Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge: Day 6- Gearing up for the Big Show

The chips are falling into place. State representatives have been invited. Examples of restored historic bridges being restored are being collected, together with the costs. The motivation and the ideas towards saving the bridge is running sky-high. And since yesterday, the signatures on the petition to save the bridge and facebook likes are coming in like a wave of water rushing with great intensity down the canal.  🙂

This was the mentality of the committee as we met at the Rechenhaus Restaurant next to the Bockau Arch Bridge last night (on 17 April). Since our first meeting a month and a half ago (and with it, the start of this blog series), members have been calling around to get the people involved and join in the debate to save the bridge. And despite some missing ingredients, we already have a full set of people willing to sit down and discuss ways to save the bridge.  And with that, here is what we know:

On 24th April at 11:00am, we will meet at the Bockau Arch Bridge (in case of bad weather- at Schneeberger Strasse 1 in Albernau). There we will have the following people on hand to discuss about the future of the bridge:

State representatives of Saxony:

Stephan Hösl (Christian Democrats)

Luise Neuhaus-Wartenberg (Linke- Socialist Party)

Karin Wilke (Alternative for Germany- Far right party)

Ulrike Kahl (The Green Party)

 

Also included:

Members of the Ministries of Business and Transportation, plus Interior, The Mayor of Bockau- Siegrid Baumann.

The list is not completed as we’re looking at inviting someone from the Ministry for Cultural Heritage of Saxony, a representative from the Social Democratic Party and the Free Liberal Party, regional bike organizations, the mayors of Zschorlau, Aue and Schneeberg, and especially experts involved with restoring historic bridges in Saxony. And we have enough examples to go around.

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The Viaduct at Oberlochmühle. Source: http://grenzenloses-erzgebirge.de/oberlochmuehle

We have collected many examples of bridges that are being restored or are planned to be restored in Saxony, with some cost figures that dwarf the increasing cost for building the new bridge on a new alignment. Already mentioned in an article is the reconstruction of the Hirschgraben (or as some call it Hirschgrund) Bridge in Glauchau at a cost of 1.4 Million Euros, we also have a new project that will be launched this summer with the unique Ratzkotz Arch Bridge near Görlitz (at 2.4 million Euros) and the Eger Bridge near Reichenbach for 2.5 million Euros. Another bridge in the vicinity of Marienberg at Oberlochmühle is being considered for renovation to become a rails-to-trails crossing after sitting idle for over four decades. All these examples are stone arches about the same length as the Bockau Arch Bridge.  We’re hoping that at least one of the project representatives can join to talk about the funding for the project.  Also wishful thinking is a film documentary about the bridge similar to a couple examples, including the Frank Wood Bridge in Maine. But we’ll have to wait and see if this is even possible, given the time and cost for producing even a 3-5 minute segment.

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Bockau Arch Bridge as Cultural Heritage Site

What I did learn about the bridge is that despite the missing information about the bridge builder for the stone arch structure, the bridge is listed as a German Cultural Heritage site on the state level. That means  state funding is available to restore the bridge if they wish to do that. In order to remove the heritage status to allow for the removal of the structure, a form has to be filled out describing in full detail why the historic bridge should be torn down. Administrative costs in the hundreds and thousands are imposed and the process could take a couple years to complete. While claims that the deal to tear down the bridge once the new structure is open between the Community of Bockau and the construction firms responsible, is complete, it doesn’t mean that there is no last-minute deal to save it. No form to take the bridge off the heritage list has been submitted, and it sounds as if nothing will happen to the bridge as long as we have a plan to save the structure and find ways to finance it.  Surprising and shocking is that an environmental and cultural impact survey was not carried out to determine the after-effects of replacing the historic bridge. Already rock cliffs are being blasted to make way for the new road and bridge, which is changing the landscape bit by bit and explains the reason behind the closure of the bike trail within a 4-kilometer radius of the bridge.

The Inconvenient Truth

Still, the logic behind the closure of the stone arch bridge is still a mystery. As mentioned earlier, since the closure of the bridge, the restaurant has lost over 60% of its customers. We were the only customers at the restaurant this evening. Yet the owner has had some surprises. They included Syrian refugees visiting the bridge and the restaurant, a large group of bikers having to stop at the restaurant to get directions to get across the bridge, and several people circumventing the fences just to cross the bridge. It really shows how very inconvenient the bridge closure has been. I will be videotaping the long detour to show how much time is needed to make the 15 kilometer detour to be posted on the facebook page. The planning was just simply way too poor. Already the price for the new bridge has skyrocketed from 3 million to 12.5 million Euros. When the new bridge opens, it will be another example of money well-wasted, just like the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport project.

Summary

And so to sum up our meeting, the pieces of the puzzle are just about in place for the meeting on the 24th of April. What is needed are a few experts for bridge restoration, a couple representatives who can vouch for saving the bridge, and lastly some more history lessons on how the bridge is built. The third one I’m working on and should have it ready in time for the meeting. But above all, we need as many signatures and likes on our page to show our guests that we care about the bridge, even from abroad, and that when there is a will to save the bridge, there is a way to do it- private or public.

Historische Ansicht Rechenhausbrücke

And with that, we need your help:

We need 2000 Likes and 2000 Signatures between now and the 24th of April to be presented to the state representatives. Click here to sign the petition to save the bridge. Click here to like our page and get the latest on our project to save the bridge. Help us convert the bridge into an important connection for bikers and pedestrians. One can imagine the old bridge and the new one standing side-by-side. You can as well.

Some more articles from the Chronicles will be included including politics and saving a historic bridge as well as the German Cultural Heritage Laws, comparing it with the US. But your likes and signatures will make a big difference.

 

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HYB: Cedar Grove Bridge in Indiana

Oblique view. All photos in this article are courtesy of Tony Dillon

A few years ago, a fellow historian named Satolli Glasmeyer came up with an interesting concept that was short and sweet and would give the viewers a short overview of the historic places on video- not to mention an incentive to visit them on their next road trip. History in Your Own Backyard focuses on hidden treasures- past and present- that have historic character based on the author’s visit(s). The videos are between five and 15 minutes pending on topic and most of the places profiled in the videos are located in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. While some examples will show up as guest column for the Chronicles, you can find the library of videos either on their website here or via youtube.

This HYB example takes us back to an old friend that has been gone for quite some time. The Cedar Grove Bridge once spanned the Whitewater River in Franklin County, Indiana. A product of the Indiana Bridge Company of Muncie, this 2-span Camelback through truss bridge, built in 1914 was the focus of one of the filmed documentaries that was done in its memory. This film was released on 22 February, 2016, five days after the structure was demolished after having sat abandoned for 17 years. Attempts to save it through fundraisers and other policies failed.  Here is the video of the bridge’s history, which includes the demolition.

 

A slideshow of the bridge’s history follows as well:

 

Sonnebrücke in Kirchberg (Saxony), Germany

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All  photos taken in March 2018

Between Schneeberg and Zwickau in western Saxony is a small town of Kirchberg. With a population of 8,700 inhabitants, Kirchberg straddles the Rödelbach River, which empties into the Zwickau Mulde River in Wilkau-Hasslau, approximately five kilometers north of the town. In addition to that, Kirchberg is known as the City with Seven Hills, as all seven hills surround the small community, protecting it from the weather extremities, especially in the winter time. Yet it is most difficult to get to the next available towns because of the winding roads one needs to go through. And Kirchberg is one of the most expanded communities with the least population density in Saxony, for 12 Kilometers of area in all directions belong to the community, including all of the small suburbs.

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While Kirchberg has a rather historic but sleepy town center (because buisness usually closes at 3:00pm on weekdays, non on Saturdays), a church on the hill and a couple notable historic bridges along the Rödelbach, one bridge in particular is the focus of this article because of ist unusual design and a classic example of a restored truss bridge. The Sonnebrücke Truss Bridge spans the Rödelbach on the east end of Kirchberg (see map below). The bridge, built in 1882, is unique because of its unusual design.

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For instance, the bridge is a pony truss built on a 45° skew. The skewed formation is easy to detect because one can see it from the main highway on ground level and from the hillside on the north bank of the river, it resembles a shoe. The harder part is identifying the truss type for from a distance, it appears to be a bowstring arch span. Yet when taking a closer look, the bridge is actually a Parker pony truss, mainly because of the slight bends of the upper chord per panel. The 24.5 meter truss bridge has nine panels with the highest panel being 1.7 meters tall.  How the bridge was built is the most difficult of all because you can only see the details up close while on the bridge. For instance, the bridge has welded connections, meaning that the beams are attached with gusset plates and welded nails. Given its age, this type of practice was first introduced in the 1880s and the Sonnebrücke is one of the first bridges built using this type of practice. It is one of the rarest bridges whose upper chord consists of a rare type that is seldomly found in truss bridges. While most truss bridges used H, I and T beams for their upper chords and end posts, this one has upper chords whose parts consists of L-shaped beams welded together making it appear like a cross-shaped beam. No truss bridge in the eastern half of Germany has such an unusual chord like that. It is even rarer when compared to the American Phoenix column, which was used on many iron truss bridges in the 1870s and 80s and has round-shaped columns with 4-8 points in the corners.

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The Kingdom of Saxony authorized the construction of the Sonnenbrücke in 1882 as part of the railroad project connecting Wilkau-Haslau with Carlsfeld via Kirchberg and Schönheide near the present-day Eibenstock Reservoir. From 1882 until its discontinuation in 1967, passenger and freight trains crossed this bridge daily. It was one of 54 bridges that the line went over, which included six viaducts in and near the Mulde River. Even though the line was discontinued in its entirety by 1980, the Sonnebrücke is one of only a handful of crossings remaining on the line, which has been dismantled in large sections but abandoned on other stretches of track, including the line between Schönheide and Carlsfeld. When the line was discontinued in sections and tracks were taken out, all the bridges and viaducts were removed with steel parts recycled for other uses. Attempts to save some of the viaducts were put down due to lack of financial resources and pressure by the East German government to support the communist system by making use of every resource possible. The Sonnebrücke remained hidden from view for another 40+ years until city officials collaborated with locals and a pair of restoration companies in Saxony to restore and repurpose the structure for recreational use. This happened in 2014 at a cost of 90,000 Euros. There, the bridge was sandblasted and repainted black, some parts were replaced because of the rust and corrosion, and a new flooring made of wood replaced the rail decking which no longer served its function.

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Today, the Sonnebrücke continues to cross the Rödelbach River but has a new function, which is to provide cyclists and pedestrians with an opportunity to explore the town along the river. This bridge and another crossing at the Hauptstrassebrücke are both part of the former rail line that had once had trains going through Kirchberg, stopping at two stations in town. Today, it carries as a bike trail and even though only a section of the former rail line is used as a rails to trails, the Sonnebrücke and the line that crossed over serves not only as a reminder of a railroad that had once been part of Kirchberg’s history and heritage but also as an example of an unusual truss bridge which had long since been forgotten but the city took care that it received a new purpose in life.  It definitely shows that even with a small portion of money, one can make use of it and make it like it was brand new.

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And with few historic artefacts left in our world, we need more examples of history being restored for generations to learn about. 🙂

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Bridge Beautification in Glauchau (Saxony), Germany

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Hirschgraben Viaduct at the Castle Complex to be Completely Rebuilt; Former Mulde Crossing to become Rest Area for Bikes

GLAUCHAU (SAXONY)-  While driving (or even Walking) through Glauchau in western Saxony in Germany, one cannot avoid several construction barriers and even downed trees in several places within the community of 24,000, located between Zwickau and Chemnitz. As part of the plan to beautify the city, several Buildings sitting empty or abandoned are scheduled to be repurposed or torn down.  And that applies to a couple of the city’s key crossings. A former site of a historic Bridge is about to become a rest area and picnic area for cyclists whereas a historic Bridge near the Castle complex is about to be demolished and rebuilt to mimic the original Bridge from the 1700s. Details about the two Projects can be found here:

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Hirschgrund Bridge to be completely rebuilt as part of the Castle beautification project

Connecting the Fordere and Hintere Glauchau Castles with the city park to the south, the 300+ year old Hirschgrund Viaduct is the oldest known bridge in Glauchau, let alone one of the longest and tallest of the city’s bridges. At approximately 75 meters long and 15 meters high, the bridge consists of five arches built mainly of brick and concrete, although it is unclear whether the concrete was added later or was part of the construction. The bridge has been neglected for over 40 decades and closed to all pedestrians for almost that long, thus causing it to decay rapidly, forming cracks in the concrete and exposing the red brick. Vines have been growing on the structure and some accounts in the social media have described the bridge as wobbling while walking over the deep ravine. All the vines, the wooden scaffolding to support one of the arches and other coverings are about to become a thing of the past, for the Glauchau City Council recently approved a 1.3 million Euro project to completely rebuild the viaduct. According to the Free Press, the entire structure is scheduled to be completely taken down, then using the materials from the old structure, will be completely rebuilt mimicking the 17th Century viaduct when it was opened to horse and buggy. The project is expected to last 1-2 years pending on any unforseen circumstances. The complete rebuild of the viaduct is part of the controversial project to beautify the Castle Complex- in particular the courtyard in front of the Fordere Castle on the east side. At the cost of 500,000, the courtyard is supposed to be converted to a multifunctional arena with shelter house, steel flower tubs, park benches, an aluminum pergola and electric outlet. The proposal has been met with hefty criticism because of the lack of taste and conformity with the castle’s surroundings. Even an article written by a local architect suggested alternatives to the proposal that is more appropriate and based on a total agreement by the parties involved (click here to read the article by Kathleen Scheurer).  Already, the trees at the courtyard have been removed giving the castle complex a bare-naked appearance:

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How the castle complex will look like, once the five-month project ends in October remains open.

 

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Meerane Bridge: new on the left and the old one on the right before its removal. Photo by Ulrich Schleife

Meerane (Upper Mulde) Bridge Abutment to become a Picnic/Rest Area

For over two decades since the construction of the current structure and the removal of the 1880s historic bridge, the remaining eastern abutment has sat in its place, covered with vegetation and garbage and looking like an eyesore. Come April, it will become an eyesore no more. At the cost of 10,000 Euros, the vegetation area will be removed and the eastern abutment will be repurposed as a picnic and rest area for pedestrians and cyclists. Included will be a bike stand, benches and garbage cans in and around the abutment near the pedestrian crossing at Meerane and Linden Streets. That portion of the project will take three weeks to complete, according to the Free Press. This is part of a bigger project which the shoreline of the Zwickau Mulde River will be cleaned up and converted into a park and trail setting, using land from abandoned buildings that either have been torn down or are scheduled to be removed in the near future. Already in the works is the plan to have a bike trail connecting the bridge with the Zimmerstrasse Covered Bridge, located near the Wehrdigt Elementary School. In the long term, the Mulde Bike Trail will go through Glauchau along the river instead of along the Diversion Canal, a plus for those wanting to see the city’s historic bridges along the river. One can also see the bridges leading to the Castle Complex from that proposed stretch of trail.  As for the Meerane Bridge, the east abutment is the remains of the 1880s Town Lattice truss bridge built by local bridge builder Heinrich Carl Hedrich, who was responsible for the construction of a diversion canal around Glauchau, Germany’s first water main systems as well as several dams, mills and bridges in Glauchau and along the Mulde. The bridge was replaced on alignment in the 1990s and subsequently removed once the new structure opened.

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Abutments as remains of the old bridge

With the ongoing changes that are happening in and around Glauchau also comes the updates in the Bridge Tour Guide of Glauchau. Several photos have been added on the castle bridges as well as the Wave, plus some updates based on the current developments which will be followed closely in the Chronicles. To see the updates, click here, which will take you to the guide again. There, you will find more pictures and information so that you can better get to know the bridges in and around the city.  Enjoy! 🙂

 

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge- An American’s Perspective: Day One

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Nur Heimat gibts nichts- There is never just a homeland.

 

This is a comment that I remember during my first meeting with the committee to save the Bockau Arch Bridge. Located over the Zwickauer Mulde River six kilometers southwest of Aue in western Saxony, this 146-year old stone arch bridge is one of a few historic landmarks left in the town of Bockau, with a population of 2,100 inhabitants. Closed since the end of August 2017, I had the dubious priviledge of having to make a detour of enternity in order to arrive at our first meeting. This meant going up the hill along Bockau Creek (which the over 800-year old town was named after), then making a pair of sharp curves going right onto a narrow street which leads me out of town, but not onto the bridge that has been blocked off completely. I had to drive another 15 kilometers on a paved road full of sharp curves, potholes, cracks, ice, and wolves roaming about in the forest until I reached the Eibenstock Reservoir. There, I crossed the next bridge and backtracked on the main highway going on the opposite side of the river which led to the meeting place next to the closed bridge- The Rechenhaus Restaurant. There, I was greeted by the welcoming party, despite my 45-minute late arrival, with happiness and joy that an American was coming to help. 🙂

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The Rechenhaus Restaurant located on the north end of the bridge.

How did I end up here in the first place? And why do a documentary on an old stone arch bridge that no one really knows much about?

As the two pigs Piggeldy and Frederick would say “Nicht leichter als das.” (No easier than this):

I’ve been a bridgehunter since I was five years old, having photographed and written about tens of thousands of bridges in 14 countries (including the US) and 14 states in the US (including my home state of Minnesota). In Germany, I’ve covered all but three of the 16 Bundesländer. This includes Saxony, the region I’ve been touring since 2016. I’ve been running the Chronicles since 2010 and have worked with groups on how to not only restore historic bridges but also how to make them attractive for tourists. This includes my involvement with historic bridge conventions as coordinator and speaker and my use of social media to garnish the attention of interested readers and other history enthusiasts. I’m also a teacher of English, which I’ve been doing since 2001, and since August 2017, I’ve been based full-time at the Saxony Police Academy in Schneeberg, located only three kilometers from the Bockau Bridge. It was also the same time period as my time in Saxony that I’ve done tours in the region, be it in cities like Dresden, Rochlitz, Leipzig, Glauchau, Zwickau, Aue/Schlema and Chemnitz, just to name a few, or along rivers like the Mulde and Elbe. And it was these bridgehunting tours that got the attention of the regional newspapers, namely the Free Press in Chemnitz, whose news reporters at the regional offices led me to this group saving this particular bridge.

And as for the bridge itself, it has more history than many locals know about. It was built in 1872 and is made of natural stone from the Ore Mountains. It took approximately a full year with lots of manpower to construct a multi-span stone arch bridge that connected Bockau with Albernhau and Zschorlau on the opposite side. A local restaurant with the name Rechenhaus was the site of the dam and lock area and headwaters plant, which were built between 1556 and 1559. The flow of the water was ideal for transporting materials downstream, and workers constructed several canals in the mountain region less than 90 years later. Even the headwaters plant was once a mill before it eventually became the barracks for the 11th Panzer Division during World War II and a restaurant after that.

In an attempt to slow down the progress of advancing soldiers from the east, the 11th Panzer Division was ordered to detonate the bridge in April 1945. This is the same tank division of German army that had fought (and lost) at Stalingrad, Kursk and the Battle of the Bulge before retreating towards Germany. Yet a brave unknown soldier did the unthinkable and  relocated the bombs to a temporary bridge in Zwickau before blowing that bridge up. This allowed for the Soviets and Americans to easily cross the bridge with their tanks with ease while setting the people free in the process. The 11th Panzer surrendered in Passau on 2 May, 1945, six days before Germany capitulated.  The same bridge was used again 23 years later, as soliders from the Warsaw Pact armies, consisiting of mainly Russians and East Germans crossed this bridge enroute to Prague to quash the Spring Movement.

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Talking about history, politics and the future of the bridge.

Despite all the history that is involved with this bridge, the historical monument has become a stranger to people in the region, having somewhat lost its face in the eyes of the locals. The mayor of Bockau would like to see the bridge gone once its replacement opens. The same with the state of Saxony and the German government, both are championing a 6.4 million Euro project to replace the old bridge. And despite the petition going around for saving the bridge, a handful of politicians are interested in keeping the bridge for pedestrian use after the new structure is built- most of them with little affiliation with the region with the exception of the Green party.

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And this is where I come in.

Our first meeting at the Rechenhaus Restaurant, the historic building which once had the barracks but was originally the headwaters mill and dam complex. The restaurant has a very Erzgebirge taste to it, with a collection of incense men and wood-carved chandeliers. Opposite the entrance to the restaurant is a mahoghany-framed painting of the dam and mill as it was in the 16th century. Some in the committee would like to see it again as a way to slow the flow of the Zwickau Mulde. The river had flooded towns downstream on six different occasions since the bridge was built, with the worst of them having occurred in 1954, 2002 and 2013. Given its proximity to the bridge, many would like to see the restaurant as is. Yet its location during the construction period has become a painful inconvenience. Talking to the restaurant owner, he was deeply disturbed by the construction and stated that since the project started, he had lost up to 60% of his customers. Whether he can compensate once the new span opens remains unclear.

We were nine people minus the restaurant owner, each one with a new set of ideas on how to keep and possibly fix the bridge so that it can be used again. Yet as seen with the American historic bridges, money needs to be there in order for it to happen. Political connections needs to be there in order for it to happen. The same with the use of media and lastly support from the public. As with all historic bridges, the public is the first line of offence in pursuing the preservation of historic bridges. Whether it is with petitions, technical know-how or even planning events, they always have the ideas first before our elected officials. After that, we get the attention out there via social media. Through that and the events, the politicians come in with bills to approve measure to restore the bridge. Then the money comes in to pay for the costs.

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For our bridge in Bockau, we’re already at step one, which is public interest. A petition with 1700 signatures was sent to Dresden to the state parliament. Another one is in the works which includes an English version for people to sign and establishing a website. That will be my job for right now- an important one! Speaking from experience with the Green Bridge in Des Moines, gathering interest in social networking will make waves and influence the thinking of the higher-ups of politics and business. Once that is established and we have the English version to submit to Dresden, the next plan is to meet with officials in Dresden to discuss the situation and ways to make the historic pedestrian crossing a reality. A big plus is the fact that the bridge and the mill area are historic lanbdmarks which make it impossible to tear down unless ordered by the federal government. How that works will come in a later article. Then with the connections and planning will be the events. This is where the tough part comes in. How to make this bridge attractive to tourists of all age? We’ve looked at drawing contests, concerts and the like. But what else could be do there? And how can we raise money for the project? This is independent on any funding available for rehabilitating the bridge, which is scarce at the moment, but the search continues.

It’s a battle that one can lose but it’s better to die trying than to sit and do nothing. The mentality has increased in the US over the past decade, yet Germany does have a lot of pride in its history and culture, too much of it to just sit and do nothing.

And with that, I must set to work. I have my expertise to use and share, while others are garnering some more support from locals and interested people in the project. Therefore, what are we waiting for? Get to work!

More on my involvement in the preservation project to come. Stay tuned! 🙂

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The Preservation Committee including the restaurant owner.

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The Bridges of Markersbach (Saxony), Germany

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There is a proverb that I’ve been going by while bridgehunting recently, especially in the eastern part of Germany: The smaller the community the more historic bridges one can find. While cities, like Chemnitz and Zwickau have numerous bridges, the number of century+ old structures are relatively small in terms of numbers and ratio compared to modern bridges, smaller towns like Glauchau, Aue and even Rochlitz have a higher number of historic bridges. The trend is similar in many small cities and towns in Europe which makes finding historic bridges much easier. Yet when a person finds such a small community that has an important historic bridge, like you are about to read about here, chances are more likely that the person will find more than what they bargained for in terms of finding other structures that are just as significant as the town’s centerpiece.

And this is where the tour takes us back to the Ore Mountains but this time, a bit further east of Aue by about 15 kilometers to a town called Markersbach. With a population of only 1600, the town lies deep in the valley of the Bigger Mitweida Creek, which effectively cuts the community and its neighbor Rauschau into two. First mentioned in the history books in 1210, it was part of the Cisterician Monestary and later the Peter and Paul. The Church of St. Barbara, built in 1610, is one of the oldest churches in the mountain regions. The water pump power plant is located at the upper basin of the Mitweida serves the region. The Jenaplan School, based on the concept created by Peter Petersen in the 1920s, is located in Markersbach but the community school’s origins dates back to the 1500s.  Since 2007, Markersbach is a joint-community with neighboring Raschau, which has as many people as its neighbor. The city is served by a major highway connecting Schwarzenberg and Aue to the west and Annaberg-Buchholz to the east. A railroad line connecting Schwarzenberg and Annaberg rarely provides service.

And the centerpiece surrounding the community is also the highest viaduct in the region, the Markersbach Viaduct, nicknamed as the Matchstick Bridge, for the structure was built using thin but heavy steel parts.  The bridge was the primary reason for my visit. However arriving there, I found three more significant railroad bridges, a few smaller bridges that are at least 70 years old, a highway viaduct that somewhat fits into the landscape with its color.  That means five major bridges and a couple smaller stone arch bridges can be seen as one travels along the main street that runs parallel to the Bigger Mittweida. This large number of bridges was one of the factors in having a bridge festival in 2010, which included a tour of the viaducts by train and fireworks.

Yet given the number of houses and trees that are skewing the view of the bridges, combined with a lack of parking with the car, it is rather difficult to get to the structures without asking the property owners to climb onto the rooves of their houses just to get a good shot of the bridge. Or stand in the middle of the street ensuring one doesn’t get hit from behind by a car.

This tour will look at the bridges in Markersbach, beginning with the centerpiece, for it symbolizes the community’s history and existence, followed by the less mentioned ones but also have some charm to it. The information is scarce for all but the Matchstick Bridge and therefore will be updated as more people step up with their stories and facts about the bridges. One has to keep in mind that Markersbach can be easily passed over, thanks to the new viaduct (a.k.a. The Flyover) that has been in service for over seven years. Therefore before entering the viaduct, one has to turn off: to the right and down the hill past the loop before seeing the first bridge; to the left there is the grand view of…..

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this viaduct!

Markersbach Viaduct:

The Markersbach Viaduct is one of the key historic bridges in Saxony one needs to visit. The viaduct spans one of the tributaries that empties into the Bigger Mitweida. With a total length of 236.5 meters and a height of 36.5 meters, the viaduct is the tallest of its kind in the Ore Mountain region. Under the direction of bridge engineer Claus Koepke and built using steel manufactured by the Queen Marie Steel in Cainsdorf (near Zwickau), construction of the bridge took two years, with the completion being 1889, coinciding with the opening of the Schwarzenberg-Annaberg rail line. The line provided train traffic all the way to Leipzig and Berlin until World War II. It was later reduced to Zwickau and then later to Aue. The line no longer serves regular traffic but has special services that provides tourists with a splendid view of Markersbach, the valley and the mountain areas surrounding them. The bridge features nine spans supported by eight trapezoidal towers with X-laced framing. The spans are lenticular deck trusses, whereby the longest spans (two) have curved Warren trusses with 25m each, three 20m spans have polygonal Warren trusses and four 12.5 meter spans have camelback Warren trusses. For each truss type are the triangular panels subdivided. Photos of the viaduct are difficult to do due to the obstruction by the houses. Even getting up close to the bridge is difficult because it requires walking up narrow and winding streets, all but a couple of which are cul-de-sacs occupied by houses and cars. Getting to the opposite side of the viaduct is possible but only through walking through fields and forests. And even then it is hard to come by- one has to be lucky to get up close and personal with the bridge. However a grand view of the entire bridge can be found off the highway at the intersection where the bridge bypass and the road leading to Markersbach meet. That impromtu observation platform is nothing more than a road that used to enter Markersbach before the bypass and the highway viaduct were built.

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Highway 101 Flyover Viaduct

In 2005, construction began to construct a nearly 2 km bypass to alleviate traffic going into and through Markersbach. The plan: To construct a tall viaduct which would not only “fly” over the community crossing the Mitweida Valley, but it would also make travel between Annaberg and Schwarzenberg much smoother, especially for trucks. Furthermore, it would provide passers-by with a splendid view of Markersbach, its prized viaduct and much of the mountain while driving “in the air.” 😉  The project was not easy as erosion, causing mudslides hindered consturction, the worst having occurred on the eastern slope in October 2006. The next problem was establishing a firm foundation for the pylons, which was discovered the following July.  When the bridge finally opened in November 2011, it was four years behind schedule. However, the delay was worth it for the jeans-blue steel deck girder with cantilever features now hovers the community and its valley, narrowly surpassing the railroad viaduct by only 7.5 meters. The Flyover is 317 meters long and has two lanes totalling 25 meters. The cost for the project: 25 million Euros, twice as much as previously planned. Yet the Flyover is still most travelled today giving residents a piece of mind without having to worry about their children running across the street and risk getting hit by trucks and racing cars.

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Mitweidathal Viaduct:

When entering Markersbach by turning off at the Flyover, one will be driving down the hill along the winding stretch of what was Highway 101 (German: B101), flanked by trees on both sides. Yet at at the loop where one crosses the Mitweida Creek, one enters the community, greeted by houses on both sides of the street and this bridge. One should not be fooled by its appearance. It is definitely not the Markersbach Viaduct because of its height. One can even see the difference from a distance- either at the observation point at the Flyover or even along the former highway on the left entering town. The Mittweidathal Viaduct is shorter in length but it is not just simply a bridge, whose characteristics are its curve towards the Markersbach Viaduct as well as its brick piers. When looking closely at the 86 meter long and 10 meter high viaduct, it features brick piers with quarzite-like stripes and six spans, each one featuring a deck plate girder supported by polygonal Vierendeel trusses. Because of the absence of diagonal beams they are not Parker trusses, yet they have an appearance of a lenticular truss. So to categorize the truss style, it is considered a half-lenticular polygonal Vierendeel truss with welded connections. The bridge has existed as long as the rail line itself. Yet because of its seldom use, age caused by weather extremities has taken its toll. Should the line be used again, either as train service or as a bike trail, some repairs will be needed to ensure the bridge continues to function in its original form.

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St. Barbara/ Annaberg Street Viaduct:

About 400 meters away from the Mitweida Viaduct and following the former highway through Markersbach is this viaduct. The St. Barbara Viaduct was named after the nearby church- the oldest one in Markersbach- which is located on the same street as the viaduct crosses: Annaberg Street. The 70-meter long viaduct features four spans of deck plate girders, the longest is 30 meters and features a Camelback girder design which hovers over a side street that is opposite Abrahamsbach Creek) and runs pararell to Annaberg Street. Where that span crosses is near houses that line up along two sharp curves, which is dangerous for all vehicles.  The viaduct looks like one of the newer spans that had replaced a previous bridge, but it is unknown when the replacement date was. We know that the bridge is 200 meters away from the Markersbach Viaduct and is located near some key points in the community: the afreoemntioned church, a Methodist Church, a park and the Jenaplan School. Even though the viaduct is seldomly used today, a curious question I have is how people tolerated living right next to the viaduct, especially during Sunday mass at church? 😉

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Raschau Viaduct:

The last bridge on the tour takes us one kilometer west to neighboring Raschau and this bridge, the Raschau Viaduct. Like the Markersbach Viaduct, the Raschau Viaduct is the most original of the bridges profiled here, as the bridge dates back to the construction of the rail line. This is especially noticeable as the seven-span viaduct, built on stone piers, features Town Lattice deck trusses, built using welded connections and a thick network of diagonal beams both in the inner and outer portions of the spans. The bridge has a total length of 112 meters, making it the second longest crossing along the Schwarzenberg-Annaberg rail line. The width is 12 meters. The height above the streets is four meters, making it the lowest crossing above ground level along the line as well. Height restrictions have been enforced to discourage truck drivers from using the streets. With the Flyover, combined with access on both ends of Markersbach and Raschau, the bridge has not sustained any damage, even though German laws have also played a role in forbidding overweight and oversized vehicles from using the road. Had this bridge been located in the States, with its lack of laws forbidding such vehicles, the Raschau Viaduct would not have survived such careless driving, and the driver would most likely have been forced to pay for a new bridge. However, because of its conformity to the landscape and its beauty, this viaduct will most likely remain for a long time.

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There are a few single-span arch bridges but with the exception of a railroad overpass, these structures are only short spans and are difficult to photograph. A couple points of interest are worth photgraphing, which are noted in the Google Map. The bridges presented in this tour guide are examples of structures that represent a small community, whose history play a role in establishing the community and bringing it together. And while all but one are seldomly used today, the bridges at Markersbach are indeed diamonds in the rough, which is worth a couple hours of visiting and taking some photos. Even more so if the community has bridge festivals and other local celebrations throughout the year. 🙂

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 92: The Unusual Truss/Arch Bridge at Van Loon

This next mystery bridge takes us to a place out in the middle of nowhere east of a larger city in Indiana. The Van Loon Bridge was one of the most unusual truss bridges found on record. The bridge used to span the Little Calumet River east of Hammond and features a two-span pony arch bridge with Warren truss features and riveted connections. According to an article in the Engineering News Magazine  dated in 1915, the bridge was assembled using scrap metal from an unknown source in Van Loon, Indiana. Unfortunately there were no records that indicated the existence of the community except that it was probably located somewhere outside Hammond. While fellow pontist Nathan Holth pinpointed the bridge’s location to the east, it is not 100% correct and chances are most likely that it could be either to the west or even somewhere along the Calumet. The same applies to the community of Van Loon for the community may have existed for a few years before having disappeared even from the record books.  What we do know is that the bridge, which is approximately 100-120 feet long and 13 feet wide has been extant for many years. This leads to several questions that need explaining about this bridge:

  1. Where exactly along the Calumet was this bridge located?
  2. Where was Van Loon located? When was the community founded, let alone when it vanished?
  3. If the bridge was built using scrap metal, where (in or around Van Loon) did the metal come from?
  4. When was the bridge built and by whom?
  5. When was the bridge demolished?
  6. Was there a replacement for the bridge?

This mystery bridge is unique for we are not only looking for the history of the bridge itself but also the community that only existed for a Brief time. Henceforth if you have any history of Van Loon that would be of great help for to better understand about the bridge’s history, one Needs to know more about the community it served. This includes the people who lived there, the businesses and the events that affected the community, including the factors that led to ist disappearance. You can provide one or both here or through the bridgehunter.com website.

While we have seen fancy bridges, like the one constructed using the remains of a Ferris Wheel, a car dealership, a stadium and the like, nothing is as fancy and interesting is a unique bridge built using parts from an unknown location. The bridge at Van Loon is one of those particular bridges that has that beauty.