BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 29

 

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To kick off the Holiday Season, this pic of the week takes us to Chemnitz and to this bridge. Even though this Waddel through truss bridge with tubular and wire connections, which spans the River Chemnitz on the south end of the City, the snow can turn a modern bridge into a Beauty, which was the case here. These photos were taken on 17 January 2017, where over a foot of snow fell in Saxony, thus creating Winter Wonderland and some adventures Biking through the deep snow. Nevertheless, these shots are worth being printed on a Christmas Card, don’t you think? 🙂

Happy First Advent! 😀

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Historic Truss Bridge in Chemnitz to be torn down

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The Bridge at Eckstrasse in Chemnitz. Photo taken in December 2016

CHEMNITZ, GERMANY- Located in the central part of the German state of Saxony, Chemnitz, with a population of 245,000 inhabitants, is the third largest city in the state. It also has one of the largest number of historic bridges in the state, competing with the likes of Dresden, Leipzig and even some smaller communities, like Plauen, Glauchau, Rochlitz and Waldheim, just to name a few.   Among the historic bridges, Chemnitz has five truss bridges, half as many as the city’s arch bridges. This includes the Chemnitz Viaduct, the railroad overpass near the Central Railway Station, and in the photo above, the bridge at Eckstrasse in the northern part of the city center.

Spanning the River Chemnitz, this 25 meter long span is a bedstead Pratt pony truss bridge with riveted connections. The vertical beams are V-laced and there are parallel diagonal beams. Although there are no records about its builder, the bridge was constructed in 1893 and survived two World Wars and the Cold War unscathed, which is in contrast to the buildings that had once stood before the bombings in February and March 1945. Sadly the bridge was also the subject of neglect as there were no repairs or rehabilitations done with the structure. It was closed to motorized vehicles in 2006 and was voted Germany’s worst bridge by the automobile association ADAC, a year later.

After years of neglect, the bridge’s days are officially number, according to the Chemnitz Free Press in connection with the city council’s decision. Beginning 13 August 2018, the bridge will be permanently closed to all traffic including cyclists and pedestrians. At the cost of 30,000 Euros, the construction crews will remove the truss structure in its entirety. No replacement is expected, which means cyclists and pedestrians will be forced to use the nearest crossings at Shoe Bridge and Müller Bridge. A map below shows you the three bridges:

The project is expected to take two weeks to complete. The reason behind the decision to remove the bridge does not have much to do with the cost for rehabilitating the bridge but more on the practicality of doing it, for many structural elements on the truss bridge is kaputt. Even during the visit in December 2016, one of the first impressions was the rust and corrosion on the truss superstructure itself. That went along with the rough decking with dips and cracks. These were issues that could have been fixed at the time prior to its closing in 2006, yet lack of funding may have played a role in delaying the rehabilitation process, eventually to a point of no return in the end. With over two dozen bridges over the River Chemnitz, with four bridges in the north of the city center, the Eckstrasse crossing was considered expendable because of the nearest crossings at Shoe Bridge and Müller Bridge, each were approx. 250 meters apart from this bridge.

The Eckstrasse Bridge will leave the cityscape with two opposite impressions. On the one hand, it will leave as one of the rarest historic bridges in Saxony that withstood history and the test of time. Yet it will be relieved of the humility of being the most neglected bridge that, if there had been expertise and financial resources, it could’ve been rehabbed and reused. Sometimes one has to follow the Indiana rule, which is if the bridge cannot carry vehicular traffic, it is rehabbed right away instead of being abandoned first. 80% of historic bridges in the Hoosier state were preserved that way. And while it is too late to save this rare jewel in Chemnitz, the state of Saxony should be put on notice should another historic bridge be put under the knife for structural deficiencies.

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Mystery Bridges Nr. 101: Die Geschwisterbrücken bei Schweizertal

The Bridge at Neuschweizerthal. By Aagnverglaser [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
BURGSTÄDT (GERMANY)- Located 10 river kilometers north of Chemnitz, one will find a pair of through truss bridges that had once served a rail line but will soon have a new purpose. Both span the River Chemnitz in the conglomerate community of Markersdorf-Taura but are very close together, connecting the district of Schweitzerthal-Amselgrund and Neuschweizerthal. Unique about these two bridges is that they look nearly identical in terms of its aesthetical appearance. They are both Warren through trusses, whose connections are welded and whose portal and strut bracings are the same. They feature Howe lattice, shaped in a trapezoidal fashion and supported by angled heel bracings (45°) that can be found at not only the diagonal end post (60°) but also at every single beam supported- both diagonal as well as vertical beams. This is really rare for a through truss bridge to have heel struts be connected to all the beams that form the panel.  The difference between the two is how they are constructed. The longer of the sister bridges has a straight portal approach and is 67 meters long. This is located next to the train station at Neuschweizerthal. The shorter of the two is located only 200 meters away around the curve, 100 meters away from the train station Amselgrund. That bridge has a 60° skew that was needed to support the curve. It is only seven meters shorter.  Both bridges were built around 1902 even though there is no record of the bridge builder, let alone the reason behind building the two crossings close together instead of leading the rail line along the river. Yet the reason for pinpointing the date to 1902 is the fact that these bridges were common during that time. In addition to that, it was built at the same time as the rail line connecting Chemnitz and Wechselburg. For a century, this line served freight service along the river because of the industries located nearby, especially in the industrial district in the north of Chemnitz.  Together with the Glauchau-Wurzen line, which it merged with at Wechselburg, the line was discontinued after 2002 due to the lack of profitablility combined with the Great Flood of 2002, which caused billions of Euros in damage to infrastructure and industry.

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The shorter bridge at Amselgrund. Photo taken in July 2018

In 2007, the Chemnitztal Cycling Association purchased the entire stretch to be converted into a rails-to-trails for cyclists and pedestrians and the line is being extended as of present. At the same time, a dandy horse-rail-line connecting Markersdorf-Taura and Schweizerthal went into service to provide a scenic tour for two kilometers. However, with the extension of the bike trail going through both communities, the days of the dandy horse may come to an end.

Currently, both bridges are being rehabilitated, refurbished and retrofitted for use of the bike trail. According to information by the Chemnitz Free Press, construction on the new stretch of bike trail between Claussnitz and Schweitzerthal started in April 2018, which includes these two bridges, plus another one south of Markersdorf-Taura. This six kilometer stretch is scheduled to be paved and open to traffic, pending on weather, by 2020 latest. As one can see in the photos here, plus in the BHC’s facebook page, work has progressed immensely in several segments, including the span at Schweizerthal. I was not able to get much of a photo of the bridge. However, I was lucky to get a few detailed shots of the shorter crossing and its skewed setting. As the decking had railroad track on it, there was no way to get a closer look at the beams to see if there were any inscriptions on there. But after the reconstruction is complete, maybe there is a chance to get a closer look at the bridge.

But then again, maybe some of the readers may have more information about these two sibling bridges, which will have a third life ahead of them. Do you have any information on the bridges’ history? Feel free to comment or send an e-mail. Any information may be of great help.

 

And for those who thought it was not allowed to walk on the grounds near the bridge, let me rest assure you no equipment or bridge parts were damaged during the photo session and it is only for the purpose of historic research for this blog. A book on the bridges in Saxony is being considered and perhaps you can be of great help there, just as a peace offering. Thank you. J  🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 100: The Bridge at Fischweg in Chemnitz

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CHEMNITZ (GERMANY)- I’m going to be very honest for this mystery bridge, which is the 100th structure I’ve posted since launching the series in 2011. It was very, VERY difficult to decide which one to post next, for there was a large selection to choose from, ranging from an abandoned bridge along Route 66, a three-span through truss bridge in Oklahoma, a suspension bridge in India and this bridge. After some thorough consideration, I decided to go with the way that is the best in terms of my own merit as the structures have been mentioned by others in one way or another.

So here it comes: a through truss bridge that has been sitting on private land for a very long time, on the outskirts of a city that was for some time named after a Communist. Found by accident but not before almost getting my Volkswagen rammed into by a lorry behind me, who was cussing at me in Polish as he passed me by, after having parked my car off to the side. 😉

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OK, the Polish guy part was fake news, but looking at the rest of the picture, one can see that you don’t need to fact-check this beauty.  The bridge is located just off Highway 107, three kilometers north of the Motorway A4 and the Exit Chemnitz-Glösa. It sits on private land next to the restaurant and hotel Landgasthof Draisdorf, around the curve.  It is an eight-panel Pratt through truss bridge, built using welded connections- meaning the beams are held together by gusset plates and are not inserted into the plates, like we would see in other truss bridges. The end posts are typical for many European truss bridges built during its time: vertical instead of angled. The portal and strut bracings feature V-laced bracings with curved heel bracings. The middle strut heels appear to be subdivided.  The bridge can be seen from the highway- although it is not recommended to stop because the highway curves around the Landgasthof and one could risk such a rear- ender plus an explanation with the police to follow.  The bridge is about 5-6 meters tall, about 30-35 meters long and 3 meters wide, judging by my presence at the bridge and the photos I took of the bridge. While the bridge is one of five known in Chemnitz, this is the only through truss bridge within the city limits, counting the village of Draisdorf, where it sits.

The fun part comes with the history of the bridge. My first judgement of the bridge was that it was located over the River Chemnitz at Heinersdorfer Strasse and it was pulled offsite and to its current location after a new bridge was constructed 100 meters to the south. The truss bridge was replaced by a new bridge in 2005.  You can see the points mentioned on the map. However, research by the Saxony Ministry of Historic Monuments and Preservation (D: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Sachsen) in Dresden indicated that this truss bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse but at Fischweg near the cemetary in Glösa, only 400 meters south of the motorway exit. The map indicates that a bridge does exist but in a form of a bike and pedestrian crossing for the street ends on the grounds of a factory nearby. The date of construction of the bridge is 1900 and is currently listed in the Preservation Handbook for the State of Saxony (Denkmalschutzliste).

This leads us to the following questions which your help would be much appreciated in contributing whatever information may be of use:

  1. Is the date 1900 correct? Sometimes the year is used because of a lack of clarity in terms of when exactly it was built and open to traffic.
  2. If the bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse, what did the previous structure look like? When was it built and was it built by the same bridge builder as this bridge?
  3. Independent of what was mentioned in nr. 2, who was the bridge builder for this bridge?
  4. When was the current structure at Heinersdorfer Strasse built and what happened to the old structure?
  5. What factors led to the replacement of this bridge and who led the efforts in saving it for reuse?

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It’s not every day that a person and/or party steps forward to purchase the bridge and keep it for reuse. The bridge is privately owned and judging by my observations, it is being used as a picnic area with a porch swing attached to the top strut bracing. For most historic bridges that are purchased by private groups-namely homeowners, they are normally used for picnic areas and other forms of recreation more than for pedestrian and bike crossings because of liability reasons. It is different in comparison with private parties in the form of associations, park and recreational groups and the community that have more resources (including financial) to make sure the crossing is safe for reuse. But nevertheless, this bridge is safe and will most likely be in the hands of the homeowner until the need to get rid of it is near. When that happens, it can be hoped that the bridge is put back over the Chemnitz as a bike crossing. With the Chemnitztal Bike Path being extended and paved to Wechselburg, it would not be a surprise if this bridge was called to duty again given its preservation status and the interest in keeping it for generations to come.

And this is what makes this unexpected stop the most memorable- finding out the unknown about a structure like this one, which is truly a hidden gem.

And as we are on the same page, the next mystery bridge will go further downstream where a pair of structures are being refitted for bike use. More on this one in the next article. In the meantime, enjoy the photos here as well as on BHC’s facebook page.  And as for the aforementioned bridges at the beginning of the page, they will come later.

 

Author’s Note: Chemnitz was once named Karl-Marx-Stadt when it was under the rule of the German Democratic Republic. It even had a head statue of Karl Marx that can still be seen today. From 1953 until 1990, it was known that way.

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