Beaver destroys historic bridge in Bavaria

KUTZENHAUSEN-BUCH/ AUGSBURG- The Rothbrücke, located in the district of Augsburg in the community of Kutzenhausen has been in the news recently because of a rather interesting story that is making residents and Bavarians scratch their heads as to how this could happen. The 40-50 foot long beam bridge with concrete decking that spans a small creek has come under attack from an unlikely source, and it has caused the mayor to pursue measures to demolish and replace the bridge with haste. Beavers have been busy taking the bridge apart, piece by piece, where they have undermined the bridge’s abutments and wingwalls by digging several holes behind it, as well as along the shoreline surrounding it. The abutment supports the decking of the bridge, whereas the wingwalls allows water to flow freely under the bridge and keep the dirt back. The end result of the beaver’s work has been the area having several holes and tunnels at and behind the abutments, making it look like Swiss cheese, according to reports by the newspaper, Augsburger Allgemeine. The problem was first discovered in 2010, resulting in the weight limit of 3.5 tones being imposed on the bridge. But it was not enough for the beavers to widen their tunnel network and bring the bridge to a point of collapse. According to the mayor, Rupert Kugelbrey, the abutments are so undermined that the bridge could collapse at any moment.  While the bridge has been closed off to all traffic including pedestrians since the end of February of this year, plans are now in the making to remove the bridge at the earliest possible convenience for safety reasons. Whether there will be a replacement for the 40+ year old bridge to follow remains open. But it has provided locals and pontists with some humor, as the beaver is being talked about among the social network community. And it is no wonder, for beavers have a potential to bring down trees and dam up streams, causing flooding. That they have the potential to destroy bridges by undermining important parts is something that is going to have engineers look at other ways to keep wild animals from destroying other bridges, regardless of age and materials used.  For this beaver, it will have to find other bridges to undermine, once the Rothbrücke is removed, but not before receiving the Chronicles’ Author’s Choice Awards in the process, which will be presented next year.

Respect. 🙂

More on the bridge can be found here. A photo of the bridge and the damage done by the beaver can be found here.


Mystery Bridge 20: The bridge that used to house a bike shop

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Photos taken in May 2010

Flensburg, Germany. Located at the German-Danish border, the city of 90,000 inhabitants is home to two universities, a top-class handball team (SG Flensburg-Handewitt) and 800 years of history involving shipping and trade. It is deep in the heart of the Angel region, whose inhabitants invaded England in the 4th Century and became the first group to introduce the English language. There’s the local breweries of Hansen’s and the Flensburger, the latter of which have produced over a dozen types of beer that can still be tasted today.  And lastly, it is the birthplace of the rum industry, where over a dozen rum distilleries and another dozen sugar processing plants dominated the region up until the 1950s. The distilleries of Pott and Johanssen still exist today with over 300 years of tradition.

Then there are the bridges. Over a dozen bridges serve the city and a radius of 10 kilometers, much of them feature girder types like this one, the mystery bridge which can be found at the junction of Angelburger Strasse and the Suederhofenden at the southern tip of Flensburg’s city center.  It is unknown when it was built, except to say that because pony girder bridges were commonly used for railroad bridges during the first three decades of the 20th century, that it is assumed it was constructed in the 1920s. It used to serve a rail line connecting Flensburg’s railway station (located to the south of the city center) and the docking area (located in the vicinity of the Schiffsfahrtmuseum, Hansen’s brewery and a collection of clipper ships). This line has been abandoned for some years and with that, the bridge, one of at least six serving the spur, is still in tact.

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V-laced truss bracing that supports the bridge’s decking

Now why choose a girder bridge like this one, apart from its unusual truss railings resembling a Howe truss style and the bottom truss bracing resembling V-lacing which can be seen while walking under the structure? Have a look at the following photos taken while visiting Flensburg in 2010 and take a wild guess, asking why the northern abutment is what it is in the picture:

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FL Up1FL Up4After looking at the northern abutment, one is probably asking whether it is possible to house a business or residence in the abutment. While it may be inconceivable in the United States, it is common in Germany and other places in Europe. In places like Berlin, Halle (Saale) and Frankfurt (Main), one can see many businesses embedded in the brick or concrete abutment and wall with trains passing over them without incident. The reason is simple: the population density which makes this move a necessity and the proximity to railway stations and other important points where people can board the trains provide it with an opportunity to catch any passers-by. Judging by the appearance on the abutment at the railroad underpass in Flensburg- with the words “Fahrräder” above the entrance and window, which was walled in, and the bike wheel facing the street passing under the bridge- it appears that the northern abutment of the railroad used to have a bike business. The question is, when was the area abandoned and why. Furthermore, were the original inhabitants the Petersens, whose bike business is now located up the hill at Hafermarkt 19, approximately 300 meters east of the bridge? And lastly, why was the northern abutment of the bridge holed in to create a business in the first place? Who was the mastermind behind this scheme?

Before touring Flensburg’s bridges, the Chronicles is gathering information on the bridge’s history. If you have any information on this bridge that will be useful, please contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at You can also add your comments and facts about the bridge under Comments at the end of this article or on the Bridgehunter’s Chronicle’s facebook page.  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is an online column that focuses on historic bridges, with a specialty in solving mysteries of such historic bridges like this one in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

While in Flensburg, there is another bridge whose information is lacking and will be shown in the next Mystery Bridge article. Stay tuned and enjoy the rum and the discussion on this bridge.

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The Un-Covered Bridge in Vermont

Forward by the author:

Imagine this scenario with a historic bridge in general. You have a multi-span structure spanning a ravine for more than 150 years. In European standards it would be common as we have various covered and arch bridges that date as far back as the 1700s (and even further). In American standards, it is rare to find these relicts anywhere with the exception of the areas along the East Coast in the form of covered and arch bridges, namely because that area was occupied by the settlers first before the westward expansion started. Anyway, this 150 year old historic bridge is a covered bridge resembling something like this one below:

Historic American Engineer’s Record

Yet a major storm destroys half the structure and you are left with the task of rebuilding that half of the bridge, realizing that: 1. the structure will not look the same as before, and 2. there is a possibility that another bridge type would take its place instead of having the covered span, like this one:

Photo taken by Kaitlin O’shea

There are many examples of bridges that fall into one category or the other, with a couple more set to follow in the coming year. This includes the reconstruction of the Sutliff Bridge in Iowa, where the eastern most span, which was destroyed by flooding in 2008- will be rebuilt but usingriveted connections instead of pinned connections, like the other two spans.

But suppose, by looking at the picture above that one half of the span was not destroyed but instead was in the midst of being reconstructed, and therefore receiving the nickname, the un-covered bridge because of the arches that were supposed to support the trusses but instead is just sitting there with its future on the line….

There is an explanation to this rather unique appearance, which can only be given by the person who has been there to see the bridge. Kaitlin O’shea of Preservation in Pink, a website devoted to the preservation of historic places in her home state of Vermont and elsewhere, wrote a short article about this bridge awhile back and has taken up the offer to explain about the Un-covered Bridge as a guest columnist for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Here is her story on this bridge, where it is located and what the plans are for restoring it for future use….


The Un-Covered Bridge
By Kaitlin O’Shea
The Taftsville Covered Bridge spans the Ottaquechee River in Taftsville (Woodstock), Vermont. Designed and constructed in 1836 by Solomon Emmons III, this two-span, modified multiple kingpost truss with semi-independent arch is a rare example of early craftsman tradition; it does not reflect influences from any of the bridge patent patterns available at the time. Its design is considered somewhat unorthodox for American construction, though possibly influenced by Swiss designs. HAER documentation identifies the current covered bridge as the fourth Taftsville bridge in this location.  The original bridge was built in the late 18th century in order to serve the thriving settlements on both banks of the Ottaquechee, including a power plant, gristmill, chair factory, brickyard, blacksmith, tannery and slaughterhouse. After floods washed out the first bridges, the town likely needed a stronger bridge, which led to Emmons’ design and construction.

Entrance to the bridge. Historic American Engineer’s Record

Since its construction there have been repairs and alterations, such as the arches, which were added in the early 20th century; exact reasons remain unknown. Substantial rehabilitation occurred in the early 1950s.  A multi-million dollar restoration project for the Taftsville Covered Bridge was programmed into the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s project schedule and on track to begin in 2012. However, the August 28, 2011 flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene that hammered much of the State of Vermont changed project plans.
Windsor County, where Taftsville is located, was one of the five hardest hit counties in Vermont (which has 14 counties). While the Taftsville Covered Bridge did not suffer the fate of the Bartonsville Covered Bridge, which was destroyed when it was washed off its abutments, it still saw incredible damage.
Following the flooding, the bridge was closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Inspections in the upcoming weeks revealed a failing western abutment (Route 4 side of the bridge), to the extent that it threatened the stability of the bridge. The stone abutment faced an unsecure earthen riverbank, and material had washed downstream with the floodwaters. As a result the timber arch slipped and threatened to be unable to support the bridge until restoration. In addition, the central pier was damaged during the flood.

Close-up of the damaged piers and the undermining of the arches. Photo taken by Kaitlin O’shea, used with permission

In order to stabilize the bridge before winter began (even though winter barely showed in Vermont this year), the Vermont Agency of Transportation carried out a strengthening and lightening plan. In other words: strengthen the arches with tension rods, and remove the dead load: the siding, deck, and distribution beams – essentially, everything except the arches.  The abutment that remains and the central pier are strong enough to support one full span and one light span. The benefit to this method is that the entire bridge does not have to be removed, which saves additional work and keeps the bridge in everyone’s sights. A creative stabilization plan was necessary at this location due to several obstacles including an adjacent power plant and low power lines, which would inhibit the entrance of construction equipment and vehicles.
And that is how Taftsville became the Un-Covered Bridge. A restoration plan is still on track for the Taftsville Covered Bridge, though it may be a total of two years before the bridge is open to traffic.

West abutment, arch, and the rest of the bridge. Photo taken by Kaitlin O’shea, used with permission


Note about the guest columnist:

Kaitlin O’Shea is a historic preservationist by education, profession and avocation. She is currently a Historic Preservation Specialist with the State of Vermont, and previously an oral history project manager in North Carolina. Kaitlin has been writing Preservation in Pink since 2007, when she realized just how much she missed the caffeinated conversations and company of her preservation colleagues. What began as a preservation newsletter evolved to the daily blog that discusses historic preservation on all fronts, aiming to present subjects as approachable and applicable to everyone, no matter what his/her background.

The author would like to thank her for the use of her photos. They were taken in September 2011 and March 2012 respectively with her iPhone, and contrary to her opinion about the photos, they came out well on this column.