After a long break, we have a couple mystery bridges to show you in the next posts. The first one takes us to Monroe County, Michigan and to this bridge. The Old Telegraph Road Bridge is located between Kimberley Estates and the city of Monroe in Michigan, just north of the state border with Ohio. Built in the 1920s, this bridge used to carry US Highway 24 before it was abandoned in the 1950s. The two-span T-beam pony girder design can be found just off the main highway.
The rest can be explained by Satolli Glassmeyer, as he did a documentary on this bridge recently for his column: History in Your Own Backyard. Enjoy the short documentary and if you have any additional information to share, contact him or the Chronicles. 🙂
CHEMNITZ (GERMANY)- I’m going to be very honest for this mystery bridge, which is the 100th structure I’ve posted since launching the series in 2011. It was very, VERY difficult to decide which one to post next, for there was a large selection to choose from, ranging from an abandoned bridge along Route 66, a three-span through truss bridge in Oklahoma, a suspension bridge in India and this bridge. After some thorough consideration, I decided to go with the way that is the best in terms of my own merit as the structures have been mentioned by others in one way or another.
So here it comes: a through truss bridge that has been sitting on private land for a very long time, on the outskirts of a city that was for some time named after a Communist. Found by accident but not before almost getting my Volkswagen rammed into by a lorry behind me, who was cussing at me in Polish as he passed me by, after having parked my car off to the side. 😉
OK, the Polish guy part was fake news, but looking at the rest of the picture, one can see that you don’t need to fact-check this beauty. The bridge is located just off Highway 107, three kilometers north of the Motorway A4 and the Exit Chemnitz-Glösa. It sits on private land next to the restaurant and hotel Landgasthof Draisdorf, around the curve. It is an eight-panel Pratt through truss bridge, built using welded connections- meaning the beams are held together by gusset plates and are not inserted into the plates, like we would see in other truss bridges. The end posts are typical for many European truss bridges built during its time: vertical instead of angled. The portal and strut bracings feature V-laced bracings with curved heel bracings. The middle strut heels appear to be subdivided. The bridge can be seen from the highway- although it is not recommended to stop because the highway curves around the Landgasthof and one could risk such a rear- ender plus an explanation with the police to follow. The bridge is about 5-6 meters tall, about 30-35 meters long and 3 meters wide, judging by my presence at the bridge and the photos I took of the bridge. While the bridge is one of five known in Chemnitz, this is the only through truss bridge within the city limits, counting the village of Draisdorf, where it sits.
The fun part comes with the history of the bridge. My first judgement of the bridge was that it was located over the River Chemnitz at Heinersdorfer Strasse and it was pulled offsite and to its current location after a new bridge was constructed 100 meters to the south. The truss bridge was replaced by a new bridge in 2005. You can see the points mentioned on the map. However, research by the Saxony Ministry of Historic Monuments and Preservation (D: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Sachsen) in Dresden indicated that this truss bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse but at Fischweg near the cemetary in Glösa, only 400 meters south of the motorway exit. The map indicates that a bridge does exist but in a form of a bike and pedestrian crossing for the street ends on the grounds of a factory nearby. The date of construction of the bridge is 1900 and is currently listed in the Preservation Handbook for the State of Saxony (Denkmalschutzliste).
This leads us to the following questions which your help would be much appreciated in contributing whatever information may be of use:
Is the date 1900 correct? Sometimes the year is used because of a lack of clarity in terms of when exactly it was built and open to traffic.
If the bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse, what did the previous structure look like? When was it built and was it built by the same bridge builder as this bridge?
Independent of what was mentioned in nr. 2, who was the bridge builder for this bridge?
When was the current structure at Heinersdorfer Strasse built and what happened to the old structure?
What factors led to the replacement of this bridge and who led the efforts in saving it for reuse?
It’s not every day that a person and/or party steps forward to purchase the bridge and keep it for reuse. The bridge is privately owned and judging by my observations, it is being used as a picnic area with a porch swing attached to the top strut bracing. For most historic bridges that are purchased by private groups-namely homeowners, they are normally used for picnic areas and other forms of recreation more than for pedestrian and bike crossings because of liability reasons. It is different in comparison with private parties in the form of associations, park and recreational groups and the community that have more resources (including financial) to make sure the crossing is safe for reuse. But nevertheless, this bridge is safe and will most likely be in the hands of the homeowner until the need to get rid of it is near. When that happens, it can be hoped that the bridge is put back over the Chemnitz as a bike crossing. With the Chemnitztal Bike Path being extended and paved to Wechselburg, it would not be a surprise if this bridge was called to duty again given its preservation status and the interest in keeping it for generations to come.
And this is what makes this unexpected stop the most memorable- finding out the unknown about a structure like this one, which is truly a hidden gem.
And as we are on the same page, the next mystery bridge will go further downstream where a pair of structures are being refitted for bike use. More on this one in the next article. In the meantime, enjoy the photos here as well as on BHC’s facebook page. And as for the aforementioned bridges at the beginning of the page, they will come later.
Author’s Note:Chemnitz was once named Karl-Marx-Stadt when it was under the rule of the German Democratic Republic. It even had a head statue of Karl Marx that can still be seen today. From 1953 until 1990, it was known that way.
This next mystery bridge takes us to a place out in the middle of nowhere east of a larger city in Indiana. The Van Loon Bridge was one of the most unusual truss bridges found on record. The bridge used to span the Little Calumet River east of Hammond and features a two-span pony arch bridge with Warren truss features and riveted connections. According to an article in the Engineering News Magazine dated in 1915, the bridge was assembled using scrap metal from an unknown source in Van Loon, Indiana. Unfortunately there were no records that indicated the existence of the community except that it was probably located somewhere outside Hammond. While fellow pontist Nathan Holth pinpointed the bridge’s location to the east, it is not 100% correct and chances are most likely that it could be either to the west or even somewhere along the Calumet. The same applies to the community of Van Loon for the community may have existed for a few years before having disappeared even from the record books. What we do know is that the bridge, which is approximately 100-120 feet long and 13 feet wide has been extant for many years. This leads to several questions that need explaining about this bridge:
Where exactly along the Calumet was this bridge located?
Where was Van Loon located? When was the community founded, let alone when it vanished?
If the bridge was built using scrap metal, where (in or around Van Loon) did the metal come from?
When was the bridge built and by whom?
When was the bridge demolished?
Was there a replacement for the bridge?
This mystery bridge is unique for we are not only looking for the history of the bridge itself but also the community that only existed for a Brief time. Henceforth if you have any history of Van Loon that would be of great help for to better understand about the bridge’s history, one Needs to know more about the community it served. This includes the people who lived there, the businesses and the events that affected the community, including the factors that led to ist disappearance. You can provide one or both here or through the bridgehunter.com website.
While we have seen fancy bridges, like the one constructed using the remains of a Ferris Wheel, a car dealership, a stadium and the like, nothing is as fancy and interesting is a unique bridge built using parts from an unknown location. The bridge at Van Loon is one of those particular bridges that has that beauty.
After a brief break due to non-column commitments, we will have a look at the next mystery bridge. Not far from the last mystery bridge profiled and in the vicinity of Altenburg, in eastern Germany is this bridge. Located over the River Pleisse just north of the town of Lehndorf, the bridge is located at the Gardschutz Mill, consisting of a ranch and restaurant. It’s easily seen from the main highway on the eastern bank as well as the road going to Selleris (which also carries the Pleisse bike trail to Leipzig). The bridge resembles a suspension bridge because of its two towers and its main span. Yet its lack of support cables combined with rather modern trusses resulted in my stop at the bridge during my tour along the Pleisse from Gössnitz to Leipzig.
Examining the bridge from the outside, one could assume that the bridge is between 20 and 25 years old, for it appears to be quite modern. The arched towers appear to be quite modern, made of concrete and featuring steel roofing that is in two layers. The truss span features a bedstead Pratt pony truss bridge with welded connections and outer wings that have a 75° angle from the main truss. The diagonal bracings cross the railings in a way that the former cuts into the latter. Unique is when the truss is embedded into the towers, resulting in the towers supporting the span without the cables. The reason for the bridge being at least 20 years old is the fact that the truss span itself has already dealt with wear and tear, as moisture and weather extremities have already started to eat away at the trusses. Normally for modern pedestrian bridges built 5-10 years ago, a person does not see such deterioration right away. Even with a coat of paint, one can see the markings of a bridge that is becoming worn like a 50-year old truss. It is unknown when it was built for during the Cold War period, bridges were rarely built and if so, only with the bare materials that were enough for cars to cross, not bikes. Many of these 50-60 year old bridges are due for replacement because they can no longer handle increasing traffic. The further east one travels, the more bridges one will see with weight restrictions allowing only light-weight vehicles to cross and the most likely these bridges will appear in the newspapers with the title: to be replaced.
It is unlikely that this bridge was built before the Reunification of Germany. The question is when it was built and by whom? The bridge continues to serve pedestrian and bicycle traffic, providing access to Gardschutz Mill and Restaurant. The bridge is a cable-less suspension bridge with a Pratt truss main span over the Pleisse. That’s it for information.
Anything else about this bridge? You know what to do. 🙂
In connection with the series on Saxony-Anhalt through sister column, The Flensburg Files, we have another mystery bridge to solve. This one is between Grosskorbetha (where the railroad overpass is located) and the city of Halle, in the town of Schkopau. Located along the Saale River north of Merseburg, the town has 10,900 inhabitants, located along the Saale River, and has a castle dating back to 1177. It is sandwiched between the natural wildlife refuge of the Saale and Elster Rivers to the north and the chemical district of Leuna to the south, both of which are easily accessible by rail line and light rail between Halle and Leipzig via Bad Durremberg. Before the viaduct north of town was completed in 2014 to accomodate ICE-trains between Erfurt and Leipzig/Halle, there were only two rather unknown bridges in Schkopau: the railroad bridge and this overpass.
The overpass spans the rail line which connects Halle and Naumburg via Merseburg and Grosskorbetha and features a 10-panel pony truss bridge with riveted connections and a curved connection between the end post and the top chord. Judging by its appearance, with little rust as it has, the bridge appears to originate from the East German period, having been built after the close of World War II by the Soviets. What is interesting is the fact that the approachs feature inclined concrete arches that appear older than the truss span. Furthermore, even though the span accommodates pedestrians, it only crosses one set of tracks and not both. It only provides access from the west side of the track to the platform which separates the two tracks. According to Googlemap, the rail line splits the town into two. This leads to speculation that there once was a bridge or two bridges that crossed the entire track, but one of them was removed.
If that is the case, then when, and what did the bridge look like before it happened? Any information on the bridge’s history would be useful. You know what to do there, right?
Happy bridgehunting! 🙂
Test yourself on your knowledge of Saxony-Anhalt by clicking here to try out the Guessing Quiz. Answers will come very soon. 🙂
Staying in Saxony-Anhalt for the next mystery bridge article, we head back to Halle (Saale). As many of you have probably read, the city along the Saale River has over 38 bridges along this main river, its tributaries and even along the ICE rail line. While there is a tour guide that takes you to the city’s bridges through the Chronicles and Halle in Bild, neither authors figured in that there would be a few additional outlyers with historic value that should be taken into account, and added.
Like this railroad crossing, for example.
Located less than 100 meters north of Halle Central Station, this western crossing looks like just an ordinary railroad bridge- or a series of railroad bridges as there are six bridges serving seven tracks- one each track except for the outermost crossing. As a bonus, one can enjoy the view of the historic water tower when crossing it. Yet when looking at the bridge more closely, one can see the history behind this construction:
The finials were located only at the southern entrance to the structure, right before entering the platform of Halle Central Station. They resemble sword-shaped towers resembling Washington Monument in the United States, with Victorian-like foundations, standing on the abutments made of sandstone and limestone brick and concrete. An inscription with the year 1909 indicated the year the bridge was constructed, spanning Delitzscher Strasse. The bridge’s railings are made of cast iron and feature a parapet that has circilar and mushroom shapes with posts that feature a pyramid-shaped finial and a an outrigger per post that resembles a raindrop. Outriggers are diagonal posts that slant outwards at an angle 60-80° and used to support the trusses for pony truss bridges and railings for stringers, like this one, regardless of length. Many stringer bridges in Germany have these ornamental outriggers which makes the structure rather attractive. In America, one will see most outriggers on truss bridges, especially those built after 1900 with riveted connections in the form of Pratt, Howe or Warren truss designs, and have geometric shapes.
Judging by the main span, it appears that the structure is one of two bridge types: 1. It is a stringer which was constructed a few years ago to replace an arch bridge with either open-or-closed spandrel design or a truss design. This would make the most sense as Delitzscher Strasse is one of key streets connecting Halle City and the train station with points to the west, including Delitzsch, the Leipzig-Halle Airport and neighboring Leipzig. To accommodate more traffic, the arches were removed in favor of the stringer span, but the ornamental railings and the finials were preserved as historical markers, showing people where the bridge used to stand. With the modernization of Halle Central Station, this theory would not come as a surprise, given the fact that the complex was in such a desolate state during the time of the East German Communist rule.
Then there is option two, which is the stringer has stood since 1909 but had to be rehabilitated to accomodate rail traffic. This theory is tall but doable as engineering experiments have been done to either strengthen or partially replace the decking while keeping the bridge design in place, a concept that costs less money than a full replacement. Yet, given the modernization-happiness of the Deutsche Bahn, which owns the lines and the railway station complex, it is doubtful that the firm would go for quick fix-ups, as they want to conform to the modern rail standards and would rather have new bridges that function for 100 years than to have a restored bridge, like this one. Whe one looks at the firm’s campaign to have the 53-year old Fehmarn Bridge in Schleswig-Holstein torn down and replaced or the Chemnitz Viaduct replaced, one will understand why the Bahn is not listening to alternatives by local and regional governments. By the way, the fight to save the bridges is still on, and other European countries have modernized their rail lines but kept their historic bridges, including Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, and even Belgium.
Keeping the theories in mind, we now turn to the forum, providing the following questions for you to ponder and share information about. Feel free to comment on them as the people in Halle would like to know more about this bridge, possibly adding it into a book that should be written on the city’s bridges (see a collection here). Here are the questions for the forum:
When was this bridge built and who was behind the design?
Is the current bridge the restored original or a replacement? If the latter, when was it replaced?
If the bridge was restored, how was it done and who led the efforts?
Who was behind the design of the ornamental railings and finials?
When Edwin Thacher patented his truss design in 1884, his intention was for it to compete with the likes of already well-established truss designs, like the Pratt, Warren, Parker, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, but also the more unknown types, like the Kellogg, Fink and Post, just to name a few. While there are now four Thacher truss bridges left in the United States (in Iowa (2x), Minnesota, Virginia and Colorado), we’re still figuring out how many more of these bridges were actually built since the first one was constructed at Independence, Iowa, three years before the design was patented.
While we’re looking for information of the one in Waverly (see article here), two fellow pontists brought this one up to the author’s attention. Spanning the Ocheydan River west of Everly in Clay County, Iowa, this Thacher bridge was the first crossing built in Clay County, according to records. Even though Clay County was organized in 1851, Everly was founded in 1884, originally known as Clark (the name changed to it current one in 1902). Keeping the two in mind, the construction date for the Thacher was probably between 1885 and 1895, as this hybrid version was built during that time at places such as Ellsworth Ranch (Iowa), Yellow Bank Church (Minnesota), Okoboji Swing Bridge (Iowa) and the now demolished Castlewood (South Dakota).
The question is when exactly and whether the builder for this bridge was the same one for the aforementioned ones- the King Bridge and Iron Company? The Wrought Iron Bridge Company built the longer span versions of the Thacher truss, the ones known to bridge historians today as the real form of the truss design. The Thacher truss crossing was eventually replaced by a pony truss bridge in 1911, a riveted Pratt type, only to be replaced by a concrete bridge in 2008.
So what more do we know about this bridge? If you have more information on the Everly Thacher truss bridge, please use the contact forms and inform Jason Smith at the Chronicles. You can also place your comments and photos in the Chronicles’ facebook pages. In either case, we have more we need to know about this unique but rare truss bridge, where despite its handful of numbers existing today, there were more built towards the turn of the Century than we thought.
Happy Bridgehunting! 🙂
Thanks to Luke Harden and Jeff Wieland for their help with this bridge. Not to worry, this mystery will be solved and Clay County will have another bridge history to the county’s name and history.
Australian Traveller that loves to "Roam" our globe, creator of ENDLESSROAMING.COM sharing the experience through word and photography. Currently residing in my home of Newtown Sydney but hope to be back on the road late 2020. Feedback / questions are more than welcome, happy travels