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The Goeltschtalbridge


While driving through the green valley of the Vogtland something huge gets in sight between rich green pastures and cute villages – the 78-meter high, amazing Göltzschtal bridge. It’s almost a miracle that today trains with up to 160 kilometres per hour still cross the 165-year-old bridge. However, at first glance the imposing building does not reveal how this marvel emerged. Therefore, it is worth taking a look into the rustic museum of the small village Netzschkau, directly next to the massive bridge. The exhibition is located in a small ancient mill with creaking floorboards and explains the ups and downs of the construction process. Without further ado we are diving into the exciting history of its construction.

The museum to the bridge
Brick from the construction site

A Courageous Project

 Origin of the project was the revolutionary construction of the rail route Leipzig-Hof in 1845. This meant to be a huge progress for travelling, especially for businessmen. However, within this plan one had to overcome one of the greatest challenges – the deep and curvy valley of the river Göltzsch. Few financial means let the Saxon-Bavarian railway company start a courageous try – a competition. They were looking for a “little brain” which should create a favourable construction concept and design for the bridge. The winner of the competition would earn a prize money of 1000 thaler. The competition was published within the most important newspapers and gained a lot of interest. But don’t cheer too soon! None of the altogether 81 designs was able to resist the high dynamic loading of the rail movement and therefore none was realised.

As a result, Professor Johann Andreas Schubert, head of the assessment commission, had to create his own design. He undertook static calculations which guaranteed the stability of the bridge. However, the professor was not only a master of calculation and mathematics, he also planned efficiently. Together with construction engineer Robert Wilke he chose an extraordinary building material for bridges: bricks. Not because he especially liked them but rather because only 20 Kilometres away there were a lot of brickyards located, so that the transportation of the bricks was cheap and easy. How convenient! 

Blessing in Disguise

On May 31 the project could finally begin. The first brick was placed and the workers were grafting in piecework. At the heyday of the construction over 1700 workers worked on the bridge which still fascinates us today due to its impressing height. Even to build the scaffolding one needed more than 23 000 logs and more than 26 000 000 bricks.

Only shortly after the start of the work, an unexpected problem occurred. The subsoil was not solid enough and the design of Robert Wilke could not be realized. Originally he planned uniform arches. Now they had to be replaced by two significantly bigger arches. The rescheduling brought a delate of more than half a year – but it was worth it. Thanks to it the bridge is not only still existing but even more beautiful!

The bridge as a motif for the famous Plauen lace