Our next mystery bridge is a diamond in the rough, in a literal sense of the word. When travelling along the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate by train, one can find a lot of surprises along the way, especially as far as bridges are concerned. I have a couple tour guides in the making that prove this theory. Some of the surprises a person can see along the way are hidden and requires some bridgehunting, as was the case with Glauchau. But this mystery bridge was a one found purely by chance.
Located 1.5 hours east that city along the rail line, this bridge spans the Weisseritz River in the suburb of Plauen, located between Dresden and Freital, the former having jurisdiction. The street it carries is Bienertstrasse, and it is located 350 meters southeast of the S-bahn station Dresden-Plauen (light rail is the English equivalent). The bridge is part of the local bike trail network that extends from Dresden through Freital and then through Rabenau Forest going uphill.
Looking at the structure itself, the bridge is a Howe lattice pony truss with welded connections. The endposts are vertical but have a slight curve towards the top, resembling a bottle with a thin rectangular block on top. There are curved gusset plates at the top and bottom chords as well as the mid-point in the panel where the diagonal beams intersect. Engraved geometrical designs are noticeable in the end posts, which if following the patterns of the truss bridge design, places the construction date to between 1880 and 1900. Yet postcards and old photos indicated that the bridge was built in 1893, replacing a brick arch bridge, which was washed away by flash floods. Despite 80% of the city being destroyed during World War II, much of which came with the infamous air raid of 13 February 1945, which turned the once Baroque city into a blazing inferno and wiped out 60% of the city’s population, this bridge retains its pristine form and is still open to traffic.
But for how long?
Already there has been talk about replacing this bridge because of the need to open another crossing and relieve traffic at the neighboring ones at Würzburger Strasse and Altplauen Strasse, each of which are 400 meters away from this bridge in each direction. The bridge had been damaged by the Great Flood of 2002, which wiped out every other bridge in its path and damaging one in three of the remaining crossings to a point where replacement was a necessity. Given its proximity to the mountain areas and to Dresden, the Weisseritz is notorious for its flash floods, which has caused city planners to consider long-term planning to encourage the free-flow of water enroute to the Elbe River, 8 kilometers from the site of this bridge. Given the densely populated area of the suburbs lining along the Weisseritz, it would make the most sense. However, opponents of the plan to replace the Biernertstrasse Bridge disagree. Apart from its historic significance, many, including the German bike association ADFC, have claimed that there is not enough traffic to justify replacing the bridge. In addition, the bridge serves as a key link for bikers going to other suburbs or even to Dresden itself. Given the high number of cyclists pedaling their way around the metropolitan area, combined with an ever-growing network of bike trails, that argument is well-justified.
For now, the bridge is safe and open to cyclists and pedestrians. Yet it is unknown if this bridge will remain a fixed crossing or if it will be lifted 1-2 meters as was the case with the Red Bridge in Des Moines, or if it will be replaced. What may serve as insurance and keep the developers’ hands off the structure is listing it as a technical monument in accordance to the German Historic Preservation Laws. Yet despite its unique design and the fact that the bridge was built in 1893, we don’t know who was behind the design and construction of this bridge. And therefore, we need your help.
What do you know about this bridge? What about its predecessor? Tell us about it. The photos and the map with the location of the bridge is below. 🙂
While cities, like Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden have many well-known bridges that are either fancy in design or over 80 years old, there are many town and villages, with an exceptionally high number of these structures, but whose history and design make them appealing to tourists, historians and photographers alike. One could just say that when discovered, these bridges would make a great tour guide, let alone a great platform for research.
Little is written about the historic bridges in Rochlitz. Located seven kilometers east of Geithain and 30 kilometers southeast of Leipzig, the town of only 6,500 inhabitants is situated along the Zwickauer Mulde River, at the junction of highways 7 (from Geithain and Leipzig), 175 (from Glauchau and Zwickau) and 107 (from Grimma and Meissen). The town is famous for its castle, built in the 1400s and still houses administrative and judicial offices today. It also has a historic market square with its historic town hall and fountain, as well as its historic Postmeile and Hospital, both originating from the 1600s. And finally, Rochlitz has a long row of historic buildings lining up along the main street, which is divided with a wide center island that is lined with trees and statues.
The town used to be a hub for regional and freight train services, as a line between Glauchau and Wurzen once served passenger trains from 1890 until its decommission in 2004. Another line connecting Waldheim and Narsdorf with Penig and Geithain passed through Rochlitz but was abandoned after 1998. Unlike many American railroad companies, like the now defunct Chicago-Rock Island-Pacific Railways, which used to remove bridges, crossings and rails upon abandoning the line, these two rail lines are still visible when passing through Rochlitz. As a consequence, one can see many remnants that had once been associated with the Mulde rail routes before being shut down, including the railroad station, rails, and even bridges.
Three railroad bridges spanning the Zwickauer Mulde in Rochlitz are still standing, despite having been out of service for almost two decades, all of whom are still in great condition with some minor damages and rust. One of them, located near the Castle, is the second longest known railroad crossing along the river behind the Göhren Viaduct at Lunzernau, just 12 river kilometers upstream. And this goes together perfectly with a highway bridge built of brick and the river’s signature crossings- two pedestrian suspension bridges with truss features, which makes up for eleven of such crossings between Aue and Wurzen via Glauchau and Zwickau that are anchored by towers, five being suspension bridges.
Map of Rochlitz and the Bridges:
This tour guide will provide you with a tour of these six crossings, plus an addition two bridges at the Castle and two shorter crossings found by accident while biking along an abandoned section of the Waldheim-Narsdorf Line. All-in-all, ten bridges will be profiled- six of which are along the Mulde, but three are directly in Rochlitz. One located to the south at Fischheim and two to the north will be included. The city of Rochlitz had already profiled two of the crossings along the river for their website prior to my recent visit. However, when reading the tour guide in English (you can also switch to German or other languages via Google-Translator, if you wish), the city will probably think about expanding its information to include the other crossings left out. Furthermore, with five abandoned crossings profiled, it will provide a basis for possible discussion regarding either revitalizing the rail line between Glauchau and Wurzen or converting that stretch to a rails-to-trails route, based on the success stories of many in the United States.
So without further ado, let’s have a look at the first crossing…..
Our first bridge on tour is the Schaukelsteg. Located over the Zwickauer Mulde, this 1958 bridge connects the villages of Szörnig and Fischheim, approximately three kilometers south of Rochlitz. The bridge itself is one of the rarest a person can find in Germany. It is a combination of a wire suspension bridge and cantilever Warren truss with riveted connections- the former of which is the main span; the latter as approach spans. What is even more unique is the fact that the wire cables are anchored at the top chord of the cantilever truss spans, while the cables run through the looped suspenders, which supports the decking. The towers, albeit anchored on piers that are well above the river levels, are triangle-shaped with the pointed end down. Only one other bridge was built using such a design, which was located in Rochsburg. It was built at the same time as this bridge but was replaced in 2012.
The Schaukelsteg was first mentioned in 1871, when it was built as a wooden crossing. It was destroyed by flooding and subsequentially replaced by a wire suspension bridge in 1907. At that time, it was a typical suspension bridge supported by vertical towers. It lasted for 47 years until it was washed away by flooding in 1954, which destroyed one in six bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde. It took four years until this structure came about and has survived two more major floodings events ever since, including the 2002 floods, which happened right after the bridge was restored. Like in the 1871 bridge, this bridge serves pedestrian and bike traffic, although at one time, the 1907 suspension bridge was once a toll bridge, having collected 10 Pfennig per person for crossing the bridge in the daytime, 20 Pfennig at night or when crossing by bike and 30 Pfennig when crossing with a load. This was needed to maintain costs for operating the structure. Today, the bridge is considered a free bridge and is part of the Mulde Bike Train System.
Zassnitz Railroad Viaduct:
Located at the Castle on the south end of Rochlitz, the Zassnitz Railroad Viaduct is the longest railroad viaduct along the Glauchau-Wurzen Railroad Line, with a length of 243 meters. It is the second longest along the Zwickauer Mulde behind the Göhren Viaduct, a bridge that is three times as long. The bridge was built in 1872 when the Penig-Rochlitz section of the Glauchau-Wurzen line was opened, yet the current structure appears to have been built right after World War II because of the newness of the steel used in the contraption. The bridge features, from south to north, three spans of deck plate girder approach spans, five Warren deck truss main spans across the Mulde- the trusses are subdivided and have riveted connections- and four concrete beam approach spans on the city end. Since 2002, the line has been out of use, and with it, the bridge, which flanks the Castle and can be seen in the foreground. Yet talks about revitalizing the line is still ongoing. Should it bear fruit, the bridge may need some rehabilitative work, as some trusses are rusted and the concrete approach spans are cracked. But it remains to be seen if the line will ever be in use again.
Zassnitz Suspension Bridge:
Not more than 300 meters away, we have the Zassnitz Suspension Bridge. Built in 1956-7, the current structure serves pedestrian traffic, providing access to the old town from the Mulde Bike Trail. Its construction is similar to the suspension bridge at Fischheim, yet with one catch: It is a pure suspension bridge, whose cables are anchored at the towers, which are triangular shaped and whose pointed end is upwards. However, the pointed end is capped by a curved , which guides the cable directly over the tower before being anchored on its outer side. The towers themselves are A-shaped, but at a transversal view, the bracings are also A-frame. Like the suspension bridge at Fischheim, the bridge was washed away by floods in 1954 and was therefore reconstructed afterwards, but east of its original site. First built as a wooden covered bridge in 1502, later replaced with a wire suspension bridge in 1889, which had survived 65 years before that tragic event, the Zassnitz Suspension Bridge is the oldest known crossing in Rochlitz. It is one of the key attractions in the town and is listed as a technical historical site by the German Preservation Laws.
Rochlitz Highway Bridge:
Spanning the Zwickauer Mulde on the east end of Rochlitz, this city bridge is the lone crossing going in and out of Rochlitz, and apart from carrying two major highways going south and east towards Glauchau and Mittweida respectively, this 115 meter long bridge is famous because of two historic feats:
It set a record for the shortest amount of time needed to construct an arch bridge. Using red granite from a quarry in Mittweida, workers needed only seven months to construct this arch bridge, which features five arches, the of the longest being over the Mulde. This also included the demolition of its predecessor as it was deemed functionally obsolete.
It was also the site where American troops marched into Rochlitz on 15 April, 1945 without a single shot fired. Realizing that resisting the Allied troops was no longer an option despite desperate pleas by Hitler and other Nazi officials to fight to the very death, citizens agreed to terms of an unconditional surrender at the bridge. This was symbolic for Rochlitz was one of only a few historic towns that survived without being destroyed by bombs. The bridge itself was one of a few that survived Nazi attempts of blowing it up in a feeble attempt to halt the movements of the armies. A plaque at the east end of the bridge explains how the bridge and the town were both spared.
Rochlitz-Narsdorf Railroad Bridge (a.k.a. East Bridge):
From the highway bridge, one needs to bike another two kilometers along the Zwickauer Mulde, rounding the historic town, before reaching the first of two railroad bridges. The East Bridge is one of the most unique of the railroad bridges along the river. The railroad bridge features three spans of a deck Howe truss bridge, built in a curved fashion. The trusses are welded together and has curved endpoints, which makes it one of the fanciest railroad bridges in eastern Germany. Workers needed a year and a half to build this 170-meter structure, from October 1891 until its opening on 28 March, 1893.
From then on, until the rail line was discontinued in 1998, the bridge served passenger and freight services, although reports indicated that traffic was limited because of little demand for train service to Narsdorf and Waldheim. The bridge has been out of use for almost 20 years, yet it still retains its original form, despite having survived the floods of 2002 and 2013.
While plans are in the making to convert the old line into a bike trail, chances are very likely that this bridge will have a new function, providing cyclists with a link between Waldheim and Rochlitz and with that, the two bike trails that bear the name Mulde, but with the two different branches (Zwickauer and Freiberger). Should this happen, it would eliminate the sharp curves and extremely narrow tunnel that is offered on the Zwickauer Mulde, where cyclists are required to dismount before passing through.
Rochlitz-Colditz Railroad Bridge (a.k.a. North Bridge):
Only 200 meters from the East Bridge, we have the North Bridge. When leaving the train station Rochlitz enroute to Colditz and the final destination Wurzen, the line branches off into the eastern line (going across the East Bridge) and the northern line and this bridge. This 100 meter long structure features three spans of a deck plate girder design, carrying one track of traffic. As a bonus, it also has a bottom deck, which carries bike and pedestrian traffic along the Mulde bike trail, but hanging off the side and supported by still steel suspenders. In fact, between the narrow tunnel at East Bridge and the northern end of this bridge, the trail consists of a catwalk, which hugs the river bank between the two railroad bridges before crossing on the North Bridge. Afterwards, the path continues on the ground as a paved route going along the eastern side of the river. The railroad bridge itself appears to have been built after World War II and is structurally in good condition. Yet being out of service for over 15 years, there are concerns about what to do with the railroad bridge, let alone with the line itself. While it will still continue its use as a hanger for the bike trail crossing/ catwalk, the question remains whether it makes sense to continue this use or if the trail could be directly on the bridge itself.
When biking along the Talweg from Königsfeld, located west of Rochlitz, and the garden house district in the western part of the town, one can find a couple unique arch bridges spanning driveways and the Frelsbach Creek. Both of them are made of stone and cement, and have spans of 10 meters. Both of them are part of the former Geithain-Rochlitz railroad route that used to pass through Rochlitz enroute to Narsdorf and Walheim before it was abandoned. The bridges are still standing and should the former railroad route was converted to a bike trail, one will be treated by the crossings which are over 120 years old and still in pristine condition.
Rochlitz Castle Bridges
The last bridges in this tour guide are the ones surrounding the Rochlitz Castle. The castle was built on the site of an imperial castle that had been built in the 10th century. From 1143 until the 18th century, the castle had been part of the margraves of Wettin, who were responsible for expanding the castle during the next four centuries, with much of the work being done in the 14th Century to include romanesque wings, a secondary residence, hunting field and a church, just to name a few. Since 1852, the castle has housed governmental offices, which includes judicial offices that are responsible for the district of Mittelsachsen. 40 years later, a museum opened and has provided tourists with a chance to learn about the castle’s history and its relationship with the Wettin family. The castle is surrounded by the Zwickauer Mulde on the south end, the Hellerbach Creek to the west, and moats to the east and north. It was obvious that bridges were needed to provide access to the castle.
Two of the bridges worth noting are multiple span arch bridges. A short span can be found at the east entrance to the castle at the church. That bridge features two spans made of stone and cement. The bridge is arranged in a slanted formation, providing tourists with a climb from the streets of the old town into the castle. The longest of the bridges known to exist is a four-span stone arch bridge, spanning the Hellerbach at the western entrance to the castle. It is about 100 meters long and at least 20 meters tall, visible from the Zassnitz Suspension Bridge. Both bridges appear to have been built in the 11th or 12th century and were probably renovated some centuries later. They still maintain their original integrity although we don’t know how many more bridges can be found at the castle. It is possible that when touring the castle one can find one or two more at the site.
To learn more about the bridges and of Rochlitz, here are a list of links for you to click on:
Sometimes experiments are needed in order to find out how to effectively reach your audience. It can be with the use of print media, such as newspaper articles, leaflets, broschures and the like. But it can also mean the use of various forms of technology, such as the internet and social networking. Aside from wordpress, which powers the Chronicles both as an original as well as the areavoices version, people have used facebook and pininterest to post their pics of their favorite bridges. Yet most of these have been individual bridges and not that of a tour guide, like the Chronicles has been posting since its launch in 2010.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has just started using Instagram recently, and I had a chance to experiment with putting a tour guide together, using the app , during my most recent visit to the city of Aue in western Saxony.
Located 25 kilometers southeast of Zwickau where the Zwickauer Mulde and Schwarzwasser (Black Water) Rivers meet, Aue is lined up along both rivers with houses that are between a century and two centuries old. The town prides itself on mining and therefore, one can find many places where silver is produced and transported, both past and present. It also has a top premere soccer team in Erzgebirge Aue, which plays in the second tier of the German Bundesliga. Eight kilometers to the west is the town of Schneeberg, where several Medieval buildings have been considered historically significant by the government and UNESCO, including its prized cathedral. However getting there is almost only possible by bus or car, for biking up there would be as biblically challenging as Moses climbing up Mt. Sinai to speak to God and get the Ten Commandments.
Speaking from experience, if you have to go to Schneeberg from Aue, please don’t do that and take the bus. 😉
Getting back to the story, I happened to take some downtime between the time of an appointment in Schneeberg and the time I had to return to Jena. The only problem was the camera that I usually use for my bridgehunting tour was left home by accident. Bummer as it was and seeing many sights considering surprising to the eye of the photographer and pontist, I decided to use Instagram on my Smartphone and started taking pictures.
A post shared by bridgehunters_chronicles2010 (@bridgehunters_chronicles17) on
For the first time in its history, the Chronicles has a tour guide where Instagram is almost exclusively used. When you click on the picture below, you will be taken to the page where you can see all the bridges I visited and photographed. A map is provided below the picture, showing you where they are located. You can also access the Chronicles by clicking on the instagram symbol on the left side under Social.
As I’m looking for some information on the bridges profiled here, if you know of some facts about the bridges, please leave a comment here or contact me via e-mail, using the contact form provided. The facts about the bridges are found in the Google Map. All you need to do is have a look at the pictures on Instagram and feel free to comment.
The Rappbodetalsperre Brücke near Elbingerrode (Harz) is open to pedestrians wishing for a view of the dam and lake.
ELBINGERRODE (HARZ)/ MAGDEBURG, GERMANY- The Harz Mountains in Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony is famous for its antique, sometimes Medieval villages with Fachwerk houses (like Quedlinburg), hiking and skiing. It picturesque landscape makes it one of the most visited places in central Germany.
In Elbingerrode, south of Wenigerode, there is now another reason for visiting the Harz Mountains, but in the form of the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. The Rappbodetalsperre Suspension Bridge has been open since May 7th, breaking all records that had been set most recently. The bridge is located just 80 meters northeast of the dam, overlooking the Bode Reservoir to the southwest and the Schiefeberg Mountains to the east and north, in the direction of Quedlinburg and Wenigerode. With a height of 100 meters above the Bode River, one can take a breath-taking view of the region, while enjoying the swinging motion the bridge offers. The bridge overtakes the Sky Bridge in Sochi, Russia in terms of length and height, but is comparable to some of the longest and highest bridges in China and Malaysia.
Workers needed a total of five years to build the structure- three of which consisted of planning, which was followed by almost two years of construction, where towers were constructed on both ends of the valley, then the wire cables were draped over the towers. Suspender cables were erected both between the roadway and the main cables, as well as some support cables that were anchored between the bridge and the cliffs. Workers tok advantage of the slate rock to solidify the foundations and towers, which made spinning the cables and constructing the roadway much less complicated. Some photos taken by German public radio station MDR shows you in detail the contraption of the structure (click here).
Apart from walking across the bridge, in the near future, people can also bungee jump 75 meters toward the river from the bridge deck. The only caveat is that the suspension bridge is a toll bridge, where people can pay six Euros to cross the unique structure.
This might scare away acrophobes even more, in addition to the height, yet it will definitely not dissuade bridge enthusiasts, naturalists and tourists from visiting the bridge. Even a fellow pontist in the US is looking forward to a post card of the bridge.
Put that on your memo sheet. 😉
The Rappbodesperre Pedestrian Bridge has a total length of 483 meters, with the main span of 458 meters (1502 feet), with a height of over 100 meters above the dam and river. The cable construction has a pulling force of 947 tons with the cables themselves being anchored into the rocks. The bridge took five years to be built and it overtakes the Sky Bridge in Sochi, Russia in terms of main span length by 20 meters.
This article is co-produced with sister column, The Flensburg Files, which you can view the areavoices version here.
A few days ago, I took advantage of nice weather here in Germany and embarked on a what I’ve touted as an Ironman bike tour through western Saxony. Starting at Hohenstein-Ernstthal, the tour lasted seven hours, going to Glauchau, then along the Mulde to Rochlitz, encountering steep hills with grades of up to 20% and heights of up to 400 meters. Then it was to Geithain before boarding the train for Glauchau before having biked the last seven kilometers to neighboring Meerane. All in all, 85 kilometers by bike and every bridge visited was worth every drop of sweat.
While I will mention more about the tour in a later article, I have a found a net of bridges worth posting. This is located in Penig, about 23 kilometers northeast of Glauchau along the Mulde. We have two major highways crossing over each other while crossing the Mulde, yet there are more crossings in this area than those two. Before giving the way the answer, here’s my guessing quiz question for you:
Look carefully in the picture. How many bridges at this site can you identify and can you find out how old they are? This includes the tunnel.
For the number, here are the options:
a. 2 b. 3 c. 4 d. 5 e. 6 f. 7
A map with the location of the bridges is enclosed here:
The answers will be provided when the article about bridge touring along rivers will be posted in a few weeks. This will include the tour of the Mulde plus a couple river examples. Stay tuned! 🙂
Location:White Elster River in the village of Draschwitz, 7 kilometers north of Zeitz in the state of Saxony-Anhalt
Built:1891-2; Damaged during World War II in 1945, Rebuilt in 1946, Restored in 1999/2000
Type:Parker Pony Truss with subdivisions
Length:ca. 30 meters
Status:Open to traffic on a weight limit of 6 tons
During a recent bike tour along the White Elster from Gera to Leipzig (all 90 kilometers of it), I came across this unique structure. After passing through Zeitz and having revisited some of its historic bridges (see link), one would expect to see more of these historic bridges along the river, especially as Saxony-Anhalt has a wide selection of historic bridges worth visiting. One needs to see the towns of Halle (Saale), Magdeburg, Quedlinburg or even the bridges in the Saale-Unstrut River corridor in order to gather the impression that the bridges are being cared for by the state; this includes using funding provided by the European Union but also by the federal government to restore them to their original form while ensuring that cars and bikes can use the bridge.
The Draschwitz Bridge is one of these structures that received this kind of care, as it was restored in 1999/2000, which included new wood decking plus paint on the superstructure, as well as work on the foundations. Given its location on a less used road that is occupied mainly by cyclists and locals driving their cars across, the restoration was worth it, as the bridge serves a local road and the White Elster bike trail, which connects Hof (Bavaria) and Halle (Saale), running parallel to the river until its confluence with the Saale River, between Halle and Leipzig.
But what makes this bridge unique is its unusual truss design. The bridge was built using welded connections instead of pinned connections, as seen on truss bridges in general. Welded truss bridges, together with those with riveted connections were starting to come onto the scene at the time of its construction, as vehicular traffic- namely trains, but also later cars and trucks- had increased since the expansion of the railroad. This prompted the introduction of a network of roads connecting towns on the local level, but later expanded to cities on the regional and in the end national levels. While pinned-connected truss bridges were able to handle light traffic on local roads, as traffic increased and highway systems were introduced, they were replaced with truss bridges with riveted connections. Welded truss bridges were introduced in the 1890s to replace the pinned-connected bridges for despite its biggest asset of dismantling and reassembling the bridge at a different location, missing or broken bolts and cracked eye-bars made it difficult to impossible to relocate the bridge. With welded truss bridges, one has the advantage of relocating the bridge without having to take it apart. Plus with the beams fixed together and welded with bolts, there is more resistance to weight that is on the bridge. The Draschwitz Bridge has this on not only the trusses themselves, but also the outriggers that support the two center panels- an anomaly given the fact that truss bridges usually have outriggers on every vertical beam and panel, especially those in the US built after 1900.
Another unusual feature is the upper chord itself. Normal truss bridges have upper chords that are of either squared shaped beams, V or X-laced or those whose shape resembles the letters I, L and C. They are supported by vertical and diagonal beams that are up to half its size and width. For this bridge, the upper chord and the vertical and diagonal beams are of nearly the same size. However, even more unique is the angled bracings that weave along the top chord, the points sticking outwards by up to 10 centimeters. While some truss bridges in the US and Germany built prior to 1885 may have had features like this bridge, the Draschwitz Bridge is the only known bridge to have an upper chord, decorated with such unusual bracing.
Apart from the renovations, nothing has altered the bridge, even when villagers installed a plaque on the western wingwall, indicating the high water mark set by the flooding in 1954. Chances are, the White Elster may have been rechanneled after that, raising the bridge to prevent it from being swept down stream. Yet, a curved beam connecting that wingwall and the pier raised some eye brows as we don’t know what this serves, except to support the bridge in one way or another.
The Draschwitz Bridge is really a gem in the field when it comes to finding historic bridges. The structure continues to serve local traffic and the Elster bike trail to this day. It’s one of the landmarks one should see when passing through Zeitz and the Elsterau, also the last one to see as one bikes north toward Leipzig, but one that the quiet village of Draschwitz should take pride in, one that Saxony-Anhalt has taken great care of, just like the state’s other historic bridges, and one that historians, pontists, engineers should study further to find out more on its history and structural features. It’s the one bridge that a person can spend lots of hours with the camera and a picnic blanket, sitting and indulging at its beauty, surrounded by a historic and natural landscape.
If you know more about this bridge, feel free to post your comment in the Chronicles’ facebook page or contact Jason Smith using the contact information in the About page.
This is a throwback article dating back to April 2011, when the author toured the bridges along the Grand Canal. Going in the opposite direction enroute to Kiel, this part focuses on the remnants of the Alt Eider Canal, which originally snaked its way across Schleswig-Holstein from Kiel to Tönning via Rendsburg and Friedrichstadt. While the western segment was converted into a river when the Baltic-North Sea Canal was built between 1890 and 1895, the eastern segment, running from Rendsburg to Kiel, was abandoned and as a consequence, many areas have become nothing more but ponds and small creeks with locks that no longer are in use. Using a map for this tour guide, here are some of the relicts worth visiting while on tour. 🙂
After an hour of lunch, combined with a trek combing up along the west end of the Kieler Fjorde, passing the university and the state parliamentary building along the way, I ended up in the northernmost suburb of Holtenau, the starting point of the Grand Canal. Measuring about 95 km long and approximately 60 meters wide in many areas, it resembled the Panama Canal, which slices through the isthmus connecting North and South America. The only difference between the two is the landscape, which the Grand Canal goes through mostly flat land. Before the trip to Kiel to start on the journey, I bought a magazine bearing the name “Nord-Ostsee-Kanal” 2011 version from a book store in Flensburg and while staying at the hotel on the city’s east end of Mürwik, I learned about the canal’s history, let alone the origins, and decided to make a parallel bike tour where I could find and photograph the bridges along both canals, although I would risk not getting from Kiel to Heide before sundown. While my prediction did come true, there was no regret doing what I did, for I would not have had the chance to share my experiences travelling along the Alte Eider and the Grand Canals at the same time.
The Alte Eider Canal had a width of about 30 meters and was 4 meters deep in many areas. While its starting point was in Kiel Holtenau, its path represented a long snake slithering quietly through the flat lands, as the canal made a lot of really sharp turns. Since many ships passing through the canal at the time of its completion had no engines (they would come in 1830s), most of them were pulled by horse and manpower to avoid any collisions with the banks. The canal swerved through many small present-day villages with many locks along the way. They include the villages of Knoop, Pojensdorf, Rathmannsdorf and Schinkel northeast of the present-day canal and Kluvensiek, Bovenau, and Klein Königsförde located to the south and west of the Grand Canal close to Rendsburg. And with each village, there were series of locks- more than that of the canal today in its entire length- many of whom are all but relicts today, where people can come and see what they looked like when the Alte Eider had its heyday.
Each canal lock consisted of a bridge, built using a bascule design which permitted traffic to horse and buggy and ships when necessary. There are many different types of bascule (or draw) bridges that were created and developed. The Scherzer rolling lift style was used on the Lindaunis Bridge over the Schlei. In Schleswig-Holstein, double leaf bascules were used most often to span narrow canals like the ones that existed along the Alte Eider. Originating from neighboring Holland (today known as The Netherlands), double leaf bascules consist of two half-bridge spans, each of them supported by cables or chains that are anchored by towers located on each end of the canal. For a textbook style, the cables or chains are connected to counterweight, located above each tower, which if lowered by manpower (or in today’s case machine), lifts the half-span to its vertical position to allow the ships to pass through. To lower the half-span, the weight is lifted up and back to its position above the tower, and the roadway is anchored down in a horizontal position, allowing horse and buggy to pass. An example of this bridge can be found in one of the pictures below. These types are still being used today in Schleswig-Holstein for small crossings including those along the Eider River in the western part of the state. More on that in the second segment. At least eight different locks had bridges of this type in service before the Alte Eider was made obsolete by the Grand Canal, one located in each village. This included the ones in Rendsburg, Kluvensiek and Klein Königsförde, which is profiled at the end of the column.
When the Grand Canal opened to traffic in 1895, the Alte Eider Canal lost its significance and was subsequentially put out of service. Much of the canal was filled up with silt, while other sections were dismantled and buried with dirt by farmers in an attempt to convert it into farmland. Some of the locks were dismantled with the bridges removed, while others were left as a landmark signaling the canal’s heyday. One can see some of these landmarks today when trekking along the remains of the Alte Eider Canal. This includes a Toll house in Pojensdorf, which has since been converted to a museum dedicated to the history of this architectural landmark. There is a restaurant in Rathmannsdorf, located in front of the lock, which serves local delicacies. In Schinkel, a mansion-style hotel built in the early 1800s still exists today, despite being privately owned. Mills can be found in places like Kluvensiek and Bovenau. Parts of the Alte Eider were converted to harbor for yachts in Rendsburg. And one can find bridge relicts in Klein Königsförde and Kluvensiek, the former being a replica of the one that existed before the Grand Canal opened, the other partially filled in but has a history of its own, when looking at the tower’s portal bracings.
Of the eight bridges that existed, four have been profiled here, although one of them no longer exists. They are arranged in the order of direction of the canal, from Kiel to Rendsburg, starting with the first bridge at Pojensdorf.
Pojensdorf Bridge: Spanning the Alte Eider Canal
Spanning the Alte Eider between Knoop and Pojensdorf, this steel stringer bridge may have replaced a lock and bridge that existed when the canal was in service. The bridge serves as the entrance to the village of Pojensdorf. While the bridge represents a typical short-span stringer bridge used on many roads in Germany, if one goes beyond the bridge and enters Pojensdorf, one will appreciate the landscape that was created by the old canal, let alone the Packhaus in Pojensdorf which was converted into a museum devoted explicitely to the history of this unique canal.
This (now former) drawbridge is probably the most ornamental of the bridges that spanned the Alte Eider Canal. The bridge was built in 1849/50 with the portal towers being designed by Carlshütte Iron Works in Rendsburg. Founded by Markus Hartwig Holler in 1827, the iron works company contributed a great deal with the construction of bridges and other forms of infrastructure along both the Alte Eider and the present Baltic-North Sea Canals up until the Grand Canal’s completion in 1895. However, the company’s heyday did not come until the Ahlmann family took over the business in 1909 and Kate Ahlmann took over the business when her husband Julius died in 1931. She had as many as 3000 workers at the iron works company by the 1950s and contributed a great deal to the economic growth in Rendsburg. Shortly before her death in 1963, a museum dedicated to the history of Carlshütte opened with numerous displays of artwork made of iron, which can be seen today. Sadly though, Carlshütte went into decline after her death and despite surviving one bankruptcy in 1974, the second one in 1997 led to the company’s liquidation. Carlshütte was named after Carl von Hessen, who governed Schleswig-Holstein at the time of the company’s founding.
When the canal was made obsolete by the Grand Canal, the lock was filled in with the exception of a small culvert to allow water to pass underneath. This included the bridge itself even though the two towers still remain standing and can be seen from the road heading to Kluvensiek from Bovenau and the Alte Eider bike trail.
Drawbridge at Klein Königsförde:
Coming up on Klein Königsförde, one will see a replica of a piece of history spanning the Alte Eider Canal on the old locks. Originally there was a bridge that was constructed in the mid-1800s using the double-leaf bascule design, and consisting of towers with an arch design. Yet before the Grand Canal was completed in 1895, the bridge was taken down and not replaced for over 100 years. In the early 1980s a replica of this bridge was constructed using mostly wood for the structure and steel chains for tower support as well as lifting the roadway, even though the crossing is in a fixed position. The purpose is to show the tourist what the bridge looked like during the days of the Alte Eider Canal. The bridge received the Europa Nostra award for its artwork in 1989 and is still in use for pedestrians and cyclists only. A park is located next to the structure on the west end to provide an opportunity to rest and view the village, located on the eastern side of the canal.
Subtracting the city of Lübeck, located on the border to Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Pommerania, if there is a city that can be considered the one with the most number of bridges worth seeing and learning about in Schleswig-Holstein, Rendsburg would be the place to look at. The city can pride itself for its High Bridge (which will be mentioned in the later columns), but it can also pride itself on the history of bridges that spanned both the Alte Eider and Grand Canals. The Rendsburg Drawbridge is one of the bridges that made the city popular. While there were numerous bridges of this type that were built in and around Rendsburg, this one stands out as it served a main road connecting Hamburg and Flensburg. Furthermore it was one of a few built using iron and may be one of the structures built using the iron from its production facility Carlshütte. Sadly, when the new canal was completed in 1895, the bridge lost its importance and was subsequentially removed. The canal eventually was converted into a harbor, which is still in use today for smaller boats entering and exiting the Grand Canal. Interesting enough was the fact that before the canal was made obsolete, an arch bridge took its place for a while but it is unknown when it was built and when it was removed. Also worth noting is the fact that the drawbridge was overshadowed by bigger and longer bridges spanning the longer canal- one for the trains (High Bridge) and one for the road.
After a tour of the bridges along the Alte Eider Canal, the last segment of the revised tour guide series along the Grand Canal will focus on Kiel, its easternmost terminus. Apart from some neat bridges in the city center, there are some to the east of the city along the Schwentine that are worth noting and visiting. The Schwentine also empties into the Baltic Sea through the Kiel Fjorde but opposite the terminus of the Canal.