The autumn term has kicked off and all the students are slowly settling into the hectic but rewarding routine of managing the work load at Chalmers. Structural design is one of the two courses that I chose this study period and it began in a rather refreshing style with a study trip.
The trip was organised to get us acquainted with design of movable bridges. We went to three different areas, Trollhatan, Vannersborg and Uddevalla and visited a total of 5 bridges. Each one of them was unique in nature; the concept behind the design, the execution, the operation and the history were a few of the numerous interesting aspects of every bridge that we visited. We were provided with salad and sandwhices to keep us motivated and in good mood. Apart from our teachers a person who works for the city administration accompanied us to make this experience more thorough.
The first was Railway bridge in Marieholm, a swing bridge that pivots on its centre and opens up a dual channel for the ships to pass by. The bridge is interestingly the only artery connecting the port area to Gothenburg city and thus to rest of Sweden. They are planning to build an identical bridge a few hundred metres down the river to share the load and to provide an alternate passage in case of unforseen circumstances occur or an accident happens on the first bridge. As the story goes, the architect originally assigned to design the bridge never showed up during the planning phase of the project. The project manager, being a civil engineer in a few moments sketched how the piers of the bridge should like. The piers ended up being constructed that same way and they are standing strong to date!
The next bridge was Kungälv bridge near the fortress in Gothenburg. It is sitting in a very serene and scenic surrounding. It was an open able steel bridge, that has earned significant value over the years as part of the area’s history and heritage. It is part of a route that was a major highway before, called the highway two. Earlier people had to take ferries across the river, but this bridge made the life easier and the highway traffic more fluent.
Next in line was the rail bridge in Trollhattan. The steel truss bridge can be moved vertically upwards to allow the ships to pass through. It is quite an amazing sight to see a massive hefty deck rising upwards. The machinery however performing the vertical lift, is believed to be worn out and poses some occasional problems in the operation of the bridge. The design however has been carefully carved out to ensure that it blends well with the surroundings and the view is not blocked by the bridge deck. In the vicinity of this bridge was a typical Folkets Park, such parks are present in almost every city all over Sweden. Not so much now, but Folkets Parks were once the a hub of activity especially suring summers. According to our professor, the roots of the celebrated music culture of Sweden lie in these Folkets park, because people use to gather here, sing and enjoy music, and this is from where many great musicians discovered their talent and ability.
The next destination was Vannersborg, where we saw perhaps the most interesting bridge of all, but the aesthetically the worse at the same time. It had a huge over head counter weight that looked like a gigantic garbage container, to help it open. The paint was wearing, the steel rusting and the negligence in maintenance of the bridge was apparent. There are plans to replace it soon, but that takes nothing away from the brilliance of the concept. As the bridge opens, the counter weight squeezes in beneath the pivot over which the structure revolves. The elastic electric cable over which the train runs just sags down under the counter weight. The main bridge deck rises and slides smoothly into the the steel channels provided to accommodate movement of the bridge deck. The pictures would make the functioning clearer. The sight looked like one of the characters of a Transformers movie, where a apparently dead metallic mass breaks into motion and changes shape.
The last destination was the a pedestrian bridge in Uddevalla, that was apart of a promenade along a cliff. It blended very well with the surroundings and the walk along the cliff was very relaxing. We reached there around sunset, so we were lucky to see the dying rays of the sun glimmering on the surface of the calm sea water. We stayed there for a while listening from our teacher about the architectural and aesthetic brilliance of the bridge before we took the bus home after a long but captivating study visit.