) where the river meets the River Schlema. It was once a key junction of two rail lines: the still existing north-south railroad that connects the community with Aue and Johanngeorgenstadt to the south as well as to Zwickau-Werdau-Leipzig to the north. The other is a short line going west to Schneeberg that used to provide passenger and freight serviceS but has been extant for over 60 years. Both lines were vital for transporting iron ore from the mined regions to the processing plants in the larger cities in the mountains. Nowadays the current line provides access for people wishing to visit the radon health resort in Bad Schlema, which has existed for over a century as well as the Christmas markets in Aue, Schwarzenberg and Schneeberg.
And while the train station at Bad Schlema still provides passenger service on the north-south axis, the surroundings that made the station famous are all but a faded memory. This included the Leonhardt Paper Company, the Hoffmann Machine Factory and Tölle Machinery, the third of which manufactured iron products. By 2006, the last remaining factory, the paper manufacturer, became a memory thanks to the wrecking ball. The only relict remaining that serves as a reminder of the good old days of mining and paper production are a pair of historic bridges spanning the Zwickauer Mulde: a truss bridge dating back to the Communist era and a stone arch bridge that had existed since the creation of the rail line, but is in disarray to a point where questions are being raised as to which bridge should be saved and which one should go.
Before going to my investigative reporting, look at the slide show below and ask yourselves this question: Which bridge would you want to see saved and which one would you like to see gone? And what are your reasons for your decision? And how old do you think these two structures are?
After doing some thinking about it, let’s take a look at the history behind the two bridges, which is in connection with the railroad itself. Between 1856 and 1860, the railroad company decided to construct a line going into the Ore Mountain region in western Saxony, where it was rich in various metals and miners had been working the region for generations. The line started from Zwickau and by 1860, the line arrived in Aue before terminating at Johanngeorgenstadt, near the present-day Czech border by 1868. Between Aue and Schlema, the rail line made a hook going around the mountain, running parallel to the Zwickauer Mulde. Because of its narrowness, combined with dangers of rock slides and curves, a decision was made to straighten the line in 1895, which included building a tunnel between the stations of Aue and Schlema, the latter was named Niederschlema at that time. As seen in the map and illustration, the distance was trimmed by half, and a single-span duo-truss bridge eliminated a single-lane bridge, thus making it easier and quicker to ship people and goods between Aue and points to the north and west. At the same time, another bypass north of Niederschlema was built going north to Hartenstein, which ran parallel to the Zwickauer Mulde and the present-day road connecting both towns. The realignment project was completely finished by 1900, but it came at the cost of the original rail line and the Stone Arch Bridge itself.
The response, according to Dr. Oliver Titzmann was an overwhelming support by the paper company to take the redundant line and bridge and make it their property. In an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Dr. Titzmann, the town historian and member of the Bad Schlema City Council, has done a lot of research on the railroad and the Stone Arch Bridge itself. That bridge was built in 1860 and featured two Luten arches as main spans, plus a pair of shorter arch spans as approaches. Upon personal observations, the bridge was built using two different types of rock: sandstone and quartzite, the first of which appears harder on the surface. The spans are skewed at 30°, which is unusual for arch bridges, yet its purpose still remains the same: to provide the river with free-flowing passage without damaging the structure. While there is no concrete information on the structure’s dimensions, upon personal visit, it appeared to be 65-70 meters long and 12-14 meters wide. According to information by the historian, as well as reports by the Chemnitz Free Press, the Bridge was made redundant by a Communist-era through truss bridge, built using a Warren design in the 1980s, and served the line going through the paper factory until it was closed down in the mid-1990s. Abandoned since then and fenced off to prevent trespassers from crossing it, the community would like to see the Stone Arch Bridge rehabilitated and reused with the truss bridge being removed because it’s an eyesore. Dr. Titzmann has been a vocal supporter for saving the Stone Arch Bridge, the last of the original crossings along the Zwickau-Aue branch of the north-south line and integrating it into the Mulde Bike Trail, which currently shares the road to Hartenstein from the train Station in Bad Schlema. Like the overwhelming support by the now extant paper factory during ist existence a century ago, support is enormous among the community for reusing the Stone Arch Bridge, which has been abandoned for almost four decades. Already the company owning the eastern bank of the river where the Bridge is located, Wismut Mining Works, has worked on clearing space for the bike trail, which has cost them over 300,000 Euros to date. The State of Saxony has already contributed 145,000 Euros for the rehabilitation of the structure.
The plan, according to Dr. Titzmann is simple: as seen in the map, the bike trail is to follow the original railroad line, but running underneath the tunnel at the Bad Schlema train station, utilizing the Stone Arch Bridge, and going past the Wismut Mining Works, using the Poppenwald Road that goes there, as it was originally part of the line, before joining the current bike trail in use at Hartenstein.
The problem, according to Dr. Titzmann, is more complicated than expected: “The center pier of the bridge has been undermined over the years, thanks to flooding and erosion,” Titzmann stated during the interview. “Therefore, as a person can see, the roadway at the center of the bridge is sinking.” Aware of the complications, the community is working together with the state in securing additional funding to rebuild the bridge, keeping it in its original form to avoid being scratched from the Denkmalschutz book. This is the German equivalent to the National Register of Historic Places in the United States, except the bridge is listed on the state level because of its design and connection with the history of the paper and mining industries in the Erzgebirge. The state level is one of three that are used to list historic places in the Denkmalschutz Book, along with local and national levels. Had the Stone Arch Bridge been listed in American standards, it would have fallen under the criterien of A (Events) and C (Design and Construction). Yet while funding for rehabilitating bridges in the States has become scarce, in Germany, money is kept available by the federal and state governments to encourage ambitious projects like this one, even if the project is complicated because of the aforementioned reasons.
The reconstruction project falls on the state level and it is a matter of time before the state of Saxony provides some additional funding in order for the project to move forward. The cost for rebuilding the bridge alone will take between 120,000 and 150,000 Euros, which consists of stripping the bridge down, while retaining the original stonework, rebuild the center pier, and then rebuild the structure, piece by piece before adding the decking and railing. The reconstruction of bridges in this style is very common in Germany, with the Camsdorf Bridge in Jena (Thuringia) being the closest example to the Stone Arch Bridge in Bad Schlema. That bridge, built in 1913 and rebuilt in 1946, was reconstructed and widened to accommodate more trams and cyclists. Completed in 2005, the project had taken two years.
Once the Stone Arch Bridge is completed, the rest of the bike trail can be built, thus reactivating a part of history that had not existed for over a century. Already a section of the bike trail north of the train station had been built on the west end of the river approaching the bridge but if funding and support arrive in a timely manner, the project could be finished in two years or less. This includes the removal of the truss bridge.
In the meantime, as funding and technical know-how is being pursued to realize this project, cyclists are still fighting with traffic along the road between Bad Schlema and Hartenstein, one of a few stretches of the 240-km long Zwickauer Mulde Bike Trail. And even though a stretch of rail line between Aue and Wolfsgrün has been part of the Mulde system for seven-plus years, when the renovation of the bridge and realignment of the bike trail are both completed, an additional 10 km of rails to trails will be added, which will mean less stress while on the road, but at the same time, more opportunity to enjoy the Zwickauer Mulde, the natural landscape and a little history about the line passing through the region, which had once connected Leipzig with the Czech Republic and provided goods and services.
And when the bridge is finished, one will only see the arch bridge that was once abandoned but is now a historic site- seen by the train leaving Bad Schlema for Zwickau instead of the Communist eyesore, which many will not shed a tear once it’s gone.
If you walk along the Thames Path, or perhaps cross the River Thames via foot or train on the two Blackfriars Bridges, you may have noticed these pieces of unusual river furniture. Running from north to south are pairs of red pillars, which used to support the original railway bridge before it was dismantled in […]
With construction season winding down and a lot of success stories involving restoring historic bridges, now is the time to nominate our favorite historic bridge(s) and preservationists both here and abroad. Between now and the 3rd of December, entries are being taken for the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards. For those wishing to know about the awards, there are six categories for both American as well as international bridges where you can nominate your bridge, person or even best bridge photo. Information on the categories and how you can enter are in the link below.
On this page, you can find the previous winners of the Ammann Awards which you can read about. Voting will take place during the holiday season from December 4th until 6th January, 2018 with the winners to be announced on the 12th of January. The ballot will be available through The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. If you have bridges that deserve to be nominated and deserve an Award, or if you have any questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at:
Happy Bridgehunting and may the nomination for the Ammann Awards begin! 🙂
Our 87th mystery bridge takes us down to Saxony again and to the town of Eibenstock. Located 13 kilometers southwest of Schneeberg and 22 kilometers west of Aue, this community of 7,000 inhabitants feature not only one but thirteen different sections that had once been villages, all located within a 122.2 squared kilometers from each other, meaning approximately 68 people per square km. At at a height of 650 meters above sea level, Eibenstock is one of the highest communities in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountain region). Founded 862 years ago, the community was one of the main centers for nickel and copper mining in the region. Much of the architecture from the 17th and 18th Centuries have remained in tact, including the churches, the Post Mile and the historic town center. There, one can find mini fairy tale huts with scenes from over a dozen stories. The town is located south of the Eibenstock Reservoir, an artificial lake that was created with the Dam, built in 1984 to control the flow of water from the Zwickauer Mulde River. Prior to that, the river valley was one of the deepest in Saxony and one that required both a railway line from Chemnitz and Aue but also a steep cable-line car to Eibenstock, once the steepest in eastern Germany. Both gave way to progress with the dam and reservoir. But even the lake provides some boating, fishing and hiking opportunities in the summer time, a complement to its traditional skiing and winter amusement area between the lake and the community.
And while the Zwickauer Mulde flows past the town of Eibenstock through the lake bearing its name, two creeks flow through the town, merging at the town square at the corner of the town’s elementary school: the Dönitzbach and the Rähmerbach. From there, the newly merged Rähmerbach flows quickly down the steep valley and empties into the Reservoir, only two kilometers away. Several arch bridges cross the two creeks in Eibenstock- the classical stone arch bridge as well as modern arch bridges whose decking and railings curve upwards. With each span having a length of 5-10 meters, it is easy to overlook them because they are typical structures a person could even jump over. However, one cannot overlook this structure:
It is a short beam bridge with a length of 9-10 meters and 8 meters wide. It spans the Dönitzbach carrying Bürgermeister Hesse Strasse at the market square on the opposite end of the elementary school, where Winklerstrasse meets. While one may look at it as just a short bridge, the uniqueness comes with the railing on the side facing the market square. There, we have a curved railing with vertical ends, all made using sandstone brick. At the center of the span, the top portion makes a U-shaped dip deep enough to include an iron shield. Curved and ornamental, the shield represents the symbol of luck, featuring a long rake in the middle, a three-leaf clover on the left and a miner’s chisel on the right. One can assume that given Eibenstock’s location in the Erzgebirge, the shield goes by the slogan “Glück Auf!” which means either “Good luck!” or even “Hello!” in German. In fact, the Erzgebirge Region has three characteristics that make it special: woodwork, mining and farming. When visiting the Christmas market in Germany and visiting the booth selling products from the Region, be it a lighted Christmas arch (Lichterbogen), Christmas Pyramid or any wooden products as well as metal bracelets and figures, one will see how they are handmade, going from forest or mines through the whole process into the fine product to be given to your loved one for the Holidays.
But going back to the mystery bridge, the structure appears to have been built most recently, going back no more than 10 years, and the railing and iron shield stemmed from the structure the present bridge replaced. This can be seen, especially with the shield, as it has shown some wear and tear over the years with rust and corrosion appearing especially on the back side. The question is what did the previous bridge look like? Did it look like the stone arches that still exist in Eibenstock? When was it built and if the shield was part of the original structure, since when, and who designed it?
If you have any answers, then we’ll be happy to take them. Just drop a line and we’ll update this bridge until the mystery bridge is solved.
For those who want an Impression of the German Christmas market from the author, you should check out the sister column, The Flensburg Files and its tour guide page. There, you can find the places the author has visited, including those in the Erzgebirge and Saxony to date. This Season’s tour continues in the Erzgebirge and includes some Holiday stories of Christmas’ past. Click on the link to the Tour Guide page and here for details on the Holiday stories that are being collected.