Mystery Bridge Nr. 115: A box culvert with a very unique design

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ELDORADO, IOWA- Approximately 300 feet west of the Eldorado Truss Bridge, one will find a unique diamond in the rough. Located along the north bank of the Turkey River, the first impression that I had during my visit to the bridge in 2011 (see my previous post) was that there may have been a previous crossing- like most of the bridges in Iowa- whether it was a bowstring arch bridge, a truss bridge built of iron or even a covered bridge. One of these three would have clearly fit the description given the need to cross the river from one bluff to another. However, looking at it more closely, especially at the wingwalls and abutments, it is clearly a concrete beam bridge. Unique is the art deco design on the beam span, which is almost a giveaway as to determining what bridge it is. The beam span has two rectangular shapes with a diamond shape in the middle. Most beam bridges and culverts used geometric shapes on their concrete railings when they were introduced for use beginning in 1910, which puts this structure’s build date right into the area of the first two decades of the 20th century. Spanning a creek that empties right into the river, the span is between 15 and 30 feet, which is typical for a box culvert or short-span beam bridge.

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The road that the bridge used to carry seems to have gone along the Turkey River and its north shore, having crossed the river twice- one near the site of Orange Ave. Bridge and one at the crossing at Great River Road. Both of them are two miles apart. While the stretch west of the Eldorado Truss Bridge remains in use as 292nd Street it dead ends at a farmstead before the Turkey River crossing. Only a small stretch east of the bridge exists and while much of it has been removed for farmland, one can trace it to the cylinder piers (or lally columns) of the former crossing that is next to Great River Road. A map on the Eldorado Truss Bridge page can help you trace ist origins (click here).

This leads to the following question to be cleared up:

  1. When exactly was the bridge built and by whom?
  2. When was the street, now known as 292nd Street, built and where did it lead to?
  3. What do we know about the former crossings at Great River Road and Orange Avenue, where the former road crossed before joining other streets? We do know with the lally columns at the Great River crossing it was a through truss bridge but what type is unknown…
  4. When was the street and the bridge abandoned?

 

Any photos, stories and history behind this unique bridge and road would be much appreciated. There are three ways to do it: by e-mail, using the contact info here. By posting in the comment section. And by posting in one of the facebook pages:

Abandoned Iowa Images

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles (group/webpage)

Save the Green Bridge (now known as Historic Bridges of Iowa)

 

NOTE: For the third page, the platform has changed after a successful campaign to save the truss bridge spanning the Raccoon River. The page now focuses on historic bridges in Iowa, which includes truss and bowstring arch bridges as well as others. Click onto the link and like to follow. Despite facebook’s insistence on keeping the old name, it will eventually change to reflect on the focus on historic bridges in the state.

All photos taken in 2011.

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 54

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While we are still in Iowa, here’s another Pic of the Week. Yet this time, we travel to Fayette County in eastern Iowa and the town of Eldorado. Located between Calmar and West Union along the Turkey River, the village is tucked away in the hills of the Bluffs Region, which extends from southeastern Minnesota into the eastern part of Iowa, where all creeks and rivers empty into the Mississippi River. Eldorado has about 200 people and a few historic buildings, but one unique truss bridge. The Eldorado Truss Bridge is a Camelback through truss bridge with M-Frame portal bracings. It was built in 1899 by J.C. Ratcliff, a local bridge builder based in Waukon in Allamakee County and is the only known bridge built by the engineer to date. The 130-foot long bridge has been closed to traffic for a couple decades, yet still remains its historic integrity to date. It can still be accessed from the State Street side and if one is lucky, one can find some shells along the Turkey River, which was my case upon my visit in August 2011. Despite record rainfall in the spring, which caused massive flooding along the Missouri River, water levels receded to a point where one could walk along the river and get a few shots from the river bed, something that was done on a perfect afternoon, while traveling through Iowa.

As a bonus though, there is one bridge nearby, whose mystery has yet to be solved. More on that in the next article here. 🙂

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 53

This week’s Pic of the Week takes us back to 2011 and the state of Iowa. This time to Spencer, where one of two Pennsylvania through trusses still exist. The Dump Road Bridge (also known as Old Rusty) spans the Little Sioux River at 18th Avenue west of the city. Built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company in 1901, Old Rusty was brought here in 1915 after having served Main Street crossing the same river along with another through truss span for 14 years. That crossing was replaced with a multiple-span arch bridge which was replaced by the current structure in 2008. Old Rusty still serves traffic but as a light-weight three ton crossing. Fitting to its location as very few cars cross the bridge. However, due to its age, one has to start considering its prospects as a bike/pedestrian crossing in the long-run.

What to do with a HB: The Case of the “Marode” Selbitz Bridge at Blankenstein

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As the state of Bavaria is striving for the world record with the construction of the longest pedestrian suspension bridge over the Selbitz Valley near the Thuringian-Bavarian border, one wonders if the project is too ambitious, given the fact that we have too many “marode” bridges in the region. Apart from the problems with the Sparnberg Bridge near the Motorway Crossing at Rudolphstein, we have another crossing that needs attention very badly. And for a good reason too: the bridge is located right at the junction of seven different hiking trails going in each direction!

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Source: brueckenweb.de

The Selbitz Bridge is located in the small town of Blankenstein, located on the Thuringian side of the former East-West German border. The bridge spans the river Selbitz and is the last crossing before it empties into the River Saale. For four kilometers between the confluence with the Saale and the junction with Muschwitz Creek, the Selbitz separates the two states  and had once been a military border that kept Blankenstein behind the Iron Curtain and people from fleeing over the river.  In fact, only a kilometer northeast of the confluence between the Selbitz and the Saale, there was a site of an attempted escape to the western half of Germany, which occurred on 6 January, 1989, nine months before the Fall of the Wall. There, three men and a lady tried escaping over the wall erected on the Thuringian side during the night. After going over the first wall and approaching the second inside the “Death Zone,” they were spotted by East German and Russian guards who shot at them. Eventually, one of the men succeeded in swimming across the icy cold Saale into Bavaria; the other three were arrested.  Blankenstein was one of the key escape routes used by many wanting to try and escape to the West until the borders were opened on 9 November, 1989. Some succeeded by breaking through the barriers. Others were arrested and imprisoned. One fatality was recorded in 1964.

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After the Fall of the Wall came the demolition of the borders that had separated the two Germanys for 28 years. And with that, the construction of several bridges over the rivers and streams that had been fenced off. The Selbitz Bridge was one of the bridges that was built crossing the former border. Originally a Waddell through truss bridge, the 29-meter long wooden crossing was completed in 1991. With that came an opportunity to reunite Thuringia and Bavaria by foot, providing hikers with an opportunity to explore the Thuringian Forest, the Fichtel Mountains and the Schiefgebirge using seven hiking trails- six here plus another one in the making that runs along the former border that had separated Germany prior to November 1989.  After the construction of the bridge, two monuments, built on each side of the Selbitz, as well as parking areas and a combination tourist information and first aid station were built, where the six current (and one planned) routes meet. The bridge practically served as the key meeting point between two points of junction, one for each state.

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The Bavarian monument where seven hiking trails meet, containing information, photos and maps of each trail. This was constructed a couple years ago and can be found off the county road opposite the river from Blankenstein.

Despite the bridge connecting the two states, problems arose in 2015 with the truss structure itself. Due to a combination of weather extremities, wear and tear and the damages caused by the two floods that ravaged Germany- 2002 and 2013, the Selbitz Bridge was considered structurally unsound, getting a grade of 3.4 out of 5 during an annual inspection in 2016. Bridges with a grade of 3 or worse are required to be rehabilitated to make it safer or be completely replaced.  The end result was an unusual move designed to keep the structure’s integrity but also give the bridge a new look. Hence the gabled tower and the top half of the Waddell truss were taken down, new bracings were added in its place, thus creating a Parker through truss design that is supported with X-framed portal bracings.  Furthermore, the decking was supported with leaning beams with x-bracings, anchored into the abutment, as seen in the picture below:

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Inspite this, this may not be enough to save the bridge, for a lot of wood rot and cracks are appearing in the lower half of the trusses. Most glaring are the end posts, one of which looks so shredded that it could potentially cause the bridge to collapse under ist weight or even flip over into the water. The least it could happen is that the trusses would tilt, putting more tension on the wooden truss parts. While some work has been done on the bridge already, with the truss conversion, it only represents a dressing to the problems the bridge has and the inevitable that the City of Blankenstein as well as the states of Thurngia and Bavaria will have to face- namely that the bridge will need to be replaced. Whether there is funding available remains unclear, especially in light of the recent approval of the construction of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges in the world at Lohbachtal and Höllental at the cost of 23 Million Euros.

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While this controversial project remains ambitious and will surely bring in hundreds of thousands of tourists to the region, one wonders if this project is being carried out at the expense of several bridges in the region that are in dire need of attention. And the numbers are growing as more people come to the region for vacationing. By making the necessary repairs to the crossings, like in Sparnberg and here in Blankenstein, it will do more than provide safety for drivers, cyclists and hikers.

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A Map of the Bridges at the Thuringian-Bavarian border can be found here. The Selbitz Bridge is on the far left.

 

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World’s Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge to be Built

A rendering of the Lohbach Valley Bridge from the Lichtenberg side. The design and construction will be similar with the Höllentalbrücke. Source: Landkreis Hof/ OTZ

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Hof District Council Members vote unanimously for the 23 million Euro project.
Construction to start immediately; to be completed by 2022

HOF (BAVARIA)/ SCHLEIZ (THURINGIA), GERMANY- There is an old religious saying: As I walk in the valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for the Lord will be here with me, helping my way through. Apparently, the Lord did find a creative way at the Thuringian-Bavarian border near the village of Lichtenberg to guide people through the valley (known as the Selbitz) but in mid-air.
The district council of Hof voted unanimously yesterday in favor of the project that will
feature the longest suspension bridge of its kind in the world. The vote count was 35 for and 15 against. Construction is expected to start very soon and is slated to be completed by the beginning of 2022 at the latest- a span of ca. 18 months.
As wide and steep as the valley of the Selbitz is, the project will feature two pedestrian
suspension bridges: one that will be 380 meters and suspended by cables, supported by two pylon towers, one of which will be anchored at the castle ruin Burg Lichtenberg. That will span the Lohbach Valley. The second suspension bridge will careen the valley of the Selbitz, eventually crossing it enroute to the Thuringian border near Blankenberg. Known as the Höllentalbrücke, the span of 1030 meters will break the record set by another suspension bridge in Germany, located in the Harz region in Saxony-Anhalt (see article here). That bridge was built in 2017. Both bridges will be built using solely steel and will feature spans resembling the letter „S“. A video depicting what the suspension bridges will look like can be seen below:

 

News on the Decision and the Opposition:

In addition to that, a tourist information center at Lichtenberg and viewing platforms will be erected to allow for tourists and hikers to enjoy the view of the forest from high above. The cost for the project is estimated to cost 23 million Euros- 14 million will be allocated to the two bridges, while the rest will be used for the platforms, the tourist information center, marketing strategies and lastly but most importantly, the protection of the natural habitat and the historic castle ruin at Lichtenberg- two major areas of concern that opposers of the project demonstrated at meetings, rallies and the like, prior to the vote yesterday. The costs will be financed by the Bavarian government (80%) and local municipalities (20%). This doesn’t include the cost for accessing the suspension bridge from the Thuringia, for the town of Blankenstein will have to shoulder, according to the OTZ-Newspaper.

 

Discussion on the Proposal:

 
With the project given the official go, the new suspension bridge will provide not only the visitors a chance to see the heavily forested and mountainous Franconian Forest, with a chance to see the Fichtel Mountains, the Länderdreiecken, the cities of Hof and Bayreuth on the Bavarian side as well as the Saaletal region where Lobenstein, Saalburg and Schleiz from the air.  It will also provide direct passage through the valleys, where „evil lurks“ by walking on air. That was the Lord’s plan to begin with and for many, it will be a blessing.  🙂

 

Map of the proposed bridges:

 

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1.  The Länderdreiecken refer to two points where three states meet. One is near the village of Prex (Bavaria), where the German states of Saxony and Bavaria as well as the Czech Republic meet. The other is near the village of Mödlareuth, where the three German states of Thuringia, Saxony and Bavaria meet. At both areas the former East-West German borders once separated Bavaria (American zone) from the Communist regions, where Saxony and Thuringia once belonged to East Germany (GDR), and the Czech Republic, which was once the western half of Czechoslovakia. That country existed from 1919 until the Velvet Divorce in 1993.
2. The District of Saale-Orla is considering many options to provide access to the suspension bridges from Blankenstein. One is providing E-service, but there may be more options on the table. Discussions with the Thuringian government has not yet begun as of this posting.

3. The Europa Suspension Bridgenear Randa in Switzerland, opened in late 2017, now holds the record previously set by the suspension bridge in the Harz Region, with a span of 494 meters.
4. The suspension bridge project is the second project along the former East-West German border that is in motion. The bike trail, which extends from the Dreieck near Prex to Blankenberg is also being built with vast stretches going along the route formerly known as the Death Zone. Much of it has been completed and open for use. This includes going through the village of Mödlareuth, where a museum devoted to the former border is located. More on that via links:

https://www.esterbauer.com/db_detail.php?buecher_code=ICTN3- Deutsch/Deutsch Radweg

https://www.merkur.de/reise/radtour-entlang-innerdeutschen-grenze-gruenem-band-zr-3653724.html

Deutsch-Deutsch Museum Mödlareuth: http://moedlareuth.de/

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 49

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Author’s note: The Pic of the Week and the Weekly Newsflyer will trade places from now on due to time constraints. That means the Pic of the Week will be held Mondays, instead of Fridays and Newsflyer vice versa.

This week’s Pic of the Week is also a candidate for Best Kept Secret in the category Individual Bridges International. With this bridge located in the Thuringian part of the Vogtland region (not far from the borders of Saxony and Bavaria), it is one of the most forgotten because of other, more famous bridges in the region, such as the Göltzschtal Viaduct, Elstertal Viaduct near Plauen, or the most recent posting of the Border Viaduct near Hof, a mystery bridge located in a mysterious region.

Yet looking at the bridge more closely, one will find some facts right in front of you that has a connection with another region that is closer to home than you think.  This bridge alone is located over the River Saale in the village of Harra, which is five kilometers northwest of Bad Lobenstein and 10 km north of the Thuringian-Bavarian border, where the border between West and East Germany once stood. The bridge itself is a combination Parker pony truss and a polygonal Whipple through truss. Its connections are both welded and pin-connected- the former being found in the lower chords; the latter with the truss paneling. Its portal bracing is bedstead with art-greco design.

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The bridge was originally built in 1898 in Großheringen, spanning the same river but providing a connection to Bad Kösen. Großheringen is between Naumburg and Jena, the latter is the birthplace of the optics industry and was where I spent the first eight years after arriving as an exchange student in 1999. The bridge was then relocated to its current spot in Harra in 1951, to replace a bridge destroyed in World War II that was built in 1932. It was later rehabilitated in 2000, which included new paint for the trusses and a new decking. It still provides access to the campgrounds to this day. As for the crossing at Großheringen, a through arch bridge was built in 1951 and served traffic until 2011, when another arch bridge replaced that span.

The bridge’s setting makes photographing it a paradise, as it fits nicely into the landscape featuring the steep bluffs and forest-covered hills of the Saale and the landscape of the small village of 700 inhabitants. Its quiet setting makes for a day of advantures on and at the bridge itself. One can enjoy a meal at the restaurant nearby, boat along the river or even hike the hills. In either case, the Harra Bridge is a treat for anyone with an interest….

……even as a photographer, who has an album with more bridge pics which you can click here to view. 🙂

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Update on the Hirschgrundbrücke Reconstruction

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GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- Last week in the Chronicles’ Instagram page, there were a pair of photos of the progress that is being made with the Hirschgrund Viaduct, a multiple-span arch bridge spanning the ravine at the castle complex south of Glauchau’s city center. As I’ve been reporting up until now, the original bridge dating to the 1700s is being rebuilt after having sat abandoned for over four decades and having been in danger of collapsing under its own weight. With spring in the air, I took an opportunity to get a closer look at the bridge, apart from my usual vantage points, which were from both ends of the bridge. With all the scaffolding that has “encased” the bridge, this was the closest way to find out how it has progressed since my “sniper” shot of the red arches taken in the fall on the eve of a concert at St. George’s Church.

Then:

Now:

And with that I found a couple observations worth noting:

  1. The bridge was being layered with slabs of concrete, bit by bit, filling in the arches and making its way up.
  2. There was a pile of stones that are on the eastern side of the bridge- assumedly salvaged from the old structure and waiting to be reused and
  3. More curiously, vertical posts were sticking out between the arches.

With number 3, I wanted to find out what they were used for, so I got ahold of the city and one of the engineers for an inquiry. This is what I received for an explanation per e-mail (after having it translated):

The load-bearing system of the bridge consists of transverse walls on the piers and self-supporting longitudinal walls, which are then veneered. The inside of the bridge is filled with lightweight porous concrete.

In simpler languages, the newly-rebuilt bridge will have a skeletal system featuring horizontal slabs supported by the vertical piers planted between the arches. All of them will be covered in layers of concrete and then masked to make it appear historic like its original form. Should this be the case, it would not be the “in-kind” restoration of an arch bridge, meaning building it beginning with the arch and then in layers, stone-by-stone and then filled in to make sure the structure is stabilized. Yet it would represent the modern form of restoring the bridge, as it has been seen with some of the bridges restored in Germany, including those in Thuringia, Berlin and Bavaria. That would still make the arch bridge historic but with “braces” to ensure it lasts longer and is able to withstand the increasing weight and number in traffic. With the Hirschgrundbrücke itself, when reopened, it will serve pedestrians, connecting the castle complex and the park across the ravine.

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The future of the original stones from the bridge is unknown.

While there is no concrete date as to when the project will be finished and when the grand “re-opening” will take place, there are some other curious facts that will be mentioned in a tour that is scheduled to take place this weekend. On May 11th at 10:15, 11:00 and 11:45 there will be a tour of the construction site with many questions and photo sessions available. This is all part of the informational Meeting at the Castle Complex that will include what has been completed and what will be the next phases in renovating the castle- namely the grounds and the park. All of which will start at 10 and be finished after 12:00. A link to the page can be found here.

In either case, more updates on the Hirschgrundbrücke will come in the Chronicles. Stay tuned. In case you haven’t taken a look at Glauchau’s Bridge tour guide, check out this and others by clicking here.

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