Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge: Day 2- Facebook


Looks can be deceiving in this picture above. Taken last week right before the Arctic/ Siberian cold spell that dropped temperatures to as far down as -40° C and buried cities, like Flensburg in one foot of snow, one can see the bridge that is still in tact, yet its northern approach to the arch spans is gone. Demolition has not taken place for it has been stayed pending on a hearing between the group saving the bridge and political representatives of the Ore Mountain district (Erzgebirge) and the German state of Saxony. Three days after posting the first entry, the German version of the online petition was accepted by authorities in Dresden (the state capital) and Aue (the district seat), and we received an invitation to a hearing on this unique structure. But for right now, the old approach is needed for the new approach to the span being built directly to the east of the new span. The foundations for the pylon are already supplanted in the Zwickau Mulde, and it will be a matter of time before work can commence on building this important piece that will eventually hold the structure. The new span is to be a two-span concrete beam bridge, whose aesthetic value is really compared to a typical American slab span, as seen in one example here.  In other words, engineers could have done a better job in designing a bridge that best fits the mountain landscape, which the builders of the Stone Arch Bridge achieved hands down- and within a course of a year on top of that. 🙂


But going to the current theme in the entry:  Social networking has played a key role in addressing the issues of concern while attracting scores of people to help in their causes. Since around 2011, many organizations involved in preserving historic bridges have used social networking- such as facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn to attract people from faraway places, many of them with the tools and technology needed to save the structures and repurpose them for recreational use. My first involvement came with the Riverside Bridge in Missouri, where Kris Dyer led in the efforts to attract hundreds of people who were willing to chip money, time and efforts into saving the two-span truss bridge that was a product of the Canton Bridge Company and built in 1909. Myself and a friend of mine from Pittsburgh helped organize the Historic Bridge Weekend Conference using that bridge and another one at Times Beach near St. Louis as centerpieces for bridge preservation that were needed during that time.  Riverside Bridge was restored and reopened two years later, while a campaign to repurpose the other bridge is well underway with plans to have the bridge open by 2025.

The social network idea led to my creation of one myself for a committee to save the Green Bridge in Des Moines. The three-span through truss bridge, built by George E. King in 1898, was restored in 2017 but it took three years plus over 1400 fans,  who contributed photos, stories and ideas on how to save the structure. The bridge in the end needed new decking and steel floor beams, new painting and lighting and repairs to the decking.

Save the Bockau Arch Bridge:

This led to the idea of building a social network site for the Bockau Arch Bridge (in German: Rechenhausbrücke Aue). The purpose of the website is to share some stories, photos and other facts about the bridge and its Headwaters Tender House and Dam (Rechenhaus), which is now a restaurant, plus provide some updates on the project to save and restore the stone arch bridge, even after the new bridge is open to traffic next year.  Basically, to find out how successful the facebook site is, the one question you should ask yourself is can you attract enough likes to make a statement? Even more likes than in a petition? Unlike going door-to-door collecting petitions from neighbors, friends, family members and teachers, a social network, sometimes combined with an online petition, will attract more people from all aspects of the world. And who knows? There may be enough people out there who just might be that savior with some particular power to save the bridge- a politician, preservationist, financial provider, etc.

And therefore, the committee needs your help. Go to the website by clicking on the link below:

Like the site and feel free to help out in saving this bridge. The goal of the page is to get 2000 likes before Easter, plus just as many more (at least) before the end of the year. The ultimate goal is to send a message to Aue, Dresden, Berlin and beyond that we care about this bridge and we want to keep the structure, no matter what costs will incur in doing that, and no matter what events we can put together to raise money to make it happen.  An English-speaking online petition is in the works and will be added very soon.

So can you join in the page and like us to follow? We hope so. 🙂

In the next entry, we’ll have a look at the history of the Rechenhaus located next to the bridge. A very unique one indeed. 🙂  Stay tuned!

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Cainsdorf Bridge to be Replaced

By André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons
1929 Plate Girder to be Replaced by Two Bridges. Construction to begin in 2019

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Three more bridges spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River  and its tributaries in western Saxony are about to get replacements over the next three years. Apart from the crossing at Schlunzig near Glauchau, a crossing just east of Schneppendorf Bridge at Crossen are going to get makeovers, going from a bland, Communist style structure to a modern but fancier one that is attractive to tourists. The third crossing to be replaced is this one in Cainsdorf, located south of Zwickau. Built in 1929, the two-span steel deck plate girder design is located just east of the train station and is a key bridge for all vehicles, including bikes. Sadly the 200 meter long bridge has been suffering from structural decay to a point where it was closed for emergency repairs this past fall and is now reopened to traffic but as a one-way crossing, going at 10 kph and with a 3.5 ton weight limit.

The Zwickau City Council has just recently approved a measure for not only one, but two new crossings to replace the Cainsdorf Bridge. At a cost of 14 million Euros ($20 million), construction will begin next year to build a new bridge, 300 meters north of the current structure. The bridge will remain open during the time of construction with the expected completion date being between 2020 and 2021. After the new bridge opens to traffic, the old one will be torn down and replaced with a pedestrian/bicycle bridge at its location. The design of the two bridges have yet to be clarified, however given its track record for having fancy bridge crossings, as seen at Lunzenau, Rochsburg, Wolkenburg, and even in neighboring Wilkau-Hasslau, chances are the new crossing for pedestrians and cyclist will be a modern but really fancy crossing which will make the train station located next to the present structure more and the Zwickau Mulde Bike Trail which passes the bridge even more attractive than before. The project will most likely include reconstructing portions of the bike trail (which is mostly a dirt path) as well as the street running parallel to the rail line connecting Aue and Zwickau.

In either case, many people, including commuters, cyclists and locals will no longer have to wait on the bridge at the traffic light without having to fear of the bridge’s collapse. With the realignment of the street and a new bridge for cars, people can drive to and from Zwickau more safely than in its current arrangement. And even more so for cyclists, as they will not have to worry about waiting to cross the tracks and main street. A win-win for the Ore Mountains which already has a good track record for fancy bridges.




The Wave Is Getting Accolades


GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY-  It had been once considered an absurd project- a replacement bridge fit for bikers and pedestrians instead of a vehicular bridge. The project was criticized for its delays due to weather and other circuzmstances related to construction. Since June of this year, the Wave, spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River near Wernsdorf, south of Glauchau in western Saxony, has been serving the Mulde bike trail, going south to Zwickau.  Now the Wave is getting its first accolade and is in line for another one. The bridge, consisting of a concrete suspension bridge- whose roadway is draped over the pylons implanted in the riverbed- just recently received the State Engineering Excellence Award from the State of Thuringia.

But why Thuringia, when the bridge is in Saxony?

According to sources from the Free Press, it was simple. The engineering firm that constructed the Wave, originates from Weimar. Setzpfandt Engineering was founded by Gerhard Setzpfandt in 2015, whose engineering career spans over 25 years. Since its opening, the engineering firm has several projects completed to their name with many more on the table. This includes projects in Saxony-Anhalt, Hesse, Thuringia and greater Berlin. Because of its unusual design, which is the first of its kind, the state of Thuringia awarded the prize to the engineering group and with that, the City of Glauchau, even though it is the state’s first award to be given out of state.

I happened to visit The Wave during a bike tour in October and presented a video to show you what the bridge looks like and how it feels walking across the “roadway-style” suspension bridge. Have a look below:



There will be many more accolades to come for this unique bridge, even if it’s still controversial in the eyes of those who would have preferred a vehicular crossing. But with additional bridge work happening at Schlunzig, that dream will be fulfilled.  The Wave is in the running for another award, the Othmar H. Ammann Awards in the category Best Kept Secret- Individual Bridge. Whether it wins the award depends on the voting process, which will begin in December via the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  The Wave is also one of five additional bridges in Glauchau that were added to the city’s tour guide earlier this year, hence the decision to re-enter Glauchau in the Ammann Awards in the category of Bridge Tour Guide. Again, the winner of the awards in that category is dependent on the voting.

More details on who else is in the competition in the six categories will come on December 4th. Stay tuned. 🙂

Source: Chemnitz Free Press

What to Do With a Historic Bridge: The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge in Germany

Photos taken in September 2017


Our next stop on the bridgehunting tour, especially along the Zwickauer Mulde in western Saxony is the town of Bad Schlema. This town of 5,600 inhabitants is located deep in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) where the river meets the River Schlema. It was once a key junction of two rail lines: the still existing north-south railroad that connects the community with Aue and Johanngeorgenstadt to the south as well as to Zwickau-Werdau-Leipzig to the north. The other is a short line going west to Schneeberg that used to provide passenger and freight serviceS but has been extant for over 60 years. Both lines were vital for transporting iron ore from the mined regions to the processing plants in the larger cities in the mountains. Nowadays the current line provides access for people wishing to visit the radon health resort in Bad Schlema, which has existed for over a century as well as the Christmas markets in Aue, Schwarzenberg and Schneeberg.

And while the train station at Bad Schlema still provides passenger service on the north-south axis, the surroundings that made the station famous are all but a faded memory. This included the Leonhardt Paper Company, the Hoffmann Machine Factory and Tölle Machinery, the third of which manufactured iron products. By 2006, the last remaining factory, the paper manufacturer, became a memory thanks to the wrecking ball.  The only relict remaining that serves as a reminder of the good old days of mining and paper production are a pair of historic bridges spanning the Zwickauer Mulde: a truss bridge dating back to the Communist era and a stone arch bridge that had existed since the creation of the rail line, but is in disarray to a point where questions are being raised as to which bridge should be saved and which one should go.


Before going to my investigative reporting, look at the slide show below and ask yourselves this question: Which bridge would you want to see saved and which one would you like to see gone? And what are your reasons for your decision? And how old do you think these two structures are?


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After doing some thinking about it, let’s take a look at the history behind the two bridges, which is in connection with the railroad itself. Between 1856 and 1860, the railroad company decided to construct a line going into the Ore Mountain region in western Saxony, where it was rich in various metals and miners had been working the region for generations. The line started from Zwickau and by 1860, the line arrived in Aue before terminating at Johanngeorgenstadt, near the present-day Czech border by 1868. Between Aue and Schlema, the rail line made a hook going around the mountain, running parallel to the Zwickauer Mulde. Because of its narrowness, combined with dangers of rock slides and curves, a decision was made to straighten the line in 1895, which included building a tunnel between the stations of Aue and Schlema, the latter was named Niederschlema at that time. As seen in the map and illustration, the distance was trimmed by half, and a single-span duo-truss bridge eliminated a single-lane bridge, thus making it easier and quicker to ship people and goods between Aue and points to the north and west. At the same time, another bypass north of Niederschlema was built going north to Hartenstein, which ran parallel to the Zwickauer Mulde and the present-day road connecting both towns. The realignment project was completely finished by 1900, but it came at the cost of the original rail line and the Stone Arch Bridge itself.

The response, according to Dr. Oliver Titzmann was an overwhelming support by the paper company to take the redundant line and bridge and make it their property. In an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Dr. Titzmann, the town historian and member of the Bad Schlema City Council, has done a lot of research on the railroad and the Stone Arch Bridge itself. That bridge was built in 1860 and featured two Luten arches as main spans, plus a pair of shorter arch spans as approaches. Upon personal observations, the bridge was built using two different types of rock: sandstone and quartzite, the first of which appears harder on the surface. The spans are skewed at 30°, which is unusual for arch bridges, yet its purpose still remains the same: to provide the river with free-flowing passage without damaging the structure. While there is no concrete information on the structure’s dimensions, upon personal visit, it appeared to be 65-70 meters long and 12-14 meters wide.   According to information by the historian, as well as reports by the Chemnitz Free Press, the Bridge was made redundant by a Communist-era through truss bridge, built using a Warren design in the 1980s, and served the line going through the paper factory until it was closed down in the mid-1990s. Abandoned since then and fenced off to prevent trespassers from crossing it, the community would like to see the Stone Arch Bridge rehabilitated and reused with the truss bridge being removed because it’s an eyesore.   Dr. Titzmann has been a vocal supporter for saving the Stone Arch Bridge, the last of the original crossings  along the Zwickau-Aue branch of the north-south line and integrating it into the Mulde Bike Trail, which currently shares the road to Hartenstein from the train Station in Bad Schlema.  Like the overwhelming support by the now extant paper factory during ist existence a century ago, support is enormous among the community for reusing the Stone Arch Bridge, which has been abandoned for almost four decades. Already the company owning the eastern bank of the river where the Bridge is located, Wismut Mining Works, has worked on clearing space for the bike trail, which has cost them over 300,000 Euros to date. The State of Saxony has already contributed 145,000 Euros for the rehabilitation of the structure.

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A surveyor at the Stone Arch Bridge in 2009. Photo taken by Marcel Weidlich (Chemnitz Free Press)

The plan, according to Dr. Titzmann is simple: as seen in the map, the bike trail is to follow the original railroad line, but running underneath the tunnel at the Bad Schlema train station, utilizing the Stone Arch Bridge, and going past the Wismut Mining Works, using the Poppenwald Road that goes there, as it was originally part of the line, before joining the current bike trail in use at Hartenstein.

The problem, according to Dr. Titzmann, is more complicated than expected:  “The center pier of the bridge has been undermined over the years, thanks to flooding and erosion,” Titzmann stated during the interview. “Therefore, as a person can see, the roadway at the center of the bridge is sinking.”  Aware of the complications, the community is working together with the state in securing additional funding to rebuild the bridge, keeping it in its original form to avoid being scratched from the Denkmalschutz book. This is the German equivalent to the National Register of Historic Places in the United States, except the bridge is listed on the state level because of its design and connection with the history of the paper and mining industries in the Erzgebirge.  The state level is one of three that are used to list historic places in the Denkmalschutz Book, along with local and national levels. Had the Stone Arch Bridge been listed in American standards, it would have fallen under the criterien of A (Events) and C (Design and Construction). Yet while funding for rehabilitating bridges in the States has become scarce, in Germany, money is kept available by the federal and state governments to encourage ambitious projects like this one, even if the project is complicated because of the aforementioned reasons.

The reconstruction project falls on the state level and it is a matter of time before the state of Saxony provides some additional funding in order for the project to move forward. The cost for rebuilding the bridge alone will take between 120,000 and 150,000 Euros, which consists of stripping the bridge down, while retaining the original stonework, rebuild the center pier, and then rebuild the structure, piece by piece before adding the decking and railing. The reconstruction of bridges in this style is very common in Germany, with the Camsdorf Bridge in Jena (Thuringia) being the closest example to the Stone Arch Bridge in Bad Schlema. That bridge, built in 1913 and rebuilt in 1946, was reconstructed and widened to accommodate more trams and cyclists. Completed in 2005, the project had taken two years.

Once the Stone Arch Bridge is completed, the rest of the bike trail can be built, thus reactivating a part of history that had not existed for over a century. Already a section of the bike trail north of the train station had been built on the west end of the river approaching the bridge but if funding and support arrive in a timely manner, the project could be finished in two years or less. This includes the removal of the truss bridge.

In the meantime, as funding and technical know-how is being pursued to realize this project, cyclists are still fighting with traffic along the road between Bad Schlema and Hartenstein, one of a few stretches of the 240-km long Zwickauer Mulde Bike Trail. And even though a stretch of rail line between Aue and Wolfsgrün has been part of the Mulde system for seven-plus years, when the renovation of the bridge and realignment of the bike trail are both completed, an additional 10 km of rails to trails will be added, which will mean less stress while on the road, but at the same time, more opportunity to enjoy the Zwickauer Mulde, the natural landscape and a little history about the line passing through the region, which had once connected Leipzig with the Czech Republic and provided goods and services.

And when the bridge is finished, one will only see the arch bridge that was once abandoned but is now a historic site- seen by the train leaving Bad Schlema for Zwickau instead of the Communist eyesore, which many will not shed a tear once it’s gone.


Mystery Bridge Nr. 87: A Bridge with an Unusual Railing and Plaque



Our 87th mystery bridge takes us down to Saxony again and to the town of Eibenstock. Located 13 kilometers southwest of Schneeberg and 22 kilometers west of Aue, this community of 7,000 inhabitants feature not only one but thirteen different sections that had once been villages, all located within a 122.2 squared kilometers from each other, meaning approximately 68 people per square km. At at a height of 650 meters above sea level, Eibenstock is one of the highest communities in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountain region). Founded 862 years ago, the community was one of the main centers for nickel and copper mining in the region. Much of the architecture from the 17th and 18th Centuries have remained in tact, including the churches, the Post Mile and the historic town center. There, one can find mini fairy tale huts with scenes from over a dozen stories. The town is located south of the Eibenstock Reservoir, an artificial lake that was created with the Dam, built in 1984 to control the flow of water from the Zwickauer Mulde River. Prior to that, the river valley was one of the deepest in Saxony and one that required both a railway line from Chemnitz and Aue but also a steep cable-line car to Eibenstock, once the steepest in eastern Germany. Both gave way to progress with the dam and reservoir. But even the lake provides some boating, fishing and hiking opportunities in the summer time, a complement to its traditional skiing and winter amusement area between the lake and the community.

One of several Stone arch bridges in Eibenstock. This one is at Haberleithe and Bachstrasse


And while the Zwickauer Mulde flows past the town of Eibenstock through the lake bearing its name, two creeks flow through the town, merging at the town square at the corner of the town’s elementary school: the Dönitzbach and the Rähmerbach. From there, the newly merged Rähmerbach flows quickly down the steep valley and empties into the Reservoir, only two kilometers away.  Several arch bridges cross the two creeks in Eibenstock- the classical stone arch bridge as well as modern arch bridges whose decking and railings curve upwards. With each span having a length of 5-10 meters, it is easy to overlook them because they are typical structures a person could even jump over. However, one cannot overlook this structure:


It is a short beam bridge with a length of 9-10 meters and 8 meters wide. It spans the Dönitzbach carrying Bürgermeister Hesse Strasse at the market square on the opposite end of the elementary school, where Winklerstrasse meets.  While one may look at it as just a short bridge, the uniqueness comes with the railing on the side facing the market square.  There, we have a curved railing with vertical ends, all made using sandstone brick. At the center of the span, the top portion makes a U-shaped dip deep enough to include an iron shield. Curved and ornamental, the shield represents the symbol of luck, featuring a long rake in the middle, a three-leaf clover on the left and a miner’s chisel on the right. One can assume that given Eibenstock’s location in the Erzgebirge, the shield goes by the slogan “Glück Auf!” which means either “Good luck!” or even “Hello!” in German. In fact, the Erzgebirge Region has three characteristics that make it special: woodwork, mining and farming. When visiting the Christmas market in Germany and visiting the booth selling products from the Region, be it a lighted Christmas arch (Lichterbogen), Christmas Pyramid or any wooden products as well as metal bracelets and figures, one will see how they are handmade, going from forest or mines through the whole process into the fine product to be given to your loved one for the Holidays.

Close-up of the iron shield with the markings typical of the Region. Any ideas how old this is?


But going back to the mystery bridge, the structure appears to have been built most recently, going back no more than 10 years, and the railing and iron shield stemmed from the structure the present bridge replaced. This can be seen, especially with the shield, as it has shown some wear and tear over the years with rust and corrosion appearing especially on the back side. The question is what did the previous bridge look like? Did it look like the stone arches that still exist in Eibenstock? When was it built and if the shield was part of the original structure, since when, and who designed it?


If you have any answers, then we’ll be happy to take them. Just drop a line and we’ll update this bridge until the mystery bridge is solved.

For those who want an Impression of the German Christmas market from the author, you should check out the sister column, The Flensburg Files and its tour guide page. There, you can find the places the author has visited, including those in the Erzgebirge and Saxony to date. This Season’s tour continues in the Erzgebirge and includes some Holiday stories of Christmas’ past. Click on the link to the Tour Guide page and here for details on the Holiday stories that are being collected.



Bockau Arch Bridge Closed; Coming Down in Favor of a New Bridge


Bridge built in the 1600s to be replaced on a new alignment. Petition to reuse the bridge for pedestrian use still in the running.

AUE (SAXONY)/ DRESDEN/ BERLIN-  While we read about historic bridges being demolished we mostly find metal truss bridges, between the ages of 70 and 130 years, that are coming down, despite having potential of being reused. We almost never see a stone arch bridge that meets the wrecking ball, regardless of age.

That is unless you look at and read about this bridge, the Bockau Arch Bridge, spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River at the village of Bockau, six kilometers southwest of Aue and exactly the same south of Schneeberg in the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge). Built in the 1600s, the bridge is located near the historic Rechenhaus (Headworks House), dam and waterway, which had been built between 1556 and 1559, providing drinking water to the villages along the river. The crossing was essential for miners needing to use the bridge as they cross between Zschorlau and Schneeberg on the northern side and Bockau on the opposite side of the river. The five-span stone arch bridge, made using sandstone, was rehabilitated in the 19th century and survived a scare in April 1945, when Nazis tried to implode the structure in a failed attempt to stop the advancement of Russian troops from the east and Americans from the south and east. American troops from the 11th tank division occupied the bridge before the Nazis could demolish the structure.  Despite this, plus two major floods that caused damage to the structure (the last resulted in adding steel bracings to the arches), the bridge remains in decent shape- at least from my observations- although potential rehabilitation is needed to prolong its life much longer.


Despite its historic status, the 400+ year old structure is coming down. Crews are cutting down trees in a plan to build a new structure to better accomodate traffic from Schneeberg and Zschorlau while at the same time, realign German highway 283 to eliminate the sharp curves the historic bridge presents to the highway. According to the Saxony Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the bridge will be a straight crossing, having a modern style with skewed approaches. The highway will be expanded into an expressway, merging traffic with that from Bockau. This includes bike and pedestrian paths. In addition, new retaining walls at the new bridge will be needed and the rock escarpment that flows down through Bockau into the Mulde will be redone. In the last phase of the project, which will be completed by November 2019, the historic bridge will be removed. This will happen towards the end of next year, unless waves are made by locals and politicians to keep the bridge in tact to be reused for pedestrian purposes.

A petition was created in April of this year, calling for the bridge to be left as is, even after the new bridge is built because it retains its historic character and is protected by the German Preservation Laws (Denkmalschutz Gesetz). In addition, three rare species reside at and near the bridge, including the fire salamander, different species of bats and the water ouzer (dipper). Calls for saving the historic bridge is gaining momentum, as even members of the German Green Party are calling for the bridge to be saved for the aforementioned reasons. Still, resisitance has been ignored for the State of Saxony has rejected plans for a two-bridge solution, and the Federal Government, which is footing the 6.4 million Euro project, expects the historic bridge to be demolished by November 2018.  The fight is still on but time and resources are running out, especially with every tree that is being cut down for the project, as the author observed during his visit on the 28th of August.


In this picture, you can see how the new alignment will look like, with Highway 283 in the background.

Already the bridge is closed to traffic as of the 28th of August, as seen from my visit. The Zwickauer Mulde Bike Trail (which runs under the historic bridge) is also fenced off, with a detour following the current highway and street going to Schindlerswerk on the southern side of the river. The 1.5 kilometer detour is expected to remain in place until November 2018, when the bridge is removed. Highway 283 will be detoured from Aue through Zschorlau and Albernau beginning in September and lasting until the completion of the project in November 2019. Local traffic between Bockau and Aue will remain open with some restrictions.  Whether this plan will still take hold, depends on the progress of the petition for the preservation of the old bridge and whether authorities in Dresden and Berlin will concede and allow the locals to keep their bridge. Should that not be the case, this project may have some repurcussions with other projects in the pipeline, including the plan to replace the Chemnitz Viaduct to better accomodate the German Railways’ (the Bahn) InterCity trains. That project, which has been stalled due to stark opposition from locals, the state historic preservation office and other experts in bridge preservation, is also being backed by Berlin as the Bahn is partially owned by the government.

Historic Bockau Bridge is now closed. Chances of saving the structure, let alone photograph it are getting slimmer by the day.

If you want to sign the petition to save the bridge, click onto the link and include your name, address and reasons for saving it. Never say never if you want your historic bridge kept in place once the project is finished. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest.

Information on the new alignment and detour:



Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge: A Unique Cable-Stay Along the Mulde


Wolkenburg (Saxony)/ Limbach-Oberfrohna/ Glauchau- The last of the three bridges profiled here that is debuting along the Zwickauer Mulde is the Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge. Before going further with this bridge, we need to clarify what this bridge looks like as well as its aesthetic value. The current structure, open since May Day this year is actually a cable-stayed suspension bridge, a bridge type where suspenders actually support the roadway from the tower. When looking at them from an American’s point of view, cable-stayed bridges are bland in appearance, ranking them up there with concrete slab/girder bridges that represent a sour taste to the land-/ or even cityscape. This can be best exemplified with two bridges that come to mind: The Fort Steuben and the Russell-Ironton Bridges. Both of them spanned the Ohio River; both of them have the characteristic A-frame tower, whose cables support the roadway; both of them replaced historic bridges that had a lot of characteristic and aesthetic appeal but were neglected by the department of transportation in a successful bid to have them replaced. Both of them have been demolished, leaving nothing but documentation on websites owned by James Baughn and Nathan Holth, respectively. Both bridges are prone to having problems in the short-term involving the cables and the roadway because, like other modern bridge types, there is too much (heavy) traffic using it. We’re even seeing it with a pair of bridges in Germany, which will be mentioned later on.


But while these cable-stayed bridges are being looked down upon like the other concrete spans in America, pursued by Donald Trump and Elaine Chao with some statues of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and a new quasi-national flag of the US (sorry, I have to be sarcastic with this analogy), cable-stayed bridges in Europe, from an outsider’s point of view, can be viewed as a treat, especially for pedestrians and cyclists using them while on the bike trail. One in three cities in Germany has at least one of this type. And while there are some standard examples that exist, most of the cable-stayed bridges we find here are designed in such an unusual way, that they are screaming for people to stop by to pay homage; whether it is because of tilted towers, curved or even rounded roadways, ….



or in the case of this bridge, a single tower that is leaning outwards towards the river bank, whose primary cables- all draped over a pointed tower- are supporting the deck. The deck itself has a pony girder approach span with a Warren pony truss main span that crosses the Zwickauer Mulde.



The bridge replaced a century-old structure that consisted of a wire suspension bridge, going by the textbook guidelines that were created by another German engineer, John Roebling. Roebling’s concept was strands of thick wire that were spun together to create the main cables that were anchored between the towers and the ground anchors on shore. The best examples of his design were the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge (1869) and the Brooklyn Bridge (1883, though he died during its construction). The original Wolkenburg Bridge featured heavy cables  combined with vertical suspenders that supported the narrow walkway. The walkway itself was fenced with heavy wire but not trussed like one will see in many suspension bridges today, such as the Golden Gate Bridge or the suspension bridges in New York designed by Othmar H. Ammann.


Flooding in 2013 caused extensive damage to the bridge’s roadway and cables to a point where officials in Limbach-Oberfrohna, where Wolkenburg is part of the conglomerate, as well as local officials decided to demolish the bridge, including the tower, which was arched and made of concrete. It took more than three years, combined with lots of money and politicking before the conglomerate let the contract to the firm of Iroplan, based in Chemnitz, and its architect, Klaus Lenz, to build a new bridge at the site of the old one.


Construction started in 2016 with the leaning tower and foundations. The roadway was assembled offsite, featuring sliding and welding connections, judging by the author’s observations during his visit. The roadway was lifted into place by crane in November that year, and after attaching the cables between the tower and the roadway, the bridge was completed. What was not completed at the time of the visit in March were the roadway leading to the bridge, the dike to keep the water in the river, and painting the bridge. The bridge was still grey and silver.  The cost for constructing the 80 meter long and two meter wide cable-stayed bridge was 1.2 million Euros.




After many delays and headaches, people have their bridge back. At the May Day opening, where many people participated, mayor Jesko Vogel led the opening with a bang, as cannons were fired and a historic theater group from Glauchau were on hand for some entertainment. Refreshments were provided by the fire department. While the suspension bridge will forever be in the memories of many who live in Wolkenburg, this bridge reopens a connection between Eichenwald Forest and the mill area, both are northeast of the historic city center. The bridge will be a new icon  for Wolkenburg, providing a picturesque view from the historic city center and its churches and castle on the hill. And contrary to common belief regarding cable-stayed bridges, the Wolkenburg Suspension Bridge serves as an example of a bridge of this kind that, if designed with a good aesthetic taste, can be used for any form of traffic,


even if this bridge is open for pedestrians and fishermen only.  😉