In the second half of the 19th century, European engineers and construction companies competed to outdo each other: Which bridge spanned the widest arc? How can steel consumption be reduced and thus built economically?
The constructions became ever larger and more daring - thanks to new materials and newly acquired calculation principles for structural analysis. The designers often came from the new technical universities. They were in contact with each other, exchanged knowledge, learned from each other.
Müngstener Brücke emerged from this competition as the German contribution. It is the product of a significant interplay of scientific-theoretical knowledge and practical implementation of steel structures and assembly technologies in large bridge construction.
It was one of the first steel bridges in Germany to be built using the free cantilever method: The two sides of the arch grew toward each other - without scaffolding. The model set a precedent: free cantilevering is still a common method in bridge construction today. In the case of the huge structure, the lateral wind forces loaded the cantilevered arch. Only after the arch was closed could the deck girder and the arch together provide the bracing.
New structural analysis theories were applied. The structure is an arch restrained on both sides, three times statically indeterminate. This made the calculation very complicated: It had to be created anew for each new construction condition. This required special knowledge on the part of the engineers and, in addition, an extremely high computational effort - without a computer, only with hand and slide rule.
For the first time, a new material was used: mild steel instead of wrought iron. The restrained arch was suitable for keeping material consumption as low as possible - with a lot of steel at the bottom of the support and less steel at the apex of the arch.
The structure thus not only demonstrates the special capabilities of German engineering in the competition between nations, it also proves the superiority of the new material.
New types of construction such as Müngstener Brücke also aimed to maintain the relationship to the landscape and to enrich it. How successfully the arch fits into the valley of the Wupper is confirmed to this day by every guest who visits the bridge.