2020 Author’s Choice Awards- Mr Smith takes his picks

Photo by Aleksey Kuprikov on Pexels.com

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:

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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…..

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/07/castlewood-bridge-in-a-new-home-on-the-threshing-grounds/

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International:

Plaka Bridge in Greece:

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.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/02/19/plaka-bridge-in-greece-restored/

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Hirschgrundbrücke in Glauchau:

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.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/06/update-on-the-hirschgrundbrucke-in-glauchau-saxony/

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Worst example of reused bridge:

Northern Avenue Bridge in Boston

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.

Link: https://www.northernavebridgebos.com/about & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcWEvjdsAUQ

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International:

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.

Links: https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/07/24/concern-over-reports-that-historic-bridge-in-poland-will-be-blown-up-for-tom-cruise-film/ & https://www.thefirstnews.com/article/so-long-tom-historic-bridge-saved-from-tom-cruise-bomb-14980

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Salvageable Mentioned:

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Okoboji Truss Bridge at Parks Marina in Iowa-

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.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/the-okoboji-bridge-at-parks-marina/

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International:

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.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/domitz-railroad-bridge/

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Spectacular Bridge Disaster

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.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/great-western-fires-destroy-iconic-historic-bridges/  &  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/catastrophic-inferno-hits-western-united-states-photos-noble-reporters-worlds-iconic-news-media-site/  & https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/no-comment-nr-2-the-great-california-fire/

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Bonehead Story:

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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!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/08/26/historic-millbrook-bridge-demolished/

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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!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/10/the-bridges-of-westchester-county-new-york/

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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!

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/08/18/truck-driver-narrowly-escapes-when-missouri-bridge-collapses-truckers-4-truckers/

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International:

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Waldcafé Bridge in Lunzenau, Saxony-

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.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/waldcafe-bridge-in-gohren-to-be-replaced/

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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.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/09/historic-bridge-in-nova-scotia-collapses-because-of-truck-reminder-to-obey-weight-and-height-limits/

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Spectacular Bridge Find:

Root Bridges in Meghalaya State in India-

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.

Link:  https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/18/living-root-bridges-in-the-tropical-forests-of-meghalaya-state-india/

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Puente de Occidente in Colombia-

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…..

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/04/15/1895-this-suspension-bridge-in-colombia-is-still-the-second-longest-span-of-its-kind-on-the-continent/

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The Bridges of Schwerin, Germany-

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.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/03/the-bridges-of-schwerin/

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USA:

Thomas Viaduct in Maryland-

Little is written about the multiple-span stone built in 1835, except that it’s still the oldest functioning viaduct of its kind in the US and one stemming from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad era.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/06/25/thomas-viaduct-in-maryland/

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The Bridge Daheim in New York-

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.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/mystery-bridge-nr-132-the-bridge-daheim/

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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.

Link: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/07/23/the-bridges-of-jefferson-proving-grounds-in-indiana-hyb/

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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…… =>

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 121

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.

The Bridges of Schwerin

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.

Skyway Bridge

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.

Link:

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.

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 118

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. 🙂 ❤

Wartime Bridge: The Legacy of the Bailey Truss

Photo taken by Kevin Skow.

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.”

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Who was that brillant engineer?  Sir Donald Coleman Bailey.

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Source: Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer / Public domain

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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.

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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.

US Army soldiers working together to put a Bailey Truss span in place at the site of the crossing at Wesel (NRW). Source: Beck, Alfred M., et al, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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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.

Bailey Truss span erected over damaged arch bridge in Italy in 1944. Source: War Office official photographer / Public domain

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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.

Bailey bridge, Wadi el Kuf, Libya. Constructed by the British Army, shortly after World War II. Source: Jollyswagman on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

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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.

The Prototype Bailey Bridge at Stanpit Marsh. Photo by Eugene Birchall for wiki

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Memorials:

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.

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BHC Photo of the Week Nr. 114- Paying Homage to an Old Friend

This week’s Pic of the Week pays homage to an old friend. When I first visited the Lindaunis Schlei Bridge in 2011, I was with the bike. The combination Schaper through truss bridge with a bascule span, which was built in 1927, was in an open position, with boats going underneath the structure. I only was able to get the southern end of the bridge and could not get much of the inside portion of the truss span because of the long line of cars wanting to cross enroute to Flensburg. As this bridge has a combination steel road decking and railroad tracks, one could not afford to lose attention to the road, without losing control of the bike and falling, while risking an accident with a line of cars.  Despite this, I had a chance to get some shots and filmed the structure as the draw span was lowering. You can have a look at the bridge’s history by clicking here.

Fast forward to 2020. There were many reasons for revisiting the bridge, but there were two that stuck out as the key factors in making that decision. The first was after having traveled for 11 hours on the motorway to Flensburg for vacation- seven of which were while in traffic jams, I had decided on taking the backroads home to Saxony- first by stopping in Schwerin for a day trip and then travel to the Dömitz Railroad monument the following day, while passing through Saxony-Anhalt before making it home in a total of nine hours‘ time.  The second was that this bridge is currently being replaced. The German Railways is replacing the structure with one that provides two separate draw bridge spans- one for the railroad line and one for vehicular traffic. At the time of this post, work has already started on the new bridge, which will be built alongside the old structure. That bridge will remain in service for another two years before it is eventually decommissioned and lastly, removed.  We don’t know if parts of it will be kept and used as a monument.

With those two reasons in mind, we decided to take the road last traveled.  From Flensburg, we needed only 40 minutes along the backroads, which were curvy and narrow with few chances to pull off in case of car problems.  After passing through Süderbarup we drove through Lindaunis, which was on the north side of the Schlei, before approaching the bridge.

And as you can see in the pics, it made a lasting difference. After revisiting the docks where I took my last photo in 2011, we had to wait for 20 minutes as the drawbridge span lifted. With me at the wheel, my wife took the opportunity to get some shots, both while stopping but also as we crossed the bridge when the draw span finally came down.  The results were getting the close-ups of the tender’s station and the draw spans, but also getting some tunnel shots of the bridge as we crossed it.

It was a trip worth remembering because we didn’t have to worry about traffic jams and aggressive drivers. It was a relaxing drive nonetheless and one that I cannot regret not taking because it was a road les staken. And if the bridge is to go then not without bidding farewell first.  I just hope that others will do the same, let alone come up with a plan to keep part of the span for it served the Schlei and Schleswig-Holstein well, despite the jams, the traffic lights and its narrowness.  If this was our last good-bye, then it’s one worth remembering.

Note: All but the top photo were taken by my wife Birgit. ❤ 🙂

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 113

Continuing on my series on the bridges in Schleswig-Holstein 2020, we take you to the peninsula of Nordstrand, located near Husum on the North Sea coast. We found this unique bridge at the Restaurant am Heverstrom in the Village of Süderhafen. It spans a road that leads into the village and it carries pedestrian traffic connecting the restaurant with the highway that bypasses the village. On the opposite end is another eatery and a sports club. The bridge is unique because of its wooden design, including the trusses, but also for its stairway, which zig-zags itsway up from the parking lot below, which is reserved for guests of this restaurant as well as a pair of bed and breakfasts. By foot, it’s 20 minutes away from a pottery market, the Töperei Südermarkt, where all ceramics are handmade, using the caricatures typical of the North Sea (seagulls, light houses, shells, sheep, sail boats, and the like) and a grey background. If you are finding a high quality gift for a friend or loved one, this is the place.

While the bridge also includes a terrace on the restaurant side, a couple questions came to mind: 1. Why build a bridge over a road when you can build an observation tower with eating area for guest to look at the flut and ebbe of the North Sea’s waves? After all, the restaurant and bridge are right next to the dike which keeps the water out in case of a Schietsturm.

And 2. Who was the person behind this unique construction? Let alone when was it built? Judging by its age and upkeep, the bridge is about 20 years old. Still, wooden structures can last over 70 years. Should they maintain it well, it could be a historic monument in about 50 years or so.

And as for the restaurant Am Heverstrom, if you want a restaurant that offers a local menu- foods typical of the North Sea region, this would be the place to go. We stopped there after doing a Wattwanderung (Watt-Walking) along the North Sea coast and were treated to a warm, friendly environment, combined with Labskaubs (a soup), Sauerfleisch with roasted potatoes, and plates of fish. Add a local beer in the Flensburger and a local desert and you have yourselves a typical meal in Schleswig-Holstein. It was a perfect meal during which a Schietsturm (rain with high winds) passed through and we enjoyed it until the sun came out and we were forced to leave. Still, a day on the North Sea is like a full two-week vacation- with fresh air and relaxation, while embracing the local culture and thoughts about retiring up north. 🙂 ❤

Mystery Bridge Nr. 138: The Unknown Bridge at the German-Danish Border

This Mystery Bridge entry is a joint-article written with The Flensburg Files as part of the series on the 100th Anniversary of the German-Danish Border and German-Danish Friendship.

One can see it from Google-Maps and if the skies are clear, from an airplane. Yet this mystery bridge is rather hidden in the forest and can only be reached by bike or on foot- assuming you don’t have a border to cross. This bridge is located right at the German-Danish border at Zollsiedlung, a district of Harrislee that is north of Flensburg and south of the Danish cities of Krusau and Pattburg.

Zollsiedlung at the Border. Here was where a hotel and border station located.

It’s three kilometers north of the Bridge of Friendship at Wassersleben, which is also a German-Danish pedestrian crossing. And like that bridge, this one crosses the Stream Krusau, which empties into the Flensburg Fjord. The crossing is known as the northermost in Germany and this since the creation of the German-Danish border in 1920. The bridge is accessible only by bike or on foot for there’s no cars allowed at the border.

What is known is that the bridge is a concrete beam bridge, yet judging by its wear and tear, it was probably built in the 1970s or 80s. It’s 12-15 meters long and narrow enough for one car to cross, even though the Madeskovvej is solely for bike and pedestrian use, unless you have a private residence nearby.

What is unknown is when exactly it was built and whether there was a previous structure at this location. If there was, then what did it look like?

We do know is that the bridge is owned by the Danes and is at the border that was established through a referendum in 1920. Flensburg and the areas of Tondern, Sonderburg, Apenrade, Hoyer, Husum, Schleswig and Rendsburg belonged to the former state of Schleswig which had been fought over three times between Denmark and the former Prussian (and later German) Empire. With Germany having lost World War I and being forced to pay reparations to France, Britain and the USA, the Versailles Treaty included a clause that allowed residents in the region to vote on moving the border, which had stopped at Sonderburg and Tonder in the north but had a potential to be pushed as far south as the Baltic-North Sea Canal . The present border was established through a referendum that was conducted on 10 February and 14 March, 1920, respectively, where the northern half (Sonderburg, Apenrade and Tondern) voted to be annexed by Denmark, while the southern half and Flensburg voted to remain in Germany. The votes were unanimous despite both areas having strong minorities. Flensburg remained a border town, despite having survived World War II with damages due to the bomb raids. Today, both the Danes and German are able to cross the border and do their shopping and commerce in their respective neighboring countries.

While at the bridge, it was fenced off because of restrictions due to the Corona Virus but also due to the Swine Flu that has been a major concern since 2015. Still, it didn’t stop the photographer from stealing a couple pics before moving on with hiking in the Tunnel Valley (Tunneltal), where the Krusau flows towards Niehuus. While walking towards the area, one has to wonder how this bridge came about? Any ideas?

A separate article on the German-Danish border will be posted in the Flensburg Files. If you want to tour Flensburg’s bridges, click here.

     

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 111- Dömitz Highway Bridge

This week’s Pic of the Week wraps up a series on the Elbe River crossing by taking a look at the Highway Bridge that crosses the river, approximately one kilometer from the railroad bridge remains.  This pic was taken from the spot where the last truss span exists before entering the river.  As far away as it was, the Canon EOS 350 was needed to get as close to the bridge as possible.

As mentioned in the article on the Dömitz Railroad Bridge, the highway bridge was built to serve as a compliment to the railroad bridge for the demand for cars increased and train service was less than what was expected by the BHE, the owner of the railroad bridge.  Construction started in 1934 and when it was finished two years, the highway bridge featured multiple spans of steel plate girder spans but a through arch span, crossing the River Elbe. That span, measured at 156 meters over the Elbe, was the first of its kind in Germany. The total length of the bridge was 960 meters and had 19 spans- 16 spans on the Lower Saxony side, plus the arch span and lastly, two more spans on the Dömitz side.

The bridge lasted only nine years, for on 20 April, 1945, the highway bridge met the same fate as the neighboring railroad bridge, as the fighter jets eliminated the arch span and severely damaged the steel girder spans.  The division of Germany into two made rebuilding the bridge impossible and therefore, the Elbe span was removed, the Dömitz spans became guard posts for East German soldiers, while those on the Lower Saxony side were repaired and they eventually became an observatory post. For 47 years, there was no crossing of any sort between Wittenberge and Lauenburg near Hamburg- a span of over 100 kilometers.

1991, the original spans were considered unfeasible to rehabilitate and reuse again and therefore, were removed, together with the piers. One span can be found at the junction of highways B-191 and B-195 as a memorial. It was erected there in 2010.  The span that now crosses it, was opened to traffic in 1992, thus restoring a key connection between Hannover and Berlin to the south and east and Hamburg and all points to the north and west. The bridge was built mimicking the original structure with its steel through arch, which was built offsite and then floated to the main span by pontoon. The approach spans, built of steel and concrete, resembled the original spans but built on piers that were modern. The bridge was built at the location where the original is located.

If one is a true bridge fan and passes through Germany, one should visit Dömitz and the two bridges. Both bridges lie in the Elbe River and in areas of flora and fauna, protected by laws. They originally made their marks as firsts- the railroad bridge as the longest when it opened and the highway bridge as the first through arch. They were symbols of borders to bridges as they had once served as borders for a time. But now they are key places of interest for the vacationer who takes the backroads to the Baltic Sea and wishes to take some time. Even a stay in Dömitz is worth the trip, given its Medieval architectural setting that accompanies the two bridges. It’s one that fits Satolli Glasmeyer’s famous comment: “Slow down and stop often.” 

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 110

For the first time in three weeks we are presenting our Bridgehunter’s Chronicles‘ Pic of the Week, looking at photos of bridges taken by the author once a week.  The pics to come for the next month will look at the bridges in the region where the author took his vacation with his family- namely the Far North of Germany, known by locals as the Hohe Norden, where the German states of Mecklenburg-Pommerania and Schleswig-Holstein are located…….

…..and of course, the Hanseatic City of Hamburg, with a population of 1.9 million inhabitants. While the city has a lot to offer, such as the Elbphilharmonie, the Reeperbahn, the Green City of Wilhelmsburg and the harbor, it is home to over 2300 bridges of all kinds, some dating back to the days of Kersten Miles. Many bridges dating back a century ago survived the ariel bombings from World War II. Then there some dating to the days of modernization- bridges of sleek design but have become popular in many bridge books and among the locals……

….like the Köhlbrand Bridge.  With a height of nearly 54 meters and a total length of 3.4 kilometers, the cable-stayed suspension bridge is hard to miss when passing through the city both by boat as well as by car. It took approximately four years to build this gigantic structure, whose span is approximately 325 meters. It crosses the harbor, carrying a major road that leads to Hafen City in the center of the city, crossing four additional bridges, including the Freihafenbrücke, in the process.  One will start crossing the Köhlbrand after leaving the Motorway 7.  If you stay on the Motorway 7 going towards Flensburg, you will see the bridge on the right before entering the Elbtunnel.

And although you would most likely miss a photo of the bridge when traveling normal speeds on the Motorway 7, we were caught in a 25 kilometer traffic jam, crawling at no faster than 20 km/h  at times, which presented us with a possibility to capture multiple shots of the bridge from our location. With me at the wheel, my wife took a series of pictures of the bridge, including this black and white shot, showing an oblique view of the structure. Needless to say, this was a real steal, looking at the structure up close and personal, yet from a distance. We have a sample of more which you can find via facebook by clicking here below:

Sadly, the bridge’s days are soon to be numbered, A sharp increase in car and shipping traffic, combined with wear and tear have prompted officials from Hamburg and Berlin to plan for its replacement. Instead of a new bridge, a tunnel is expected to be built. To ensure federal funding is available, the major highway will be upgraded to a federal highway (Bundesstrasse). The plan is to have a new crossing in place by 2030. Whether it will happen or not remains to be seen, especially in light of the Corona Virus and impact on bridge building and the shipment of materials needed to build Köhlbrand’s replacement. It is unknown whether the current structure will remain in place, even though it is protected by Germany’s Cultural Heritage Laws (Denkmalschutz).  More will follow as the story unfolds. In the meantime, if you are stuck in traffic in Hamburg next time, take some time and pay homage to this unique structure, while she’s still sky-high and emitting its structural beauty throughout this Hanseatic City.