November 25, 2011

0051 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / Gelderland) - The Nijmegen railway bridge

Much could be said about Nijmegen, city located in the east of the Netherlands, near the German border, on the Waal river (the main distributary branch of river Rhine who connecting the Rotterdam harbor and Germany). In 2000 years of history (celebrated in 2005), Nijmegen was always in the middle of events, but only one of its is now to my attention, namely Operation Market Garden, conducted by Allied armed forces between 17 and 25 September 1944. A lot is known about this operation, at least from the excellent book A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan (1974) and from its screening of 1977, which remains a movie worthy to watch, despite the obsolete vision who exhibit only the heroic side of the war, so it's pointless to go into details.

I so wish to have the images with the bridges involved in this operation and behold that Elsbeth made me the joy to send me a postcard with the rail bridge from Nijmegen, her home town. Thank you very much, Elsbeth, and I hope you don't forget to send me also the road bridge who has created so many problems to the Allies.

The Nijmegen railway bridge, who span the river Waal, was built between 1875 and 1879, on the site of an ancient Roman bridge. Nijmegen is the last main city in the Netherlands which was connected to the national railway network. The picture dates from 1877 and shows that the southern end pilasters, designed by architect P.J.H. Cuypers as a medieval city gate, were still under construction. This abutment was damaged by the Germans in WWII, who mounted anti-aircraft guns on each of the towers.

The bridge originally consisted of 3 truss arches, and the middle one was destroyed twice during the WWII. First time was blown up by the Dutch Army on the morning of 10 May 1940, in an attempt to delay the advance of the German army which invaded the Netherlands, Nijmegen being one of the first cities captured, due to its position close to the border.

During the Operation Market Garden, the bridge was captured intact but with terrible losses by the Company D, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (82nd US Airborne Division), after they crossed the river with the assault boats. The Germans didn't give up and tried to destroy it several times, finally managed to do it in the afternoon of September 28, following an air raid conducted with 200 planes. Moreover, the second day a team of 4 german frogmen managed to hit it again, taking it out of service definitely, because the middle truss arche had collapsed. The bridge was rebuilt the following year and on 1st August 1945 the first train has crossed the bridge.

The bridge was reconstructed again in 1984, in the same truss style but only with one arch. On this occasion, has been proposed the demolition of the original brick abutment, but protests from the local Nijmegen residents prevented this, even more than that, have led to be declared a national monument. In 2003 a cycle bridge, named Snelbinder was added to the east side of the bridge, and in 2008 the third level of the bridge was reconstructed under the original plans.

The stamp belong to the very special Postcrossing set, issued on October 14th, 2011 by PostNL. The set, designed by Garech and Declan Stone, contains 6 stamps features all kinds of traditional postcards strewn.

Sender: Elsbeth Memelink (direct swap)

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