BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 69

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Our next pic of the week coincides with the Flensburg Files’ series on photos of the former border crossings past and present, as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which subsequentially resulted in the Reunification of Germany, 11 months later. This pic takes us to the famous Glienicke Bridge. This cantilever truss bridge was built in 1907 and spans the River Havel, forming the border between the capital city of Berlin and the state of Brandenburg. The bridge was very popular in history and culture because it became a key patrol crossing during the Cold War. From 1952 until 6pm on the evening of November 10th, 1989, this crossing was the border that kept people from entering and leaving West Berlin from the GDR. It was an exchange point for captured spies from both sides of the border, thus it became known as the Bridge of Spies; the name was adopted in literature as well as in films, the latest of which was a combination book and film that were released in 2015. Since the evening of the 10th of November, 1989, the Glienicke Bridge has been in service as a throughfare crossing, where tens of thousands of cars cross this bridge daily.

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During my visit to the bridge in 2015, the first impression of the crossing was the fact that it was just a typical historic bridge that had been restored to its usual form, with no border guards, no rust and corrosion and no potholes and other issues with the decking. The only markers that existed where the borders once stood was a sign with the information of the bridge’s reopening that evening, as well as a marker on the Berlin side with information on where the border once stood. However, since the opening, the Glienicke Bridge has become a fully restored tourist attraction. Most of the historic columns, statues and buildings dating back to the Baroque period have been fully refurbished and makes the bridge appear original- as if there were no bombings or the like, as it happened in World War II. Eateries on the Potsdam side of the bridge as well as a museum devoted to the bridge’s unique history also exist. Tour guides are available to know more about the history of the structure and its key role during the dark period of time.

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The bridge is a major tourist attraction for those with not only an interest in architectural history in Berlin and Potsdam, but also history in general. From a photographer’s perspective, the bridge is easily photographed as there are many places available where you can get your favorite shot- whether it is a close-up as I took some on the morning of October 18th with the sunrise and all, but also from several parks and castles lining up along the Havel, many from the Berlin side. In either case, the bridge is a highly recommended stop for those visiting Berlin because of its unique style and even more unique history, something that the governments of both Berlin and Brandenburg will do all that they can to preserve it for generations to come.

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To learn more about the bridge, click here.

 

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Brunswick Railroad Bridge Washes Away

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Photo courtesy of NSR, found on bridgehunter.com website

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BRUNSWICK, KANSAS- Heavy rainfalls and flooding has been the theme for this year in much of the central and Midwestern parts of the US. High waters have damaged or destroyed many buildings, highways and bridges, disrupting services and causing billions of dollars in damage.

The Norfolk and Southern Railroad (NSR) Bridge spanning the Grand River near Brunswick, Kansas has joined the growing list of casualties from this abnormal year. A week ago on October 1st, high waters and debris from fallen trees and buildings took out the century old viaduct, thus cutting off service between Moberley and Kansas City, Missouri. While the photo of the bridge remains in its aftermath is scary, a video posted by officials at NSR, showing the power of Mother Nature and the magnitude of the destruction of this bridge puts it beyond what we saw with the ice jams destroying bridges in Nebraska earlier in the year. It can even be comparative to a movie laden with such disasters.

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The bridge itself was the second crossing at Brunswick. The multiple-span deck plate girder spans were built in 1916 and had a span of over 600 feet long. Its predecessor was a four-span Whipple through truss bridge that had been built in 1885 and served the Wabash Railroad for nearly three decades. These spans were eventually reused on branches of the railroad connecting Moberley and Des Moines, Iowa as well as Moulton and Ottumwa, also in Iowa. These lines were discontinued by the early 1980s, and all but one of the spans have been removed and scrapped. The remaining span from the original Brunswick crossing is privately owned and can be found spanning Village Creek south of Ottumwa. Two of the demolished truss spans used to span English Creek before they were destroyed to make way for the Red Rock Lake project, which was completed by 1968.

The author would like to thank Sandra Huemann-Kelly for bringing this to the readers’ attention.

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Newsflyer: 9 September, 2019

 

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Click here to listen to the Podcast. The links and photos of the bridges in detail are below:

 

Links:

Historic Staffeler Bridge in Limburg to be replaced. Old bridge to be repurposed for recreational use:

https://www.fnp.de/lokales/limburg-weilburg/limburg-hessen-staffeler-bruecke-soll-bleiben-12947468.html

 

Gänsetorbrücke spanning the River Danube at Ulm. Photo taken by AHert [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
Historic Gänsetorbrücke in Ulm/ Neu-Ulm to be torn down and replaced after losing its historic status:

https://www.swp.de/suedwesten/staedte/ulm/gaenstorbruecke-denkmalschutz-ist-vom-tisch-33019623.html

The Bridges of Ulm: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/the-bridges-of-ulm-germany/

Ulrich Finsterwalder Biography: https://www.b-tu.de/great-engineers-lexikon/ingenieure/finsterwalder-ulrich-1897-1988

King William Road with the Towers of the Bridge in the Background. Photo taken by Adam J.W.C (wikiCommons)

Historic King William Bridge in Adelaide, Australia to either close or be replaced by 2030:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-04/king-william-road-adelaide-bridge-might-need-to-be-replaced/11476978

 

Historic Bridge Stones stolen by vandals at historic bridge in Yorkshire. Police investigating:

https://www.wakefieldexpress.co.uk/news/crime/yorkshire-stone-stolen-from-200-year-old-grade-1-listed-bridge-at-ferrybridge-1-9969320

Hammersmith Bridge in London. Source: “Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0”

Historic Hammersmith Bridge in London to be Rehabilitated. Closed for three years.

https://www.taxi-point.co.uk/single-post/2019/09/03/Hammersmith-Bridge-repair-work-starts-and-expected-to-last-THREE-YEARS

Mangaweka Bridge in New Zealand spared demolition- will remain as a pedestrian/ bike crossing:

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/the-country/news/article.cfm?c_id=16&objectid=12264113

 

Brunel’s historic bridge in Bristol celebrating its birthday milestone (not the suspension bridge though):

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/whats-on/huge-birthday-celebrations-brunels-bridge-3277964

 

And Information on preservation and fundraising efforts (Contact Details included):

https://www.brunelsotherbridge.org.uk/

 

Historic drawbridge in Florida rehabbed and reopened to traffic:

http://bocanewspaper.com/camino-bridge-finally-reopens-after-renovations-28231

Historic bridge in Costa Rica faces unknown future as community mulls at replacement:

https://vozdeguanacaste.com/en/historic-bridge-in-liberia-faces-uncertain-future/

 

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The Bridges of Hof (Saale)

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Luftsteg at Hof Central Railway Station. Photo taken in 2017

Hof, in the far northeastern corner of Bavaria, is one of the most historically strategic cities in modern German history. The city, with a population of over 48,000 inhabitants, is located at two Dreiecken, with a history that dates back to the Cold War. To the southeast, there’s the Bayerische Dreieck near the town of Prex, where Bavaria, Saxony and the Czech Republic meet. To the northeast, there’s the Dreiländereck near Mödlareuth, where Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia meet. Until 1990, Hof was an isthmus surrounded by the Iron Curtain and with that, the German Democratic Republic (or East Germany), with the borders barb-wired, walled and patrolled by soldiers to ensure that no escaped to the west. Hof was in the line of a possible invasion by Warsaw Pact Forces as they would’ve marched into West Germany via Fulda Gap, had the conflict reached the point where the first missiles had fired.

In 1989, when East Germans fled to the west via Prague in what was Czechoslovakia, Hof was the meeting point where trains loaded with refugees passed through before heading to West Germany. Gutenfürst, located 10 kilometers to the northeast, was its main transit station into Saxony. When the Wall fell on 9 November, 1989, tens of thousands passed through Hof to get their Welcome Money (Begrüßungsgeld) and buy western goods for the first time ever. Traffic jams of up to 50 kilometers at the Rudolphstein Viaduct were common until the Koditz Viaduct and the Motorway 72 opened to traffic for the first time in almost three decades.

Since the Fall of the Wall and its subsequent Reunification, Hof has transformed itself. It used to be a Cold War modern city with Americans stationed there. Businesses catered to the needs of the soldiers and those who successfully escaped. Nowadays, they have gone out of business, but life goes on in the now quiet small city which is situated between the Vogtland, the Fichtel Mountains and the Franconian Forest. It’s the third largest city in the regional district of Upper Franconia Franconia behind Bayreuth and Bamberg and like the two, it houses not only its own city government but also that of its district. Hof belongs to the Beer Mile where one can try over a thousand different sorts of beer in places like Bayreuth, Kulmbach and Bamberg. Hof is famous for its Schlappenbier, one of the strongest beers ever brewed. And while the Galleria Kaufhof has shut down since 2018, the historic city center, with classical houses lining up along the streets leading to the St. Michaeliskirche, is still bustling with activities with weekly markets and especially its Christmas Market (for more on that, click here.) The city is home to the University of Sciences, where over 5,600 students attend for classes.

While they play a very small role during the Cold War and thereafter, the bridges of Hof have undergone a transition of their own, just like with some of the architecture in the city. No longer known for their modern Cold War architecture, many structures have been replaced with post-Cold War modern architectures, where slabs of concrete built in the 50s and 60s are being replaced with fancier designs made of steel, wood or even a combination of the two plus concrete decking. This includes the likes of the Theresiensteg near the City Park and the Luftsteg at the railway station. Only a few historic structures remain in Hof, whether they are the truss bridges near Filzwerk, or the arch bridges at Obere Steinbrücke or the railway viaduct at Unterkotzau, the oldest bridge still standing. And while most of these structures can be found along the railway and the River Saale, each one has a history of its own that have yet to be discovered. Although the city has its own website and a page devoted on bridges, there is only information on the bridge projects that are either planned or completed, but next to none on the structure’s history in comparison with the one we know about; some of which are located at the former East-West German border.

Henceforth, a tour guide has been created with the focus on the bridges of Hof. Based on the author’s visit this year, they will feature pictures of every bridge photographed in Hof with the information that is known about the bridge, with some gaps that need to be filled with regards to the bridges’ history. They include the structures along the River Saale from Oberkotzau to Unterkotzau, as well as those along the railline, including one at the railway station. Click onto the pictures and if you know of the history of one or more bridges, contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact information by clicking here. The information will then be added in the tour guide that is powered by GoogleMaps. Old photos of the bridges (including the spans that are long since been replaced or removed) are more than welcome.

Hof has a wide selection of bridges in terms of style, materials and different eras. The question is what were the stories behind them? What were they like before World War II? This is where the podium is now open.

Click onto the tour guide, click onto the bridges marked and Good Luck! 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 118: Wichert Truss Viaduct Serving Industrial Trains

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This Mystery Bridge is in connection with last week’s photo of the week. It is a unique find and one that will come up fast when approaching the city of Mittweida, located 15 kilometers north-northeast of Chemnitz. The city of 15,000 inhabitants is home to the college of applied sciences and has a unique historic setting, which straddles the valley of the River Zschopau and its tributaries.

This bridge is located at the junction of Burgstädter Strasse and Stadtring, which heads north towards the college. It’s a three span railroad viaduct that features a combination Pratt and Wichert Truss designs supported on steel, A-shaped piers. The total length is approximately 100 meters. The Wichert truss was designed by E.M. Wichert in Pittsburgh in 1930 and is characterized by its deck arch design with a diamond-shaped panel above each pier. The curved lower chord gives the bridge the form of an arch, but it does not rely on arch action to carry the load, according to sources. Wichert trusses were experimented with numerous deck-truss-arch bridges in and around Pittsburgh, and many of them still exist today. The most common Wichert truss bridge is the Homestead Grays Bridge near Pittsburgh. The 3,100-foot long bridge was built in 1936 and was last rehabilitated in 2006. Other Wichert truss spans can be found in Maryland and West Virginia.

Yet the viaduct in Mittweida had the characteristics of the Wichert truss design in it, which leads to the question of how Wichert developed and patented the truss design. Was it based on his observations of the previous designs, directly or indirectly? There is little known information written about Wichert, except the fact that his family name is predominantly German, meaning he may have emigrated from Germany to the US during one point in his life to start his career in Civil Engineering, just like the bridge builders before him, such as Albert Fink, Gustav Lindenthal, John Roebling, and Fritz Leonhardt. Finding out more about Wichert would open the doors to find out about his life and career. It would also help answer the question of the origin of his patented truss span.

As far as the bridge itself is concerned, the structure was built between 1906 and 1907 as part of the project to build a railroad line connecting Mittweida and Dreiwerden, located 12 km to the southeast. The line was built to allow trains to carry goods to the paper factory in Dreiwerden. The northern branch connecting Mittweida and Ringenthal was built at the same time to transport raw materials to the power plant. That line was dismantled after 1974. As for the southern branch where this viaduct is located, train service continued until its abandonment in 1997. The line has since been partially dismantled, but the bridge still stands today. It is unknown who built the bridge during that time, but the line was built under the auspisces of the Saxony Railroad Company (Sächsische Eisenbahngesellschaft GmbH) and financed by the Kingdom of Saxony during that time.

To summarize the points on this mystery bridge:

  1. The bridge was built between 1906 and 1907, serving the Mittweida-Dreiwerden southern branch, connecting the main train station with the paper factory.
  2. The bridge features one of the earliest of the Wichert truss designs even though it was patented in 1930.
  3. Little is known about E.M. Wichert, the inventor of the truss design, except that he may have been one of the German-immigrants that started his career in the States as a bridge builder and engineer.

Now it’s your turn to provide some information about this bridge and the inventor of the Wichert truss. If you have some useful information for either the bridge or the engineer, feel free to contact the Chronicles, using the channels available. The information will be updated as it comes in. A biography of E.M. Wichert will be included in the Chronicles under the category Bridge Builders Directory. Wishing you happy hunting and many thanks for your help.

Till we meet again. 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 117: The Bridges of Atlantis

The Asel Bridge. Photo taken by Hubert Beberich via wikiCommons

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The next Mystery Bridge article is in connection with the last Newsflyer article published last week on Lake Eder (in German: Edersee) and how the receding water levels are revealing relicts of the past, including a pair of bridges. To give you a brief summary of its location, Edersee is located in the district of Waldeck-Frankenberg in the northern part of Hesse, between the cities of Kassel and Warburg (Westphalia) in central Germany. One needs two hours from Frankfurt/Main in order to reach the lake. Edersee is an artificial lake that was built on orders of Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm II beginning in 1911. The dam and reservoir, located near Hemfurth was completed in 1914, but not before three villages were emptied of their inhabitants and later inundated. One of the villages is Asel, where the village’s lone surviving structure still stands.

The Asel Bridge is known by many as the Bridge to Atlantis at Asel (in German: Aselerbrücke). The bridge used to cross the river Eder when it was built in 1890. It is a four-span stone arch bridge, whose builder is unknown. It used to connect Asel with Vöhl before it was inundated with the creation of the reservoir. Over time, the bridge could be seen when water levels were low during the warm months from April to August. However, in the past decade, the levels have been decreasing to a point where the bridge can be seen in its glory year round. Furthermore, access to the bridge is possible on both ends and people can see relicts from the village before its relocation up the hill. The bridge, which has seen increasing numbers of visitors annually, is a living example of the village that had to move aside in the name of progress, having survived the test of time for more than a century.

Yet another crossing, located towards the dam between Scheid and Bringhausen, was not that lucky and only remains of the structure can be seen at low water point. The Eder Bridge at Bringhausen was built in 1893, made of wood, but it is unknown what type of bridge it was before its destruction- whether it was a covered bridge, truss bridge or a beam bridge. We also don’t know who built the bridge and at what cost. What we do know is when Scheid was relocated and the village was destroyed, so was the bridge itself. Today, what is left are the approach spans- made of stone- and the piers that used to support the wooden bridge- made of stone and concrete.

And finally, the third structural ruins that is closest to the dam is the Werbebrücke. This was located in the village of Berich, which is two Kilometers southwest of Waldeck Castle on the North end. Berich was the original site of the dam, water mill and mine that were constructed in the 1750s. The 75-meter long, five-span, stone arch bridge, with concrete keystone arch supports followed in 1899, even though we don’t know who was behind the work. We do know that the bridge was inundated along with the rest of Berich when the Reservoir was created. It was only  until 2010, when water levels started its constant drop, that scuba divers found the bridge remains and some relicts from the old village. Since then, one can see the relicts from shore, including the outer two of the five arches of the bridge.

Not much information on the three structures exists for they were either hidden somewhere or were lost in time due to the relocation and inundation to form the reservoir. As the dam at Hemfurth was one of four dams that were damaged extensively during the bombing raids of 1943, it is possible that fire and floods may have taken the rest of the documents. The dams were rebuilt after the end of World War II, using the Nazi prisoners of war as labor, as American forces rebuilt the area they occupied. Aside from their completion in 1947-49, they have been rehabilitated five times ever since.

Still the information presented on the three bridges at Asel, Berich and Scheid should be the starting point for research. What else do we know about the three bridges, aside from what was mentioned here? If you have some useful information to share, feel free to comment- either by e-mail or in the comment section below. To understand more about the Edersee, there are some useful links to help you. The facts can be found via wiki (here), but there is a website that has all the information on places of interests and activities for you to try (click here). There, you can keep an eye on water levels and plan for your next outing. A documentary on the history of Edersee via HNA can be accessed here.

 

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The infamous Edersee bombing raid happened on 17 May, 1943, when the British Squadron Nr. 617 under the Command of Guy Gibson, used the roll-and-rotating bombs dropped at the reservoir to bomb the dams. Holes were created causing damage to the dams and massive flooding that reached depths of up to eight meters. As many as 749 people perished and hundreds of homes and factories were destroyed in the attacks. The Americans took over the region, together with Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg and started a rebuilding plan, using prisoners of war plus troops who remained in Germany. While the area was rebuilt in five years’ time, the process of rebuilding Germany to its pre-war state took three decades to complete due to complications from the Cold War with the Soviets, who occupied the northeastern part of Germany (today: Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Pommerania and “East” Berlin). This is despite the Britons and French occupying the rest of what became later known as West Germany.

Prior to the destruction of Berich, a new village was established in 1912, approximately 15 kilometers away. Neu-Berich is located near the border to North Rhine-Westphalia west of Landau. For more on its history (and to buy the book), click here.

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 116: A unique bridge in the mountains built by a well-known engineer?

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The next mystery bridge takes us further towards the Czech Republic, right into the town of Olbernhau. With a population of 11,000 inhabitants, the community is known as the City of Seven Valleys, because of the valley of the River Flöha and ist six other tributaries that meet there. Because of that, the community has many historic bridges that one needs plenty of time to visit, even though the length of the crossings are short enough to equal either one 50 foot pony truss span or one arch span of between 15 and 20 meters.

Nevertheless, our focus of this mystery bridge is the longest of the spans, a railroad bridge spanning the River Flöha on the far eastern edge of town, right at the Czech Border. Its exact location can be found in the map below. The bridge is easy to find for when heading east, you cross both the railroad tracks and the bridge before turning right. The railroad bridge is on the right-hand side.

The railroad bridge is one of the most unusual of truss bridges in Europe and beyond. The 68-meter long crossing features a skewed span, where the truss panels are placed parallel of each other along the tracks but in a slanted position at around 60°. That means the truss panel on the left side starts first and after 20 meters, the right one. While there are no portal bracings that support the two truss panelings, the horizontal strut bracings- five panels of them- hold the trusses together. The struts consist of the system of Pratt-heel bracings angled at 15° with the center portion being M-framed. The truss bridge itself is a camelback Lattice truss design with riveted connections, yet they are not the typical truss designs used for the bridges. These have stiffened connections similar to the designs patented by Claus Köpke, an engineer responsible for the construction of the Blaue Wunder Brücke, Marienbrücke and the Alberthafenbrücken all in Dresden as well as a railroad bridge in Riesa. Köpke started his career as a bridge engineer, building bridges from 1872 until his death in 1911. And while he left his mark in the greater Dresden area and parts of Thuringia, it is unknown whether he built many crossings in the Ore Mountains, let alone at this location.

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The bridge was built in 1895, according to historic records and is the longest of the bridges, not only in Olbernhau but also along the rail line and the River Flöha. The construction of the bridge was part of the extension of the rail line from Olbernhau to Neuhausen, running along the Czech border. The crossing is part of the rail line that connected Pockau-Lengenfeld and Neuhausen, where the line was completed at Olbernhau in 1873, and 12 years later, extended to Nauhausen. The line was shut down in 2001 due to structural issues along the tracks and other infrastructure, yet was reactivated in 2011 after years of campaigning on the part of the mayor of Olbernhau combined with renovating the line, its train stations, and the crossings along the River Flöha. Today, the Deutsche Bahn Regional Services operates the line as it terminates in Flöha.

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The bridge is listed as a German heritage site and has been since 1998, yet still its historical significance is unknown. Did Köpke oversee the construction of the bridge as part of the rail project? If not, was he responsible for the design and another bridge builder took to the task? If neither that nor that, who was the genius behind this design? This question remains open for both the readers and bridge fans, as well as the locals in and around Olbernhau. If you have any information on the bridge builder behind this bridge, please contact the Chronicles. Whatever information is useful will be added here and the Office of German Heritage (Büro für Denkmalschutz) will be able to add this to the file that exists to this day. Whatever you can find will be much useful for the region and its enriched historic heritage.

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In other words, your contribution will be of utmost use. Thank you for your support.

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