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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Newsflyer: 5 August, 2019

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Champ Clark Bridge before its replacement bridge was built. Photo taken by Steve Conro in 2012.

 

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To listen to the podcast in detail, please click here.

Articles in connection with the headlines:

Pont des Trous in Tournais. Photo taken by Jean-Pol Grandmond (wikiCommons)

Historic Bridge in Tournai (Belgium) Dating back to the 13th Century Removed

News article on the Bridge removal

Information on the City of Tournai

Flooding Destroys Historic Bridge in Yorkshire (UK), threatens Cycling World Cup

News article on the flooding

Information on the Cycling World Cup.

Anderson Bridge in Singapore: One of three bridges gazetted as national Monuments. Photo by Kensang via wikiCommons

Three historic bridges and an open park in Singapore to be declared national Monuments

News article via Strait Times

Details on the three bridges via Strait Times

Tour Guide on the Bridges of Singapore (now a candidate for the 2019 Bridgehunter  Awards in Tour Guide International).

New Harmony Bridge in Indiana Gets a New Owner: Rehabilitation and Reopening Planned

Article on the Harmony Way Bridge Act

Information on the Harmony Way Bridge via bridgehunter.com

 

Champ Clark Bridge’s replacement span open; old Bridge coming down

Information on the Bridge and replacement project

Karnin Lift Bridge as of today. Photo by Kläuser via wikiCommons

The Reactivation of the railroad line to Usedom Island (Germany) and the Karnin Lift Bridge Close to Reality

Article on the Reactivation Project

Information on the Karnin Lift Bridge

The Bridge of Asel when water levels of Lake Eder are at its lowest. Photo taken in 2017 by Hubert Beberich via wikiCommons Levels have reached even lower since this photo was taken.

Low Waters make for Discovery of Atlantis in a Lake in Hesse

Article via FFH Frankfurt

Information on Findings via Lake Eder website

 

The Future of the Meadowbrook Park Truss Bridge after the Fire of 2017:

Article (poll included)

Information on the bridge

Feel free to comment in the Comment section below

 

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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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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 50

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Co-written with sister column FF new logo

Our 50th Pic of the Week keeps us at the former West and East German border (now Thuringia-Bavaria) but takes us to what was one of the most important crossings during the Cold War.

The Rudolphstein Viaduct, known since 2006 at The Bridge of German Unification, spans the River Saale between the towns of Rudolphstein on the Bavarian side and Hirschberg on the Thuringian side. Another town that is even closer to the bridge is Sparnberg, which is only a kilometer away. The 255 meter long bridge carries the Autobahn 9, which connects Berlin with Munich, passing through Leipzig/Halle, Hof, Nuremberg and Augsburg. The bridge was the work of Fritz Limpert and Paul Bonatz, built in 1936 as part of the project to build the Autobahn that still connects the two major cities. It featured two identical bridges with eight arches made of granite stone, with a height of 35 meters and a width for each bridge of 22 meters. It was one of the first crossings and served as a polster boy for Adolf Hitler’s Autobahn construction project which expanded until 1942 and included dozens of bridges similar to this crossing. Another bridge nearby, the Koditz Viaduct in Hof, was built in 1940 as part of the Autobahn project connecting Hof with Chemnitz.

The bridge was severely damaged before the end of World War II with one of the arches having been detonated by Nazi soldiers in a desperate attempt to slow the advancement of American troops from the south and the Soviets from the east. The bridge sat idle for 21 years until 1966, when an agreement between both East and West Germany allowed for the bridge to be repaired and reopened to traffic. It served as a border control crossing until the Fall of the Wall in 1989. Seven years later, an extension was built which serves northbound traffic to Berlin. The original spans serve southbound traffic.

A lot of the relicts from this viaduct and nearby can still be found today. This includes a path where the Soviets and East German police patrolled the Thuringian side to ensure that no one attempted to cross the border over to Bavarian side. This includes a unique pic which can be found here. South of the bridge is a former Bavarian crossing point, which is now a rest area with convenience store, restaurant and souvenir shop. And then we have this pic:

 

This was found on the north end of the bridge. The question here is what was this part of the bridge used for? We do know that parking at this bridge has been banned since 1989, but what was this place used for prior to that? This question goes to any historian, local, traveler or the like that is willing to answer this .

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 112: A double-barreled concrete bridge that used to serve a major road?

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This is the first video podcast of the bridge. The bridge is between 90 and 110 years old, spans a tributary of the River Zschopau south of Wolkenstein in central Saxony in the suburb of Niederau. The rest can be found by clicking here.

Video:

Map:

 

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Questions:

1. When was the bridge built? Who was the bridge builder?

2. What kind of road did it serve and what industries existed in the area of the bridge?

 

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What to do with a HB: Rosenstein- Brücke in Oberplanitz (Zwickau)

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Also the 112th Mystery Bridge.

A while back I received a phone call from a local living in Zwickau (Saxony) via the Free Press, who, in response to a newspaper article about my bridgehunting exploits there and in Glauchau, wanted me to check out a cool bridge that was not on the tour guide on Zwickau’s bridges. It was around 200 years old and was located in the suburb of Oberplanitz, which is in the southwestern part of the city. This came shortly before I got sick with the flu that was making its rounds in the region, including the school where I teach English. I had to sit it out for a couple weeks before I could get better. As soon as I was fully healthy and “physically able to perform,” I decided to embark on a small trip to get there.

The day couldn’t have been much prettier. Sunny skies accompanied with a Super Full Moon in the evening made for a trip that was well worth it. Enter the local living in Zwickau who is a “historian” having lived in the area for decades, Dieter Hofmann, whom I met at his place and who led me to the “Steinbruch” region on the northern end of Oberplanitz. We use the German word “Steinbruch” to describe the word quarry. According to Hofmann the region where the stone arch bridge is located had at least six different quarries, where different types of minerals were dug up and transported to regions for use on different forms of architecture. Red rock came from the region and was used for the construction of the Göltzschtal Viaduct in the Vogtland region in western Saxony. That bridge, built in 1851 and carries the Nuremberg-Hof-Dresden Magistrate Rail Line, still holds the title of being the largest brick arch viaduct in the world with four stories of arches spanning the River Göltzsch between Reichenbach and Greiz (Thuringia).

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After touring the quarries, all of which have been discontinued since the Reunification of Germany, we came to the jewel in the forest- a stone arch bridge spanning small creek on the outer edge of Kreuzberg Forest. According to Google Maps, the bridge used to carry Eisensteinstrasse but, according to sources, has been closed to traffic for at least 30 years. According to Hofmann and another local whom we met along the way with his dog, the road which the bridge carried was a primary route for transporting the likes of iron ore, granite, quartzite, limestone and other minerals out of the quarries and to their destinations for processing and use. That was until the route was cut short with a present-day bypass connecting Werdau and Schneeberg and dissecting the western side of Zwickau.

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The bridge itself is definitely an old, but primitive structure. It consists of a one-span stone arch span spanning the Planitzbach, a creek that eventually runs towards the Zwickau Mulde. Just before flowing underneath the bridge, the creek merges with another one on the south side. Records indicated the structure’s existence between 1839 and 1840, but given the non-existence of concrete combined with how it was built, one must not rule out it being older- at least two centuries old to be exact. The bridge was put together using layers of flattened rock, which was topped with a keystone. Another layer of stone was added for the railway. The construction of the bridge mirrors those built during the Roman Empire, most of them were on a large scale, including aqueducts. Examples of these gigantic structures still exist today in Spain, France, Italy and parts of southern Germany- the nearest ones being in Heidelberg and Trier. The bridge is approximately 20 meters long and 3-4 meters wide, yet deterioration of the bridge due to erosion has taken a meter off its width over the years.

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The bridge is famous because of the stone used for it, known as Rosenstein. It’s a grayish-red rock which if in the water, it not only changes color to red, but the creation of creases in the rock caused by erosion and water creates a round form, resembling a rose. We fished out some examples that were lying in the Planitzbach, two of which I now have in possession and have demonstrated this magic to my wife and daughter. Several neighbors have used this stone for their landscaping purposed- including the gardens.

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The bridge has been closed to traffic for 30 years, with signs and bars blocking access. Despite this, people still cross at their own risk because they use the former Eisenstrasse as a hiking trail. Yet chances of restoring the bridge to its original form is slim due to years of erosion in the arches. The worst hit area is the eastern side, where waters have eaten away at the bridge. Should this progress in the next 10-20 years without any maintenance, the bridge may collapse. As mentioned earlier, northern side of the bridge at its keystone has seen the decking being eaten away due to erosion caused by wind and rain, plus weather extremities. And vegetation has taken over the bridge with a tree and many bushes growing near or on the bridge.

Still it’s never too late to rebuild and reuse the bridge. The Rosenstein Bridge has a similar resemblance to another stone arch bridge located nearby, the Eger Bridge near Reichenbach in the Vogtland. Currently, funding has been approved for restoring the crossing which has existed since the 1769 but has been closed to traffic for over 30 years, bypassed by a concrete crossing. The arch bridge has suffered a lot since its closure, having sustained extensive damage due to floods and weather extremities.

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For the Rosenstein Bridge, one will need to rebuild the bridge from scratch, using the same materials as when it was originally constructed. Yet in order for it to be sturdy, some sort of adhesive would be needed, which could affect the bridge’s historical significance. Currently, the bridge is only known to locals and there has been no word of whether the structure would be a cultural monument, which means it could be updated into the Cultural Heritage Books (Denkmalschutzbuch) for the State of Saxony. Still, as one can see with the failed attempt to stop the demolition of the Bockau Arch Bridge (Rechenhausbrücke) near Aue (Saxony), just because a bridge is protected by the cultural heritage laws, does not mean that it cannot be torn down. That bridge was the very first structure in the state that was compromised by a replacement bridge through this concept, which puts many historic bridges and other structures on notice.

Yet in order to start the process of getting the bridge listed and saving it from the wrecking ball, we need more information on it. This will require some research at the local archives in Zwickau but also some help from additional people who may know about this bridge and can add to what I’ve collected so far. This is where you as the reader come in. Afterwards the state ministry of culture and heritage in Dresden will have to step in and do a study to determine the bridge’s historic significance. Once it’s listed, the bridge’s safe from demolition, and planning as well as fundraising can proceed to restore the structure, with proposals bouncing around on the local and state levels.

While it’s easy to do it in chronological order, there has been some consideration about removing the bridge and possibly replacing it. That means everything has to be done at once to ensure we can beat the clock. This was a painful lesson we learned the hard way with the Bockau Arch Bridge- we started late and were always behind the clock, for the state ministry of transport was three goals ahead in handball and we had no chance to even tie the game- meaning in this case, delay the demolition to allow Berlin and Dresden to have a look at the petition.

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So what do we know about this find? If you are a local, tell us. What can you do to help save and restore the bridge? If you have the expertise and the will, tell us. What can you do to get the public’s attention? Apart from social media, the newspaper and meeting with people, if you have some ideas on where to start, tell us. Thanks to Dieter and his friend with the dog, we know where the bridge is in, and we have a starting point on its history. It’s just a question of moving forward.

A link to the gallery of photos taken of the Rosenstein Brücke can be found here.

 

Author’s Note:

Apart from Dieter Hofmann, there’s David Hagebäumer from the Free Press newspaper in Zwickau to thank for bringing this matter to my attention. Without the three of you and the dog, this bridge would’ve quietly vanished into history. Now we know about this gem, and knowing is half the battle.

 

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Mystery Bridge 111: A Valley Bridge that used to serve a Major Highway

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Photographer Nicolas Beauchamp and other bridge enthusiasts need your help in solving this case. This towering viaduct, which features a deck plate girder bridge, supported by A-framed towers, was found recently by accident. Given its age and the number of years it has been sitting abandoned, the viaduct appears to be between 90 and 100 years old, and it features a pair of finial towers at the center of the bridge deck. Given the density of the forest, one needs to narrow down the location of the bridge to the western half of the US. As there is speculation that the bridge used to go along the Mother Highway US 66, this means that somewhere in Oklahoma, New Mexico or eastern California was where this bridge was located. It is possible that because of its narrowness, it may have been the first highway crossing before it was relocated on a different alignment, where the newer highway was wider and had two-lanes accommodating traffic. One cannot even rule out the possibility that prior to it becoming a highway crossing, it used to serve rail traffic, providing train service to southern California from an unknown destination in the East.

So let’s summarize what we know:

1. The bridge is a viaduct featuring a steel girder (three spans) supported by A-frame concrete towers spanning a deep valley

2. The viaduct is around a century old

3. The viaduct may have been a railroad crossing before becoming a highway one.

4. The bridge may have been part of a major highway before it was rendered functionally obsolete. Many claim that it was part of US Hwy. 66 but other highways may have played a role.

5. The bridge is located in southwestern US- if confirmed with the Route 66 theory, then it is located in Oklahoma, New Mexico or California. Arizona has mostly desert regions with little trees, making its location more unlikely.

 

What do we need to know?

1. Where exactly is the bridge located?

2. When was it exactly built and who was the bridge builder?

3. If it used to serve a railroad and/or main highway, which routes were they?

We have to keep in mind that despite state aid highways having existed since the turn of the century in general, the US highway system was introduced in 1926, the same year that US 66 was designated as a highway connecting Chicago with Los Angeles via St. Louis, Tulsa and Santa Fe.

What do you know about this bridge?  Provide your comments here as well as in the Chronicles’ social media pages. Whatever information is useful will be added here.

And as for the photo taken by Mr. Beauchamp, many thanks and the bridge does have a nice green background to it. 🙂

 

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