500-year old covered bridge will receive a much-needed, total makeover next year.
ZWICKAU, GERMANY- It is one of two prized structures spanning the Mulde River that deserves international recognition. However, it is not only the oldest bridge in Zwickau, but the only known bridge of its kind on the globe. The Röhrensteg was built in 1535 and rebuilt to its current form in 1790 after sustaining damage in a flood. The bridge is the only structure in the world that carries two different truss designs- a Queenpost on one side, and a subdivided Warren on the other. It has two different portal bracings: the A-frame on the city end, and an X-frame on the end going to Reinsdorf. The endposts are unlike any covered bridge known to people Europe or North America. The covered bridge is the only one of its kind that carried water across the river into the city, via wooden pipes coming from a reservoir in Reinsdorf, 4 kilometers east of Zwickau.
The bridge has survived the test of time, including wars, weather extremities (including flooding) and the increase of traffic with bikes and pedestrians. And the age has shown on this structure, as shingles are missing on the bridge’s hip roofing, wood siding is becoming dilapidated, the flooding deteriorating, and some truss beams are deteriorating because of the growth of moss and development of cracks.
Yet because of its unusual design and historic significance, the City of Zwickau, together with an engineering firm in Chemnitz, are working together to restore the bridge. According to the Chemnitz Free Press, the list of what to do with the historic bridge is long: new roofing is needed, along with the siding; new beams and flooring are a must; the strengthening of the structure itself so it can last another couple of centuries is unavoidable, and lastly, the restoration must be done in-kind. That means, restoration must be kept in a way of its original form, using acorn planks. The cost for the project, according to the city council is an estimated 400,000 Euros (ca. $510,000). However, the project has been approved because of the bridge’s association with Zwickau’s history and heritage, in addition to the wishes of the residents to keep this bridge. The lone catch behind this in funding. According to Thomas Pühn, director of the City Planners Office in Zwickau, the city is applying for state funding to cover the costs for the project. If approved by the state legislature in Dresden, the city will only have to cover 10% of the cost, with 90% coming from the state. The decision lies with the State Department of Transportation and Infrastructure in Saxony (German: Landesamt für Straßenbau und Verkehr).
When all is a go, construction can proceed next year, yet it is unclear how long the restoration will last. In either case, the city and people associated with the bridge are doing everything possible to make sure this bridge will continue to serve traffic while reminding others of its significant role with the history of Zwickau and Saxony’s infrastructure.
The author visited this bridge as part of the tour of the bridges in Zwickau in September 2016. Many more photos and film of the bridge can be found here. You can also see some other historic bridges in Zwickau that will motivate you into visiting Germany and its historic bridges. 🙂
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the lastest on the project Röhrensteg. The bridge has already been nominated for the 2016 Ammann Awards for Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge and Bridge of the Year. Whether or not it wins depends on the voting when it commences in December. Together with neighboring Glauchau and a couple other cities in Saxony, Zwickau is also nominated for the Tour Guide Award.