Mystery Bridge Nr. 160: The Bridge at Caminito Del Rey in Spain

All photos courtesy of Rafa at puentesyestructuras via Instagram

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Our 160th Pic of the Week gives you a little refresher on the term queen post truss. A queen post is a tension member in a truss that can span longer openings than a king post truss. A king post uses one central supporting post, whereas the queen post truss uses two. In simpler terms, a queen post has an upper chord between two diagonal endposts that runs parallel to the deck.  Queen posts were common for covered bridges, whereas for metal pony truss spans, one can find them for shorter spans going up to no more than 60 feet (23 meters).

Okabena Creek Bridge in Jackson County, MN. Photo taken in 2009.
Montgomery Covered Bridge in Vermont. Example of a covered bridge using queen post trusses. Photo taken by Richard Doody in 1990.

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And with that knowledge in mind, we go to our 160th mystery bridge, which takes us to Spain. Specifically, the state of Malaga and the el Caminito Del Rey. Known as the King’s Little Path, the El Caminito del Rey is a walkway, pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, near Ardales in the province of Málaga, Spain. The name derives from the original name of Camino del Rey (King’s Pathway), abbreviated locally to el caminito. It is known as one of the most dangerous walkways in the world as it is known for its narrowness and dangerously high altitudes. The walkway was built in 1905 and has a length of eight kilometers and several high bridges. Yet the views of the cliffs and the waterfalls below are splendid! It was rehabilitated in 2015.

This bridge is one of the high crossings you will find on the Caminito. It’s one that can be seen as a steel beam bridge in the distance. Yet up close, it is clearly a queen post deck truss bridge, but built in a very unusual style. The beams support a set of wire beams connected with eyebars. Turnbuckles are found on the bottom chord underneath the bridge decking. Given its unusual design it is easy to debate whether this bridge is indeed a queen post deck truss bridge or simply a steel beam truss supported by wires. This question I will leave up to you as a reader to decide and debate about with your fellow colleagues.

Given its age and appearance, plus the fact that pin-connecting truss bridges were commonly built during that time, this bridge was probably built at the same time as the walkway itself. If it had not existed after 1905, then the cut-off date for bridge building was most likely 1915, when truss bridges with riveted connections were being introduced for crossings. Yet European truss bridges had relied more on welded trusses- truss with beams welded in with bolts- than these pin-connected truss bridges, which makes this bridge a rarity in itself. In fact, not more than 10% of all truss bridges built before 1910 were pin-connected. The rest were those with welded connections, though riveted truss bridges debuted before 1880, but didn’t dominate the bridge building scene until after 1900.

According to Rafa at puentesyestructuras, who allowed me to use his photos for this article, the bridge is closed to traffic due to structural deterioration. And as you can see in the photos, the railings only consist of a piece of wire going across. Given its location over a steep cliff, replacing the structure would be considered almost impossible unless the new bridge was constructed off-site and then hoisted down with a helicopter. Most likely, repairs and rehabilitation will be the best choice to ensure the historic structure remains in tact and in use again.

Source: User Gabirulo on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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The bridge has one key advantage: Since its reopening in 2015, the Caminito Del Rey can only be visited if and only if you reserve ahead of time. Sometimes three months are needed to take the 8km challenge in the high cliffs. Those trespassing without a permit face fines in the tens of thousands of Euros.  This restriction in the number of tourists is useful not only to preserve the integrity of the walkway and the bridges, like this one, but also for safety reasons. Nevertheless, those with a fear of heights should avoid taking this route and rather get some gorgeous photos from down below or with a drone.

After all, photographing bridges at such high altitudes is only fun when you have nerves of steel and a heart of stone. Therefore, as a word of advice, if there is a more creative way of photographing bridges like this one, try from the ground first, for they are the best ones. Cameras can be replaced, lives cannot.

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Author’s note:

Many thanks to Rafa for allowing me to use his pictures for this article. If you have some information on the bridge’s construction history, feel free to state your peace in the comment section below or through the BHC on its social media pages. When debating over the type of bridge it is, keep it clean and be nice. Thank you.

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2018 Ammann Awards Results

Paper Mill Bowstring Arch Bridge in Newcastle, Delaware. Winner of the Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge and Bridge of the Year. Photo taken by Julie Bowers

Last Year the Awards will be given using the name Othmar H. Ammann. Next year it will use the name Bridgehunter’s Awards.

First podcast on the Award results with table results here.

Results of the Awards under Best Photo

ZWICKAU (SAXONY), GERMANY/ SCHWARZENBERG, GERMANY/ KANSAS CITY/ LAWRENCEBURG (INDIANA)/ NEWCASTLE (DELAWARE)/ SAN FRANCISCO-

This year’s results of the Ammann Awards is nothing like anyone has ever seen before. A record setting number of votes were casted in eight categories, and with that, a lot of suspense that is comparable to any bowl game in college football and waiting under a Christmas tree for Santa Claus to provide gifts. It was that intense. And with that, a lot of commentary that led to making some new changes in the award format and that of the Chronicles itself.

For the first time in the history of the Ammann Awards, there will be a podcast with commentary of the Awards in all but one of the categories. This can be found here but also via SoundCloud. You can subscribe to Soundcloud by scrolling down on the left column, clicking and signing up once you arrive there. Details on how podcasts will be used for the Chronicles will be presented in the next podcast, which will also be posted here.  The table with the results of the Ammann Awards are presented here but in the order of the podcast so that you can follow. As in last year, the table features the top six finishers with some honors mentioned, but color coded based on the medals received in the following order: gold, silver, bronze, turquoise, quartzite and iron ore.

And so without further ado, click here to access the podcast but keep this page open to follow. The results in Best Photo is yet to come here.

2018 Ammann Award Results:

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And lastly, the results of the Ammann Awards under the category Best Bridge Photo:

1st place:

Photo 5: Sigler Bridge in White County, IL by Melissa Brand-Welch

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2nd Place: 

Photo 13: Trolley Bridge in Waterloo, Iowa by Diane Ebert

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3rd Place:

Photo 10:  Manhattan Bridge in Riley County, Kansas by Nick Schmiedeleier

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4th Place:

Photo 3: Chesterfield-Battleboro Bridges by Dan Murphy

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5th Place:

Photo 11: Route 66 Gasconade Truss Bridge in Missouri by Dyuri Smith

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6th Place:

Photo 2: Tappan Zee Bridge in New York by Dan Murphy

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The full table with the results can be seen here.

As mentioned in the podcast, next year’s awards will be the same but under a new name: The Bridgehunter Awards. The name Ammann will be relegated to the Tour Guide Awards for US and international bridges; whereas the Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge will be renamed the Delony Award, after the late Eric Delony.  An additional category is being considered for a historic bridge threatened with demolition but has the potential to being saved and reused. The Author’s Choice Awards will remain the same as is.

While we’re talking about those awards, you can see the results and commentaries here.

To those who won in their respective categories, as well as those who finished in the top 6 or were honored, congratulations. You may now bring out the sect and champaign and celebrate. Prost! 🙂

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bhc eric delony

The Bridges along the Baltic-North Sea Canal Part II: The Rendsburg High Bridge

Rendsburg Bridge
Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011

Information:

Location: Baltic-North Sea Canal at Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Description: Main span: Cantilever Warren through truss with transporter (main span), steel trestle approach span (south) and loop approach (north)

Length: 7 km (total) Of which: 2468 main span; loop approach 4.5 km

Built: 1913 by Friedrich Voss and  C.H. Jocho of Dortmund

Travelling north to Flensburg on the Schleswig-Holstein-Express (the SHE) one evening in May 2010, I was chatting with four passengers heading home to the Rum capital of the world, talking about break-ups, broken marriages and partners cheating on them, when we suddenly found ourselves taking off from the ground. To think that most of the German state is flat consists of mainly farmland and coastal areas, to go from travelling on the ground to travelling in the air in a matter of seconds is like Eliott and E.T. flying in the air by bike. Yet the sound of metal to metal contact, especially when going over the steel towers revealed that whatever we were crossing was huge, the spectacular view of the lights of the town below and the body of water covered in emerald green lights was gorgeous.  After going through the steel truss mechanism, we made our descent in a curly-Q fashion before touching the ground and stopping at our next station. Our conversation had stopped in favor of the structure’s admiration, a sign that homage needed to be paid to a gigantic symbol that bridges the past with the present, the lover on one place with one in the other, and the impossible with the reality.

Especially the last one is what describes the Rendsburg High Bridge, spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal in Rendsburg, located between Hamburg and Flensburg. The bridge was the masterpiece of Friedrich Voss, who had built two other structures along the Grand Canal at Hochdonn and Kiel as well as numerous others in the northern half of the country, concluding the two-span arch bridge at Friedrichstadt. It took 1.5 years to build the main attraction along the canal, which after 104 years, it still serves as the anchor that makes the Grand Canal and Rendsburg the place to visit.  What Voss did with the bridge was unthinkable, impossible and even insane in the eyes of many locals during that time. While steel trestles and a through truss design were his signatures for long-span structures like the aforementioned bridges, Voss needed a main span that would carry both horse and buggy (and later cars) as well as rail traffic. Henceforth as one of the feats, Voss chose the cantilever Warren span, whose roadway would serve rail traffic connecting Hamburg and Neumünster to the south and Flensburg and Scandanavia to the north. Hanging from the main span is the transporter span, which even today carries cars, bikes and pedestrians across the canal between Rendsburg and Aldorf. The transporter operates four times an hour in both directions during the day and takes 4-5 minutes to cross, half as long as when crossing the entire bridge via SHE.

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Even more unique is the north approach. Already in existence was the train station for it served rail traffic between Kiel and Husum, the problem came with how the approach span should descend from 50 meters above water to just over zero. This was where Voss referred to the history books and chose the loop approach. Using the Hastings Spiral Bridge as reference, the loop approach provides travelers with an opportunity to gradually glide down from the bridge, making a circle of 360°. The 1895 bridge over the Mississippi River was the first bridge to feature this loop approach for engineers and bridge builders at Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Works had the problem of the bridge extending into Hasting’s business district, which already had numerous buildings and traffic at that time. Therefore, the south approach consisted of the loop approach, thus encouraging cars to glide down into the city center like a marble.

The problem was similar with the north approach, as it consisted of much of Rendsburg’s city center and housing area, combined with remnants of the old canal and the harbor area connected with the new canal. Therefore, Voss and his men devised a plan where a loop approach would feature first a series of steel trestles at the height of between 40 and 50 meters above water level, followed by earthen berms with concrete arch spans crossing main streets,  after the descent of 40 meters. A Warren deck truss span crosses the rail line as it approaches the end of the loop. The total length of this loop approach alone is 4.5 km. The area the loop encircles consists of housing and therefore was later named Schleife.

On 1 October, 1913, after 1.5 years of work, Voss and 350 of his men from the bridge-building firm C.H. Jucho of Dortmund completed the work, and the bridge was open to traffic. The bridge and transporter complex has operated almost unaltered ever since, sustaining minimal damage in World War II. The bridge was rehabilitated with rust protectant being added to the steel bridge between 1993 and 2012. The rail line was electrified in 1995, which resulted in the portal and strut bracings of the through truss span being lifted. Instead of the two-rhombus portal bracing, the main span now had A-frame portals, high enough for trains to pass through. Sadly though, the transporter portion of the bridge is being replaced even as this article is being reproduced for this page. On 8 January 2016, the transporter collided with a ship as it was passing underneath the bridge. The boat operator and another passenger were injured in the wreck. After thorough investigations by the local authorities and the Ministry of Transportation, it was concluded that the transporter could not be salvaged and was therefore removed from the bridge. A replacement replicating the original transporter is currently being constructed and should be installed by 2017/18.

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I had a chance to visit the bridge again in 2011, this time filming the crossing of the bridge and its transporter, but also following the path of the bridge from the start of the loop approach on the ground to the main span. While I never got a chance to see the Spiral Bridge as it was torn down in 1951, the Rendsburg High Bridge is nothing anyone has ever seen before. It is amazing just to be in a small suburb that is encircled by the loop approach, listening to trains cross it on an hourly basis. Its tall and towering trestles cannot be missed when travelling through Rendsburg. But the main span is just as amazing, for it has a total height of 68 meters, visible from 20 kilometers, making it one of the tallest structures along the Grand Canal.  But I also noticed that the bridge with its wonderful work of art has not yet been recognized on the national and international scale. With the Vizcaya Bridge being nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013, the Firth of Forth Bridge scheduled to be nominated in 2015, the Rendsburg High Bridge Complex should be considered another UNESCO site as well because of the engineering feats that Voss accomplished in building this superstructure but also because the bridge still functions as a normal crossing of its kind today, just like it did when it opened to traffic in 1913. This is something that has made Rendsburg famous and makes it one of the wonderful works of art in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany and central Europe. Already it was given the Historische Wahrzeichen der Ingenieurbaukunst in Deutschland Award (Historic Recognition of the Works of Engineering in Germany) in 2013, on its 100th birthday. Chances are, more accolades will follow for this iron lady, whose total length of 7 kilometers (2,400 m main span) still makes it the longest railway bridge in Germany.

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To close this documentary about this bridge, the third and most important part of the Tour along the Grand Canal, there is a saying that applies to any bridge enthusiast. You are never a true pontist unless you visit at least a couple key engineering works. In my book, one should really pay homage to the Rendsburg High Bridge. It is an engineering work of achievement that is underrated and something that awes every engineer to this day. Every engineer has his creative talents, which Voss had when building this bridge. It has withstood the test of time and is still a work of art one should see, when visiting Germany. It is hoped that it will one day be a UNESCO site. It will eventually for it deserves this honor.

 

Author’s note:

You can view the photos of the Rendsburg High Bridge via facebook site. Click here to have a look at every aspect photographed during my visit in 2011.

Some videos of the bridge can be viewed below as well:

And some links to provide you with some more information on the Rendsburg High Bridge:

http://www.rendsburger-hochbruecke.de/

http://www.move-team.de/artikel/rendsburg.html

This bridge was used as a logo for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles from 2011 until its retirement and replacement with the current logo in 2015 using another Schleswig-Holstein bridge in its place, the Fehmarn Bridge. This is what the Rendsburg variant looked like.

 

 

The location of the Rendsburg High Bridge and the train station can be found on the map here:

 

bhc 10th anniversary logo alt

Mystery Bridge Nr. 56: The Natural Bridge at Mallorca (Spain)

Photo taken by Po Keung. Used with permission through Bridge of the Week
Photo taken by Po Keung. Used with permission through Bridge of the Week

Natural Bridges. There is something unique about them, regarding their size and form. These naturally arched structures were formed millions of years ago, thanks to volcanic eruptions combined with years of erosion due to rain and wind. As the years roll by, these structures become more unique, making them more attractive for tourists to see. Natural bridges can take the form of a simple arch standing alone, like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. But there are others like this one that also has the function of a simple arch bridge.

This mystery bridge takes us to the island of Mallorca, located approximately 250 km off the coast of Spain, and in particular, the Pont de Cala Varques. This natural bridge is located east Manacor, according to sources, but where exactly is unknown.  As seen in the photo taken by Po Keung, the size and length of the natural bridge is huge. From the Atlantic Ocean to the keystone of the arch, it is estimated to be 40 meters high. To the path where the person is standing, add another three meters. The length of the bridge is estimated to be 40 meters long. It is unknown about the width of the bridge, but it appears to be between three and six meters wide.

Not much more information is known about the bridge, apart from the estimates, which leads to some questions about the bridge. In particular, what type of rock formation does this bridge have, how long ago was this bridge formed, how was it formed, who first discovered this bridge, and are there any exact measurements?

Any ideas?  Post your thoughts, comments and facts, so that we can find out more about this natural bridge. It is of utmost importance that a sign with some information on the formation of the natural bridge is posted for many to see and enjoy. Mallorca may be the place to party, but the island has a lot of places of natural interest to see. This bridge is one of them. It is beautiful, provides a great view of the ocean, and one can awe in its size and wonder.

bhc new logo jpeg

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 56: The Natural Bridge at Mallorca (Spain)

Photo taken by Po Keung. Used with permission through Bridge of the Week
Photo taken by Po Keung. Used with permission through Bridge of the Week

Natural Bridges. There is something unique about them, regarding their size and form. These naturally arched structures were formed millions of years ago, thanks to volcanic eruptions combined with years of erosion due to rain and wind. As the years roll by, these structures become more unique, making them more attractive for tourists to see. Natural bridges can take the form of a simple arch standing alone, like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. But there are others like this one that also has the function of a simple arch bridge.

This mystery bridge takes us to the island of Mallorca, located approximately 250 km off the coast of Spain, and in particular, the Pont de Cala Varques. This natural bridge is located east Manacor, according to sources, but where exactly is unknown.  As seen in the photo taken by Po Keung, the size and length of the natural bridge is huge. From the Atlantic Ocean to the keystone of the arch, it is estimated to be 40 meters high. To the path where the person is standing, add another three meters. The length of the bridge is estimated to be 40 meters long. It is unknown about the width of the bridge, but it appears to be between three and six meters wide.

Not much more information is known about the bridge, apart from the estimates, which leads to some questions about the bridge. In particular, what type of rock formation does this bridge have, how long ago was this bridge formed, how was it formed, who first discovered this bridge, and are there any exact measurements?

Any ideas?  Post your thoughts, comments and facts, so that we can find out more about this natural bridge. It is of utmost importance that a sign with some information on the formation of the natural bridge is posted for many to see and enjoy. Mallorca may be the place to party, but the island has a lot of places of natural interest to see. This bridge is one of them. It is beautiful, provides a great view of the ocean, and one can awe in its size and wonder.

bhc new logo jpeg

Mystery Bridge Nr. 28: Unusual Swing Bridge in Virginia

Photo submitted by Nathan Holth. Source: History of Nansemond County

Swing bridges have become a rare commodity on our roads today. Built using a center pier designed to turn the span at a 90° angle, most of them were built using mostly Howe, Lattice, Baltimore or even Warren trusses. There are many examples of such bridges that used to exist but have long become a distant memory, like the Hojack Swing Bridge in Rochester, New York, The Willis Avenue Bridge in New York City, The Inver Grove Heights Swing Bridge south of Bloomington and the Burlington Railroad Bridge. The engineers who built these bridges during the heyday of industrialization (1870- 1920) went out of their way to make the swing bridges not only functional for horse and buggy to use and to allow ships to pass, but also appealing to tourists and later historians and preservationists.

This bridge in the city-state of Suffolk, Virginia is another example of an appealing swing bridge that has long since been demolished. Judging by the picture submitted by Nathan Holth, this bridge appears to have been built of iron and has one of two designs: 1. A pair of kingpost truss spans supported by a central panel consisting of two pairs of vertical towers with light weight diagonal beams holding the trusses made of heavier iron together or 2. a Camelback truss bridge whose center panel is thinner and lighter than the two outer panels. In either case, the bridge was a hand-powered swing bridge, used to allow boats to pass. It is similar to another photo that was submitted by the same person but located at Reed’s Ferry in Virginia.

Photo submitted by Nathan Holth

The problem with both bridges is threefold. First of all, while the designs are similar to each other, it is unknown who designed and built the bridges, let alone when they were constructed, except to say that for the last question, it appears that the period between 1875 and 1895 would best fit for iron was used often for bridge construction before it was supplanted by steel after 1890.

Also unknown is the location of the swing bridge, for in the top picture, it was claimed that it was located in Everet’s, whereas in the bottom photo, it was located at Reed’s Ferry. It should be confirmed that Everet’s was located in Nansemond County, which was subsequentially absorbed into the city-state of Suffolk in 1974. While Suffolk has a total population of 1.7 million inhabitants as of present (including 87,000 in the city itself), its land size is the largest in the United States and is larger than the German states of Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen, as well as the Vatican City and Monaco combined! Given the village’s absorption, it is unknown whereabouts it was located when it existed prior to the 1970s.

Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that many streams in the city-state were dammed and henceforth, lakes were created as a result. While the Nansemond River flows through Suffolk, as many as five lakes and reservoirs were created, which meant that bridges like this one were either removed before the projects commenced, or were inundated and the bridge parts have long since rusted away. In either case, there are many questions that need to be resolved for this unique bridge, namely:

1. When did Everet’s and Reed’s Ferry exist?

2. When were the bridges in their respective communities were built and who built them?  When were they removed?

3. When was the Nansemond River dammed and the lakes created?

All information on the two bridges should be directed in the Comments section of James Baughn’s Bridgehunter.com website by clicking on the name Everet’s Bridge. You can also add any information on Reed’s Ferry Bridge in the Comment section if you have any that will be helpful.

 

Fast Fact:

The Nansemond County portion of the city-state of Suffolk has a unique history of its own, as it was named after Nansemond, a native American tribe who lived along the river at the time of the arrival of the English colonists in Jamestown in 1607. Under the name of New Norfolk County, it became one of the oldest counties in the US, having been established in 1636. After being divided into Upper and Lower Norfolk in 1637, the Upper portion became Nansemond County in 1646 with the county seat later being Suffolk (it was established in 1742 and was a county seat eight years later). It remained a county seat until Suffolk and Nansemond became a city-states in 1972. Interesting note was the fact that Suffolk had been an independent city from 1910 up to then. Subsequentially Nansemond became part of the city-state Suffolk two years later. A city-state in this case means that even though it is part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is an independent city, having its own government and laws as well as responsibilities for its infrastructure, education system, and the like. Virginia still supports Suffolk with funding, but has little influence on the activities of the city-state, making it similar to the aforementioned city-states, as well as the Spanish state of Catalonia, which is much larger than Suffolk.