The best discoveries are found in your backyard. This mystery bridge fits the historian stereotype like a glove and can be found in the southeastern part of Glauchau in the area now designated as a natural reserve, behind the Rudolph Virchow Hospital and adjacent Agricola High School. We found this bridge as pure coincidence, while we were hiking and taking pictures on a Sunday afternoon. The structure is a two-span deck arch bridge all made with metal, and the connections are welded. The bridge has a total length of 25 meters and it appeared that it used to span a body of water which has since shrunk in size, leaving the area the bridge crosses to be nothing more but a dry ravine to be forded because much of the decking on the bridge is in critical condition with missing or cracked flooring. The bridge used to carry an abandoned road, which we later found that it led to the hospital grounds and given its width, it was probably used only for cars and pedestrians only.
The bridge has a unique feature that is rare to find for bridges built during its time. One side of the bridge exposes the arch section where only a couple vertical beams support the arches. Both the arches as well as the center piers are tubular and are welded together. On the opposite end, the arches are covered with paneling resembling an appearance of a faux pas arch span: a beam bridge that is decorated with only the outer arches, whose spandrels are covered with paneling, thus making the bridge look like a real arch bridge but it’s merely a beam bridge that functions as the crossing supporting traffic.
It is unknown when the bridge was built, let alone who built it, but the area where the bridge was discovered by accident belongs to a natural area known as the Rümpfwald, an area that is the size of 10 football pitches that extends from the hospital, along the cemetary and past Bismarck Tower going south and east towards Rottenbach Creek and the adjacent forest near Niederlungwitz and St. Egidien, located six kilometers southeast of Glauchau’s Railway station. A map featuring both the forest and the bridge shows you the size of the natural area.
Before the habitat was created, it was once a military complex with a long history, most of which still hangs a dark cloud over Glauchau to this day. In 1914, a military complex was established under the name Friedrich August Kaserne, which covered an area including the hospital, and the western half of Rümpfwald. Originally used for the German army, it was made irrelevant when Germany was forced to reduce its military to a quarter of ist size through the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Nevertheless, when Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, the military base was reactivated and used as a concentration camp for political prisoners. By 1936, it became a base for the Wehrmacht- the Nazi army. By 1945, the Soviet troops took over the eastern half of Germany and with that, the military base in Glauchau, which would later be expanded to include the production of weaponry and tanks as well as a practice area. The Soviets occupied the base until 1993, when the last Russian troops left the base. Afterwards, the entire complex was razed to the ground and the area was converted to a natural area, yet some of the relicts from the past still exist today….
….including this bridge. Given its current, deteriorating state, the bridge will most likely succumb to nature as the arches and the superstructure have corroded to a point where a full rehabilitation would be deemed impossible. Yet given the fact that this bridge is one of the most neglected of all of Glauchau’s bridges, it would be a shame to see it disappear without knowing about its history. While only a small portion of the military base has been preserved as a mini-library, perhaps there is a place for this unique bridge, even if the dark past of the military days in Glauchau have long since disappeared…..
The Watchman’s post and the Historic Gate to the military base at Wolffersdorfstrasse and the north entrance to the hospital were preserved, restored and converted to a library. The smallest library in Germany was completed in 2009 and received the 2011 Pegasus Award, the most important award of the EU devoted to preserving places of historic interest. More information on the project can be found here. Ironically, book booth, a phone booth is located on the opposite end of the street at Virchowstrasse. There, you can donate your books and take one from the booth with. It’s next to a panel of what was part of the Berlin Wall.
Plans are in the making to expand the Virchow Hospital further into the forest and former military compound, which includes rehabilitation areas and a health care sector. When the work starts remains open.
The Westward Expansion was one of the greatest developments in American History. From 1865 until the end of World War I in 1918, millions of miles of roads and railroads were built west of the Mississippi River. And with that came bridges, big or small, that crossed whatever ravine was in the way. Hundreds of bridge building companies were established between 1865 and 1910 and while half of them either folded or merged with other bridge building firms, others remained in the business and with enough capital and a set of minds that were strong-willed and innovative, they succeeded in building unique crossings and competing with the bigger and more powerful conglomerates. Some of the companies eventually continued their business well into the 20th Century.
In the case of Stupp Brothers, they have been building bridges and other forms of artwork for 165 years and counting. Many people don’t know much about Stupp Brothers except when you find historic truss bridges with the Stupp plaques on them. Most of these bridges can be found in Missouri but this was because Stupp has its headquarters in St. Louis. When looking at the history of bridge building, some of the unique crossings have been built by Stupp. Aside from the Jefferson City Bridges, Stupp built the Bird’s Nest Bridge in Crawford County, Broadway Bridge in Kansas City, the Martin Luther Bridge in St. Louis, and the Route 66 Meramec River Bridge west of St. Louis- all of which still exist to this day.
More closely is the history of the Stupp Brothers Bridge Company itself, for its founder, originated from Germany in what is now North Rhine-Westphalia. And this is where the story starts. I did some research on the company and interviewed Judith Stupp, wife of the current president, John Stupp, in 2017 as efforts were being taken to find funding to restore the Meramec Bridge. While the role of Stupp with that bridge will be discussed later due to changes in developments to date, here’s what we learned about the bridge company, the Stupp family and 165 years of engineering success.
1. Who were the founders of the bridge company?
Technically, the bridge business was founded by George, Peter and Julius Stupp, the sons of Johann Stupp, but the story begins with Johann. Johann Stupp was born in 1827 in Cologne (Köln), Germany- Prussia at that time. He was trained as a metal smith and during his wanderberuf he developed friendships with several other young wanderers.
Economic conditions convinced some of these friends to immigrate to the US. Initially Johann resisted, but in 1854 he chose to join his friends in St Louis, Missouri. The influx of Germans was so great that by 1860, of the 160,783 citizens of St Louis, 50,510 were German-born.
By 1856 Johann was married and had started his own business fabricating small machine parts and doing some ornamental iron work. He brought his brother Peter to St Louis to work as foreman at J. Stupp and Bros., Blacksmiths.
2. What role did Stupp Brothers play in the Civil War, both regarding the bridge building business as well as in their private lives?
Though there is no documentation to prove it, there is a family conviction that Johann’s shop made iron plates for the fleet of seven ironclad gunboats built by John B. Eads to support the union effort to take control of the Mississippi and its tributaries. Eads was under intense pressure to produce the fleet in 90 days, so it seems likely that a shop like Johann’s would have been involved in the effort. Johann hadproduced iron plates for barges while still in Germany. Johann served in the “Home Guard” during the Civil War. This group was instrumental in preventing Missouri from seceding from the union.
By 1867 the firm was being advertised as the South St. Louis Iron Works. They fabricated fire escapes, railings and various ornamental items. In the late 1860’s the firm received a sub-contract to fabricate the gates at the newly created Lafayette Park. It was a triumph for the shop. Of the 32 gates Johann created 30 remain standing. Johann would concentrate on ornamental iron gates and fencing for the rest of his time in the business. Johann was a superb craftsman, meticulous and an artist in his trade. He died in 1915 at the age of 88.
By 1873 all three of Johann’s teenaged sons worked in the business. George was office manager, Peter was assistant pattern-maker and Julius was a bolt cutter. That same year saw the credit crisis known as The Panic of 1873. Johann had borrowed $3000 from an unscrupulous lender and, unable to pay the loan when called, lost the business. As a result of this experience no doubt, George Stupp had enrolled in business classes. In 1878 George formed the George Stupp South St. Louis Ornamental Zinc and Iron works. When Peter and Julius came of age a partnership was formed and the name was changed to Stupp Bros. With George in charge the company began to move from ornamental to structural work. One of the firms earliest orders was from the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.
3. How did Stupp play a role in the Westward Expension?
The 1880’s was an ideal time for the newly formed company. St. Louis was growing and prospering, it was fourth among American cities in gross value of manufactures and fifth in capital invested in manufacturing. When Stupp built its first bridge in around 1886, it was one of five bridge companies in St. Louis.
In December of 1890, the brothers incorporated, changing the firm’s name to Stupp Bros.
Bridge and Iron Company. America was becoming an industrial giant, Americans were pouring into the frontier, cities like Omaha, Dallas, Denver and San Francisco had emerged from frontier outposts. The networks of roads and rails in the east were improved and expanded, while new lines pushed westward creating and feeding new markets for manufactured materials. Buoyed by the expanding market, in 1893 the brothers expanded their plant by adding a second story to house an office and drafting room.
4. How did the bridge building expand after the Civil War? How many branch offices did it have andwhich ones still exist today?
In the early 1900-1920’s there were offices in Iowa City, Iowa, Kansas City, Missouri and downtown St Louis. Today manufacturing is done in Bowling Green, KY with the sales office at the company location in St Louis where has been since 1902.
5. While as many as 28 bridge companies merged to become the American Bridge Company in 1901(including the Wrought Iron Bridge Company), Stupp didn‘t engage in this venture and continued to build bridges in the face of competition. How did the company achieve that successfully?
Independent minded. It is unknown whether or not they were ever approached about a merger. The company had the capital to remain independent.
6. What major projects has the bridge company been involved with since 1900? Bridge examples included.
Stupp’s contract records identify nearly 20,000 projects. Bridges make up a significant portion of them though not the majority of them. Some notable projects include:
Hurricane Deck at Lake of the Ozarks, MO (1936 Prize Bridge winner)
George P. Coleman Bridge over the York River, VA (Multiple swing spans-1990’s)
Randolph Street Bascule Bridge Chicago 1970’s
Ohio River Bridge Renovations Louisville, KY 2014-2016 (20,000 tons)
Truss Bridges over the Missouri River at Washington, Herman, Chesterfield, St. Charles, Jefferson City, Miami for the state of Missouri 1940s to 1960’s
Choteau Bridge replacement at Kansas City MO 2001
7. Who is in charge of the company today and what kinds of bridges are being built today in comparison with 100 years or even 150 years ago?
John Stupp is the president of the company and R. Philip Stupp, Jr. Is our executive vice president. They are cousins and great-great grandsons of Johann. Three members of the sixth generation are currently working for the company.
Stupp began building bridges in the 1880s. Most of the bridges Stupp fabricated in this time frame were less than 100 foot in individual span lengths. The majority of the bridges were truss bridges. The vertical elements of truss bridges are top chords, bottom chords, vertical and diagonal struts. These components form panels and the completed panels span the crossing. Horizontal members tie the two trusses together and support the roadway. Thru trusses, deck trusses, and pony trusses are three types of bridges that made up the majority of our contracts during the period. Railroad bridges and highway bridges were our primary bridge products.
In 1902 Stupp moved to a much larger plant and began building much larger structures (longer spans require larger structures) Trusses remained a dominant bridge type for another 100 years. Our expanded capabilities allowed us to build arch bridges, long span railroad bridges, and moveable bridges. Categories of moveable bridges include bascule, swing span, and lift. Rolled beams (wide flange) were introduced by Carnegie Steel and then mass marketed by Bethlehem Steel around the turn of the century. Their use greatly reduced the cost of short span bridges and these are known as rolled beam bridges.
Plate girder bridges became cost effective and widely used after welding was perfected in the 1950’s. Prior to then riveting plates together with angles was the preferred method. Today plate girder bridges make up over 80% of the steel bridge market. Plate girder bridges are the only bridge type that Stupp manufacturers since 1999.
To learn more about Stupp Brothers, click onto the link here and read more about it.
COLOGNE, GERMANY- March 7, 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the German-speaking children’s show „Die Sendung mit der Maus“ (in English: Mouse TV), which is officially presented as „Lach- und Sachgeschichte“ (in English: Stories for Laughing and Learning). On this day in 1971, the first episode of the Mouse was introduced on public TV through the West-German channel WDR, located in the city of Cologne.
Featuring the Orange Mouse, the TV show runs along the same pattern as our American counterpart, Sesame Street, which debuted two years earlier. Unlike the Muppet characters, like Big Bird, Kermit, Elmo, the Count and the Cookie Monster, who take up most oft he show’s time through conversation and lessons, the Mouse features only three characters- the Mouse himself, the Blue Elephant and the Yellow Duck, yet the show features various cartoon clips from other shows but half the time is spent showing the viewers how things are built and how certain devices work- in live time. Like in Sesame Street, the Mouse is televised in many languages and can be seen even on American TV.
The Mouse has garnered dozens of awards, some of which have gone to two of the moderators who have been with the mouse for as long as the show: Armin Maiwald and Christoph Bienmann. While we’re talking about how things are being built in live time, I stumbled across some films that featured the bridge, while I was finding some older series to be presented in another commentary in my other column, the Flensburg Files. Some were quite funny and even if they are over 30 years old, some people will get a laugh out of them. Yet there are some that educational and quite useful for everyone to watch. We’re going to show the Chronicles‘ greatest bridge hits that were presented by the Mouse over the years. While the target language is German, the videos presented here speak more volumes than what is spoken in any language. 🙂
In the first video shown above, there are the many attempts of Christoph trying to cross the river All of the attempts were worth the laughs. Yet given the fact he was an exchange student in the United States prior to joining the Mouse in 1972, he added some American flair to the film, which was released in 1982.
The next bridge video was the first to show the actual bridge building process. This two-part series, released in 1994 takes you through a step-by-step process from planning to the actual building of the viaduct that now spans a road, river and railroad tracks.
Then there’s the bridge replacement aspect with a focus on replacing the motorway bridge in Leverkusen. Started in 2014, the series is ongoing and there will be much more to come as the project progresses, for the bridge replacement is expected to take a decade to complete.
And lastly, we have the newest among the bunch, the slide-in replacement of a railroad bridge near Cologne and the process that took a full weekend to complete, yet the filming was enough for one episode.
Especially in the past decade, the videos on building bridges have become more popular for people of all ages for much of the infrastructure is getting older and becoming unable to handle today’s traffic in terms of volume and weight. Nevertheless, they are interesting to watch as each structure is inspected and when it is concluded that replacement is inevitable, the planning, design and construction is carried out.
Even if one is not interested in bridges, the Mouse presents virtually every aspect of manufacturing or making the basics for every day life with the purpose of making it entertaining but most importantly, educational. I started watching the Mouse when my daughter was born in 2008 and since then, it has become a cornerstone to our Sunday ritual: Mouse TV with pancakes for breakfast, all on the sofa in the living room, something that many of us in Germany enjoy doing on a Sunday morning when the show is televised on TV, either on ARD or KIKA.
And therefore, the bridge community and this columnist of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to wish the Mouse a happy golden birthday and many thanks to Armin, Christoph and crew many thanks for making the show a „bridge building“ experience for all ages, especially those who wish to become engineers in the future.
And now, before we announce the winners of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards, I have a few favorites that I hand-picked that deserve international recognition. 2020 was a year like no other. Apart from head-scratcher stories of bridges being torn down, we had an innummeral number of natural disasters that were impossible to follow, especially when it came to bridge casualties. We had some bonehead stories of people downing bridges with their weight that was 10 times as much as what the limit was and therefore they were given the Timmy for that (click on the link that will lead you to the picture and the reason behind it.) But despite this we also had a wide selection of success stories in connection with historic bridge preservation. This include two rare historic bridges that had long since disappeared but have now reappeared with bright futures ahead of them. It also include the in-kind reconstruction of historic bridges, yet most importantly, they also include historic bridges that were discovered and we had never heard of before- until last year.
And so with that in mind, I have some personal favorites that deserve international recognition- both in the US as well as international- awarded in six categories, beginning with the first one:
Best example of reused bridge:
The Castlewood Thacher Truss Bridge in South Dakota:
One of three hybrid Thacher through truss bridges left in the US, the bridge used to span the Big Sioux River near Castlewood until it disappeared from the radar after 1990. Many pontists, including myself, looked for it for three decades until my cousin, Jennifer Heath, found it at the Threshing Grounds in Twin Brooks. Apparently the product of the King Bridge Company, built in 1894, was relocated to this site in 1998 and restored for car use, in-kind. Still being used but we’re still scratching our heads as to how it managed to disappear from our radar for a very long time…..
Built in 1866, this bridge was unique for its arch design. It was destroyed by floods in 2015 but it took five years of painstaking efforts to put the bridge back together again, finding and matching each stone and reinforcing it with concrete to restore it like it was before the tragedy. Putting it back together again like a puzzle will definitely make for a puzzle game using this unique bridge as an example. Stay tuned.
While it has not been opened yet for the construction of the South Park Gardens is progressing, this four-span arch bridge connecting the Park with the Castle Complex was completely restored after 2.5 years of rebuilding the 17th Century structure which had been abandoned for four decades. Keeping the outer arches, the bridge was rebuilt using a skeletal structure that was later covered with concrete. The stones from the original bridge was used as a façade. When open to the public in the spring, one will see the bridge that looks like the original but has a function where people can cross it. And with the skeleton, it will be around for a very long time.
This one definitely deserves a whole box of tomatoes. Instead of rehabilitating the truss bridge and repurposing it for bike and public transportation use, designers unveiled a new bridge that tries to mimic the old span but is too futuristic. Watch the video and see for yourself. My take: Better to build a futuristic span, scrap the historic icon and get it over with.
Demolishing the Pilchowicki Bridge in Poland for a Motion Picture Film-
Paramount Pictures and Tom Cruz should both be ashamed of themselves. As part of a scene in the film, Mission Impossible, this historic bridge, spanning a lake, was supposed to be blown up, then rebuilt mimicking the original structure. The bridge had served a railroad and spans a lake. The plan was tabled after a huge international cry to save the structure. Nevertheless, the thwarted plan shows that America has long been famous for: Using historic places for their purpose then redo it without thinking about the historic value that was lost in the process.
A one of a kind Thacher pony truss, this bridge went from being a swing bridge crossing connecting East and West Lake Okoboji, to a Little Sioux River crossing that was eventually washed out by flooding in 2011, to the storage bin, and now, to its new home- Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji. The owner had one big heart to salvage it. Plus it was in pristine condition when it was relocated to its now fourth home. A real winner.
Dömitz Railroad Bridge between Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pommerania in Germany-
World War II had a lasting after-effect on Germany’s infrastructure as hundreds of thousands of historic bridges were destroyed, either through bombs or through Hitler’s policies of destroying every single crossing to slow the advancement of the Allied Troops. Yet the Dömitz Railroad Bridge, spanning the River Elbe, represents a rare example of a bridge that survived not only the effects of WWII, but also the East-West division that followed, as the Mecklenburg side was completely removed to keep people from fleeing to Lower Saxony. All that remains are the structures on the Lower Saxony side- preserved as a monument symbolizing the two wars and the division that was lasting for almost a half century before 1990.
Forest Fires along the West Coast- 2020 was the year of disasters in a literal sense of the word. Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought the world to a near standstill, 2020 was the year where records were smashed for natural disasters, including hurricanes and in particular- forest fires. While 20% of the US battled one hurricane after another, 70% of the western half of the country, ranging from the West Coast all the way to Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas dealt with record-setting forest fires, caused by drought, record-setting heatwaves and high winds. Hardest hit area was in California, Washington and even Oregon. Covered bridges and other historic structures took a massive hit, though some survived the blazes miraculously. And even some that did survive, presented some frightening photo scenes that symbolizes the dire need to act on climate change and global warming before our Earth becomes the next Genesis in Star Trek.
Demolition of the Historic Millbrook Bridge in Illinois-
Inaction has consequences. Indifference has even more painful consequences. Instead of fixing a crumbling pier that could have left the 123-year old, three-span through truss bridge in tact, Kendall County and the Village of Millbrook saw dollar signs in their eyes and went ahead with demolishing the entire structure for $476,000, coming out of- you guessed it- our taxpayer money. Cheapest way but at our expense anyway- duh!
Planned Demolition of the Bridges of Westchester County, New York-
While Kendall County succeeded in senselessly tearing down the last truss bridge in the county, Westchester County is planning on tearing down its remaining through truss bridges, even though the contract has not been let out just yet. The bridges have been abandoned for quite some time but they are all in great shape and would make for pedestrian and bike crossings if money was spent to rehabilitate and repurpose them. Refer to the examples of the Calhoun and Saginaw County historic bridges in Michigan, as well as those restored in Winneshiek, Fayette, Madison, Johnson, Jones and Linn Counties in Iowa. Calling Julie Bowers and Nels Raynor!
Collapse of Westphalia Bridge due to overweight truck-
To the truck driver who drove a load over the bridge whose weight was four times the weight limit, let alone bring down the 128-year old product of the Kansas City Bridge Company: It’s Timmy time! “One, …. two,….. three! DUH!!!!” The incident happened on August 17th 2020 and the beauty of this is, upon suggesting headache bars for protecting the bridge, county engineers claimed they were a liability. LAME excuse!
Located near the Göhren Viaduct in the vicinity of Burgstädt and Mittweida, this open-spandrel stone arch bridge used to span the Zwickau Mulde and was a key accessory to the fourth tallest viaduct in Saxony. Yet it was not valuable enough to be demolished and replaced during the year. The 124-year old bridge was in good shape and had another 30 years of use left. This one has gotten heads scratching.
Collapse of Bridge in Nova Scotia due to overweight truck-
It is unknown which is more embarrassing: Driving a truck across a 60+ year old truss bridge that is scheduled to be torn down or doing the same and being filmed at the same time. In any case, the driver got the biggest embarrassment in addition to getting the Timmy in French: “Un,…. deux,…… toi! DUH!!!” The incident happened on July 8th.
Consisting of vine bridges dating back hundreds of years, this area has become a celebrity since its discovery early last year. People in different fields of work from engineers to natural scientists are working to figure out how these vined bridges were created and how they have maintained themselves without having been altered by mankind. This region is one of the World’s Top Wonders that should be visited, regardless whether you are a pontist or a natural scientist.
This structure deserves special recognition not only because it turned 125 years old in 2020. The bridge is the longest of its kind on the South American continent and it took eight years to build. There’s an interesting story behind this bridge that is worth the read…..
For bridge tours on the international front, I would recommend the bridges of Schwerin. It features seven iron bridges, three unique modern bridges, a wooden truss span, a former swing span and a multiple span arch bridge that is as old as the castle itself, Schwerin’s centerpiece and also home of the state parliament. This was a big steal for the author as the day trip was worth it.
Geoff Hobbs brought the bridge to the attention of the pontist community in July 2020, only to find that the bridge belonged to a mansion that has a unique history. As a bonus, the structure is still standing as with the now derelict mansion.
The Bridges of Jefferson Proving Grounds in Indiana-
The Proving Grounds used to be a military base that covered sections of four counties in Indiana. The place is loaded with history, as not only many buildings have remained largely in tact but also the Grounds’ dozen bridges or so. Satolli Glassmeyer provided us with a tour of the area and you can find it in this film.
Now that the favorites have been announced and awarded, it is now the voter’s turn to select their winners, featured in nine categories of the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards. And for that, we will go right, this way…… =>
This week’s Pic of the Week takes us back to 2016 and to the City of Jena in the German state of Thuringia. During a bike tour on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th), I took advantage of the cold and frosty morning to get some frosty shots of the Saaletal Viaduct, which spans two rivers and a wide valley. Normally it is impossible to get a shot for the grass area between is sometimes used for farming. It was not the case as I took a pair of shots of both the original viaduct as well as an additional one. As a bonus, there was a person who also took advantage of the cold weather and took his dog for a walk. When I arrived back home that day, my ghotee was all covered in frost. But looking back, it was one tour that was worth it.
And as for the Saaletal Viaduct:
The original viaduct was built in 1939, spanning the Saale River, the Roda River, and a valley that is over a kilometer wide and separates two of Jena’s southern suburbs: Lobeda to the east and Göschwitz to the west. The bridge is a masonary arch viaduct, which is the work of Friedrich Tamms and has 20 arch spans, totalling 800 meters long. It took two years to complete the viaduct (photos of the project can be seen by clicking here). The bridge sustained damage to the arch spans during World War II but was subsequentially repaired by the East German government to ensure it continues use.
After German Reunification, the motorway was assigned the A4 which connects Cologne and Dresden via Kassel. As part of the project to widen the motorway to six lanes, a supplemental span, consisting of a skeletal arch viaduct with as many spans as the original one, was built in 2002 and since then, serves eastbound traffic with the 1939 span serving westbound traffic. The new span can best be seen from the Roda River near Ruhla, whereas the original span can best be seen from the hills northwest of the bridge, as well as in parts of Göschwitz.
Additional work included the rerouting of the motorway and the construction of two tunnels on each ends of the twin viaducts, which was completed the same year the photos were taken. One of which, the Jagdberg Tunnel, is one of the ten longest tunnels in Germany, at three kilometers long. It’s west of the twin viaducts.
Many people don’t know the fact that the city of Schwerin, with a population of 95,000 inhabitants, is the capital of the German state of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (MV). Most associate MV with its largest city, Rostock. When people see Schwerin for the first time, they mostly see at first high-rise buildings dating back to the days of Communism in East Germany. Yet after driving for 10-15 minutes, you end up seeing the city’s crown jewels: the Schwerin Castle, the Orangery and Castle Gardens and its historic city center.
Much of this historic old town dates back to the time the castle was built, which was between 1845 and 1857. Historic buildings, churches and even bridges followed over the next half century. Schwerin survived largely unscathed during the two World Wars, yet the city became a hub for political prisoners during the 41 years of East German rule, as the castle became a prison complex. After the Fall of the Wall and its subsequent German Reunification, Schwerin became the capital of MV (again) and since 1994, the Castle has been the seat of the state government, while most of the state’s ministries are in the historic buildings that are only a few minutes walk away.
From a pontist’s point of view, there are two known bridges that one can afiliate with Schwerin; namely the Schlossbrücke and the Swing Bridge. The Schlossbrücke (in the photo above) was built in 1844 and connects the castle with the historic old town. The Swing Bridge (in the photo below), was built in 1897 and connects the castle with the castle gardens.
Both are considered the most ornamental of the bridges in Schwerin because of their railings and lighting. When looking further, though, there are more bridges than these two and they have just as much aesthetic taste as the two aforementioned structures. They include the skyway bridge connecting the State Chencellory Office with the Ministry Offices- a three-span arch bridge with ornamental features. At the Castle Gardens, there’s an unusual through beam bridge with steel panels running horizontally across the path. It’s one of the most modern of structures but also a unique one in itself.
Then there are the iron arch bridges. There are seven identical spans spanning three canals, which can be found in the Castle Gardens. They were built no later than 1890 and each have a dimension of 10-15 meters long, and up to two meters wide. Both the decking and the railings are arched.
While the railings are trussed with a Howe design, both the railings and the arch spandrels are both covered with ornamental designs, where flower-shapes can be found where the diagonal beams meet; a rose-shaped design in the circle-shaped spandrels. The endposts are vertical and bedstead, with pine cone-shaped finials on top. As mentioned in a recent Pic of the Week article, it is unknown who was behind the design and when exactly it was built, except it was at least 120 years ago because of their age and appearance. Nevertheless, it was a surprise to find seven of these spans throughout the park.
And to round off the tour, we have the lone wooden truss design in the Knuppeldamm Bridge. Built over two decades ago, the 15m span features a Howe Lattice truss span. It can be found at the entrance to Lake Schwerin as a canal empties into the body of water. Sadly, damage to the trusses has resulted in the city council’s decision to replace the span with a replica of the bridge. The damage and discussion on the causes can be found here.
Despite having written a few Pic of the Week articles on individual spans in Schwerin, there are 13 historic and unique bridges in Schwerin to visit, in addition to checking out the Castle and the historic old town. All of them are within 10 minutes walk and within the 500 meter radius of the Castle itself. Therefore, I’ve compiled a bridge tour guide, featuring photos and information on all 13 bridges for you to look at and plan to visit on your next stop in Schwerin. Unfortunately, the new wordpress format has made embedding the maps via Google impossible. Therefore, you should click on the link below. It will take you to the Map of Schwerin and the points where you can find the bridges.
If there is one item to describe the City of Schwerin it is this: It’s a jewel hidden in a pile of concrete. It takes a few minutes to get to the castle and the historic old town. Yet when you reach them and spend a day there, you will not regret the visit. There is a lot to see and do in Schwerin, and if you are a pontist or a person interested in history, there are plenty of bridges to see. From what I saw, they are more beautiful and are better an accessory to the Castle and gardens than you think.
Before getting to the tour guide on the bridges in Schwerin, there is one bridge one needs to have a look at, which is this structure. The Schlossbrücke belongs to one of the most ornamental bridges in not only Schwerin but also in the German state of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (MV). The bridge and the castle were built in the same time period, yet the bridge was needed to cross the channel of Lake Schwerin in order for the construction of the castle to be realized. The five-span stone arch bridge was constructed in 1844. The castle was built in parts from 1845 until its full completion in 1857 and the likes of Gottfried Semper, Friedrich August Stüler, Georg Adolf Demmler and Ernst Friedrich Zwirner. Because of its ornamental design, together with the bridge itself, the castle represents one of the finest examples of romantic Historicism in Europe and has been considered a World Heritage Site. The Castle is known by many as the Neuschwanstein of the North, though its Bavarian counterpart is far more visited than this one. Still the castle is the site of the state parliament which meets regularly.
Structurally, the bridge has a total length of 48 meters and a width of 16.27 meters. It’s art greco railings feature geometrical, square shapes, flanked with ornamental lanterns with horse statues found on the portal end facing the historic city center. The bridge connects the castle with the historic city center, yet another structure, built in 1897, is located on the opposite end and connects the castle with the Castle Gardens.
The bridge was rehabilitated in 1984 and since then, it has been open to only pedestrians and cyclists, even though some cars belonging to government officials can use the structure as well. The bridge’s ornamental appearance can be compared to many of the structures in other European countries. This includes the Moltke Bridge in Berlin, the Pont Alexandre III in Paris, the Ushakovsky Bridge in St. Petersburg and even the Svatopluk Čech Bridge in Prague. Surprisingly, the bridge and the castle survived both World Wars without a scratch and have maintained their aesthetic appearance, thus making them highly recommended places to visit while bridgehunting in Germany. From my personal standpoint, the bridge and the castle are a photographer’s dream, especially on a day like this one in August, where a setting like this can result in some really awesome photos, ripe for a photo contest, regardless of which camera to use.
One needs a full day to visit the castle complex and its bridges, especially with the Schlossbrücke. Yet believe me, you will never be disappointed. 🙂 ❤
One will find this one anywhere. Even on the backroads like this one: a single span truss span spanning Soldier River just south of Iowa Hwy. 141 in Crawford County. The bridge was erected here in 1957 to replace a span destroyed during the great flood of 1945. At 90 feet, one would think a through truss span could have fit here. Yet the span is a pony truss and it was put together in layers and put together with bolts. A set of Tinker Toys that was put together easily with the purpose of ensuring even the heaviest vehicles- in this case, farm equipment like tractors- would be allowed to cross it. One has to assume that it was imported somewhere where it had a purpose.
And it was. This span is an example of a Bailey Truss bridge. And even though one can find them here and there, in the farmlands of Iowa to the steep hills of central Saxony, even to the far east, such as India, Australia and New Zealand. Bailey Trusses were unique because all they require is a few metal beams and bolts, combined with manpower, and the bridge is put together in an instant. Bailey Trusses were the works of a brillant engineer and and without his expertise, it would not have won World War II. As Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, the British commander, once said. ”It was the best thing in that line we ever had; without the Bailey Bridge we should not have won the war.”
Bailey was born on 15 September, 1901 in Rotherham in Yorkshire. He obtained a degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Sheffield in 1923 and was a civil servant in the War Department when the war broke out in 1939. The concept of the Bailey Truss was developed in 1936, when Bailey scribbled the design on the back of an envelope. His idea was that prefabricated sections that were interchangable could be deployed to the war front and, with steel pins, soldiers could construct the span, which would be anchored on one side and connected on the other side by the use of force. No heavy equipment would be needed to construct a temporary span, and the parts could be transported with the basic equipment or with man power from one place to another because of their lightweight. Constructing them would be easy for it could be achieved within hours, instead of months. For the war effort, the concept of makeshift bridge construction in the shortest time span possible was of utmost importance in order to win the war.
Firstly ignored, Bailey’s truss design was accepted in 1941 when the Ministry of Supply requested that Bailey construct a full scale span completed by May 1st. The design was successfully tested at the Experimental Bridging Establishment (EBE), in Christchurch, Hampshire, with several parts being provided by Braithwaite & Co. The first prototype was tested in 1941. For early tests, the bridge was laid across a field, about 2 feet (0.61 m) above the ground, and several Mark V tanks were filled with pig iron and stacked upon each other. Another prototype was constructed in 1943 at Stanpit Marsh also in Dorset and was proven successful. That span still exists to this day. After a series of successful trials, the Corps of Royal Engineers introduced the Bailey Truss as a means of construction in 1942 and companies began constructing parts for the Bailey Truss to be transported to the war front.
Use in World War II:
The first Bailey Truss was constructed over Medjerda River near Medjez el Bab in Tunisia on the night of 26 November 1942 by the by 237 Field Company R.E. After learning about the bridge‘s success, both the Canadians and Americans embraced the truss and started their own production to complement that of Britain. Detroit Steel Products Company, the American Elevator Company and the Commercial Shearing and Stamping Company were three of dozens of companies that constructed the Bailey Trusses in the US, which was known as the Portable Panel Bridge. In total, over 600 firms were involved in the making of over 200 miles of bridges using the Bailey design, composing of 500,000 tons, or 700,000 panels of bridging during the war- at the height of the war, the number was at 20,000 panels that were produced and transported. Bailey Trusses were used successfully for transporting military equipment and supplies during the war, including the Normandy and Italy. American troops built over 3200 Bailey Trusses in Italy as they advanced through the Alps into Germany from the south. The longest bridge there was located over the Sangro and had a span of 1200 feet.
Bailey Trusses were also implemented in Germany, when hundreds of key structures were imploded by the Nazis as a way to slowing or stopping the advancement of Allied Troops. This included the bridges along the Rivers Rhine and Main. Canadians were credited for building the longest Bailey Bridge during the war. The Blackfriars Bridge, a 1814 foot long (558 meters) over the River Rhine at Rees, in North Rhine-Westphalia, was the longest span in the world when it opened to traffic on 28 March, 1945.
Even when the war ended on May 7th, 1945, Bailey trusses were in use as temporary crossings while the bridges were either repaired or rebuilt throughout Germany. It had a dual purpose: To help displaced residence get around and to allow for the transportation of necessary goods needed while the country was being rebuilt. Some of them were made permanent, while others, including the major crossings along the Rhine, Main and Elbe were temporary, allowing time for the original structures to be either repaired or rebuilt fully.
After World War II:
When the war was over, there was a surplus of Bailey spans that were available for reuse. This allowed for Americans, British and Canadians alike to reuse them for various projects. Many of them made their way to Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, where counties in the western half of the state needed at least temporary crossings to replace the spans that were destroyed during the floods of 1945 and again in 1952. Some examples still remain in use today. Bailey trusses were used as temporary crossings as bridges were being replaced. In the case of a viaduct in Maryland, the Bailey spans were built prior to the original trestle being replaced with steel trestles.
Large numbers of Bailey truss spans were built in mountainous areas in California where constructing bridges to accomodate travelers was difficult because of the steep, rocky terrain. Some of the spans were part of the ACROW bridge- temporarily built as moveable bridges. The Fore River Bridge and the Lynn Baschule Bridge both in Massachusetts are classic examples of such Bailey Trusses used. Bailey trusses were also used as extra support for the truss bridge, as is the case with the Haiti Island Bridge in New York, which happened in 2007. The span and the truss bridge itself were replaced three years later.
Ontario had the largest number of Bailey truss spans for the years after the war, with the spans being built in and around Toronto in response to damages caused by Hurricane Hazel. The Finch Avenue Bridge is the last of its kind and is now a historic landmark. The Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission used some for their office and as walkways. And lastly, Australia built several Bailey bridges, including the world record holder, a 2585-foot (788 meter), two-lane structure over the Derwent River at Hobart, which was constructed in 1975. It served as a temporary structure before the Tasman Bridge was opened to traffic on October 8, 1977. Later, Bailey Truss Bridges were constructed in the far east, including northern Africa, Suriname, and India. Many of them, like the trestle at Wadi el Kuf in Lybia were built by the British during the time of its Empire.
The Legacy of Bailey:
Many scholars and even those who served in the military during WWII believed that the Bailey Truss was the key to mobilizing Allied Troops and securing a victory over Germany and Italy in World War II. As a result, Mr. Bailey received several international accolades for his work. In Britain alone, he was given the Knighthood on 1 January, 1946 and the Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau exactly two years later. By that time, Bailey was living in Southbourne in Bournemouth and was unaware that he had been knighted until one of the girls at the bank had informed him about it. Bailey would live out his days in Bournemouth, where he died in 1985.
He was considered a quiet man but one where he left a footprint with his truss bridge design, which is still widely used in bridge construction, big and small. And while the successes of World War II fell to the common person who fought for freedom and democracy, Bailey was considered one that played a key role, not only in helping bring an end to the war, but to help rebuild the areas ravaged by war with the Bailey Truss. And when you see a bridge like this one below, one will see how the use of simple parts and tools, combined with the use of manpower could make a work of simple art, something we still see today on our roads.
There are not many memorials dedicated to Bailey, even in Britain, for most of the places where he lived have been razed and replaced with newer housing. Yet the prototype Bailey span at Stanpit Marsh still exists today and his birthplace at 24 Albany Street in Rotherham still stands albeit privately owned. Yet there are some companies that specialize in Bailey trusses, including one in Alabama that bears its name. Bailey trusses were rarely used in films, except one based on the battle of Arnhem, A Bridge Too Far, released in 1977. There, the Bailey Truss Bridge was used in the film.
It is really hoped that a statue and/or additional honors, even a museum would be created honoring Bailey for his life and works. 75 years after the end of the great war, nothing of that sort has been considered. This should be considered, especially as talk of the significance of World War II is disappearing together with the War Generation and the children of the Baby Boom that followed. For historians, bridge enthusiasts, teachers and the public in general, it would produce some great talks about the common man who did great things and became Sir Donald Bailey in the end.