This week’s pic of the week takes us back to Saxony and to the city of Chemnitz. I haven’t done much bridge photography this year on the count of the Corona Virus and the subsequent lockdown we were all in. Since the beginning of May, we’ve been loosening up the restrictions and when I photographed this bridge recently, it was just after the state government allowed for festivals to take place. For many that had been cooped up in their homes, it was a relief to be out and about, even if it meant wearing mouth masks in public to ensure nobody gets sick.
The Medieval Festival took place at the Rabenstein Castle this past weekend; it was one of the first of such festivals to take place in public. The castle is located near another historic jewel, namely this viaduct.
The Rabenstein Viaduct was built in 1897 and it features a main span- a cantilever deck Warren truss with riveted connections, supported by two concrete arch approach spans. It was built to serve the local railroad line that connected Chemnitz Central Station with the town of Wüstenbrand. Trains used this line until it was discontinued by 1950. In the early 1980s, the East German government provided funding to repurpose the structure for pedestrian use, which it still does to this day. It’s a great place for hikers, as they can see the village of Rabenstein, with its historic houses below, as well as hills in the background, where Chemnitz is located. The viaduct has been listed by the Saxony Ministry of Heritage and Historic Places (Denkmalschutz) for its unique design and its connection with the industrial and transportational history for the region of Chemnitz. The viaduct is expected to be rehabilitated in the coming years to make the structure safer to use, yet the organization that owns the viaduct is collecting donations in order for the rehabilitation to happen. Information on how to help can be found in the link below. There you can also read up on the history of the Wüstenbrand Railline.
The viaduct is located about 400 meters from the Rabenstein Castle, yet finding it was a real difficulty because of the steep hills combined with thick forests and curvy hiking trails. Even vast portions of Rabenstein were lying on hills and the streets that connected the main highway with the castle and nearby campground made driving treacherous and hiking a challenge. Still no matter where you go, you will still reach the bridge regardless of which end you enter. When you are there, then it’s only five minutes tot he castle but not before climbing down to the main highway, which runs past the castle, first. You will see that with the pics that I present you of the bridge. A real treat if you love the history of bridges and railroads, but also love the great outdoors.
Many cities have places where miracles happen and people remember them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Minneapolis Miracle of 2018 in professional football, visiting the Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, or even the parting of the Red Sea- the last two points dealing with Christianity. Then there’s the liberation of Europe in 1945 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent German Reunification of 1989-90 from the historical standpoint.
In the sense of infrastructure- in particular, bridges, if there’s a place where miracles did happen, one needs to travel to Dresden and to this bridge. There are several nicknames to describe the Loschwitz Cantilever Truss Bridge, which spans the River Elbe and connects the two suburbs of Blasewitz and Loschwitz. The most common is the Blue Miracle (Blaue Wunder in German). It has nothing to do with the bridge’s color nor does it have to do with its perfect photo with a blue backdrop. It has to do with the fact that the bridge, built by Claus Köpcke in 1893 has survived death three times- two of which came towards the end of World War II.
While Dresden was bombed a total of six times from 1944 to 1945, the city was hit the hardest during the infamous raid on February 13-16, 1945. British and American air troopers dropped thousands of tons of bombs onto the city, effectively destroying the entire city center and its prized architectural jewels, such as the Semper Opera House, the Castle of Dresden, and the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche), all of them dated back to the Baroque Period of the 17th Century. 80% of the entire city was in flames with as many as 30-40,000 people perishing. Temperatures from flames rose to 10,000° Celsius- hot enough to melt metal and vaporize people nearby. The Dresden Bombings are comparable with the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because of the intensity and the impact on the structural landscape of the city.
The bridge itself sustained damage to the trusses and decking during the air raids but they were minor enough that repairs were made to the structure and the crossing was back in service again. While the other crossings were damaged to a point where they were impassable, the Loschwitz Bridge survived its first miracle.
Shortly before the end of the War, the bridge had its second miracle. And there were five people to thank for this- two of whom were honored for their work. Before Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on May 1, he had ordered every bridge to be imploded to impede the march of Allied Troops that were encroaching Berlin on all sides. Already destroyed were all the crossings along the Rivers Oder and Neisse in present-day Brandenburg, Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania, it was hoped that the crossings along the Elbe would follow suit and be met with dynamite. And this despite thousands of refugees evacuating areas already bombed out because of the raids.
Places like Dresden, where tens of thousands were homeless and looking for ways to escape the war, even if it meant surrendering to the approaching enemy unconditionally. With crossings, like the Carola and Augustus Bridges severely damaged or destroyed, it was hoped that the Blue Miracle would go down with them. However, on 7 May, two men- Paul Zickler and Erich Stöckel- made sure it didn’t happen. The two men defused the bombs by splicing the cables disabling the bombs and later removing the dynamite that would have brought the bridge down. However, three other men- Max Mühle, Carl Bouché and bridge commander Wirth also contributed to the cause. The bridge was saved and had its second miracle. Ironically, Germany capitulated to the Allies in Berlin that same day, thus bringing the European theater to a close. A monument commemorating this courageous event and honoring the two men can be found at the bridge along the pedestrian path on the Blasewitz side of the structure. Why the plan to blow up the bridge was foiled remains unknown to this day. However variables such as protests by the locals as well as the acceptance that the war was no longer winnable must not be left out.
The third close call was the plan to tear down the bridge and replace it on a new alignment, presented by the Socialist Party (SED) in 1967, but it was met with opposition and after almost two decades, the project was scrapped by 1985.
Fast forwarding to the present, the Blue Miracle is still standing, tall and strong. It has earned its nickname after 125 years of literal wear and tear. It has survived all the extremities that most historic bridges built of steel would have succumbed to. It survived a blazing inferno through war, while the rest of Dresden burned to the ground. It survived the worst of winters, such as that of 1978/79 that crippled both East and West Germany. It survived several windstorms, including Kyrill in 2007, which leveled forests and buildings and caused widespread power outages. It survived severe flooding- most notably those in 2002 and 2013 which put much of Dresden under water. And lastly, it survived the gravitational pull caused by the weight of vehicles and street cars traveling across it. All of this has not affected the bridge’s beauty as it is one of the most beloved and photographed not only in Dresden but also along the River Elbe. While some pushed for its demise, others made sure their plans never bore fruit, hence allowing for the bridge to stand for generations to come.
The Blue Miracle at present. The bridge has become an attraction both during the daytime, but also at night, thanks to the addition of LED lighting in 2011. The bridge is still used by commuters entering Dresden from the south, even though another bridge- the Waldschlösschenbrücke, built down stream- has taken the stress off the bridge since its opening in 2013. The bridge will be getting a much-needed facelift beginning in 2025 but when it is done, the crossing will continue to carry traffic and its historic flare as one of Dresden’s greatest places of interest will remain for locals and tourists to see. Already a book has been written about the bridge but from a photographer’s perspective. There will be more written and talked about with this bridge- the Blue Miracle: the structure that not only connects the south of Dresden, but one that has been in use through the best and worst of times. And that is thanks to five people who made it happen before the end of a war that was long lost and that people yearned for a new start.
The German term “Blaue Wunder erleben” originated from the name of the bridge in Dresden and implies that the person got an unexpected and sometimes unwanted surprise because of something done that was considered illegal.
Our next pic of the week coincides with the Flensburg Files’ series on photos of the former border crossings past and present, as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which subsequentially resulted in the Reunification of Germany, 11 months later. This pic takes us to the famous Glienicke Bridge. This cantilever truss bridge was built in 1907 and spans the River Havel, forming the border between the capital city of Berlin and the state of Brandenburg. The bridge was very popular in history and culture because it became a key patrol crossing during the Cold War. From 1952 until 6pm on the evening of November 10th, 1989, this crossing was the border that kept people from entering and leaving West Berlin from the GDR. It was an exchange point for captured spies from both sides of the border, thus it became known as the Bridge of Spies; the name was adopted in literature as well as in films, the latest of which was a combination book and film that were released in 2015. Since the evening of the 10th of November, 1989, the Glienicke Bridge has been in service as a throughfare crossing, where tens of thousands of cars cross this bridge daily.
During my visit to the bridge in 2015, the first impression of the crossing was the fact that it was just a typical historic bridge that had been restored to its usual form, with no border guards, no rust and corrosion and no potholes and other issues with the decking. The only markers that existed where the borders once stood was a sign with the information of the bridge’s reopening that evening, as well as a marker on the Berlin side with information on where the border once stood. However, since the opening, the Glienicke Bridge has become a fully restored tourist attraction. Most of the historic columns, statues and buildings dating back to the Baroque period have been fully refurbished and makes the bridge appear original- as if there were no bombings or the like, as it happened in World War II. Eateries on the Potsdam side of the bridge as well as a museum devoted to the bridge’s unique history also exist. Tour guides are available to know more about the history of the structure and its key role during the dark period of time.
The bridge is a major tourist attraction for those with not only an interest in architectural history in Berlin and Potsdam, but also history in general. From a photographer’s perspective, the bridge is easily photographed as there are many places available where you can get your favorite shot- whether it is a close-up as I took some on the morning of October 18th with the sunrise and all, but also from several parks and castles lining up along the Havel, many from the Berlin side. In either case, the bridge is a highly recommended stop for those visiting Berlin because of its unique style and even more unique history, something that the governments of both Berlin and Brandenburg will do all that they can to preserve it for generations to come.
To honor the reopening of a key historic icon, this Pic of the Week takes us back ten years and to Winona in Minnesota. During my visit in 2010, I took a ton of photos of the Winona Bridge, a 1942 cantilever through truss bridge that spans the Mississippi River at the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, carrying Highway 43. While I got a lot of angles and listened to some interesting stories about the bridge, including one from a gas station attendant who used to be a female wrestler (she even looked like one of my heroes, Sara Del Rey), this shot from the Wisconsin side was probably the best one of the bunch. Even with the new bridge running alongside the newly restored historic bridge, this photo vantage point would be highly recommended if you want to get a shot of just the cantilever bridge itself, even when lit with LED at night.
To learn more about the restoration of the Winona Bridge, click here to listen to the Newsflyer podcast and access the links and videos of the project. More photos of the bridge plus facts about the bridge can be accessed here.
Washington, Missouri (USA)- Replacing this unique Missouri River crossing is like the film True Crime. The almost 20-year old film featured a newspaper reporter who uses a half a day to rebuke claims that a person sentenced to death is innocent because of discreptancies. The last second evidence to avert the execution: a locket that was stolen by a killer who shoots the clerk at a convenience store and runs off, while the wrongly accused was using the restroom.
With the last beam of the new bridge in place, the clock is starting to tick loudly for the Washington Truss Bridge, which spans the Missouri River at Hwy. 47 in Washington. Built in 1936 by three different bridge builders located in Missouri and Kansas, the Bridge features a multiple-span cantilever through truss with X-frame portals and was built during the time of the Works Progress Administration, a program initiated by Franklin D. Roosevelt to encourage people to partake in projects in response to the Great Depression. Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Works in Leavenworth (Kansas) and two St. Louis Bridge builders- Stupp Brothers as well as Sverdrup & Parcel Company were responsible for designing and constructing the 2,500-foot span, which was once one of the key landmarks of Washington.
Unfortunately for this bridge, its days appear to be coming to a close as a new span is currently being built right alongside the old span. While the length of the new structure will be about the same, the new bridge- a multiple span steel girder span- will be wider, with two 12-foot lanes, two 10-foot shoulders and one 10-foot lane for bikes and pedestrians, which will total 54 feet in width- two and a half times the width of the current bridge. After two years, the last beam was put into place on 12 June and work is now underway to pour the concrete. City officials expect the new bridge to be open by December 1, pending on weather. The truss spans will be imploded at the beginning of 2019. Talks of saving the truss bridge was getting around, however, unless a petition drive is started to save the bridge for recreational use, Franklin County will be down to four through truss bridges that carry traffic, one of which has been relocated and restored. Yet two of them are scheduled to come down within the next five years.
Franklin County once had a wide array of through truss bridges. In fact, during the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2011, there were at least a dozen bridges of its kind left in service. With the Washington Bridge coming down, we may not have any bridges left to visit and photograph, a sign of the times for many who are disinterested in the history of America and its infrastructure. It doesn’t mean that the bridge is lost yet. There is still a chance to save it. But the time is running to start the drive and convince the State that the Bridge should be saved. It’s more of the question of who is willing to be that person who pulled off a stunt similar to what Everett did in True Crime.
An ariel view of the two bridges can be seen here:
A summary of the history of the construction of the Washington Truss Bridge via film can be seen here. A rather interesting documentary on how the bridge was built:
The next pic of the week takes us a kilometer or two downstream along the Zwickau Mulde to this bridge, the Paradiesbrücke. Built in 1900 by a bridge builder located in Schlesia (now in the Czech Republic), the bridge is unique for it was the first cantilever truss bridge that has one tower and has no overhead chords, as seen with the Queensboro Bridge in New York City. Until the opening of the Lunzernau Bridge in 2017, it hd been the only bridge of its kind in Germany and on the European continent. It is the most ornamnetal of the bridges along the river, which is 280 kilometers long from its starting point in Schönebeck (near Plauen) until its merger with the Freiberger Mulde south of Grimma.
This Instagram photo was taken at sundown where the skies were clear blue and the sun was setting. Because the skyline of Zwickau is to the west of the bridge, this shot was necessary for the buildings on the west end are mainly condominiums from the East German period (1949-1990). This was taken from the Mulde Bike Path at a park that opened in 2004 and was part of the project that included building a tunnel for the main highway B-93 and the rehabilitation and reuse of this bridge, which is now a pedestrian crossing. At night, the bridge is also well-lit by its gas-powered lanterns, flanked by yellow sodium lamps on both sides of the river bank (check out the Chronicles’ tumblr page to see the difference). Yet the yellow lamps will eventually be replaced with white LEDS. Once completed, it will be brighter but the color difference will be much different, be it to our liking or disdain. 🙂
More information about this bridge, plus pics, you an find here.
One-of-a-kind bridge replaces a two-span bowstring arch bridge and re-establishes connection in small village in Saxony.
LUNZENAU/ GLAUCHAU- During my bike tour along the Zwickauer Mulde this year, I was greeted with new bridges that had replaced structures that were, on the one hand, damaged by flooding, but on the other hand, appeared bland and needed a makeover. After the Wernsdorf Wave near Glauchau, another bridge is making its debut, but one that restores a key connection in a small community that is nestled in a deep river valley and provides various recreational possibilities.
Enter the Lunzenau Pedestrian Bridge, also known to locals as Küblers Bridge.
This bridge is located on the north end of the town of Luzenau, just off the Mulde Bike Trail, located at Schaisdorfer Flur near Eichelberg. Biking past the bridge back in March, the bridge was already installed in place and in the final stages of completion, which included constructing the approaches and adding lighting to the deck. Since 22 June, the bridge is now in use for pedestrians and cyclists, thus restoring a vital connection between Friedrichstraße where a couple factories had once stood, and Burgstädter Straße and the park and sports complex on the opposite end.
The two-span, 75 meter bridge replaced a two-span bowstring through arch bridge that was built in 1889 and was christened the “Augustus-Johanna-Brücke,” named after the royal couple in Saxony at that time. The bridge was dedicated on 13 July that year and provided access to the factories located at Schaisdorfer Flur, where Friedrichstraße is now located. The structure had a Parker truss design with pinned and welded connections. The endposts were vertical- a rarity for bowstring Parker designs. The portal bracings consisted of a beam bent into a trapezoidal fashion, yet the struts have straight beams with 50° heel bracings. Despite being rehabilitated in the 1950s, the bridge had maintained its original form and continued use until it was damaged by floodwaters in 2013 and subsequentially condemned in December 2014. After securing funding for the project in May 2015, the contract was given in December that same year and in January, the project began with the removal of the truss spans with the crane and the demolition of the eastern approach spans and abutments. This was followed by rehabilitating the center pier and adding a new concrete foundation at the top to anchor the new spans at the center. The new approaches and abutments were built at the same time. In January of this year, the new spans were brought in by truck and installed with the crane. During my visit in March, the roadway had already been installed, as workers took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and tried finishing ahead of schedule.
In terms of the bridge’s appearance, the structure, painted in red (trusses), white (railings) and blue (tower), is a real eye-opener that will surely become one of the town’s key landmarks. The bridge is a cantilever pony truss bridge, designed as a Warren truss, but having one tower, planted in the middle of the river, supporting the two spans that each extend to the abutments on the river bank. Its tower is V-shaped, extending outwards. The bridge had welded connections as the tubular steel beams were assembled together at the bridge-building firm before being carried to the bridge site by truck and put together by cranes. The bridge’s design follows the examples of two bridges: the towers mimic those of the three cable-stayed bridges being installed in New York City; the cantilever truss follows closely to the Paradiesbrücke, a more ornamental but almost 120-year old structure that spans the same river but located upstream in Zwickau. With the Lunzenau Bridge in service, we have two one-tower cantilever Warren truss bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde- a rarity in Europe and even North America- but the newer bridge is sleak and really colorful, an attraction that will get many bikers and pedestrians to stop by to pay a visit.
The dedication ceremony was met with very positive feedback as dozens gathered to cross this new bridge. This included members from the construction company that built the bridge, from the District Mittelsachsen, Mayor Ronny Hofmann and even Pastor Gerd Flessing who oversees the local church. “Without the funding, careful planning and participation of everyone in this project, this project would never have been realized,” said Hofmann in an interview with the Chemnitz Free Press. “This bridge is a real jewel and I’m thankful everyone had a chance to be involved in this.” That comment is completely true in that aspect. Those who chimed in on the structure got themselves a real gem that will be up for many awards for its design. The bridge will indeed gain from all who have seen it and recommended it to others.
This goes beyond my impressions of the bridge and my providing support for the town for this fine work. 🙂
Check out the town’s website, which has some details on its bridge and history.
NEW YORK CITY- Since 2014, the bridge landscape has been changing in front of our eyes, especially with regards to the metropolitan’s freeways. Once laden with suspension bridges, such as the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Verrazano Narrows, as well as cantilever truss bridges, such as the Queensboro and Commodore Perry, and arch bridges, such as the Bayonne and Triborough Bridges, a new type of bridge is painting the landscape: the cable-stayed suspension bridge. Three bridges of this kind are taking shape, replacing their predecessors, made of steel but at an average age of 75 years, have reached their end of their useful lives and therefore, will be retired and taken down. Already the Kosciuszko Bridge, spanning Newtown Creek betwee Brooklyn and Queens has opened to traffic, replacing a through truss bridge that had previously occupied its place for almost 80 years. The truss bridge is scheduled to be lowered to the creek and dismantled this summer. The twin tower spans of the Tappan Zee Bridge are taking shape. The 62-year old cantilever through truss structure is scheduled to be demolished this fall in place of the westbound bridge, with the spans to be finished by 2019.
The same applies to this bridge, the Goethals Bridge, spanning the Arthur Kill at the New York/ New Jersey border.
Built by J.A. L. Waddell, who had already made a name for himself with his patented subdivided kingpost through truss bridge and building major structures in cities, like Kansas City, Chicago and New York, the 1928 structure feature a cantilever Warren through truss bridge, with riveted connections and an X-frame portal bracing. The span is 768 feet long, but combining the deck truss approach spans, the total length is 7110 feet. However, at a deck width of 62 feet, the bridge was too narrow to accomodate through traffic, especially as it had carried Interstate 278 traffic since 1961. Despite integrating it into the freeway system, highway officials concluded that because of countless bottleneck traffic, combined with the age of the structure, the Goethals Bridge could no longer accomodate the increasing traffic and therefore needed to be replaced.
Construction started on the twin-towered cable-stayed suspension bridge in 2014 and since this past Friday, the eastbound span has opened to traffic. Currently, four lanes of traffic- two in each direction- are using that bridge while the westbound span is being built. When completed next year, a total of eight lanes will be using the duo-span, thus making the connection between New Jersey and Staten Island more efficient and stress free, especially when people need to commute to New York everyday and spend a weekend at Long Island.
And as for the Goethals Bridge, it will become a faded memory by the time the duo-spans open, being placed in the history books as the bridge that was a pioneer of commuter traffic that serves the metropolitan area but has now deserved a grand retirement after almost 90 years in service.
Demolition crews are working to remove the old structure even as this article is being posted through a series of controlled implosions and dismantling the cantilever span into chunks, to be shipped to the recycling center for reuse. The project is scheduled to be finished by latest, 2019, which includes removing the old span and accomodating bike and pedestrian traffic- a luxury that was not available with the old bridge.
If you want to see what both bridges look like, have a look at the videos below. The first one is of the original Goethals Bridge before construction began. The second is of the newly opened eastbound bridge.
Historic Highway Bridge Closed Indefinitely after Truck Rams into Bridge with the Trailer Set on High.
DALLAS-FT. WORTH/ GLEN ROSE- Less than one week after a historic bridge in Iowa was lost to an overweight truck, another historic bridge may be destined for scrap heap because of another accident. Yet this time, it involved a truck, whose trailer was far too high for the bridge’s overhead clearance.
The Glen Rose Bridge, located over the Brazos River on US Highway 67 between Glen Rose and Ft. Worth, is currently closed to traffic after a trucker travelled through the cantilever through truss structure with a raised loader, tearing through the portal and sway bracings of the bridge before stopping a third of the way through. The vertical clearance for the 1300-foot cantilever Warren structure is 15 feet! The 1947 structure had been renovated in 2009 to accomodate westbound traffic with the east bound traffic serving the newer structure. It is unknown if the loader, which was in a diagonal position at the time of entering the bridge, was raised intentionally, or if there was either technical or driver error. The driver, who was unhurt in the accident, has been cited for driving with an overheight truck across the bridge, yet more dire consequences may be coming for him and the trucking firm as costs for repairs will need to be calculated.
The 70-year old bridge is currently closed to traffic with all westbound traffic being shifted to the newer, eastbound bridge. It is unknown how much work will be needed on the bridge, but officials at Texas Department of Transportation estimate the westbound bridge being closed for up to a year, be it extensive repairs or a full-blown replacement.
This is the second such accident in less than four years. The Skagit River Interstate 5 Bridge collapsed on 23 May, 2013 after a truck struck its portal bracings, causing one span to collapse. It took less than five months to construct a replacement before reopening the bridge, which still serves I-5 in Mt. Vernon, Washington.
While the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on latest on the Glen Rose Bridge, have a look at the extent of the damage by clicking here. Be careful, the damage may be graphic to some viewers.
The portal bracings are like the red door of the house of the Burnham family in the film American Beauty. Consisting of lattice or letter-style patterns, they are used to support the end posts of the through truss bridge. They once featured interwoven Town lattice bracings with ornamental features with swirls, iron urns and fancy builder’s plaques. Since 1900, they feature letter-shapes, like the A, M, X, and WV. This one has the WA style, the letters representing the state of Washington.
The sway bracings are horizontal overhead bracings that support the truss frames, keeping it intact. Pending on the through truss bridge’s height and simplistic design, they can be single or multi-layered. The Glen Rose has Lattice-style sways, which increases in layers as the driver approaches one of its two towers.
Location: Baltic-North Sea Canal at Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Description: Main span: Cantilever Warren through truss with transporter (main span), steel trestle approach span (south) and loop approach (north)
Length: 7 km (total) Of which: 2468 main span; loop approach 4.5 km
Built: 1913 by Friedrich Voss and C.H. Jocho of Dortmund
Travelling north to Flensburg on the Schleswig-Holstein-Express (the SHE) one evening in May 2010, I was chatting with four passengers heading home to the Rum capital of the world, talking about break-ups, broken marriages and partners cheating on them, when we suddenly found ourselves taking off from the ground. To think that most of the German state is flat consists of mainly farmland and coastal areas, to go from travelling on the ground to travelling in the air in a matter of seconds is like Eliott and E.T. flying in the air by bike. Yet the sound of metal to metal contact, especially when going over the steel towers revealed that whatever we were crossing was huge, the spectacular view of the lights of the town below and the body of water covered in emerald green lights was gorgeous. After going through the steel truss mechanism, we made our descent in a curly-Q fashion before touching the ground and stopping at our next station. Our conversation had stopped in favor of the structure’s admiration, a sign that homage needed to be paid to a gigantic symbol that bridges the past with the present, the lover on one place with one in the other, and the impossible with the reality.
Especially the last one is what describes the Rendsburg High Bridge, spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal in Rendsburg, located between Hamburg and Flensburg. The bridge was the masterpiece of Friedrich Voss, who had built two other structures along the Grand Canal at Hochdonn and Kiel as well as numerous others in the northern half of the country, concluding the two-span arch bridge at Friedrichstadt. It took 1.5 years to build the main attraction along the canal, which after 104 years, it still serves as the anchor that makes the Grand Canal and Rendsburg the place to visit. What Voss did with the bridge was unthinkable, impossible and even insane in the eyes of many locals during that time. While steel trestles and a through truss design were his signatures for long-span structures like the aforementioned bridges, Voss needed a main span that would carry both horse and buggy (and later cars) as well as rail traffic. Henceforth as one of the feats, Voss chose the cantilever Warren span, whose roadway would serve rail traffic connecting Hamburg and Neumünster to the south and Flensburg and Scandanavia to the north. Hanging from the main span is the transporter span, which even today carries cars, bikes and pedestrians across the canal between Rendsburg and Aldorf. The transporter operates four times an hour in both directions during the day and takes 4-5 minutes to cross, half as long as when crossing the entire bridge via SHE.
Even more unique is the north approach. Already in existence was the train station for it served rail traffic between Kiel and Husum, the problem came with how the approach span should descend from 50 meters above water to just over zero. This was where Voss referred to the history books and chose the loop approach. Using the Hastings Spiral Bridge as reference, the loop approach provides travelers with an opportunity to gradually glide down from the bridge, making a circle of 360°. The 1895 bridge over the Mississippi River was the first bridge to feature this loop approach for engineers and bridge builders at Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Works had the problem of the bridge extending into Hasting’s business district, which already had numerous buildings and traffic at that time. Therefore, the south approach consisted of the loop approach, thus encouraging cars to glide down into the city center like a marble.
The problem was similar with the north approach, as it consisted of much of Rendsburg’s city center and housing area, combined with remnants of the old canal and the harbor area connected with the new canal. Therefore, Voss and his men devised a plan where a loop approach would feature first a series of steel trestles at the height of between 40 and 50 meters above water level, followed by earthen berms with concrete arch spans crossing main streets, after the descent of 40 meters. A Warren deck truss span crosses the rail line as it approaches the end of the loop. The total length of this loop approach alone is 4.5 km. The area the loop encircles consists of housing and therefore was later named Schleife.
On 1 October, 1913, after 1.5 years of work, Voss and 350 of his men from the bridge-building firm C.H. Jucho of Dortmund completed the work, and the bridge was open to traffic. The bridge and transporter complex has operated almost unaltered ever since, sustaining minimal damage in World War II. The bridge was rehabilitated with rust protectant being added to the steel bridge between 1993 and 2012. The rail line was electrified in 1995, which resulted in the portal and strut bracings of the through truss span being lifted. Instead of the two-rhombus portal bracing, the main span now had A-frame portals, high enough for trains to pass through. Sadly though, the transporter portion of the bridge is being replaced even as this article is being reproduced for this page. On 8 January 2016, the transporter collided with a ship as it was passing underneath the bridge. The boat operator and another passenger were injured in the wreck. After thorough investigations by the local authorities and the Ministry of Transportation, it was concluded that the transporter could not be salvaged and was therefore removed from the bridge. A replacement replicating the original transporter is currently being constructed and should be installed by 2017/18.
I had a chance to visit the bridge again in 2011, this time filming the crossing of the bridge and its transporter, but also following the path of the bridge from the start of the loop approach on the ground to the main span. While I never got a chance to see the Spiral Bridge as it was torn down in 1951, the Rendsburg High Bridge is nothing anyone has ever seen before. It is amazing just to be in a small suburb that is encircled by the loop approach, listening to trains cross it on an hourly basis. Its tall and towering trestles cannot be missed when travelling through Rendsburg. But the main span is just as amazing, for it has a total height of 68 meters, visible from 20 kilometers, making it one of the tallest structures along the Grand Canal. But I also noticed that the bridge with its wonderful work of art has not yet been recognized on the national and international scale. With the Vizcaya Bridge being nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013, the Firth of Forth Bridge scheduled to be nominated in 2015, the Rendsburg High Bridge Complex should be considered another UNESCO site as well because of the engineering feats that Voss accomplished in building this superstructure but also because the bridge still functions as a normal crossing of its kind today, just like it did when it opened to traffic in 1913. This is something that has made Rendsburg famous and makes it one of the wonderful works of art in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany and central Europe. Already it was given the Historische Wahrzeichen der Ingenieurbaukunst in Deutschland Award (Historic Recognition of the Works of Engineering in Germany) in 2013, on its 100th birthday. Chances are, more accolades will follow for this iron lady, whose total length of 7 kilometers (2,400 m main span) still makes it the longest railway bridge in Germany.
To close this documentary about this bridge, the third and most important part of the Tour along the Grand Canal, there is a saying that applies to any bridge enthusiast. You are never a true pontist unless you visit at least a couple key engineering works. In my book, one should really pay homage to the Rendsburg High Bridge. It is an engineering work of achievement that is underrated and something that awes every engineer to this day. Every engineer has his creative talents, which Voss had when building this bridge. It has withstood the test of time and is still a work of art one should see, when visiting Germany. It is hoped that it will one day be a UNESCO site. It will eventually for it deserves this honor.
You can view the photos of the Rendsburg High Bridge via facebook site. Click here to have a look at every aspect photographed during my visit in 2011.
Some videos of the bridge can be viewed below as well:
And some links to provide you with some more information on the Rendsburg High Bridge:
This bridge was used as a logo for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles from 2011 until its retirement and replacement with the current logo in 2015 using another Schleswig-Holstein bridge in its place, the Fehmarn Bridge. This is what the Rendsburg variant looked like.
The location of the Rendsburg High Bridge and the train station can be found on the map here: