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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Mystery Bridge Nr. 84: An Ancient Bridge over a Small Waterfall

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ERFURT, GERMANY- This Mystery Bridge article takes us back to my old battleground for bridges and teaching English: the city of Erfurt in the German state of Thuringia. As mentioned in the tour guide series five years ago, the capital has a population of 240,000 inhabitants and has over 240 bridges spanning the River Gera, the Diversion Canal Flutgraben, as well as several creeks and highways. This includes over two dozen arch bridges in the city center as well as along the Flutgraben.

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Pförtchenbrücke spanning the Flutgraben at Pförtchenstrasse southwest of Erfurt Central Station Photo taken in July 2017

And while the authors have done research on the bridges in Erfurt for two books, the latest was released in 2012, they probably have seen this bridge many times, but have crossed this bridge without noticing it just as many times as well……

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Beautiful waterfall on the southeast end of Pförtchen Bridge as the creek empties into the Flutgraben. However, when climbing up the rocks and going underneath the bridge that serves a bike path, I found another bridge, or something looking like a bridge…….

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Judging by the features of the arch strutcure, this may be the oldest infrastructure that existed in the city of Erfurt, as the bridge is made of stone, but the keystone features resemble a monster spewing out water as it flows into the mouth of the canal:

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Judging by the length of the bridge, it is no longer than 10 meters and is no more than 1.5 meters above the water.  No plaLittle is know about this bridge except for the fact that the area used to be part of the Steigerwald Forest before it was occupied with houses in the 1860s. In fact, the Pförtchen Bridge itself was once a wooden bridge built in 1875 and having served horse and buggy as a gateway to the walled city. The bridge was then replaced by the current structure in 1897 when the canal was built and the older structure was removed. It is possible that this bridge was a key crossing going to the forest, but when the first bridge was constructed, it was filled in, converting it to a pipeline which still serves the waterway. This is most likely the case as there is no known data that can prove that the pipeline was made with stone arches, unless there was a canal serving residents in the southern part of Erfurt. But even then, it would have to have been made with brick or concrete, or even lead.

But never say never, when it comes to civil engineering. When engineers have a creative idea and/or will, they will carry it out, for the purpose of experiment, aesthetics and especially, functionality. 🙂

And so, it’s your turn. What do you think and/or know about this bridge? Is this an original crossing or a pipeline? How old do you think this bridge is?  Your help with comments and information would be of great help. You can provide your thoughts and comments here or via e-mail.

 

While you are at it, check out the updated version of Erfurt’s Bridge Tour Part 1, which features bridges in the outskirts. This includes maps and additional information as well as additional information via Instagram. Click here to view. Part 2 of the city center’s bridges will follow in the fall.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 83: The Twin Bridges of Salisbury, CT

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Postcard courtesy of Dana and Ray Klein

After some time looking at the mystery bridges in the German state of Saxony, our next Mystery Bridge takes us back to the United States and the community of Salisbury in northwestern Connecticut. With a population of 3655 inhabitants, the town, incorporated in 1741, is part of the New York Metropolitan Region, which encompasses the entire state. Salisbury is laden with many historic buildings dating back to the time of its incorporation, some are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Because of its proximity to Mount Frissell in Massachusetts, the community is situated on the highest point in the state, with an elevation of 2380 feet above sea level. And lastly, the community has six lakes and several ponds. And with that come many bridges, although in high numbers.

And with the high number of bridges in the community, come the difficulties of finding rare structures and mystery bridges with missing information, like these two bridges in the postcard above.

Posted recently on bridgehunter.com by Dana and Ray Klein, one can see clearly that the bridge on the left was for pedestrians- on the right for horse and buggy and later, the Model T cars. The setting is around the turn of the century because of their design and appearance. Given the high number of trees and the given facts above, the twin bridges spanned a waterway connecting a pair of lakes and/or ponds. The question here is where exactly the bridge is located.

A closer look at the two bridges show that the material used for construction was clearly iron (most likely, cast iron), for two reasons:

  1. The pedestrian bridge features a curved design, namely curved endposts, and appears to have some artistic designs on the trusses, similar to the ones found at Central Park in New York City. These bridges were built in various areas between 1865 and 1880. It’s unknown what exactly the truss type was given the transversal view in the postcard.
  2. The vehicular bridge featured a Parker pony truss span, using the earliest design by C.H. Parker when it was patented in 1884. The connections were pin-connected, but unlike other regular Parker designs built after 1890, the upper chord consists of eyebar beams built in short lengths per panel with four or five put together. The vertical and diagonal beams are integrated into this mechanism and pins are used to connect all of them. In the picture, you can see how far apart they are, in comparison with conventional pin-connections, whose vertical beams are inserted into the upper chord, and pins are used solely for the diagonal beams. When Parker introduced his design, wrought iron was already being used, even though it was being phased out in favor of steel because of its flexibility and tolerance to heat. From 1890 onwards, all truss bridges were being built using this material. Therefore, because iron was used for circular designs and ornaments, in comparison to steel used for other geometrical shapes, such as rectangular ones, the bridge was built between 1885 and 1890.

Both bridges are long gone, but it would be curious to know the following questions:

  1. Where were the bridges located?
  2. When were the bridges built? The Parker was most likely between 1885 and 1890, while the pedestrian span was built before 1885.
  3. Who built the bridge?
  4. What were the dimensions of the two bridges?  For both, it appears to have the length of between 40 and 70 feet. The pedestrian span had a width of between 10 and 20 feet; the vehicular one, between 15 and 25 feet.
  5. When were they removed? Most likely because of the progressive development of the infrastructure combined with population growth, they were gone before 1960 latest, unless they were relocated. If relocated, where could one see the bridge today?

Do you know about the bridges, then send the author a line or post the information on the Chronicles’ facebook page. You can also comment on bridgehunter.com, where the postcard came from. In either case, we would like to know more about the structures.

So happy bridgehunting! 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 82: Bienertstrasse Bridge near Dresden, Germany

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Bienertstrasse Bridge in Dresden (suburb: Plauen). Photos taken in June 2017

Our next mystery bridge is a diamond in the rough, in a literal sense of the word. When travelling along the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate by train, one can find a lot of surprises along the way, especially as far as bridges are concerned. I have a couple tour guides in the making that prove this theory. Some of the surprises a person can see along the way are hidden and requires some bridgehunting, as was the case with Glauchau. But this mystery bridge was a one found purely by chance.

Located 1.5 hours east that city along the rail line, this bridge spans the Weisseritz River in the suburb of Plauen, located between Dresden and Freital, the former having jurisdiction. The street it carries is Bienertstrasse, and it is located 350 meters southeast of the S-bahn station Dresden-Plauen (light rail is the English equivalent).  The bridge is part of the local bike trail network that extends from Dresden through Freital and then through Rabenau Forest going uphill.

Looking at the structure itself, the bridge is a Howe lattice pony truss with welded connections. The endposts are vertical but have a slight curve towards the top, resembling a bottle with a thin rectangular block on top. There are curved gusset plates at the top and bottom chords as well as the mid-point in the panel where the diagonal beams intersect. Engraved geometrical designs are noticeable in the end posts, which if following the patterns of the truss bridge design, places the construction date to between 1880 and 1900. Yet postcards and old photos indicated that the bridge was built in 1893, replacing a brick arch bridge, which was washed away by flash floods. Despite 80% of the city being destroyed during World War II, much of which came with the infamous air raid of 13 February 1945, which turned the once Baroque city into a blazing inferno and wiped out 60% of the city’s population, this bridge retains its pristine form and is still open to traffic.

But for how long?

Already there has been talk about replacing this bridge because of the need to open another crossing and relieve traffic at the neighboring ones at Würzburger Strasse and Altplauen Strasse, each of which are 400 meters away from this bridge in each direction. The bridge had been damaged by the Great Flood of 2002, which wiped out every other bridge in its path and damaging one in three of the remaining crossings to a point where replacement was a necessity.  Given its proximity to the mountain areas and to Dresden, the Weisseritz is notorious for its flash floods, which has caused city planners to consider long-term planning to encourage the free-flow of water enroute to the Elbe River, 8 kilometers from the site of this bridge. Given the densely populated area of the suburbs lining along the Weisseritz, it would make the most sense. However, opponents of the plan to replace the Biernertstrasse Bridge disagree. Apart from its historic significance, many, including the German bike association ADFC, have claimed that there is not enough traffic to justify replacing the bridge. In addition, the bridge serves as a key link for bikers going to other suburbs or even to Dresden itself. Given the high number of cyclists pedaling their way around the metropolitan area, combined with an ever-growing network of bike trails, that argument is well-justified.

For now, the bridge is safe and open to cyclists and pedestrians. Yet it is unknown if this bridge will remain a fixed crossing or if it will be lifted 1-2 meters as was the case with the Red Bridge in Des Moines, or if it will be replaced. What may serve as insurance and keep the developers’ hands off the structure is listing it as a technical monument in accordance to the German Historic Preservation Laws.  Yet despite its unique design and the fact that the bridge was built in 1893, we don’t know who was behind the design and construction of this bridge. And therefore, we need your help.

What do you know about this bridge? What about its predecessor? Tell us about it. The photos and the map with the location of the bridge is below. 🙂

Author’s Pics:

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 81: The Bridge to an Elevator

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During my tour of Chemnitz in western Saxony a few days ago, I happened to come across this rather unusual crossing. Spanning the Kappelbach Creek approximately 150 meters west of the River Chemnitz and the Pfortensteg in the city of Chemnitz, this crossing is located at a park where the bike path runs parallel to the river through the city with 240,000 inhabitants. By first glance, my impression was that it was a typical concrete beam bridge built in the East German era like many other bridges that had been destroyed in World War II. However, when crossing it, one can see an unusual building-like structure that seems to be walled into a high cliff. Looking at the cliff more closely, it extends approximately 500 meters from the Bierbrücke near the district of Kassberg to the north, towards the intersection where Highways 95 and 173 meet to the southwest. Of which, approximately 150 meters seemed to be walled with bricks and concrete, making it appear that Chemnitz once had an underground passage that started at the park and networked its way to the castle. It is known that there were underground passageways at the Kassberg and Bier Bridges- one of which served as a passage for prisoners, another for transporting beer to the walls of the city, where the multi-story houses are located today.

Yet when looking at the bridge and this structure, this definitely was the work of an East German engineer, who like many others wanted to paint Chemnitz with a communst face, which was the reason why the city was called Karl-Marz-Stadt from 1953 to 1990. The building presented some skeletal features that are geometric with rectangular shapes- each row with a different pattern. While this skeletal structure now houses pipelines providing warm water to the city center, one has to wonder what original purpose this skeletal structure had. Because the height of the cliff from the ground to the top is between 20 and 30 meters- about the length of the crossing itself- and its approximate location to some key judicial areas, such as the district and labor courts, it is possible that at one time it served as a large elevator providing people and bikes with a lift to see the judge. That would put the construction date to the 1960s when electric elevators were becoming useful for high-rise buildings and the government district of Karl-Marx-Stadt was functioning like a state, extending its reach of jurisidiction to as far west as Jena and Gera, as far south as the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) and Vogtland, as far east as Freiberg and as far north as Riesa. Most of the judicial district may have been located at the top of the hill at the site of today’s district courts, which had been a traditional location because of the nearby castle. After the Fall of the Wall in 1989 and the subsequential Reunification a year later, that elevator no longer served as that function and was therefore converted to its present form. But more evidence is needed to prove this.

As for other functions, the building or a prison complex are concerned, given the lack of space it had between the outlet and the walled cliffs it is anchored into, that would be impossible because of the need to add 3-4 stories with shafts with handles for people to climb up or down.

But could this building actually had housed this elevator at that time or was it really meant for a pipeline cover? We know that it is as old as the structure that is now a pedestrian bridge- 50+ years old and still functioning like other GDR buildings at that time. But was this building an elevator or a skeletal unit?

Looking forward to your thoughts on this……

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Check out Mystery Bridge Nr. 80 by clicking here.

 

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Draschwitz Brücke

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Location: White Elster River in the village of Draschwitz, 7 kilometers north of Zeitz in the state of Saxony-Anhalt

Built: 1891-2; Damaged during World War II in 1945, Rebuilt in 1946, Restored in 1999/2000

Type: Parker Pony Truss with subdivisions

Length:  ca. 30 meters

Status: Open to traffic on a weight limit of 6 tons

During a recent bike tour along the White Elster from Gera to Leipzig (all 90 kilometers of it), I came across this unique structure. After passing through Zeitz and having revisited some of its historic bridges (see link), one would expect to see more of these historic bridges along the river, especially as Saxony-Anhalt has a wide selection of historic bridges worth visiting. One needs to see the towns of Halle (Saale), Magdeburg, Quedlinburg or even the bridges in the Saale-Unstrut River corridor in order to gather the impression that the bridges are being cared for by the state; this includes using funding provided by the European Union but also by the federal government to restore them to their original form while ensuring that cars and bikes can use the bridge.

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The Draschwitz Bridge is one of these structures that received this kind of care, as it was restored in 1999/2000, which included new wood decking plus paint on the superstructure, as well as work on the foundations. Given its location on a less used road that is occupied mainly by cyclists and locals driving their cars across, the restoration was worth it, as the bridge serves a local road and the White Elster bike trail, which connects Hof (Bavaria) and Halle (Saale), running parallel to the river until its confluence with the Saale River, between Halle and Leipzig.

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But what makes this bridge unique is its unusual truss design. The bridge was built using welded connections instead of pinned connections, as seen on truss bridges in general. Welded truss bridges, together with those with riveted connections were starting to come onto the scene at the time of its construction, as vehicular traffic- namely trains, but also later cars and trucks- had increased since the expansion of the railroad. This prompted the introduction of a network of roads connecting towns on the local level, but later expanded to cities on the regional and in the end national levels. While pinned-connected truss bridges were able to handle light traffic on local roads, as traffic increased and highway systems were introduced, they were replaced with truss bridges with riveted connections. Welded truss bridges were introduced in the 1890s to replace the pinned-connected bridges for despite its biggest asset of dismantling and reassembling the bridge at a different location, missing or broken bolts and cracked eye-bars made it difficult to impossible to relocate the bridge. With welded truss bridges, one has the advantage of relocating the bridge without having to take it apart. Plus with the beams fixed together and welded with bolts, there is more resistance to weight that is on the bridge. The Draschwitz Bridge has this on not only the trusses themselves, but also the outriggers that support the two center panels- an anomaly given the fact that truss bridges usually have outriggers on every vertical beam and panel, especially those in the US built after 1900.

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Another unusual feature is the upper chord itself. Normal truss bridges have upper chords that are of either squared shaped beams, V or X-laced or those whose shape resembles the letters I, L and C. They are supported by vertical and diagonal beams that are up to half its size and width. For this bridge, the upper chord and the vertical and diagonal beams are of nearly the same size. However, even more unique is the angled bracings that weave along the top chord, the points sticking outwards by up to 10 centimeters. While some truss bridges in the US and Germany built prior to 1885 may have had features like this bridge, the Draschwitz Bridge is the only known bridge to have an upper chord, decorated with such unusual bracing.

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Apart from the renovations, nothing has altered the bridge, even when villagers installed a plaque on the western wingwall, indicating the high water mark set by the flooding in 1954. Chances are, the White Elster may have been rechanneled after that, raising the bridge to prevent it from being swept down stream. Yet, a curved beam connecting that wingwall and the pier raised some eye brows as we don’t know what this serves, except to support the bridge in one way or another.

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The Draschwitz Bridge is really a gem in the field when it comes to finding historic bridges. The structure continues to serve local traffic and the Elster bike trail to this day. It’s one of the landmarks one should see when passing through Zeitz and the Elsterau, also the last one to see as one bikes north toward Leipzig, but one that the quiet village of Draschwitz should take pride in, one that Saxony-Anhalt has taken great care of, just like the state’s other historic bridges, and one that historians, pontists, engineers should study further to find out more on its history and structural features. It’s the one bridge that a person can spend lots of hours with the camera and a picnic blanket, sitting and indulging at its beauty, surrounded by a historic and natural landscape.

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If you know more about this bridge, feel free to post your comment in the Chronicles’ facebook page or contact Jason Smith using the contact information in the About page.

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