Editorial

"Shared pleasure is double pleasure"

During my military training school, my unit has built a bridge over a ravine in the grison alps. It was a non-covered bridge of beams linked with Rigling connectors and crutches. All in all, nothing extravagant, nothing special.

For the locals, this bridge was much more: a link with friends of the next village without having to walk down and up the valley.

Bridge building

It sounds commonplace, but in this word, there is much more: how to carve the wood to transport it, how to bring it to the ravine safely, how to build a work as a team. Also, not to get one's feet wet when crossing the stream!

As a "modern" wood builder, I have learned applied statics and I have quickly noticed that former generations built as well as we thought: They did not have automated cranes, helicopters, no CNC machines. They had wood, which they assembled with nicks, with tools we cannot work with anymore.

I received the book "Holzbrücken der Schweiz, ein Inventar" (Verlag Bündner Monatsblatt 1990), which I read in a few hours, as I have always been interested in bridges since the military training school. But I was missing some things by reading this book, I wanted to know more about these bridges. I worked then as a part-time teacher at the wood school in Bienne. Everything began harmlessly enough during during an excursion with students. Our path lead us through Aarberg, over a timber bridge. We stopped and observed it, inside, outside and underneath. Everyone was fascinated to see how they had worked before. There had been a hoist to raise charges which were delivered on the river. Later, I photographed bridge after bridge, occasionally passing where I had voluntarily passed. How much I learned, as seasoned a carpenter as I was!

It was often very difficult to find a particular bridge. I had to ask on the premises, people would look at me and think: why does he want to see this bridge, what could it have to make it so special? One thing was clear: it must be over the river, but where? Can I approach it by car or must I walk? After photographing a bridge one Sunday at noon, I realised that an agriculturalist had left a chariot on the path, and I could not leave! I helped him unload his goods, then he let me pass. Thankfully, for I was hungry! For another bridge, I had to 'pay' access by a snow walk, without path. For another series of bridges, I thought it would take several hours, as I did not know the area. No, they were simply lined up and accessible by a single road.

More often that not the bridges are in magnificent places and in even more beautiful areas. This is why I always wanted to share this pleasure with other people. I also know several persons who would gladly make a detour to spend time visiting a bridge.

I had much pleasure receiving support through sending of documents, photographs, etc. from private persons, companies or towns. I have many good wishes for all these contacts.

To my great surprise, I did not find much in the Confederation's archives, which end on the year 1997! I therefore made a spreadsheet and found out what could be found. The document is here, not completely ready, but I will gladly share it with you. I hope to arouse an interest for these ancient bridges, so taht they do not become useless ruins. Let us keep a good memory of these people who worked to leave us these riches.

I wish you will enjoy browsing this website and you never know, we might by chance meet on one of these bridges.

Another thing: why this title in English? But which language should I have chosen out of our four Swiss languages to favor none?

Many thanks to my wife, who helped me a great deal and assisted me for this collection.