BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 61

img_20190704_211848825

This week’s Pic of the Week is in connection with a “Never say never” moment regarding a historic bridge that is hard to get to, unless you fight through weeds, rotten wood and potholes on abandoned roads to get it what you want.

This was one of them. The Filzwerk Truss Bridge is located on the south end of Hof at the junction of Ascher Strasse and Hofer Strasse. Like the Alsenberg Truss Bridge seen in another Pic of the Week article (see here), the bridge is a Pratt through truss with welded connections, approximately 35 meters long and spanning the same river- the Saale. Both were built between 1900 and 1920, but we don’t know much about the two…..

Or do we?

This bridge is located on the south side of the Filzwerk factory, a company that produced textile products until its closure a couple decades ago. It was since that time, half of the company was converted into a cultural events center, which garners tens of thousands of visitors to Hof every year. The other half is still in operation but has seen better days with empty buildings and lots, all of which are fenced off to the public.

Even when walking to the bridge from the north side, outside the fenced area and through the weeds and thorns that are waist high, you will be confronted by security guards and told to leave for trespassers pose a security threat in their eyes.

On the south side, however, you can access the bridge at the junction of the aforementioned streets. Even though the intersection is officially a T, it used to be a cross-road junction with the road leading to the factory and the truss bridge. The road is no longer passable by car as it is chained off. Yet you can go by foot as you cross three steel beam bridges- each with a length of 10-15 meters- before turning right and going directly onto the through truss span! You will be greeted with trapezoidal portal and strut bracings as you go across. Yet the north portal side has been fenced off by the factory to keep trespassers from entering the complex on the bridge end. The best photo shots can be found at either the oblique or portal views as a side view may be impossible to get unless it’s in the winter time.

Unlike the Alsenberg Truss Bridge, the Filzwerk Bridge appears to be in a lot better shape with its wooden decking intact, and there is a potential to reuse it in the future, but at a different location. However little is known about the bridge’s history nor are there any concrete plans at the present time for the bridge, for three other structures in and around Hof are either being replaced or rehabilitated. Therefore the bridge will most likely sit in place for long time until there is potential interest for the structure.

And it is probably a good thing too. The bridge is one of those potential hideouts kids can use, as long as they are careful and the bridge is not harmed in anyway.

 

Do you know more about this bridge (or even the Alsenberg Truss Bridge), send us a comment and other information using the contact details by clicking here.

 

bhc est 2010a

 

Advertisements

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

Selbitz 4 head

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!

selbitz 7
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.

selbitz 5

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.

selbitz 1
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:

selbitz 3

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.

selbitz 6

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.

selbitz 2

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

 

bhc-logo-newest1

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 51

60648927_2438153682881933_2526430029865287680_o

Care for a game of hoops? There is a good place to play ball, right next to the viaduct. Located in the village of Unterkotzau, north of Hof, this viaduct spans the River Saale. It was one of the oldest viaducts along the Hof-Zwickau-Chemnitz-Dresden Magistrate as well as the Hof-Werdau-Leipzig Line, having been constructed in 1848. The 174 meter long viaduct is the only viaduct along the two lines that has pointed arches, resembling rockets. One can see the eight-arch viaduct from the vehicular crossing that is only 400 meters away to the northwest. From there, one has another six kilometers until reaching the next bridge at the Motorway 72 Viaduct near Koditz.

In either case, one will enjoy a good game of basketball while watching the trains cross the bridge. At least one train crosses every 20 minutes regardless of which direction, which makes it well- traveled

….and well watched from the passengers cheering on the home team.  We’re just missing the ref, though. 😉

bhc-logo-newest1

bhc-logo-newest1

 

Sparnberg Bridge: Swinging Between Border and Crossing?

60543169_2487496021269356_7034162429386817536_o
Sparnberg Bridge and Mill. Photos taken in May 2019

Co-produced with sister column FF new logo

SPARNBERG (THURINGIA); GERMANY- Approximately 1-2 kilometers west of the Rudolphstein Viaduct and the Motorway 9 between Berlin and Munich is a small village that has slowly but surely become the forgotten or even lost one. Sparnberg is located on the River Saale. Founded in 1202, the village used to have a population of over 400 inhabitants at the end of World War II. Today it has only 160. The town today is characterized by its small church and market square, a dam and mill that was created in 1999, a park that is just off the Saale Bike Trail and other hiking trails that careen the steep woody hills, and the key crossing between Thuringia and Bavaria- the Sparnberg Bridge.

60831355_2487501947935430_5515844232725659648_o
The bridge and a piece of the wall that once stood- now a memorial

To understand the history of the bridge, we have to look at the history of Sparnberg in the post war period. The village is located at the edge of civilization, tucked away from the events that were unfolding in World War II with Hitler’s downfall in the hands of the allies. Even driving down to Sparnberg from Rudolphstein today is a real chore for one will face steep hills and steep curves before jumping right onto the bridge and into Sparnberg. If you have a car with a stick shift, put it into one before going down, ok?

Everything was peaceful until their covered bridge was blown up in 1945 by the fleeing Nazi soldiers in an attempt to flee the Soviets and Americans from the south. They had previously taken down two arches of the Autobahn Viaduct thus cutting off the main artery between Berlin and Munich for 21 years (see more here). It was at this point that Sparnberg, for 45 years, was in the direct line of fire between the Americans on the Bavarian side and the Soviets on the Thuringian side. While the American troops took advantage of the gorgeous views of the Saale River Valley (known in Germany as the Saaletal) and watched the daily lives of the residents in Sparnberg, the Soviets were quick to erect a Wall as tall as the one that had splitted Berlin into two, made of concrete and steel to keep people from crossing the Saale to the Bavarian side. The entire town was surrounded by the tracks that were used by the military and police. Many of these concrete reminents of the „Todeszone“ (Death Zone) can be found in and around Sparnberg today. This includes a rather unique treat that the lucky „bastards“ from Moscow got, which you can read about here. But in all reality, the people of Sparnberg had no chance but to be at the mercy of the soldiers who were infiltrating the small village in the middle of „No Man’s Land“ until November 1989- the time of the Fall of the Wall.

60716868_2487499561269002_5203156268386091008_o
Remnants of the Death Zone with concrete paths used for military equipment.

While making it across the border was trecherous for residents had to flee through Bad Lobenstein and the Schleizer Dreieck in order to cross the Viaduct, which had been restored and reopened 23 years before, a temporary crossing was built in 1990 to allow people to cross the Saale. At the same time, both states and district of Hirschberg (which Sparnberg belongs to) developed a plan to build a new permanent crossing. Originally planned as a covered bridge, they changed their minds, and when the bridge opened in 1993, this was what the structure looked like:

61162437_2487502811268677_4349585158152650752_o
Transversal view facing Bavaria

At present, the bridge looks like this. However, as it was a wooden beam bridge, time, weather extremities as well as wear and tear have taken their toll on the structure. Furthermore, the steel supporting the beams is corroding, making the crossing more dangerous.  The bridge’s current weight limit is 2.0 tons and only cars can cross. By American standards, the structure would have to close allowing only pedestrians and cyclists to use it. Its absolute „Schmerzpunkt“ is three tons, but many states have the limit set for cars at five tons. While photographing the bridge from underneath, the sound of creaking and crackling of wooden planks from the cars might be an indicating factor, yet bridges with wooden decking have that typical sound of wood rolling and creaking.

60678297_2487502154602076_2441805928454946816_o

60700696_2487502364602055_2352586422491283456_o
The more modern side was done by Thuringia. The warped and worn-out section in the background belongs to Bavaria.

The major problem is how the bridge has been maintained, as you can see in the picture above. As the bridge was financed by both states, it should have been maintained by the same parties. This pic was taken from the Sparnberg side and shows that theory and praxis are a day and night difference. In the background the plankings on the Bavarian side is warped with wood rot and cracks, as if it had never been maintained. On the Thuringian side, the planks look like new and seems to have been in place for a decade. While Sparnberg used to have a bridge festival and part of the proceeds were most likely used for the maintenance and rehabilitation, it was only for their side, whereas the Bavarian side has long since neglected its end, using the „out of site, out of mind“ mentality which is taking ist toll. Should it continue, then Sparnberg may not have a bridge for too long- it takes a simple collapse of a car into the Saale to do the trick.

While the bridge still provides the easiest access to Bavaria, the time is ripe to replace the bridge with one that is iconic for Sparnberg and the region along the former East-West border. The structure of course needs to be wider and made of both wood and steel to ensure its longetivity, with the southern approach to the bridge to be widened. Yet it needs to be as iconic as not only the present structure but the covered bridge that had preceded it before it was bombed and later walled shut. One has to keep in mind that despite the few cars that cross it, it is still a vital one for the people in Sparnberg. A slab bridge is definitely not an option, but other designs might be suitable, such as a through truss bridge, suspension bridge, tied arch or even its classical covered bridge. All are typical for the region.

The question is which one would you choose?

 

More pics of the bridges in the region can be found here

 

 

bhc-logo-newest1

Pic of the Week Nr. 48

59889249_2418203591543609_2351846992331669504_o

As another series is starting alongside the ones in the running, this pic of the week takes us to the town of Hof. The city has 44,000 inhabitants and is located near the border where Germany was once divided into the eastern and western halves with borders and all. The town was on the western half and was once a key point for people fleeing to the west because of repression in the east. Since 1990, however, the town has slowly declined with many businesses and houses being abandoned and unemployment relatively high. Even some of the bridges in the area have seen better days, like we see with this crossing.

This bridge is located over the River Saale at the dam in Alsenberg in the south end of Hof. It’s a nine-panel Pratt through truss bridge with heel portals and strut bracings, built between 1900 and 1920. The structure appeared to have carried cars and pedestrians because it was built using thin metal and is light weight. The structure has been abandoned for over 40 years and is showing its age as we can see in this picture. The structure is literally getting covered in green moss and vegetation, with wooden planking rotting and the bridge unstable in general. A rather picturesque tunnel view shot but one that is a once in a lifetime shot. A new bridge is being built next to this one, and chances are, because restoration is out of the question due to excessive rust and corrosion, this bridge will be removed in the coming years. For sure the next flood will knock it off its foundations and wash it down stream.

So enjoy this pic while it lasts……

 

bhc-logo-newest1

The Bridges of Bridgeport/ Frankenmuth (Michigan)

37789217_1983731251657514_4425714750554374144_o
Bronner’s Bridge south of Frankenmuth.  Photos taken in July 2018

There are tourist traps and then there are tourist traps with historic bridges involved. The tour guide provided here clearly belongs to the latter, and it has a story behind it. As we were travelling north on Interstate 75 in the direction of the Mackinac Bridge, we came across a bilboard that directed us to Bridgeport, home of Michigan’s number one historic bridge. I had known about the first bridge on the tour guide prior to the US trip, yet we also learned about Bridgeport’s next door neighbor, Frankenmuth, a typical German community that was full of surprises. We decided to pull off first at Bridgeport and then head over to Frankenmuth and found more surprises than what we learned about. What will a tourist find in the bridges in Bridgeport/Frankenmuth apart from what is highlighted by links and in the Instagram pages will motivate you to spend a couple days in the region that is only 10 miles south of Saginaw.

37712876_1982953035068669_7186037279041781760_o

State Street Bridge (Bridgeport):  When travelling North on Interstate 75, one will come across a bilboard that says Bridgeport, home of Michigan’s number one historic bridge. A first where a bridge is a centerpiece, a tourist attraction, a magnet. However, from a bridgehunter’s point of view, together with his family members who were also armed and dangerous with Lumixes and Pentaxes, the city’s chamber of commerce was right and then some. 🙂  The Bridgeport Bridge spans Cass River at State Street. Built in 1906 by the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company, the bridge features a pin-connected, two-span Pratt through truss bridge with three-rhombus Howe lattice portal bracings with 45° heels. The bridge is a distant cousin of one in Jackson, Minnesota at Petersburg Road, which was built a year later but was removed after flood damage in 1995. The difference is the length of the structure, which is nearly twice as long as the one in Jackson: two 126-foot long truss spans with a total length of 252 feet. Jackson’s was 130 feet, but the total length was 150. After serving vehicular traffic for almost a century years, the bridge was closed to traffic because the center pier was being undermined by the currents, causing the western span to tip over. Yet thanks to efforts conducted by Nathan Holth of historicbridges.org, who documented the Bridge in detail from 2004 to date, the Bridgeport community collaborated with the state and an engineering group, Spicer Group to conduct an in-kind restoration, overseen by Vern Mesler. This was done in 2010 and consisted of dismantling the two trusses off site, sandblasting the bridge parts, and reassemble the bridge exactly as it was built, but with new bolts and eyebars in many cases. The only “new” aspects of the bridge was the new center pier, new abutments, railings and the approaches to the Bridge. That was in addition to a picnic area and pavillion as a bike trail connecting Bridgeport and Frankenmuth was being constructed. The bridge today looks just like it was when it was originally built, including the wooden decking, thus presenting a historic appeal.  Yet there are two more reasons to visit the bridge and pay homage to those who restored it. First of all, there is a historic town park on the eastern bank of the river, where a “revived” main street is lined with historic stores, church and houses dating back a century ago. The Bridgeport Museum, which owns the property, is located along this historic street. Yet it would be a crime to miss out on reason number two, which is the eateries that are located across the Dixie Highway from the bridge, going to the east. The Butter Crust Bakery is located on the corner of Sherman Road and Dixie, and from 6:00 in the morning until 5:00pm on all but Sunday and Monday, one can enjoy jelly-filled donuts, long-johns, mini-cakes and even a glazed ugly (caramel filled pastry with hazelnuts and/or almonds for a very low Price. All of them are locally made and use all natural ingredients- have been doing so for over a half-century. 🙂  An ice cream parlor at State Street just off the highway offers the finest ice cream in the region, including Rocky Road (ice cream with fudge, dark chocolate and marshmallows) and Michigan Pothole (dark chocolate with chips), the latter is named after a typical curse one will find on all Michigan’s roads- potholes, big and small. Both of which are highly recommended, whereas one can see the bridge from the parlor and can even enjoy watching people cross it from the inside.  🙂

 

CSX Bridge

Bridgeport (CSX) Railroad Bridge: To the north of the Bridgeport Bridge at State Street is another through truss bridge that gives the photographer on the State Street crossing a chance to get a few shots. The Bridgeport Railroad Bridge spans the Cass River, carrying the CSX Railroad, located approximately 300 feet away. The bridge is considered the longest of the bridges profiled here in the Bridgeport/Frankenburg area, for even though the main span- a Warren through truss with riveted connections and heel portal bracings- is 130 feet long, if one counts the trestle approaches, especially on the southern end, the total length is 530 feet. The bridge was constructed in 1908-09 by the American Bridge Company in New York. The 1908 date came from the concrete abutment, whereas the truss bridge was brought in a year later; the plaque is on the bridge. Together with the Bridgeport Bridge at State Street, the CSX crossing is one of a handful of bridges that still has a railroad and a road crossing running along side or adjacent of each other, but are trussed. The bridge is basically an accessory to the other one nearby and all its historic places located next to it, that it is basically a win-win situation for bridgehunters and historians alike. One cannot photograph one without getting the other.

 

Photo by James Baughn

Gugel Bridge at Beyer Road: Spanning the Cass River, this unique crossing has had a share of its own history as the 114-year old structure is the oldest surviving bridge in the county. The pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with Town Lattice portal bracings and a pony truss approach span, was originally built to accommodate the Dixie Highway until 1919. It was then relocated to this site where it served traffic until it was closed down in 1979. 25 years later, William ‘Tiny’ Zehnder led efforts to restore the bridge to reincorporate it into the bike trail connecting Bridgeport and Frankenmuth. There are historic markers and benches at the bridge for people to relax when taking a break, while enjoying the natural surroundings of the Cass.

 

37710818_1983733504990622_2780178651923087360_o

Frankenmuth Covered Bridge:

In the eyes of fans of iron bridges, this bridge is a modern “Schande” to the City of Frankenmuth. In the eyes of German tourists this bridge is too “Kitschisch” just like with the rest of the predominantly- German community whose resorts and restaurants resemble those in the Alps, even though the origin of Frankenmuth is from the Franconian Region of Bavaria. Yet in the eyes of covered bridge fans and those who have never seen Frankenmuth before, this bridge is considered the crown jewel for the community, competing with the Bridgeport Bridge at State Street for the best historic Bridge in this tour guide.

Yes, the Frankenmuth Covered Bridge, built in 1979 by Milton Graton & Son of Ashland, New Hampshire, is considered historic, even though in ten years time, it could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its unique truss design, its aesthetic features and its association with the community. The bridge is 239 feet long and has an A-Frame gable roofing which covers not only the one-lane road deck but also the pedestrian walkway that is on the outside of the bridge, separated by its Town Lattice truss design. Its gabled attic roofing on the sides make it resemble a covered Bridge in the Swiss  For cyclists going from Zehnder’s Restaurant on the west bank to the Bavarian Inn Lodge on the eastern side it is best to push your bike across on the pedestrian walkway as this covered Bridge sees a lot of traffic on a regular basis. The bridge, which carries a weight Limit of 7 tons, is a backdrop to the scenery on both sides of the river. On the east end, there is the Bavarian Inn and Restaurants which includes a park and many acres of green. On the western end there is the Business district, which includes small shops, restaurants and an open-air stage where polka and Bavarian-style music are played daily.  The bridge is next to the docks where boat tours are available to explore Frankenmuth. The Frankenmuth Covered Bridge has several names, but the most common is Holz Brücke (although the words are together in German), whereas Zehnder’s is also used for the masterminder behind the bridge was the town’s entrepreneur, William “Tiny” Zehnder (1919-2006).  Zehnder was the face of Frankenmuth because of his establishment of the Bavarian Inn in 1959, which was basically an extension of one of the restaurants he had owned prior to that. From that time until his retirement in 2004, Tiny carved a place in the history of Michigan by turning original small-town businesses into that of a Bavarian-style architecture which not only revived the town’s Franconian heritage but also made the community of over 6,500 people a popular attraction. Tiny died in 2006, but his family still runs the Bavarian Inn complex today.

fpb

Frankenmuth Pedestrian Bridge  Perhaps the most interesting bridge in Frankenmuth and on this tour guide that is worth mentioning is this pedestrian bridge. The bridge is the newest one on the block and can be seen from both the covered bridge as well as the Highway 83 Bridge leading into downtown. The bridge is a concrete pony girder, using a similar art Greco design and flanked by flags and ornamental street lanterns on both sides. The bridge is estimated to be between 150 and 170 feet Long and about 10-12 feet wide. The first impression was that with a design like that, it was probably 80 years old. Yet with the structure being between 15 and 30 years old, one could conclude that the bridge could serve as an example of fancy pedestrian bridges that can be built if engineers and city leaders would not worry about the costs but more on the Geschmack the community would like to live with. Not everything needs to be made of just a slab of concrete.

 

433091-l

Bronner’s (Black) Bridge:  When entering Frankenmuth from the south along Michigan Highway 83, this is the first bridge you will see. Bronner’s was once located over Cass River at Dehmel Road, having been built in 1907 by the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company. The bridge features a Pratt through truss design with A-Frame portals, whose top chord is decorated with curved lower-cased m and n patterns. The bridge has a total length of 180 feet with the main span being 151 feet long. The decking is 16 feet wide and the height clearance is 14 feet. After 75 years in service, the bridge was relocated to this site, over Dead Creek at Grandpa Tiny’s Farm, one of the ideas concocted by William “Tiny” Zehnder because of his years of farming, alongside his role as Frankenmuth’s well-known entrepreneuer. It has been in its place ever since then, yet it is heavily fenced and secured with cameras to ensure no one walks onto the property unless it is open to tourists. However, you can photograph the structure from both the highway as well as the road going past the farm, at Townline Road. The bridge is located only 500 feet from Bronner’s, the largest store in the world that sells Christmas ornaments and lighting. Regardless of which country and the nostalgia, if you are looking for as special ornament or lights, you will find it there. That includes bubble lights, an American past time that is trying to make its comeback yet they are rare to see.

bubble lights

There are more along the Cass River, but this tour guide will hopefully Show you the bridges you can visit while experiencing a mixture of German heritage on the part of Frankenmuth and local heritage on the side of Bridgeport. Being only six miles apart, the bridges are easily accessible, both by car as well as by bike or foot. The evidence can be seen in the map below as well as by clicking onto the highlighted links in the guide. There one will see that the Bridgeport/Frankenmuth Region is Michigan’s number one hot spot for bridges spanning over a century’s worth. It is definitely worth a stop for a few hours before travelling to the Mackinac Bridge and the state’s Upper Peninsula to the north.

bhc-logo-newest1

Mystery Bridge Nr. 86: Brick Culverts spanning Drainage Canals and Gullies along the North Sea

north sea 3

Culverts- tunnels that channel water under roads. Culverts are used as a substitute for (mainly small to medium-sized) bridges spanning creeks and small waterways as they have several advantages. First and foremost, they provide minimum maintenance, as either earth and roadway cover them or the short crossings are anchored to the ground and supported by abutments. It acts as a canal for directing water under the roadway but also as a dam to keep debris from blocking the roadway. Yet the drawbacks to culverts is that they are not really effective against high water for floodwaters can undermine culverts by washing out the roadways approaching them. In some cases, they can even collapse, swallowing cars in the process, if they attempt to cross them. If they are not washed out by flooding, the high water can cause flooding upstream up until the crossing itself. In summary, engineers should really think about the advantages and disadvantages of culverts before they even implement them as replacements for bridges deemed obsolete.

north sea 1

This mystery bridge deals with a culvert (or should I say a series of culverts) but in order to better understand the logic behind this, we need to look back at the types of culverts that exist and the oldest known culvert known to human kind.  There are five different types of culverts that are used today: pipe, box, pipe arch, arch and bridge slab- the first three can be multiple spans, the last two are single spans of up to 30 meters. All of them are usually built of steel, stone or concrete. Only a handful have been built using brick.

Arkadiko_Mycenaean_Bridge_II
Arkadiko Bridge in Greece. Photo taken in 2012 Flausa123 courtesy of wikipedia

 

The oldest known culverts that exist in the world go very far back- way back to the Bronze Age. There, you can find Arkadiko Bridge in the state of Argolis in Greece. Built between 1300 and 1190 BC, the stone culvert has a total span of 22 meters and an arch span of 2.5 meters. It is one of four remaining bridges of its kind using an Mycenaean arch design, all of them are located near Arkadiko.

The next one in line is a stone arch bridge over the River Meles in Izmir in Turkey. Built in 850 BC, this bridge is the oldest of its kind still in use. In Australia, the Macquarie Bridge, featuring a double-barrel arch culvert, is considered the oldest bridge still in use. The 1816 bridge can be found in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney. The Old Enon Stone Arch Culvert, built by Samuel Taylor in 1871 and spans Mud Run in Ohio, is the oldest known culvert in the US and one that was built using limestone.

north sea 5

The culverts in the Eiderstedt region in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein may not be as old as the aforementioned bridges, nor is it definitely the oldest in Germany- that honor goes to the Stone Arch Bridge (built in 1146 AD) over the River Danube in Regensburg (Bavaria). But given their appearance, they are one of the oldest in the region, let alone in Schleswig-Holstein. The culverts discovered during my tour along the North Sea to Westerheversand Lighthouse consists of box culverts, built using brick as material. They each span a drainage canal which is used to divert water away from the fields during high tides (German: Flut). And despite the bike trail careening along the dikes that are lined along the shores of the North Sea, these culverts are still in use for farm vehicles. The concept is odd, but because farming is practiced in the Eiderstedt region, brick culverts were used along with concrete and sometimes wooden bridges to haul farm vehicles.

 

The dikes were established in the early 1960s, in response to a massive storm that flooded large parts of western Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and the City of Hamburg in 1962. 400 people lost their lives in Hamburg alone, as dike failures took them by surprise and almost all of the hanseatic city was under water. With the dikes came the rechanneling of waterways, eliminating natural gullies, as one can see while traveling along the North Sea coast. The damming of the rivers, such as the Eider, Au, Sorge and Treene, caused the massive extinction of marine wildlife, including the sturgeon, which used to lay eggs upstream close to the rivers’ starting point. The last sturgeon was caught in 1969 and there has not been a single sturgeon in the region ever since. The creation of the Eidersperrwerk near St. Peter-Ording put the last nails in the coffin of the natural cycle of the North Sea, protecting farmers and residents from the flooding processes.

 

north sea 4
Detailed markings of one of the culverts. Look at the rust and moss that has developed over the years.

 

Yet the culverts seen in the pics are much older than the dike and drainage systems that have existed since the 1960s. Judging by the green and yellow moss on the brick and the decoloration of the brick and concrete, it is estimated that the culverts are at least a century old, if not older. Unfortunately, there are no records of the date of construction of the culverts, let alone the bridge builder(s) responsible for building them. Not even the German bridge website Brueckenweb.de has any data on the bridges, nor the Dusseldorf-based Structurae.net. Only a map where the author found the structures and the pictures are the only piece of information that is known to exist.

 

While some records may be available through local authorities in Husum, St. Peter-Ording or Eiderstedt, the chances of finding concrete information is very slim, because the culverts are only 20 meters long with a center span of only 5 meters, and there are dozens of them that are known to exist, aside from the ones that were found near Westerhever.

north sea 2

Do you know of some information on the history of these ancient culverts? Let alone the number of culverts that still exist in the region alone? If so, then please contact the Chronicles and share some information about them. Any clues, including photos, will be of great help. The culverts will be included in the book project on the bridges in Schleswig-Holstein. Information on how you can contribute can be found here. (Hinweis auf Deutsch: Sie können die Information in der deutschen Sprachen übersenden, da der Autor sehr gutes deutsche Kenntnisse hat.)

 

The culverts and the covered bridge profiled here, are a couple of many bridges the author found during his trip to the Eiderstedt region. However, there are plenty more that visitors should see while vacationing there. The author has a few bridges that one should see while visiting the Eiderstedt region. The tour guide will come very soon.

 

Author’s notes:  Enclosed is a map with the exact location and specifics of the culverts found during the trip. Information on the Great Flood of 1962 in Hamburg/ Schleswig-Holstein can be found here. A video on the event can be found here.

Ironically, an even bigger flood occurred 16 years later after the dikes and dams were built. It all occurred during the year summer never existed which ended with the Great Blizzard of 1978/79 that crippled the northern half of Germany, stranding thousands of motorists and causing massive flooding in Schleswig-Holstein alone. More information can be found here. and here.

 

 

bhc-logo-newest1