Our next mystery bridge is a diamond in the rough, in a literal sense of the word. When travelling along the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate by train, one can find a lot of surprises along the way, especially as far as bridges are concerned. I have a couple tour guides in the making that prove this theory. Some of the surprises a person can see along the way are hidden and requires some bridgehunting, as was the case with Glauchau. But this mystery bridge was a one found purely by chance.
Located 1.5 hours east that city along the rail line, this bridge spans the Weisseritz River in the suburb of Plauen, located between Dresden and Freital, the former having jurisdiction. The street it carries is Bienertstrasse, and it is located 350 meters southeast of the S-bahn station Dresden-Plauen (light rail is the English equivalent). The bridge is part of the local bike trail network that extends from Dresden through Freital and then through Rabenau Forest going uphill.
Looking at the structure itself, the bridge is a Howe lattice pony truss with welded connections. The endposts are vertical but have a slight curve towards the top, resembling a bottle with a thin rectangular block on top. There are curved gusset plates at the top and bottom chords as well as the mid-point in the panel where the diagonal beams intersect. Engraved geometrical designs are noticeable in the end posts, which if following the patterns of the truss bridge design, places the construction date to between 1880 and 1900. Yet postcards and old photos indicated that the bridge was built in 1893, replacing a brick arch bridge, which was washed away by flash floods. Despite 80% of the city being destroyed during World War II, much of which came with the infamous air raid of 13 February 1945, which turned the once Baroque city into a blazing inferno and wiped out 60% of the city’s population, this bridge retains its pristine form and is still open to traffic.
But for how long?
Already there has been talk about replacing this bridge because of the need to open another crossing and relieve traffic at the neighboring ones at Würzburger Strasse and Altplauen Strasse, each of which are 400 meters away from this bridge in each direction. The bridge had been damaged by the Great Flood of 2002, which wiped out every other bridge in its path and damaging one in three of the remaining crossings to a point where replacement was a necessity. Given its proximity to the mountain areas and to Dresden, the Weisseritz is notorious for its flash floods, which has caused city planners to consider long-term planning to encourage the free-flow of water enroute to the Elbe River, 8 kilometers from the site of this bridge. Given the densely populated area of the suburbs lining along the Weisseritz, it would make the most sense. However, opponents of the plan to replace the Biernertstrasse Bridge disagree. Apart from its historic significance, many, including the German bike association ADFC, have claimed that there is not enough traffic to justify replacing the bridge. In addition, the bridge serves as a key link for bikers going to other suburbs or even to Dresden itself. Given the high number of cyclists pedaling their way around the metropolitan area, combined with an ever-growing network of bike trails, that argument is well-justified.
For now, the bridge is safe and open to cyclists and pedestrians. Yet it is unknown if this bridge will remain a fixed crossing or if it will be lifted 1-2 meters as was the case with the Red Bridge in Des Moines, or if it will be replaced. What may serve as insurance and keep the developers’ hands off the structure is listing it as a technical monument in accordance to the German Historic Preservation Laws. Yet despite its unique design and the fact that the bridge was built in 1893, we don’t know who was behind the design and construction of this bridge. And therefore, we need your help.
What do you know about this bridge? What about its predecessor? Tell us about it. The photos and the map with the location of the bridge is below. 🙂
In 1920, an American engineer, Claude Allen Porter Turner (CAP) designed two different bridge designs that were supposed to simplify the way bridges are constructed. The first was the Turner Flat Slab, a design where the decking portion of the concrete slab was strengthened, thus eliminating the need of extra piers and it would encourage the spans to be longer than usual. The second is a modified version of the Warren truss, where additional lateral beams are constructed midway through the A-portion of the truss, thus creating an A-frame for each panel. Both of these concepts were practiced on the Liberty Memorial Bridge in Bismarck, North Dakota. Constructed in 1922, the bridge featured three Turner through truss spans of 476 feet each, plus the Turner flat slab approach spans totalling 1105 feet- 625 for the west spans and 480 for the east side. It was the only known work for the engineer, whose career started at Gillette-Herzog Manufacturing in Minneapolis in 1900 but then started his own business after declining an offer to relocate to Chicago. The product of the American Bridge and Foundation Bridge Companies remained in service until its replacement in 2008. It was believed to have been the only one of its kind built…..
…..that is until this recently discovery in Chemnitz, Germany!
Located just two kilometers south of Chemnitz Central Railway Station along the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate at Bernhardstrasse, this pony truss span resembles the same Turner design as the Liberty, but with two unique differences: 1. The truss span is pony and 2. The endposts are vertical. Like the Liberty, the connections are riveted, even in the A-frames of the Warren. Yet some unique features of the truss include the curled cap at the top of the endpost. The end post itself has an I-shape. It is unknown what the length of the bridge is, but it is estimated to be between 60 and 70 meters long. The width is 10 meters between the trusses, the sidewalks on the outer edge is 2-3 meters, thus totaling the width of 16 meters. As the East German government built or imported truss bridges during its 40 years existence, whose designs were mainly Warren (and many modified versions of it) and had not much design to it, it is likely that this bridge was constructed during the 1920s, maybe the 1930s, and survived the bombings of Chemnitz during World War II. 90% of the city center was destroyed by 1945 and 70% of the houses and buildings, dating back to the 1800s were either in shambles or badly damaged. This bridge may have survived the bombing unscathed. Yet the lack of scars from the war might lead to a dispute over the bridge. It may have been rebuilt using replacement parts, but most likely in the late 1940s to encourage passage over the magistrate. If that was the case, then the bridge was built before the Soviets gained full control of its militarized zone, which became the German Democratic Republic (a.k.a. East Germany), while Chemnitz was renamed Karl-Marx-Stadt, a name that remained on the maps until German Reunification in 1990.
With this in mind, let’s look at the following questions to be solved regarding this bridge:
When was this bridge built?
Who designed the structure? Did this engineer use the Turner design or was it just simple coincidence?
Lastly, if this bridge is considered a Turner truss, are there other designs of its caliber that exist? If so, where?
What do you know of this bridge, let alone the Turner truss? Share your thoughts either on facebook page or by using this contact form. A tour guide on the bridges in Chemnitz is in the making and if there is enough information, this bridge will be added. Let’s see if we can solve this mystery surrounding this bridge, shall we?
Best of luck and looking forward to the findings. 🙂
The Bailey Truss Bridge: a work of the past that’s still being used today. First developed by British civil engineer Donald Bailey in 1941, the truss bridge won its fame right away, as they were made of light steel, easily assembled and reassembled, used to replace thousands of bridges destroyed by German and Italian troops in World War II, as they tried to slow the advancing Allied Troops. But from the moment the first Bailey Truss bridge was erected in Tunesia in 1942 to the construction of 3000 of these bridges in Sicily totaling 55 miles, to the usage of double of the amount in Germany alone, neither Hitler nor Mussolini had a prayer as these bridges helped carry heavy artillery, tanks and truckloads of troops to their final destinations on D-Day. And while Donald Bailey was knighted in 1947 for his work, these trusses were later used for civilian uses in the US, Europe and even parts of Africa and western Asia, replacing bridges washed away by natural disasters. In Iowa, for example, several counties relied on these trusses after flood waters destroyed many bridges in 1945. At least a dozen of them were constructed in Harrison County alone. A couple of them are known to exist today.
In Shelbyville Kentucky, located east of Lexington, there is a Bailey truss span over Clear Creek that has been in the news recently. Located on Jail Hill Road just north of US Hwy. 60, this bridge was erected here in 1982, even though the span may have built earlier. Unlike many Bailey trusses that were built by American bridge builders (and of course are located on US-soil), this one was the work of a bridge-building firm located in Great Britain, the birthplace of this unique truss bridge. According to the plaque discovered by James MacCray and Jon Parrish, the bridge was built by Thomas Storey Engineering near Manchester, with the steel being manufactured by Appleby-Frodingham Steel in the district of Lincolnshire. Where the bridge was first built or how many times was the bridge rebuilt remains unclear.
The current status of this bridge is not good. Since the end of last year, the crossing has been closed to traffic because of structural concerns, with plans to replace the bridge being not so far off in the future. Yet there is interest in the purchase of the bridge to be used for private purpose, according to the latest report from the bridgehunter.com website. If you are interested in helping this gentleman out with some information or moving the bridge, please refer to the post here. You can also contact the Shelby County Road Department using the contact details here.
There is hope that this bridge will find a home in one way or another. With its history as unique as it is, it would not be surprising if it appears on the National Register of Historic Places in the near future. But that depends on the amount of information that is available on the bridge.
Author’s note: Special thanks to James MacCray for the use of his photos for this article.
To start off this article, let’s begin by asking this question: do you know of bridges in the US like this one in the picture: a double-leaf bascule bridge that was built before or at the turn of the century (basically, up to 1900)? If so, where was it located, who built it, and when was it built? While many double-leaf bascule bridges can be found in Europe with most of them being 100 years old and located in the Netherlands, Belgium and northern Germany, it is surprising to see that there were some bridges like this one that existed before the days of Ford and his Model T.
Kevin Miller brought this photo to the author’s attention and needs your help. A collection of vintage photos came to the Malibu Times (located in California outside Los Angeles) which included this bridge. Judging by the palm trees in the background, it appeared that this structure existed somewhere in southern California, northern Mexico or even Florida, in other words, the regions where one can most likely find palm trees. In addition to that, it may have been located in a coastal community that once thrived in fishing and/or shipping and used to have a canal (or even a series of canals) that went through the community. Yet as the double-leaf is one of the key landmarks that is typically Dutch, it would mean that the coastal community was predominately Dutch, which would contradict the trend that was set forth in the history of Dutch immigration in the US. Up until 1945, the majority of Dutch settlements were located in the Midwest and northeastern parts of the USA, including Pella, Iowa, which has a double-leaf bridge and Dutch houses of its own. After World War II, the number of Dutch immigrants to California and the coastal areas reaching as far as Alaska skyrocketed resulting in over 200,000 of them living in tight quarters either within a bigger city or a small community. In Los Angeles alone, over 100,000 people with Dutch and Indo-dutch background reside there. Yet because of trade with Indonesia prior to 1930, it is likely that a handful of Dutch communities may have been established but most likely in an area stretching from Santa Ynez down to the Mexican state of Baja California. Yet with its connections with trading partners in the Caribbean at the same time, combined with previous settlements in the New England states, an average of 5-10% of Dutchmen also have resided in Florida, which means that some communities may have been established at the same time as in California. This means that the double-leaf bridge in this picture may have belonged to a Dutch community.
Another clue is the lettering on the left building in the background. If looking more closely, one can see some Spanish and Dutch names resembling the likes of Isdero Gertrain, although it does appear fuzzy. If there were any Spanish connections, then it is most likely that the double-leaf was located in a Dutch community either in southern California or northern Baja California in Mexico. But some closer examinations may be needed to confirm this.
As this picture may have been taken at the same time as those in the collection- meaning most likely in the 19th century and definitely before the creation of the Malibu Times in 1946, there are plenty of questions that need to be answered about this double-leaf, namely:
1. Where was this bridge located? Was it in a Dutch community or one that used to be predominately Dutch?
2. When did this bridge exist- and especially, when was this photo taken?
3. Given the design of the bridge’s towers, which appears to be ornamental made of iron, similar to a bridge in northern Germany, who designed the bridge?
The bridge was a pedestrian bridge that was approximately 80-110 feet total in length with a width clearance of about 40-50 feet allowing small ships to pass. Given the close proximity of the buildings, the canal must have been 40 feet wide at the most.
Any information would be much appreciated. Put them in the comment section as well as in the Chronicles’ facebook, twitter and LinkedIn pages. It will also be posted in the Malibu Times facebook page in case you wish to post some facts there. You can also contact Kevin Miller at Kevin.Miller3@pepperdine.edu.
Also useful is to know of other double leaf bridges in the US that existed prior to 1900. If you know of some, you are free to comment here in the Comment page or contact the Chronicles via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Curious about this bridge and to know about the double leaves in the US? The Chronicles will keep you posted on this unique mystery bridge.
Continuing from Part I, not everything is doom and gloom regarding historic bridges. In fact some drives to save historic bridges are in gear providing a clear signal that the interest in saving these relicts is there. Here are some more highlights as we focus on part II.
Sutton-Weaver Swing Bridge to be refurbished
Spanning the Weaver River between the town of Frodsham and the village of Sutton Weaver (Chester District) in Great Britain, this bridge was built in 1923 by James Parks and features a Howe through truss swing span. It carries A56, a primary highway that connects the two communities. Structural concerns have prompted officials to close the bridge and refurbish it, a project which has commenced and is scheduled to be completed by fall 2014. A Bailey truss bridge has been erected alongside the swing bridge to ensure that motorists can use the crossing and not use a detour which is 14 miles long. More information on this bridge can be found here.
Preservation Campaign to save Mulberry Creek Bridge underway.
Last year, the Chronicles did a report on the two-span through truss bridge spanning Mulberry Creek in Ford County, Kansas, which carries a small minimum maintenance road that leads up to the farm place of Wayne Kellar (see article here for more details). Little has changed in terms of the county’s decision in June 2012 to demolish the last two spans of the original Dodge City Bridge that was built in 1906 but was relocated once before it was reerected at its current location. In fact, despite the strive to demolish the bridge in favor of a concrete culvert, Mr. Kellar has been striving to save the bridge and put it in his jurisdiction. He recently received some support- in the form of Mother Nature! Flash flooding on August 8th and 13th wiped out the road but the bridge was not touched by the floodwaters, which justified the argument against a culvert or any form of low-water crossings going to his property. Mr. Kellar has started a petition and fund-raising drive to save the bridge, convincing the county to replace a broken pin and do some minor repairs to reopen the structure to private traffic. A link to the petition drive with information on the bridge’s history and possibilities to sign the petition can be found here. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments with this bridge.
Covered Bridge in Vermont needs reconstruction
Built in the 1870s and spanning the Passumpsic River near the town of Lyndonville, the Sanborn Covered Bridge features one of the rarest examples of a Paddleford Truss bridge, used mainly in covered bridges. Floodwaters caused a portion of the bridge to partially sag and damage to the bridge parts. A fundraiser drive to restore the bridge and reopen it to pedestrians and cyclists has started with the plan to relocate the bridge onto dry land, restore it and reerect it on new piers. $1.2 million is needed for the project. More information on the project and how you can donate can be found here.
Bridge to be reconstructed after a 70-year absence
Located along the Saale River southeast of Saalfeld in the German state of Thuringia, the Linkenmühlenbrücke near the village of Altenroth was probably the shortest lived bridge built along the river. Built in 1943, the steel girder bridge was in service until it was destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945, shortly before Adolf Hitler’s suicide and Germany’s capitulation. For over 67 years, the only way to get from Altenroth to Linkenmühle was with the ferry. The state government is working to restore the crossing and has put 4 million Euros aside to build a bridge and provide easier access to the villages. Most likely, the bridge will be 200-300 meters long and about 20 meters high. Bridge type is unknown at the moment. Despite some scepticism, it appears that the bill will be passed in the coming weeks and work will start on the new crossing by next year, lasting over a year. More details can be found here.
There are many ways to write a book on bridges, let alone do a documentary for a TV program. One can focus on one bridge and its history, but that is more for locals who are closely attached to the bridge. One can focus on a region with a handful of bridges, like writing about bridges in a county or district. Again, the main focus would be the locals, but it would draw some attention from other bridge enthusiasts. As the region gets bigger, so do the number of people who are closely tied to the bridges, and the people from outside who are interested in these sturctures.
However, if you want to focus on bridges along the river, like we have here along the Rhine River, this is where one has to be walk a fine line. While documentaries like the one televised by German Public TV Station WDR can draw hundreds of thousands of viewers to the region, one has to be careful that the people do not become bored with each and every single bridge that is documented and told in the language that everyone can simply understand. This does not mean that it is impossible to talk about a tour of bridges along the rivers. The problem is when the length of the rivers are longer and there are more crossings, then one really needs to divide the project into segments dealing with region, history and in a certain degree, importance to the community.
One of the most successful projects is a two-volume book written by a former Iowa teacher, Mary Costello, on the bridges of the Mississippi River. Her book featured sketches of bridges she drew while on tour and some history to each one, yet it was divided unto the bridges along the Lower Mississippi (Gulf of Mexico to Iowa) and the Upper Mississippi (Iowa to Lake Itasca, Minnesota, where the river began). But what about another long river, the Rhine River?
For 1200 kilometers (or 760 miles), the Rhine starts in the Swiss Canton of Grisons in the southeastern part of Switzerland in the Alpine region and makes its way north, forming borders with Liechtenstein and Austria before entering Lake Constance and forming the border with Germany. After Basel, the river creates a border between the Bundesrepublik and France before flowing into Germany after Karlsruhe. After passing through Mannheim, Mainz, and Frankfurt, the river creates a deep gorge which slithers its way from Bingen to Bonn and later through the industrial metropolises of Duesseldorf, Cologne and Leverkusen. After turning west from there, it enters the Netherlands, where after passing through Rotterdam and Utrecht, it creates a delta where the river empties into the North Sea near Katwijk. Nearly 100 bridges cross the Rhine, half of them in Germany. Each of them has a history of its own, not only in terms of its design and construction, but also its involvement in history.
When WDR (an arm of Berlin-based German public TV channel ARD with its branch office in Cologne) produced the two-part documentary on the Rhine River crossings in 2010, it was aware of the fact that it had to narrow its focus to only a few bridges, for each one had its own personal history to it, and the broadcasters there were aware that they could not afford to lose their audience with too many bridges, nor get into conflict with other German public TV stations who could benefit from this experience, like HR, which covers Hesse and Rheinland Palatinate and SWR, which covers the Saarland and Baden Wurttemberg. Therefore, WDR focused its bridge documentary on just the bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia, covering the bridges of Cologne, Duesseldorf and Duisburg.
The End Result?
A two part series where the first part focuses on the historical aspect. The story there starts in 1945 where the Nazis, in a desparate attempt to fend off the Allied Troops that were enchroaching the country, blew up any bridges along the Rhine that were not destroyed. Yet the mission was unsuccessful because of one of the last standing bridges at Remagen, the Ludendorff Railway Bridge, which the Americans captured on 7 March, 1945. Yet the bridge collapsed 10 days later but not before the troops constructed the bridge heads on both sides of the Rhine so that they could construct a pontoon bridge in its place. The original bridge heads were kept in place and is now a memorial.
The bridges laid in ruins together with the cities that were bombed out. Yet, one bridge, the Hollernzollern Bridge was rebuilt, using the through arch spans that were bombed off the piers and were sitting in the Rhine. Originally consisting of two three-span arch bridges, an additional one was added in the 1950s and today is the key link for trains travelling to Frankfurt and points to the east of Cologne Central Station. The Bridge serves as a symbol of love, as the railings are covered with padlocks with signs of love written all over them. Legend has it when lovers meet, the padlock was locked on the fenced railing with the keys thrown into the Rhine.
But the first part also featured a tour of the bridges, inspected by the city engineer on a regular basis to determine how stable the structure is and what repairs are recommended. Marc Neumann, the city engineer serving Cologne provided a tour of the inside portion of the Zoo Bridge in Cologne, one of the most heavily traveled vehicular bridges in Cologne that was built in 1962 and is a box girder bridge, the first built in Germany at that time. Other highway bridges in Cologne have dealt with problems with increased traffic and the city has desperately tried to keep up the pace by constant maintenance of the bridge, as shown with the Severin Bridge, a cable-stayed suspension bridge that was the first post-war modern bridge built over the Rhine in Cologne. The 1959 structure was the focus of structural issues with its stayed cables, which needed to be replaced with the rest of the bridge being painted lime green afterwards. The purpose: to protect the bridge from the salt and other debris that have a potential to make the bridge rust and corrode.
The second part of the series focused on other bridges in the state. Apart from the ones at Remagen, there were many cable-stayed and steel arch bridges that were mentioned in the documentary. While the Theodore Heuss Bridge, built in 1957, was the first cable-stayed suspension bridge built in Germany, there are two bridges are worth mentioning: The Bridge of Solidarity in Duisburg and the Oberkasseler Bridge in Duesseldorf. The Oberkasseler Bridge was built in 1973 replacing an ornamental arch bridge built in 1909 that was structurally deficient. The bridge was built alongside the old structure on the south end and after the old bridge was razed, the entire cable-stayed bridge featuring a set of towers planted in the middle of the roadway, was moved 47.5 meters to the original location of the 1909 bridge, a feat unimaginable for a bridge of that size and length, at 617 meters. The Bridge of Solidarity in Duisburg was built in 1950 replacing a similar bridge built in 1936. Yet the name stamms from a group of protesters who blocked traffic to the bridge to protest the closing of a steel plant nearby. From 10 December, 1987 until 20 January, 1988 the workers walked the picket line on the bridge and the nearby company they had worked, resulting in the state government discussing about the crisis in the steel industry and the bridge being renamed at the request of the protesters. A unique action that one can rarely see today unless one is in southern Europe protesting the European Union’s bailout package with the conditions, as seen in Spain, Greece and Cypern.
The Rhine Bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia are unique in a way that one has to go beyond the appearance of each structure to look at its history, how they were built and rebuilt, and how they are integrated into the lives of the people today. While focusing on safety and history were the key elements of the document series, the report also looked at how the people and their bridges go together, whether it is a person living inside a bridge or if there are musicians performing inside or underneath the bridge- both were found at Zoo Bridge in Cologne. The Rhine bridges in North Rhine-Westphalia, once a pile a rubble because of the war, are now a part of the lives of the residents who use it regularly to get from point A to point B. And even if we are in the post-modern era where sleek modern designs dominate the land and cityscapes, the memories of the bridges, how they looked like in the past and how they look like now will remain in their memories for generations to come.
With this in mind, I would like to close with a couple questions for the forum, and for those interested in producing a thorough and history and culturally enriched documentary similar to what was produced by WDR on the Rhine Bridges of North Rhine-Westphalia. The documentary covered many key points that were important for people to know about bridges, infrastructure, safety, culture and history, giving them some interest and perhaps an incentive to pursue something that is similar to what was shown on TV. But the questions posed here are something different from what was profiled here. Keeping the documentary in mind:
1. How would you do a documentary on bridges along the river? Would you chop the river up into segments or keep it the same? Which aspects would you include?
2. When looking at the documentaries enclosed below (in German), what is your opinion of the documentary? What words of advice would you give to people wanting to do what WDR did with the Rhine? This applies not only to the Rhine itself but other rivers.
3. Which other rivers would you imagine doing a documentary on apart from the Rhine and Mississippi Rivers?
Australian Traveller that loves to "Roam" our globe, creator of ENDLESSROAMING.COM sharing the experience through word and photography. Currently residing in my home of Newtown Sydney but hope to be back on the road late 2020. Feedback / questions are more than welcome, happy travels