Tipping the Wink (Gateshead Millennium Bridge A.k.a the Winking Eye Bridge, Newcastle-Gateshead, UK)- Guest Column

This last guest column looks at Milenium Bridge- in Newcastle. While the UK had built several Millenial Bridges, including its famous one in London, this tied arch bridge, whose construction is similar to the one at Center Street in Des Moines (Iowa, USA), this one is unique because of not only its curved roadway but also its movable function. How that works can be explained by the writer of Beauty of Transport. Enjoy! 😀

With a steep sided river valley at its heart, Newcastle-Gateshead (Newcastle on the north side of the River Tyne, Gateshead on the south) must be something approaching paradise for the bridge enthusiast. At the heart of this twin-city conurbation in the north-east of England, the Tyne is crossed by seven bridges at high and low levels within a remarkably short length of river. They embody a wide range of styles and ages. The double-deck High Level Bridge of 1849 crosses the river on elegant and lofty stone piers, while the 1981 Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge, a metal truss bridge on concrete pillars, provides passengers with one of the most extraordinary experiences to be had on any metro network. And then there is the Tyne Bridge of 1928, a beautiful through-arch bridge which has become an icon of Newcastle, much as the Harbour Bridge (which has many design similarities with the Tyne Bridge) has become an icon of Sydney, Australia. The line up of bridges over the Tyne is one of the great transport views of the world, and a beautiful piece of large scale public art. It might not have been designed as such, but that’s what it is. I will brook no argument on the matter.

Bridges over the Tyne. Tyne Bridge in the foreground, withe the swing bridge. Photo by Tagishsimon (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Bridges over the Tyne. Tyne Bridge in the foreground, with the swing bridge (in red), the High Level Bridge (stone pillars and grey deck sections), and the Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge (blue-grey trusswork), behind. Photo by Tagishsimon (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

This week’s entry is about none of the bridges in the picture above, however. Instead, this seems like a good opportunity to redress a long-standing failure to cover cycle and pedestrian transport infrastructure. This week’s entry, then, is about the newest of the bridges over the Tyne, easily one of the most attractive built in the UK in the last couple of decades, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

The Gateshead Millennium Bridge, spanning the River Tyne [CC BY 2.0] via this flickr page
The Gateshead Millennium Bridge, spanning the River Tyne. Photo by Les Bessant [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via this flickr page

In the run up to the Millennium (1999/2000 or 2000/2001 depending on your level of pedantry) a number of building projects were commissioned to commemorate the beginning of the third millennium. Some superstar architects like Lords Foster and Rogers were busy in London with projects that attracted some degree of controversy (the Millennium Bridge and the Millennium Dome respectively, though both have now settled down to become integral parts of the cityscape). Architecture practice Wilkinson Eyre, however, turned their attention north and delivered one of the most quietly successful of the Millennium building projects, the Tyne Millennium Bridge. It opened in 2001.

Click on the link below to read more about this bridge:

Tipping the Wink (Gateshead Millennium Bridge a.k.a the Winking Eye Bridge, Newcastle-Gateshead, UK)

Note: This article was released on 14 August, 2014.


2014 Ammann Awards: The Author Chooses the Best Bridge Stories

Bentonsport Bridge spanning the Des Moines River in Van Buren County, Iowa. Photo taken in December 2014

To start off the Author’s Choice Award version of the 2014 Ammann Awards, presented by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, I would like to present you with an overture which is in connection with this year’s theme: Bigger is not always better. Enjoy!


This year’s Author’s Choice Awards features some of the most interesting stories of how people have come together to save their valued work. However, we have a story of a bridge found underneath a pub, as well as a failed attempt to salvage a historic bridge, and a disaster caused by gravity. And finally stupidity at its finest- caught on tape and youtubed! So without further ado, here are my pics for 2014:

Most Spectacular Disaster:


Ledbetter Bridge in Kentucky- Spanning the Tennessee River, this 1931 three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge was one of the latter works of architectural art built by Polish engineer, Ralph Modjeski (1861-1940). The bridge no longer exists as it was removed last month, several weeks after a replacement span 700 feet downstream opened to traffic, but one cannot help but watch sections of the bridge collapse on its own, as seen in the photo gallery here.  After reporting one of the approach spans dropping by two feet in 24 hours, officials fenced off the entire bridge, only to later watch sections of it fall on the shoreline. Cause: Erosion undermining the piers, plus some vultures perching on the railings of the affected spans, as the photographer stated.


Cherryvale Bridge in New Brunswick, Canada- Covered bridges have been especially hardest hit this year, as fire, oversized trucks and natural disasters have damaged or destroyed over three dozen bridges in North America and elsewhere. The Cherryvale Bridge in the province of New Brunswick was one of those unfortunate victims, as floodwaters knocked the 1870s wooden structure off its foundations in May, and the structure flowed downstream before being smashed against a concrete bridge carrying a highway. More on this story hereAs beloved as they are, covered bridges are usually rebuilt by demand from residents. This is the case as well, but will it happen with this bridge? We’ll have to see….


Best Historic Bridge Find:


Rocky Balboa Railroad Bridge in Durham, North Carolina- This railroad underpass, featuring a 100-year old deck plate girder span, may be a typical bridge accomodating rail traffic. But (and the music from Rocky Balboa will support this), it has had a record of annihilating semi trucks and trailers, as well as tractors, busses, and other overweight vehicles. This DESPITE having every form of warning system and sign in place. Here’s a video to prove it:



The Parade Bridge in Norwood (South) Australia- Australia has a wide variety of metal, concrete and wooden bridges dating back to the early 1800s. This bridge, located underneath a pub, was found by chance by the owner as the venue was undergoing extensive renovations. Made of parapet and cobblestone and built in the 1850s, this bridge has a unique history, which can be found here.

Honorable mentioned: The Kersten Miles Bridge in Hamburg, Germany- Built in 1897 and named after the mayor of Hamburg during the Medieval times, this arch bridge is one of the darlings of Hamburg one needs to see, if one wants to know which of the 2,500+ bridges should be visited in the second largest city in Germany. Apart from its ornamental appearance and the fact that the bridge is made of brick, a recent discovery of a pflaster mosaic underneath one of the spans is another reason to visit this unique landmark. More on this discovery can be found here.

Best Way to Salvage a Historic Bridge: USA:

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span- The 1936 eastern half, consisting of cantilever truss spans, was replaced with a cable-stayed span with concrete girders last year and is still being dismantled even as we speak. Yet one person is looking at salvaging parts of the bridge for sustainable housing developments. Although it would look unusual to today’s housing standards, as seen in the article here, it would at least preserve the legacy of the eastern half of the bridge, which partially collapsed in the earthquake in 1989.

Also worth mentioning: Devil’s Elbow Bridge in Pukaski County, Missouri- The Freedom Prime Bridge and this bridge were two of the candidates considered for the author’s choice awards. Yet while Freedom received some accoldaes for best preservation example, this 1923 two-span Parker truss bridge got this one for two reasons: 1. The bridge was part of the Mother Road (Route 66) and because of the importance of the crossings along the highway that had once connected Chicago and Los Angeles, efforts are being undertaken to save what is left of this historic highway. 2. The bridge underwent an extensive renovation, which included new decking, sandblasting and repainting the trusses and making the bridge look just like it was when opened 91 years ago. The bridge should set an example for a pair of other crossings that have recently been rendered unsafe and whose futures are in doubt. More here

International: Katzenbuckel Bridge in Ebenhausen, Bavaria (Germany)- Spanning a rail line near Augsburg in Bavaria, this arch bridge was in the way of progress, for the German Railways want to expand the line and electrify it. The solution: Instead of razing the structure because of its historic significance, the plan is to raise the bridge to better accomodate traffic. Impressive but also one that will have other regions with similar bridges to consider this option, for there are enough candidates to go around. More on the plan can be found here.

Photo taken by James Baughn










Worst Example of Restoring/Using a Historic Bridge

USA:  Blue River US 40 Bridge in Kansas City, Missouri- Preservationists and locals are scratching their heads about this 1931 bridge, a steel through arch bridge that is the product of a pair of local bridge builders. The bridge was dismantled to make way for its replacement in August, but in a way that the parts were cut apart and left in a pile, waiting to be taken to its new home in Grandview. Photos of the bridge before and after its dismantling can be found here. Given the “logic” behind this process, the first and foremost question that comes to mind is: How are you going to put the structure back together again without altering its historic integrity? Or are you going to scrap it? My prediction: Its induction into Nathan Holth’s Wall of Shame.

International: Kramer Bridge in Erfurt, Germany- This bridge in the news but in a negative sense. The face of Thuringia’s capital was the focus of a drug operation, used in the German mystery series, Tatort (Scene of the Crime). The episode was aired in December and drew fire from viewers who deemed both the usage and the content to be inappropriate. Shortly after the release, two of the three actors resigned and the German channel MDR decided to scrap the Erfurt series. Lessons on how Tatort should be produced and how places of interest should be used without degrading it should be given by those who have been with the series for over 2 out of the four decades of its existence on German TV, including the likes of Ulike Folkerts, Axel Prahl and Jan Josef Lieffers, who play investigators for their cities (Ludwigshafen and Muenster, respectively.)


Biggest Bonehead Story We had a lot of candidates for this category, many of whom just could not learn to shorten the height of and/or lighten the weight of the load. The end result: covered bridges losing their tops and other bridges dropping to the ravine with their load on it. Yet only two examples really standout and should serve as a signal to truck drivers to NOT rely solely on GPS and assumptions, but to obey the traffic signs, or face liabiity.

Pollock’s Mill Bridge in Jefferson, Pennsylvania- Spanning Ten Mile Creek near Jefferson, this single span Whipple through truss bridge, built in 1878 by the Massilon Bridge Company in Ohio is one of the last remaining iron bridges in western Pennsylvania. Yet it almost became a hunk of twisted metal after a tanker truck tried crossing the structure, only to fall partially through the decking. To make matters worse, the driver dumped liquid contents into the stream to lighten the load and keep it from collapsing. A double-environmental catastrophe. Yet with two trucks following him, he should have known better than to first drive through the height restricted underpass located just a half mile before the bridge and then try crossing this bridge, right? Leadership prevents stupid things from happening. Fortunately, the bridge will be repaired and nothing was severely adversed in the water. However, as the article stated here, it could have been worse…..

Watford Bridge in North Dakota- Spanning the Little Missouri River at US Hwy. 85, this Warren through truss with V-laced portal bracings has dealt with a lot in the 55 years in service, especially as it is located near the Bakken Oil Fields. This includes oversized vehicles crossing it and damaging the overhead bracing. Sometimes stupidity is best shown on video, and the truck driver probably did not realized how much of an idiot he was for ignoring the height restrictions until watching the amateur video taken by another truck driver and his passenger, who  spiced it up with some commentary (Note- some comments may not be suitable for children under 13.)


This sums up my picks for 2014. As you can see, we had some interesting stories, all caught on photos and film in hopes that drivers pay attention to their load when using the bridges. Because even the most modern bridges can only take so much. Take this advice in mind: Less is Always More, regardless of the gas price.  After watching the videos and reading the articles pertaining to the bridge picks, have a look at the winners of the 2014 Ammann Awards coming up in the next article…..


Hastings High Bridge in Hastings, Minnesota

Photo taken in September 2010

When traveling home to southwestern Minnesota from the Twin Cities, it is almost always natural to take the shortest possible route so that one can reach their destination in the shortest time possible, whether it is through Mankato or Albert Lea.  When I travel home to southwestern Minnesota from the Twin Cities (which is my preferred destination for all German-American flights), I usually take a more scenic route, which is along the Mississippi River and through parts of southeastern Minnesota, passing through Northfield and Fairibault. The area is filled with a variety of landscapes to choose from, from hilly to flat all in the span of 30 miles. There are numerous towns and villages to see, including Hampton and New Trier, which is rich with history and heritage. But there is another reason for traveling through the area, to pay homage to a blue beauty over the Ole Miss.

The Hastings High Bridge is one of my most favorite historic bridges in the state of Minnesota. Built in 1951 by Sverdrup and Parcel, the same company that built the first I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis, this through arch/truss bridge is the only one of its kind in the state and one of a handful of bridges of its kind remaining in the US. It is one of the longest in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, at 1857 feet (the arch span being 600 feet) and is one of the towering figures of the City of Hastings.

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society via wikipedia. Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hastings_Spiral_Bridge.jpg

The bridge also has a deep history which makes it one of the icons of the city of 18,000. It was here that the first bridge with a spiral approach was built in 1895. Designed and built by the Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Works Company (WisBI), the original Hastings Spiral Bridge featured a Parker through truss bridge as the main span followed by two wooden and steel trestle approaches. Because a high bridge was needed to clear the height clearance for ships and barges to pass through, an engineer at WisBI constructed a spiral approach in the shape of a curly Q on the south end of the bridge, providing drivers with a chance to make an easy descent into the historic business district.  The bridge became a treat for the city of Hastings and it became a poster boy for many engineers to design bridges with this spiral approach. This includes Friedrich Voss, who adopted this unique approach design for the railroad viaduct in Rendsburg, Germany, which was built in 1913 and features a spiral approach on the north end made of a combination of a grade, arch bridges over streets and steel trestles slicing through the city before approaching the main span- a cantilever through truss with a transporter underneath, spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal. It is still in service today and is the only one of its kind in the world.  Even today, these bridges were being built, big or small, and regardless of what they carry for vehicles and people, like the pedestrian bridge in Bad Homburg vor der Hoehe, near Frankfurt/Main in the German state of Hesse.

Pedestrian Bridge at Bad Homburg near Frankfurt/Main. Photo taken in February 2008
Spiral approach of the Rendsburg High Bridge. Photo taken in April 2011
Main span of Rendsburg High Bridge. Photo taken in April 2011

Sadly, the bridge showed sign of wear and tear and in 1951, it was replaced with the current structure. The future of the Spiral Bridge was in doubt as many people wanted to keep this historic icon, yet despite the split decision, a pocket vote on the part of Hastings’ mayor sealed the structure’s fate, and the bridge was brought down by explosives, as seen in the video here.  As a consolation, one of the piers was preserved as a historical marker. However, a replica of the bridge was built in 2005, using a Thacher through truss bridge imported from Lac Qui Parle County. It is now at the Little Log House Pioneer Village, located south of Hastings.

Now the fate of the second bridge seems to be sealed. After 61 years in service, the bridge is being replaced by a tied arch bridge, which is supposed to be the longest in the western Hemisphere. Like the Spiral Bridge, the High Bridge showed signs of wear and tear, caused by increase in traffic combined with weather extremities. Even salt used for deicing the roadway has eaten away at the structure to a point where the cost for rehabilitation would be exorbitant. There are many who believe that it is not necessary for a new bridge to be built at the site of the present one. Yet the question is where should the new bridge have been built without having a negative impact on the city’s commerce? That question is difficult to answer and probably will not be presented until after the 1951 structure comes down in 2013.

Yet the people in Hastings and the surrounding area welcome the change as many are afraid that the structure will collapse. Little do they realize is they are losing another important icon, which could have been saved, had there been ways to rehabilitate it years earlier and most importantly, maintained it. The bridge’s heavy steel used for the structure provided truckers and commuters with a sense of security that it was meant to last for 100 years, as is the case for many railroad truss bridges. Yet with as much traffic as US Hwy. 61 carries through Hastings, maintaining it would mean painting the bridge biannually at least, as it is seen with the maintenance on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The costs would be high and with the current economic problems we are facing, it would have been impossible to keep up the maintenance on the bridge.  But one should expect to dole out the funds for the new bridge as well, as it will need just as much tender loving care as the first two crossings.

We have seen many of Minnesota’s historic relicts (bridge’s included) become part of the history books, as seen in Jack El Hai’s Lost Minnesota, published in 2005. I’m sure that a second volume is in the making and that this bridge will be in there with others that have fallen victim of modernization, including its neighboring bridge to the north at Inver Grove Heights. Even though the new bridge will present a sleek design made to entice the modernists and passers-by, many people in Hastings as well as those with connections with the High Bridge will remind them of the icon that will be soon by history. It is unclear whether this bridge will last as long as the first two, but it will take time for the people of Hastings to adapt to the new bridge.

While I’ll probably visit the bridge on my next USA trip in 2013, I will always think of the Blue Beauty over the Ole Miss. And therefore, as a tribute to one of the finest landmark bridges, I’ve enclosed a gallery of bridge photos for you to enjoy, which you can click here to view. A video of the trip across the bridge can be seen here.

Side view taken from the city park. Photo taken in Dec. 2007
Oblique view. Note the retailer building was removed to make way for the new bridge. Photo taken in December 2007
Behind the portal bracing. Photo taken in Dec. 2007
Oblique view from underneath. Photo taken in December 2007
Photo taken in September 2010
Approaching the bridge and Hastings. Photo taken in Dec 2010
Hastings Bridge during construction. Photo taken in August 2011
Photo taken in August 2011
The Hastings Bridge in the background with the new bridge’s piers in the foreground. Photo taken in August 2011


The Linz Railway Bridge: At the End of its useful Life- What’s next?

All photos courtesy of the City of Linz

Located along the Danube River in the state of Upper Austria in Austria, the city of Linz, with a population of over 188,000 inhabitants, is one of the largest tourist destinations in the Alps region. One can travel into the mountains and end up skiing in 30 minutes, or visit its historic city center to see the Pöstlingberg church, the Church of St. Michael and Ursula, plus many museums and the market square, just to name a few. There is the University of Linz, one of the largest institutions of higher education in the country. Yet, when it comes to bridges spanning the longest river in Europe and the second longest river in the world behind the mighty Nile in eastern Africa, the city has one of the fewest river crossings with a total of five bridges, if one combines the suburb of Styegg, which has two spans. In terms of historic bridges, only two of them exist that were built before Adolf Hitler took over the German government in 1933 and ordered the “Anschluss” with Austria (which happened in 1938): an 1873 railroad bridge at Styegg and the Linz Railway Bridge built in 1900. Yet if the city council has it their way and the Austrian Railway Company wants to hand over ownership to the city, the 1900 railroad bridge will soon become history- replaced with a larger, three-span tied arch bridge. While the new bridge would fit the modern bridgescape, with the VOEST cable-stayed bridge built in 1972 and the Niebelungenburg Bridge, built in 1941 but is a girder bridge built on piers of a previous bridge, the historic character of the railroad bridge will disappear forever and it would raise questions about the preservation laws in Austria, one of the strictest in Europe. At the moment, the preservation office has not given the green light to proceed with the bridge replacement, even though they are open to options.

But how special is this bridge in comparison to the one in Styegg? And why does the city want to tear this bridge down at any cost? A quick oversight into the bridge reveals that one should not judge the bridge just by its type alone. The truss bridge type is a Schwedler, created by Johann Schwedler in the 1860s and is a combination of three truss spans known very well in the US: the Whipple, the Parker and the Bowstring Arch.  It was constructed by the state, which appointed the bridge building company Anton Bíro to oversee the design and building of the structure. Founded in 1854 by Anton Bíro, the company constructed hundreds of kilometers of rail lines and buildings even beyond the founder’s death in 1882. His sons took over and the company Bíro later merged with the construction agency Rudolph Phillip Waagner to create  Waagner and Bíro in 1924, a construction company that is located in the capital of Vienna and has built numerous bridges worldwide since then. The appearance of the bridge combined with its association with the builder made it eligible to receive protection status through the Austrian Historic Preservation Laws. Yet despite it being historic, opposition is mounting to see to it that the bridge is replaced. According to polls by the Linz news agent Nachrichten.at, nearly 61% of the public is in favor of the new bridge. Four of the five major parties in the Linz city council would like to see the bridge removed. A study conducted by the Technical University of Vienna also favored bridge replacement and even though the bridge serves rail, automobile and pedestrian traffic, the owner of the bridge, the Austrian Railway Company wants to see a solution regarding the bridge.

Apart from the fact that the railroad bridge is 112 years old, which technically does not count as the railroad bridge at Styegg is 27 years older and is still in use, the condition of the bridge itself may doom the structure. Rust and corrosion caused by weather extremes combined with traffic running over and under it have weakened the structure to a point where it could potentially fail.  In fact, according to a study conducted by Josef Fink of the Technical University of Vienna, only half of the bridge can be renovated as rust and corrosion on the other half of the bridge have progressively eaten away at the superstructure to a point where it would cost less to replace the bridge rather than replace the bridge parts. The report indicated that the bridge could still be used without rehabilitation for up to a year at the most- namely through the end of 2012. This has prompted the city council and other parties involved to consider the following options:
Demolish and Replace the Entire Bridge.  The new structure would represent a model similar to the truss bridge and cost 57 million Euros. The time to build the bridge would be 5.5 years.
Renovate the Truss Bridge and Construct an Additional Span. The new span would be either a concrete beam or an arch span and would be constructed first before the railroad bridge would be rehabilitated in its entirety. The cost of the project would be up to 98 million Euros and the time to complete it would be 8.5 years.
The main factors to keep in mind are that with both variants, additional bridge piers would be needed which would have an effect on the river flow of the Danube, the ship traffic going under the bridge and lastly flood protection- should flooding occur on the Danube, it could potentially cause jams resulting in flooding upstream. The decisive role in determining which option is the most feasible is the fact that only half the truss structure can be renovated, which could cost up to 40 million Euros alone, according to Fink.
Yet if the railroad bridge is in such horrible shape, then the next question would be why it was not properly maintained when it was in service in the first place. A simple paint job, combined with minor repairs on the bridge parts and annual inspection reports would ensure that the structure’s life would last beyond the 112 years it has served Linz. Yet, as we have seen in the United States, Germany and other countries, cost-cutting measures, which includes rediverting funds for infrastructure maintenance to other needs have forced the agencies to forego the necessary procedures to upkeep the bridge. In some cases like in the US, many engineers do this on purpose just to secure funds for replacing the bridge outright, and this without properly informing the public beforehand.
It is highly doubtful that it is the case with the Linz Railroad Bridge as the bridge has been heavily travelled and has survived weather extremities and other incidences (like war, etc.) which would have destroyed other bridges. Yet no solution to the bridge problem is not an option at all. If the bridge is protected by Austrian law, then perhaps one should follow Murphy’s Law which indicates that there is another option other than the ones given. The new bridge needs to be built but the healthy half of the old bridge should be preserved as an observation pier to provide people with a view of the city. While this would alter the integrity of the bridge, by removing the half that is not salvageable, saving the other half will still make the railroad bridge a landmark to see when visiting Linz. The advantages are simple: it is cheaper to salvage the part that can be saved, it will not disrupt the flow of the river and shipping traffic, and it will keep the city from having a set of structures over the Danube that are modernized but not to the liking of those who prefer to see historic places.
While it may take weeks before a decision can be made on the future of the bridge, it will have to be made before the bridge is no longer safe to use.

At present, the preservation laws and the interest in preserving the bridge from the public are the only two “hindrances” that are keeping the bridge from being replaced. Yet removing them will ultimately doom the bridge and erase a piece of Linz history, which would make the city less attractive for people to see if they want a cultural and historic experience and not go there for the skiing. An indecision is not an option as it could produce disaster for the bridge and cast a shadow on Linz itself. The easiest way is to present the three options to the public and allow them to decide for themselves. Only then will everybody be happy about it. And even if the majority votes for demolishing the bridge, a memorial for the bridge should be erected so that the public can remember the bridge. After all, contrary to the beliefs that one will forget about the bridge issue, the memory of the railroad bridge will forever remain in the hearts of minds of people who live in this wonderful Austrian town on the Danube.

Note: More information on this topic can be found here. One can also follow the topic via Bridgehunter’s Chronicles Newsroom on Twitter.

The Bridges of Kiel

Gablenz Bridge Photo taken in April 2011

After an hour’s stop at the Lindaunis/Schlei Bridge, the next stop on the bridgehunting tour in Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark is Kiel, the city with over 300,000 inhabitants and is the capital of Schleswig-Holstein. There are a lot of features that make Kiel special. Like Flensburg, the city has a harbor and is the port for all passenger ships wanting to journey to Scandinavia and points to the east as well as the North Sea through the Baltic-North Sea Canal, also a jewel loaded with history involving its engineering design and the bridges that crossed them. More on that in the next entries. While the city has many small crossings along the tributaries that empty into the harbor, I did not have the time to journey across the city for that, as I was about to journey along the Great Canal. However, I did have enough time to explore two of the city’s prime structural jewels, something that one could spend a half an hour looking at while breaking over a baked fish sandwich and a good Flensburger Pilsner beer, as they are almost next to each other and can be seen from the harbor’s edge on the west side, not far from the Kiel Railway Station. One is a brand new arch bridge replacing- well- an arch bridge. The other one represented a traditional type for the city that needed a revival after an almost 80-year absence. This one is our first profile.


Foldable Bridge in the upright position Photo taken in April 2011

THE FOLDABLE BRIDGE (a.k.a. Hörn Bridge).

Located near the tip of Kiel Fjord, the bridge has a unique history, which goes back more than 100 years. During the period from 1910 to 1923, the city of Kiel had a rather unique movable bridge known as the transporter bridge. Suspended in the air and supported by two towers and suspension cables, this rare bridge type features a transport wagon, which carries people and vehicles across the body of water and is operated by a steam powered engine. This bridge was located near the spot of the current structure but unfortunately, the span only lasted 13 years, as it was torn down five years after the end of World War I for reasons unknown to historians to this day. One can assume that technical malfunctions combined with the stress put on the horizontal support beams that supported the transporter wagon, and the questions of its ability to resist high winds and extreme weather conditions, as Kiel is famous for may have contributed to the bridge to be torn down for safety reasons. About two dozen of these bridge types were built during the 1880s and 1930s, including the Rendsburg High Bridge- located just 40 km away along the Great Canal, and the Ariel Lift Bridge in Duluth were built. Today, only eight remain including the Rendsburg High Bridge, which will be profiled later. The Ariel Lift Bridge still exists but functions today as a vertical lift bridge as the span replaced the transporter span in 1929.  Between 1923 and 1997, there was no movable bridge in Kiel and the only other notable bridge that existed in the city at that time was the Gablenz Bridge, built in 1914. This would change in 1997 when the engineering firm of Gerkan, Marg and Partners, local contractors located in the city center decided to end the dry spell and construct a new piece of movable artwork over the Kiel Fjord- in a form of a foldable bridge!

At a cost of 10 million Euros, the bridge has a span of 25.5 meters (84 feet) and spans the fjord, connecting the west end of the city known as the Hörn and the Gaarden quarter and Norwegenkei (Norwegian dock) on the eastern side of the fjord. The Norwegankai is the port where cruise ships out of Oslo come in to dock. When the bridge flattens out and crosses the fjord, it has a resemblance of a cable-stayed suspension bridge with two towers and stiffening cables supporting the roadway, made for pedestrians- all tinted in red. But once every hour when the bridge has to open for traffic, the structure literally scrunches itself up like an accordion so that when the bridge is completely open, it is folded into a very narrow letter N on the west end of the fjord to allow ships to pass. A link on the bridge with an animated diagram is enclosed at the end of this article.

When I was at the bridge unfortunately, I was unable to see the structure in action as it remained in a foldable position. The Foldable Bridge has had problems with its operations and hydraulics since the moment it was put into use. Technical malfunctions of the mechanisms of the bridge resulted in many residents nicknaming the bridge as the “Klappt Nichts Brücke”, a rough translation standing for a non-functioning bridge, although in a literal sense, it stood for “Folds Not Bridge”, as klappen not only stands for folding something but also as a negative for  not working/ functioning. Realizing that many people were frustrated at the fact that they could not cross the harbor as easily as they thought, a retractable bridge, built of welded trusses (Warren style) was built right next to the Foldable Bridge so that in the event that the bridge did not function as it should, the back-up bridge would provide the pedestrians with a way from one end of the harbor to the other. This proved to be a useful asset when the Gablenz Bridge was being rebuilt in 2008, for despite the fact that one needed five minutes by foot to get there from the site of the present bridge, it was the primary crossing before the Foldable Bridge was built.

But even with the retractable bridge being in place, the Foldable Bridge would have provided tourists with an opportunity to see how it works, if it functions just like any other movable bridge. It is just a matter of finding the right time to go there when the structure is in operation. I was not lucky, but as a pontist and historian, I can say that the bridge is a future technical heritage site, should it live longer than its neighboring bridge and the city maintain the structure like its neighboring movable bridge to the southwest, the Rendsburg Bridge.

The Foldable Bridge and a retractable bridge (Behelfsbrücke) in the foreground. Photo taken in April 2011



Links to this bridge: http://www.niederelbe.de/FAEHRE/f-index.htm






Gablenz Bridge taken from the Foldable Bridge Photo taken in April 2011




The other main bridge site worth seeing in Kiel is this bridge. While the structure today is rather modern, the bridge and its origin goes back a long ways. The Gablenz Bridge is named after the Field Marshall Leutenant Freiherr von Gablenz, who resided in Kiel in a nearby castle and played a key role in helping the Prussian army defeat the Danish in the Prussian-Danish War of 1865, which resulted in heavy losses on the part of the Danes and Prussia gaining Flensburg, the capital’s neighboring city to the north.  The street and the bridge were christened in his honor in 1914, however the predecessing structure, a steel through arch bridge whose upper chord consisted of a Pratt truss design, was completed four years earlier in 1910. The structure spanned the rail line, which terminates at the Kiel Railway Station, only a half a kilometer away, before it descended towards the fjord. For 99 years, the bridge remained in its rightful position until it was replaced in 2009 at the cost of 30.6 million Euros. As part of the plan to reconstruct the rail lines, the railway station, and the street, the center span was put together at a construction site before it was installed right next to the old structure. During that time, construction on the new approaches progressed and the 1910 structure served traffic until the new arch span was ready to be put into place. It was then removed and the south approach was reconstructed. At the completion of the two phases, the new center span was slid into place and the new bridge was open to traffic. The project lasted just three years.

The new structure has a similar through arch span which crosses the railway, but its upper chord design was different- two main arch spans per side- resembling something like a tied-arch span- and the upper bracings are straight and horizontal, not lattice (shaped like an X) like the 1910 bridge. When it was open to traffic, Kiel’s mayor Angelika Volquartz mentioned to the public that she wishes for the city “….that the new bridge serves traffic between the east and west end of the fjord for the next 99 years and that the people look at the bridge as positively as the old bridge and even leave a place in the hearts of the residents.”  (KN-online, 14 June, 2009). If the bridge is maintained as well as the 1910 structure and its neighboring Foldable Bridge that is in use today, then perhaps that dream will be realized 97 years from now. After all, there is no such thing as a bridge that lasts 100 years and requires no maintenance, as many transportation agencies (especially those in the US) have been wishing for.

Links to this bridge:





After a brief stop in the capital and a cruise along the fjord, cycling past the state parliament, the universities, and many houses either made of brick or resembling Victorian architecture, it was now time for a tour of the bridges along the North-Baltic Sea Canal. And what place to have a bridge than to have one just a half a kilometer west of the entrance from the Baltic Sea. While that bridge still belongs to the city of Kiel, it is only appropriate to profile it with the other bridges along the canal, for its history coincides with the bridges built by one person who also oversaw the construction of the canal itself. More in the next entry.