Mystery Bridges Nr. 101: Die Geschwisterbrücken bei Schweizertal

The Bridge at Neuschweizerthal. By Aagnverglaser [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
BURGSTÄDT (GERMANY)- Located 10 river kilometers north of Chemnitz, one will find a pair of through truss bridges that had once served a rail line but will soon have a new purpose. Both span the River Chemnitz in the conglomerate community of Markersdorf-Taura but are very close together, connecting the district of Schweitzerthal-Amselgrund and Neuschweizerthal. Unique about these two bridges is that they look nearly identical in terms of its aesthetical appearance. They are both Warren through trusses, whose connections are welded and whose portal and strut bracings are the same. They feature Howe lattice, shaped in a trapezoidal fashion and supported by angled heel bracings (45°) that can be found at not only the diagonal end post (60°) but also at every single beam supported- both diagonal as well as vertical beams. This is really rare for a through truss bridge to have heel struts be connected to all the beams that form the panel.  The difference between the two is how they are constructed. The longer of the sister bridges has a straight portal approach and is 67 meters long. This is located next to the train station at Neuschweizerthal. The shorter of the two is located only 200 meters away around the curve, 100 meters away from the train station Amselgrund. That bridge has a 60° skew that was needed to support the curve. It is only seven meters shorter.  Both bridges were built around 1902 even though there is no record of the bridge builder, let alone the reason behind building the two crossings close together instead of leading the rail line along the river. Yet the reason for pinpointing the date to 1902 is the fact that these bridges were common during that time. In addition to that, it was built at the same time as the rail line connecting Chemnitz and Wechselburg. For a century, this line served freight service along the river because of the industries located nearby, especially in the industrial district in the north of Chemnitz.  Together with the Glauchau-Wurzen line, which it merged with at Wechselburg, the line was discontinued after 2002 due to the lack of profitablility combined with the Great Flood of 2002, which caused billions of Euros in damage to infrastructure and industry.

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The shorter bridge at Amselgrund. Photo taken in July 2018

In 2007, the Chemnitztal Cycling Association purchased the entire stretch to be converted into a rails-to-trails for cyclists and pedestrians and the line is being extended as of present. At the same time, a dandy horse-rail-line connecting Markersdorf-Taura and Schweizerthal went into service to provide a scenic tour for two kilometers. However, with the extension of the bike trail going through both communities, the days of the dandy horse may come to an end.

Currently, both bridges are being rehabilitated, refurbished and retrofitted for use of the bike trail. According to information by the Chemnitz Free Press, construction on the new stretch of bike trail between Claussnitz and Schweitzerthal started in April 2018, which includes these two bridges, plus another one south of Markersdorf-Taura. This six kilometer stretch is scheduled to be paved and open to traffic, pending on weather, by 2020 latest. As one can see in the photos here, plus in the BHC’s facebook page, work has progressed immensely in several segments, including the span at Schweizerthal. I was not able to get much of a photo of the bridge. However, I was lucky to get a few detailed shots of the shorter crossing and its skewed setting. As the decking had railroad track on it, there was no way to get a closer look at the beams to see if there were any inscriptions on there. But after the reconstruction is complete, maybe there is a chance to get a closer look at the bridge.

But then again, maybe some of the readers may have more information about these two sibling bridges, which will have a third life ahead of them. Do you have any information on the bridges’ history? Feel free to comment or send an e-mail. Any information may be of great help.

 

And for those who thought it was not allowed to walk on the grounds near the bridge, let me rest assure you no equipment or bridge parts were damaged during the photo session and it is only for the purpose of historic research for this blog. A book on the bridges in Saxony is being considered and perhaps you can be of great help there, just as a peace offering. Thank you. J

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 100: The Bridge at Fischweg in Chemnitz

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CHEMNITZ (GERMANY)- I’m going to be very honest for this mystery bridge, which is the 100th structure I’ve posted since launching the series in 2011. It was very, VERY difficult to decide which one to post next, for there was a large selection to choose from, ranging from an abandoned bridge along Route 66, a three-span through truss bridge in Oklahoma, a suspension bridge in India and this bridge. After some thorough consideration, I decided to go with the way that is the best in terms of my own merit as the structures have been mentioned by others in one way or another.

So here it comes: a through truss bridge that has been sitting on private land for a very long time, on the outskirts of a city that was for some time named after a Communist. Found by accident but not before almost getting my Volkswagen rammed into by a lorry behind me, who was cussing at me in Polish as he passed me by, after having parked my car off to the side. 😉

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OK, the Polish guy part was fake news, but looking at the rest of the picture, one can see that you don’t need to fact-check this beauty.  The bridge is located just off Highway 107, three kilometers north of the Motorway A4 and the Exit Chemnitz-Glösa. It sits on private land next to the restaurant and hotel Landgasthof Draisdorf, around the curve.  It is an eight-panel Pratt through truss bridge, built using welded connections- meaning the beams are held together by gusset plates and are not inserted into the plates, like we would see in other truss bridges. The end posts are typical for many European truss bridges built during its time: vertical instead of angled. The portal and strut bracings feature V-laced bracings with curved heel bracings. The middle strut heels appear to be subdivided.  The bridge can be seen from the highway- although it is not recommended to stop because the highway curves around the Landgasthof and one could risk such a rear- ender plus an explanation with the police to follow.  The bridge is about 5-6 meters tall, about 30-35 meters long and 3 meters wide, judging by my presence at the bridge and the photos I took of the bridge. While the bridge is one of five known in Chemnitz, this is the only through truss bridge within the city limits, counting the village of Draisdorf, where it sits.

The fun part comes with the history of the bridge. My first judgement of the bridge was that it was located over the River Chemnitz at Heinersdorfer Strasse and it was pulled offsite and to its current location after a new bridge was constructed 100 meters to the south. The truss bridge was replaced by a new bridge in 2005.  You can see the points mentioned on the map. However, research by the Saxony Ministry of Historic Monuments and Preservation (D: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Sachsen) in Dresden indicated that this truss bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse but at Fischweg near the cemetary in Glösa, only 400 meters south of the motorway exit. The map indicates that a bridge does exist but in a form of a bike and pedestrian crossing for the street ends on the grounds of a factory nearby. The date of construction of the bridge is 1900 and is currently listed in the Preservation Handbook for the State of Saxony (Denkmalschutzliste).

This leads us to the following questions which your help would be much appreciated in contributing whatever information may be of use:

  1. Is the date 1900 correct? Sometimes the year is used because of a lack of clarity in terms of when exactly it was built and open to traffic.
  2. If the bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse, what did the previous structure look like? When was it built and was it built by the same bridge builder as this bridge?
  3. Independent of what was mentioned in nr. 2, who was the bridge builder for this bridge?
  4. When was the current structure at Heinersdorfer Strasse built and what happened to the old structure?
  5. What factors led to the replacement of this bridge and who led the efforts in saving it for reuse?

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It’s not every day that a person and/or party steps forward to purchase the bridge and keep it for reuse. The bridge is privately owned and judging by my observations, it is being used as a picnic area with a porch swing attached to the top strut bracing. For most historic bridges that are purchased by private groups-namely homeowners, they are normally used for picnic areas and other forms of recreation more than for pedestrian and bike crossings because of liability reasons. It is different in comparison with private parties in the form of associations, park and recreational groups and the community that have more resources (including financial) to make sure the crossing is safe for reuse. But nevertheless, this bridge is safe and will most likely be in the hands of the homeowner until the need to get rid of it is near. When that happens, it can be hoped that the bridge is put back over the Chemnitz as a bike crossing. With the Chemnitztal Bike Path being extended and paved to Wechselburg, it would not be a surprise if this bridge was called to duty again given its preservation status and the interest in keeping it for generations to come.

And this is what makes this unexpected stop the most memorable- finding out the unknown about a structure like this one, which is truly a hidden gem.

And as we are on the same page, the next mystery bridge will go further downstream where a pair of structures are being refitted for bike use. More on this one in the next article. In the meantime, enjoy the photos here as well as on BHC’s facebook page.  And as for the aforementioned bridges at the beginning of the page, they will come later.

 

Author’s Note: Chemnitz was once named Karl-Marx-Stadt when it was under the rule of the German Democratic Republic. It even had a head statue of Karl Marx that can still be seen today. From 1953 until 1990, it was known that way.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 98: A small mill bridge spanning two waterways

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The 98th Mystery Bridge takes us back to the state of Saxony and the Vogtland Region. Not far from the village of Mylau is a very unusual stone arch bridge, which spans the River Goltzsch approximately one kilometer north of the Motorway A 72. The bridge is unusual for two reasons. Number one is a curve of the roadway of up to 120 degrees. That means when crossing the bridge going south, the road turns almost a sharp right. The arches form a skew in which the larger of the two has a 30° parallel skew, where as the smaller arch forms a funnel-like skew where one side is larger than the smaller. While the total length of the bridge is no more than 30 meters (the width is only two meters), the second unusual feature of the bridge is that it crosses two different waterways. The larger arch crosses the river, whereas the smaller arch crosses a canal which also crosses the river, running parallel to the larger arch span.

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The canal has long since been unused, and nature has taken over with small trees and bushes are growing directly in the canal bed. As one can see in the pictures above, the canal seems to be much newer than the stone arch span. The stone arch bridge dates back to the early 1800s when a water mill, known as Schottenmühle existed. The mill was used to harness energy and provide water to residents downstream, namely in Mylau and Netschkau. Records point to the first mill being built in the 1500s, yet the mill next to the bridge is the replica of the one built in trhe 1850s, but was abandoned by 1895 and was burned to the ground 6 April, 1896. The building was never rebuilt until almost a century later and is now a museum.  That was all that was found regarding the mill and with it the bridge.

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But what else do we know about this bridge and the mill? When was the bridge built, let alone the canal? If you have that information, feel free to comment or contact the Chronicles and add your thoughts on it. The structure is part of the bike trail running along the River Goltzsch, connecting Greiz with Eger in the Czech Republic and includes the world famous Goltzschtal Viaduct so accessing it is easy. Finding out more on the history of this mill and bridge is the other half of the battle yet to be won.

So good luck! 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 96: The Milford Lake Kingpost Truss Bridge in Kansas

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Photo taken by Forrest Stewart

Our 96th mystery bridge takes us to the central part of the US; specifically to Wakefield, in Clay County, Kansas. The Milford Lake Truss Bridge is one of two bridges that used to be located along a path on the western side of the lake. The truss span is a Kingpost pony truss, which features cruciform outriggers on the outer edge on the verticle post. The truss connections are riveted, however, the trusses are supported by V-laced lally columns, entrenched into the stream bed. Its decking is held by concrete wingwalls. The bridge is between 45 and 50 feet long between abutments; between 30 and 40 if focusing on the trusses. Judging by the age of the trusses and its connections, the bridge must’ve been built between 1900 and 1915 as riveted connections were being introduced at that time to replace the pinned connections. Furthermore, many of these riveted trusses included cruciform outriggers, designed to keep the trusses vertical and attached to the lower chord. Many local bridge builders used kingposts for small stream crossings, including those in Kansas, where this bridge is located. They include the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Works, Stupp Brothers (both of St. Louis), the Hewett families of bridge builders in Minneapolis (MN), RD Wheaton and Company in Chicago and Seevers Bridge Company in Oskaloosa (IA), just to name a few. This bridge was most likely built by a bridge contractor in Kansas or Missouri, given its approximate location near the border. But more information is needed to prove this.

As for Milford Lake itself, the lake was created by the US Corps. of Engineers in 1967, which included the damming of the Republican River. It was part of the project to control flooding and create recreational areas in and around Junction City. The lake has 15,700 acres of water and over 33,000 acres of land used for natural habitat. It is the largest lake in Kansas with a length of 20 miles and a width of five miles on average. When the lake was formed, this bridge was partially submerged along with a culvert, 200 feet away. Yet because of the drought, much of the lake has decreased in size and depth, thus revealing this beauty.

This presents a grand opportunity to save this bridge by restoring it, relocating it to a community that may need it and reuse it as a bike crossing.  Given its location right next to the water, leaving it as is may not be an option, for water levels may rise and the bridge may disappear- even for good. According to Forrest Stewart, who submitted this photo on Interesting Places in Kansas’ facebook site, and confirmed by many bridge enthusiasts, damage to the trusses has been reported which includes bends in the cruciform and bottom chords. Although it is not severe enough that the bridge is in immediate danger of collapse, some repairs are needed, nonetheless before it is repurposed.

To sum up: The bridge was rebuilt between 1900 and 1915 by a local bridge builder, but is in need of a new home before it is re-inundated again, possibly disappearing together. Can you help with the history and or the efforts? A map is enclosed to show its location. All you need to do is call for help.

So go help and good luck! 🙂

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 94: A Stone Arch Bridge that was once a Pony Express Route and a Major Highway

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Stone arch bridge. Photo and youtube film courtesy of Trey Pitsenberger

The next mystery bridge takes us out to eastern California in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe and along the Lincoln Highway. This stone arch bridge is located off US Highway 50 west of the town of Strawberry in the Eldorado State Forest, approximately 35 miles west of Lake Tahoe. One of the highway and bridge enthusiasts, Trey Pitsenberger, had to pull off due to a flat tire and found this one by chance. The most unique is that despite its connection with the Lincoln Highway and along with that, the Pony Express Route, this bridge has absolutely no historic background- who built the structure and even when it was built, even though it has been estimated to have been constructed at the turn of the century (1900).  Mr. Pitsenberger has produced a YouTube Video to show you the structure and some facts he has found so far. Check it out! 🙂

Sometimes fate presents itself in beautiful ways, even if it is a flat tire. 😉

For those who don’t know about it, the Pony Express Service was founded by William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell in 1860 and it featured mail service by horseback, connecting St. Joseph, Missouri and Oakland, with 186 mail stops every 10 miles, including the cities of Salt Lake City and Carson City, and going  through the treacherous Sierra Nevada Mountains. The service ceased with the telegraph line connecting St. Louis and San Francisco by 1862 and later the railroad service that followed in the 1870s and 80s. The Lincoln Highway, connecting San Francisco and New York via Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh would follow with its opening in 1913.

And as for the bridge itself, please feel free to comment below or via E-Mail. Whatever information that can be added to this bridge will be added. 🙂

 

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New Hope Truss Bridge Collapses

Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Product of Lomas Bridge and Iron Works Company Collapsed on 18 February. Causes are being investigated

CINCINNATI, OHIO- Police and county officials are looking into the causes of a historic Bridge that mysteriously collapsed three weeks ago. The New Hope Truss Bridge collapsed during the night of 18 February. Remains of the Bridge were found in the water the following morning resulting in the alerting of authorities. The Bridge had been abandoned for over three decades, having been made obsolete by the current structure that was built to the west of the iron structure since 1960. That bridge carries US Hwy. 68. Built over White Oak Creek north of New Hope in 1884, the iron truss structure was the product of the Lomas Forge and Bridge Works Company of Cincinnati, having carried Main Street between the village and points to the north. The truss bridge featured a Whipple through truss bridge with two layers of Town lattice Portal bracings, sandwiching the builders plaque in between. The connections were pinned. The total length was 160 feet with a deck width of 14 feet.  There had been interest in purchasing the bridge for the purpose of restoration and repurposing for recreation use, but nothing was ever realized.

The collapse of the bridge was a mysterious one for there had never been any flooding in the area. This leads to one of two theories: 1. The bridge collapsed under ist own weight as it happened with the Schell City Bridge in Missouri six years ago, or 2. Someone tried to dismantle the bridge in an attempt to steal metal parts to be sold in the market. In any case, because of flooding that has recently been affecting residents along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries, authorities will not be able to find out what exactly happened until the collapsed span is removed from the creek.

The loss of the bridge is a crushing one, for there is now one more through truss bridge left in Brown County at Higginsport. That bridge has been abandoned for many years and many people are fearing if nothing is done to restore the 1885 Whipple structure, that might meet its fate similar to the New Hope Bridge.  The George Street Bridge in Aurora, Indiana is the last surviving structure built by Lomas Forge. The Whipple through truss bridge was built in 1887 and was remodeled twice: in 1989 and again in 2011. The structure is still in use today.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 93: The Unusual Railroad Truss Bridge (or Bridges) in the Erzgebirge

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ERLA-CRANDORF (SAXONY); GERMANY- Not far from the towns of Markersbach and Schwarzenberg is our next mystery bridge. This one is located over the Schwarzwasser River in the small town of Erla. First mentioned in the history books in 1308, Erla and its neighboring village Crandorf are located three kilometers southwest of Schwarzenberg. Combined, they have a population of only 2000 inhabitants, with Erla having 850. The two communities had been a joint entity from 1925 until it became part of the Schwarzenberg consortium in 1999, which remains to this day. While Crandorf is located on top of one of the mountains in the Erzgebirge, Erla is wedged deep in the Schwarzwasser Valley and is easily accessible by rail and by highway, both leading to Johanngeorgenstadt, which is at the border between Germany and the Czech Republic.

This bridge is one of the most unusual through trusses one can visit. It is located 50 meters from the train station and right next to the steelworks, which has existed as long as the community. When looking at the bridge from a distance, it appears a duo span that are siamese twins, meaning one truss bridge is connected to a larger truss span. Upon further view, the bridges are indeed separate, but the spans are different in size and age. The only similarity is that they are both Warren trusses with subdivided vertical beams, yet the larger one has a Scharper design.

The larger span features a through truss span with a 45° skewed portal bracings, which stretches three panels on the right side of the truss. Both the portal and the strut bracings are I-beamed shaped, while the first left panel has a vertical bedstead endpost and 60° heel bracings supporting the first strut and the portal bracings. All beams are mainly I-beam, with the vertical beams being H-beam. All connections are riveted. Every panel has a heel bracing on the bottom end of the decking. The bridge is 25-30 meters long and about 10 meters wide. It is taller than the neighboring pony truss bridge by 2 meters. The bridge is much newer with the only engraving being the name of the steelworks company, the Friedrichshutte, based in Laubach (Hesse), which is east of Frankfurt (Main). It is very likely that the bridge was built after German Reunification and is between 10 and 20 years old. But when it was built is unknown.

It is just as unknown as the pony truss span  located right next to it. The bridge is definitely older, yet the question is how old. The Schwarzenberg-Johanngeorgenstadt-Karlsbad route was built in 1883, and the railroad was rerouted between Erla and Schwarzenberg in 1946, which included the elimination of the tunnel going underneath the castle in Schwarzenberg. The chances of the pony truss span being built during Communist times is likely as riveted and welded trusses began to take over trusses with pinned connections in 1910. Bridges built to replace those destroyed during World War II were built using this type of connections on the trusses. This pony truss bridge has welded connections as it was built using T-beams. Even the gusset plates are welded into the beams making it sturdier. What is unique about the pony truss span is its unusual skewed span. It appears that the skew is 60°+ or misaligned by four panels, which makes it unusual for a skewed truss span. The vertical beams feature a pencil-like thin trapezoidal design, where the beam’s width is 25 cm, yet the beams narrow to form a pencil chewed on both ends- with 40 cm from the top and 25 cm from the bottom chord. The truss is 2 meters tall and the width is about eight meters. Because of its age and narrowness, it was subsequentially replaced but never removed. Even though it has been fenced off, it appears that a bike or pedestrian trail may be in the works in the long term, especially as there is a bike trail already in existence between Aue and Schwarzenberg. If it is the case, it may be an advantage for those wishing to bike up the mountains.

A photo gallery of the two bridges is below. If you know more about the bridges, feel free to contact the Chronicles. The main questions to be answered are: What more do we know about the history of the bridges? What did they look like before 1945? When were the two bridges built? And in the case of the pony truss bridge, who was the bridge builder? Any ideas and help would be much appreciated.

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