This pic of the week is, in a way, considered an update of sorts on one of the bridges located not far from the base in Glauchau. The Schlunzig Cable-Stayed Suspension, spanning the Zwickau Mulde River on the road going to the Volkswagen Company in Mosel, was supposed to be finished this year. But as you can see in this latest pic taken on October 2nd of this year, storm clouds seem to roll over to delay the construction even further. Yet unlike these storm clouds that brought about much-needed Fall weather to the state of Saxony (with rain and cold weather to douse the dog days of summer), the storm clouds are figurative and are hovering over the region as well as the state capital of Dresden. Normally, all of the stayed cables should have been installed and the approaches built. Yet as of present, only the second set is being installed with five more to go. The cause of the delay has been due to shipping issues and faulty cables, according to the Chemnitz Free Press. With October already here, officials in charge of the project are now predicting that the 7 million Euro project will be finished in the next year due to delays and the winter months coming ahead. This announcement is a slap in the face for the State Ministry and Transportation and Business (LASUV), which is in charge of all infrastructural projects. In a statement to the Free Press, officials there claimed that such a delay will hinder any finalization of projects slated to start in the new year due to financial issues.
With this delay, residents are growing frustrated and for a good reason. The original structure, a 1954 product from East Germany, suffered substantial damage due to the 2013 floods and cannot be rehabilitated. This was the reason behind this new, futuristic style bridge. Still, with this announcement, locals and commuters will have to settle for another winter at a snail’s pace over the old structure. For truckers, it’s another winter’s detour through Zwickau instead of using the hopeful shortcut through Stollberg and Mülsen and over the bridge. But then again, we have been accustomed to loraxizing the likes of Greta Thunberg and passing half-assed legislation anyway, so there’s nothing we can say to that.
We can only hope that come 2020, the new Schlunzig Bridge will be done so we can bid a much-needed farewell to a crossing that did a world of service and usher in a new era that will be the new face along the Zwickau Mulde but one that will benefit everyone and the environment. My two cents on this pic and politics.
Cantilever K-Truss Bridge Imploded on 9 March; Running Slough Bridge also to Disappear.
SAVANNA, IL/ SABULA, IA- The end of an era has come for residents of the towns of Savanna and Sabula. One month after the replacement span- a tied-through arch bridge spanning the Mississippi River opened to through traffic, construction crews brought down the Savanna-Sabula Cantilever Truss Bridge on 9 March. Over 300 charges in 21 different places were used to bring down the main span. The Savanna-Sabula Bridge was built in 1932 by the Minneapolis Bridge Company, one of the major bridge companies that belonged to the Minneapolis School of Bridge Building, which featured the likes of Commodore P. Jones, the Hewett Family (Seth, William and Arthur) and Alexander Bayne, to name a few. Jones founded the company in 1887 and at the time of the construction of this bridge, Bayne was president of the company. The bridge had a span of 2481 feet, its main span was 520 feet. The blue-colored cantilever span featured a K-truss through truss span, one of the rarest of its kind in the country. The portal bracings were X-framed but a plaque was located on the Illinois end of the span. A video of the drive across the bridge can be seen below:
Because of its narrowness, combined with the roadway being in a flood plain and problems with river navigation, officials from Iowa and Illinois agreed to build a new span in 2013 while trying to give away the bridge to a party wishing to relocate it (see article here) Unfortunately there were no takers and therefore, the bridge was condemned, however some pieces will be reused for an exhibit in both ends, serving as a reminder of the bridge’s time as a toll bridge, serving the Short Route, connecting Cedar Rapids with Chicago.
Several videos of the bridge’s demolitions were taken, as it became a pile of scrap metal as of 10:35am on Friday the 9th of March, 2018. Some examples are shown below:
The Pratt through truss approach spans to the main span will be dismantled and the demolition of the bridge will be completed by May. At the same time, another accessory connecting Savanna and Sabula, the Running Slough Bridge (as pictured below) is being removed even as this article is released. The Pratt through truss span with West Virginia portals was built at the same as the Savanna-Sabula span and was the entry point to Sabula. The bridge was originally scheduled to be replaced this summer. However the partial collapse of one of the approach spans has prompted Iowa DOT to move the timeline forward and remove the bridge right away. At present, the new span is to be built and opened by the end of May. Whether this date is realistic depends on the weather conditions, especially because of the harsh winter the region has had, combined with possible flooding caused by the spring thaw.
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. 🙂
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?
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.
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.
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! 🙂
Bridge built in the 1600s to be replaced on a new alignment. Petition to reuse the bridge for pedestrian use still in the running.
AUE (SAXONY)/ DRESDEN/ BERLIN- While we read about historic bridges being demolished we mostly find metal truss bridges, between the ages of 70 and 130 years, that are coming down, despite having potential of being reused. We almost never see a stone arch bridge that meets the wrecking ball, regardless of age.
That is unless you look at and read about this bridge, the Bockau Arch Bridge, spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River at the village of Bockau, six kilometers southwest of Aue and exactly the same south of Schneeberg in the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge). Built in the 1600s, the bridge is located near the historic Rechenhaus (Headworks House), dam and waterway, which had been built between 1556 and 1559, providing drinking water to the villages along the river. The crossing was essential for miners needing to use the bridge as they cross between Zschorlau and Schneeberg on the northern side and Bockau on the opposite side of the river. The five-span stone arch bridge, made using sandstone, was rehabilitated in the 19th century and survived a scare in April 1945, when Nazis tried to implode the structure in a failed attempt to stop the advancement of Russian troops from the east and Americans from the south and east. American troops from the 11th tank division occupied the bridge before the Nazis could demolish the structure. Despite this, plus two major floods that caused damage to the structure (the last resulted in adding steel bracings to the arches), the bridge remains in decent shape- at least from my observations- although potential rehabilitation is needed to prolong its life much longer.
Despite its historic status, the 400+ year old structure is coming down. Crews are cutting down trees in a plan to build a new structure to better accomodate traffic from Schneeberg and Zschorlau while at the same time, realign German highway 283 to eliminate the sharp curves the historic bridge presents to the highway. According to the Saxony Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the bridge will be a straight crossing, having a modern style with skewed approaches. The highway will be expanded into an expressway, merging traffic with that from Bockau. This includes bike and pedestrian paths. In addition, new retaining walls at the new bridge will be needed and the rock escarpment that flows down through Bockau into the Mulde will be redone. In the last phase of the project, which will be completed by November 2019, the historic bridge will be removed. This will happen towards the end of next year, unless waves are made by locals and politicians to keep the bridge in tact to be reused for pedestrian purposes.
A petition was created in April of this year, calling for the bridge to be left as is, even after the new bridge is built because it retains its historic character and is protected by the German Preservation Laws (Denkmalschutz Gesetz). In addition, three rare species reside at and near the bridge, including the fire salamander, different species of bats and the water ouzer (dipper). Calls for saving the historic bridge is gaining momentum, as even members of the German Green Party are calling for the bridge to be saved for the aforementioned reasons. Still, resisitance has been ignored for the State of Saxony has rejected plans for a two-bridge solution, and the Federal Government, which is footing the 6.4 million Euro project, expects the historic bridge to be demolished by November 2018. The fight is still on but time and resources are running out, especially with every tree that is being cut down for the project, as the author observed during his visit on the 28th of August.
Already the bridge is closed to traffic as of the 28th of August, as seen from my visit. The Zwickauer Mulde Bike Trail (which runs under the historic bridge) is also fenced off, with a detour following the current highway and street going to Schindlerswerk on the southern side of the river. The 1.5 kilometer detour is expected to remain in place until November 2018, when the bridge is removed. Highway 283 will be detoured from Aue through Zschorlau and Albernau beginning in September and lasting until the completion of the project in November 2019. Local traffic between Bockau and Aue will remain open with some restrictions. Whether this plan will still take hold, depends on the progress of the petition for the preservation of the old bridge and whether authorities in Dresden and Berlin will concede and allow the locals to keep their bridge. Should that not be the case, this project may have some repurcussions with other projects in the pipeline, including the plan to replace the Chemnitz Viaduct to better accomodate the German Railways’ (the Bahn) InterCity trains. That project, which has been stalled due to stark opposition from locals, the state historic preservation office and other experts in bridge preservation, is also being backed by Berlin as the Bahn is partially owned by the government.
If you want to sign the petition to save the bridge, click onto the link and include your name, address and reasons for saving it. Never say never if you want your historic bridge kept in place once the project is finished. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest.
52-year old bridge to be replaced due to structural wear and tear. Documentary following events.
LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY- There is a growing theory regarding bridge building which states: build one that lasts 100 years and requires no maintenance. This demand is especially high in the United States and therefore, the focus of bridge construction has come down to cable-stayed suspension bridges, suspension bridges, girders and slabs. Sadly though, this theory always gets rebuked when one needs to look at the increasing number and size of vehicules crossing them, plus the need to maintain them on a yearly basis to ensure that this utopian goal is realized.
With the Motorway Crossing in Leverkusen (known as the A1 Rheinbrücke), the bridge is overtaxed with vehicles and despite extensive maintenance, the state of North-Rhine Westphania, together with the cities of Leverkusen and Cologne are now working on a replacement bridge. Built in 1965, the bridge features a cable-stayed suspension design, using one set of towers and cables in the middle of the roadway with cables anchored in two different lines supporting the median, which supports a steel deck girder roadway that supports the Motorway A1. The bridge was built by Hellmut Homberg, who was the Othmar H. Ammann of bridge building, having built several crossings in the Rhine-Ruhr River regions, including structures in Duisburg, Bonn, Cologne and Emmerich. The longest suspension bridge in Germany was built in Emmerich and is credited to Homberg. The A1 Rheinbrücke provides direct service between Saarbrücken to the south and places to the north, which includes Münster, Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck and two-lane to Fehmarn. The crossing is one of the oldest of its modern type, even though records showed that a tunnel and a basket-weaved tied arch bridge were also on the table (note: The latter can be seen in the Fehmarn Bridge, as reference). The bridge has a total length of 1061 meters; the main span has a length of 280 meters. The width of 31.7 meters includes the expansion of its original four lanes to six in the mid 1990s.
Originally slated for replacement in 2025, construction of the bridge is currently in the preliminary stages with plans to have a new structure in place by 2020. The reason: Because of the increase of traffic, both on the bridge as well as underneath with ships travelling along the Rhine, combined with weather extremities, structural weaknesses, especially in the steel, has become so great that rehabilitating the bridge has no longer become an option. Patchwork and weight limits have been conducted on several occasions, but only for the purpose of prolonging the bridge’s life until its new structure is open to traffic and the old one is removed.
Already a new bridge is designed and crews are doing soil samples to determine where to place the bridge. German public TV channel WDR (based in Cologne) is doing a documentary on this bridge project in the form of Sendung mit der Maus, a TV program for children and families with a lot of interesting facts and experiments. Televising the document in irregular intervals since January 2016, one can see how bridges are inspected, planning is undertaken for constructing the bridge, and the actual project itself. One can have a look at the progress below, but ask yourself this question:
Do you agree with this design preference? If not, how would you go about with this project if you are the planner, engineer and city official?
The Autobahn 1 is one of the oldest motorways in Europe, and the third longest motorway in Germany behind A3 and A7. The Weimar Republic proposed building a highway without intersections and traffic lights during the 1920s, yet was realized through massive construction efforts during the time of the Third Reich. The A1 was presented in 1939 but serving the Rhine-Ruhr region, as well as in segments to the north. The rest of the autobahn was completed in the 1960s and later expanded in the 1990s and 2000s. The last segment at Fehmarn is being fought by locals because of the negative environmental impact on the island through a new crossing between the island and Schleswig-Holstein as well as between the island and Denmark. The battle is ongoing and one can read more here.…..
The Rheinbrücke in Leverkusen is one of several bridges of its kind that have been targeted for deficiencies. Two other cable-stayed bridges in Duisburg and Cologne (Severin Bridge), plus the Köhlbrand Bridge in Hamburg are having the same structural issues because of too much traffic and are facing the same fate as the crossing in Leverkusen.
A bridge tour of the region along the Rhine can be found here.
Like the Mouse, the Chronicles will keep you posted on this project………
HOOKSETT, NEW HAMPSHIRE- After the Boscawen, Milford and Sewall Falls Bridges, another bridge is being targeted by the State of New Hampshire. The Lilac Bridge, spanning the Merrimack River in the town of Hooksett, is one of a handful of examples of truss bridges built by local bridge builder John William Storrs, with this one having been built in 1909 using bridge parts manufactured by the American Bridge Company. The bridge has a total length of 490 feet, consisting of 165-foot long riveted Pratt through truss spans, each featuring Town Lattice portals with curved heels and How Lattice struts. The bridge served Main street, going alongside the railroad tracks until it was bypassed in 1976 and left in place.
The city council and the state has been in talks about the future of the bridge because of its current state. The bottom decking is failing and there is a lot of rust, yet the truss bridge superstructure appears to be in great shape. Still, the city has elected not to spend the necessary $35 million for restoring the bridge and instead will spend half of the sum for a complete bridge replacement. According to the proposal, the truss bridges will be gone in favor of a mail-order truss bridge, whose design is yet to be determined. The historic bridge is for sale at a price of a dollar but only for a limited time.
Even if dismantled and stored before being restored and relocated, there is a better chance to save at least a portion of the bridge’s history than to have it scrapped, a traditional technique, which is being used like the Bible in New Hampshire, for over 70% of the pre-1930s truss bridges have been demolished and replaced in the past 10 years- an alarming and sobering statistic! And for the bridges that are products of Mr. Storrs, should the demolition machine process continue, his works will be a memory before anyone has a chance to know about him. Should that happen, then we know how our own American history will look like- instead of knowing about how America developed in terms of its infrastructure and social themes, we will eventually know about Ronald McDonald and Coca-Cola- a concept even the writer of the book Jennifer Government had envisioned when the dystopian novel was released 13 years ago, but is slowly becoming realized day by day.
Thanks to Royce and Bobette Haley for allowing the author to use some pics for this article.
Unknown if and how the ferry can be repaired- damage substantial. UNESCO application threatened.
A few years ago, I pulled an April Fools joke on the members of the historic bridge community by writing about the Rendsburg High Bridge coming down because it was unsafe for all traffic and the need of the German Railways to build a new, modern and larger crossing.
After sustaining substantial damage to the ferry because of a collision with a ship this past Friday, the Office of Waterways and Shipping (German: Wasser- & Schiffahrtsamt- WSA) on Monday decided to dismantle the entire ferry at the earliest possible convenience.
Reason for that is because of the danger that the ferry could fall into the Baltic-North Sea Canal, hindering shipping traffic again.
It is unclear whether the ferry will be rebuilt in a similar manner as the 103-year old structure before the ship smashed into it, turning it into a pendulum and injuring two people. According to information from German public radio station NDR, the entire steel structure of the ferry was bent inwards from the impact, whereas the operating house sustained large amounts of damage, and two of the twelve cables snapped.
Repairs or even replacement could take a full year, which in the meantime, pedestrians and cyclists have to take a detour to a tunnel under the canal, which is 1.5 km east of the bridge. Drivers have to take a ferry, which is 2 km away or even the tunnel, which is heavily travelled.
The danger of this action is that the planned induction into the UNESCO World Heritage list will be threatened if no ferry is put back into place or altered to a point of no recognition. It was originally to be listed as an international site in 2017, but as of present, the future of the transport ferry is unknown.
The Rendsburg High Bridge is one of eight transporter bridges left in operation and is the only bridge in the world that features a transporter main span and a loop approach span. But one thing is certain, the mayor of Rendburg and the villages south of the canal have agreed that a crossing at the bridge is a necessity and not having the ferry in place for good will be a massive inconvenience to the area, and this goes beyond that UNESCO World Heritage factor.
The Chronicles and sister column The Flensburg Files will keep you updated on the latest.
The Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles are currently having their voting with the Flensburg’s Top Five and the Othmar H. Ammann Awards. Click onto the names and you may proceed to vote. Deadline is 2 February, while at the same time, the winners will be announced. Good luck! 🙂
Flood Damage Prompts Immediate Closure; Replacement being Considered
OZARK/ SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI- At about this time four years ago, attempts were made to raise funds, sign petitions and collaborate with government authorites to save and repair the Riverside Bridge in Ozark, a 1909 Canton Bridge Company product that has been spanning the Finley River for 106 years, serving as a key crossing to the northwestern part of the city. All these efforts bore fruit as the local road authority allowed for repairs to be made and the bridge to be reopened, all in 2013. These successful attempts garnered state, national and international recognition.
Sadly though, the bridge’s days may be numbered. For the second time in five years, the bridge was closed to all traffic today. Record setting flooding in the region resulted in much of Ozark and Springfield becoming inundated and bridges being five feet under water. The Riverside Bridge was one of them, as floodwaters washed over the bridge and only the top half of the bridge could be seen. When floodwaters receded, officials from Missouri Department of Transportation inspected the bridge to reveal structural damage to the railings and the lower chords. The bridge will be closed indefinitely until plans are revealed regarding the structure’s future. According to news channels covering the story, it appears that replacement is likely, although both MoDOT and the City of Ozark agree that the historic bridge should be saved, repaired and used again. The bridge’s closure means it is back to the drawing board for many people who were part of the Save the Riverside Bridge group, led by Kris Dyer, for efforts to save the bridge took 2 years before the city gave the go ahead to rehabilitate and reopen the bridge. With the bridge closed again, the question now has become: “What’s next?”
A video with the interview with the local engineer explains that the repairs are possible but in the long term, replacement may be unavoidable:
Judging by the photos and videos, the damage to the bridge was mainly due to debris slamming into and getting entangled into the bridge. The rest of the structure appears to be in shape. Yet officials would like to see the bridge replaced and the truss bridge relocated. This is in part due to property rights issues around the structure. But suppose instead of replacing the bridge, one can supplant the truss bridge into a concrete bridge, where the trusses lose their function but serve as a decoration, but the concrete bridge would act as the crossing? With several examples existing in places like Indiana and Minnesota, it is an option worth considering. While a new bridge will cost up to $3 million, the cost for such a project will be just as much. Yet one thing is clear, no matter what happens to the bridge, rehabilitating it, replacing it and relocating it, or even placing it onto a concrete bridge, action will be needed to ensure that the next flood will not take out the crossing altogether. That means, a little bit more money will be needed to save the Riverside Bridge.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you informed on the latest developments regarding the Riverside Bridge. Click onto the highlighted links to take you to the bridge, its history and the attempts to save it the first time around.
Located along the River White Elster in eastern Saxony-Anhalt, the city of Zeitz, with ist population of 29,000 inhabitants, represents one oft he dying cities in the former East Germany. High unemployment, empty buildings, abandoned industries and a crumbling infrastructure, combined with historic buildings dating back to the 1800s that are sitting empty are what a person can see when passing through the city. Most of its main traffic has been diverted away from the city, and the only rail service in Zeitz are the lines connecting the city with Weissenfels, Gera and Leipzig- all privately owned and localized.
Yet the city scape of Zeitz has, for the most part been in tact, thus making it the venue for many films produced that require an East German scene or story. Despite their emptiness, many historic buildings in the city center are worth visiting and perhaps occupying with businesses and housing. Even the Moritzburg Castle and the nearby mills and churches, built during the Baroque period, still entertain guests because of their charm. You can also try the local wine from the vineyards located along the rugged Elster Bike Trail.
And then, there are the historic bridges.
At least a dozen bridges exist along the White Elster within a 10 km radius of the city, six of which can be found directly in Zeitz. Two thirds of them are at least 70 years of age or older. Yet all but two of them have been mentioned in the history books or by the International Structure Database in Berlin (structurae.net) which is part of the Wiley and Sons Publishing Conglomerate. While much of the records have disappeared because of World War II and later the Socialist regime, the structures profiled here are unique in its design and historic value. Most of the bridges are arches, but there are a couple girders and trusses that are worth mentioning as well. Each one lacks the most basic in terms of the date of the builders, their dimensions and for the most part, the stories behind them and their affiliation with the communities and castles they serve. Henceforth, this tour will profile each of the bridges in and around the Zeitz area, starting with the bridges near Crossen to the south and ending at Elsterau to the north. All but three of the bridges profiled in this tour guide are along the Elster. One of the bridges, the Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge, has already been profiled separately in a Mystery Bridge article and will therefore be omitted from this article. A link to this bridge can be found here.
We’ll start off with the first of two bridges in the village of Crossen, both of which can be reached by bike:
Rauda Bridge at Crossen:
This bridge spans Rauda Creek, approximately a half kilometer south of the White Elster crossing. The bridge is approximately 15 meters long and six meters wide, good enough for a bike trail. The bridge is a stone arch design that probably dates back to the 1800s, when it was used for horse and buggy, serving a trail between Crossen and Silbitz. Later it was used for farm vehicles, but as the fields nearby are located in the flood plain of the Elste were therefore rendered useless, the trail was eventually converted into the bike trail connecting Crossen and Gera to the south. The bridge still remains in great condition despite its age and is a great place to stop for a picnic or even good photo opportunity, as seen with this photo.
Spanning the Elster River, the Crossen Bridge features a deck arch bridge made of brick and concrete, and features seven arch spans totalling 130 meters long. The longest arch span (the center span) is approximately 30 meters long. The bridge’s spandrel is all made of concrete, whereby the arches were built of brick. While the bridge has been renovated as recently as 10 years ago, the date of the original construction of the bridge goes back to between 1900 and 1920. Records indicated that an attempt to implode the structure by the Nazis in 1945 in an attempt to stop the march of the Soviet troops only for the local residents to splice the wiring to the bombs in order to sabotage their attempts. The Nazis surrendered on 7 May, 1945 but not before their leader Adolf Hitler and many of his close friends committed suicide in order to avoid prosecution by the Allies. The bridge continued to be in service until recent renovations where sidewalks were added and the roadway was narrowed. Today, the bridge provides only one-way traffic controlled by traffic lights on each end. Yet it has no load limits, thus allowing for all kinds of traffic to cross, as seen in the photos below:
Spanning the White Elster on the road going to Haynsburg Castle to the east, this bridge features five arch spans totalling approximately 200 meters, the longest center arch span is around 50 meters. That span is flanked with two door-like openings on each corner, embedded into the piers, resembling an embedded pavillion on each corner. It is unknown what the original atructure looked like before World War II, but the date of construction goes back to 1911, according to local records. The bridge is one of three works of art one should see while in Haynsburg. The castle is three kilometers up the hill from the bridge. A train station along the rail line between Leipzig and Gera has a decorative lounge, even though trains no longer stop there. Haynsburg itself was a target of a witch hunt, for in 1624, one of the residents was burned at the stake for witchcraft. Since 2010, Haynsburg is part of a local conglomerate that includes two other villages. The town is only a handful that has witnessed steady population growth for it has 580 inhabitants. The bridge itself will be rehabilitated come 2018 with the purpse of improving its load capacity and its aesthetic value.
Spanning the White Elster River, this pedestrian bridge connects the train station with the park complex along the river next to the city center in Zeitz. While travelling along the river along the Elster Bike Trail, this bridge is one of the two most visible structures near the vicinity of the train station. The bridge has a bedstead Pratt pony truss with welded connections. Judging by its aesthetic appearance, the structure appears to be at least 10 years old but no older than 20. It is unknown whether a previous structure had occurred there but because of the prescence of the pavillion across the river from the station, it may be possible that a structure had existed beforehand, but was either destroyed during World War II and was not rebuilt before 1990 or it fell into disarray during the socialist regime and was consequentially removed. But more information is needed to determine whether a previous structure existed prior to this one.
Untere Promenade Bridge:
Located over the Mühlgraben Creek at the confluence with the White Elster, this bridge is located right next to the aforementioned Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge. The bridge serves the Elster Bike Trail but it is unknown when the bridge was built. It would be unusual to have a bridge exist alongside the pavillion bridge for a long period of time, so one must assume the bridge was built after World War II, especially because of the ballustrades that were remodelled. Yet more information is needed to determine whether the bridge was built in modern times to replace the pavillion bridge or if it was built at about the same time, especially as arch bridges were very common up until 1915. The author’s prediction is that the bridge was built to mimick the pavillion bridge in the 1950s or 60s to accomodate a trail running alongside the river. In either case, both bridges retain a high degree of historic and aesthetical value that it is worth stopping to photograph.
Geschwister Scholl Brücke
This is perhaps the most ornamental of the bridges along the White Elster River between Gera and Leipzig, for the 250 meter long seven-span concrete arch bridge provides the best access from the train station to Moritzburg Castle by car. The bridge has stone keystones and seal engravings above the piers. Its ballustrades are similar to the Untere Promenade Bridge and were redone most recently (10-15 years ago). Finials can be found on both ends of the bridge, but more unique and unusual is the lighting on the bridge- only one pair of lanterns are located at the very center of the span, but built on cast iron poles with a unique ornamental design.
Judging by the age of the bridge, it appears to have been built between 1890 and 1915, yet when looking more closely at the structure ‘s center span in comparison with the outer ones, the bridge appeared to have been rebuilt after the war, as the Nazis blew up the center span in an attempt to slow the advancement of Soviet troops. The bridge and street itself were named in honor of Sophie and Frank Scholl, siblings who led the White Rose movement, a group whose purpose was to create an uprising against the Hitler regime. They were arrested and executed in 1944, along with dozens of other members of the movement. Yet the Nazi government ceased to exist with Germany’s surrender on 7 May, 1945. Hitler committed suicide a week prior to the fall.
Tiergarten Pedestrian Bridge
Spanning the White Elster east of town, the Tiergarten Pedestrian Bridge is one of the most unique of spans, as the bridge features two Howe spans meeting in the middle. The center of each Howe span is supported by one steel pier but the outer ends are anchored by concrete piers. The truss itself has bedstead end posts and features welded connections. Lighting illuminates the bridge. The bridge appears to be one of the younger spans, being built in the 1990s, but it is located near a small park on the north end of the river. It also serves as the division point for two sections of the trail. The older section of the Elster Bike Trail crosses this bridge before turning left and heading to Tröglitz. A newer portion of the trail does not cross the bridge but continues north past the park towards Massnitz and Zangenberg, tunneling through the forest along the way. Both paths have historic bridges along the way to photograph.
Rehmsdorf Railroad Bridges
Located over the White Elster at the railroad crossing just outside the village of Tröglitz (1 km east of Zeitz), the Rehmsdorf Railroad Bridge features two different bridges. The river crossing, which one can see at the railroad crossing, consists of two Warren pony truss spans with vertical beams and riveted connections. Just 100 meters from that bridge is a deck plate girder bridge with eight spans, spanning a stream that empties into the White Elster. Both bridges, dating back to the 1920s, can be seen from the road connecting Tröglitz to the east and Zeitz to the west, and as the older stretch of the Elster Bike Trail runs parallel to the road, bikers and photographers have the best view of the two bridges with the camera. The bridges once served a rail line connecting Zeitz with Meuselwitz via Tröglitz and Rehmsdorf. Unfortunately, flooding caused the collapse of three of the plate girder spans resulting in the closure of the bridge and the rail line. Most likely the collapse happened during the most recent flooding in 2013. It is unknown whether that bridge will be replaced and the line reopened. But given the availability of bus service in the area, chances of anything happening with the line are slim.
Börnitz/ Massnitz Railroad Bridge:
Leaving the Zeitz area and heading north along the White Elster, we have this bridge, located only four kilometers from the one at Tröglitz. Even stranger is the fact that even though it is located near Massnitz and Börnitz, it also served the line that ran in a loop fashion going north from Zeitz, then looping onto this bridge before heading south to join the line that eventually terminates at Meuselwitz. This leads to the question of whether this bridge was the original crossing serving the line between Zeitz and Meuselwitz before it was eventually realigned to go past Tröglitz and replaced by the aforementioned bridge. If that is the case, then when did the replacement take place? The author’s hunch: as this bridge features two concrete arch spans over the river, supported by 10 (approach) spans of steel deck plate girders (summing up the length to about 1 kilometer), and the piers of the approach spans look much newer than the arch spans (which most likely dates back to a time up to 1890), the structure was originally an arch span (probably 10-12 spans counting the two spans over the river). All but the two river spans were blown up (most likely by the Nazis in 1945), and while Soviet troops tried to rebuild this bridge, a temporary bridge at Tröglitz (the one mentioned earlier) was built, which later because its permanent replacement. While more evidence is needed to support this argument, Adolf Hitler’s plan of destroying everything in the path of the Allied troops, known as operation Nero, is known throughout the circle of German historians. Nero was enacted at the dismay of even his closest allies, shortly before his suicide in 1945, but failed when even the locals realized that the war was all lost and sabotaged the attempts of the Nazi soldiers to blow up the bridges. 80% of Germany’s remaining bridges were destroyed as part of the plan, only 10% of them could ever be restored. It is uncertain whether this bridge was one of the 80%, but it would not have been surprising if evidence points to that. In either case, the bridge is accessible via street and bike route connecting Tröglitz and Massnitz on the east side of the river as well as the new Elster Trail between Börnitz and Zeitz.
Göbitz Mühlgraben Bridge:
Located over Mühlgraben Creek just 500 meters from its confluence with the White Elster, this bridge appears to be one of the oldest remaining structures in the Zeitz region. The 25 meter long structure features a trapezoidal style concrete arch bridge, which is typical of bridges built in the 1800s. The bridge may have been built to serve horse and buggy traffic between Börnitz and Göbitz until newer highways diverted it away from this crossing. Although it still serves pedestrian, cyclar and farming traffic today, spalling cracks in the spandrels and the wingwalls show that some structural rehabilitation is needed in order for it to accomodate traffic in the future. Whether or not it will happen remains to be seen.
Elsterau Pedestrian Bridge:
The last bridge profiled on the tour is this crossing. Spanning the White Elster River, this wooden pony arch span serves not only the Elster Bike Trail but also the trails connecting Börnitz and Göbnitz. The bridge was most likely built between 2008 and 2012 for it appears new to the eyes of the tourists. In either case, the bridge serves as a new addition to the village of Börnitz, which is a quiet community with just a handful of shops.
A map of the bridges can be found via Google Map, by clicking here:
To summarize this tour, the bridges in and around Zeitz, most of which are located along the White Elster, represent the charm and historic value that best fits the landscape of the area. These structures have a history of their own, many of which are worth researching, for the information on them are scarce. But as you bike along the Elster Bike Trail, you will find that these structures are worth biking for, even if the trail can be rugged at times. Yet these bridges are only a handful of the structures one should see in neighboring Leipzig (to the north) as well as Gera (to the south). Henceforth, never skip a stop for each one is full of surprises that are worth spending a few minutes of your time for. Zeitz is one of those forgotten examples that should not be forgotten.