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Inauguration of the Bonn North Bridge in 1967: Memories of the “Rhine Harp”

Inauguration of the Bonn North Bridge in 1967 : Memories of the “Rhine Harp”

The Friedrich Ebert Bridge was inaugurated 50 years ago. Technical director and engineer Reiner Saul looks back at its history.

Reiner Saul remembers 28 June 1967 well. It is the day the North Bridge was inaugurated as the second bridge over the Rhine at Bonn and, as the technical director, Saul played an important part in its story. “That was my first big bridge,” says Saul (79), who today lives in Leonberg, south Germany but who 50 years ago was a young engineer living in Bonn.

He was especially happy when the Hein Lehmann company won the contract to build the bridge on 1 January 1964. “I wanted to build a bridge over the Rhine,” Saul, then a very young engineer, remembers. And suddenly he could.

“The bridge, designed by Hellmutt Homberg, was the first cable-stayed bridge with a multiple cable system,” remembers Saul. This led to the bridge having the nickname “Rhine Harp.” Saul says it was not certain for a long time that the official name would be the Friedrich Ebert Bridge. Under Chancellor Ludwig Erhard’s government (CDU), the bridge was to be named after the first Federal Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer. However, the Grand Coalition of November 1966 under Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) and Georg Leber (SPD), named the bridge after the first president of Germany, Friedrich Ebert.

Saul had to experience four colleagues being killed during the construction. “Unfortunately, such things happen again and again,” says Saul, who after building his first large bridge in Bonn moved to an engineering company in Stuttgart, for whom he built other bridges in Argentina and Hong Kong, among other places.

Reiner Saul estimates that during his time, around 70 people were involved in building the Bonn bridge but many more took part in the preparatory works such as the production and transport of parts. For Saul, the North Bridge was the fulfilment of a dream and many Bonners and out-of-towners are today still grateful to him and his colleagues when they cross the Rhine from Bonn to Beuel and back.

Original text: Sascha Stienen. Translated by Kate Carey.