World’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge opens in Saxony-Anhalt

Rappbodetalsperre
The hanging bridge is in front of the dam. Photo taken by MDR Sachsen-Anhalt

The Rappbodetalsperre Brücke near Elbingerrode (Harz) is open to pedestrians wishing for a view of the dam and lake.

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ELBINGERRODE (HARZ)/ MAGDEBURG, GERMANY-  The Harz Mountains in Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony is famous for its antique, sometimes Medieval villages with Fachwerk houses (like Quedlinburg), hiking and skiing. It picturesque landscape makes it one of the most visited places in central Germany.

In Elbingerrode, south of Wenigerode, there is now another reason for visiting the Harz Mountains, but in the form of the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. The Rappbodetalsperre Suspension Bridge has been open since May 7th, breaking all records that had been set most recently. The bridge is located just 80 meters northeast of the dam, overlooking the Bode Reservoir to the southwest and the Schiefeberg Mountains to the east and north, in the direction of Quedlinburg and Wenigerode. With a height of 100 meters above the Bode River, one can take a breath-taking view of the region, while enjoying the swinging motion the bridge offers. The bridge overtakes the Sky Bridge in Sochi, Russia in terms of length and height, but is comparable to some of the longest and highest bridges in China and Malaysia.

Workers needed a total of five years to build the structure- three of which consisted of planning, which was followed by almost two  years of construction, where towers were constructed on both ends of the valley, then the wire cables were draped over the towers. Suspender cables were erected both between the roadway and the main cables, as well as some support cables that were anchored between the bridge and the cliffs. Workers tok advantage of the slate rock to solidify the foundations and towers, which made spinning the cables and constructing the roadway much less complicated. Some photos taken by German public radio station MDR shows you in detail the contraption of the structure (click here).

Apart from walking across the bridge, in the near future, people can also bungee jump 75 meters toward the river from the bridge deck. The only caveat is that the suspension bridge is a toll bridge, where people can pay six Euros to cross the unique structure.

This might scare away acrophobes even more, in addition to the height, yet it will definitely not dissuade bridge enthusiasts, naturalists and tourists from visiting the bridge. Even a fellow pontist in the US is looking forward to a post card of the bridge.

Put that on your memo sheet. 😉

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The Rappbodesperre Pedestrian Bridge has a total length of 483 meters, with the main span of 458 meters (1502 feet), with a height of over 100 meters above the dam and river. The cable construction has a pulling force of 947 tons with the cables themselves being anchored into the rocks. The bridge took five years to be built and it overtakes the Sky Bridge in Sochi, Russia in terms of main span length by 20 meters.

This article is co-produced with sister column, The Flensburg Files, which you can view the areavoices version here.

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World’s Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge Opens in Saxony-Anhalt

Rappbodetalsperre
The hanging bridge is in front of the dam. Photo taken by MDR Sachsen-Anhalt

The Rappbodetalsperre Brücke near Elbingerrode (Harz) is open to pedestrians wishing for a view of the dam and lake.

FlFi Newsflyer Logo new

ELBINGERRODE (HARZ)/ MAGDEBURG, GERMANY-  The Harz Mountains in Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony is famous for its antique, sometimes Medieval villages with Fachwerk houses (like Quedlinburg), hiking and skiing. It picturesque landscape makes it one of the most visited places in central Germany.

In Elbingerrode, south of Wenigerode, there is now another reason for visiting the Harz Mountains, but in the form of the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. The Rappbodetalsperre Suspension Bridge has been open since May 7th, breaking all records that had been set most recently. The bridge is located just 80 meters northeast of the dam, overlooking the Bode Reservoir to the southwest and the Schiefeberg Mountains to the east and north, in the direction of Quedlinburg and Wenigerode. With a height of 100 meters above the Bode River, one can take a breath-taking view of the region, while enjoying the swinging motion the bridge offers. The bridge overtakes the Sky Bridge in Sochi, Russia in terms of length and height, but is comparable to some of the longest and highest bridges in China and Malaysia.

Workers needed a total of five years to build the structure- three of which consisted of planning, which was followed by almost two  years of construction, where towers were constructed on both ends of the valley, then the wire cables were draped over the towers. Suspender cables were erected both between the roadway and the main cables, as well as some support cables that were anchored between the bridge and the cliffs. Workers tok advantage of the slate rock to solidify the foundations and towers, which made spinning the cables and constructing the roadway much less complicated. Some photos taken by German public radio station MDR shows you in detail the contraption of the structure (click here).

Apart from walking across the bridge, in the near future, people can also bungee jump 75 meters toward the river from the bridge deck. The only caveat is that the suspension bridge is a toll bridge, where people can pay six Euros to cross the unique structure.

This might scare away acrophobes even more, in addition to the height, yet it will definitely not dissuade bridge enthusiasts, naturalists and tourists from visiting the bridge. Even a fellow pontist in the US is looking forward to a post card of the bridge.

Put that on your memo sheet. 😉

fast fact logo

The Rappbodesperre Pedestrian Bridge has a total length of 483 meters, with the main span of 458 meters (1502 feet), with a height of over 100 meters above the dam and river. The cable construction has a pulling force of 947 tons with the cables themselves being anchored into the rocks. The bridge took five years to be built and it overtakes the Sky Bridge in Sochi, Russia in terms of main span length by 20 meters.

This article is co-produced with sister column, The Flensburg Files, which you can view the areavoices version here.

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Draschwitz Brücke

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Location: White Elster River in the village of Draschwitz, 7 kilometers north of Zeitz in the state of Saxony-Anhalt

Built: 1891-2; Damaged during World War II in 1945, Rebuilt in 1946, Restored in 1999/2000

Type: Parker Pony Truss with subdivisions

Length:  ca. 30 meters

Status: Open to traffic on a weight limit of 6 tons

During a recent bike tour along the White Elster from Gera to Leipzig (all 90 kilometers of it), I came across this unique structure. After passing through Zeitz and having revisited some of its historic bridges (see link), one would expect to see more of these historic bridges along the river, especially as Saxony-Anhalt has a wide selection of historic bridges worth visiting. One needs to see the towns of Halle (Saale), Magdeburg, Quedlinburg or even the bridges in the Saale-Unstrut River corridor in order to gather the impression that the bridges are being cared for by the state; this includes using funding provided by the European Union but also by the federal government to restore them to their original form while ensuring that cars and bikes can use the bridge.

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The Draschwitz Bridge is one of these structures that received this kind of care, as it was restored in 1999/2000, which included new wood decking plus paint on the superstructure, as well as work on the foundations. Given its location on a less used road that is occupied mainly by cyclists and locals driving their cars across, the restoration was worth it, as the bridge serves a local road and the White Elster bike trail, which connects Hof (Bavaria) and Halle (Saale), running parallel to the river until its confluence with the Saale River, between Halle and Leipzig.

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But what makes this bridge unique is its unusual truss design. The bridge was built using welded connections instead of pinned connections, as seen on truss bridges in general. Welded truss bridges, together with those with riveted connections were starting to come onto the scene at the time of its construction, as vehicular traffic- namely trains, but also later cars and trucks- had increased since the expansion of the railroad. This prompted the introduction of a network of roads connecting towns on the local level, but later expanded to cities on the regional and in the end national levels. While pinned-connected truss bridges were able to handle light traffic on local roads, as traffic increased and highway systems were introduced, they were replaced with truss bridges with riveted connections. Welded truss bridges were introduced in the 1890s to replace the pinned-connected bridges for despite its biggest asset of dismantling and reassembling the bridge at a different location, missing or broken bolts and cracked eye-bars made it difficult to impossible to relocate the bridge. With welded truss bridges, one has the advantage of relocating the bridge without having to take it apart. Plus with the beams fixed together and welded with bolts, there is more resistance to weight that is on the bridge. The Draschwitz Bridge has this on not only the trusses themselves, but also the outriggers that support the two center panels- an anomaly given the fact that truss bridges usually have outriggers on every vertical beam and panel, especially those in the US built after 1900.

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Another unusual feature is the upper chord itself. Normal truss bridges have upper chords that are of either squared shaped beams, V or X-laced or those whose shape resembles the letters I, L and C. They are supported by vertical and diagonal beams that are up to half its size and width. For this bridge, the upper chord and the vertical and diagonal beams are of nearly the same size. However, even more unique is the angled bracings that weave along the top chord, the points sticking outwards by up to 10 centimeters. While some truss bridges in the US and Germany built prior to 1885 may have had features like this bridge, the Draschwitz Bridge is the only known bridge to have an upper chord, decorated with such unusual bracing.

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Apart from the renovations, nothing has altered the bridge, even when villagers installed a plaque on the western wingwall, indicating the high water mark set by the flooding in 1954. Chances are, the White Elster may have been rechanneled after that, raising the bridge to prevent it from being swept down stream. Yet, a curved beam connecting that wingwall and the pier raised some eye brows as we don’t know what this serves, except to support the bridge in one way or another.

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The Draschwitz Bridge is really a gem in the field when it comes to finding historic bridges. The structure continues to serve local traffic and the Elster bike trail to this day. It’s one of the landmarks one should see when passing through Zeitz and the Elsterau, also the last one to see as one bikes north toward Leipzig, but one that the quiet village of Draschwitz should take pride in, one that Saxony-Anhalt has taken great care of, just like the state’s other historic bridges, and one that historians, pontists, engineers should study further to find out more on its history and structural features. It’s the one bridge that a person can spend lots of hours with the camera and a picnic blanket, sitting and indulging at its beauty, surrounded by a historic and natural landscape.

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If you know more about this bridge, feel free to post your comment in the Chronicles’ facebook page or contact Jason Smith using the contact information in the About page.

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Draschwitz Bridge Near Zeitz, Germany

draschwitz1

Location: White Elster River in the village of Draschwitz, 7 kilometers north of Zeitz in the state of Saxony-Anhalt

Built: 1891-2; Damaged during World War II in 1945, Rebuilt in 1946, Restored in 1999/2000

Type: Parker Pony Truss with subdivisions

Length:  ca. 30 meters

Status: Open to traffic on a weight limit of 6 tons

During a recent bike tour along the White Elster from Gera to Leipzig (all 90 kilometers of it), I came across this unique structure. After passing through Zeitz and having revisited some of its historic bridges (see link), one would expect to see more of these historic bridges along the river, especially as Saxony-Anhalt has a wide selection of historic bridges worth visiting. One needs to see the towns of Halle (Saale), Magdeburg, Quedlinburg or even the bridges in the Saale-Unstrut River corridor in order to gather the impression that the bridges are being cared for by the state; this includes using funding provided by the European Union but also by the federal government to restore them to their original form while ensuring that cars and bikes can use the bridge.

draschwitz16

The Draschwitz Bridge is one of these structures that received this kind of care, as it was restored in 1999/2000, which included new wood decking plus paint on the superstructure, as well as work on the foundations. Given its location on a less used road that is occupied mainly by cyclists and locals driving their cars across, the restoration was worth it, as the bridge serves a local road and the White Elster bike trail, which connects Hof (Bavaria) and Halle (Saale), running parallel to the river until its confluence with the Saale River, between Halle and Leipzig.

draschwitz2

But what makes this bridge unique is its unusual truss design. The bridge was built using welded connections instead of pinned connections, as seen on truss bridges in general. Welded truss bridges, together with those with riveted connections were starting to come onto the scene at the time of its construction, as vehicular traffic- namely trains, but also later cars and trucks- had increased since the expansion of the railroad. This prompted the introduction of a network of roads connecting towns on the local level, but later expanded to cities on the regional and in the end national levels. While pinned-connected truss bridges were able to handle light traffic on local roads, as traffic increased and highway systems were introduced, they were replaced with truss bridges with riveted connections. Welded truss bridges were introduced in the 1890s to replace the pinned-connected bridges for despite its biggest asset of dismantling and reassembling the bridge at a different location, missing or broken bolts and cracked eye-bars made it difficult to impossible to relocate the bridge. With welded truss bridges, one has the advantage of relocating the bridge without having to take it apart. Plus with the beams fixed together and welded with bolts, there is more resistance to weight that is on the bridge. The Draschwitz Bridge has this on not only the trusses themselves, but also the outriggers that support the two center panels- an anomaly given the fact that truss bridges usually have outriggers on every vertical beam and panel, especially those in the US built after 1900.

draschwitz10

Another unusual feature is the upper chord itself. Normal truss bridges have upper chords that are of either squared shaped beams, V or X-laced or those whose shape resembles the letters I, L and C. They are supported by vertical and diagonal beams that are up to half its size and width. For this bridge, the upper chord and the vertical and diagonal beams are of nearly the same size. However, even more unique is the angled bracings that weave along the top chord, the points sticking outwards by up to 10 centimeters. While some truss bridges in the US and Germany built prior to 1885 may have had features like this bridge, the Draschwitz Bridge is the only known bridge to have an upper chord, decorated with such unusual bracing.

draschwitz8

Apart from the renovations, nothing has altered the bridge, even when villagers installed a plaque on the western wingwall, indicating the high water mark set by the flooding in 1954. Chances are, the White Elster may have been rechanneled after that, raising the bridge to prevent it from being swept down stream. Yet, a curved beam connecting that wingwall and the pier raised some eye brows as we don’t know what this serves, except to support the bridge in one way or another.

draschwitz12

The Draschwitz Bridge is really a gem in the field when it comes to finding historic bridges. The structure continues to serve local traffic and the Elster bike trail to this day. It’s one of the landmarks one should see when passing through Zeitz and the Elsterau, also the last one to see as one bikes north toward Leipzig, but one that the quiet village of Draschwitz should take pride in, one that Saxony-Anhalt has taken great care of, just like the state’s other historic bridges, and one that historians, pontists, engineers should study further to find out more on its history and structural features. It’s the one bridge that a person can spend lots of hours with the camera and a picnic blanket, sitting and indulging at its beauty, surrounded by a historic and natural landscape.

If you know more about this bridge, feel free to post your comment in the Chronicles’ facebook page or contact Jason Smith using the contact information in the About page.

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Wengelsdorf Bridge in Saxony-Anhalt Coming Down

Photo taken in 2011
Photo taken in 2011

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Century-old railroad overpass spanning the rail lines between Leipzig/Halle and Naumburg (Saale) being demolished after sitting idle for almost three decades.

GROSSKORBETHA/BAD DURRENBERG/LEIPZIG-  Travellers passing through the German states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt by train have been seeing a lot of construction on the rail lines, lately. As part of the modernization process, overhead electrical lines that provide power to trains are being replaced because of age, tracks are being replaced or added, train stations are being rebuilt and unused bridges are being taken down. The Wengelsdorf Bridge at Grosskorbetha is one of the bridges that has fallen victim to progress. Sitting idle since 1990, the 1910 structure, which was rehabilitated and extended in 1945 and used to connect the villages of Wengelsdorf and Grosskorbetha, is coming down in pieces. Already gone is the larger half featuring the signature arch spans over the rail line going to Leipzig, work is being done to replace the line going to Halle (Saale) as this article is being posted. The city council in Weissenfels and the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn)  in 2013 agreed to provide 1.4 million Euros ($2.1 million) to remove the 150-meter long structure, which belongs to the Bahn, as the bridge had become a hindrance to train service and it no longer was deemed useful. The demolition is part of the plan by the Bahn to modernize the railroad yard and junction at Grosskorbetha, which include new tracks and overhead lines, both of which are at least 50 years old. While the project is expected to be completed by 2018, the bridge is expected to be gone by the end of August of this year.  By that time, the construction year, already touted as the worst in the history of the Deutsche Bahn with several major projects and railroad detours, will have reached its end, and passengers will be able to breathe a sigh of relief as they commute between work and home- without the delays and other complications.

As for the Wengelsdorf Bridge, a Mystery Bridge in itself, what will be left behind is history that will be discovered in books and through oral sources.

Check out the mystery bridge article on this bridge here.

ALSO: Try your luck on Saxony-Anhalt with a quiz, provided by sister column The Flensburg Files, which you can click here. Answer sheet is provided via link.

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 68: The Pedestrian Bridge at Schkopau

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In connection with the series on Saxony-Anhalt through sister column, The Flensburg Files, we have another mystery bridge to solve. This one is between Grosskorbetha (where the railroad overpass is located) and the city of Halle, in the town of Schkopau. Located along the Saale River north of Merseburg, the town has 10,900 inhabitants, located along the Saale River, and has a castle dating back to 1177. It is sandwiched between the natural wildlife refuge of the Saale and Elster Rivers to the north and the chemical district of Leuna to the south, both of which are easily accessible by rail line and light rail between Halle and Leipzig via Bad Durremberg.  Before the viaduct north of town was completed in 2014 to accomodate ICE-trains between Erfurt and Leipzig/Halle, there were only two rather unknown bridges in Schkopau: the railroad bridge and this overpass.

The overpass spans the rail line which connects Halle and Naumburg via Merseburg and Grosskorbetha and features a 10-panel pony truss bridge with riveted connections and a curved connection between the end post and the top chord. Judging by its appearance, with little rust as it has, the bridge appears to originate from the East German period, having been built after the close of World War II by the Soviets. What is interesting is the fact that the approachs feature inclined concrete arches that appear older than the truss span. Furthermore, even though the span accommodates pedestrians, it only crosses one set of tracks and not both. It only provides access from the west side of the track to the platform which separates the two tracks. According to Googlemap, the rail line splits the town into two. This leads to speculation that there once was a bridge or two bridges that crossed the entire track, but one of them was removed.

If that is the case, then when, and what did the bridge look like before it happened? Any information on the bridge’s history would be useful. You know what to do there, right?

Happy bridgehunting! 🙂

Test yourself on your knowledge of Saxony-Anhalt by clicking here to try out the Guessing Quiz. Answers will come very soon. 🙂

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 67: The Railroad Bridge at Halle (Saale) Central Station

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Staying in Saxony-Anhalt for the next mystery bridge article, we head back to Halle (Saale). As many of you have probably read, the city along the Saale River has over 38 bridges along this main river, its tributaries and even along the ICE rail line. While there is a tour guide that takes you to the city’s bridges through the Chronicles and Halle in Bild, neither authors figured in that there would be a few additional outlyers with historic value that should be taken into account, and added.

Like this railroad crossing, for example.

Located less than 100 meters north of Halle Central Station, this western crossing looks like just an ordinary railroad bridge- or a series of railroad bridges as there are six bridges serving seven tracks- one each track except for the outermost crossing. As a bonus, one can enjoy the view of the historic water tower when crossing it.  Yet when looking at the bridge more closely, one can see the history behind this construction:

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The finials were located only at the southern entrance to the structure, right before entering the platform of Halle Central Station. They resemble sword-shaped towers resembling Washington Monument in the United States, with Victorian-like foundations, standing on the abutments made of sandstone and limestone brick and concrete. An inscription with the year 1909 indicated the year the bridge was constructed, spanning Delitzscher Strasse. The bridge’s railings are made of cast iron and feature a parapet that has circilar and mushroom shapes with posts that feature a pyramid-shaped finial and a an outrigger per post that resembles a raindrop.  Outriggers are diagonal posts that slant outwards at an angle 60-80° and used to support the trusses for pony truss bridges and railings for stringers, like this one, regardless of length. Many stringer bridges in Germany have these ornamental outriggers which makes the structure rather attractive. In America, one will see most outriggers on truss bridges, especially those built after 1900 with riveted connections in the form of Pratt, Howe or Warren truss designs, and have geometric shapes.

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Judging by the main span, it appears that the structure is one of two bridge types: 1. It is a stringer which was constructed a few years ago to replace an arch bridge with either open-or-closed spandrel design or a truss design. This would make the most sense as Delitzscher Strasse is one of key streets connecting Halle City and the train station with points to the west, including Delitzsch, the Leipzig-Halle Airport and neighboring Leipzig. To accommodate more traffic, the arches were removed in favor of the stringer span, but the ornamental railings and the finials were preserved as historical markers, showing people where the bridge used to stand. With the modernization of Halle Central Station, this theory would not come as a surprise, given the fact that the complex was in such a desolate state during the time of the East German Communist rule.

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Halle Hauptbahnhof Complex as it stands today.

Then there is option two, which is the stringer has stood since 1909 but had to be rehabilitated to accomodate rail traffic. This theory is tall but doable as engineering experiments have been done to either strengthen or partially replace the decking while keeping the bridge design in place, a concept that costs less money than a full replacement. Yet, given the modernization-happiness of the Deutsche Bahn, which owns the lines and the railway station complex, it is doubtful that the firm would go for quick fix-ups, as they want to conform to the modern rail standards and would rather have new bridges that function for 100 years than to have a restored bridge, like this one. Whe one looks at the firm’s campaign to have the 53-year old Fehmarn Bridge in Schleswig-Holstein torn down and replaced or the Chemnitz Viaduct replaced, one will understand why the Bahn is not listening to alternatives by local and regional governments. By the way, the fight to save the bridges is still on, and other European countries have modernized their rail lines but kept their historic bridges, including Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, and even Belgium.

Keeping the theories in mind, we now turn to the forum, providing the following questions for you to ponder and share information about. Feel free to comment on them as the people in Halle would like to know more about this bridge, possibly adding it into a book that should be written on the city’s bridges (see a collection here). Here are the questions for the forum:

  1. When was this bridge built and who was behind the design?
  2. Is the current bridge the restored original or a replacement? If the latter, when was it replaced?
  3. If the bridge was restored, how was it done and who led the efforts?
  4. Who was behind the design of the ornamental railings and finials?

The forum is now open…… 🙂

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