If you visit the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, take a few minutes to look for a small bridge over a stream near the Wollemi Pine, ‘Australia’s homegrown Christmas tree’, close to the information booth.
Built from sandstock brick, the culvert is both typical of early 19th-century drain construction and historically significant, the historian Anna Wong says. But at the end of the 20th century it was in a state of disrepair, with most of the mortar gone and a rare giant fern’s roots threatening to damage it further.
Culverts- tunnels that channel water under roads. Culverts are used as a substitute for (mainly small to medium-sized) bridges spanning creeks and small waterways as they have several advantages. First and foremost, they provide minimum maintenance, as either earth and roadway cover them or the short crossings are anchored to the ground and supported by abutments. It acts as a canal for directing water under the roadway but also as a dam to keep debris from blocking the roadway. Yet the drawbacks to culverts is that they are not really effective against high water for floodwaters can undermine culverts by washing out the roadways approaching them. In some cases, they can even collapse, swallowing cars in the process, if they attempt to cross them. If they are not washed out by flooding, the high water can cause flooding upstream up until the crossing itself. In summary, engineers should really think about the advantages and disadvantages of culverts before they even implement them as replacements for bridges deemed obsolete.
This mystery bridge deals with a culvert (or should I say a series of culverts) but in order to better understand the logic behind this, we need to look back at the types of culverts that exist and the oldest known culvert known to human kind. There are five different types of culverts that are used today: pipe, box, pipe arch, arch and bridge slab- the first three can be multiple spans, the last two are single spans of up to 30 meters. All of them are usually built of steel, stone or concrete. Only a handful have been built using brick.
The oldest known culverts that exist in the world go very far back- way back to the Bronze Age. There, you can find Arkadiko Bridge in the state of Argolis in Greece. Built between 1300 and 1190 BC, the stone culvert has a total span of 22 meters and an arch span of 2.5 meters. It is one of four remaining bridges of its kind using an Mycenaean arch design, all of them are located near Arkadiko.
The next one in line is a stone arch bridge over the River Meles in Izmir in Turkey. Built in 850 BC, this bridge is the oldest of its kind still in use. In Australia, the Macquarie Bridge, featuring a double-barrel arch culvert, is considered the oldest bridge still in use. The 1816 bridge can be found in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney. The Old Enon Stone Arch Culvert, built by Samuel Taylor in 1871 and spans Mud Run in Ohio, is the oldest known culvert in the US and one that was built using limestone.
The culverts in the Eiderstedt region in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein may not be as old as the aforementioned bridges, nor is it definitely the oldest in Germany- that honor goes to the Stone Arch Bridge (built in 1146 AD) over the River Danube in Regensburg (Bavaria). But given their appearance, they are one of the oldest in the region, let alone in Schleswig-Holstein. The culverts discovered during my tour along the North Sea to Westerheversand Lighthouse consists of box culverts, built using brick as material. They each span a drainage canal which is used to divert water away from the fields during high tides (German: Flut). And despite the bike trail careening along the dikes that are lined along the shores of the North Sea, these culverts are still in use for farm vehicles. The concept is odd, but because farming is practiced in the Eiderstedt region, brick culverts were used along with concrete and sometimes wooden bridges to haul farm vehicles.
The dikes were established in the early 1960s, in response to a massive storm that flooded large parts of western Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and the City of Hamburg in 1962. 400 people lost their lives in Hamburg alone, as dike failures took them by surprise and almost all of the hanseatic city was under water. With the dikes came the rechanneling of waterways, eliminating natural gullies, as one can see while traveling along the North Sea coast. The damming of the rivers, such as the Eider, Au, Sorge and Treene, caused the massive extinction of marine wildlife, including the sturgeon, which used to lay eggs upstream close to the rivers’ starting point. The last sturgeon was caught in 1969 and there has not been a single sturgeon in the region ever since. The creation of the Eidersperrwerk near St. Peter-Ording put the last nails in the coffin of the natural cycle of the North Sea, protecting farmers and residents from the flooding processes.
Yet the culverts seen in the pics are much older than the dike and drainage systems that have existed since the 1960s. Judging by the green and yellow moss on the brick and the decoloration of the brick and concrete, it is estimated that the culverts are at least a century old, if not older. Unfortunately, there are no records of the date of construction of the culverts, let alone the bridge builder(s) responsible for building them. Not even the German bridge website Brueckenweb.de has any data on the bridges, nor the Dusseldorf-based Structurae.net. Only a map where the author found the structures and the pictures are the only piece of information that is known to exist.
While some records may be available through local authorities in Husum, St. Peter-Ording or Eiderstedt, the chances of finding concrete information is very slim, because the culverts are only 20 meters long with a center span of only 5 meters, and there are dozens of them that are known to exist, aside from the ones that were found near Westerhever.
Do you know of some information on the history of these ancient culverts? Let alone the number of culverts that still exist in the region alone? If so, then please contact the Chronicles and share some information about them. Any clues, including photos, will be of great help. The culverts will be included in the book project on the bridges in Schleswig-Holstein. Information on how you can contribute can be found here. (Hinweis auf Deutsch: Sie können die Information in der deutschen Sprachen übersenden, da der Autor sehr gutes deutsche Kenntnisse hat.)
The culverts and the covered bridge profiled here, are a couple of many bridges the author found during his trip to the Eiderstedt region. However, there are plenty more that visitors should see while vacationing there. The author has a few bridges that one should see while visiting the Eiderstedt region. The tour guide will come very soon.
Author’s notes: Enclosed is a map with the exact location and specifics of the culverts found during the trip. Information on the Great Flood of 1962 in Hamburg/ Schleswig-Holstein can be found here. A video on the event can be found here.
Ironically, an even bigger flood occurred 16 years later after the dikes and dams were built. It all occurred during the year summer never existed which ended with the Great Blizzard of 1978/79 that crippled the northern half of Germany, stranding thousands of motorists and causing massive flooding in Schleswig-Holstein alone. More information can be found here. and here.
Thatching is a different but efficient concept for roofing a house. Houses with thatched roofs have a Roof that is built using dry vegetation, such as straw, sedge, heather, water reed, palm fronds and/or rushes and with that, each side of the house has a roof that slants downwards towards the outer edge. Thatched Roofs have a dual function where it allows water to flow off the outer roof, keeping the inner roof dry (and thus preventing rotting and molding of the wood), but at the same time, it acts as an insulator, keeping the warm air inside during the winter and outside during the summer months. Houses with thatches roofs can be found in Areas with tropical climates, but also those with a continental climate, such as the northern parts Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Great Britain.
While architects find creative ways to building houses with thatched roofs, it is also no surprise that one can find covered bridges with thatched roofs. One just has to stumble across something like this one, located just south of St. Peter-Ording in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Located on a trail that separates the clinic and the Westküsten Park and Robbarium, this bridge Looks like a typical small crossing that spans a canal that transfers water from the North Sea to the fields to prevent flooding during high tides and severe storms but also to provide water to the farm lands nearby. The bridge is only seven to eight meters long, but the width is about 40 centimeters wider, especially if you count the overhead portion. In bridge terminology, the bridge is a through truss using the Kingpost design. The entire structure is made of wood.
Yet looking at it further, it definitely has the thatched roof appearance, as two different layers are added to the roof to make it unusual. The top layer has either sedge or rush roofing, whereas the bottom layer has the typical reed roofing, one sees with houses in Schleswig-Holstein and neighboring Mecklenburg-Pommerania. This type of construction makes the bridge very unusual for a covered bridge, but it does lead to the question of whether this is the only bridge of ist kind in the region, Germany or even Europe, or if there are similar bridges of ist kind out there. and if so, where.
While the roof has the function of protecting the remaining elements from rotting or molding caused by moisture from rains, the structure itself is no older than 20 years old, for even though there is moss on some of the wooden beams, the bridge and its trusses look relatively new. Therefore, it is estimated that the bridge was built between 1995 and 2005, if not later. It is the question of who built it and why the engineer decided for this unique design.
If you know more about this bridge, please send the author an e-mail with some information about it. This will be useful for the upcoming book project on the bridges of Schleswig-Holstein. What is just as important (or even more) than this bridge is the following:
How many covered bridges have a thatched roof similar to this one? And where are they located?
A discussion Forum has been established on facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram so that you can comment on this. Photos and info for the other bridges would be much appreciated. 🙂
Touted by many to be the most beautiful state in Germany, Schleswig-Holstein offers a mixture of landscapes and climates to attract the vacationer wishing to escape the city life. It is sandwiched by two different seas- the North Sea in the west and the Baltic Sea in the east, each offering different forms of flora and fauna as well as Schietwetter (storms producing high winds, torrential downpours and high tides). The Baltic-North Sea Canal, connecting the state capital of Kiel with Brunsbüttel via Rendsburg slices the state into two, even though the 1895 canal replaced a 1700s canal that complimented the longest river in the state, the Eider. That river starts near Kiel and ends in the North Sea, but not before passing through bridge-laden towns of Rendsburg, Friedrichstadt and Tönning, while at the same time, connecting with the rivers Treene and Sorge.
The hills east of Kiel and in the Seegeberg region provides a great backdrop for photographers wishing to get some pictures of scenery along the river Schwentine, which also gets its additional water from the lakes region near Plön and Eutin, located between Kiel and Lübeck. At the same time, the state is bordered to the south and east by two major waterways: the Elbe to the south and the 80 kilometer long Lauenburg-Lübeck Canal to the east. From Lübeck going north into Denmark, the state receives additional water from the Baltic Sea in the form of fjords, found in Kiel, the Schlei region and Flensburg. The western half is characterized by flat plains with gullies and diversion canals to channel water and protect farmlands and beaches from flooding.
With all this water, one needs to cross it- by bridge!
Many books have been written about the history of places in Schleswig-Holstein and the different regions full of natural habitats and historic places of interest. There are enough books on light houses (including the famous Westerhever), windmills (like the ones in the Dithmarschen, Schleswig and Ostholstein districts), and holiday resorts (like St. Peter-Ording, Travemünde and Fehmarn) to fill up a library section, just with those alone. There is even a book on the Faces of Flensburg, focusing on the people who made the former rum capital and key port famous, including the founder of the adult entertainment store, Beate Uhse, who opened the world’s first store of this type in 1962.
Yet with many bridges in Schleswig-Holstein- many of which have histories going back over 100 years, only two books have been written about this topic: one on the bridges along the Baltic-North Sea Canal, one on the dual draw bridge north of Lübeck (which no longer exists). The most recent book, published last year, commemorated the centennial of the two-span arch bridge in Friedrichstadt, whose drawbridge span allows for passage along the Eider. Not even a book on the Fehmarn Bridge, the world’s first basket-handle tied arch bridge has been written.
This leads us to the question of why we’ve neglected to write about the other bridges in the state.
Since 2011, I’ve been photographing and writing about some of the bridges in the state, which includes the cities of Kiel, Flensburg, Lübeck and Friedrichstadt as well as the bridges along the Baltic-North Sea Canal, wondering what they looked like a century before, how they were built and who built them. In addition, research is being undertaken to find out what other bridges exist in the present, had existed before getting replaced by modern structures and who were behind the building of the bridges. Even more interesting is the role of bridge engineers in Schleswig-Holstein, as the state imported many famous ones, like Friedrich Voss and Hermann Muthesius but exported just as many to other regions in Germany, Europe and even the United States. Lawrence H. Johnson was one of those who made his mark both as a bridge builder and a politician- in the state of Minnesota!
With as much work put in as possible, the decision has been made to write a book on the bridges in Schleswig-Holstein. This five-year project will focus on the bridges, past and present, which has shaped the state and its infrastructure, while at the same time, fostered tourism, business and commerce, especially over the last 150+ years. At the same time, however, we will look at the engineers who left their mark in the state while those, who originated from S-H, emigrated to other places to leave their legacies. The work will be written in three languages: German, English and Danish, reflecting on the languages of the residents and those who are interested in reading this piece and visiting the sites.
I’m looking for the following in order to complete this book project:
Old photos, postcards and information on the bridges in Schleswig-Holstein, especially including the previous crossings (those that were replaced with today’s modern structures) and ones that no longer exists. This includes bridges in towns and cities as well as along the rivers: Stör, Eider, Sorge, Trave, Aarau, Treene and Schwentine, and also those along the canals: Alte Eider, Lauenburg-Lübeck and Gieselau.
Stories about the bridges in Schleswig-Holstein that are memorable and worth mentioning in the book. Already mentioned in the book on the Eider Bridge in Friedrichstadt, sometimes stories and memories about the bridge makes the crossing one worth remembering.
Information on the bridge engineers in Schleswig-Holstein who left their mark in bridge building, apart from Friedrich Voss as well as those who originated from the state that left their mark elsewhere, like Lawrence H. Johnson.
As the book will feature the Danish version, I’m looking for a Danish translator, preferably either a native speaker or one who has mastered the language (as the Germans would say, Sicher in Wort und Schrift)
If you have any information that will be of use for the book or would like to support the book project in anyway, shape or form, please use the contact form below and send me a line. You can also contact the Chronicles via facebook by using its messenger on its page. Additional contact information is available by request.
Please feel free to pass this information around to anyone who wants to contribute, as this is open to not only bridge experts and enthusiasts, but also locals and people who either have knowledge of the bridges in Schleswig-Holstein, are willing to help out or both.
With many key bridges out there (going beyond the ones that I’ve profiled), and many historic bridges being replaced with modern ones, whose lifespans are half of that of their predecessors, it is time to bring them to light. Because after all, they have just as much value to Schleswig-Holstein as the other key features the state has to offer. One has to click on the highlighted names in this article and look at the offer of books for sale at a local book store or via amazon to find out how important these structures are for the development of the state that prides itself on sailing, shipping, handball, sheep, windmills, farming, Sauerfleisch, rum, roasted potatoes, beer, Schietwetter and the famous greeting of “Moin moin!”
Stay tuned for some articles to be posted on some bridges in the Eiderstedt region, where the author vacationed for a couple weeks.
ERFURT, GERMANY- This Mystery Bridge article takes us back to my old battleground for bridges and teaching English: the city of Erfurt in the German state of Thuringia. As mentioned in the tour guide series five years ago, the capital has a population of 240,000 inhabitants and has over 240 bridges spanning the River Gera, the Diversion Canal Flutgraben, as well as several creeks and highways. This includes over two dozen arch bridges in the city center as well as along the Flutgraben.
And while the authors have done research on the bridges in Erfurt for two books, the latest was released in 2012, they probably have seen this bridge many times, but have crossed this bridge without noticing it just as many times as well……
Beautiful waterfall on the southeast end of Pförtchen Bridge as the creek empties into the Flutgraben. However, when climbing up the rocks and going underneath the bridge that serves a bike path, I found another bridge, or something looking like a bridge…….
Judging by the features of the arch strutcure, this may be the oldest infrastructure that existed in the city of Erfurt, as the bridge is made of stone, but the keystone features resemble a monster spewing out water as it flows into the mouth of the canal:
Judging by the length of the bridge, it is no longer than 10 meters and is no more than 1.5 meters above the water. No plaLittle is know about this bridge except for the fact that the area used to be part of the Steigerwald Forest before it was occupied with houses in the 1860s. In fact, the Pförtchen Bridge itself was once a wooden bridge built in 1875 and having served horse and buggy as a gateway to the walled city. The bridge was then replaced by the current structure in 1897 when the canal was built and the older structure was removed. It is possible that this bridge was a key crossing going to the forest, but when the first bridge was constructed, it was filled in, converting it to a pipeline which still serves the waterway. This is most likely the case as there is no known data that can prove that the pipeline was made with stone arches, unless there was a canal serving residents in the southern part of Erfurt. But even then, it would have to have been made with brick or concrete, or even lead.
But never say never, when it comes to civil engineering. When engineers have a creative idea and/or will, they will carry it out, for the purpose of experiment, aesthetics and especially, functionality. 🙂
And so, it’s your turn. What do you think and/or know about this bridge? Is this an original crossing or a pipeline? How old do you think this bridge is? Your help with comments and information would be of great help. You can provide your thoughts and comments here or via e-mail.
While you are at it, check out the updated version of Erfurt’s Bridge Tour Part 1, which features bridges in the outskirts. This includes maps and additional information as well as additional information via Instagram. Click here to view. Part 2 of the city center’s bridges will follow in the fall.
A couple weeks ago, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) declared the historic Frank J. Wood Bridge, a three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections and one-rhombus Howe lattice portal bracings to be a liability, deciding for the modernity with replacing the structure with a concrete one, to be built alongside the 1932 structure, with the old structure to be removed shortly afterwards. This was confirmed through multiple news outlets as well as the agency’s website.
In the eyes of locals, the news story is considered fake news and have an alternative news story to share, one that sheds light on MDOT’s neglect of historic structures. As the environmental surveys are going to be carried out, much of which in connection with Section 106- 4f of the Historic Preservation Laws of 1966, locals, like John Graham, a realtor in Topsham and one of the members of the committee to save and restore the bridge, are stepping up to the plate and planning to turn the heat on MDOT, to force the agency to rescind the decision and look at constructive ways to keep the bridge in service, using more than enough notable examples to go around.
In an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Mr. Graham provides us with a glimpse of the historic significance of the Frank Wood Bridge, why MDOT has not taken historic bridge preservation seriously- following the path of neighboring New Hampshire- and measures that are planned to fight for the preservation of their prized historic landmark.
First and foremost, how significant is the Frank J Wood Bridge in terms of its history and ties with the communities of Brunswick and Topsham?
The bridge was built in 1932. It crosses what was three natural falls, one being so high it stopped the sturgeon from going any high to spawn and was one of the best fishing areas for the Native Americans and there is recorded history as early as 1620 of settlers using it as a fishing spot. The bridge is flanked on each side by mill building which still stand and were both in operation one into the sixties and the other into the eighties. The mills have both been redeveloped but retain their historical nature and the three structures- the two mills and the bridge create a recognized Industrial district. If the bridge is removed the district will no longer exist. The bridge has been the meeting place of both towns and held Memorial day parade celebrations every year. President Johnson crossed it in his motorcade once. Pictures of the bridge appear on numerous websites, on last year’s phonebook cover, it is the one instantly recognizable icon of both communities (Topsham and Brunswick).
The bridge was named after Frank J. Wood. Who was he and how important was he to the communities/ area?
Frank J. Wood was a local farmer and paper maker- worked in the Topsham Mill. He is credited with suggesting the current location of the bridge and died childless shortly after the bridge was completed.
A write-up on the bridge and its history can be viewed by clicking here.
How long has MaineDOT been trying to replace this bridge? What are their arguments for replacing it?
MDOT has been systematically not maintaining older thru truss bridges for decades. The last time the bridge was painted was 1980. They proposed removing in 2004 (?) and then again in 2015. They have very weak arguments- mainly cost.
Note: There are some examples of historic bridges in Maine that have been taken down, solely for that reason. Click on the following bridges below:
Your arguments against replacing the bridge- why should the bridge be preserved?
Why not? The bridge is exceptionally wide for its time (30 feet) and tall (14.8 feet). It was built to have two lanes of traffic and a coal car trolly line down the center. The bridge if properly maintained could be around for many more generations. The State is rapidly losing what was once a fairly common bridge type and the location and setting of this one is exceptional. It is also not functionally obsolete like so many are. MDOT had a plan in the mid eighties to put three lanes of traffic across it. It can easily handle two ten foot travel lanes and two five foot bike lanes. Just up stream is a restored suspension walking bridge. Maine has few economic things driving it currently and our historical downtowns and historical structures create a unique sense of place. This drives our tourism industry and attracts both business and residence to the area. The new “low cost” alternative does not fit the location.
Maine DOT had presented four proposals for the bridge, two of which had to do with rehabilitation. Can you describe how the bridges would be rehabilitated? Which of the two plans do most of the people favor?
The rehabilitated bridges would both have completely new decks installed and minor repair to one bottom cord and a complete paint job. The other alternative adds a second side walk. It is unclear if a second sidewalk is favored or not. MDOT has really created dialogue of only new or old and rusty. I personally do not see the need for a second side walk and look at the New Hope- Lambertville Bridge between PA and NJ as a great example of a bridge between two historical downtowns that has only one side walk and handles as many as 14,000 pedestrians in a single weekend. That bridge is actually longer and also has a newer bypass bridge, although the bypass here is closer.
After the DOT’s decision to replace the bridge, you presented a counter-statement, claiming that the agency had not done enough to conduct feasible studies on the bridge, specifically looking at the options carefully and selecting the rehabilitation option. Can you explain further what they didn’t do that they should have done, let alone what they did which would be considered illegal in your terms?
They never have seriously considered rehabilitation and have hired a consulting firm that does not have experience in rehabilitation. The quotes that they have made public are wildly high according to the experts we have ran the numbers by. They have used this method to sway public opinion. MDOT came out with a preferred alternative- the new upstream bridge before the 106 process even begin. This is not how the process is meant to take place. They need to hire a qualified firm to give realistic rehab and long term maintenance costs for the bridge. The main thing they initially failed to do was to say they were going to conduct a full Environment assessment EA. They have since (this week) notified us that they now plan to do so. If it is necessary to sue it will be after the EA is complete and the 4f process is done. We are gearing up for the 4f process because this is the law that actually has some teeth and where we can win. MDOT has publicly stated that it is feasible to rehab the bridge. We had several small victories during the 106 process where we were able to get them to agree the rehab with one side walk fit the purpose and need and that the removal of the bridge would be both a adverse affect to the bridge itself and also to the industrial district mentioned above.
In light of the decision by the DOT, what steps are you considering taking at this point?
We were all fully expecting this decision as they had made it a over a year ago and we forced them to follow the law and actually do a real 106 process. We are gearing up for the 4f and a possible legal battle there. We are in the process of securing an engineering firm to do an independent analysis of the bridge rehabilitation costs. This has proven very difficult because no firm in the East will go up against MDOT for they are a big client. Many have spoken to us off record but none will actually put a report together. We have found several from across the country that are willing. The battle now is all in the term “prudent”. We have forced MDOT to only rely on life cycle costs to make this argument. Cost we believe are overstated for this sole purpose.
Who else has been helping you with supporting the bridge in terms of consultancy, legal action, fundraising, meetings, etc.?
There is a core group of about 10 of us with two very generous financial backers. We have an excellent local attorney and engineers and professors from around the country that we have been meeting with.
Should the DOT be forced to rescind their decision and favor restoring the bridge, are there going to be any fundraising options, etc. for the bridge?
When MDOT is forced to maintain the historical structures they are charged with maintaining; the State and Federal government will pay for it. The fundraising option in this case is called taxes. That said there is talk of creating a yearly festival centered around the bridge which we would raise money for.
With regard to restoring the bridge, what would the newly restored bridge look like in comparison to the proposed replacement? Would there a park area, etc.?
The restored bridge would look identical to the bridge we have but painted with a new coat of green paint. The only difference would be the deck would no longer have metal grates down each side and would have slightly narrower travel lanes and actual bike lanes painted on. The new bridge is a flat highway overpass bridge. You can see pictures of both on the Facebook page.
What is the general mood at the moment in response to the DOT’s wanting to replace the bridge?
The groups mood is one of continued optimism. We have been expecting this day. It is just another step closer till we can save the bridge. The community is torn between in favor and not in favor although the not in favor have been fed really misleading information from MDOT.
While some communities and regions have stepped aside to let the DOTs and other local agencies tear down their structures, many of which had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there are enough pocket of examples of people, like the communities of Brunswick and Topsham are working to impede the progress of MDOT, using experts from across the country to prove that just because one bridge part is bad, does not mean the whole bridge needs to come down. Instead they want to set an example for other DOTs in the US, proving that the age of wasting materials and destroying heritages is not in the best interest, no matter how the arguments are packaged and presented. It is hoped that this successful trend will force others to think about their own infrastructure and use rational thinking instead of the mentality which means, haste makes waste.
The Chroicles will keep you informed on the latest with the Frank Wood Bridge. You can also follow the Friends of the Frank Wood Bridge by clicking onto its facebook page here.
Special Thanks to John Graham for his help in the interview and best of luck in efforts to stop the replacement process, slated to begin next year.
Wolkenburg (Saxony)/ Limbach-Oberfrohna/ Glauchau- The last of the three bridges profiled here that is debuting along the Zwickauer Mulde is the Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge. Before going further with this bridge, we need to clarify what this bridge looks like as well as its aesthetic value. The current structure, open since May Day this year is actually a cable-stayed suspension bridge, a bridge type where suspenders actually support the roadway from the tower. When looking at them from an American’s point of view, cable-stayed bridges are bland in appearance, ranking them up there with concrete slab/girder bridges that represent a sour taste to the land-/ or even cityscape. This can be best exemplified with two bridges that come to mind: The Fort Steuben and the Russell-Ironton Bridges. Both of them spanned the Ohio River; both of them have the characteristic A-frame tower, whose cables support the roadway; both of them replaced historic bridges that had a lot of characteristic and aesthetic appeal but were neglected by the department of transportation in a successful bid to have them replaced. Both of them have been demolished, leaving nothing but documentation on websites owned by James Baughn and Nathan Holth, respectively. Both bridges are prone to having problems in the short-term involving the cables and the roadway because, like other modern bridge types, there is too much (heavy) traffic using it. We’re even seeing it with a pair of bridges in Germany, which will be mentioned later on.
But while these cable-stayed bridges are being looked down upon like the other concrete spans in America, pursued by Donald Trump and Elaine Chao with some statues of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and a new quasi-national flag of the US (sorry, I have to be sarcastic with this analogy), cable-stayed bridges in Europe, from an outsider’s point of view, can be viewed as a treat, especially for pedestrians and cyclists using them while on the bike trail. One in three cities in Germany has at least one of this type. And while there are some standard examples that exist, most of the cable-stayed bridges we find here are designed in such an unusual way, that they are screaming for people to stop by to pay homage; whether it is because of tilted towers, curved or even rounded roadways, ….
or in the case of this bridge, a single tower that is leaning outwards towards the river bank, whose primary cables- all draped over a pointed tower- are supporting the deck. The deck itself has a pony girder approach span with a Warren pony truss main span that crosses the Zwickauer Mulde.
The bridge replaced a century-old structure that consisted of a wire suspension bridge, going by the textbook guidelines that were created by another German engineer, John Roebling. Roebling’s concept was strands of thick wire that were spun together to create the main cables that were anchored between the towers and the ground anchors on shore. The best examples of his design were the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge (1869) and the Brooklyn Bridge (1883, though he died during its construction). The original Wolkenburg Bridge featured heavy cables combined with vertical suspenders that supported the narrow walkway. The walkway itself was fenced with heavy wire but not trussed like one will see in many suspension bridges today, such as the Golden Gate Bridge or the suspension bridges in New York designed by Othmar H. Ammann.
Flooding in 2013 caused extensive damage to the bridge’s roadway and cables to a point where officials in Limbach-Oberfrohna, where Wolkenburg is part of the conglomerate, as well as local officials decided to demolish the bridge, including the tower, which was arched and made of concrete. It took more than three years, combined with lots of money and politicking before the conglomerate let the contract to the firm of Iroplan, based in Chemnitz, and its architect, Klaus Lenz, to build a new bridge at the site of the old one.
Construction started in 2016 with the leaning tower and foundations. The roadway was assembled offsite, featuring sliding and welding connections, judging by the author’s observations during his visit. The roadway was lifted into place by crane in November that year, and after attaching the cables between the tower and the roadway, the bridge was completed. What was not completed at the time of the visit in March were the roadway leading to the bridge, the dike to keep the water in the river, and painting the bridge. The bridge was still grey and silver. The cost for constructing the 80 meter long and two meter wide cable-stayed bridge was 1.2 million Euros.
After many delays and headaches, people have their bridge back. At the May Day opening, where many people participated, mayor Jesko Vogel led the opening with a bang, as cannons were fired and a historic theater group from Glauchau were on hand for some entertainment. Refreshments were provided by the fire department. While the suspension bridge will forever be in the memories of many who live in Wolkenburg, this bridge reopens a connection between Eichenwald Forest and the mill area, both are northeast of the historic city center. The bridge will be a new icon for Wolkenburg, providing a picturesque view from the historic city center and its churches and castle on the hill. And contrary to common belief regarding cable-stayed bridges, the Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge serves as an example of a bridge of this kind that, if designed with a good aesthetic taste, can be used for any form of traffic,
even if this bridge is open for pedestrians and fishermen only. 😉