Rendsburger Schwebefähre – Rendsburger Hochbrücke – Germany

The Rendsburg transporter bridge (aka High Bridge of Rendsburg) in the State of Schleswig-Holstein is unique in the world because, as well as being a transporter bridge, it is a railway viaduct. The bridge connects both sides of the Kiel Canal, with a railway line running overhead. A brilliant design by the engineer Friedrich Voss, the bridge opened to traffic in 1913 and continues to carry it to the present day.


The Kiel Canal (at the time, the ‘Kaiser Wilhelm Canal’) is artificial. It was built between 1887 and 1895 and from that date on the Neumünster-Flensburg railway line crossed the canal on two parallel rotating bridges. The problem was that ships had to stop for about 30 minutes every time a train crossed. Apart from merchant shipping, the Navy was concerned by the fact that the closed bridges could delay fleets for several hours, so it pushed for another solution that would separate the two traffic flows.

The solution was found in the new high bridge that replaced the original rotating bridges, based on a design by Fiedrich Voss. Its construction took place between 1911 and 1913, with a workforce of around 350 people. 17,740 tonnes of steel were assembled, with 3.2 million “rivets made from the best Siemens Martin iron”.

Given that the railway station in Rendsburg was located less than one kilometre from the canal, the railway administration was faced with a costly and technically difficult challenge:  the gradient between the station and the bridge. It was solved by building a ramp around 4.5 kilometres long that formed a large 360-degree loop on the north bank of the canal (the “Rendsburg Loop”). This is a commonly applied solution in mountainous areas, but it was the first time it was used on flat land. The total cost of the construction, including the relocation of the railway lines, was 13.4 million Deutchmarks.

The bridge was finally opened on 1st October 1913, making it the longest railway bridge in Germany, a record it held for 99 years.

The bridge in figures

  • Distance between towers: 140 metres

  • Gondola crossing time: 90 seconds

  • Weight: 45 tonnes

  • Length of gondola: 14 x 6 metres

  • Height of the towers: 68 metres

  • Height of the platform over the water: 42 metres

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Credits and intellectual property

Top picture: CC0 (Creative Commons) Alf van Beem 

Gallery 1: / CC-BY-SA 3.0 (Creative Commons) Ilgner, Gerhard Dr. (Bundesarchiv)

Gallery 2: / CC BY-SA 4.0 Nightflyer / CC BY 3.0 (Creative Commons) Nightflyer / CC BY-SA 3.0 (Creative Commons) Walter Rademacher

Video: CC BY-SA 3.0 (Creative Commons) Holger.Ellgaard