Daily business of the Ponton Bridge near Karlsruhe Maxau. In the background the construction of a new bridge over the Rhine.


Cyclists, motorcyclists and cars pass the pontoon bridge over the Rhine river at Karlsruhe Maxau; Barrier down; Railway goes over bridge / Bridge opens to the passage of a ship, passage of ships, u.a. Paddle steamer, cargo ships; new Rhine bridge in steel framework construction; Cargo ships pass under bridge, Paddle steamer; Pontoon bridge closes again; Cabriolet with young people while waiting for crossing; Vehicles and railway when driving over floating bridge //


Reference / film number :  LFS03225
Date :  1937
Coloration :  Black and white
Sound :  Mute
Running time :  00:10:05
Reel format :  8 mm
Genre :  Amateur movie
Thematics :  The Rhine, cross-border symbol, Transit, Cross-border tourism
Archive :  Haus des Dokumentarfilms

Context and analysis

The pontoon bridge near Karlsruhe Maxau has a long tradition and was only one of many such transitions, some of which were operated for a long time. There were seven pontoon bridges over the Upper Rhine from the middle of the 19th century: Kehl - Strasbourg (1815-1897), Maxau (1840-1938), Germersheim (1877-1945), Speyer (1866-1938), Mannheim - Ludwigshafen (1705 - 1867), Worms (1855-1900) and Mainz-Kastel 1861-1885). In order to be able to increase the traffic between Baden and the Alsace again under German control, starting from 1872 between Weil am Rhein and Maxau nine new ship bridges on pontoons were build (Weil - Hünningen, Neuchâtel - Eichwald, Breisach - Neubreisach, Sasbach - Marckolsheim, Kappel - Rheinau, Ottenheim - Gerstheim, Freistett - Gambsheim, Grefferin - Drusenheim, Pittersdorf - Selz). They were usually used until the end of World War II and beyond.

Pontoon bridge Maxau

The first bridge at Maxau was inaugurated on 25.8.1840. When the railway line from Karlsruhe to the Palatinate was built in 1862, a new bridge was necessary, which also allowed the railway to cross the Rhine. Thus, in 1865, a new ship bridge was built, which could use both the railway and the individual traffic. If a ship on the Rhine wanted to cross the bridge, elements were opened in the middle, which made the passage possible. After that they were folded in again and the traffic could flow over the bridge again. This bridge construction was awarded a gold medal in 1867 at the Paris World Fair as a technical pioneering achievement. Until 1877, a new bridge at Germersheim was able to serve freight traffic, considerable amounts of coal were transported from the Saarland to the southwest via the Maxau pontoon bridge.

Technical details Ponton bridge Maxau

The bridge had a total length of 363 meters, of which she herself had a length of 234 meters and the driveways additional 129 meters. It consisted of 34 pontoons, which were composed of twelve elements. Six of them could be opened in the middle for shipping. The track in the middle separated the two tracks for the rest of the traffic. An advantage of such a bridge was in addition to the lower construction costs compared to a fixed bridge, that they could adjust very flexibly to different water levels. The relatively low load capacity of the pontoon bridge of about 100 tons made it necessary to use special light locomotives. The max. five wagons of a train were driven across the Rhine with this special locomotive and taken over by a more powerful locomotive at the other end. In winter ice conditions, the operation of the bridge was discontinued.

New construction of the Maxaubrücke

The operational inadequacies of the ship bridge for a modern traffic - obstruction of shipping, low capacity and complex operation - led in the 1930s to the construction of the first fixed bridge at Karlsruhe Maxau. The amateur movie was made at the time of the transition. The old pontoon bridge is still in operation, the construction of the new bridge can be seen in the background. The road bridge was inaugurated on January 17, 1938, the iron bridge on April 3, 1938. The bridge had a central pillar, which divided the building into two bridge fields of 175 m and 117 m in length. It had two superstructures in steel framework construction: a superstructure, which took up the twin-railed railway line, and a superstructure for the road. The new Rhine bridge was damaged in 1945 at the end of World War II in bombing raids. On March 21, 1945, an American artillery shell hit a detonator, triggering the German-prepared demolition of the bridge. Thereafter, as a provisional of the French armed forces initially a pontoon bridge for road traffic was built again. In 1946, a wooden railway bridge was built. As a longer-term replacement, a new bridge was inaugurated in May 1947 south of the previous location. In 1966, a new motorway bridge was built linking Karlsruhe and Wörth. According to a survey in 2005, nearly 80,000 cars run through this bridge on weekdays.

Kay Hoffmann

Places and monuments

Karlsruhe Maxau


KUNZ Wolfgang, Pfälzische Eisenbahnbrücken über den Rhein. In: Jahrbuch für Eisenbahngeschichte, Nr. 48, DGEG, Hövelhof 2017, S. 13-24. "Rheinbrücke Maxau", https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rheinbr%C3%BCcke_Maxau SCHAPER G., Die beiden neuen Eisenbahnbrücken bei Maxau und Speyer. In: Die Reichsbahn, 11/1938, S. 314-319.