The Railroad Bridges along the Pegnitz Valley in Bavaria

 

One of the Deck Truss Bridges spanning the River Pegnitz  Source: Roehrensee [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
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Starting in the Fichtel Mountains in northeastern Bavaria, the River Pegnitz snakes its way through steep cliffs and deep forests enroute to Nuremberg. It’s hard to believe that one could build dozens of bridges and tunnels to accommodate rail traffic. But that was part of the concept for the construction of the Pegnitztal Railway in 1874. Using the section of the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistral at Schnabelwald as its starting point, the project to build the line took three years to complete, ending in 1877 to provide direct access to Bayreuth from Nuremberg. Originally the Magistral went through Bamberg but railroad officials chose Bayreuth as the quicker alternative. At Schnabelwald, the line branched off to the east, reaching Marktredwitz and ending at Cheb in the Czech Republic by 1879.   As many as 23 railroad bridges and seven tunnels occupy the stretch between Schnabelwald and Hersbruck near Nuremberg. Many of them are of original construction. Two thirds of these bridges are truss spans mainly of Warren design.

Sadly, these bridges are in danger of being demolished and replaced. The German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) is planning to electrify the entire rail line to Nuremberg from Dresden (via Bayreuth and Hof) and Cheb (via Marktredwitz), respectively, to provide better and faster service among the cities. The plan is to have more passenger and freight service running on electricity by 2030, including Inter-City trains. And with that, all the bridges should be replaced.

Or should they? Residents of the communities have voiced their opposition to replacing the bridges due to their historic character, high costs for the concrete structures and the increase in noise in the region. Since 2012, the initiative to save the Pegnitztal Bridges has been in place with the goal of saving as many of the 23 structures as possible. There have been meetings, hiking events and the like since the initiative started and as of date, many people from the area have joined in the fight to protect these bridges and find more constructive ways to restore them and reuse them as part of the modern route.  To determine what these bridges are all about, here’s a tour guide video on the bridges along the Pegnitztal Railroad with close-ups of them all.

The fight to save them have been mixed. Engineering surveys have recommended five of the 23 structures to be rehabilitated and fit for further use. Yet sadly, five of them are scheduled to be replaced. While one of them, a short, 20 meter span, was replaced in 2013, the following three were replaced in 2018, as seen in the video below. Currently, temporary bridges are being built while designs for the new structures are being determined.  It is still unknown what will happen with the remaining 16 structures. But one thing is clear, the Initiative will continue to fight for every bridge until either the renovation or replacement job is completed. The German Railways have recently introduce measures to provide 180 billion Euros for rehabilitatinig bridges over the next ten years and have been able to compromise on some of the bridges. Yet still, they are baby steps in the name of progress, and more will have to be done to ensure a peaceful co-existence between a modern railline going northeast running on electricity and protecting the history of the structures, typical of the Pegnitztal Rail line, historically significant and definitely one that fits in the nature and is worth seeing while traveling along the Pegnitz.

Link with Information on the Bridges and the Initiative to Save them: http://www.bahnbruecken.info/ 

 

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 79

Our first pic of the new year- let alone the new decade- takes us home. Home where one will find a historic bridge where you at least expect it. This was the case with this railroad bridge, the Schafteich Bridge. Spanning the River Zwickau Mulde, the bridge is located only two kilometers west of the train station in Glauchau. It serves the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magristal Route and was one of the original structures that still serves traffic to this day, having been built in the 1860s and rehabilitated a couple of times in its lifetime. Speaking from experience (as you can see in the tour guide of Glauchau), the Schafteich Bridge is one of the most difficult to photograph, for the best photo can be taken from the north side, where the trucking firm is located, but only with a good camera and a good height over the fence. Yet when winter sets in and the leaves are all from the tree, one could sneak a shot from the southern side, where the textile factory is located. There one can photograph the structure either through the trees, like in this pic, or by climbing down towards the river. Because of the cold, I chose the first option and it made a world of difference.

 

Reminder: You still have time to vote for the 2019 Bridgehunter’s Awards. Deadline for voting is January 10th at 11:59pm, your local time. You can click here to go to the ballot. Reminder, there are two parts. The votes will then be tallied and the results will follow. The Author’s Choice Awards, where the author chooses his best and worst bridge stories is being put together and will be presented before the winners of the Bridgehunter’s Awards are announced on January 12th. Stay tuned.

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The Bridges of Dresden Part 1- Introduction

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Bridge of Blue Miracle (Dt. Blaue Wunder Brücke) in Dresden, Germany. Photo taken in December 2011

The next tour guide is a three-part series on one city with several regions where historic and architecturally noteworthy bridges are worth a day’s visit or two. The city is one of Germany’s most prized crown jewels in terms of architecture and culture. It is the second largest city based on population but at the same time, it’s the state’s capital. It literally rose from the ashes of World War II as ariel bombings in 1945 almost completely wiped out the city and nearly its population. It took over a half a century to rebuild the city to its original glory, which includes the Church of our Lady, the Semper Opera and the Residential Palace, just to name a few. It can pride itself on the Christmas markets as it has one of the oldest in the world in the Striezelmarkt. As far as bridges are concerned, almost every type of bridge from every period exist in Dresden and the surrounding area. This includes bridges built in the Baroque period, the Industrial Age, between and after the two World Wars and after the Great Flood of 2002, where half the city plus the suburbs along key tributaries were underwater, the bridges either destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

The city is Dresden. Located in the eastern part of the German state of Saxony, the city with 551,000 inhabitants (with the suburbs including Radebeul, Freital, and Heidenau, it’s close to 750,000), is located on the River Elbe. Some smaller rivers flow into the Elbe in Dresden, one of the most important is the Weisseritz, which starts in the Döhlen Becken, a valley where several streams starting in the eastern Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) merge in Freital to become a main passage to the river. The city has a well-structured infrastructure, where one can bike, drive or ride the train, tram or bus through Dresden without having to worry about accidents and traffic jams. Bike trails run along the Elbe and Weisseritz but connects to several important places including the schools and universities. Train service features regional and long distance trains connecting the city with Prague, Berlin, Leipzig and Nuremberg. Two motorways (4, 17) bypass much of the city with major highways providing much of the service.

And the infrastructure is not complete with the bridges that cross the rivers and other ravines, something Dresden can pride itself on. With as many bridges as the city has, it is just as appropriate to divide this tour guide into three series minus the introduction. The first one will start in the mountains along the Red Weisseritz in Rabenau, much of which is along the Tourist Railline between Freital and Kipsdorf. This area has been rebuilt after the Great Flood in 2002, much of which mimicking its original form. Part 2 will look at the Freital area along the united Weisseritz, which will take us down to the city. One of the bridges has already been written and can be seen here. And part 3 will feature the bridges in Dresden City, much of which is located along the River Elbe, but we have some notable outliers. This includes some in the harbor area, a pair of bridges in Pirna, one in Radebeul and one in Meissen. A map of the bridges in Dresden can be found in each part to allow readers to find and visit them.

To give you an idea of the beauty of Dresden’s bridges, here’s a sample gallery to give you a starter:

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And now, onto Part 1.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 26

As we are in the middle of the autumn season, we still have some cool photos to show, whether they are landscape photos, parks and green areas in the city, historic buildings and even bridges. This fantastic photo belongs to the last category. This was taken at the Steinpleis Viaduct near Werdau in western Saxony. This is one of four brick arch viaducts located in and around Werdau there were built between 1840 and 1850 as the railroad lines were built between Leipzig and Zwickau via Werdau as well as the Dresden-Zwickau-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate Route. It took 30 years to complete both routes. The red brick viaduct is located at the Werdau Triangle where both rail lines meet. The lines used to have long-distance trains running past- between Leipzig and Munich and between Dresden and Nuremberg. Today only regional trains, like this one- the MRB (Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn) based in Chemnitz use the two lines, as well as the S-bahn (Light Rail) which goes to Leipzig-Halle Airport. Taken shortly before sunset, the Regio-Express train is crossing the viaduct enroute to Hof, its final stop, but not before having passed through the Triangle. Just as beautiful site taken from the bridge as it is seeing it from the train.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 82: Bienertstrasse Bridge near Dresden, Germany

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Bienertstrasse Bridge in Dresden (suburb: Plauen). Photos taken in June 2017

Our next mystery bridge is a diamond in the rough, in a literal sense of the word. When travelling along the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate by train, one can find a lot of surprises along the way, especially as far as bridges are concerned. I have a couple tour guides in the making that prove this theory. Some of the surprises a person can see along the way are hidden and requires some bridgehunting, as was the case with Glauchau. But this mystery bridge was a one found purely by chance.

Located 1.5 hours east that city along the rail line, this bridge spans the Weisseritz River in the suburb of Plauen, located between Dresden and Freital, the former having jurisdiction. The street it carries is Bienertstrasse, and it is located 350 meters southeast of the S-bahn station Dresden-Plauen (light rail is the English equivalent).  The bridge is part of the local bike trail network that extends from Dresden through Freital and then through Rabenau Forest going uphill.

Looking at the structure itself, the bridge is a Howe lattice pony truss with welded connections. The endposts are vertical but have a slight curve towards the top, resembling a bottle with a thin rectangular block on top. There are curved gusset plates at the top and bottom chords as well as the mid-point in the panel where the diagonal beams intersect. Engraved geometrical designs are noticeable in the end posts, which if following the patterns of the truss bridge design, places the construction date to between 1880 and 1900. Yet postcards and old photos indicated that the bridge was built in 1893, replacing a brick arch bridge, which was washed away by flash floods. Despite 80% of the city being destroyed during World War II, much of which came with the infamous air raid of 13 February 1945, which turned the once Baroque city into a blazing inferno and wiped out 60% of the city’s population, this bridge retains its pristine form and is still open to traffic.

But for how long?

Already there has been talk about replacing this bridge because of the need to open another crossing and relieve traffic at the neighboring ones at Würzburger Strasse and Altplauen Strasse, each of which are 400 meters away from this bridge in each direction. The bridge had been damaged by the Great Flood of 2002, which wiped out every other bridge in its path and damaging one in three of the remaining crossings to a point where replacement was a necessity.  Given its proximity to the mountain areas and to Dresden, the Weisseritz is notorious for its flash floods, which has caused city planners to consider long-term planning to encourage the free-flow of water enroute to the Elbe River, 8 kilometers from the site of this bridge. Given the densely populated area of the suburbs lining along the Weisseritz, it would make the most sense. However, opponents of the plan to replace the Biernertstrasse Bridge disagree. Apart from its historic significance, many, including the German bike association ADFC, have claimed that there is not enough traffic to justify replacing the bridge. In addition, the bridge serves as a key link for bikers going to other suburbs or even to Dresden itself. Given the high number of cyclists pedaling their way around the metropolitan area, combined with an ever-growing network of bike trails, that argument is well-justified.

For now, the bridge is safe and open to cyclists and pedestrians. Yet it is unknown if this bridge will remain a fixed crossing or if it will be lifted 1-2 meters as was the case with the Red Bridge in Des Moines, or if it will be replaced. What may serve as insurance and keep the developers’ hands off the structure is listing it as a technical monument in accordance to the German Historic Preservation Laws.  Yet despite its unique design and the fact that the bridge was built in 1893, we don’t know who was behind the design and construction of this bridge. And therefore, we need your help.

What do you know about this bridge? What about its predecessor? Tell us about it. The photos and the map with the location of the bridge is below. 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 78: Turner Truss Bridge in Chemnitz, Germany

 

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In 1920, an American engineer, Claude Allen Porter Turner (CAP) designed two different bridge designs that were supposed to simplify the way bridges are constructed. The first was the Turner Flat Slab, a design where the decking portion of the concrete slab was strengthened, thus eliminating the need of extra piers and it would encourage the spans to be longer than usual. The second is a modified version of the Warren truss, where additional lateral beams are constructed midway through the A-portion of the truss, thus creating an A-frame for each panel. Both of these concepts were practiced on the Liberty Memorial Bridge in Bismarck, North Dakota. Constructed in 1922, the bridge featured three Turner through truss spans of 476 feet each, plus the Turner flat slab approach spans totalling 1105 feet- 625 for the west spans and 480 for the east side. It was the only known work for the engineer, whose career started at Gillette-Herzog Manufacturing in Minneapolis in 1900 but then started his own business after declining an offer to relocate to Chicago. The product of the American Bridge and  Foundation Bridge Companies remained in service until its replacement in 2008. It was believed to have been the only one of its kind built…..

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…..that is until this recently discovery in Chemnitz, Germany!

Located just two kilometers south of Chemnitz Central Railway Station along the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate at Bernhardstrasse, this pony truss span resembles the same Turner design as the Liberty, but with two unique differences: 1. The truss span is pony and 2. The endposts are vertical. Like the Liberty, the connections are riveted, even in the A-frames of the Warren. Yet some unique features of the truss include the curled cap at the top of the endpost. The end post itself has an I-shape. It is unknown what the length of the bridge is, but it is estimated to be between 60 and 70 meters long. The width is 10 meters between the trusses, the sidewalks on the outer edge is 2-3 meters, thus totaling the width of 16 meters. As the East German government built or imported truss bridges during its 40 years existence, whose designs were mainly Warren (and many modified versions of it) and had not much design to it, it is likely that this bridge was constructed during the 1920s, maybe the 1930s, and survived the bombings of Chemnitz during World War II. 90% of the city center was destroyed by 1945 and 70% of the houses and buildings, dating back to the 1800s were either in shambles or badly damaged. This bridge may have survived the bombing unscathed. Yet the lack of scars from the war might lead to a dispute over the bridge. It may have been rebuilt using replacement parts, but most likely in the late 1940s to encourage passage over the magistrate. If that was the case, then the bridge was built before the Soviets gained full control of its militarized zone, which became the German Democratic Republic (a.k.a. East Germany), while Chemnitz was renamed Karl-Marx-Stadt, a name that remained on the maps until German Reunification in 1990.

With this in mind, let’s look at the following questions to be solved regarding this bridge:

  1. When was this bridge built?
  2. Who designed the structure? Did this engineer use the Turner design or was it just simple coincidence?
  3. Lastly, if this bridge is considered a Turner truss, are there other designs of its caliber that exist? If so, where?

What do you know of this bridge, let alone the Turner truss? Share your thoughts either on facebook page or by using this contact form.  A tour guide on the bridges in Chemnitz is in the making and if there is enough information, this bridge will be added. Let’s see if we can solve this mystery surrounding this bridge, shall we?

Best of luck and looking forward to the findings. 🙂

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