Kassberg Bridge to be Rehabilitated

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150-year old historic bridge to be closed until Fall 2019 for renovations.

CHEMNITZ, GERMANY-  When travelling through Chemnitz in central Saxony, one will be amazed by the architecture the city has to offer. Be it from the age of industrialization, the Communist era or even the present, the city has a wide-array to choose from, which will please the eyes of the tourists, making them want to spend time there in the third largest city in the state.  Chemnitz has over 100 historic bridges that are a century old or more, most of them are arch structures made of stone, concrete or a combination of the two. But each one tells a story of how it was built and how it has served the city.

Take for instance, the Karl-Schmidt-Rottluft Bridge, on the west side of the city center. Spanning the Chemnitz River and Fabrikstrasse carrying the Ramp leading to the suburb of Kassberg, this bridge has a character in itself. The dark brown-colored stone arch bridge has been serving traffic for over 150 years, running parallel to the Bierbrücke located just to the north by about 80 meters. The five-span arch bridge features variable sizes of the arches to accomodate the ravine: two of the largest for the river, one of the widest for Fabrikstrasse and the narrowest for pedestrians, all totalling approximately 120 meters- three times as long as the Bierbrücke. The bridge was named after Karl-Schmidt-Rottluft, an expressionist painter during the (inter) war period.

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Despite its services over the year, the City of Chemnitz plans to shut down the bridge beginning in the Spring 2018 allow for extensive rennovations. The 2.8 million Euro project ($4.3 million) will include extensive work on the retaining walls and stairway connecting crossing and Fabrikstrasse below. Furthermore, repairs to the arches and renewing the decking and railings will be in the plans. The State of Saxony provided two million ($3.2 million) for the project as part of the initiative “Bridges in the Future”, which was started in 2015 and is designed to restore many of the state’s historic bridges while replacing many in dire need and beyond repair. The City of Chemnitz needed to cover the rest of the cost. The project is scheduled to be completed by October 2019.

Despite the inconvenience people will have to deal with during the 1.5 year closure, the renovation is a must, based on my many visits since the beginning of this year. Many cracks were showing in the arches and attempts to shore up the spans using concrete made the under half of the arch appear derelict. Furthermore, debris on the stone materials made the bridge in general appear dirty. Then there is the multiple spider webs hanging from the bridge, making the structure really spooky, as seen in the picture below.

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Yet on hindsight, the bridge and the nearby pub, bearing Kassberg’s name, have a unique setting which warrants such a project. While many engineers and planners have evicted owners from their businesses because of new bridges to be built, the planners for this project ensured that this will never happen, especially as the pub crafts its own microbrew, hosts many cultural events and even has a museum focusing on the district. For this bridge, it is a blessing that it will be restored to its natural beauty, while ensuring that it will continue to safely provide services to drivers and pedestrians alike.

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From a historian’s point of view, this bridge warrants more information on its history. If you have some to share, please use the contact details here and write to the author. A tour guide in English will be made available in the next year, in connection with the city’s 875th anniversary celebrations.

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Source: Chemnitz Free Press

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 89: Howe Bedstead Truss Bridge in Muscatine

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The 89th mystery bridge takes us back to Iowa and to a town of Muscatine. Located along the Mississippi River, the town of 22,886 inhabitants prides itself on its historic buildings in downtown, the riverfront and the lone LED-lit bridge in the Norman Beckley Bridge, the lone Mississippi River crossing that carries vehicular traffic into Illinois. Natural inhabitant areas, such as areas along the Iowa River and Wildcat Den State Park make the county seat in southeastern Iowa a treat for boaters and drivers alike.

This mystery bridge was discovered by fellow bridgehunter Luke Harden and is located directly in Muscatine. This pony truss span features two Howe designs that have welded connections, with a length totalling not more than 60 feet long. The width is not more than 14 feet. Spanning Geneva Creek west of Issett Avenue, the bridge connects Hilltop Baptist Church on the western bank with a towing company on the eastern bank. According to Harden, the bridge first appeared on a USGS map in 1951 and had been in the middle of farmland prior to the urbanization effect, which followed after 1960.  Yet looking at the rust and the riveted/welded connections of the bridge itself, it is very likely that it was constructed much earlier but at a different location. Estimates of the bridge’s age ranges from between 80 and 110 years old. Many bridge companies in the region constructed these bridges between 1905 and 1925, including the Stupp Brothers Company in St. Louis and the King Bridge Company in Cleveland. Yet there is no real information as to who built this bridge and when. However, a similar bridge exists at a park in Henry County, approximately 40 miles to the southeast. There the bridge build date goes back to 1907 but on a farm road. It was relocated to its present site a decade ago.

This leads us to the question of when this bridge was relocated to its present site and from which place of origin. Also important is when it was constructed, aside from the fact that estimates are narrowed to between 1905 and 1920.

Can you solve this case? Feel free to provide some clues and informatiop. A page where the bridge is located is here, which includes a map.

The Bridges of Schlema, Germany

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Bad Schlema Railroad Bridge. Photos taken by the author in August-November, 2017

Part three of the historic bridge tour in the western part of the Ore Mountain region (German: Erzgebirge) takes us northeast to Bad Schlema. When we think of the community of about 5,700 inhabitants and the word Bad, it does not refer to the condition of the town. Granted there are many derelict buildings whose historic value warrants renovation and conversion into a recreational facility of some sorts per building, while some houses and even bridges that are at least 50 years old and have cracks and missing siding are in need of some renovations.  The word Bad in German stands for either bath(room) or health spa. In the case of Schlema, it is the latter. Nestled deep into the valley of the River Schlema, the houses, both modern and antique line up along the creek that is only 10 meters wide but cuts a huge gorge into the mountains enroute to the Zwickauer Mulde at the site of the Stone Arch Bridge (see article for more details).  The health spa in Bad Schlema is over a century old and consists of radon bath house, hotel and resort and a park complex- all within approximately five acres of each other, the size of a typical rural American golf course, like the one at Loon Lake in Jackson County, Minnesota, where I spent most of my childhood. One can recognize the health spa area by the large tent that pops up as you drive on the road connecting Hartenstein and Bad Schlema heading west in the direction of Schneeberg. That road is part of Silver Road, the longest road in Saxony which starts in Zwickau and passes through Schneeberg and Schlema enroute to Freiberg and Saxony. It has a storied history in connection with mining of copper, Silver, iron and uranium and many sites in Schlema serve as memorials for the regional past time.

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Close-up of the tent-style building which is the Radon Health Spa.

But as I mentioned in my previous article on the Stone Arch Bridge, Bad Schlema was once connected by a rail line, which branched off from the north-south route connecting Aue and Zwickau (enroute to Werdau and Leipzig), ran along the Schlema going past the north end of Schneeberg before terminating at Neustädtel to the northwest. Five stations provided access for people to board, including Oberschlema, Schneeberg and Neustädtel, yet by 1955 only the station at Niederschlema was still serving trains, but along the Zwickauer Mulde. That was later renamed Bad Schlema. The line to Niederschlema was discontinued and later dismantled to make way for the main highway (B169) that now connects Schneeberg with the Saxony Police Academy and all points westward. However, some relicts of the Schneeberg Line still exist in Bad Schlema, including the Oberschlema Train Station (now privately owned), flanked with three bridges.

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The three bridges at the former Oberschlema Train Station

But when comparing the bridges to the ones in Zschorlau (in the previous article), Schlema has many more small bridge crossings spanning the small river that empties into the Zwickauer Mulde- 44 to be exact! But unlike the crossings in the town south of Schneeberg, most of these bridges in Schlema are wooden crossings that serve private property on the opposite side of the bank. The exception is a crossing at a bus stop, which given the proximity of the road running parallel to the river, makes sense. That bridge and bus stop is co-owned by the community and the regional bus service RVE.

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Yet there are some standouts that are worth noting, which you can find on the map below. Like in the ones for Aue and Zschorlau, the location of the bridges include some information and photos, which will help you find the bridges when visiting Bad Schlema. A lot of information is missing and therefore, if you have any you wish to add, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles and will add it accordingly.

Good luck! 🙂

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 88: The Stone Arch Bridges of Zschorlau near Schneeberg

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Stone Arch Bridge at Nuschke Pond spanning Zschorlau Creek. The oldest bridge built in 1811. Photos taken in October 2017

Our next mystery bridge article features not just one, two or even five bridges. But 23 to be exact!

And the irony behind this is that they are all located in the small town of Zschorlau- a town of only 5,600 inhabitants!

Located three kilometers southwest of Schneeberg and six kilometers west of Aue, Zschorlau is a very quiet town, nestled away in the valley of the Zschorlaubach Creek, which starts in the mountains in the southwest of town and after feeding off from Filzteich Pond, located west of the Saxony Police Academy- Schneeberg Campus, curves around to the southeast, forming a glen and slicing the town in half. The Valley Road, connecting the community with Aue, was built in 1907 and along that highway, one will be greeted by Fachwerk houses in the town center, the Evangelical Church, and the St. Anna am Freundenstein visitor mine, where the annual matin shift, with music and food, takes place at Christmas time.

Along the Zschorlaubach, one will find 23 bridges connecting the north and south sides of the community. Most of them are publicly used to this day, providing access to areas to the south, such as the Eibenstock Reservoir, as well as to the north, which features Schneeberg and its suburbs. All but five of the bridges are at the most 15 years old. The remaining five that exist are all stone arch bridges that are at least 80 years old. The oldest bridge is 206 years old, is located at the site of the city pond, town hall and library and is still used as a crossing today albeit as a pedestrian and bike crossing.  Other bridges appear to have been built using the same material- tungsten ore with granite and wolframite features. Yet we don’t know when they were built despite having the assumption that they were homemade thanks to the nearby mine at St. Anna. Nor do we know how many more bridges built of stone arch design and using this material had been built before they were replaced with their current structure, all beam spans and made of concrete. One can assume that between 1800 and 1940 the stone arch bridges were built only to have been replaced because of neglect thanks to World War II and the subsequent Communist rule that followed until the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunited.

As with the tour guide on the bridges in neighboring Aue, this tour guide features the remaining stone arch bridges in Zschorlau. Some information added to the photos are based on the inscriptions into the bridge itself. But the information is far from complete. What else do we know about the bridges that exist today still? What about the modern ones that exist- what were their predecessors like in terms of design and appearance and when were they built? One hint I will provide regarding the length and dimensions: the length of the remaining stone arch bridges are between 10 and 15 meters and the width between 8 and 10 meters, while two of the bridges were widened by 4 meters each- the last bridge to have been rehabilitated was in 2004.

But what else do we know about the bridges in Zschorlau? This is for you to stand up and shine with some information about them! Look at the map, click on the bridges and look at the crossings not marked (that are replaced). What can you tell us about them?  Information and pics are welcome! 🙂

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 87: A Bridge with an Unusual Railing and Plaque

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Our 87th mystery bridge takes us down to Saxony again and to the town of Eibenstock. Located 13 kilometers southwest of Schneeberg and 22 kilometers west of Aue, this community of 7,000 inhabitants feature not only one but thirteen different sections that had once been villages, all located within a 122.2 squared kilometers from each other, meaning approximately 68 people per square km. At at a height of 650 meters above sea level, Eibenstock is one of the highest communities in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountain region). Founded 862 years ago, the community was one of the main centers for nickel and copper mining in the region. Much of the architecture from the 17th and 18th Centuries have remained in tact, including the churches, the Post Mile and the historic town center. There, one can find mini fairy tale huts with scenes from over a dozen stories. The town is located south of the Eibenstock Reservoir, an artificial lake that was created with the Dam, built in 1984 to control the flow of water from the Zwickauer Mulde River. Prior to that, the river valley was one of the deepest in Saxony and one that required both a railway line from Chemnitz and Aue but also a steep cable-line car to Eibenstock, once the steepest in eastern Germany. Both gave way to progress with the dam and reservoir. But even the lake provides some boating, fishing and hiking opportunities in the summer time, a complement to its traditional skiing and winter amusement area between the lake and the community.

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One of several Stone arch bridges in Eibenstock. This one is at Haberleithe and Bachstrasse

 

And while the Zwickauer Mulde flows past the town of Eibenstock through the lake bearing its name, two creeks flow through the town, merging at the town square at the corner of the town’s elementary school: the Dönitzbach and the Rähmerbach. From there, the newly merged Rähmerbach flows quickly down the steep valley and empties into the Reservoir, only two kilometers away.  Several arch bridges cross the two creeks in Eibenstock- the classical stone arch bridge as well as modern arch bridges whose decking and railings curve upwards. With each span having a length of 5-10 meters, it is easy to overlook them because they are typical structures a person could even jump over. However, one cannot overlook this structure:

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It is a short beam bridge with a length of 9-10 meters and 8 meters wide. It spans the Dönitzbach carrying Bürgermeister Hesse Strasse at the market square on the opposite end of the elementary school, where Winklerstrasse meets.  While one may look at it as just a short bridge, the uniqueness comes with the railing on the side facing the market square.  There, we have a curved railing with vertical ends, all made using sandstone brick. At the center of the span, the top portion makes a U-shaped dip deep enough to include an iron shield. Curved and ornamental, the shield represents the symbol of luck, featuring a long rake in the middle, a three-leaf clover on the left and a miner’s chisel on the right. One can assume that given Eibenstock’s location in the Erzgebirge, the shield goes by the slogan “Glück Auf!” which means either “Good luck!” or even “Hello!” in German. In fact, the Erzgebirge Region has three characteristics that make it special: woodwork, mining and farming. When visiting the Christmas market in Germany and visiting the booth selling products from the Region, be it a lighted Christmas arch (Lichterbogen), Christmas Pyramid or any wooden products as well as metal bracelets and figures, one will see how they are handmade, going from forest or mines through the whole process into the fine product to be given to your loved one for the Holidays.

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Close-up of the iron shield with the markings typical of the Region. Any ideas how old this is?

 

But going back to the mystery bridge, the structure appears to have been built most recently, going back no more than 10 years, and the railing and iron shield stemmed from the structure the present bridge replaced. This can be seen, especially with the shield, as it has shown some wear and tear over the years with rust and corrosion appearing especially on the back side. The question is what did the previous bridge look like? Did it look like the stone arches that still exist in Eibenstock? When was it built and if the shield was part of the original structure, since when, and who designed it?

 

If you have any answers, then we’ll be happy to take them. Just drop a line and we’ll update this bridge until the mystery bridge is solved.

For those who want an Impression of the German Christmas market from the author, you should check out the sister column, The Flensburg Files and its tour guide page. There, you can find the places the author has visited, including those in the Erzgebirge and Saxony to date. This Season’s tour continues in the Erzgebirge and includes some Holiday stories of Christmas’ past. Click on the link to the Tour Guide page and here for details on the Holiday stories that are being collected.

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 86: Brick Culverts spanning Drainage Canals and Gullies along the North Sea

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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.

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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.

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Arkadiko Bridge in Greece. Photo taken in 2012 Flausa123 courtesy of wikipedia

 

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.

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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.

 

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Detailed markings of one of the culverts. Look at the rust and moss that has developed over the years.

 

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.

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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.

 

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 85: A Covered Bridge with a Thatched Roof

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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.

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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.

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Close-up of the A-framed Kingpost truss design.

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.

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Close-up of the thatched roofing: The reed is the bottom layer; the sedge or rush is the top layer.

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.

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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.  🙂

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