Mystery Bridge Nr. 161: A Fairy Tale Bridge with a Beautiful Forest Setting

This next Mystery Bridge takes us back over the border to Czechia and to this forest, located near the village of Misto. Lara Vajrychová found this bridge while hiking. It spans Prunéřov Creek deep in the Ore Mountains, located six kilometers southeast of the German-Czech border near the city of Chomutov. The bridge is a stone arch span, but the way it was constructed puts its date way back- at least 200 years. Vajrychová mentioned that it could have been built in the Middle Ages, which means at least 500 years ago! There’s no archeological work that was done on it, and even if so, it was probably long since forgotten. Had the bridge been used as a horse-and-carriage path, it was bypassed by bigger roads to accommodate other vehicles a century ago.

Judging by the appearance of the bridge, it has maintained its structural integrity , although some erosion is noticeableon one end. Unlike some bridges that were built using this limestone, in particular the Eger Bridge, which is currently the center of controversy between demolition and restoration, this one has remained stable with only vegetation growing on it. It is doubtful the bridge will be removed for any reasons except for collapse. And even then, it is quite easy to rebuild if one knows how to do that.

Given its natural setting, the bridge is a perfect scene for a fairy tale, something that has made Czechia famous after having produced numerous fairy tales for the past 50 years, including Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella, produced in 1973. Nevertheless, the bridge has absolutely no history behind it, let alone the information on its design and dimensions. Regardless of that, it should be preserved for years to come.

If you know more about this bridge and would like to share it, feel free to do so. The forum is open to comment. The author would like to thank Lara Vajrychová for allowing use of the photos and hopefully there will be some people wishing to share their stories behind this bridge.

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Sister column The Flensburg Files has a tribute to the actress who played Cinderella (Aschenbrödel), who died in June of this year. Read the tribute and if possible, watch the film. It’s perfect for the holiday season. ❤ Click here.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 149: An Inundated Bridge in Czechia with Possible Links to Melan and von Emperger

Photos taken by Lara Vajrychová

Our next mystery bridge returns us to Czechia, but this time to the far western part of the country, along the Odrava (CZ: Ohri/ D: Eger). The River Odrava starts in eastern Bavaria and snakes away along the foot of the Ore Mountains past Cheb and Carlsbad (Karoly Vary) before emptying into the River Elbe at Litomerice, south of Usti nad Labem (Aussig). The river is laden with dozens of historic bridges dating back to the early 1900s, many of which can even be seen via satillite in a geo-app, like Google Maps.

This bridge is one of them. The structure is located in the middle of Lake Jesenice, located east of the nearest city of Cheb. The structure features a through arch span made of concrete, yet the characteristics resemble the rainbow arch bridge that was invented and patented by James B. Marsh around 1909. While his patented rainbow arch bridges were built solely in the United States, his design was based on another bridge design that was patented by Austrian engineer, Josef Melan. Melan patented his arch design in 1890 and under the direction of another Austrian,  Frederick von Emperger, built the first arch bridge 1894 in Rock Rapids, Iowa. That bridge, now located at Emma Sater Park, was the first of its kind to use reinforced concrete arch in an elliptical fashion.

Melan Bridge at Emma Sater Park in Rock Rapids, Iowa. Photo taken in 2009

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The Melan System, which links steel and concrete construction, won significant market-shares in European and American bridge-building as early as the 1890s and was awarded a gold medal at the World Exposition in Paris in 1900. Melan had published his work on concrete arches in conjunction with iron arches in 1893. Many Melan arch spans followed after the construction in Rock Rapids, including a multiple span arch bridge in Steyr in 1898 and the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana.  While he left a mark in terms of bridges and buildings especially in the New York and Boston areas, von Emperger’s stay in the US was short-lived and therefore, only this example of the Melan Arch Bridge still exists. He returned to Vienna in 1898, where he was active both as a bridge builder as well as in politics until his death in 1942, one year after Melan’s and six years after Marsh’s.

When looking at the crossing at Lake Jesenice, the structure has a rainbow arch feature, yet unlike the Marsh arch, where the arches are anchored in the wingwall above the water level, the arches here start at the abutment on deck level. Nevertheless, as the region was once part of the Habsburg Kingdom (Austrian-Hungarian Empire) until their defeat after World War I in 1918, the possibility of either Melan or von Emperger having built this bridge exists, yet the question is solely, when was the bridge built. Judging by its appearance, the bridge is well over a century old, which falls into the era when the Marsh Arch bridges were being built by the dozens in the USA. It would be a possibility that Marsh’s design was modified in order for it to stand out in comparison with the original. Yet records revealed that Marsh had abandoned  the Melan arches and had developed his signature arch in order to avoid paying Melan royalties. The bridge at Lake Jenesice was most likely built between 1898 and 1912 using the Austrian design.

As for the history of Lake Jesenice , this is an artificial lake that was created through a dam project which ran from 1957 to its completion in 1961. The bridge used to carry a road between Velká Všeboř and Cheb. It used to span the Wondreb which was a tributary of the Odrava. When the dam was completed, the Wondreb and other smaller tributaries became part of the lake and the bridge was left to inundate. The towns of Jesenice and Dřenice also disappeared because of the creation of the lake.  At high levels one can only see the arch stick out, yet during the drough in recent years in Europe, the bridge has become fully accessible by foot.  The Lake has become a recreational point for campers and tourists wishing to explore the region along the Odrava, as the area has campgrounds and other natural parks. In the past, this lake as well as neighboring city Carlsbad were health resort regions where children and their families could recover from the illnesses caused by emissions of coal and other pollutants in the nearby Black Triangle Region, where the former Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany met. Yet with new forests being grown since the Revolution of 1989 and the subsequent Reunification of Germany in 1990, the area where Czechia, Poland and Germany meet today is becoming as equally important as the area around Lake Jenesice.

Close-up of the railings and its deteriorating state

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The days of the arch bridge at Lake Jesenice may be numbered, sadly. According to bridgehunter, Lara Vajrychová, there have been talks of tearing down the arch bridge for safety reasons. Whether or not that will happen remains open. Still it would be a sad loss to see a piece of architectural work that had once belonged to one of the villages that was inundated by the dam project disappear, especially one that may have been built by the founding fathers of the Melan arch whose design was picked up by James Marsh for his design. Nevertheless, before its final demise, one needs to find out more about the bridge in terms of the date of construction and the bridge contractor to answer the questions that were made with regard to its possible connection with either Melan or von Emperger.

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Pic of the Week Nr. 55

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The next pair of pics will take us to the Oblernhau/Marienberg Region, deep in the heart of the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) in south central Saxony. As a general rule, if you can master the tough terrain of steep hills, going up and down like a roller coaster, very sharp curves- mostly combined with bumps and cracks, cobblestone roads that have the potential of being slick when wet and lastly, wild boar running in front of you like a school of raccoons, then you can manage anything. And even more so, some surprises may await you.

In this case, I found one by accident. It’s a multiple-span stone arch bridge that spans a bumpy and curvy cobblestone Highway B 171, a hilly and bumpy road, a deep gorge which also has a river running through. All of it is located in the town of Zölbitz in the district of Rittersberg. The bridge is very difficult to photograph, and because of many cars racing underneath- breaking the 50 km/h speed limit in the process- it is rather dangerous to photograph, no matter at which angle. This was my experience when I photographed this structure. Even with the tree obstructing the view, the bridge presents a nice green and hilly backdrop that is typical for the Ore Mountains. The locals call the bridge Kniebreche not only because of the name of the road, but also because of the way the road is shaped like a bending knee. If one adds the driving portion to the mix, then the trip is definitely a knee-breaker if one is too careless driving in the mountains.

While the bridge looks rather abandoned because of many cracks and plus its dark brown color and vegetable overgrowth on the decking, the Kniebreche Bridge is indeed still in use. The 145-year old structure, measured at a length of 63.4 meters, is still part of the rail line that connects Marienberg with Flöha. In the past it had stretched to Reitzenhain at the Czech border. Yet as of today, the line ends in Marienberg, and the rest has been abandoned with the rails removed and plans of converting the former rail route into a biking and hiking trail with the goal of connecting the latter with the Kammweg Trail, an international route that connects Germany with points in the Czech Republic, Poland and elsewhere. That route runs through Blankenhain, where the Selbitz Bridge is located and the two suspension bridges are scheduled to be built.

Back to the railroad’s history, the line was built between 1872 and 1875. The Chemnitz- Chomotau Railroad Company was in charge of the project but contracted out to a company in Berlin.  Given the narrow valleys along the Black and Red Pockau Rivers, bridges, viaducts and dams were built to accommodate two tracks but only one of them was used. The Kniebreche Viaduct was one of them. The line was the most difficult to build, not only because of the steep narrow valleys but also because of the financing. The financial crisis of 1873 forced the contractor in Berlin to liquidate, and the railroad company itself, which did the planning and layout of the railline, to finish the job.

The Kniebreche Viaduct is located in that area where two-track bridges were built even though the purpose was for having a one-track line. It’s location against the steep cliffs of the valley represent a classic example of the struggles the railroad company had in constructing the line. Given as many curves as the highway has, it is not a surprise that the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) have been using the “red worms” for regional service and leaving the long-distance trains, such as the ICE-trains off the tracks. These types of trains are better off for the long-distance routes, especially between Dresden and the cities of Chemnitz, Erfurt, Leipzig and Prague, for the landscape is flatter and the two-track lines more manageable.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 112: A double-barreled concrete bridge that used to serve a major road?

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This is the first video podcast of the bridge. The bridge is between 90 and 110 years old, spans a tributary of the River Zschopau south of Wolkenstein in central Saxony in the suburb of Niederau. The rest can be found by clicking here.

Video:

Map:

 

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Questions:

1. When was the bridge built? Who was the bridge builder?

2. What kind of road did it serve and what industries existed in the area of the bridge?

 

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Book of the Month/ Tour Guide: The Bridges of Schwarzenberg (Saxony), Germany

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Author’s Note: For the first time in four years, a literary review is being introduced in the Chronicles. Previously, we had a Book of the Week that had existed from 2013-14, but due to time constraints, it was discontinued. This time we have the Book of the Month, where each bridge piece will be introduced for people to have a look at. You will find this and future pieces on the Chronicles. A page is being created where all the bridge literary pieces will be added, past and present.  So without further ado……

Book of the Month: January 2019

The first ever book of the month takes us to the German state of Saxony, and to the community of Schwarzenberg. Located 10 kilometers east of Aue, deep in the Ore Mountains, the community of 23,300 prides itself on its traditional culture and its history for several historic landmarks are located in the old town, which features a castle and church overlooking the deep valley where the rivers Schwarzwasser and Mittweida meet. The town was one of the key hubs for railroads that met from areas high in the mountains. Today only one line exists from Johanngeorgenstadt to Zwickau, passing through this community. And while the mining industry almost no longer exists, other industries have taken over, thus making the city rather attractive.

While many cities in Saxony, such as Dresden, Leipzig and Plauen have prided themselves on their historic bridges because of popularity, no one has ever thought about the fact that a community, such as Schwarzenberg, would have an interesting set of their own.

Enter the Senior Citizens Club Haus Schlossblick in Schwarzenberg and their prized work, Schwarzenberg’s Bridges. The booklet was released in December 2018, with many copies having been sold during the Christmas markets and beyond. Even though the target language in this 53-page booklet is German, the booklet is laden with pictures of Schwarzenberg’s 44 bridges- both past and present- combined with years of research and photo collections all put together and presented in a form of a tour guide. The photos with the bare essential information is enough for people to read up before finding the bridges, especially as they are listed in the order going downstream for every river mentioned, minus the railroad crossings.

The booklet is different to another bridge booklet written in 2014 on the city of Aue. (For more, please click here to view the tour guide). While current pics of the city’s bridges were included, there was mainly text on the history of each of the bridges in the city of 16,000, located at the confluence between the Zwickau Mulde and the Schwarzwasser, as well as along the Flyover, connecting the city with the Autobahn 72. More pics on the previous structures, plus a better selection of information would have perhaps helped.

Going back to the bridges in Schwarzenberg, there are some interesting facts that are presented in the book, some of which will get the reader to visit them while in Germany. Here are the top five:

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  1. The Steynerne Bridge (pictured above) is the oldest bridge stilll existing in Schwarzenberg. It is also the narrowest vehicular crossing in the Ore Mountains.
  2. The Topp-Müller-Arch Bridge was the oldest stone arch bridge ever built in Schwarzenberg, dating back to 1539.
  3. Two railroad bridges used to carry a railline through the steep hills underneath the old town. It was bypassed in 1952.
  4. The old railroad arch bridge east of the train station is one of the best examples of a restored historic bridge of its kind.
  5. Each bridge has a medaillon on the railing, signaling the build and replacement dates, plus some of the symbols of the city.

Interesting is the fact that the author included the Markersbach Viaduct in the booklet. While that bridge is only a few kilometers away, it was included in the Chronicles’ tour guide (shown here). Still, the authors believe that it belongs to the Schwarzenberg ensemble, which is considered far fetched but ok. Also included is the Hammerbrücke, a covered bridge located in Lauter, which is three kilometers away.

A map with the location of the bridges in Schwarzenberg can be found below. I did a bike tour in the region on three different occasions and have therefore included photos in all but a couple of the city’s bridges. The rest of the information is from the booklet.

The book on Schwarzenberg’s bridges, which can be bought at the tourist information center upon personal visit for only six Euros, does bring up a question with regards to writing a book on bridges in such a community. While the book with sufficient information and photos on the bridges, like in Schwarzenberg, would be appropriate especially for readers who just want to know a bit on the bridges, the question is whether this book would fit for another community.

Which town would benefit from such a “picture book” with sufficient information?

Feel free to make your top five cities you would like to see a bridge book written on, either by choosing from the Chronicles’ tour guide page or adding some of your own.

My top five cities that deserve such a bridge booklet include: Glauchau, Zwickau, Dresden, Minneapolis and Des Moines. What about yours? Add your thoughts in the comment section.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 32

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This week’s pic of the week takes us to the town of Schwarzenberg, located 10 kilometers east of Aue in the Ore Mountain Region of Saxony. Located at the junction of the the rivers Schwarzwasser and Mittweida, the community of 16,000 inhabitants is famous for its castle on the hill and with it, the old town and market square. A visit to the Christmas market or even the City Festival in the summer is a must.

The city is famous for its bridges, and this is one of them, a focus of this week’s pic. The Railroad Viaduct is located east of the train and bus depot complex. It consists of a four-span stone arch bridge and according to the history books, used to serve rail traffic between Schwarzenberg and Annaberg-Buchholz via Cranzahl. Built in the late 1870s, it was abandoned in the 1950s. It took about a half a century until crews could rehabilitate the structure and convert it into a rails-to-trails route, which runs along the Schwarzwasser and is being used to this day.

This photo was taken on the cusp of dusk as I was on tour and looking for a broschure on the bridges in Schwarzenberg, for the book was released late last year. Fortunately I have a copy and will present this in the next column entries. But for now, enjoy the pic of the well-lit bridge, spanning the river and the park that was created a few years ago and people can enjoy some time down by the river. 🙂

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 21

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Due to a short week because of the federal holiday in Germany, combined with an upcoming trip, I decided to move up our Pic of the Week to today. This Picof the Week takes us to the Ore Mountains at the German-Czech border and this bridge in Johanngeorgenstadt. Spanning the River Schwarzwasser just south of the train station and just north of the Czech border town of Potucky, this modern arch bridge, built a decade ago, features a rather pink color, which is on the one hand unusual for a metal bridge (which mainly uses green, black, silver, blue and brown coloring), but could be an interpretation. Since we use pink for our campaign to fight (breast) cancer, the color of this bridge may symbolize an effort similar to that. If the latter is the case, it would be unusual for a German bridge to have such a color.

Yet if that was the case, which bridge do you know deserves a good coat of pink to signal the fight against cancer (or any non-communicable disease for that matter?  Think about it and feel free to comment!

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

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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. 🙂

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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 Albernnau and Zschorlau on the opposite side. At approximately 200 meters in length, the bridge is the longest in the western Ore Mountains and second longest along the Zwickau Mulde River.  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 first bridge- a wooden covered span- was built in 1559 spanning the river and canal complex. 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 of the German Army during World War II, where they used the bridge to march into Czechoslovakia and Poland.

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 Fährbrücke (south of 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.  By that time, the headwaters house, which had been the barracks, was converted into the Rechenhaus Restaurant, which still serves customers today.

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

The bridge was renovated in 1988 when  concrete decking was added and the arches were reinforced with steel bracing. The bridge has been listed by the German Preservation Commission because of its cultural significance. Yet 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 mayors of Bockau and Zschorlau 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.

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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.

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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! 🙂

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The Preservation Committee including the restaurant owner.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 93: The Unusual Railroad Truss Bridge (or Bridges) in the Erzgebirge

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ERLA-CRANDORF (SAXONY); GERMANY- Not far from the towns of Markersbach and Schwarzenberg is our next mystery bridge. This one is located over the Schwarzwasser River in the small town of Erla. First mentioned in the history books in 1308, Erla and its neighboring village Crandorf are located three kilometers southwest of Schwarzenberg. Combined, they have a population of only 2000 inhabitants, with Erla having 850. The two communities had been a joint entity from 1925 until it became part of the Schwarzenberg consortium in 1999, which remains to this day. While Crandorf is located on top of one of the mountains in the Erzgebirge, Erla is wedged deep in the Schwarzwasser Valley and is easily accessible by rail and by highway, both leading to Johanngeorgenstadt, which is at the border between Germany and the Czech Republic.

This bridge is one of the most unusual through trusses one can visit. It is located 50 meters from the train station and right next to the steelworks, which has existed as long as the community. When looking at the bridge from a distance, it appears a duo span that are siamese twins, meaning one truss bridge is connected to a larger truss span. Upon further view, the bridges are indeed separate, but the spans are different in size and age. The only similarity is that they are both Warren trusses with subdivided vertical beams, yet the larger one has a Scharper design.

The larger span features a through truss span with a 45° skewed portal bracings, which stretches three panels on the right side of the truss. Both the portal and the strut bracings are I-beamed shaped, while the first left panel has a vertical bedstead endpost and 60° heel bracings supporting the first strut and the portal bracings. All beams are mainly I-beam, with the vertical beams being H-beam. All connections are riveted. Every panel has a heel bracing on the bottom end of the decking. The bridge is 25-30 meters long and about 10 meters wide. It is taller than the neighboring pony truss bridge by 2 meters. The bridge is much newer with the only engraving being the name of the steelworks company, the Friedrichshutte, based in Laubach (Hesse), which is east of Frankfurt (Main). It is very likely that the bridge was built after German Reunification and is between 10 and 20 years old. But when it was built is unknown.

It is just as unknown as the pony truss span  located right next to it. The bridge is definitely older, yet the question is how old. The Schwarzenberg-Johanngeorgenstadt-Karlsbad route was built in 1883, and the railroad was rerouted between Erla and Schwarzenberg in 1946, which included the elimination of the tunnel going underneath the castle in Schwarzenberg. The chances of the pony truss span being built during Communist times is likely as riveted and welded trusses began to take over trusses with pinned connections in 1910. Bridges built to replace those destroyed during World War II were built using this type of connections on the trusses. This pony truss bridge has welded connections as it was built using T-beams. Even the gusset plates are welded into the beams making it sturdier. What is unique about the pony truss span is its unusual skewed span. It appears that the skew is 60°+ or misaligned by four panels, which makes it unusual for a skewed truss span. The vertical beams feature a pencil-like thin trapezoidal design, where the beam’s width is 25 cm, yet the beams narrow to form a pencil chewed on both ends- with 40 cm from the top and 25 cm from the bottom chord. The truss is 2 meters tall and the width is about eight meters. Because of its age and narrowness, it was subsequentially replaced but never removed. Even though it has been fenced off, it appears that a bike or pedestrian trail may be in the works in the long term, especially as there is a bike trail already in existence between Aue and Schwarzenberg. If it is the case, it may be an advantage for those wishing to bike up the mountains.

A photo gallery of the two bridges is below. If you know more about the bridges, feel free to contact the Chronicles. The main questions to be answered are: What more do we know about the history of the bridges? What did they look like before 1945? When were the two bridges built? And in the case of the pony truss bridge, who was the bridge builder? Any ideas and help would be much appreciated.

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The Bridges of Markersbach (Saxony), Germany

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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…..

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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.

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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. 🙂

 

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