This week’s pic of the week takes us to the town of Schwarzenberg, located 10 kilometers east of Aue in the Ore Mountain Region of Saxony. Located at the junction of the the rivers Schwarzwasser and Mittweida, the community of 16,000 inhabitants is famous for its castle on the hill and with it, the old town and market square. A visit to the Christmas market or even the City Festival in the summer is a must.
The city is famous for its bridges, and this is one of them, a focus of this week’s pic. The Railroad Viaduct is located east of the train and bus depot complex. It consists of a four-span stone arch bridge and according to the history books, used to serve rail traffic between Schwarzenberg and Annaberg-Buchholz via Cranzahl. Built in the late 1870s, it was abandoned in the 1950s. It took about a half a century until crews could rehabilitate the structure and convert it into a rails-to-trails route, which runs along the Schwarzwasser and is being used to this day.
This photo was taken on the cusp of dusk as I was on tour and looking for a broschure on the bridges in Schwarzenberg, for the book was released late last year. Fortunately I have a copy and will present this in the next column entries. But for now, enjoy the pic of the well-lit bridge, spanning the river and the park that was created a few years ago and people can enjoy some time down by the river. 🙂
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Bockau Arch Bridge (Rechenhausbrücke) to be Demolished after Talks to Purchase Historic Bridge Fails- State ministry of transportation offers bridge at an exorbitantly high price, which party was unable to afford. Demolition commences after the snow subsides: Officially the 14th but most likely the 21st. Analysis of the Fall of the Rechenhausbrücke from the author’s point of view can be seen here. Website of the facebook page Save the Bockau Arch Bridge (here) Purchase of the Rechenhausbrücke T-shirt available via Online Shop (here) Details of the Snowpocalyspe in Germany via Flensburg Files (here)
Man who spearheaded efforts to save the Chemnitz Viaduct receives Man of the Year Award from local newspaper.
Funding for rehabilitation of Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama, Iowa surpasses goal. Grants and other support being sought.
Truck crashes through Plummer Covered Bridge in Greene County, Indiana. Driver apprehended.
1980s-style concrete bridge in Flöha removed after fire destroyed it.
World’s first cast iron bridge in Coalbrookdale, England reopens after a thorough makeover.
The Chronicles returns to Fargo, now available on Skrive, together with the Flensburg FilesA link to the Skrive site can be found on the left-hand side or by clicking here.
I never thought I would say this in this entry of saving the Rechenhausbrücke, but I’m using an old line I learned from my time in high school in Minnesota:
Nuts and bolts! Nuts and bolts! We got screwed!
At the time of this writing, cranes are being put into place and the diggers are having their blades sharpened as the days of the Rechenhausbrücke are about to be numbered. In other words, the group wanting to save the old stone arch structure lost out, whereas politics prevailed but in ways that would make Donald Trump gleem and offer them burgers and other fast food just like he did with the men’s college basketball champions Clemson University in New York. We were blindfolded, our cars sabotaged and our houses torched- all in the name of progress!
All along, state and local officials vied for replacing the bridge with a dull modern piece of concrete and taking out the old structure, claiming that two bridges standing side-by-side can harm the flora and fauna of the region of the Zwickau Mulde River. The new bridge was built on a new alignment, approximately 300 meters northeast of the old structure. The latter would not have stood in the way and if rehabilitated and converted into a bike crossing, would have served as a key crossing to the Mulde Bike Trail. There was no evidence of such laws that exist, nor were the political officials at our meeting on the Bridge in April were able to or willing to present that evidence. Furthermore, there are countless examples of new bridges that were built on a new alignment and the old one was left alone. In 80% of the cases, they were also converted into a recreational area in one form or another, even at a minimal cost and with some efforts from the volunteers even. Therefore, that argument of not having two bridges side-by-side is in my eyes is a straight out lie.
In addition, the design of the new bridge and the approach that went along with that was meant to straighten out the highway and reduce the number of car accidents. Looking at the video below, one can be safe to say that yes, we have a wide bridge, but the approaches on each end is worse than ever- more curves on the east side; an unresolved intersection on the west end, featuring a driveway to the Rechenhaus Restaurant and a winding road going to Zschorlau and Schneeberg. The structure opened on 22 December and in the first six days, four accidents were reported at the new bridge. Again, a promise that came away as empty as a full glass of lies.
Furthermore, the new bridge is supposed to be more stable than the old bridge, as the politicians on the local and state levels have claimed. And the old bridge is not capable of carrying any traffic because it has deteriorated to a point where rehabilitation is exorbitant. Let’s start with the first argument and the state of the new structure. Take a look at the picture below and ask yourselves how long until weight limits are imposed on this bridge, let alone the much needed measured to strengthen the bridge to hold traffic. If I compare this with similar structures, including those in northern Germany, the new Bockau Bridge will have its first work done on it in 10 years, full rehab in 20 years and a full replacement in 40 years. That is about as long as the Europabrücke at Rendsburg in Schleswig-Holstein. The bridge is 45 years old and upon time of its replacement by 2030, it will be closer to 60. The design has flaws and it will definitely show. A lie that will show its ugly face by 2030.
And with regards to the second argument: counterarguments were presented on the old bridge by members of the Cultural Heritage Office and other engineers who conducted inspections on the bridge prior to starting the replacement project in 2017. All of them claimed that the arch bridge is structurally sound. The only stress on the arch spans was the new decking placed on the structure in 1990 that was made of concrete. The information presented at our bridge meeting in April was met with counterarguments saying that the bridge was at the end of its functional life and it would be a liability. Comparing the two, the counterarguments were very emotional and straightforward with little or no information that is relevant and truthful. The arguments for keeping the bridge featured facts and figures based on the bridge inspections carried out. If the bridge was not stable enough to hold traffic, then a trip to Glauchau to the Hirschgrundbrücke would have been an eye-opener. A lecture by those who have worked with rebuilding the 1700s arch bridge would have forced the opponents of keeping the old bridge to reconsider and spend time with the facts. If the old Rechenhausbrücke is very unstable, then the Hirschgrund should have collapsed years ago after having sat abandoned for four decades. Again, a set of lies combined with sensationalism.
Most disturbing was the lack of involvement of the public. What I meant here was despite the media coverage and the founding of our group “Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge”, designed to attract more people, the interest in saving and reusing the of bridge was extremely low. Part of it has to do with the location of the structure in a cluster of small villages with dwindling populations. The other has to do with the refusal to allow for a referendum on the bridge by the public, even if it was a handful. Suggestions for that or at least a public forum were turned down by the mayors of both Bockau and Zschorlau, which the bridge connects the two communities. Their claim was that they have to worry about the next generation. The question is what do the next generations want themselves. The will of both are very different because the political will seems to be to do away with history, whereas the will of the public, from what I’ve witnessed so far in my coverage, has been to keep the old bridge for use. Not many of us are interested in sitting in front of the computer playing video games. In fact I’m sitting here venting my frustrations over a decision that was ill-informed and simply one-sided. With a referendum or more public involvement, one would see that the public interest is different than what the politicians want. Lies and deception painted in gothic here.
So what is the outtake on all this? Very simple. We had a lack of everything that was needed for saving the bridge. We lacked support because there was no chance for the public to express their opinions on the old arch bridge beyond our group. There was a lack of interest in saving the bridge because of the mindset that once the new bridge is built the old one must be decimated at any cost. There was a lack of will to intervene and allow for the public to express their input into the bridge. There was a lack of information on the costs and benefits of having two bridges, side-by-side, let alone rehabbing the old structure and repurposing it for bikes and pedestrians. And lastly, there was a lack of transparancy between the state and the public. Instead what we had were closed-door meetings where certain people were not invited, misinformation and lies about costs, etc., and tactics which were unfair to the people that wanted to keep a pice of history but can’t because of unjust assumptions. And the icing was the pumped up, over-the-top costs which made us finally give up. Your rabbit did pull come tricks out of the hat and we will thank you for it.
It may not be long until we learn of the first repairs done on the new bridge but further more, when people start talking about the old Rechenhausbrücke after it is long gone. And many of us will still be alive to tell the story of how we saved it but failed because of obstacles that were too high to achieve and people who cheated their way into having the final say in removing the old structure. All that will be left of this bridge once the demolition commences are pictures, memories and a good T-shirt. Only then when the T-shirts are worn, the pictures shown, the stories told and all, will Dresden and Berlin regret what they did to the Erzgebirge.
This year’s results of the Ammann Awards is nothing like anyone has ever seen before. A record setting number of votes were casted in eight categories, and with that, a lot of suspense that is comparable to any bowl game in college football and waiting under a Christmas tree for Santa Claus to provide gifts. It was that intense. And with that, a lot of commentary that led to making some new changes in the award format and that of the Chronicles itself.
For the first time in the history of the Ammann Awards, there will be a podcast with commentary of the Awards in all but one of the categories. This can be found here but also via SoundCloud. You can subscribe to Soundcloud by scrolling down on the left column, clicking and signing up once you arrive there. Details on how podcasts will be used for the Chronicles will be presented in the next podcast, which will also be posted here. The table with the results of the Ammann Awards are presented here but in the order of the podcast so that you can follow. As in last year, the table features the top six finishers with some honors mentioned, but color coded based on the medals received in the following order: gold, silver, bronze, turquoise, quartzite and iron ore.
And so without further ado, click here to access the podcast but keep this page open to follow. The results in Best Photo is yet to come here.
2018 Ammann Award Results:
And lastly, the results of the Ammann Awards under the category Best Bridge Photo:
Photo 5: Sigler Bridge in White County, IL by Melissa Brand-Welch
Photo 13: Trolley Bridge in Waterloo, Iowa by Diane Ebert
Photo 10: Manhattan Bridge in Riley County, Kansas by Nick Schmiedeleier
Photo 3: Chesterfield-Battleboro Bridges by Dan Murphy
Photo 11: Route 66 Gasconade Truss Bridge in Missouri by Dyuri Smith
Photo 2: Tappan Zee Bridge in New York by Dan Murphy
As mentioned in the podcast, next year’s awards will be the same but under a new name: The Bridgehunter Awards. The name Ammann will be relegated to the Tour Guide Awards for US and international bridges; whereas the Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge will be renamed the Delony Award, after the late Eric Delony. An additional category is being considered for a historic bridge threatened with demolition but has the potential to being saved and reused. The Author’s Choice Awards will remain the same as is.
While we’re talking about those awards, you can see the results and commentaries here.
To those who won in their respective categories, as well as those who finished in the top 6 or were honored, congratulations. You may now bring out the sect and champaign and celebrate. Prost! 🙂
Before announcing the official winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards, it’s time to take a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice Awards. Here, the author of the Chronicles (yours truly) picks out the best and worst in terms of bridges. And for this year, there is plenty of fame to go around. So without further ado, let’s take a look at my picks to close off a busy year.
Spectacular Bridge collapse
Florida International (niversity Bridge in Miami- There are accidents with fatalities that are caused by natural disasters, then we have some caused by human error. The Florida International University Bridge in Miami, which had been built by FIGG Bridge Engineering was one that collapsed on March 15th, killing six people was one that was caused by human error. Faulty design combined with a lack of thorough inspection caused the double decker bridge to collapse in broad daylight, turning a dozen cars passing underneath into steel pancakes. Most of the fatalities were from people who were squished underneath. It was later revealed the FIGG and four other companies had violated seven regulations resulting in fines totalling $89,000. Yet they are not out of the woods just yet, due to lawsuits pending against them. It is unknown whether a new pedestrian bridge will be built.
Kingsland Bridge in Texas- We have accidents caused by mother nature that produced no fatalities and not even the most modern of bridges can withstand. A pair of runner-ups come to mind on the American side: The bridges that were lost in the worst forest fire in California history, and this one, the Kingsland Viaduct, a 50-year old bridge spanning Lake Llano that was washed away by floodwaters on October 6th. Fortunately here, no casualties were reported. A new bridge is being built.
Morandi Viaduct in Genoa, Italy- It was the collapse of the year. The Morandi Viaduct in Genoa in Italy collapsed on 14 August during a severe storm. 22 people were killed, many of them had been crossing the concrete cable-stayed suspension bridge at the time of the collapse. The work of bridge engineer Ricardo Morandi had been under scrutiny due to defects in the decking and concrete cables and it was a matter of a simple storm to bring part of the bridge down. It served as a wake-up call for the Italian Government as it introduced strict standards for bridges afterwards, also in Europe. Other Morandi bridges are being examined with replacement plans being put together. As for this bridge, the 54-year old structure is currently being replaced with a steel/concrete beam viaduct, which is expected to be finished by 2020.
Chiajara Viaduct in Colombia- Runner-up here is another cable-stayed bridge, but located in the forest near Bogota. Here one didn’t need a storm to bring down the partially-built bottle-shaped cable-stayed suspension bridge, which happened on 15 January. 200 people were attending a seminar when the collapse happened, unfortunately those who were on the bridge- about 20 workers- were not so lucky. Eight were killed and others were injured, some critically. The completed half of the bridge was taken down six months later. It is in the process of being rebuilt.
Biggest Bonehead Story:
We had a lot of eye-rolling and forehead-slapping stories in this category. So we’ll start at the place where anything can happen: The United States
Man Destroys Historic Bridge in Indiana, Gets Sentenced and Asks for a Retrial- This really bonehead story goes back to the now extant Hohmann Railroad Bridge, which used to span the Grand Calumet River near Hammond. The person was arrested and tried on federal charges of not only trespassing onto the bridge, but destroying property for the sake of scrap metal- without even a permit. His claim: no one owns it so the metal was his. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole, yet he just recently asked for a retrial- for treating him unfairly in court and for wrongful judgement! Mr. President (Donald J. Trump): I have the perfect candidate for you to replace Elaine Chao as Head of the US Department of Transportation! He’s that type of guy!
Truck Driver Destroys Covered Bridge in East Chicago Days after Its Reopening- If the mother of this driver was at the scene of this rather careless accident, the person would have had a lesson of a lifetime, known as You break it, you fix it! On 28 June, 16 days after it reopened and was designated as a historic structure, Mr. Eriberto Orozco drove his truck through the covered bridge, ignoring the warning signs and sensors, and plowing smack dab into the newly restored structure. When he got out of the truck, he smiled. He has since been cited for reckless driving and destruction of property. The covered bridge is considered a total loss.
Three-Bridge Solution in Saxony- The battle between preservation and progress got a bit hairier and went way over the top with this story: A stone arch bridge had to be rebuilt elsewhere, moved aside for a modern bridge. Unfortunately, as you can see in the video, things went south in a hurry. Watch and find out what happened and why we have three bridges instead of one. The story is in the documentary Voss & Team and starts in the 11th minute.
Best example of a restored historic bridge:
Blackfriars Street Bridge- This year’s awards are the year of the bowstring arch bridge for there were some great examples of restored bridges of this kind that have been reported. While the Paper Mill Bridge won the Ammann Awards in two categories, the Author’s Choice goes directly to the Blackfriars Street Bridge because of the painstaking task of dismantling, sandblasting and repairing (in some cases replacing) and reassembling the structure back into place. All within 18 months time, keeping the historic integrity in mind and the fact that the bridge still holds the world’s record for longest of its kind. This is one that will be discussed in the historic bridge community for years to come and one that deserves some kind of recognition of sorts.
A pair of bridges visited during my US trip definitely deserve some recognition for its work. The Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota is one of them. The 1930s two-span through truss bridge underwent a makeover in 2017 with new decking and lighting, fixing some truss parts and a new coat of paint. The forest green colored bridge looks like it was newly built. It’s definitely one for the ages. The other bridge worth noting is the State Street Bridge in Bridgeport, Michigan. The 112-year old two-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored in 2016 where the trusses were taken apart, sandblasted and painted. Some of the truss parts were bent and needed to be straightened. A new pier and new decking followed. The bridge is now one of the key components of the county historical museum, where a collection of historic houses and a park line up along Main Street, adjacent to the Cass River crossing.
The Hidden Gem: Best Find of a Historic Bridge
Originally meant for finding only one historic bridge, I had to make some exceptions for two of the notables that deserve to be recognized. Henceforth, let’s have a look at the winners of the Author’s Choice in this category:
The Bridges of White County, Illinois- Fellow Bridgehunter Melissa Brand-Welch found a collection of abandoned truss bridges in this southeastern Illinois county, each of which had its unique design and history. There are at least six through truss bridges and numerous pony trusses that one can find here. Each of them have potential to be restored and reused as a bike/pedestrian crossing. This county got second place in the category of Tour Guide for American Bridges in the 2018 Ammann Awards, while Ms. Brand-Welch won in the Best Bridge Photo category with her oblique photo of the Siglar Bridge. Winning the Author’s Choice Awards in this category should be the third and most convincing reason for county officials to act to collaborate on saving these precious structures. If not, then Ms. Brand-Welch has at least three accolades in her name.
Camelback Girder Bridge in Wakefield, Michigan- Runner-up is this small crossing. Michigan is famous for its camelback girder bridges of concrete, for dozens were built between 1910 and 1925. This bridge, located 500 feet away from a park in Wakefield, is easy to miss unless the oversized chair next to the shelter catches you. Then during your stop for a photo and picnic, you will see it. May be a boring concrete structure to some, but it is unique enough for a brief stop.
In the international category we have three bridges that deserve recognition because they are either rare to find or are rarely recognized by the public. We’ll start off with the first bridge:
Höpfenbrücke in Pausa-Mühltropf (Vogtland), Germany- Located just off a major highway, 15 kilometers west of Plauen in Saxony, this bridge was built in 1396 and was an example of a typical house bridge- a bridge with houses either on the structure or in this case, on the abutments. This structure was restored recently after flood damage forced its closure. The bridge is definitely worth the stop as it is one of three key points the village has to offer. The other two are the palace and the city center, where the bridge is located in.
Pul Doba Suspension Bridge- One of the fellow readers wanted some information about this bridge. It is one of a half dozen in India whose towers is shaped like one of the towers of a castle. It was built in 1896 but we don’t know who built it. We do know that this bridge is a beauty.
The Bridges of Conwy, Wales- How many bridges does it take to get to a castle? Three, according to the city of Conwy in Wales, which has three structures that lead to one of the most popular places in the country: an arch bridge for traffic, a chain suspension bridge for pedestrians and a box through girder with towers for trains. Not bad planning there, especially as they fit the landscape together despite its space issues with the channel and the penninsula.
This sums up my picks for 2018. While we will see what 2019 will bring us for historic bridges, we will now take a look at the results of the Ammann Awards, which you can click here. Remember the results include a podcast powered by SoundCloud.
NORTH SMITHFIELD – It may have been a “labor of love” for state officials, but for residents, the news that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s two-year reconstruction of Slatersville’s Stone Arch Bridge was coming to a close couldn’t come fast enough.Last week, residents and officia