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At a height of 107 metres, the Müngsten Bridge still towers above all the other railways bridges in Germany. It runs across the Wupper Valley and significantly reduces the travel time between the neighbouring cities of Remscheid and Solingen. Employees of the MAN predecessor company Maschinenbau-Actien-Gesellschaft Nürnberg started its construction in 1894. As the first bridge in Germany, it was built using the so-called free cantilever method: The parts of the bridge were built on metre by metre from both sides until they finally met in the middle on Shrove Monday in 1897.
Maschinenbau AG Nürnberg (today MAN) was commissioned to build the bridge. In an exemplary collaboration with the railway management in Elberfeld, it accepted the technical challenge. The list of names on the commemorative plaque of the engineers who played a key role shows the extent to which the entire bridge construction was a team effort. The first breaking of ground took place on 26 February 1894.
Huge quantities of materials were transported across a 30 metre high transportation bridge: 27,500 tonnes of building materials for the foundations, supporting structures, cranes, ladders and pre-assembled bridge parts. After three years of construction, the 15 metre wide vertex piece was installed, completing the characteristic arches. With a width of 170 metres, it spans the valley of the river Wupper, 107 metres above the water level. After a further four months, the bridge with the railway sidings was ready in July 1897.
The engineer and MAN director Anton von Rieppel (1852–1926) played a leading role in the construction. For his excellent achievement, he received the Prussian Order of the Crown, Third Class. However, previous to this were three years of hard work for all involved. The bridge passed its baptism of fire when the first steam locomotive passed over the 494 metre long structure on 3 July 1897. The bridge held – the statisticians had not miscalculated. After the official opening on 15 July 1897 by Prince Leopold of Prussia, the construction was named the Kaiser Wilhelm Bridge.
In total, the Müngsten Bridge contains approximately 5,000 tonnes of iron and steel. The construction has survived more than a century and two world wars almost completely unscathed. Approximately two million trains have crossed the valley on the bridge so far. However, this ageing bridge cannot withstand speeds in excess of 80 km/h. However, it is still in service: Every day, up to 40 trains cross the bridge in order to travel from Remscheid to Solingen in 14 minutes.
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