Plaka Bridge in Greece Restored

Photo taken by C. Messier for wikiCommons in 2014

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ARTA, GREECE- It took a few seconds to bring down the largest bridge of its kind in the Balkans Region. Flash flooding from the Arachthos River washed away the Plaka Bridge in February 2015, an 1866 stone arch bridge built by Constantinos Bekas.

Five years later, the bridge has been rebuilt and it looks like nothing happened. Over 300 crews worked around the clock to rebuild the arch bridge, using the same technology that had been used when the structure was originally built. As many as 9000 stones with a measurement of 70 by 40 by 10 cm were hewed and wedged together carefully without the single use of metal skeletal support for the bridge. In fact the only metal used was temporary scaffolding to hold the pieces of the bridge in place. “The result is a bridge which is more than a twin of the first one, it is a bridge with the same DNA,” says Dimitris Kaliabakos, Professor of Metallurgy and Mine Engineering at the National Metsovio Polytechnic in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.

With the bridge, or shall we say its “twin” back over the river and the scaffolding now gone, crews are going to observe the bridge closely to see how well it can survive the extreme weather conditions, such as flooding and other storms, the same extremities that destroyed the original structure. Afterwards, it will be reopened to the traffic and the Katsanohoria villages in the region of Epirus will reclaim ownership of this unique structure. When the Plaka Bridge finally reopens to traffic remains unclear.

The Plaka Bridge is located at the borders of Arta and Ioannina prefectures, spanning the River Arachthos. With its arch of 40 metres (130 ft) width and 17.61 m (57 ft 9 in) height, it is the largest single-arch stone bridge in Greece and the Balkans. It is also the third largest bridge of its kind in Europe. The central, monumental arch also has two small auxiliary arches on either side, each measured at six meters wide. Like with the reconstruction, it was the most difficult bridge ever built.

The bridge will be in the running for the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge.

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Hirschgrundbrücke in Glauchau- Update as of October 5, 2019

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Current status as of 5 October, 2019:

The roadway and concrete curb of the Hirschgrundbrücke is completed and is just a question of time before the approaches on both ends (the park side to the south and the castle side to the north) are constructed. With rainy weather we’ve been having, typical of fall weather here in Saxony, it would not be surprising if we have another delay and workers have to wait until they are added, together with the railings.

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Furthermore, the concrete facade, which youu can see in this pic sandwiched between the scaffolding and the concrete, is almost finished as well. The facade, as mentioned in a previous post, is broken up stone that had been on the original structure before it was demolished in July 2018. In this pic, the is about a meter’s worth of layering left before the bridge is like its previous form. And this will lead us to the following question:

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When will the scaffolding come down so that we can finally see the finished product? We know it will open to pedestrians in November, but we’re getting anxious to see her in use again. 🙂

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To be continued……

 

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 58

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Following up on my last Pic of the Week post, we have this week’s pic which is symbolic. With this bridge, I completed my series on historic bridges that were built along the Motorway 72 between Hof (Bavaria) and Chemnitz (Saxony). Consisting of the Koditz, Pirk, Pöhl, Reichenbach, Wilkau-Hasslau and this last bridge, the Friesenthal Viaduct located in the south of Plauen west of the exit Plauen-Ost, all six bridges were built between 1935 and 1940, of which half of them were left uncompleted for many years and it wasn’t until 1990, when the Motorway 72 was fully restored that it became a fully-functional throughway, where to this day, tens of thousands of cars, trucks and other utility vehicles use this mainly four-lane expressway, crossing these six viaducts and dozens of overpasses daily.

This last bridge I photographed has a unique story and some primary concerns on top of that. To better explain the bridge’s story, I produced a video with some commentary, which you can listen and watch here:

 

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One of the bridge’s uniqueness comes from the various colors of bricks used for building (and reconstructing the bridge. Any ideas what type of brick was used (from which minerals)?

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Pic of the Week Nr. 55

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The next pair of pics will take us to the Oblernhau/Marienberg Region, deep in the heart of the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) in south central Saxony. As a general rule, if you can master the tough terrain of steep hills, going up and down like a roller coaster, very sharp curves- mostly combined with bumps and cracks, cobblestone roads that have the potential of being slick when wet and lastly, wild boar running in front of you like a school of raccoons, then you can manage anything. And even more so, some surprises may await you.

In this case, I found one by accident. It’s a multiple-span stone arch bridge that spans a bumpy and curvy cobblestone Highway B 171, a hilly and bumpy road, a deep gorge which also has a river running through. All of it is located in the town of Zölbitz in the district of Rittersberg. The bridge is very difficult to photograph, and because of many cars racing underneath- breaking the 50 km/h speed limit in the process- it is rather dangerous to photograph, no matter at which angle. This was my experience when I photographed this structure. Even with the tree obstructing the view, the bridge presents a nice green and hilly backdrop that is typical for the Ore Mountains. The locals call the bridge Kniebreche not only because of the name of the road, but also because of the way the road is shaped like a bending knee. If one adds the driving portion to the mix, then the trip is definitely a knee-breaker if one is too careless driving in the mountains.

While the bridge looks rather abandoned because of many cracks and plus its dark brown color and vegetable overgrowth on the decking, the Kniebreche Bridge is indeed still in use. The 145-year old structure, measured at a length of 63.4 meters, is still part of the rail line that connects Marienberg with Flöha. In the past it had stretched to Reitzenhain at the Czech border. Yet as of today, the line ends in Marienberg, and the rest has been abandoned with the rails removed and plans of converting the former rail route into a biking and hiking trail with the goal of connecting the latter with the Kammweg Trail, an international route that connects Germany with points in the Czech Republic, Poland and elsewhere. That route runs through Blankenhain, where the Selbitz Bridge is located and the two suspension bridges are scheduled to be built.

Back to the railroad’s history, the line was built between 1872 and 1875. The Chemnitz- Chomotau Railroad Company was in charge of the project but contracted out to a company in Berlin.  Given the narrow valleys along the Black and Red Pockau Rivers, bridges, viaducts and dams were built to accommodate two tracks but only one of them was used. The Kniebreche Viaduct was one of them. The line was the most difficult to build, not only because of the steep narrow valleys but also because of the financing. The financial crisis of 1873 forced the contractor in Berlin to liquidate, and the railroad company itself, which did the planning and layout of the railline, to finish the job.

The Kniebreche Viaduct is located in that area where two-track bridges were built even though the purpose was for having a one-track line. It’s location against the steep cliffs of the valley represent a classic example of the struggles the railroad company had in constructing the line. Given as many curves as the highway has, it is not a surprise that the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) have been using the “red worms” for regional service and leaving the long-distance trains, such as the ICE-trains off the tracks. These types of trains are better off for the long-distance routes, especially between Dresden and the cities of Chemnitz, Erfurt, Leipzig and Prague, for the landscape is flatter and the two-track lines more manageable.

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Royal Springs Bridge in Kentucky- the oldest; the most forgotten of historic bridges?

Photo taken by James MacCray in 2013

A History in Your Backyard Documentary.

GEORGETOWN, KENTUCKY (USA)- The best historic bridges are the ones that are the most hidden, the most unrecognizable and in this case, the most heavily traveled bridge. The Royal Springs Bridge is located in Georgetown. It spans the creek bearing its name carrying Main Street and US Hwy. 460 near the university. Although the bridge was built in 1800, records indicated that it was constructed in 1789, the same year George Washington was elected the first president of the US. The engineer was Elijah Craig.This makes it the oldest bridge in the state.

Yet there are some more interesting points about this bridge. Here are some more in a documentary produced by History in Your Own Backyard:

 

Further information about its history can be found here via bridgehunter.com.

This bridge is a classic example of a bridge that is a forgotten one unless you make a stop with the camera and get a few shots. Especially if the structure is listed as a technical heritage site. 🙂

 

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Update on the Hirschgrundbrücke Reconstruction

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GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- Last week in the Chronicles’ Instagram page, there were a pair of photos of the progress that is being made with the Hirschgrund Viaduct, a multiple-span arch bridge spanning the ravine at the castle complex south of Glauchau’s city center. As I’ve been reporting up until now, the original bridge dating to the 1700s is being rebuilt after having sat abandoned for over four decades and having been in danger of collapsing under its own weight. With spring in the air, I took an opportunity to get a closer look at the bridge, apart from my usual vantage points, which were from both ends of the bridge. With all the scaffolding that has “encased” the bridge, this was the closest way to find out how it has progressed since my “sniper” shot of the red arches taken in the fall on the eve of a concert at St. George’s Church.

Then:

Now:

And with that I found a couple observations worth noting:

  1. The bridge was being layered with slabs of concrete, bit by bit, filling in the arches and making its way up.
  2. There was a pile of stones that are on the eastern side of the bridge- assumedly salvaged from the old structure and waiting to be reused and
  3. More curiously, vertical posts were sticking out between the arches.

With number 3, I wanted to find out what they were used for, so I got ahold of the city and one of the engineers for an inquiry. This is what I received for an explanation per e-mail (after having it translated):

The load-bearing system of the bridge consists of transverse walls on the piers and self-supporting longitudinal walls, which are then veneered. The inside of the bridge is filled with lightweight porous concrete.

In simpler languages, the newly-rebuilt bridge will have a skeletal system featuring horizontal slabs supported by the vertical piers planted between the arches. All of them will be covered in layers of concrete and then masked to make it appear historic like its original form. Should this be the case, it would not be the “in-kind” restoration of an arch bridge, meaning building it beginning with the arch and then in layers, stone-by-stone and then filled in to make sure the structure is stabilized. Yet it would represent the modern form of restoring the bridge, as it has been seen with some of the bridges restored in Germany, including those in Thuringia, Berlin and Bavaria. That would still make the arch bridge historic but with “braces” to ensure it lasts longer and is able to withstand the increasing weight and number in traffic. With the Hirschgrundbrücke itself, when reopened, it will serve pedestrians, connecting the castle complex and the park across the ravine.

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The future of the original stones from the bridge is unknown.

While there is no concrete date as to when the project will be finished and when the grand “re-opening” will take place, there are some other curious facts that will be mentioned in a tour that is scheduled to take place this weekend. On May 11th at 10:15, 11:00 and 11:45 there will be a tour of the construction site with many questions and photo sessions available. This is all part of the informational Meeting at the Castle Complex that will include what has been completed and what will be the next phases in renovating the castle- namely the grounds and the park. All of which will start at 10 and be finished after 12:00. A link to the page can be found here.

In either case, more updates on the Hirschgrundbrücke will come in the Chronicles. Stay tuned. In case you haven’t taken a look at Glauchau’s Bridge tour guide, check out this and others by clicking here.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 47

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Our 46th pic of the week you will find on the Chronicles’s facebook page. With a setting like this on the eve of spring with leaves blossoming and all, this structure definitely deserves some attention, especially given the fact that it has come off a fresh rehabilitation.

The structure is located at Floßplatz and Heidelbach at the mill and dam, spanning the River Zschopau between Warmbad and Wolkenstein. It was built in 1828 using sandstone and other minerals and is a one-span arch bridge. Flood damage in 2013 forced its closure and it wasn’t until 2017 when the bridge was finally restored, but at a steep cost of 2.2 million Euros. The structure is open to traffic but only one lane and preferrably with anything OTHER than a car for one can make it on the other side but just barely.

Nevertheless, the bridge has several backdrops where one can photograph from different angles. I have a couple more to back this up. The bridge is a real diamond in the rough if you pass on by going from Chemnitz to the Czech border and beyond. One will need a good bike tour to catch this beauty in full. 🙂

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