The Bridges of Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

imgp1776
Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau. Photos taken in September 2016

Under a pile of rubble, there is always a jewel, no matter who or what it is or where it came from. Located 16 kilometers south of Glauchau, along the Mulde River, the city of Zwickau may look like an ordinary community, whose architecture mostly comes from the Cold War. This includes high-rise buildings, mining facilities, old factories and even bridges built using scarce materials possible but only lasting 40 years. In fact, a newspaper report from a local newspaper in Chemnitz revealed as many as 37 bridges in the district of 480,000 inhabitants (of which the city itself has 104,000 residents) that are in dire need of repair or replacement. Most of them had exceeded their expected lifespan by 20 years and are hanging by a thread because of imposed weight limits designed to keep trucks, tractors and busses off of them.

But underneath the doom and gloom of a bygone era, there are some jewels to find. Zwickau prides itself on the automobile industry, where the beloved Trabant automobile was built- now the company belongs to Volkswagen. Audi was founded in this community in 1904. The world’s first known and popular automobile racing union was created five years later.  It also has an international school (Saxony International in Reinsdorf) and a college of science and technology (Westsächsisch Hochschule), making the city a multicultural university town. It has a bridge building firm that has existed since 1854 and still has its base in the city.

And when there is a bridge builder in the community, there will always be bridges, especially given its proximity to the river!

The town was first mentioned in the 1100s when the Slavs settled there, yet a half dozen bridges, mostly covered wooden ones were built to connect it with other villages by the 1500s. By the late 1800s, more than 40 bridges crossed the Mulde or surrounded the old town center. Today, if one subtracts the crossings carrying pipelines, only a quarter of the bridges exist in Zwickau, all are along the Mulde. And of these 10 known crossings, counting the Zellstoff Bridge, four of them are over 70 years old. Two of them however have received national accolades because of their unusual designs. They include the Paradiesbrücke- the only known bridge in Germany and the western hemisphere that has the cantilever pony truss design- and the 500-year old Röhrensteg- the only known covered bridge with multiple designs and functions, plus the oldest in Saxony. Both of these centerpieces will be profiled together with nine other structures that will include a couple near Wilkau-Hasslau(to the south) and a couple near Schlunzig (to the north). All of them were built before 1990, but they will present not only the historical aspects of the bridges, but also address the issues involving their ability to carry traffic. A gallery of pictures are enclosed for each bridge I stopped at during the tour in September.

Picking up where I left off in Glauchau, we’ll start the tour going upriver and through the prized automobile and infrastructural community, starting off with our first bridge:

Schlunzig Bridge:
Built in 1954 replacing a wooden bridge destroyed in a flood, the Schlunzig Bridge may be a typical bland concrete beam bridge with little or no value, even if the structure is equipped with the ever so quickly disappearing set of street lighting from the bygone era. Yet its significance resembles two sides of a coin. On the one side, it is a typical East German Bridge, constructed using scarce materials that were prescribed by the Communist government- similar to the bridge at Wernersdorf (for more, see the tour guide on Glauchau’s bridges). Even the lighting originated from that era, which was considered too industrial for the region that is mostly oriented towards agriculture and nature. On the flip side, the bridge is a poster boy for the structural woes the region (and much of Germany) has been dealing with: a run-down structure that is unable to withstand increasing traffic or even weather extremities. The good news though is the district of Zwickau has approved the design and financial support for a new bridge. When the 50 meter long, Mulde crossing is replaced in 2017, in its place will be a more attractive bridge type that will awe even the bikers using the bridge to continue on the Mulde Bike Trail: the cable-stayed span! It will be interesting to see what it will look like when the bridge is back in service by 2018.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Schneppendorf Bridge:
Three kilometers to the south we have this bridge. The Schneppendorf Bridge features a three-span closed spandrel concrete arch bridge with a total length of 80 meters. Like the Schlunzig Bridge, this one stems from the East German days with typical lighting and railing. It also fits the stereotype of bridges that despite being between 65 and 90 years old (as I estimated its age during my visit), it is in need of repairs because of wear and tear, combined with structural neglect. The bridge has weight restrictions, still it serves as a backdrop to the scenery one can enjoy at a park and rest area located just to the south of the structure. As a bonus, especially for photographers, the bridge and another one just 100 meters to the north- a through truss bridge carrying pipelines across the river- both have a nice background with wooded hills and old-fashioned houses. That bridge has a 45° skewed portal bracing, similar to the next bridge located to the south of the arch bridge.

Note: If you know more about the Schneppendorf Bridge in terms of its history (when it was built and who the bridge builder was, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, and the information will be added to the tour guide right away.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Zellstoff Bridge:
Entering Zwickau’s city limits, we have the Zellstoff Bridge on the left. Spanning the Mulde River, this bridge features one of the most unusual through truss spans in the region. It’s span consists of a Warren through truss with riveted connections. The portal bracings are skewed at a 45° angle and feature a V-laced form (outer portal) and an I-beam form with heel bracings (inner portal). The struts and vertical beams are both V-laced, as well with the diagonal beams being H-framed. The approach spans feature five spans of a concrete cantilever design. A gallery below will give you a description of what the bridge looks like. Also interesting is a narrow chimney at the left side of the west portal. This may be part of a mechanism that harnessed or even supported electricity, especially as many electrical lines went over this bridge. The bridge served a rail line connecting an automobile factory and possibly an area where mining had existed and therefore, played a key role in Zwickau’s industrial history. But more research on the mining area in Zwickau and in particular, the mini-chimney is needed to help uncover the secrets to the bridge and its surrounding area. The bridge was abandoned after 1990 and there was a plan to remove the structure shortly afterwards. However, thanks to opposition to the plan by residents and preservationists, the decision was scrapped in 2007, and today, the bridge serves as a bike trail between the city and the area where mining had existed. The overgrowth has dominated the bridge and the trail going east, but people can still use them to see what the mining area had looked like before the Fall of the Wall. Despite its age and the need to be rehabilitated, many people still love this bridge, especially as I met some people while filming it, who all said this one word: “Historique.” That I’m not in a position to disagree with you on.

Here’s a Youtube video on this bridge:

Note: If you know more about this bridge in terms of its history and historic significance to the region, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles. The information will be added to the tour guide.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eckersbach Bridge:
Located at the junction of highways 173 and 93, this two-span structure features a concrete deck cantilever design and is one of the heavily travelled bridges in Zwickau. Given its age, it appears that the bridge was built in the early 90s to reduce the traffic congestion inside the city. Yet age and wear and tear are appearing on this bridge, making it look older than it should be. It is unknown how the bridge was built but records show that having a bridge with zero maintenance for 100 years is not realistic. If this is being practiced on this bridge, the results are now showing much earlier than expected.
Only 150 meters north of the bridge is a pipeline bridge, built using steel plate girders. Built in the 1980s, the bridge carried hot water to Zwickau from sources to the east of the city. Abandoned for a decade, the bridge was removed recently not only for liability reasons, but the residents nearby did not want to see an eyesore obstructing the view of the Mulde River valley.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Paradise Bridge (Paradiesbrücke):
Germany was once known as a place filled with ornamental bridges built using unusual designs. Despite 90% of them being destroyed during the Third Reich and through the bombings in World War II, there are still some diamonds in the field that if found are worth researching and given its rightful honor. The Paradise Bridge, located at Nicolai and Reinsdorfer Strassen near the Nicolaischule is one of those bridges that deserves international accolades, as well as its neighbor upstream, the Röhrensteg. Here are some interesting facts worth noting about this bridge:
1. The bridge is the only one of its kind that features a cantilever pony truss design. Furthermore, it is the only known cantilever truss bridge whose trusses are supported by only one tower. None of the bridges known in the western hemisphere have that unique design.

2. The bridge was built in 1900, replacing a covered bridge, which was one of over 30 that were built in Zwickau. The predecessor had been in service for 200 years before it was decomissioned and dismantled. The builder of the cantilever bridge was Bundel and Co. from Grünberg in the former German state of Schlesia (which is now occupied by Poland. )

3. The bridge is located near the site where a former mine and bridge building company used to be located. A memorial site with a miner resting with a beer in the hand can be seen 100 meters northeast of the city side of the entrance.

4. When the bridge was renovated in 2003, the towers were crowned with finials resembling the Matthäus Kirche (St. Matthew’s Church) which was located 400 meters east of the entrance. Additional decorations on the trusses and ornamental lamps were also added making the bridge more attractive to tourists and passers-by.

5. The structure itself is 120 meters long, its tower is in the middle of the Mulde River. The width is 15 meters, counting the trusses. Since its renovation in 2003, the bridge has been serving cyclist and pedestrian traffic, carrying a bike trail connecting Zwickau’s City Centre with Reinsdorf, located four kilometers to the east. Its replacement structure is found 200 meters west of the bridge at Dr. Friedrichs Ring (Hwy. 173).

Any more reasons for listing this bridge on the UNESCO site in comparison with the nays? Check out this youtube video on this bridge:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pöhlau Railroad Bridge:
Located near the site of the International Trabant Museum, this bridge appears to be one of the newer truss bridges built no earlier than 25 years ago. While its light brown color makes it look rusty in appearance, its “molded” connections is typical for today’s truss bridges. The Warren through truss bridge with beam portals and Lattice truss overhead bracings used to serve a rail line connecting Pöhlau and Zwickau Central Station. The bridge and the line are now abandoned. Given its age and modern appearance, chances are this bridge will be reused at some point- either as a crossing for cyclists in its place, a street car crossing going south or a railroad crossing at a new location. Time will tell what the City of Zwickau will do with this structure.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Röhrensteg:
Like the Paradiesbrücke, the Röhrensteg (translated as the Bridge of Pipes) is another key attraction for Zwickau which should receive international recognition for its design and function. The bridge’s history dates back over 500 years to 1535, when the bridge was first built. At that time, the people in Zwickau needed water for their personal and commercial use. Because the water of the Mulde was dirty and not drinkable, the only source of clean drinking water to be found was at a pond near Reinsdorf- three kilometers away from the bridge. Henceforth, workers created man-powered pumping stations and pipelines made of hard wood from oak trees. The trees were cut down, and after stripping the bark and outer layers, a hole with a diameter of 30 centemeters was dug out by hand, but not before having cut the wood into sections and then connecting them once the hole was “drilled.” The wooden pipeline then transported water down the hill and across this bridge before being distributed throughout the city. A section of this wooden pipeline can still be seen on the bridge, where the overhead beams are still supporting it, providing proof that this practice once existed. A total of at least 17 wooden pipelines had been built for the city of Zwickau to provide drinking water for the community, four fountains where the wooden pipes were connected dating back to the 1700s have been preserved as exhibits at the city center to show this unique engineering feat. This pipeline system was later replaced with more modern systems in the early 20th century, but the bridge itself has withstood the test of time and mother nature. Despite having had substantial damage during the flood of 1790, the Röhrensteg was rebuilt and has retained its original form ever since. The bridge has survived numerous floods and other natural disasters, even after new pier casings were installed in 1940 as part of the project to dredge the Mulde River.
In terms of its structure, the Röhrensteg is the only truss bridge (wooden or metal) to have two different designs and two different portals. The bridge features a three-span Queenpost truss design on the western side and a subdivided Warren truss on the eastern side. A-frame portal bracing is found on the city side, X-frame lattice with heel bracings on the Reinsdorf side. Endposts with 45° angles can be found at each portal; together with the wooden siding lining up between the bridge and the abutment, this makes the Röhrensteg one of the most unusual covered bridges to have ever been built. Roofing is of hip style with an angle of 45°, which is similar to the covered bridges found in Switzerland. The bridge serves a bike trail connecting Zwickau’s southern part and Reinsdorf via Oberhohnsdorf, serving as a spur to the Mulde Bike trail that careens along the river.
Despite its unusual design and multi-functionality, the bridge is showing its age, and therefore is scheduled to be rehabilitated beginning in 2017. Despite having new approach spans on the Reinsdorf side and the pier casing, no extensive work has been done on the bridge. That will change, and in the end , the bridge will become safer for use and more attractive. It is hoped that the structural integrity will remain intact when the work is completed. If that is the case, it will be in the running for several international awards.

More on the work can be found here.

A youtube video on the Röhrensteg takes you across the bridge and to the pipes found in the superstructure itself. Check it out:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Schedewitz Bridges:
Located in the suburb bearing the bridge’s name, the next two bridges are located only 300 meters from each other, each spanning the Mulde. The older bridge is a two-span Warren deck truss without verticals but with stone arch approach spans. Built in 1894, this bridge may have replaced the arch bridge that had existed prior to that, but was destroyed by flooding. Closed to traffic since the opening of its successor in 1958, this bridge still exists in its original form- with a cobble-stone deck, typical East German railings and street lighting and despite the rust on the trusses, no renovations have been done, and the bridge is sparsely used by cyclists and pedestrians alike. Chances are, assuming there is no severe flooding that could undermine the 100 meter structure (with two 30 meter truss spans), there will be no plans of rehabilitating the structure, let alone tear it down.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wilkau-Hasslau Pedestrian Bridge:  Five kilometers further upstream and biking past the Cainsdorf Bridge is the pedestrian bridge at Wiklau-Hasslau, the southernmost suburb of Zwickau. There, one will find a rather unique pedestrian bridge. Built in 2004, the bridge features a pen-like tower, with cables supporting the roadway and the tower itself. The roadway has a curve, allowing cyclist from the east side and Schneeberg to enter as a ramp, as it curves to the right towards the west end. The 145 meter long pedestrian bridge crosses the Mulde River and a pair of railroad tracks that provide train service between Zwickau and Aue to the south. The tower has a height of 32.2 meters, making it the tallest bridge in Zwickau. Yet to the south of the bridge is an even taller bridge carrying the Motorway A 72. Built in 1995, that bridge spans the deepest of the Mulde River valley in Zwickau, but is the second longest bridges along the stretch between Hof (Bavaria) and Chemnitz. To the north of the pedestrian bridge is the Kirchberg Bridge, a three-span stone arch bridge built in the 1600s. Both bridges and the rest of the valley’s hilly and wooded scenery is what the Wilkau-Hasslau Pedestrian Bridge has to offer- along with a short break at a modernized city center, which has a weekly market- before biking on to some more bridges.

A map of the bridges in Zwickau is enclosed in case you would like to visit the bridges yourself.

If you have any more information on Zwickau’s bridges that need to be added, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact form below. All information will be added to this guide.

 

bhc-logo-newest1

The Bridges of Halle (Saale), Germany

Berliner Brücke in Halle (Saale) Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/de/2/23/Berliner-Bruecke-Halle.jpg

Halle (Saale)- the birthplace of George Friedrich Handel. The second largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt and representing the second half of the metropolis Leipzig-Halle, which has 100,000 of the metro’s 600,000 inhabitants as well as one of the most renowned universities in Germany. Yet when you get off the train in Halle, you may be turned off by the ugly high-rise buildings that date back to the days of the German Democratic Republic, a communist state that existed until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German Reunification in 1990. Yet when you walk further towards the City Center, you will see another face of Halle that will sweep you off your feet: architecture dating to the Baroque Period, a statue of Handel overlooking the Cathedral and the Town Square, and further towards the Saale River, there’s the Giebichenstein Castle and the Halle Zoo, one of the largest zoos in the eastern half of Germany (Neuenbundesländer).

Surprisingly, if you are a pontist, you will be surprised to find that Halle has a wide selection of historic bridges that exist along the Saale River, its tributaries and to the south, the White Elster River, which meanders through Leipzig enroute to the Vogtland region in Thuringia and Saxony. There are 131 bridges in and around Halle; 14 of which are declared historically significant and protected by state preservation laws.  It is very rare to find historic bridges of at least four different types, or until recently have more than one cantilever truss spans, dating back to the 1880s. And in terms of German history, many of these bridges survived the test of time, including World War II, in contrast to the majority of cities and regions, whose bridges were severely damaged or destroyed through air raids and attempts by the Nazis to fend off advancing Allied troops. This plus the history that is still being sought on these bridges is what makes the bridges of the City of Salt unique.

This article will take you on a tour of the bridges that you should see, when spending a day in Halle. This includes a pair of bridges that no longer exist but are still part of the memories of the Hallenser people that still live there as well as those who were born there but have long since moved away for better possibilities. So without further ado, here is a small guide of the Bridges of Halle, keeping in mind that there are links available that will bring you to the photos and info on the bridge:

Schafbrücke: 

This bridge, built in 1733, is the last crossing along the White Elster before it empties into the Saale River in the Hallense suburb of Böllberg. It used to serve a main trading route between Merseberg and Magdeburg before it lost its importance because of the railroads. Today, the stone and concrete arch bridge serves the White Elster bike trail between Halle and Leipzig. Yet the bridge has seen its better days as the arches have deteriorated to a point where reconstruction is badly needed in order to avoid the structure to collapse.

004_6 (3)

Halle-Neustadt Railroad Bridge:

Spanning the Saale River in the southwest end of Halle, this eight-span stone arch bridge is one of the longest of its kind in the city, as well as the oldest. Most likely dating back to the late 1800s, this bridge used to serve an InterCity train line connecting the city with Kassel and Cologne. Thanks to privatization, combined with the realignment of long-distance rail lines, the bridge now serves regional services to Sangerhausen, Halberstadt and Nordhausen, enroute to its original destination. The bridge is one of the hardest to reach for a photographer needs to fight trees, thorns and tall grass before reaching the east bank and the bridge itself.

ICE Saale-Elster Viaduct:  

With a total length of 8.5 kilometers plus two more for a branch to Halle, the ICE Saale-Elster Viaduct currently holds the title of being the longest railway viaduct in Germany. Completed in 2013, the viaduct features concrete box girder spans crossing the two rivers and swamp areas nearby but also features a steel through arch span that spans the branch that breaks off the main route to Halle. Although it passes the village of Schkopau (and with that a 1936 railroad truss bridge spanning the Saale just a kilometer south of the bridge), the viaduct is part of the ICE line connecting Erfurt and Leipzig, which since its opening in December 2015, has cut down the travel time by 60% to only 30 minutes between the two cities. The record will remain until 2017 when another viaduct located south of Erfurt will open, which will be longer than this one.

Rabeninselbrücke: 

This is the second youngest bridge in the city and the youngest to span the Saale. This bridge spans the Saale’s main river at the entrance to Rabeninsel (Raven’s Island) and features a cable-stayed bridge, whose pylon angles towards Böllberg Weg and the cables support the roadway. The roadway resembles a raindrop as it encircles the pylon. Built in 2000, the bridge measures 85 meters long and is 20 meters tall, easily seen from the main highway a kilometer away.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hafenbahnbrücke: 

A few months ago, the Chronicles did a segment on this mystery bridge, spanning the Saale River at the confluence of the Elisabeth Saale and Middle Saale Rivers, west of Böllberg Weg. This bridge was built in 1884 and used to serve a rail line connecting the city with Magdeburg (north) and Merseburg (south) for over 80 years. When the line was abandoned in the 1970s, the lenticular through truss span, measured at 40 meters in length, was rehabilitated and converted into a bike and pedestrian crossing, which still serves its function today. The bridge also has a dark side- and a memorial plaque is placed on the truss as a marker of this tragedy. In the night of 13-14 March, 1919, Karl Meseberg, who was a revolutionary leader during World War I, was murdered on the bridge with his body landing in the Saale. It was found five days later. While the bridge shows its bright side during the day, at dusk, one can feel the presence of a ghost at the bridge, keeping people away from the crossing. This may be in connection with this unfortunate event, but more info in the form of eyewitnesses and evidence is needed to confirm the claims of a ghost at the bridge.  If you look to the south of the bridge, you will find a blue tied-arch bridge about 100 meters away. That bridge was built in 2000 and carry water lines connecting the southern and western parts of the city.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Genzmer Bridge: 

This steel through arch bridge is located over the Saale River at William Jost Strasse north of the Hafenbahnbrücke. Built in 1912, the grey-colored span is similar to the Hollernzollern Bridge in Cologne in terms of the design of the bridge, but the portal bracing resemble a bridge located west of Steinbrücke in neighboring Magdeburg. But when passing underneath the bridge, one will see the stone arched approach spans carrying the emblem of Halle on there- an impressive construction by the builder of the bridge, whoever it was.

019_21 (3)

Mansfeld Bridge:

Spanning the Saale River at the Mansfelder Strasse, there are three crossings located within 60 meters of each other. The oldest span is a polygonal Warren pony truss with riveted connections that used to serve streetcar and vehicular traffic. Yet because of its structural obliqueness- too narrow and too light to support traffic- a vehicular crossing to the north was built in the early 1990s, which was followed by a separate streetcar crossing to the south a decade later. The truss span was later converted to pedestrian use by strenthening the trusses and adding a concrete and brick deck. An economic and interesting way to preserve a piece of history.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Peissnitz Bridge:

Apart from the Hafenbahn, Giebichenstein, and Mühlentor Bridges, the Peissnitz Bridge is one of the crown jewels as far as Halle’s bridges are concerned. Spanning the Saale River at Peissnitz Island, carrying the street carrying the same name, the bridge is one of the most ornamental of bridges, for the 1898 structure features a cantilever Pratt truss design, with ornamental towers supporting street lights, and red quarry stone arch approach spans, presenting its grey and red colors which are typical colors of the city. When built in 1898, the bridge was the only toll bridge in the city, as money was collected for people wanting to cross the bridge and enter Peissnitz Island. This was discontinued in 1921 and the bridge has operated as a free bridge ever since. The bridge is 103 meters long, 70 meters of which represent the main span. Despite sustaining damage during World War II, it was rebuilt in 1946 and was eventually converted to a pedestrian and bike crossing, which remains that way to this day. The Peissnitz Bridge, located on the east end, is one of three bridges that provide access to the island, along with Schwanenbrücke and another bridge at the west end. The latter, built in the 1900s, was recently replaced with a steel truss bridge in 2013.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Schwanenbrücke: 

Located at Weinberg at the northwest end of Peissnitz Island, this 1893 bridge is one of the oldest standing in Halle. The structure features a wire suspension span with eyebar connections found at the steel towers. Its roadway features a Town Lattice truss design railing which together with the suspenders, support the wooden decking. The bridge was destroyed during World War II but was later rebuilt in 1946. It was renovated in 1992, which includes dismantling, sandblasting and improving the steel parts, and reerecting the span on new abutments made of brick and concrete. The abutments feature the name Schwanenbrücke on there. The bridge is open to cyclists and pedestrians wishing to enter the island from the northwest. The bridge is next to the island park railway station, which provides service to places on the island.

Steinmühlenbrücke:  

Spanning the Mühlgraben at Peissnitzstrasse, this 1912 closed spandrel arch bridge has some unique features making a stop a necessity. Like the Pfälzer Bridge, the railings feature a Howe truss  in an Art Deco design, all in concrete. Two pairs of cast iron lanterns, encased in concrete, decorated with gargoyles, can be found on each end of the 20 meter long span, which provides the lone access to Peissnitz Island and park area to the west, let alone the Peissnitz Bridge itself. The bridge was named after a water mill, located nearby that was built in the late 1800s and was made of stone. That mill still exists today.

 Krollwitzer Brücke (aka Giebichensteinbrücke): 

This bridge and neighboring Giebichenstein Castle on the lime cliffs of the Saale River go together like bread and butter. The three-span concrete arch bridge is the fourth crossing at this site, being built in 1928 replacing a steel Parker through truss bridge, whose predecessors included a pontoon bridge, ferry and a covered bridge. The bridge is 261 meters long, 60 of which consist of the largest arch span. The bridge features two sculptures on the south side facing neighboring Peissnitz Bridge, resembling cattle- making the bridge a real treat to see. The bridge was renovated in 1995 and again in 2011, but continues to serve vehicular and street car traffic connecting the city center with the western suburb of Krollwitz.

 

Pfälzerbrücke:

Like the Peissnitz Bridge, the Pfälzer Bridge, spanning Mühlgraben-a tributary of the Saale- at Neuwerk in the northern end of the city, is the most ornamental bridge but in the form of an arch bridge. Art Deco art on the bridge’s railing and four lamp posts can be seen when crossing the 1912 span by car or bike. The railings resemble a Howe truss made of concrete, a rarity one can see these days.

IMGP8820

Burgbrücke: 

Located at the Robert Franz Ring, this Mühlengraben crossing is one of the newest bridges along this route. Little has been written about this bridge except for the fact that the steel deck arch span appears to date back to a time span between the 1990s, going back to the 1940s. In either case, the bridge’s lean appearance is attractive for many bridge photographers who enjoy a few minutes with the camera.

Berliner Brücke:

When leaving Halle (Saale) by train heading north, this bridge will be the last landmark to be seen on your way out. Today’s bridge, built in 2005, features a cable-stayed span that is 71 meters tall and 171 meters long, spanning the railroad tracks. Yet the bridge came at the cost of a steel eyebar suspension bridge with pony truss decking, which was built during the first World War, with the help of French soldiers. It was originally named the Hindenburg Bridge before it was changed after World War II. Despite being considered a historic landmark, excessive rust and corrosion, caused by diesel-powered trains passing underneath it, doomed the bridge, causing the city council to decide for a replacement span. The cable-stayed bridge was built to the north of the bridge and after its completion in 2005, the 1916 bridge was dismantled and sold for scrap, despite protests by many who wanted to keep the structure for reuse as a pedestrian bridge.

 

While some local newspapers have mentioned a bit about Halle’s bridges, more publicity on the structures was presented through a guide of Halle’s infrastructure, which was presented last year and included as many as 38 bridges in and around the city. Whether the article originally published in the Chronicles in 2012 as well as following newspaper articles had something to do with that or if people enjoy visiting the city’s bridges remains clear. But given the interest of tying the city’s bridges in with its history, it is a foregone conclusion that these historical structures will be properly cared for for generations to come, thus giving Halle several accolades for its heritage that had been kept under the rug by the East German government until 1989 but has shown its beautiful sides since then. And these 38 bridges, seen here in this guide (in German), together with a map of the bridges visited in 2011 and 2015, are one of many reasons why Halle is a place to visit when travelling through Germany and wanting a good bike tour through the city’s history and heritage. It is one of the cities I’ve since had on my top 10 German places to visit list. You’ll understand why when you get a chance to see it too. 🙂

Peissnitz Island Bridge Photo taken in Dec. 2015
Peissnitz Island Bridge Photo taken in Dec. 2015

bhc new logo jpeg

Halle (Saale) is famous for many markets and events honoring Handel and other music greats. This includes the Christmas market, which you can click here to read about. Courtesy of sister column The Flensburg Files.

The Bridges of Zeitz, Germany

Haynsburg Bridge. Photos taken in March 2015
Haynsburg Bridge. Photos taken in March 2015

Located along the River White Elster in eastern Saxony-Anhalt, the city of Zeitz, with ist population of 29,000 inhabitants, represents one oft he dying cities in the former East Germany. High unemployment, empty buildings, abandoned industries and a crumbling infrastructure, combined with historic buildings dating back to the 1800s that are sitting empty are what a person can see when passing through the city. Most of its main traffic has been diverted away from the city, and the only rail service in Zeitz are the lines connecting the city with Weissenfels, Gera and Leipzig- all privately owned and localized.

Yet the city scape of Zeitz has, for the most part been in tact, thus making it the venue for many films produced that require an East German scene or story. Despite their emptiness, many historic buildings in the city center are worth visiting and perhaps occupying with businesses and housing. Even the Moritzburg Castle and the nearby mills and churches, built during the Baroque period, still entertain guests because of their charm. You can also try the local wine from the vineyards located along the rugged Elster Bike Trail.

And then, there are the historic bridges.

At least a dozen bridges exist along the White Elster within a 10 km radius of the city, six of which can be found directly in Zeitz. Two thirds of them are at least 70 years of age or older. Yet all but two of them have been mentioned in the history books or by the International Structure Database in Berlin (structurae.net) which is part of the Wiley and Sons Publishing Conglomerate. While much of the records have disappeared because of World War II and later the Socialist regime, the structures profiled here are unique in its design and historic value. Most of the bridges are arches, but there are a couple girders and trusses that are worth mentioning as well. Each one lacks the most basic in terms of the date of the builders, their dimensions and for the most part, the stories behind them and their affiliation with the communities and castles they serve. Henceforth, this tour will profile each of the bridges in and around the Zeitz area, starting with the bridges near Crossen to the south and ending at Elsterau to the north. All but three of the bridges profiled in this tour guide are along the Elster. One of the bridges, the Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge, has already been profiled separately in a Mystery Bridge article and will therefore be omitted from this article. A link to this bridge can be found here.

We’ll start off with the first of two bridges in the village of Crossen, both of which can be reached by bike:

IMGP6239

Rauda Bridge at Crossen:

This bridge spans Rauda Creek, approximately a half kilometer south of the White Elster crossing. The bridge is approximately 15 meters long and six meters wide, good enough for a bike trail. The bridge is a stone arch design that probably dates back to the 1800s, when it was used for horse and buggy, serving a trail between Crossen and Silbitz. Later it was used for farm vehicles, but as the fields nearby are located in the flood plain of the Elste were therefore rendered useless, the trail was eventually converted into the bike trail connecting Crossen and Gera to the south. The bridge still remains in great condition despite its age and is a great place to stop for a picnic or even good photo opportunity, as seen with this photo.

IMGP6243

Crossen Bridge:

Spanning the Elster River, the Crossen Bridge features a deck arch bridge made of brick and concrete, and features seven arch spans totalling 130 meters long. The longest arch span (the center span) is approximately 30 meters long. The bridge’s spandrel is all made of concrete, whereby the arches were built of brick. While the bridge has been renovated as recently as 10 years ago, the date of the original construction of the bridge goes back to between 1900 and 1920. Records indicated that an attempt to implode the structure by the Nazis in 1945 in an attempt to stop the march of the Soviet troops only for the local residents to splice the wiring to the bombs in order to sabotage their attempts. The Nazis surrendered on 7 May, 1945 but not before their leader Adolf Hitler and many of his close friends committed suicide in order to avoid prosecution by the Allies. The bridge continued to be in service until recent renovations where sidewalks were added and the roadway was narrowed. Today, the bridge provides only one-way traffic controlled by traffic lights on each end. Yet it has no load limits, thus allowing for all kinds of traffic to cross, as seen in the photos below:

IMGP6251

IMGP6245

IMGP6262

Haynsburg Bridge:

Spanning the White Elster on the  road going to Haynsburg Castle to the east, this bridge features five arch spans totalling approximately 200 meters, the longest center arch span is around 50 meters. That span is flanked with two door-like openings on each corner, embedded into the piers, resembling an embedded pavillion on each corner. It is unknown what the original atructure looked like before World War II, but the date of construction goes back to 1911, according to local records. The bridge is one of three works of art one should see while in Haynsburg. The castle is three kilometers up the hill from the bridge. A train station along the rail line between Leipzig and Gera has a decorative lounge, even though trains no longer stop there. Haynsburg itself was a target of a witch hunt, for in 1624, one of the residents was burned at the stake for witchcraft.  Since 2010, Haynsburg is part of a local conglomerate that includes two other villages. The town is only a handful that has witnessed steady population growth for it has 580 inhabitants. The bridge itself will be rehabilitated come 2018 with the purpse of improving its load capacity and its aesthetic value.

IMGP6272

Bahnhofsbrücke:

Spanning the White Elster River, this pedestrian bridge connects the train station with the park complex along the river next to the city center in Zeitz. While travelling along the river along the Elster Bike Trail, this bridge is one of the two most visible structures near the vicinity of the train station. The bridge has a bedstead Pratt pony truss with welded connections. Judging by its aesthetic appearance, the structure appears to be at least 10 years old but no older than 20. It is unknown whether a previous structure had occurred there but because of the prescence of the pavillion across the river from the station, it may be possible that a structure had existed beforehand, but was either destroyed during World War II and was not rebuilt before 1990 or it fell into disarray during the socialist regime and was consequentially removed. But more information is needed to determine whether a previous structure existed prior to this one.

IMGP6277

Untere Promenade Bridge:

Located over the Mühlgraben Creek at the confluence with the White Elster, this bridge is located right next to the aforementioned  Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge. The bridge serves the Elster Bike Trail but it is unknown when the bridge was built. It would be unusual to have a bridge exist alongside the pavillion bridge for a long period of time, so one must assume the bridge was built after World War II, especially because of the ballustrades that were remodelled. Yet more information is needed to determine whether the bridge was built in modern times to replace the pavillion bridge or if it was built at about the same time, especially as arch bridges were very common up until 1915. The author’s prediction is that the bridge was built to mimick the pavillion bridge in the 1950s or 60s to accomodate a trail running alongside the river. In either case, both bridges retain a high degree of historic and aesthetical value that it is worth stopping to photograph.

IMGP6285

Geschwister Scholl Brücke

This is perhaps the most ornamental of the bridges along the White Elster River between Gera and Leipzig, for the 250 meter long seven-span concrete arch bridge provides the best access from the train station to Moritzburg Castle by car. The bridge has stone keystones and seal engravings above the piers. Its ballustrades are similar to the Untere Promenade Bridge and were redone most recently (10-15 years ago). Finials can be found on both ends of the bridge, but more unique and unusual is the lighting on the bridge- only one pair of lanterns are located at the very center of the span, but built on cast iron poles with a unique ornamental design.

IMGP6284

Judging by the age of the bridge, it appears to have been built between 1890 and 1915, yet when looking more closely at the structure ‘s center span in comparison with the outer ones, the bridge appeared to have been rebuilt after the war, as the Nazis blew up the center span in an attempt to slow the advancement of Soviet troops. The bridge and street itself were named in honor of Sophie and Frank Scholl, siblings who led the White Rose movement, a group whose purpose was to create an uprising against the Hitler regime. They were arrested and executed in 1944, along with dozens of other members of the movement. Yet the Nazi government ceased to exist with Germany’s surrender on 7 May, 1945. Hitler committed suicide a week prior to the fall.

IMGP6291

Tiergarten Pedestrian Bridge

Spanning the White Elster east of town, the Tiergarten Pedestrian Bridge is one of the most unique of spans, as the bridge features two Howe spans meeting in the middle. The center of each Howe span is supported by one steel pier but the outer ends are anchored by concrete piers. The truss itself has bedstead end posts and features welded connections. Lighting  illuminates the bridge. The bridge appears to be one of the younger spans, being built in the 1990s, but it is located near a small park on the north end of the river. It also serves as the division point for two sections of the trail. The older section of the Elster Bike Trail crosses this bridge before turning left and heading to Tröglitz. A newer portion of the trail does not cross the bridge but continues north past the park towards Massnitz and Zangenberg, tunneling through the forest along the way. Both paths have historic bridges along the way to photograph.

IMGP6294

Rehmsdorf Railroad Bridges

Located over the White Elster at the railroad crossing just outside the village of Tröglitz (1 km east of Zeitz), the Rehmsdorf Railroad Bridge features two different bridges. The river crossing, which one can see at the railroad crossing, consists of two Warren pony truss spans with vertical beams and riveted connections. Just 100 meters from that bridge is a deck plate girder bridge with eight spans, spanning a stream that empties into the White Elster. Both bridges, dating back to the 1920s, can be seen from the road connecting Tröglitz to the east and Zeitz to the west, and as the older stretch of the Elster Bike Trail runs parallel to the road, bikers and photographers have the best view of the two bridges with the camera. The bridges once served a rail line connecting Zeitz with Meuselwitz via Tröglitz and Rehmsdorf. Unfortunately, flooding caused the collapse of three of the plate girder spans resulting in the closure of the bridge and the rail line. Most likely the collapse happened during the most recent flooding in 2013. It is unknown whether that bridge will be replaced and the line reopened. But given the availability of bus service in the area, chances of anything happening with the line are slim.

Deck plate girder spans
Deck plate girder spans
Close-up of the collapsed spans.
Close-up of the collapsed spans.

IMGP6299

Börnitz/ Massnitz Railroad Bridge:

Leaving the Zeitz area and heading north along the White Elster, we have this bridge, located only four kilometers from the one at Tröglitz. Even stranger is the fact that even though it is located near Massnitz and Börnitz, it also served the line that ran in a loop fashion going north from Zeitz, then looping onto this bridge before heading south to join the line that eventually terminates at Meuselwitz. This leads to the question of whether this bridge was the original crossing serving the line between Zeitz and Meuselwitz before it was eventually realigned to go past Tröglitz and replaced by the aforementioned bridge. If that is the case, then when did the replacement take place? The author’s hunch: as this bridge features two concrete arch spans over the river, supported by 10 (approach) spans of steel deck plate girders (summing up the length to about 1 kilometer), and the piers of the approach spans look much newer than the arch spans (which most likely dates back to a time up to 1890), the structure was originally an arch span (probably 10-12 spans counting the two spans over the river). All but the two river spans were blown up (most likely by the Nazis in 1945), and while Soviet troops tried to rebuild this bridge, a temporary bridge at Tröglitz (the one mentioned earlier) was built, which later because its permanent replacement. While more evidence is needed to support this argument, Adolf Hitler’s plan of destroying everything in the path of the Allied troops, known as operation Nero, is known throughout the circle of German historians. Nero was enacted at the dismay of even his closest allies, shortly before his suicide in 1945, but failed when even the locals realized that the war was all lost and sabotaged the attempts of the Nazi soldiers to blow up the bridges. 80% of Germany’s remaining bridges were destroyed as part of the plan, only 10% of them could ever be restored. It is uncertain whether this bridge was one of the 80%, but it would not have been surprising if evidence points to that. In either case, the bridge is accessible via street and bike route connecting Tröglitz and Massnitz on the east side of the river as well as the new Elster Trail between Börnitz and Zeitz.

IMGP6300
Close-up of the arch spans. How old do you think they are?
The arch spans behind the trees. Photo taken from the newer stretch of the Elster Bike Trail
The arch spans behind the trees. Photo taken from the newer stretch of the Elster Bike Trail

IMGP6303

Göbitz Mühlgraben Bridge:

Located over Mühlgraben Creek just 500 meters from its confluence with the White Elster, this bridge appears to be one of the oldest remaining structures in the Zeitz region. The 25 meter long structure features a trapezoidal style concrete arch bridge, which is typical of bridges built in the 1800s. The bridge may have been built to serve horse and buggy traffic between Börnitz and Göbitz until newer highways diverted it away from this crossing. Although it still serves pedestrian, cyclar and farming traffic today, spalling cracks in the spandrels and the wingwalls show that some structural rehabilitation is needed in order for it to accomodate traffic in the future. Whether or not it will happen remains to be seen.

IMGP6306

Elsterau Pedestrian Bridge:

The last bridge profiled on the tour is this crossing. Spanning the White Elster River, this wooden pony arch span serves not only the Elster Bike Trail but also the trails connecting Börnitz and Göbnitz. The bridge was most likely built between 2008 and 2012 for it appears new to the eyes of the tourists. In either case, the bridge serves as a new addition to the village of Börnitz, which is a quiet community with just a handful of shops.

A map of the bridges can be found via Google Map, by clicking here:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zE70H-hBCaFg.kBi4SDJUWfjk

To summarize this tour, the bridges in and around Zeitz, most of which are located along the White Elster, represent the charm and historic value that best fits the landscape of the area. These structures have a history of their own, many of which are worth researching, for the information on them are scarce. But as you bike along the Elster Bike Trail, you will find that these structures are worth biking for, even if the trail can be rugged at times. Yet these bridges are only a handful of the structures one should see in neighboring Leipzig (to the north) as well as Gera (to the south). Henceforth, never skip a stop for each one is full of surprises that are worth spending a few minutes of your time for. Zeitz is one of those forgotten examples that should not be forgotten.

bhc new logo jpeg

Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge

Gasconade1

The Gasconade River in Missouri: once populated with dozens of metal truss bridges loaded with history and charm, the river that flows past Wright, LeClare and Gasconade Counties now only has one bridge left. This bridge, built in 1924, used to carry the Mother Highway from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 (officially, US Hwy. 66). Sadly, this bridge is now the poster boy of how a state, like Missouri, has neglected its bridges, both modern and historic, and does not have the money to even maintain them.

Since December 2014, the Missouri Department of Transportation has closed this key crossing near Hazelgreen, despite its historic significance and its role in the development of Route 66. The bridge features three through truss spans and a pony span, going from far to near in the picture above: one Warren through truss, two Parker through trusses, one Warren pony and one beam approach, all totaling 524 feet in length, and all connections are riveted. The closure has sparked an outcry among locals, bridge enthusiasts and friends of Route 66 to a point where a rally took place back in March, drawing in as many as 300 attendants. The main objective is to put pressure on the State Legislature to provide funding to repair the deficiencies on the bridge and reopen it to traffic. Given the sparse amount of traffic on the bridge in comparison with the neighboring I-44 Bridge, located only 500 feet away.  Information and a video of the event which includes speeches, can be seen by clicking here.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles had a chance to sit down and chat with one of the members of the Gasconade River Bridge group and Friends of Route 66, Roamin Rich, who spoke at the Rally, to find out what ideas they have to convince lawmakers at Jefferson City (Missouri’s state capital) that the bridge is a vital part of the highway’s history and should be reopened. Here’s what he has to say:

1. How significant is the bridge?

The bridge is significant in all facets.  It is a major thoroughfare for local traffic.  People in the community, farmers, emergency responders all depend on this bridge.  There are several farmers in the area that own land on both sides of the river.  They are forced to make a 12 mile detour now because of the bridge closure.  Before the closure this section of Highway (also historic Route 66) was being utilized as an incident bypass route.  So if traffic on I44 shut down, they would divert traffic across this section of road and the Gasconade Bridge.

2. What’s the history behind building the bridge?

I don’t know the history behind building the bridge other than it occurred around 1922-23.  It is unique in the fact that is constructed of 3 different types of truss designs.  (See author’s description above in the introduction)

3. What’s the current situation on the bridge- are there plans to demolish it?

The current situation is indefinite.  There is absolutely no money at all set aside for doing anything with this bridge.  I seriously don’t think they are going to demolish it even when they do come up with funding.  In talking with the chief engineer with MoDot I don’t think they want to mess with repairing it either.  A bypass bridge looks like their preferred choice.

4. How do you want to save the bridge- as a pedestrian bridge or by rehabilitation?

We would like to save the bridge no matter what happens.  We would like to see it put back into service but we are willing to accept any plan that ultimately prevents the destruction of the bridge.

5. How are you approaching the plan as far as fund-raising, etc. are concerned?

Right now we are hashing out ideas to raise funds to pay for an independent inspection of the bridge.  We have formed an official committee and plan to meet within the next 10 days.  We aren’t sure how we are going to raise funds at the moment.

6. How much money is needed to preserve the bridge?

Until our independent study is concluded we do not know how much money is needed to restore the bridge.  We are guessing between 1.5 – 3 million dollars.

7. When would you like to see the bridge reopened?

We would like the bridge to be reopened within the next 24 months.  Earlier is better, but we are being realistic.  The state has slashed highway budgets drastically.  It’s going to take a literal act of Congress to get something done.

The irony behind the interview is the fact that MoDOT is trying to cut corners by putting in a replacement bridge at any cost, which would bypass the historic bridge. Yet the envision behind the draconian replace instead of repair is that money is needed to maintain that bridge as well. Without the maintenance, the lifespan of the structure is cut in half. Therefore repairing the bridges only prolongs their lives up up to 50 years, enough time for the state legislature to garner enough funds to either overhaul the original structure or even replace it with a newer structure that has a functional and structural appeal. However, with the state cutting funding, the mentality is to let the bridges fall apart until replacement is the lone option. This is figuratively slitting their wrists and the blood of greenbacks is leaving the body in droves.  But if there is one message to give to the state through this rally it is this: This way of thinking has to change, and priorities have to change. That means fixing the bridges and restoring them have more priority than the slash and burn approach, which is costing more money than necessary. And with that, our history slips away into the books, something our society has longed ignored.

While the fundraising is in its infant stage, you can help preserve the Gasconade River Route 66 Bridge. You can click on the link in the article, where you’ll be in the Route 66 News page. Yet the group has a facebook page, which you can click here and like to join. There you can share your ideas with other members and help in saving the bridge. As mentioned above, bypassing the bridge seems to be the option, yet fixing a bridge that is only used locally would serve in everyone’s best interest. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments involving the bridge.

Enjoy the pics taken by Roamin Rich of the bridge and the Rally:

Gasconade 4

Gasconade 2

Gasconade 3

bhc new logo jpeg