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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

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The Bridges of Ulm, Germany

Neutor Bridge located northeast of Ulm Central Station (Ulm Hauptbahnhof). Photos taken in May 2015
Neutor Bridge located northeast of Ulm Central Station (Ulm Hauptbahnhof). Photos taken in May 2015

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….

map

Herdbrücke with Neu-Ulm in the backrgound
Herdbrücke with Neu-Ulm in the backrgound

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.

Neutorbrücke with the Ulm Minster Cathedral in the background
Neutorbrücke with the Ulm Minster Cathedral in the background

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.

A close-up of the tower's portals and finials.
A close-up of the tower’s portals and finials.

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 at Ulm Hauptbahnhof
Ludwig Erhard Bridge at Ulm Hauptbahnhof

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
Bleicher Hag Bridge

Bleicher Hag Bridge:

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

Built: ca. 1920

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, yet given the popularity of the riveted truss bridges after the turn of the century and the effects of World War I, a date of 1920 best made sense to pinpoint. The caveat with this bridge is its narrowness- only 3 meters wide and with a weight limit of six tons.

U15aBut 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 Overpass
Lehrertal Overpass

Lehrertal Railroad Overpass:

Location: Railroad line at Y-junction of Ulm-Treuchtingen-Nuremberg Line and Munich-Ulm-Stuttgart Line, north of Ulm Hauptbahnhof.

Bridge type: Bedstead subdivided Warren pony truss bridge with welded connections 

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.

Schieferhausbrücke
Schiefeshausbrücke

Schiefeshausbrücke:

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:

Das Schiefes Haus with the bridge in the background.
Das Schiefe Haus with the bridge in the background.

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? 😉

Weinhofbergbrücke
Weinhofbergbrücke

Weinhofbergbrücke:

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.

bhc new logo jpegAuthor’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 on the logo below for more details. The story behind Hans and Sophie Scholl can also be found there as well.

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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. 🙂