Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge: Day 2- Facebook


Looks can be deceiving in this picture above. Taken last week right before the Arctic/ Siberian cold spell that dropped temperatures to as far down as -40° C and buried cities, like Flensburg in one foot of snow, one can see the bridge that is still in tact, yet its northern approach to the arch spans is gone. Demolition has not taken place for it has been stayed pending on a hearing between the group saving the bridge and political representatives of the Ore Mountain district (Erzgebirge) and the German state of Saxony. Three days after posting the first entry, the German version of the online petition was accepted by authorities in Dresden (the state capital) and Aue (the district seat), and we received an invitation to a hearing on this unique structure. But for right now, the old approach is needed for the new approach to the span being built directly to the east of the new span. The foundations for the pylon are already supplanted in the Zwickau Mulde, and it will be a matter of time before work can commence on building this important piece that will eventually hold the structure. The new span is to be a two-span concrete beam bridge, whose aesthetic value is really compared to a typical American slab span, as seen in one example here.  In other words, engineers could have done a better job in designing a bridge that best fits the mountain landscape, which the builders of the Stone Arch Bridge achieved hands down- and within a course of a year on top of that. 🙂


But going to the current theme in the entry:  Social networking has played a key role in addressing the issues of concern while attracting scores of people to help in their causes. Since around 2011, many organizations involved in preserving historic bridges have used social networking- such as facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn to attract people from faraway places, many of them with the tools and technology needed to save the structures and repurpose them for recreational use. My first involvement came with the Riverside Bridge in Missouri, where Kris Dyer led in the efforts to attract hundreds of people who were willing to chip money, time and efforts into saving the two-span truss bridge that was a product of the Canton Bridge Company and built in 1909. Myself and a friend of mine from Pittsburgh helped organize the Historic Bridge Weekend Conference using that bridge and another one at Times Beach near St. Louis as centerpieces for bridge preservation that were needed during that time.  Riverside Bridge was restored and reopened two years later, while a campaign to repurpose the other bridge is well underway with plans to have the bridge open by 2025.

The social network idea led to my creation of one myself for a committee to save the Green Bridge in Des Moines. The three-span through truss bridge, built by George E. King in 1898, was restored in 2017 but it took three years plus over 1400 fans,  who contributed photos, stories and ideas on how to save the structure. The bridge in the end needed new decking and steel floor beams, new painting and lighting and repairs to the decking.

Save the Bockau Arch Bridge:

This led to the idea of building a social network site for the Bockau Arch Bridge (in German: Rechenhausbrücke Aue). The purpose of the website is to share some stories, photos and other facts about the bridge and its Headwaters Tender House and Dam (Rechenhaus), which is now a restaurant, plus provide some updates on the project to save and restore the stone arch bridge, even after the new bridge is open to traffic next year.  Basically, to find out how successful the facebook site is, the one question you should ask yourself is can you attract enough likes to make a statement? Even more likes than in a petition? Unlike going door-to-door collecting petitions from neighbors, friends, family members and teachers, a social network, sometimes combined with an online petition, will attract more people from all aspects of the world. And who knows? There may be enough people out there who just might be that savior with some particular power to save the bridge- a politician, preservationist, financial provider, etc.

And therefore, the committee needs your help. Go to the website by clicking on the link below:

Like the site and feel free to help out in saving this bridge. The goal of the page is to get 2000 likes before Easter, plus just as many more (at least) before the end of the year. The ultimate goal is to send a message to Aue, Dresden, Berlin and beyond that we care about this bridge and we want to keep the structure, no matter what costs will incur in doing that, and no matter what events we can put together to raise money to make it happen.  An English-speaking online petition is in the works and will be added very soon.

So can you join in the page and like us to follow? We hope so. 🙂

In the next entry, we’ll have a look at the history of the Rechenhaus located next to the bridge. A very unique one indeed. 🙂  Stay tuned!

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge- An American’s Perspective: Day One


Nur Heimat gibts nichts- There is never just a homeland.


This is a comment that I remember during my first meeting with the committee to save the Bockau Arch Bridge. Located over the Zwickauer Mulde River six kilometers southwest of Aue in western Saxony, this 146-year old stone arch bridge is one of a few historic landmarks left in the town of Bockau, with a population of 2,100 inhabitants. Closed since the end of August 2017, I had the dubious priviledge of having to make a detour of enternity in order to arrive at our first meeting. This meant going up the hill along Bockau Creek (which the over 800-year old town was named after), then making a pair of sharp curves going right onto a narrow street which leads me out of town, but not onto the bridge that has been blocked off completely. I had to drive another 15 kilometers on a paved road full of sharp curves, potholes, cracks, ice, and wolves roaming about in the forest until I reached the Eibenstock Reservoir. There, I crossed the next bridge and backtracked on the main highway going on the opposite side of the river which led to the meeting place next to the closed bridge- The Rechenhaus Restaurant. There, I was greeted by the welcoming party, despite my 45-minute late arrival, with happiness and joy that an American was coming to help. 🙂

The Rechenhaus Restaurant located on the north end of the bridge.

How did I end up here in the first place? And why do a documentary on an old stone arch bridge that no one really knows much about?

As the two pigs Piggeldy and Frederick would say “Nicht leichter als das.” (No easier than this):

I’ve been a bridgehunter since I was five years old, having photographed and written about tens of thousands of bridges in 14 countries (including the US) and 14 states in the US (including my home state of Minnesota). In Germany, I’ve covered all but three of the 16 Bundesländer. This includes Saxony, the region I’ve been touring since 2016. I’ve been running the Chronicles since 2010 and have worked with groups on how to not only restore historic bridges but also how to make them attractive for tourists. This includes my involvement with historic bridge conventions as coordinator and speaker and my use of social media to garnish the attention of interested readers and other history enthusiasts. I’m also a teacher of English, which I’ve been doing since 2001, and since August 2017, I’ve been based full-time at the Saxony Police Academy in Schneeberg, located only three kilometers from the Bockau Bridge. It was also the same time period as my time in Saxony that I’ve done tours in the region, be it in cities like Dresden, Rochlitz, Leipzig, Glauchau, Zwickau, Aue/Schlema and Chemnitz, just to name a few, or along rivers like the Mulde and Elbe. And it was these bridgehunting tours that got the attention of the regional newspapers, namely the Free Press in Chemnitz, whose news reporters at the regional offices led me to this group saving this particular bridge.

And as for the bridge itself, it has more history than many locals know about. It was built in 1872 and is made of natural stone from the Ore Mountains. It took approximately a full year with lots of manpower to construct a multi-span stone arch bridge that connected Bockau with Albernhau and Zschorlau on the opposite side. A local restaurant with the name Rechenhaus was the site of the dam and lock area and headwaters plant, which were built between 1556 and 1559. The flow of the water was ideal for transporting materials downstream, and workers constructed several canals in the mountain region less than 90 years later. Even the headwaters plant was once a mill before it eventually became the barracks for the 11th Panzer Division during World War II and a restaurant after that.

In an attempt to slow down the progress of advancing soldiers from the east, the 11th Panzer Division was ordered to detonate the bridge in April 1945. This is the same tank division of German army that had fought (and lost) at Stalingrad, Kursk and the Battle of the Bulge before retreating towards Germany. Yet a brave unknown soldier did the unthinkable and  relocated the bombs to a temporary bridge in Zwickau before blowing that bridge up. This allowed for the Soviets and Americans to easily cross the bridge with their tanks with ease while setting the people free in the process. The 11th Panzer surrendered in Passau on 2 May, 1945, six days before Germany capitulated.  The same bridge was used again 23 years later, as soliders from the Warsaw Pact armies, consisiting of mainly Russians and East Germans crossed this bridge enroute to Prague to quash the Spring Movement.

Talking about history, politics and the future of the bridge.

Despite all the history that is involved with this bridge, the historical monument has become a stranger to people in the region, having somewhat lost its face in the eyes of the locals. The mayor of Bockau would like to see the bridge gone once its replacement opens. The same with the state of Saxony and the German government, both are championing a 6.4 million Euro project to replace the old bridge. And despite the petition going around for saving the bridge, a handful of politicians are interested in keeping the bridge for pedestrian use after the new structure is built- most of them with little affiliation with the region with the exception of the Green party.


And this is where I come in.

Our first meeting at the Rechenhaus Restaurant, the historic building which once had the barracks but was originally the headwaters mill and dam complex. The restaurant has a very Erzgebirge taste to it, with a collection of incense men and wood-carved chandeliers. Opposite the entrance to the restaurant is a mahoghany-framed painting of the dam and mill as it was in the 16th century. Some in the committee would like to see it again as a way to slow the flow of the Zwickau Mulde. The river had flooded towns downstream on six different occasions since the bridge was built, with the worst of them having occurred in 1954, 2002 and 2013. Given its proximity to the bridge, many would like to see the restaurant as is. Yet its location during the construction period has become a painful inconvenience. Talking to the restaurant owner, he was deeply disturbed by the construction and stated that since the project started, he had lost up to 60% of his customers. Whether he can compensate once the new span opens remains unclear.

We were nine people minus the restaurant owner, each one with a new set of ideas on how to keep and possibly fix the bridge so that it can be used again. Yet as seen with the American historic bridges, money needs to be there in order for it to happen. Political connections needs to be there in order for it to happen. The same with the use of media and lastly support from the public. As with all historic bridges, the public is the first line of offence in pursuing the preservation of historic bridges. Whether it is with petitions, technical know-how or even planning events, they always have the ideas first before our elected officials. After that, we get the attention out there via social media. Through that and the events, the politicians come in with bills to approve measure to restore the bridge. Then the money comes in to pay for the costs.


For our bridge in Bockau, we’re already at step one, which is public interest. A petition with 1700 signatures was sent to Dresden to the state parliament. Another one is in the works which includes an English version for people to sign and establishing a website. That will be my job for right now- an important one! Speaking from experience with the Green Bridge in Des Moines, gathering interest in social networking will make waves and influence the thinking of the higher-ups of politics and business. Once that is established and we have the English version to submit to Dresden, the next plan is to meet with officials in Dresden to discuss the situation and ways to make the historic pedestrian crossing a reality. A big plus is the fact that the bridge and the mill area are historic lanbdmarks which make it impossible to tear down unless ordered by the federal government. How that works will come in a later article. Then with the connections and planning will be the events. This is where the tough part comes in. How to make this bridge attractive to tourists of all age? We’ve looked at drawing contests, concerts and the like. But what else could be do there? And how can we raise money for the project? This is independent on any funding available for rehabilitating the bridge, which is scarce at the moment, but the search continues.

It’s a battle that one can lose but it’s better to die trying than to sit and do nothing. The mentality has increased in the US over the past decade, yet Germany does have a lot of pride in its history and culture, too much of it to just sit and do nothing.

And with that, I must set to work. I have my expertise to use and share, while others are garnering some more support from locals and interested people in the project. Therefore, what are we waiting for? Get to work!

More on my involvement in the preservation project to come. Stay tuned! 🙂

The Preservation Committee including the restaurant owner.


Cainsdorf Bridge to be Replaced

By André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons
1929 Plate Girder to be Replaced by Two Bridges. Construction to begin in 2019

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Three more bridges spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River  and its tributaries in western Saxony are about to get replacements over the next three years. Apart from the crossing at Schlunzig near Glauchau, a crossing just east of Schneppendorf Bridge at Crossen are going to get makeovers, going from a bland, Communist style structure to a modern but fancier one that is attractive to tourists. The third crossing to be replaced is this one in Cainsdorf, located south of Zwickau. Built in 1929, the two-span steel deck plate girder design is located just east of the train station and is a key bridge for all vehicles, including bikes. Sadly the 200 meter long bridge has been suffering from structural decay to a point where it was closed for emergency repairs this past fall and is now reopened to traffic but as a one-way crossing, going at 10 kph and with a 3.5 ton weight limit.

The Zwickau City Council has just recently approved a measure for not only one, but two new crossings to replace the Cainsdorf Bridge. At a cost of 14 million Euros ($20 million), construction will begin next year to build a new bridge, 300 meters north of the current structure. The bridge will remain open during the time of construction with the expected completion date being between 2020 and 2021. After the new bridge opens to traffic, the old one will be torn down and replaced with a pedestrian/bicycle bridge at its location. The design of the two bridges have yet to be clarified, however given its track record for having fancy bridge crossings, as seen at Lunzenau, Rochsburg, Wolkenburg, and even in neighboring Wilkau-Hasslau, chances are the new crossing for pedestrians and cyclist will be a modern but really fancy crossing which will make the train station located next to the present structure more and the Zwickau Mulde Bike Trail which passes the bridge even more attractive than before. The project will most likely include reconstructing portions of the bike trail (which is mostly a dirt path) as well as the street running parallel to the rail line connecting Aue and Zwickau.

In either case, many people, including commuters, cyclists and locals will no longer have to wait on the bridge at the traffic light without having to fear of the bridge’s collapse. With the realignment of the street and a new bridge for cars, people can drive to and from Zwickau more safely than in its current arrangement. And even more so for cyclists, as they will not have to worry about waiting to cross the tracks and main street. A win-win for the Ore Mountains which already has a good track record for fancy bridges.





The Bridges of Markersbach (Saxony), Germany


There is a proverb that I’ve been going by while bridgehunting recently, especially in the eastern part of Germany: The smaller the community the more historic bridges one can find. While cities, like Chemnitz and Zwickau have numerous bridges, the number of century+ old structures are relatively small in terms of numbers and ratio compared to modern bridges, smaller towns like Glauchau, Aue and even Rochlitz have a higher number of historic bridges. The trend is similar in many small cities and towns in Europe which makes finding historic bridges much easier. Yet when a person finds such a small community that has an important historic bridge, like you are about to read about here, chances are more likely that the person will find more than what they bargained for in terms of finding other structures that are just as significant as the town’s centerpiece.

And this is where the tour takes us back to the Ore Mountains but this time, a bit further east of Aue by about 15 kilometers to a town called Markersbach. With a population of only 1600, the town lies deep in the valley of the Bigger Mitweida Creek, which effectively cuts the community and its neighbor Rauschau into two. First mentioned in the history books in 1210, it was part of the Cisterician Monestary and later the Peter and Paul. The Church of St. Barbara, built in 1610, is one of the oldest churches in the mountain regions. The water pump power plant is located at the upper basin of the Mitweida serves the region. The Jenaplan School, based on the concept created by Peter Petersen in the 1920s, is located in Markersbach but the community school’s origins dates back to the 1500s.  Since 2007, Markersbach is a joint-community with neighboring Raschau, which has as many people as its neighbor. The city is served by a major highway connecting Schwarzenberg and Aue to the west and Annaberg-Buchholz to the east. A railroad line connecting Schwarzenberg and Annaberg rarely provides service.

And the centerpiece surrounding the community is also the highest viaduct in the region, the Markersbach Viaduct, nicknamed as the Matchstick Bridge, for the structure was built using thin but heavy steel parts.  The bridge was the primary reason for my visit. However arriving there, I found three more significant railroad bridges, a few smaller bridges that are at least 70 years old, a highway viaduct that somewhat fits into the landscape with its color.  That means five major bridges and a couple smaller stone arch bridges can be seen as one travels along the main street that runs parallel to the Bigger Mittweida. This large number of bridges was one of the factors in having a bridge festival in 2010, which included a tour of the viaducts by train and fireworks.

Yet given the number of houses and trees that are skewing the view of the bridges, combined with a lack of parking with the car, it is rather difficult to get to the structures without asking the property owners to climb onto the rooves of their houses just to get a good shot of the bridge. Or stand in the middle of the street ensuring one doesn’t get hit from behind by a car.

This tour will look at the bridges in Markersbach, beginning with the centerpiece, for it symbolizes the community’s history and existence, followed by the less mentioned ones but also have some charm to it. The information is scarce for all but the Matchstick Bridge and therefore will be updated as more people step up with their stories and facts about the bridges. One has to keep in mind that Markersbach can be easily passed over, thanks to the new viaduct (a.k.a. The Flyover) that has been in service for over seven years. Therefore before entering the viaduct, one has to turn off: to the right and down the hill past the loop before seeing the first bridge; to the left there is the grand view of…..


this viaduct!

Markersbach Viaduct:

The Markersbach Viaduct is one of the key historic bridges in Saxony one needs to visit. The viaduct spans one of the tributaries that empties into the Bigger Mitweida. With a total length of 236.5 meters and a height of 36.5 meters, the viaduct is the tallest of its kind in the Ore Mountain region. Under the direction of bridge engineer Claus Koepke and built using steel manufactured by the Queen Marie Steel in Cainsdorf (near Zwickau), construction of the bridge took two years, with the completion being 1889, coinciding with the opening of the Schwarzenberg-Annaberg rail line. The line provided train traffic all the way to Leipzig and Berlin until World War II. It was later reduced to Zwickau and then later to Aue. The line no longer serves regular traffic but has special services that provides tourists with a splendid view of Markersbach, the valley and the mountain areas surrounding them. The bridge features nine spans supported by eight trapezoidal towers with X-laced framing. The spans are lenticular deck trusses, whereby the longest spans (two) have curved Warren trusses with 25m each, three 20m spans have polygonal Warren trusses and four 12.5 meter spans have camelback Warren trusses. For each truss type are the triangular panels subdivided. Photos of the viaduct are difficult to do due to the obstruction by the houses. Even getting up close to the bridge is difficult because it requires walking up narrow and winding streets, all but a couple of which are cul-de-sacs occupied by houses and cars. Getting to the opposite side of the viaduct is possible but only through walking through fields and forests. And even then it is hard to come by- one has to be lucky to get up close and personal with the bridge. However a grand view of the entire bridge can be found off the highway at the intersection where the bridge bypass and the road leading to Markersbach meet. That impromtu observation platform is nothing more than a road that used to enter Markersbach before the bypass and the highway viaduct were built.

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Highway 101 Flyover Viaduct

In 2005, construction began to construct a nearly 2 km bypass to alleviate traffic going into and through Markersbach. The plan: To construct a tall viaduct which would not only “fly” over the community crossing the Mitweida Valley, but it would also make travel between Annaberg and Schwarzenberg much smoother, especially for trucks. Furthermore, it would provide passers-by with a splendid view of Markersbach, its prized viaduct and much of the mountain while driving “in the air.” 😉  The project was not easy as erosion, causing mudslides hindered consturction, the worst having occurred on the eastern slope in October 2006. The next problem was establishing a firm foundation for the pylons, which was discovered the following July.  When the bridge finally opened in November 2011, it was four years behind schedule. However, the delay was worth it for the jeans-blue steel deck girder with cantilever features now hovers the community and its valley, narrowly surpassing the railroad viaduct by only 7.5 meters. The Flyover is 317 meters long and has two lanes totalling 25 meters. The cost for the project: 25 million Euros, twice as much as previously planned. Yet the Flyover is still most travelled today giving residents a piece of mind without having to worry about their children running across the street and risk getting hit by trucks and racing cars.




Mitweidathal Viaduct:

When entering Markersbach by turning off at the Flyover, one will be driving down the hill along the winding stretch of what was Highway 101 (German: B101), flanked by trees on both sides. Yet at at the loop where one crosses the Mitweida Creek, one enters the community, greeted by houses on both sides of the street and this bridge. One should not be fooled by its appearance. It is definitely not the Markersbach Viaduct because of its height. One can even see the difference from a distance- either at the observation point at the Flyover or even along the former highway on the left entering town. The Mittweidathal Viaduct is shorter in length but it is not just simply a bridge, whose characteristics are its curve towards the Markersbach Viaduct as well as its brick piers. When looking closely at the 86 meter long and 10 meter high viaduct, it features brick piers with quarzite-like stripes and six spans, each one featuring a deck plate girder supported by polygonal Vierendeel trusses. Because of the absence of diagonal beams they are not Parker trusses, yet they have an appearance of a lenticular truss. So to categorize the truss style, it is considered a half-lenticular polygonal Vierendeel truss with welded connections. The bridge has existed as long as the rail line itself. Yet because of its seldom use, age caused by weather extremities has taken its toll. Should the line be used again, either as train service or as a bike trail, some repairs will be needed to ensure the bridge continues to function in its original form.

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St. Barbara/ Annaberg Street Viaduct:

About 400 meters away from the Mitweida Viaduct and following the former highway through Markersbach is this viaduct. The St. Barbara Viaduct was named after the nearby church- the oldest one in Markersbach- which is located on the same street as the viaduct crosses: Annaberg Street. The 70-meter long viaduct features four spans of deck plate girders, the longest is 30 meters and features a Camelback girder design which hovers over a side street that is opposite Abrahamsbach Creek) and runs pararell to Annaberg Street. Where that span crosses is near houses that line up along two sharp curves, which is dangerous for all vehicles.  The viaduct looks like one of the newer spans that had replaced a previous bridge, but it is unknown when the replacement date was. We know that the bridge is 200 meters away from the Markersbach Viaduct and is located near some key points in the community: the afreoemntioned church, a Methodist Church, a park and the Jenaplan School. Even though the viaduct is seldomly used today, a curious question I have is how people tolerated living right next to the viaduct, especially during Sunday mass at church? 😉

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Raschau Viaduct:

The last bridge on the tour takes us one kilometer west to neighboring Raschau and this bridge, the Raschau Viaduct. Like the Markersbach Viaduct, the Raschau Viaduct is the most original of the bridges profiled here, as the bridge dates back to the construction of the rail line. This is especially noticeable as the seven-span viaduct, built on stone piers, features Town Lattice deck trusses, built using welded connections and a thick network of diagonal beams both in the inner and outer portions of the spans. The bridge has a total length of 112 meters, making it the second longest crossing along the Schwarzenberg-Annaberg rail line. The width is 12 meters. The height above the streets is four meters, making it the lowest crossing above ground level along the line as well. Height restrictions have been enforced to discourage truck drivers from using the streets. With the Flyover, combined with access on both ends of Markersbach and Raschau, the bridge has not sustained any damage, even though German laws have also played a role in forbidding overweight and oversized vehicles from using the road. Had this bridge been located in the States, with its lack of laws forbidding such vehicles, the Raschau Viaduct would not have survived such careless driving, and the driver would most likely have been forced to pay for a new bridge. However, because of its conformity to the landscape and its beauty, this viaduct will most likely remain for a long time.

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There are a few single-span arch bridges but with the exception of a railroad overpass, these structures are only short spans and are difficult to photograph. A couple points of interest are worth photgraphing, which are noted in the Google Map. The bridges presented in this tour guide are examples of structures that represent a small community, whose history play a role in establishing the community and bringing it together. And while all but one are seldomly used today, the bridges at Markersbach are indeed diamonds in the rough, which is worth a couple hours of visiting and taking some photos. Even more so if the community has bridge festivals and other local celebrations throughout the year. 🙂




2017 Ammann Award Results: Part 1

Rock Island Rail-to-Trail Bridge in Little Rock, AR at night. Photo taken by Chauncy Neuman, winner of this year’s Best Photo Award

New Olympic-Style Medal System to the Top Six Finishers

Record Number of Voter Participation

SCHNEEBERG (SAXONY), GERMANY- 2018 is here, and with it, the revealing of the winners of the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards. This year’s awards ceremony is far different than in years’ past. For instance, instead of announcing the winners in nummerical order from top to bottom, the top six winners receive a medal in a combination of Olympics and Ore Mountain form. That means the top three finishers receive the typical Olympic medals, whereas 4th to 6th place finishers receive medals typical of the Ore Mountain region in Saxony in eastern Germany, the new home for this column (specifically, in Schneeberg). That means tourquoise, copper and iron ore to those respective finishers. To view the total number of candidates please click here for details, including how they finished.

This year’s awards set some impressive records that can only be bested by more participation and more awareness of the historic bridges that we have left in general. For instance, we had records smashed for the highest number of voter turnout in each of the nine categories. Furthermore, there were at least seven lead changes in each category, which was also a first. In four of the categories, there were lead changes with at least four of the candidates. In another category, each of the candidates took a shot at first place and stayed at the top for at least a week before it was dethroned in favor of another one. In summary, no leader was safe regardless of margin that was built with its second place competitor. 🙂

And with that we will take a look at the winners of the 2017 Ammann Awards, divided up into two parts so that the readers are not overwhelmed with the content. The winners of the 2017 Author’s Choice, where the author himself picks his favorites, will follow. But for now, let’s see what the voters have chosen for bridge favorites beginning with…..



This year’s Best Photo Category brought in not only double the number of candidates as last year (12 entries) but also double as many candidates that vied for first place as last year- there was a battle among three candidates for the top spot for the 2016 Awards. All six candidates finished in the top six with Chauncy Neumann bringing home the gold for his night photo of the Rock Island Railroad Bridge in Little Rock, AR., a fine example of a rail-to-trail crossing that still has its use in its second life today. His photo can be seen in the Chronicles’ facebook page as well as an avatar for the Chronicles’ twitter page. The silver medal went to Esko Räntilla for his stone arch bridge, built in the 1700s spanning a small creek in Finnland. That photo can be seen in the Chronicles’ wordpress page. Third place finisher receiving the bronze was Kevin Skow for his shot of the pony truss bridge Mill Creek in Kansas. His photo can be seen on the Chronicles’ twitter page. All of them will remain to be seen until mid-July before they become part of the header rotating page for the Chronicles’ wordpress page. The rest of the results:

Draschwitz Bridge north of Zeitz in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt: Winner of the Best Kept Secret International Award


This category is divided up into American and International Bridges and focuses on historic and unique bridges that receive little to no attention compared to other historic bridges, like the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges in the States. In the international part of the category, we had 14 entries from three continents with four vying for the top spot. In the end, the winner of award goes to a small village north of Zeitz in Germany and this unusual bridge, the Draschwitz Truss Bridge over the White Elster River. This bridge is unique because of its v-laced top chord. The story behind it can be found here. Silver goes to the suspension bridge at Betsiboka in Madagascar, whereas Bronze goes to another unique arch bridge in Greece nominated by Inge Kanakaris-Wirtl, the Plakidas Bridge. The rest of the top six include:

Sarto Bridge in Louisiana. Photo taken by Cliff Darby

In the States, we had ten entries, featuring bridges from all over the country. This included a “dead bridge”- one that has been extant for many years, yet one decided to nominate it post humously. As in the international portion, four of the ten vied for the top spot, but in the end, the Sarto Bridge, spanning the Bayou des Glaises at Big BendAvoyelles Parish, Louisiana came out the winner by a slim margin, outlasting the Johnson Bridge in Stillwater County (Montana) by five votes. That “dead bridge” mentioned earlier, was Sugar Island Bridge in Kankakee Illinois, came in third with 88 votes- a bronze medal well earned a century after it was converted into a pile of scrap metal. The bridge was destroyed by a tornado in 1916 and was replaced afterwards.  The rest of the top six include:

Geneva Creek Bridge in Muscatine, Iowa. Winner of the Mystery Bridge Award. Photo taken by Luke Harden



Twelve bridges were entered in this category, of which three came from the States and the rest from Germany. Still, the winners of both the international and American competition were clearly decisive with the American bridge winning the all around by a wide margin. That was with the Geneva Creek Bridge in Muscatine, Iowa, a Bedstead Howe pony truss that features two spans and was relocated at an unknown time. Information on that is enclosed here. The ancient arch bridge in Erfurt won the international division but came in second in the all around. That bridge spans a small waterfall that empties into the Diversion Channel on the south end of the city in Thuringia. It may be the oldest extant structure in the city’s history. For more, click here. Not far behind was another competitor from the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, a thatched-roof covered truss bridge in St. Peter-Ording, whose unique story can be found here. The rest of the standings include:

The rest of the winners can be found in Part 2. Click here to get there. 🙂

Ancient Arch Bridge at Pförtchen Bridge in Erfurt. Winner of the Ammann Awards for Mystery Bridge International





The Wave Is Getting Accolades


GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY-  It had been once considered an absurd project- a replacement bridge fit for bikers and pedestrians instead of a vehicular bridge. The project was criticized for its delays due to weather and other circuzmstances related to construction. Since June of this year, the Wave, spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River near Wernsdorf, south of Glauchau in western Saxony, has been serving the Mulde bike trail, going south to Zwickau.  Now the Wave is getting its first accolade and is in line for another one. The bridge, consisting of a concrete suspension bridge- whose roadway is draped over the pylons implanted in the riverbed- just recently received the State Engineering Excellence Award from the State of Thuringia.

But why Thuringia, when the bridge is in Saxony?

According to sources from the Free Press, it was simple. The engineering firm that constructed the Wave, originates from Weimar. Setzpfandt Engineering was founded by Gerhard Setzpfandt in 2015, whose engineering career spans over 25 years. Since its opening, the engineering firm has several projects completed to their name with many more on the table. This includes projects in Saxony-Anhalt, Hesse, Thuringia and greater Berlin. Because of its unusual design, which is the first of its kind, the state of Thuringia awarded the prize to the engineering group and with that, the City of Glauchau, even though it is the state’s first award to be given out of state.

I happened to visit The Wave during a bike tour in October and presented a video to show you what the bridge looks like and how it feels walking across the “roadway-style” suspension bridge. Have a look below:



There will be many more accolades to come for this unique bridge, even if it’s still controversial in the eyes of those who would have preferred a vehicular crossing. But with additional bridge work happening at Schlunzig, that dream will be fulfilled.  The Wave is in the running for another award, the Othmar H. Ammann Awards in the category Best Kept Secret- Individual Bridge. Whether it wins the award depends on the voting process, which will begin in December via the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  The Wave is also one of five additional bridges in Glauchau that were added to the city’s tour guide earlier this year, hence the decision to re-enter Glauchau in the Ammann Awards in the category of Bridge Tour Guide. Again, the winner of the awards in that category is dependent on the voting.

More details on who else is in the competition in the six categories will come on December 4th. Stay tuned. 🙂

Source: Chemnitz Free Press


The Bridges of Schlema, Germany

Bad Schlema Railroad Bridge. Photos taken by the author in August-November, 2017

Part three of the historic bridge tour in the western part of the Ore Mountain region (German: Erzgebirge) takes us northeast to Bad Schlema. When we think of the community of about 5,700 inhabitants and the word Bad, it does not refer to the condition of the town. Granted there are many derelict buildings whose historic value warrants renovation and conversion into a recreational facility of some sorts per building, while some houses and even bridges that are at least 50 years old and have cracks and missing siding are in need of some renovations.  The word Bad in German stands for either bath(room) or health spa. In the case of Schlema, it is the latter. Nestled deep into the valley of the River Schlema, the houses, both modern and antique line up along the creek that is only 10 meters wide but cuts a huge gorge into the mountains enroute to the Zwickauer Mulde at the site of the Stone Arch Bridge (see article for more details).  The health spa in Bad Schlema is over a century old and consists of radon bath house, hotel and resort and a park complex- all within approximately five acres of each other, the size of a typical rural American golf course, like the one at Loon Lake in Jackson County, Minnesota, where I spent most of my childhood. One can recognize the health spa area by the large tent that pops up as you drive on the road connecting Hartenstein and Bad Schlema heading west in the direction of Schneeberg. That road is part of Silver Road, the longest road in Saxony which starts in Zwickau and passes through Schneeberg and Schlema enroute to Freiberg and Saxony. It has a storied history in connection with mining of copper, Silver, iron and uranium and many sites in Schlema serve as memorials for the regional past time.

Close-up of the tent-style building which is the Radon Health Spa.

But as I mentioned in my previous article on the Stone Arch Bridge, Bad Schlema was once connected by a rail line, which branched off from the north-south route connecting Aue and Zwickau (enroute to Werdau and Leipzig), ran along the Schlema going past the north end of Schneeberg before terminating at Neustädtel to the northwest. Five stations provided access for people to board, including Oberschlema, Schneeberg and Neustädtel, yet by 1955 only the station at Niederschlema was still serving trains, but along the Zwickauer Mulde. That was later renamed Bad Schlema. The line to Niederschlema was discontinued and later dismantled to make way for the main highway (B169) that now connects Schneeberg with the Saxony Police Academy and all points westward. However, some relicts of the Schneeberg Line still exist in Bad Schlema, including the Oberschlema Train Station (now privately owned), flanked with three bridges.

The three bridges at the former Oberschlema Train Station

But when comparing the bridges to the ones in Zschorlau (in the previous article), Schlema has many more small bridge crossings spanning the small river that empties into the Zwickauer Mulde- 44 to be exact! But unlike the crossings in the town south of Schneeberg, most of these bridges in Schlema are wooden crossings that serve private property on the opposite side of the bank. The exception is a crossing at a bus stop, which given the proximity of the road running parallel to the river, makes sense. That bridge and bus stop is co-owned by the community and the regional bus service RVE.

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Yet there are some standouts that are worth noting, which you can find on the map below. Like in the ones for Aue and Zschorlau, the location of the bridges include some information and photos, which will help you find the bridges when visiting Bad Schlema. A lot of information is missing and therefore, if you have any you wish to add, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles and will add it accordingly.

Good luck! 🙂