As we say good-bye to one of Erfurt’s prized treasures, I would like to show you an earlier pic of the Riethbrücke in Erfurt, when there were no barriers restricting its crossing. This pic was taken in 2004, when I was a Master’s student at the University of Jena, which is east of the capital of Thuringia. Studying political science, I would spend a day at the library at the University of Erfurt as it had a wider selection of books available to my liking (as a note: I my primary focus was on domestic policies- especially pertaining to public health). On the way to the University Library, I would stop at this bridge for some pictures, especially as the Gera Bike Trail was the only safest way to my destination from the Central Railway Station. The pic was taken with a Konica-Minolta mirror-reflex, 35mm camera with film; something that was still in before digital cameras would take over completely. The markings of film-camera pics is noticable in this picture, taken during the early afternoon.
Even though I graduated in 2007, I returned to Erfurt in 2010 to teach at the University of Applied Sciences for two years. I would regularly pass this bridge while commuting to work from my home in Gispersleben (to the north). They had already placed the barriers on the bridge and been planning to replace the structure then. That the bridge lasted as longer as it did had nothing to do with the other crossings that needed to be replaced prior to that, but more with what to do with a bridge that has had a history of serving Erfurt for over a century and henceforth having been listed as a technical historical site by the State of Thuringia. It was one of us; one of the two dozen historic bridges that makes Erfurt a great place for bridgehunters, photographers and historians alike.
With the bridge now at the Highway Depot awaiting a much-needed makeover, the question is where the bridge’s new home will be. That will take some time to determine ist destiny.
For more on the bridge’s move, click hereto read the article.
130-year old historic bridge relocated to highway depot. Relocation to new place to be determined.
ERFURT (GERMANY)- The days of one historic bridge have been numbered- at least at its now former location. The question is where to find a new home for it. The Riethbrücke used to span the River Gera at Riethstrasse, near the sports complex in the northern suburb of Rieth. Built in 1890, the curved Parker pony truss span was first placed over the Flutgraben Diversion Canal just south of Erfurt Central Station before it was relocated to its present site in 1912. For 107 years, it had served car and bike traffic with no problems.
Sadly though, the bridge is no more at this location. As recently as today, crews transported the truss structure to its new home, which is the highway depot near Bindersleben, west of Erfurt. Crew had cut the 25 meter (75 foot) long and six meter (18 foot) wide bridge into two parts the day before, so that it can be transported easily along the main highways leading to its destination. The bridge had to make way for a new steel structure, whose features will be similar to the truss span. That bridge will be opened in time for the German Garden and Horticulture Show (Bundesgartenschau) in 2021. The old truss bridge had become functionally obsolete as weight, width and height restrictions were imposed on the structure for close to a decade.
The bridge is still protected by the heritage laws in Thuringia and crews are currently figuring out where to relocate the bridge and how to repurpose it for recreational use. It is clear that the bridge will need to be completely rehabilitated due to years of rust and wear, especially on the lower chord. The bridge had not seen any major rehabilitation jobs done during its time at its first two locations. As it will be at the highway depot, crews will have a chance to examine the bridge to determine what needs to be done to improve it. At the same time, the search for a new home will commence so that the bridge can be reinstalled and reused again.
The question is where to find its next home, which will be its fourth (counting its stay at the depot), so that it can live on for another century?
The Gera Bike Trail, which used to form an intersection with the Riethbrücke- forcing people to walk their bikes across the street, will run under the new bridge when it is built. The bike trail starts at Schmücke near Ilmenau and after passing through Erfurt, joins the Unstrut Bike Trail at Gebesee, a length of 75 kilometers.
This is the fourth bridge built in Erfurt since 2018. Three more structures are replacing old and obsolete ones, all of them in the north of Erfurt: one at Strasse der Nationen spanning the highway (in construction- overpass to be torn down in 2020), one at Gispersleben (through arch bridge completed in June 2019), and one at Warschauer Strasse near the Riethbrücke (span to be replaced in 2020).
History of the Riethbrücke can be found in the Tour Guide on the Bridges of Erfurt, under the part on the city’s outer skirts. Click here to view and enjoy the other five parts of the tour. Please note that updates will be made on the city’s bridges in the future.
This Mystery Bridge is in connection with last week’s photo of the week. It is a unique find and one that will come up fast when approaching the city of Mittweida, located 15 kilometers north-northeast of Chemnitz. The city of 15,000 inhabitants is home to the college of applied sciences and has a unique historic setting, which straddles the valley of the River Zschopau and its tributaries.
This bridge is located at the junction of Burgstädter Strasse and Stadtring, which heads north towards the college. It’s a three span railroad viaduct that features a combination Pratt and Wichert Truss designs supported on steel, A-shaped piers. The total length is approximately 100 meters. The Wichert truss was designed by E.M. Wichert in Pittsburgh in 1930 and is characterized by its deck arch design with a diamond-shaped panel above each pier. The curved lower chord gives the bridge the form of an arch, but it does not rely on arch action to carry the load, according to sources. Wichert trusses were experimented with numerous deck-truss-arch bridges in and around Pittsburgh, and many of them still exist today. The most common Wichert truss bridge is the Homestead Grays Bridge near Pittsburgh. The 3,100-foot long bridge was built in 1936 and was last rehabilitated in 2006. Other Wichert truss spans can be found in Maryland and West Virginia.
Yet the viaduct in Mittweida had the characteristics of the Wichert truss design in it, which leads to the question of how Wichert developed and patented the truss design. Was it based on his observations of the previous designs, directly or indirectly? There is little known information written about Wichert, except the fact that his family name is predominantly German, meaning he may have emigrated from Germany to the US during one point in his life to start his career in Civil Engineering, just like the bridge builders before him, such as Albert Fink, Gustav Lindenthal, John Roebling, and Fritz Leonhardt. Finding out more about Wichert would open the doors to find out about his life and career. It would also help answer the question of the origin of his patented truss span.
As far as the bridge itself is concerned, the structure was built between 1906 and 1907 as part of the project to build a railroad line connecting Mittweida and Dreiwerden, located 12 km to the southeast. The line was built to allow trains to carry goods to the paper factory in Dreiwerden. The northern branch connecting Mittweida and Ringenthal was built at the same time to transport raw materials to the power plant. That line was dismantled after 1974. As for the southern branch where this viaduct is located, train service continued until its abandonment in 1997. The line has since been partially dismantled, but the bridge still stands today. It is unknown who built the bridge during that time, but the line was built under the auspisces of the Saxony Railroad Company (Sächsische Eisenbahngesellschaft GmbH) and financed by the Kingdom of Saxony during that time.
To summarize the points on this mystery bridge:
The bridge was built between 1906 and 1907, serving the Mittweida-Dreiwerden southern branch, connecting the main train station with the paper factory.
The bridge features one of the earliest of the Wichert truss designs even though it was patented in 1930.
Little is known about E.M. Wichert, the inventor of the truss design, except that he may have been one of the German-immigrants that started his career in the States as a bridge builder and engineer.
Now it’s your turn to provide some information about this bridge and the inventor of the Wichert truss. If you have some useful information for either the bridge or the engineer, feel free to contact the Chronicles, using the channels available. The information will be updated as it comes in. A biography of E.M. Wichert will be included in the Chronicles under the category Bridge Builders Directory. Wishing you happy hunting and many thanks for your help.
The next Mystery Bridge article is in connection with the last Newsflyer article published last week on Lake Eder (in German: Edersee) and how the receding water levels are revealing relicts of the past, including a pair of bridges. To give you a brief summary of its location, Edersee is located in the district of Waldeck-Frankenberg in the northern part of Hesse, between the cities of Kassel and Warburg (Westphalia) in central Germany. One needs two hours from Frankfurt/Main in order to reach the lake. Edersee is an artificial lake that was built on orders of Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm II beginning in 1911. The dam and reservoir, located near Hemfurth was completed in 1914, but not before three villages were emptied of their inhabitants and later inundated. One of the villages is Asel, where the village’s lone surviving structure still stands.
The Asel Bridge is known by many as the Bridge to Atlantis at Asel (in German: Aselerbrücke). The bridge used to cross the river Eder when it was built in 1890. It is a four-span stone arch bridge, whose builder is unknown. It used to connect Asel with Vöhl before it was inundated with the creation of the reservoir. Over time, the bridge could be seen when water levels were low during the warm months from April to August. However, in the past decade, the levels have been decreasing to a point where the bridge can be seen in its glory year round. Furthermore, access to the bridge is possible on both ends and people can see relicts from the village before its relocation up the hill. The bridge, which has seen increasing numbers of visitors annually, is a living example of the village that had to move aside in the name of progress, having survived the test of time for more than a century.
Yet another crossing, located towards the dam between Scheid and Bringhausen, was not that lucky and only remains of the structure can be seen at low water point. The Eder Bridge at Bringhausen was built in 1893, made of wood, but it is unknown what type of bridge it was before its destruction- whether it was a covered bridge, truss bridge or a beam bridge. We also don’t know who built the bridge and at what cost. What we do know is when Scheid was relocated and the village was destroyed, so was the bridge itself. Today, what is left are the approach spans- made of stone- and the piers that used to support the wooden bridge- made of stone and concrete.
And finally, the third structural ruins that is closest to the dam is the Werbebrücke. This was located in the village of Berich, which is two Kilometers southwest of Waldeck Castle on the North end. Berich was the original site of the dam, water mill and mine that were constructed in the 1750s. The 75-meter long, five-span, stone arch bridge, with concrete keystone arch supports followed in 1899, even though we don’t know who was behind the work. We do know that the bridge was inundated along with the rest of Berich when the Reservoir was created. It was only until 2010, when water levels started its constant drop, that scuba divers found the bridge remains and some relicts from the old village. Since then, one can see the relicts from shore, including the outer two of the five arches of the bridge.
Not much information on the three structures exists for they were either hidden somewhere or were lost in time due to the relocation and inundation to form the reservoir. As the dam at Hemfurth was one of four dams that were damaged extensively during the bombing raids of 1943, it is possible that fire and floods may have taken the rest of the documents. The dams were rebuilt after the end of World War II, using the Nazi prisoners of war as labor, as American forces rebuilt the area they occupied. Aside from their completion in 1947-49, they have been rehabilitated five times ever since.
Still the information presented on the three bridges at Asel, Berich and Scheid should be the starting point for research. What else do we know about the three bridges, aside from what was mentioned here? If you have some useful information to share, feel free to comment- either by e-mail or in the comment section below. To understand more about the Edersee, there are some useful links to help you. The facts can be found via wiki (here), but there is a website that has all the information on places of interests and activities for you to try (click here). There, you can keep an eye on water levels and plan for your next outing. A documentary on the history of Edersee via HNA can be accessed here.
The infamous Edersee bombing raid happened on 17 May, 1943, when the British Squadron Nr. 617 under the Command of Guy Gibson, used the roll-and-rotating bombs dropped at the reservoir to bomb the dams. Holes were created causing damage to the dams and massive flooding that reached depths of up to eight meters. As many as 749 people perished and hundreds of homes and factories were destroyed in the attacks. The Americans took over the region, together with Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg and started a rebuilding plan, using prisoners of war plus troops who remained in Germany. While the area was rebuilt in five years’ time, the process of rebuilding Germany to its pre-war state took three decades to complete due to complications from the Cold War with the Soviets, who occupied the northeastern part of Germany (today: Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Pommerania and “East” Berlin). This is despite the Britons and French occupying the rest of what became later known as West Germany.
Prior to the destruction of Berich, a new village was established in 1912, approximately 15 kilometers away. Neu-Berich is located near the border to North Rhine-Westphalia west of Landau. For more on its history (and to buy the book), click here.
Author’s note:This is the first podcast since the move and features all the events that happened over the past 2-3 weeks. The most current version of Newsflyer (for the week of August 5th, 2019) will follow.