Located along the Danube River, the city of Ulm, with a population of over 123,000 is one of the oldest cities in Germany. First mentioned in 850, the city had straddled the river for almost a millenium, making it one of the key points of trade and commerce. It had once been declared an Imperial City by order of Friedrich Barbarossa in 1181. However, thanks to Napoleon’s conquest in 1805, Ulm was parted along the river, making it part of Baden-Wurttemberg, whereas the settlement east of the Danube was declared Bavarian and renamed Neu-Ulm. The names have remained the same ever since, although both cities are deeply engaged in joint ventures on the public and private scales, and are sister cities of New Ulm in Minnesota (USA). Some of the key characteristics Ulm has to offer include a professional basketball team “ratiopharm Ulm,” The Ulm Minster Cathedral with the world’s highest steeple surrounded by historic buildings and a large market square, the historic city hall, a pyramid-shaped modern public library, one of the largest collection of “Fachwerk” houses dating back to the Medieval Era (many located along the canals streaming through the southern part of the old town, and memorials honoring scientist Albert Einstein as well as Hans and Sophie Scholl, leaders of the White Rose movement that propagandized against the regime of Adolf Hitler.
And then there are the bridges that are worth mentioning. While all of the Danube crossings in Ulm/Neu Ulm were destroyed towards the end of World War II, a large portion of the pre-1945 bridges were spared destruction and subsequentially repaired to make them functional again. Whether it is the Neutor Bridge or the stone arch bridges along the Blau Canal, or even the rebuilt Herd Bridge, Ulm today still has a wide array of bridges that fit the cityscape, some of which conform to the Renaissance period landscape in a way that a person is actually walking back into time to get a glimpse of Ulm’s past.
This tour takes you to the most noteworthy bridges in Ulm one should visit while visiting the city. The goal is to provide you with a glimpse at the role of the bridges in the city’s development and their survival through two World Wars. While there are over five crossings over the Danube River, the Herd Bridge will be profiled here because of its historic significance despite being rebuilt after World War II. The other bridges were built in the 1960s on and do not have the historic taste in comparison with the bridges mentioned here. For some of the other bridges profiled here, information is missing on their history- in particular, the bridge builder and the year of construction. If you wish to add some information about these bridges, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, and that information will be added.
A map of the bridges’ and their location are found here and the bridges….
Herdbrücke (EN: Herd Bridge):
Location: Danube River (main channel) at Donaustrasse (Ulm) and Marienstrasse (Neu Ulm).
Bridge type: Closed spandrel arch bridge with ribbed spandrels
Length: 75 meters
This bridge is one of two crossings that carry a single street over both channels of the Danube River. Ironically, the Gänsetorrücke in Neu Ulm, despite spanning the narrower channel of the river is longer than this bridge by about 21 meters. This bridge features a single span elliptical arch design wide and tall enough to accomodate boat traffic along the river. Built in 1949, its predecessor was a three-span brick arch bridge built in 1832 and named after Ludwig Wilhelm. Unfortunately in an attempt to slow the advancement of American and British troops from the west, the Nazis imploded the bridge in April 1945, a month before Germany capitulated in Berlin and Flensburg, respectively (please click on this link for more information on this topic). A temporary bridge was erected, which remained in service until this bridge was built. Today, this bridge serves as the key link between the city centers of Ulm and Neu Ulm, while at the same time, its historic significance fits in nicely with the surroundings of both cities: a 1949 bridge whose modernity fits the cityscape of Neu Ulm but its arch design fits nicely with the old town of Ulm itself. A nice compromise for a crossing like this one.
Location: Danube River between Münchner Strasse (Ulm) and Reuttierstrasse (Neu-Ulm)
Bridge Type: One-span concrete Luten arch bridge with closed spandrel
Built: 1950 by Ulrich Finsterwalder
Legend has it that the bridge was named after the entrance gate to the Medieval town of Ulm, Gänstor for flocks of geese were ushered to the river from the gate. The Gänstorbrücke was the very first permanent crossing built after World War II. Its predecessor was a three-span concrete arch Bridge, built in 1912 by the bridge firm, Dyckerhoff & Widmann. Before that, an iron pedestrian bridge had existed in the last two decades of the 19th century. The three-span arch bridge was destroyed by locals on 24th April, 1945, shortly before it capitulated to the encroaching American troops. The Americans quickly constructed a temporary crossing made of wood while planning began for a new bridge. The contract was let to architect, Ulrich Finsterwalder in 1950, to build a single span Luten arch bridge, with a total length of 96 meters, over the River Danube. It opened to traffic on 10 December, 1950 and it costed both cities 810,000 German Marks. At the grand ceremony that day, in honor of the bridge and its legend, flocks of geese were the first to cross.
Despite the fact that the bridge is one of two primary river crossings between Ulm and Neu-Ulm north of the railway station, plans are in the making to replace this unique crossing, for rust and corrosion in the structural skeleton of the arch span has made remodeling the bridge financially not feasible. The bridge had a load limit of not more than three tons. Even though the bridge was listed as a historic structure by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage (Amt des Denkmalschutzes), the bridge was de-listed in September 2019, clearing the way for the planning and replacement of the bridge. The current structure will be replaced in 2022.
Neutorbrücke (EN: Neutor Bridge):
Location: Ulm-Treutchingen-Nuremberg Railline at Neutorstrasse NE of Ulm Hauptbahnhof (Railway Station)
Bridge type: Steel cantilever truss bridge with Warren truss features
Built: 1907 by Levi and Büttner as well as Machinefabrik Esslingen
The Neutor Bridge is the most ornamental of the bridges in Ulm. At over 120 meters long, the bridge’s main features are the towers, whose finials are covered with gold egg-like figures. The towers portals features the city’s shield with its black and white color. When taken from Kienlesbergstrasse, you can capture the bridge and the cathedral all in one, as long as the weather is cooperative.
While designed by Levi and Büttner, the construction of the bridge was done by the firm Maschinenbauwerk in Esslingen, a very popular steel fabricator of bridges and train locomotives until the late 1960s. The company was founded by Emil Kessler in 1846 and was solely responsible for the construction of railroad bridges, railroad tracks and train locomotives and coaches. Apart from this bridge, the company was responsible of the building of the Unterreichenbach Railroad Bridge in 1874 (today, the only example of a Schwedler truss bridge left), The Neckar River Steel Arch Bridge at Plochingen in 1949, and The Fehmarn Bridge in 1963. The company survived several takeovers and concourses during its 120+ year history before the company announced its cessation of production in 1966. Shortly thereafter, it was bought by Daimler-Benz.
Despite being used regularly and its thoroughly done maintenance, the bridge will receive another crossing only 200 meters to the west, which will provide a more direct connection between the city center and train station to the southwest as well as the freeway Highway 10 to the west. While the design has been announced, construction has not started yet as of present. It does appear though that the bridge will be left in place as a secondary crossing going to the northeast once the new crossing is open by 2020.
Ludwig Erhard Bridge:
Location: Munich-Ulm-Stuttgart Railline at Ulm Hauptbahnhof (Railway Station)
Bridge type: Cable-stayed suspension bridge
Built: 2007 replacing the Blaubeurerbrücke
The Ludwig Erhard Bridge is the first bridge you will see when disembarking the train at the railway station. In the daytime, one can see the blue and grey colors of the tower and cables as it decorates the hillside in the background. At night, however, the colors change to yellow, for the towers are lit by sodium street lamps lining up the meridian and the inner portions of the towers, thus making photography an interesting adventure. The bridge replaces the Blaubeurer Bridge, a steel girder bridge from the 1950s that had corroded away thanks to the black smoke from the trains combined with heavy traffic. Yet this combination steel and concrete bridge improves a key link along Karlstrasse between the city center, Neutorbrücke, the railway station and the eastern suburbs on one end, and the freeway Highway 10 and parks to the west. All of the mentioned locations are centralized and easily accessible even by foot.
Bleicher Hag Bridge (a.k.a. Beringerbrücke):
Location: Munich-Ulm-Stuttgart Railline and railroad yard at the junction of Am Bleicher Hag and Blaubeurerstrasse at Ulm-Lehrertal
Bridge type: Bedstead Pratt pony truss with riveted connections
The Bleicher Hag Bridge is the longest of the bedstead truss bridges that exist along the railroad lines serving Ulm, with five spans of 120 meters, totalling 600 meters. There is little information about the construction date of the bridge, let alone the bridge builder, with the exception of the build date of 1908, where riveted truss bridges were becoming the only kind to be constructed. The caveat with this bridge was its narrowness- only 3 meters wide and with a weight limit of six tons. That plus structural instability have led to the City of Ulm’s decision to tear down the bridge, beginning in the spring of 2020. No word on whether a pedestrian/ bike crossing will take its place but if that is the case, it will be built near the Magirusstrasse, as this bridge crosses the widest area of the rail yard.
But given the increasing demand of rail traffic and the improvement of vehicular traffic, chances are likely that this bridge may be replaced with a larger, more appealing structure in the next 10-15 years. But it depends on the availability of money and manpower to make it happen.
Lehrertal Railroad Overpass:
Location: Railroad line at Y-junction of Ulm-Treuchtingen-Nuremberg Line and Munich-Ulm-Stuttgart Line, north of Ulm Hauptbahnhof.
This bridge is hard to find, unless one wishes to walk across the Highway 10 bridge on the north side. Here is where one can get the best photo. The bridge is unique because of its curved spans as it crosses the rail lines going east past Ulm. Most likely this bridge is used for freight traffic not wishing to stop at Ulm Railway Station, located only 500 meters to the south. Like the Bleicher Hag Bridge, the Lehrertal Bridge has little information on its history but it appears that the bridge has been in service for 60+ years, namely because of its welded connections that had started becoming popular at that time. Yet more information is needed to confirm this.
Location: Grosses Blau Canal on a pedestrian path between Schwörthausgasse and Fischergasse
Bridge type: Brick arch bridge
There are many small crossings along the Blau Canal that compliment the Fachwerk houses in the Old Town. Yet this two-span arch bridge is the more popular of the crossings, and one of the more visible bridges to photograph. The bridge dates back to the 1700s and it is built using brick. No information on its length is given, but it is estimated to be 20 meters long and only three meters wide. The bridge is located only 15 meters behind Das Schiefe Haus, the oldest existing house remaining in Ulm that dates back to the 1500s and one whose name fits the description, as seen in the picture below:
The house is the only one of its kind in Germany with this unusual feature. It is a now a bed and breakfast, located right on the canal. Anybody care to eat or sleep at the water level? 😉
Location: Grosse Blau Canal at Weinhofbergstrasse and Auf der Insel
Bridge type: Brick arch bridge
Located at the north tip of the island surrounded by the Blau Canal, this bridge is the lesser visible of the brick arch crossings because of the Fachwerkhäuser and vegetation interfering with the view. Nevertheless, the bridge fits nicely in the cityscape, providing access to some of the small shops in the Old Town. It is located behind one of the recently restored Fachwerk houses (the light brown colored one as seen in the picture) where a gallery and private residence occupies it. The bridge dates back to the 1700s but unlike the one at Schiefeshaus, this one carries automobile traffic but at a snail’s pace because of the high number of people soaking in the scenery of Ulm’s Old Town.
There are many more to see in Ulm, but these examples are the ones that should be visited first because of their historic and aesthetic appearance and how they fit the cityscape. Many of them are difficult to find and one will end up walking past them as they see the Fachwerk houses or even the other places of interest in the Old Town. But in case you stop at at least a couple of them to pay homage to them, you will have a chance to learn how oatingthey have played an integral part in the city’s development over the past three centuries. Unlike the ones in New Ulm in the US, where most of the crossings are now modern, these crossings are unique because of their history and design, even more so because of how thy fit Ulm’s cityscape, thus adding them to the storied list of places to see while in Ulm. Taking the line from Hans Scholl, one can sum up Ulm’s history as the following: Es lebe die Geschichte und Kulturerbe, in addition to his famous last words: “Es lebe die Freiheit.”
EN: Long live freedom, history and heritage.
Author’s Note: This article is part of a series being done on the cities of Ulm/ Neu Ulm, Germany and the city of New Ulm written by sister column, The Flensburg Files. For more on this topic, click here more details. The story behind Hans and Sophie Scholl can also be found there as well.
Also: The Files has a Genre of the Week entitled “The Fire Within,” written by Sophie Scholl, which if clicked here, might be of interest to the reader. 🙂