Hof, in the far northeastern corner of Bavaria, is one of the most historically strategic cities in modern German history. The city, with a population of over 48,000 inhabitants, is located at two Dreiecken, with a history that dates back to the Cold War. To the southeast, there’s the Bayerische Dreieck near the town of Prex, where Bavaria, Saxony and the Czech Republic meet. To the northeast, there’s the Dreiländereck near Mödlareuth, where Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia meet. Until 1990, Hof was an isthmus surrounded by the Iron Curtain and with that, the German Democratic Republic (or East Germany), with the borders barb-wired, walled and patrolled by soldiers to ensure that no escaped to the west. Hof was in the line of a possible invasion by Warsaw Pact Forces as they would’ve marched into West Germany via Fulda Gap, had the conflict reached the point where the first missiles had fired.
In 1989, when East Germans fled to the west via Prague in what was Czechoslovakia, Hof was the meeting point where trains loaded with refugees passed through before heading to West Germany. Gutenfürst, located 10 kilometers to the northeast, was its main transit station into Saxony. When the Wall fell on 9 November, 1989, tens of thousands passed through Hof to get their Welcome Money (Begrüßungsgeld) and buy western goods for the first time ever. Traffic jams of up to 50 kilometers at the Rudolphstein Viaduct were common until the Koditz Viaduct and the Motorway 72 opened to traffic for the first time in almost three decades.
Since the Fall of the Wall and its subsequent Reunification, Hof has transformed itself. It used to be a Cold War modern city with Americans stationed there. Businesses catered to the needs of the soldiers and those who successfully escaped. Nowadays, they have gone out of business, but life goes on in the now quiet small city which is situated between the Vogtland, the Fichtel Mountains and the Franconian Forest. It’s the third largest city in the regional district of Upper Franconia Franconia behind Bayreuth and Bamberg and like the two, it houses not only its own city government but also that of its district. Hof belongs to the Beer Mile where one can try over a thousand different sorts of beer in places like Bayreuth, Kulmbach and Bamberg. Hof is famous for its Schlappenbier, one of the strongest beers ever brewed. And while the Galleria Kaufhof has shut down since 2018, the historic city center, with classical houses lining up along the streets leading to the St. Michaeliskirche, is still bustling with activities with weekly markets and especially its Christmas Market (for more on that, click here.) The city is home to the University of Sciences, where over 5,600 students attend for classes.
While they play a very small role during the Cold War and thereafter, the bridges of Hof have undergone a transition of their own, just like with some of the architecture in the city. No longer known for their modern Cold War architecture, many structures have been replaced with post-Cold War modern architectures, where slabs of concrete built in the 50s and 60s are being replaced with fancier designs made of steel, wood or even a combination of the two plus concrete decking. This includes the likes of the Theresiensteg near the City Park and the Luftsteg at the railway station. Only a few historic structures remain in Hof, whether they are the truss bridges near Filzwerk, or the arch bridges at Obere Steinbrücke or the railway viaduct at Unterkotzau, the oldest bridge still standing. And while most of these structures can be found along the railway and the River Saale, each one has a history of its own that have yet to be discovered. Although the city has its own website and a page devoted on bridges, there is only information on the bridge projects that are either planned or completed, but next to none on the structure’s history in comparison with the one we know about; some of which are located at the former East-West German border.
Henceforth, a tour guide has been created with the focus on the bridges of Hof. Based on the author’s visit this year, they will feature pictures of every bridge photographed in Hof with the information that is known about the bridge, with some gaps that need to be filled with regards to the bridges’ history. They include the structures along the River Saale from Oberkotzau to Unterkotzau, as well as those along the railline, including one at the railway station. Click onto the pictures and if you know of the history of one or more bridges, contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact information by clicking here. The information will then be added in the tour guide that is powered by GoogleMaps. Old photos of the bridges (including the spans that are long since been replaced or removed) are more than welcome.
Hof has a wide selection of bridges in terms of style, materials and different eras. The question is what were the stories behind them? What were they like before World War II? This is where the podium is now open.
Click onto the tour guide, click onto the bridges marked and Good Luck! 🙂
The next mystery bridge takes us further towards the Czech Republic, right into the town of Olbernhau. With a population of 11,000 inhabitants, the community is known as the City of Seven Valleys, because of the valley of the River Flöha and ist six other tributaries that meet there. Because of that, the community has many historic bridges that one needs plenty of time to visit, even though the length of the crossings are short enough to equal either one 50 foot pony truss span or one arch span of between 15 and 20 meters.
Nevertheless, our focus of this mystery bridge is the longest of the spans, a railroad bridge spanning the River Flöha on the far eastern edge of town, right at the Czech Border. Its exact location can be found in the map below. The bridge is easy to find for when heading east, you cross both the railroad tracks and the bridge before turning right. The railroad bridge is on the right-hand side.
The railroad bridge is one of the most unusual of truss bridges in Europe and beyond. The 68-meter long crossing features a skewed span, where the truss panels are placed parallel of each other along the tracks but in a slanted position at around 60°. That means the truss panel on the left side starts first and after 20 meters, the right one. While there are no portal bracings that support the two truss panelings, the horizontal strut bracings- five panels of them- hold the trusses together. The struts consist of the system of Pratt-heel bracings angled at 15° with the center portion being M-framed. The truss bridge itself is a camelback Lattice truss design with riveted connections, yet they are not the typical truss designs used for the bridges. These have stiffened connections similar to the designs patented by Claus Köpke, an engineer responsible for the construction of the Blaue Wunder Brücke, Marienbrücke and the Alberthafenbrücken all in Dresden as well as a railroad bridge in Riesa. Köpke started his career as a bridge engineer, building bridges from 1872 until his death in 1911. And while he left his mark in the greater Dresden area and parts of Thuringia, it is unknown whether he built many crossings in the Ore Mountains, let alone at this location.
The bridge was built in 1895, according to historic records and is the longest of the bridges, not only in Olbernhau but also along the rail line and the River Flöha. The construction of the bridge was part of the extension of the rail line from Olbernhau to Neuhausen, running along the Czech border. The crossing is part of the rail line that connected Pockau-Lengenfeld and Neuhausen, where the line was completed at Olbernhau in 1873, and 12 years later, extended to Nauhausen. The line was shut down in 2001 due to structural issues along the tracks and other infrastructure, yet was reactivated in 2011 after years of campaigning on the part of the mayor of Olbernhau combined with renovating the line, its train stations, and the crossings along the River Flöha. Today, the Deutsche Bahn Regional Services operates the line as it terminates in Flöha.
The bridge is listed as a German heritage site and has been since 1998, yet still its historical significance is unknown. Did Köpke oversee the construction of the bridge as part of the rail project? If not, was he responsible for the design and another bridge builder took to the task? If neither that nor that, who was the genius behind this design? This question remains open for both the readers and bridge fans, as well as the locals in and around Olbernhau. If you have any information on the bridge builder behind this bridge, please contact the Chronicles. Whatever information is useful will be added here and the Office of German Heritage (Büro für Denkmalschutz) will be able to add this to the file that exists to this day. Whatever you can find will be much useful for the region and its enriched historic heritage.
In other words, your contribution will be of utmost use. Thank you for your support.
After a very long delay due to bridge and non-bridge related commitments that needed to be address, it is long past overdue to present the Author’s Choice Awards for 2017. Normally this would have been awarded at the same time as the winners of the Ammann Awards (see the results here). However there were some developments bridgewise that kept me from posting the results. By the time the opportunity came to do that, commitments related to my other job as teacher pushed the posting back much further. Yet, better late than never to announce my pics for 2017, with a promise to be more punctual when I announce the 2018 Author’s Choice Awards in January 2019, the same time as the winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards that will be announced simultaneously.
So without further ado, here we go…..
2017 was an exceptionally hard year for historic bridges for dozens of them worldwide were destroyed either by mother nature in the form of wildfires, flash flooding and other storms or through really unintelligent people ignoring the weight and height restrictions for the purpose of convenience and shortcuts. With the second part we will get to later. Let’s look at my picks for 2017 as the bridges deserve the author choice for the following reasons:
Best Find of a Historic Bridge:
While my pics go directly to the state where the government is trying profusely to destroy every single metal truss bridge in the state- namely New Hampshire, two areas with a set of historic bridges deserve to be recognized here. The first one are the bridges of Hinsdale/ Battleboro There, we have a pair of Pennsylvania through truss spans in the Anna Hunt Marsh and the Charles Dana, the Killburn Brook Stone Arch Bridge, the Chesterfield Arch Bridges and a pair of railroad bridges. A tour guide will be made soon as two of the bridges face uncertain futures for even though a replacement bridge is being built on a new alignment downstream, the public is divided between restoring the truss spans and simply demolishing them. One of the proponents of the latter had already defaced the Anna Marsh bridge by removing the planking and appears to be grabbing the city government by the balls to have them fulfill his demands. However, that person is being held at gunpoint by others who disagree. Michael Quiet produced a pair of videos on the Anna Marsh and Charles Dana spans which you can see here:
Runner-up is a pair of former railroad truss bridges located at Pulp Mill. The older truss span is an 1868 Whipple through truss with vertical endposts featuring Phoenix columns. The 1921 truss is a pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge. While both are abandoned, they deserve a second life as a bike crossing, don’t you agree? The two bridges received the bronze medal in the Ammann Awards competition under Bridge of the Year.
Since the beginning of 2017, I had the priviledge to do a bridgehunting tour along the Zwickau Mulde River in the western part of the German state of Saxony. 200 kilometers and consisting of some of the Ammann Award winners of Zwickau, Glauchau, Aue and Rochlitz, plus some candidates in the Lunzenau area, the river region features a tall 150-year old concrete viaduct, several stone arch bridges, big and small, a handful of pre-1930s era truss bridges as well as cantilever and Suspension bridges. All of them are accessible via Mulde bike Trail and if Things go the way the Mayors of Glauchau, Rochlitz and Lunzenau want it to be, the former railroad line connecting Glauchau and Wurzen that runs parallel to the Zwickau Mulde may end up becoming either a Tourist rail line or a “rails-to-trails” route in the next five years. For that reason it deserves the Author’s Choice Awards as a way of motivating them to make this Project happen.
Best Example of Preserved and Reused Historic Bridge:
Lakewood Park Truss Bridge. Built in 1877 by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Works Company and measured at 99.1 feet Long, this pin-connected Pratt through truss Bridge with Town Lattice Portal bracings was relocated to ist present site, which is the Lakewood Middle School in Salina, Kansas, a few blocks from where it had been originally located. The Bridge serves as living history and a park area for students wishing to relax and learn some history about the structure and ist Connection with Engineering history in the US. The Bridge Looks just like new with ist decking and benches. It is definitely worth a visit and for sure receiving this Award.
While this Bridge received third place in the Ammann Awards under the category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente Suspension Bridge near Santos, Brazil is getting the Author’s Choice Awards for its in-kind restoration of the Suspension Bridge, with new decking and cables, but being able to retain ist structural integrity. This was a masterpiece that is worth the recognition. The Suspension Bridge can now carry vehicles and pedestrians across the river without the fear of collapse.
Most Spectacular Bridge Disasters
Mother nature has not been kind to mankind this year and has shown ist distaste because of the ignorance of the effects of industrialization, wasting non-renewable resources and too many cars and housing. This includes massive forest fires, die-offs of fish, and especially widespread flash-flooding. For this year’s most Spectacular Bridge Disaster Story, we have two examples from the US, one of which Mother Nature redid a piece of artwork that was perceived as wrong.
The James Bridge in Ozark County was one of four key bridges that were wiped out by flash-floods during the first weekend of May, which also took out the Hammond Mills and Bruns Bridges– the former of which was only 30 years old and a concrete slab bridge; the latter a 130-year-old historic truss bridge. The James Bridge featured a two-span polygonal Warren pony truss bridge with riveted connections that was built in 1958. The flood not only knocked it off ist foundations but it flipped over upside down, thus converting the span into a deck truss. Workers removing the “makeshift deck truss bridge” as well as reporters on the scene were quite impressed with the artwork Mother Nature had left behind as a result. Yet this is the second time in six years this conversion from a pony truss into a deck truss has happened- all in Missouri.
The runner-up was a tight one between another bridge collapse due to flooding and mudslides in California, and this bridge in Atlanta, the I-85 Bridge. This structure fell victim to a blazing inferno on 30 March, causing a 28 meter (92 foot) section to collapse. Investigators later concluded that a combination of improper storage of materials underneath the concrete viaduct and arson resulted in this unfortunate event. Still, this disaster became the new Minneapolis Bridge disaster, for the collapse showed that even potentially dangerous flaws in concrete beam bridges can exist.
There were over a dozen well-known bridge disasters in Europe and Africa in 2017, yet there are two stories that stand out and deserve recognition.
The first place winner goes to a bridge in the Indian state of Goa. There, a Whipple pony truss bridge spanning the River Sanvordem at Curchorem collapsed under the weight of people on 18 May. Official reports put the casualty totals of two dead, dozens injured and 30 people missing; many of those missing were presumed dead as the river was infested with crocodiles, which made rescue attempts difficult. Spectators had been on the bridge to watch efforts to rescue someone who wanted to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge. The bridge goes back to the 1800s during the time the Portuguese had control of the Goa Region. As of right now, the bridge, abandoned for many years, is scheduled to be removed. This is the second bridge disaster in two years that included the Goa Region.
The runner-up in this category is the collapse of the Troja Bridge. This bridge goes back to the Communist era and used to span the River Vlatava near the Zoo in Prague. On 2 December, the entire concrete beam structure collapsed, injuring four- two of them seriously. The causes of the collapse stemmed from age and structural deficiency to its weakening as a result of the Great Flood of 2002, forcing officials to monitor the bridge more closely while introducing plans to replace it with a newer, more stable structure.
Biggest Bonehead Story:
In the final category, we look at the Biggest Bonehead Story and this is where we look at stupid people destroying historic bridges for unjustified reasons. We have a lot of good stories that go along with this topic, all of which in the United States. And with that, we will look at Judge Marilyn Milian, the judge for the TV-series The People’s Court. Since taking over for Judge Wappner in 2005, Ms. Milian has used her sassy commentary and rhetoric to put people in their places for their actions that are both legally and morally wrong. At the same time, she has a zero-tolerance to people doing stupid things as well as making unintelligent comments, sometimes embarassing them on TV. Some classic examples of how the Lady Judge does her work can be seen here:
Back in January 2018, when the Ammann Award winners were being announced, I tried to contact Ms. Milian to see if and how she would react to the following bridge disasters that were caused by stupidity at its finest- all of which will share the Author’s Choice Award for 2017 because of their bizarre nature. That is, had the courts not decided and the cases had been sent to the People’s Court 😉 :
1. Gilliecie Bridge (aka Murtha and Daley): This 130-foot long bowstring arch bridge, built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in 1874, spans the Upper Iowa River at Cattle Creek Road. It had the weight of three tons before the driver of a grain truck, weighing five times as much as the weight allowed on the bridge, tried to cross it on 5th May. After hitting the eastern portal, the truck and the bridge fell right into the water! The driver wasn’t injured. He later claimed that his GPS device led him to the bridge and afraid that he could cause an accident while backing up, he chanced it. Another Mary Laimbright slash “My GPS made me do it” story but sadly unlike the incident and its after-effects at the bridge where she downed it with a semi-truck in 2015, this bridge in Iowa may have seen its last days before being scrapped. Its future is uncertain.
2. Cedar Covered Bridge: Spanning Cedar Creek near Winterset, this bridge was built in 2004 as a replica of the original 1883 span that was destroyed by arson in 2002. This bridge was torched again, this time by three high school teenagers on 15 April, 2017. There, two of them poured gasoline on the decking while the third one set it ablaze. The bridge was left with a charred Town Lattice truss skeleton after the fire was put out. The person who had set the fire to the bridge was upset after breaking up with his girlfriend, with whom he had spent time on the bridge. Before his sentencing in June, the person wanted to get out on bail so that he could graduate from high school. He was later arrested for setting a car ablaze in March in West Des Moines. For the bridge he torched, he received a deferred sentence of 10 years in prison and five years probation. His two other accomplices also received suspended sentences and probation. Yet this incident is a reminder of another incident at McBride Bridge in 1984, which was caused by heartbreak. That person, who destroyed the bridge, had to help with rebuilding the bridge as part of the sentence. Sometimes hard labor helps shape a man. By the way, the Cedar Bridge is being rebuilt again, for the third time. Opening date remains open.
3. Longwood Lane Pony Truss Bridge:Spanning Cedar Run in Fauquier County, Virginia, this pony truss bridge had a very quiet life until a UPS Delivery Truck crossed it on July 17th- or should I say the driver tried to cross it, but it fell in the water. So much for the delivery, not to mention the job as a delivery person. The fastest sometimes had the worst.
This leads to the question of how Judge Milian would handle this, had she seen these three cases in the People’s Court? Would she handle them like above, or even in a case below? What examples an be used? And who would win the case: the owners of the bridges (all of them had been owned a the county) or the defendant? And if the plaintiff, how much would the defendant have to pay- financially and timewise in jail?
This is where the forum is open to the judge, but also to the followers of the People’s Court. 😉
And this wraps up the 2017 Author’s Choice Awards for some of the most bizarre bridge stories. There will be much more for the 2018 Author’s Choice Awards, as there are enough stories to go around there. They will be posted when the winners of the 2018 Ammann Awards come out in January. This time the author means it when he says it will come very timely next time around. So stay tuned! 🙂
Due to a short week because of the federal holiday in Germany, combined with an upcoming trip, I decided to move up our Pic of the Week to today. This Picof the Week takes us to the Ore Mountains at the German-Czech border and this bridge in Johanngeorgenstadt. Spanning the River Schwarzwasser just south of the train station and just north of the Czech border town of Potucky, this modern arch bridge, built a decade ago, features a rather pink color, which is on the one hand unusual for a metal bridge (which mainly uses green, black, silver, blue and brown coloring), but could be an interpretation. Since we use pink for our campaign to fight (breast) cancer, the color of this bridge may symbolize an effort similar to that. If the latter is the case, it would be unusual for a German bridge to have such a color.
Yet if that was the case, which bridge do you know deserves a good coat of pink to signal the fight against cancer (or any non-communicable disease for that matter? Think about it and feel free to comment!
In 1894, an Austrian-Bohemian engineer, Frederick von Emperger, decided to experiment with a bridge design over a small stream northeast of Rock Rapids, Iowa. This design was first introduced by his professor, Josef Melan, while studying at the German Technical College in Prague, and featured an elliptical arch bridge that was supported by metal roads running underneath and covered with concrete. At the time of its construction, iron was used for the Melan bridges that were built in present-day Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Austria. Yet this bridge was the first one to use steel rods, separated by three feet. When Paul Kingsley finished the construction of the bridge in 1894, nobody realized that this was the very first bridge to implement the Melan arch design. Melan and von Emperger continued to build bridges using the Melan design, which included the construction of the Ludwigsbruecke in Munich in 1930 by Melan, and Abteilbruecke in Berlin by von Emperger. Von Emperger also built bridges in the eastern half of the US before emigrating back to Europe for good in 1898.
The construction of the first Melan arch bridge set the precedent for many more to be built between 1900 and 1940, with the most common ones being found in Iowa and places in the southern and eastern parts of the US. This includes the Evansdale and McFarlane Bridges in Black Hawk County, Iowa (both destroyed by the 2008 floods and have been replaced), The Como Park Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Eden Park Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio, and five Warren County, Mississippi bridges located at Vicksburg National Military Park. Yet the bridges fell out of favor for longer beam bridges made of wood or concrete, providing width for cars and length for waterways to flow underneath. Many of these were eventually replaced by concrete or steel culverts, which provided no railings for automobile drivers, but more problems with erosion when flooding and damming by debris persists.
Yet recently, the Melan bridges are making a comeback, as many of them have been populating the roadways for the last couple decades. including three that were built in Springfield, Missouri in 2010 to accommodate bike traffic and a couple built in the Iowa Great Lakes Region- one on Lake Shore Drive in Wahpeton, built in 2008, and another built over Sandbar Slough north of Orleans in 2001, the third crossing and the second one to bypass the first one built in 1915 and still in use. It is unknown where else these bridges can be found, but it is a safe bet that the Melan Bridge is being used as a compromise between cost-effectiveness and environmental protection. Cost- effective because of its short spans but environmental protection meaning that water can still flow freely underneath the bridge and there is no worrying regarding erosion because of high water.
As for the first Melan arch bridge, it was relocated to its present spot at Emma Sater Park in 1964 when a new bridge was to be built in its place and preservationists discovered the historic significance of the structure. 10 years later, the bridge was one of the first historic places to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge can be seen today when entering the town from Iowa Highway 9, and a picnic area is available for those wanting to spend time at the bridge. It is a must-see for those who want to know how the engineers’ creativity resulted in another bridge design that was absent for a period of time but is now becoming another norm for use on the highways today, thanks to Josef Melan who invented the arch bridge and Frederick von Emperger who set the tone for today’s engineers to follow.
Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and Flensburg Files now taking stories on flooding in Europe as well as bridge disasters.
Normally at this time of year, we would be seeing sunny skies with temperatures between 20 and 30° C (70- 80° F), with people grilling in the backyard, construction crews repairing roads and working on bridges, and families preparing for vacation with pupils writing their last exams before graduation from high school. This year has been anything but normal in that aspect.
In the past week, cities in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic have been fighting heavy rains, which have swollen the rivers and caused flooding in many areas. This includes the ones southern and eastern Germany, where the Rhine, Neckar, Elbe, Danube, Saale, White Elster, Mulde, and Ilm Rivers (among them) have flooded the banks and resulted in many towns and cities being evacuated. Many of the towns, like Passau, have already shattered the mark set in 2002, when flooding cut Germany into two parts thanks to the Elbe wiping out every crossing for 48 hours. Especially in Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia, people are preparing for the worst as the 200-year flood is back and records will be smashed again at the expense of their livelihoods.
With the “Jahrhundertflut” there will be many bridges affected by the floods with some of them not being able to withstand the floodwaters and buckling under the stress. In 2002 at least 20 bridges were destroyed by the floods, including a 1700s stone arch bridge in Grimma, located northwest of Dresden. Many others sustained slight to moderate damage, including the ones in Dresden, which the floodwaters of the Elbe flowed over it when 80% of the city was underwater.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is taking stories and photos of the Great Flood of 2013 and the damages done to the bridges to be posted as articles on this page, as well as the ones on its other social networks (facebook, twitter and pininterest). If you know of any bridges that were damaged or destroyed in the storm, you can either post it on the facebook page bearing its name, or send it to Jason Smith, editor and writer of the Chronicles at email@example.com, and it will be posted. The goal is to bring the bridges affected to the attention of the readers, while at the same time get you in touch with the right people with expertise in restoring and/or rebuilding bridges to reincorporate traffic and commerce in the areas affected.
In addition, the sister column The Flensburg Files is also taking on stories of the Great Flood of 2013 to be posted in its column section. If you have any, you can post it in the facebook page or send it to the editor and writer and it will be posted. A summary of the flooding with photos can be seen here. Photos are strongly encouraged for both, and the stories of the flood can be sent either in English, French or German.
We would like to send our wishes out to the people affected by the Great Flood of 2013, which will surely surpass the one in 2002. There are many people and villages cut off from the rest of the world, many livelihoods washed away, and many cities underwater. Whenever there is a chance to give these people a hand, please do so. They need our help and we all in this together until this flooding is through and the lives of those affected are back to normal.