Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge Day 5: The Rechenhaus Restaurant Next to the Bridge

RHB5

Day five of the campaign to save the Bockau Arch Bridge and this one takes us to the place that has been both the chessboard of the project but also the place that will play a role in the future of the bridge and this is…..

a restaurant! 🙂 Not just an ordinary restaurant that serves food, but a restaurant that has a history behind it and serves the finest foods in the Erzgebirge. The Rechenhaus Restaurant.

Located on the northern bank of the Zwickau Mulde at the northern entrance of the Bockau Arch Bridge, the Rechenhaus Restaurant, which is owned by Rainer and Andrea Noack, is one of the oldest restaurants in the region, for even though the restaurant has been in business for over 62 years, the building where they serve their customers with food, has been in existence since the latter half of the 1500s. There is a story behind the building, which is currently protected by the German Preservation Laws (Denkmalschutzgesetz).

It all goes back to 1556 when the river was wild and the mountain region was plentiful with natural resources. Mining for gold, silver and copper was already underway, a civil engineer named T. Popel came up with the concept of constructing a canal going away from the Zwickau Mulde and going past Zschorlau (which is only six kilometers to the north) and emptying back into the main river at Schlema. Because of the extreme winding downstream and the approximate location of Aue, which is the junction of the Mulde and Schwarzwasser (Black Water), a shorter, straighter canal was needed to better transport wood and materials to their respective mills. On 18 June, 1556, Popel started the work on constructing a dam and canal to divert water away from the river. By April 1557, the canal had reached Schlema and water started flowing through the mills there. By 1559, the dam was built and barges were able to use the canal. The headwaters house at Bockau was built and the master was responsible for regulating the flow of water and allowing for traffic along the canal. This was the site of the present-day Rechenhaus. The first bridge, the predecessor to the Stone Arch Bridge, was built at the dam site in 1559. The dam was destroyed twice by floodwaters in 1661 and again in 1664 and was subsequentially rebuilt. It was later expanded but the decline in the use of the canal has already begun. By the beginning of the 20th Century, only the mills along the canal were in use to harness water and produce electricity. This included the one at Rechenhaus which had been repurposed. When entering the restaurant, you will be greeted by a large wooden painting depicting what the dam and headwaters house and mill looked like before World War II:

RHB4

The Rechenhaus was later converted into the army baracks, housing units fighting for Germany during the two World Wars, including the 11th Division during the second war. It was that division which eventually succumbed to defeat as one of the soldiers refused to blow up the Stone Arch Bridge, which is 200 meters from the building and dam and had been in service by then. After secretly transporting the bombs to Zwickau to blow up a temporary bridge, the Russians and Americans marched across the bridge and captured the place. The building was later used by Russian soldiers before it was given away to the owners who converted it to the present-day restaurant by 1956. In 1997, it was declared a historic and technical landmark by the Saxony government and its Historic Preservation Agency for its contribution to the history of mining and transportation in the Erzgebirge.

RHB3

When entering the restaurant, you enter a cozy environment where everything you see is all typical of the Erzgebirge. Apart from the wooden framed painting, there are chandeliers with wood carvings, a tiled fireplace, several wood carvings and displays of metal products all made in the region. The restaurant has rows of tables and a bar area, yet the hospitality and the typical Erzgebirgische Sächsische Deutsch spoken by many guests takes you to a typical home in the mountains. Like the Minnesotan dialect (where I come from), the Erzgebirgisch-Sächisich is rather funny-sounding, Jah! 😉

Erzgebirgisch-Sächsisch:

Minnesotan English:

The owners of the restaurant are friendly and can make the finest in homemade food that is typical for the region. When you look at their website, you should look at their menu (Speisekarte in German) and try one of their specialties upon visiting the restaurant (Link to the website is here). I had a chance to do that twice: during my first visit when meeting the members of the committee as well as during my wife and daughter’s stay in Schneeberg, where I work as an English teacher at the police academy. No regrets either time. 🙂  The restaurant also has a beer garden that overlooks the river valley and the Stone Arch Bridge. It also has a guest hall for weddings and other parties. For cyclists passing through along the Mulde Bike Trail and its branches to Bockau and Zschorlau, it was up until now the easiest and quickest stop to grab a bite to eat and linger over an Alsterwasser (shandy in English).

Since the closure of the Stone Arch Bridge in August 2017, the restaurant has suffered from a major drop in the number of customers stopping by. While it is somewhat out of the way and in the floodbed down the hill from the highway, the closure of the bridge and the highway leading to it has forced many drivers to detour for 12 kilometers on either side of the river, thus making the restaurant more out of the way than a stop on the way. The closure of the bridge itself (including being fenced off) has made direct access to the restaurant by crossing the bridge and turning left virtually impossible. Even though people have tried to go around the fence and cross anyway, a major obstacle is the removal of the northern approach to the Stone Arch Bridge.  Planners of the project to build a new bridge on a new alignment made exceptionally sure that everyone stayed as far away from the bridge as possible, using scare tactics claiming that the bridge is life-threatening. That means all paths and even the bike trails are fenced shut by up to 500 meters away from the bridge. This is rather overexaggerating and typically American, for such practices have been used successfully for at least three decades. This is the reason why the number of historic bridges in the States have plummeted by up to 95% since 1983; over 60% of which were either declared elgible for or listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The closure of the bridge and the lack of accessibility to the restaurant has resulted in a loss of up to 60% of the number of customers visiting regularly and things are uncertain at this point, for the new crossing is expected to open by October 2019. Whether this restaurant will hold out by then remains to be seen. But in our meeting with members of the Saxony parliament on April 24th, we plan to plea with them to restore and reopen the bridge with one of the purposes being for local access to the restaurant. Even as a bike and pedestrian crossing will this direct access be of help for the restaurant, for the bridge can be tied in with the restaurant and its history with the hope that both will continue to serve customers in 2019 and beyond.

Reminder: Before our meeting on 24th April, we need your help. We need a lot of national and international support to save the bridge. Therefore, click here to sign your name on a petition to be given directly to members of parliament. Then click onto the Bridge’s facebook homepage (here) and like our site. There you can get more coverage and information and can join in our conversations about the bridge, its history and its future in the Erzgebirge. The bridge is still standing. We want it to constinue its use for generations to come. 🙂

 

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2017 Ammann Awards Results: Part 2

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Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, Wisconsin. Winner of the Bridge of the Year Awards. Photo taken by Troy Hess.

Just 12 hours after publishing the press release of Part 1 of the Ammann Award winners, there was a lot of positive feedback from our Readers, especially in the category of Best Photo, where Chauncy Neumann came out the winner in that category, followed by Esko Räntilla and lastly, Kevin Skow- just to name the top three of the top six winners of the Awards. However, just after posting the first half of the results, I contacted the winner of Lifetime Achievement Award for an interview, informing him that he had won and asking him if he would be interviewed about his work. His response: cool as heckfire, let’s do it! 🙂 There are two reasons for Nels Raynor to be honored for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first has to do with his many years of hard work in restoring numerous bridges, especially with his company BACH Steel, located in Michigan. There will be more on his successes when the interview is finished and posted. The second has to do with a historic bridge he restored that won an accolade this year. That will come in a bit. But looking at the results, Raynor was in a dog-eat-dog battle with silver medalist James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com throughout most of the competition until he pulled away with 245 votes to Baughn’s 105 in the waning days of the voting process. The Bronze and Tourquois Medals had to be split up among three people in each standing, all of whom had at least 104 votes but the margin between third and fourth place was only a single vote. Nevertheless, the finishing results look like this:

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

AA17Lifetime

 

 

schlema title pic
The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River at Schlema

TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:

This category was the only one in the Ammann Awards where each candidate successfully vied for first place and stayed there before being dethroned by another one. Even the bridges in a small town of Rochlitz, southeast of Leipzig, took first place honors for a few days before being outvoted by silver medalist, Winnepeg (Canada) and bronze medalist, St. Petersburg (Russia). It finished in fourth with 92 votes, five less than St. Petersburg.  It also marked a first where a candidate was entered twice due to additional bridges that were added after the first run. That was with Glauchau (Saxony), Germany, which finished fifth in the 2016 Awards but because of four additional bridges, plus information from local historians and local publicity from the newspapers, it was reentered in the 2017 competition. It finished fifth, receiving the Quartzite Medal, after receiving 56 votes, far outdoing Quebec City, London (UK) and Cambridge (UK). The winner of the Tour Guide International Award goes to the bridges in the Aue-Schneeberg Region in western Saxony, Germany. Featuring the bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde, Schwarzwasser and Schlema Rivers, the region, which has bridges in the cities of Aue, Schneeberg, Schlema and even Zschorlau finished with 126 votes, after lagging behind Glauchau until the second-to-last day, thus receiving the Gold medal. More Information on the bridges in the region can be found here. Here are the rest of the results:

AA17TGINT

413653-l
Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown (Lehigh Co.), PA  Photo by HABS-HAER

TOUR GUIDE USA:

There are many characteristics that make this year’s winner a treat to visit. Lehigh County, Pennsylvania has a wide array of covered bridges as well as arch bridges. They include, on the one hand, the Geiger and Rex Covered Bridges- both the oldest still in use- but also the oldest stone arch bridge in Reading  (built in 1824) and the Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown, a 1913 arch viaduct that is the longest in the county. That was probably the main reason why the majority of voters selected Lehigh County as this year’s Tour Guide winner. After tangling with Clinton County, New York, Lehigh County received the gold medal with 201 votes, 71 more than Clinton County, which received the Ore Medal with 131 votes. Silver and Bronze go to the bridges in northern West Virginia, where Marshall County finished second with 149 votes and Wheeling finished with only two votes less. Civil war-based arch bridges in Bridges to the Past in Hardin County received tourquois with 132 votes. While the Cleveland Browns Football Team are walking away from the most humiliating football Season on record with an 0-16 record, the people of Cleveland are taking pride in the city’s bridges with 131 voters checking the City in for a fifth place finish and a Quartzite Medal. Here is the final tally of the top six of 14 candidates.

AA17TGUS

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The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge at its new location in Conway, AR. Winner of the Best Preservation Practice Awards. Photo taken by Wayne Keller

BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE

In perhaps the most intensive finish in the history of the Ammann Awards, the race came down to two bridges, each with its own preservation Story. The Springfield Bowstring Arch was perhaps one of the most successful bridge preservation stories on record, as crews saved the leaning 1871 iron bowstring arch bridge from disaster by dismantling it as well as rebuilding it at its new location at a park in Conway in Faulkner County, Arkansas.  For Nels Raynor, Julie Bowers and crew, this 18-month project, which included several volunteers, consultants and historians, was one of the shortest and most successful on record, for it usually takes 2-3 years to accomplish such a feat. But for the crew, it was the most successful story in the company’s history and one of the best in bridge preservation history.

It had some massive competition from another bridge, located in Des Moines, Iowa, in the Green Bridge. The 1898 three-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored on site with new cassion piers and truss bridge parts as well as new decking and lighting and became a posterboy in the face of the city council’s attempts to modernize the Des Moines River crossings by replacing arch bridges with faux arches. Grand Avenue fell victim with Locust and Court Avenues coming up on their plans. With their success Story, perhaps the City will rethink the way they treat their historic structures as they have been on the onslaught by those who think newer and leaner is better. Both Green and Springfield had raced neck-on-neck, changing leads at least two dozen times in the last two weeks of the competition before Springfield finally edged the Green Bridge for Gold Medal by a score of 1720 votes to the silver medalist’s 1682. Bronze went to the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente in Santos, Brazil, with 717 votes. This category had more bowstring arch bridges in the top six than in the past, as the crossings at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Ohio and at Merrimack College near Boston finished in fourth and fifth respectively. The Ore Medal for sixth place goes to the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota, which the Minnesota River crossing garnered 366 votes. 6126 votes were recorded in this category, which was the second best behind the last category of the Awards.

AA17PresExa

 

cobban 1
Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, WI: Winner of Bridge of the Year.

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

With 7160 votes total for 13 candidates, the Bridge of the Year category set a new record for the highest number of votes recorded  in the history of the Ammann Awards. None of the candidates received less than 200 votes each but there was a fierce competition for first place among five bridge candidates which lasted until the final four days of voting. It was then that 1800 voters selected the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the Cobban Bridge. The 1908 product of Modern Steel Structures Company is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but its future is in peril after county officials voted to close off the bridge to all traffic last year, deeming it unsafe. Officials want to see the bridge replaced by 2021, but locals would like to see the bridge saved and rehabilitated for reuse. There has been on ongoing debate on what to do with the bridge. Despite claims that the cost for rehabilitating the bridge is prohibitive, figures have been revealed as overexaggerating. Could the Cobban Bridge be the next Green Bridge of Des Moines? 2018 will be the decisive year for residents of Chippewa County and the state of Wisconsin as to what will become the lone truss bridge of its design in the state, let alone the last of its kind in the country.

Apart from the Cobban Bridge receiving gold, the silver medal winner went to the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 617 votes, two thirds shy of the triple crown for BACH Steel. The duo truss bridges of Pulp Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire received the bronze with 589 votes, despite having competed with Cobban, fourth place finisher Hvita Bridge in Iceland (which received 580 votes) and the Wave in Glauchau, Germany for first place. Pulp Mill had traded leads with Cobban several times before the last rush put it out of reach by a long shot. The Wave finished tied for 10th with the Green Bridge in Des Moines and well out of medal range. Despite being arsoned for the second time in over a decade, the Cedar Covered Bridge near Winterset, Iowa received the Quartzite and finished fifth with 435 votes, 11 votes more than the ore medal winner, the Covered Bridges of New Brunswick, Canada, the topic of discussion and many stories because of closures due to structural issues and drivers falling through the flooring. Here is the tally in detail:

AA17BridgeofYear

And with that ends the most intensive but exciting 2017 Ammann Awards. Observing the voting process and watching people get engaged made this round as exciting as the Holiday Season itself, even though the latter was shorter than normal due to Christmas Eve falling on thr Fourth Advent which meant shorter Holiday Shopping and time for Christmas Markets. In any case, with plans of other Websites, like Bridgehunter.com planning to go international and the Chronicles providiing more coverage, including bridge tours, bridge book profiles, interviews and others, it is hoped that the 2018 Ammann Awards will be bigger and more exciting than this year.

While the author of the Chronicles picks his favorites to be published in the next article, those interested in submitting bridges, photos and more should keep in mind that nominations officially begin on October 3rd and end December 3rd. Voting will proceed right afterwards, ending on January 8th, 2019. Winners to be announced on January 12th. For details, click here and/or contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles if you have any questions.

For now, let’s have a look at the Author’s Choice Awards, which follows this article and I must warn you: If you are a fan of Judge Marilyn Milian of the People’s Court, you will have a blast at what she could have said to the stories that made headlines in 2017. Stay tuned! 🙂

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2017 Ammann Awards Results: Part 2

25487549_1997570953650980_8821759845886005807_o
Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, Wisconsin. Winner of the Bridge of the Year Awards. Photo taken by Troy Hess.

Just 12 hours after publishing the press release of Part 1 of the Ammann Award winners, there was a lot of positive feedback from our Readers, especially in the category of Best Photo, where Chauncy Neumann came out the winner in that category, followed by Esko Räntilla and lastly, Kevin Skow- just to name the top three of the top six winners of the Awards. However, just after posting the first half of the results, I contacted the winner of Lifetime Achievement Award for an interview, informing him that he had won and asking him if he would be interviewed about his work. His Response: cool as heckfire, let’s do it! 🙂 There are two reasons for Nels Raynor to be honored for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first has to do with his many years of hard work in restoring numerous bridges, especially with his company BACH Steel, located in Michigan. There will be more on his successes when the interview is finished and posted. The second has to do with a historic bridge he restored that won an accolade this year. That will come in a bit. But looking at the results, Raynor was in a dog-eat-dog battle with silver medalist James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com throughout most of the competition until he pulled away with 245 votes to Baughn’s 105 in the waning days of the voting process. The Bronze and Tourquois medals had to be split up among three people in each standing, all of whom had at least 104 votes but the margin between third and fourth place was only a single vote. Nevertheless, the finishing results look like this:

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

AA17Lifetime

 

 

schlema title pic
The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River at Schlema

TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:

This category was the only one in the Ammann Awards where each candidate successfully vied for first place and stayed there before being dethroned by another one. Even the bridges in a small town of Rochlitz, southeast of Leipzig, took first place honors for a few days before being outvoted by silver medalist, Winnepeg (Canada) and bronze medalist, St. Petersburg (Russia). It finished in fourth with 92 votes, five less than St. Petersburg.  It also marked a first where a candidate was entered twice due to additional bridges that were added after the first run. That was with Glauchau (Saxony), Germany, which finished fifth in the 2016 Awards but because of four additional bridges, plus information from local historians and local publicity from the newspapers, it was reentered in the 2017 competition. It finished fifth, receiving the Quartzite medal, after receiving 56 votes, far outdoing Quebec City, London (UK) and Cambridge (UK). The winner of the Tour Guide International Award goes to the bridges in the Aue-Schneeberg Region in western Saxony, Germany. Featuring the bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde, Schwarzwasser and Schlema Rivers, the region, which has bridges in the cities of Aue, Schneeberg, Schlema and even Zschorlau finished with 126 votes, after lagging behind Glauchau until the second-to-last day, thus receiving the Gold medal. More Information on the bridges in the region can be found here. Here are the rest of the results:

AA17TGINT

413653-l
Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown (Lehigh Co.), PA  Photo by HABS-HAER

TOUR GUIDE USA:

There are many characteristics that make this year’s winner a treat to visit. Lehigh County, Pennsylvania has a wide array of covered bridges as well as arch bridges. They include, on the one hand, the Geiger and Rex Covered Bridges- both the oldest still in use- but also the oldest stone arch bridge in Reading  (built in 1824) and the Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown, a 1913 arch viaduct that is the longest in the county. That was probably the main reason why the majority of voters selected Lehigh County as this year’s Tour Guide winner. After tangling with Clinton County, New York, Lehigh County received the gold medal with 201 votes, 71 more than Clinton County, which received the Ore Medal with 131 votes. Silver and Bronze go to the bridges in northern West Virginia, where Marshall County finished second with 149 votes and Wheeling finished with only two votes less. Civil war-based arch bridges in Bridges to the Past in Hardin County received tourquois with 132 votes. While the Cleveland Browns Football Team are walking away from the most humiliating football Season on record with an 0-16 record, the people of Cleveland are taking pride in the city’s bridges with 131 voters checking the City in for a fifth place finish and a Quartzite Medal. Here is the final tally of the top six of 14 candidates.

AA17TGUS

399649-l
The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge at its new location in Conway, AR. Winner of the Best Preservation Practice Awards. Photo taken by Wayne Keller

BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE

In perhaps the most intensive finish in the history of the Ammann Awards, the race came down to two bridges, each with its own preservation Story. The Springfield Bowstring Arch was perhaps one of the most successful bridge preservation stories on record, as crews saved the leaning 1871 iron bowstring arch bridge from disaster by dismantling it as well as rebuilding it at its new Location at a park in Conway in Faulkner County, Arkansas.  For Nels Raynor and the Crew at BACH Steel, this 18-month Project, which included several volunteers, consultants and historians, was one of the shortest and most successful on record, for it usually takes 2-3 years to accomplish such a feat. But for the crew, it was the most successful Story in the company’s history and one of the best in bridge preservation history.

It had some massive competition from another bridge, located in Des Moines, Iowa, in the Green Bridge. The 1898 three-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored on site with new cassion piers and truss bridge parts as well as new decking and lighting and became a posterboy in the face of the City council’s attempts to modernize the Des Moines River crossings by replacing arch bridges with faux arches. Grand Avenue fell victim with Locust and Court Avenues coming up on their plans. With their success Story, perhaps the City will rethink the way they treat their historic structures as they have been on the onslaught by those who think newer and leaner is better. Both Green and Springfield had raced neck-on-neck, changing leads at least two dozen times in the last two weeks of the competition before Springfield finally edged the Green Bridge for Gold medal by a score of 1720 votes to the silver medalist’s 1682. Bronze went to the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente in Santos, Brazil, with 717 votes. This category had more bowstring arch bridges in the top six than in the past, as the crossings at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Ohio and at Merrimack College near Boston finished in fourth and fifth respectively. The Ore Medal for sixth place goes to the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota, which the Minnesota River crossing garnered 366 votes. 6126 votes were recorded in this category, which was the second best behind the last category of the Awards.

AA17PresExa

 

cobban 1
Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, WI: Winner of Bridge of the Year.

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

With 7160 votes total for 13 candidates, the Bridge of the Year category set a new record for the highest number of votes recorded  in the history of the Ammann Awards. None of the candidates received less than 200 votes each but there was a fierce competition for first place among five bridge candidates which lasted until the final four days of voting. It was then that 1800 voters selected the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the Cobban Bridge. The 1908 product of Modern Steel Structures Company is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but its future is in peril after county officials voted to Close off the bridge to all traffic last year, deeming it unsafe. Officials want to see the bridge replaced by 2021 but locals would like to see the bridge saved and rehabilitated for reuse. There has been on ongoing debate on what to do with the bridge. Despite claims that the cost for rehabilitating the bridge is prohibitive, figures have been revealed as overexaggerating. Could the Cobban Bridge be the next Green Bridge of Des Moines? 2018 will be the decisive year for residents of Chippewa County and the state of Wisconsin as to what will become the lone truss bridge of its design in the state, let alone the last of its kind in the country.

Apart from the Cobban Bridge receiving Gold, the silver medal winner went to the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 617 votes, two thirds shy of the triple crown for BACH Steel. The duo truss bridges of Pulp Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire received the bronze with 589 votes, despite having competed with Cobban, fourth place finisher Hvita Bridge in Iceland (which received 580 votes) and the Wave in Glauchau, Germany for first place. Pilp Mill had traded leads with Cobban several times before the last rush put it out of reach by a long shot. The Wave finished tied for 10th with Green Bridge and well out of medal range. Despite being arsoned for the second time in over a decade, the Cedar Covered Bridge near Winterset, Iowa received the Quartzite and finished fifth with 435 votes, 11 votes more than the ore medal winner, the Covered Bridges of New Brunswick, Canada, the topic of discussion and many stories because of closures due to structural issues and drivers falling through the flooring. Here is the tally in detail:

AA17BridgeofYear

And with that ends the most intensive but exciting 2017 Ammann Awards. Observing the voting process and watching people get engaged made this round as exciting as the Holiday Season itself, even though the latter was shorter than normal due to Christmas Eve falling on thr Fourth Advent which meant shorter Holiday Shopping and time for Christmas Markets. In any case, with plans of other Websites, like Bridgehunter.com planning to go international and the Chronicles providiing more coverage, including bridge tours, bridge book profiles, interviews and others, it is hoped that the 2018 Ammann Awards will be bigger and more exciting than this year.

While the author of the Chronicles picks his favorites to be published in the next article, those interested in submitting bridges, photos and more should keep in mind that nominations officially begin on October 3rd and end December 3rd. Voting will proceed right afterwards, ending on January 8th, 2019. Winners to be announced on January 12th. For details, click here and/or contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles if you have any questions.

For now, let’s have a look at the Author’s Choice Awards, which follows this article and I must warn you: If you are a fan of Judge Marilyn Milian of the People’s Court, you will have a blast at what she could have said to the stories that made headlines in 2017. Stay tuned! 🙂

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The Bridges of Schlema, Germany

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Bad Schlema Railroad Bridge. Photos taken by the author in August-November, 2017

Part three of the historic bridge tour in the western part of the Ore Mountain region (German: Erzgebirge) takes us northeast to Bad Schlema. When we think of the community of about 5,700 inhabitants and the word Bad, it does not refer to the condition of the town. Granted there are many derelict buildings whose historic value warrants renovation and conversion into a recreational facility of some sorts per building, while some houses and even bridges that are at least 50 years old and have cracks and missing siding are in need of some renovations.  The word Bad in German stands for either bath(room) or health spa. In the case of Schlema, it is the latter. Nestled deep into the valley of the River Schlema, the houses, both modern and antique line up along the creek that is only 10 meters wide but cuts a huge gorge into the mountains enroute to the Zwickauer Mulde at the site of the Stone Arch Bridge (see article for more details).  The health spa in Bad Schlema is over a century old and consists of radon bath house, hotel and resort and a park complex- all within approximately five acres of each other, the size of a typical rural American golf course, like the one at Loon Lake in Jackson County, Minnesota, where I spent most of my childhood. One can recognize the health spa area by the large tent that pops up as you drive on the road connecting Hartenstein and Bad Schlema heading west in the direction of Schneeberg. That road is part of Silver Road, the longest road in Saxony which starts in Zwickau and passes through Schneeberg and Schlema enroute to Freiberg and Saxony. It has a storied history in connection with mining of copper, Silver, iron and uranium and many sites in Schlema serve as memorials for the regional past time.

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Close-up of the tent-style building which is the Radon Health Spa.

But as I mentioned in my previous article on the Stone Arch Bridge, Bad Schlema was once connected by a rail line, which branched off from the north-south route connecting Aue and Zwickau (enroute to Werdau and Leipzig), ran along the Schlema going past the north end of Schneeberg before terminating at Neustädtel to the northwest. Five stations provided access for people to board, including Oberschlema, Schneeberg and Neustädtel, yet by 1955 only the station at Niederschlema was still serving trains, but along the Zwickauer Mulde. That was later renamed Bad Schlema. The line to Niederschlema was discontinued and later dismantled to make way for the main highway (B169) that now connects Schneeberg with the Saxony Police Academy and all points westward. However, some relicts of the Schneeberg Line still exist in Bad Schlema, including the Oberschlema Train Station (now privately owned), flanked with three bridges.

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The three bridges at the former Oberschlema Train Station

But when comparing the bridges to the ones in Zschorlau (in the previous article), Schlema has many more small bridge crossings spanning the small river that empties into the Zwickauer Mulde- 44 to be exact! But unlike the crossings in the town south of Schneeberg, most of these bridges in Schlema are wooden crossings that serve private property on the opposite side of the bank. The exception is a crossing at a bus stop, which given the proximity of the road running parallel to the river, makes sense. That bridge and bus stop is co-owned by the community and the regional bus service RVE.

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Yet there are some standouts that are worth noting, which you can find on the map below. Like in the ones for Aue and Zschorlau, the location of the bridges include some information and photos, which will help you find the bridges when visiting Bad Schlema. A lot of information is missing and therefore, if you have any you wish to add, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles and will add it accordingly.

Good luck! 🙂

 

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The Bridges of Schlema, Germany

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Bad Schlema Railroad Bridge. Photos taken by the author in August-November, 2017

Part three of the historic bridge tour in the western part of the Ore Mountain region (German: Erzgebirge) takes us northeast to Bad Schlema. When we think of the community of about 5,700 inhabitants and the word Bad, it does not refer to the condition of the town. Granted there are many derelict buildings whose historic value warrants renovation and conversion into a recreational facility of some sorts per building, while some houses and even bridges that are at least 50 years old and have cracks and missing siding are in need of some renovations.  The word Bad in German stands for either bath(room) or health spa. In the case of Schlema, it is the latter. Nestled deep into the valley of the River Schlema, the houses, both modern and antique line up along the creek that is only 10 meters wide but cuts a huge gorge into the mountains enroute to the Zwickauer Mulde at the site of the Stone Arch Bridge (see article for more details).  The health spa in Bad Schlema is over a century old and consists of radon bath house, hotel and resort and a park complex- all within approximately five acres of each other, the size of a typical rural American golf course, like the one at Loon Lake in Jackson County, Minnesota, where I spent most of my childhood. One can recognize the health spa area by the large tent that pops up as you drive on the road connecting Hartenstein and Bad Schlema heading west in the direction of Schneeberg. That road is part of Silver Road, the longest road in Saxony which starts in Zwickau and passes through Schneeberg and Schlema enroute to Freiberg and Saxony. It has a storied history in connection with mining of copper, Silver, iron and uranium and many sites in Schlema serve as memorials for the regional past time.

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Close-up of the tent-style building which is the Radon Health Spa.

But as I mentioned in my previous article on the Stone Arch Bridge, Bad Schlema was once connected by a rail line, which branched off from the north-south route connecting Aue and Zwickau (enroute to Werdau and Leipzig), ran along the Schlema going past the north end of Schneeberg before terminating at Neustädtel to the northwest. Five stations provided access for people to board, including Oberschlema, Schneeberg and Neustädtel, yet by 1955 only the station at Niederschlema was still serving trains, but along the Zwickauer Mulde. That was later renamed Bad Schlema. The line to Niederschlema was discontinued and later dismantled to make way for the main highway (B169) that now connects Schneeberg with the Saxony Police Academy and all points westward. However, some relicts of the Schneeberg Line still exist in Bad Schlema, including the Oberschlema Train Station (now privately owned), flanked with three bridges.

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The three bridges at the former Oberschlema Train Station

But when comparing the bridges to the ones in Zschorlau (in the previous article), Schlema has many more small bridge crossings spanning the small river that empties into the Zwickauer Mulde- 44 to be exact! But unlike the crossings in the town south of Schneeberg, most of these bridges in Schlema are wooden crossings that serve private property on the opposite side of the bank. The exception is a crossing at a bus stop, which given the proximity of the road running parallel to the river, makes sense. That bridge and bus stop is co-owned by the community and the regional bus service RVE.

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Yet there are some standouts that are worth noting, which you can find on the map below. Like in the ones for Aue and Zschorlau, the location of the bridges include some information and photos, which will help you find the bridges when visiting Bad Schlema. A lot of information is missing and therefore, if you have any you wish to add, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles and will add it accordingly.

Good luck! 🙂

 

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 88: The Stone Arch Bridges of Zschorlau near Schneeberg

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Stone Arch Bridge at Nuschke Pond spanning Zschorlau Creek. The oldest bridge built in 1811. Photos taken in October 2017

Our next mystery bridge article features not just one, two or even five bridges. But 23 to be exact!

And the irony behind this is that they are all located in the small town of Zschorlau- a town of only 5,600 inhabitants!

Located three kilometers southwest of Schneeberg and six kilometers west of Aue, Zschorlau is a very quiet town, nestled away in the valley of the Zschorlaubach Creek, which starts in the mountains in the southwest of town and after feeding off from Filzteich Pond, located west of the Saxony Police Academy- Schneeberg Campus, curves around to the southeast, forming a glen and slicing the town in half. The Valley Road, connecting the community with Aue, was built in 1907 and along that highway, one will be greeted by Fachwerk houses in the town center, the Evangelical Church, and the St. Anna am Freundenstein visitor mine, where the annual matin shift, with music and food, takes place at Christmas time.

Along the Zschorlaubach, one will find 23 bridges connecting the north and south sides of the community. Most of them are publicly used to this day, providing access to areas to the south, such as the Eibenstock Reservoir, as well as to the north, which features Schneeberg and its suburbs. All but five of the bridges are at the most 15 years old. The remaining five that exist are all stone arch bridges that are at least 80 years old. The oldest bridge is 206 years old, is located at the site of the city pond, town hall and library and is still used as a crossing today albeit as a pedestrian and bike crossing.  Other bridges appear to have been built using the same material- tungsten ore with granite and wolframite features. Yet we don’t know when they were built despite having the assumption that they were homemade thanks to the nearby mine at St. Anna. Nor do we know how many more bridges built of stone arch design and using this material had been built before they were replaced with their current structure, all beam spans and made of concrete. One can assume that between 1800 and 1940 the stone arch bridges were built only to have been replaced because of neglect thanks to World War II and the subsequent Communist rule that followed until the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunited.

As with the tour guide on the bridges in neighboring Aue, this tour guide features the remaining stone arch bridges in Zschorlau. Some information added to the photos are based on the inscriptions into the bridge itself. But the information is far from complete. What else do we know about the bridges that exist today still? What about the modern ones that exist- what were their predecessors like in terms of design and appearance and when were they built? One hint I will provide regarding the length and dimensions: the length of the remaining stone arch bridges are between 10 and 15 meters and the width between 8 and 10 meters, while two of the bridges were widened by 4 meters each- the last bridge to have been rehabilitated was in 2004.

But what else do we know about the bridges in Zschorlau? This is for you to stand up and shine with some information about them! Look at the map, click on the bridges and look at the crossings not marked (that are replaced). What can you tell us about them?  Information and pics are welcome! 🙂

 

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What to Do With a Historic Bridge: The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge in Germany

Photos taken in September 2017

AUE/SCHNEEBERG (SAXONY)-

Our next stop on the bridgehunting tour, especially along the Zwickauer Mulde in western Saxony is the town of Bad Schlema. This town of 5,600 inhabitants is located deep in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) where the river meets the River Schlema. It was once a key junction of two rail lines: the still existing north-south railroad that connects the community with Aue and Johanngeorgenstadt to the south as well as to Zwickau-Werdau-Leipzig to the north. The other is a short line going west to Schneeberg that used to provide passenger and freight serviceS but has been extant for over 60 years. Both lines were vital for transporting iron ore from the mined regions to the processing plants in the larger cities in the mountains. Nowadays the current line provides access for people wishing to visit the radon health resort in Bad Schlema, which has existed for over a century as well as the Christmas markets in Aue, Schwarzenberg and Schneeberg.

And while the train station at Bad Schlema still provides passenger service on the north-south axis, the surroundings that made the station famous are all but a faded memory. This included the Leonhardt Paper Company, the Hoffmann Machine Factory and Tölle Machinery, the third of which manufactured iron products. By 2006, the last remaining factory, the paper manufacturer, became a memory thanks to the wrecking ball.  The only relict remaining that serves as a reminder of the good old days of mining and paper production are a pair of historic bridges spanning the Zwickauer Mulde: a truss bridge dating back to the Communist era and a stone arch bridge that had existed since the creation of the rail line, but is in disarray to a point where questions are being raised as to which bridge should be saved and which one should go.

 

Before going to my investigative reporting, look at the slide show below and ask yourselves this question: Which bridge would you want to see saved and which one would you like to see gone? And what are your reasons for your decision? And how old do you think these two structures are?

 

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After doing some thinking about it, let’s take a look at the history behind the two bridges, which is in connection with the railroad itself. Between 1856 and 1860, the railroad company decided to construct a line going into the Ore Mountain region in western Saxony, where it was rich in various metals and miners had been working the region for generations. The line started from Zwickau and by 1860, the line arrived in Aue before terminating at Johanngeorgenstadt, near the present-day Czech border by 1868. Between Aue and Schlema, the rail line made a hook going around the mountain, running parallel to the Zwickauer Mulde. Because of its narrowness, combined with dangers of rock slides and curves, a decision was made to straighten the line in 1895, which included building a tunnel between the stations of Aue and Schlema, the latter was named Niederschlema at that time. As seen in the map and illustration, the distance was trimmed by half, and a single-span duo-truss bridge eliminated a single-lane bridge, thus making it easier and quicker to ship people and goods between Aue and points to the north and west. At the same time, another bypass north of Niederschlema was built going north to Hartenstein, which ran parallel to the Zwickauer Mulde and the present-day road connecting both towns. The realignment project was completely finished by 1900, but it came at the cost of the original rail line and the Stone Arch Bridge itself.

The response, according to Dr. Oliver Titzmann was an overwhelming support by the paper company to take the redundant line and bridge and make it their property. In an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Dr. Titzmann, the town historian and member of the Bad Schlema City Council, has done a lot of research on the railroad and the Stone Arch Bridge itself. That bridge was built in 1860 and featured two Luten arches as main spans, plus a pair of shorter arch spans as approaches. Upon personal observations, the bridge was built using two different types of rock: sandstone and quartzite, the first of which appears harder on the surface. The spans are skewed at 30°, which is unusual for arch bridges, yet its purpose still remains the same: to provide the river with free-flowing passage without damaging the structure. While there is no concrete information on the structure’s dimensions, upon personal visit, it appeared to be 65-70 meters long and 12-14 meters wide.   According to information by the historian, as well as reports by the Chemnitz Free Press, the Bridge was made redundant by a Communist-era through truss bridge, built using a Warren design in the 1980s, and served the line going through the paper factory until it was closed down in the mid-1990s. Abandoned since then and fenced off to prevent trespassers from crossing it, the community would like to see the Stone Arch Bridge rehabilitated and reused with the truss bridge being removed because it’s an eyesore.   Dr. Titzmann has been a vocal supporter for saving the Stone Arch Bridge, the last of the original crossings  along the Zwickau-Aue branch of the north-south line and integrating it into the Mulde Bike Trail, which currently shares the road to Hartenstein from the train Station in Bad Schlema.  Like the overwhelming support by the now extant paper factory during ist existence a century ago, support is enormous among the community for reusing the Stone Arch Bridge, which has been abandoned for almost four decades. Already the company owning the eastern bank of the river where the Bridge is located, Wismut Mining Works, has worked on clearing space for the bike trail, which has cost them over 300,000 Euros to date. The State of Saxony has already contributed 145,000 Euros for the rehabilitation of the structure.

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A surveyor at the Stone Arch Bridge in 2009. Photo taken by Marcel Weidlich (Chemnitz Free Press)

The plan, according to Dr. Titzmann is simple: as seen in the map, the bike trail is to follow the original railroad line, but running underneath the tunnel at the Bad Schlema train station, utilizing the Stone Arch Bridge, and going past the Wismut Mining Works, using the Poppenwald Road that goes there, as it was originally part of the line, before joining the current bike trail in use at Hartenstein.

The problem, according to Dr. Titzmann, is more complicated than expected:  “The center pier of the bridge has been undermined over the years, thanks to flooding and erosion,” Titzmann stated during the interview. “Therefore, as a person can see, the roadway at the center of the bridge is sinking.”  Aware of the complications, the community is working together with the state in securing additional funding to rebuild the bridge, keeping it in its original form to avoid being scratched from the Denkmalschutz book. This is the German equivalent to the National Register of Historic Places in the United States, except the bridge is listed on the state level because of its design and connection with the history of the paper and mining industries in the Erzgebirge.  The state level is one of three that are used to list historic places in the Denkmalschutz Book, along with local and national levels. Had the Stone Arch Bridge been listed in American standards, it would have fallen under the criterien of A (Events) and C (Design and Construction). Yet while funding for rehabilitating bridges in the States has become scarce, in Germany, money is kept available by the federal and state governments to encourage ambitious projects like this one, even if the project is complicated because of the aforementioned reasons.

The reconstruction project falls on the state level and it is a matter of time before the state of Saxony provides some additional funding in order for the project to move forward. The cost for rebuilding the bridge alone will take between 120,000 and 150,000 Euros, which consists of stripping the bridge down, while retaining the original stonework, rebuild the center pier, and then rebuild the structure, piece by piece before adding the decking and railing. The reconstruction of bridges in this style is very common in Germany, with the Camsdorf Bridge in Jena (Thuringia) being the closest example to the Stone Arch Bridge in Bad Schlema. That bridge, built in 1913 and rebuilt in 1946, was reconstructed and widened to accommodate more trams and cyclists. Completed in 2005, the project had taken two years.

Once the Stone Arch Bridge is completed, the rest of the bike trail can be built, thus reactivating a part of history that had not existed for over a century. Already a section of the bike trail north of the train station had been built on the west end of the river approaching the bridge but if funding and support arrive in a timely manner, the project could be finished in two years or less. This includes the removal of the truss bridge.

In the meantime, as funding and technical know-how is being pursued to realize this project, cyclists are still fighting with traffic along the road between Bad Schlema and Hartenstein, one of a few stretches of the 240-km long Zwickauer Mulde Bike Trail. And even though a stretch of rail line between Aue and Wolfsgrün has been part of the Mulde system for seven-plus years, when the renovation of the bridge and realignment of the bike trail are both completed, an additional 10 km of rails to trails will be added, which will mean less stress while on the road, but at the same time, more opportunity to enjoy the Zwickauer Mulde, the natural landscape and a little history about the line passing through the region, which had once connected Leipzig with the Czech Republic and provided goods and services.

And when the bridge is finished, one will only see the arch bridge that was once abandoned but is now a historic site- seen by the train leaving Bad Schlema for Zwickau instead of the Communist eyesore, which many will not shed a tear once it’s gone.

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