Posted on  UTC 2024-05-01 02:01

08.05.2024 – Swiss roadmending

Holes belong in Emmenthaler cheese, not in Swiss roads.

In Britain over the last few years the word 'pothole' has crept up the news media agenda, until now it is ranged alongside fire, flood, war, pestilence, drugs, stabbings, road rage and sewage as the latest curse of 'Broken Britain'.

It is not as though the maintenance of a road – roadmending as we used to call it – is a difficult task requiring high-level skills and vast amounts of money. It's really easy, as long as you follow the golden rule: 'Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today'.

Alpine roads get hammered by weather. There are steep sections where the substrate is on the move. If their maintenance is ignored there would soon be no road left. So the motto is: prompt repair to a high standard. Bodging is not an option.

A road near my house got the treatment last week. It is not an important road. It provides access for some houses and and it fizzles out into a gravel track after a couple of hundred metres.

A few years ago the roadmenders came along and sealed surface cracks with hot tar, which would arrest the degradation for at least a winter or two. Half a day's work produced a couple of years of peace and quiet. Another proverb: 'A stitch in time saves nine'.

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This interim action has done its job. There's a little bit of cracking, but nothing that won't survive until next year.

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But a time comes when sealing thin cracks is not an option and a section of road needs to be replaced. No amount of hot tar will reliably seal these cracks. Someone comes along, identifies the parts of the road needing to be resurfaced and marks them out with red lines. Then someone comes along with a cutter and cuts the tarmac along the red lines.

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Then comes the digger driver to tear up the sections of the damaged tarmac. Where necessary the shape of drainage channels etc. is formed.

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I wasn't around to photograph the tarmac team at work, but they did a fine job. Each section of new tarmac has its edges sealed with hot tar, since these are points where water will enter and where winter frosts will break the surface up. Every edge is sealed, even those bordering on soil. The drainage channels are carefully reinstated.

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All photos in this piece @FoS. Reuse only with link.

The roadmending task is easy and cheap if you do it properly. Doing the job in phases, as here, means that the roadmending resources are used efficiently: half a day of marking out, half a day of cutting, a day of digger work and a day of tarmac spreading. In contrast, a shovelful of cold tarmac dumped into a waterlogged pothole and stamped down by foot is not a repair.

02.05.2024 – Swiss bridge building

Richard Coray (1869-1946) from Trin in Graubünden, Switzerland, his partner Hans Telli, Richard's brother Vinzens and later his sons Arthur, Oscar and Alfons specialised in building support frames for bridges in precarious places. A related speciality was being photographed in nonchalent poses over the abyss, often with his hands in his pockets.

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The bridge over a gorge near Versam. The two Coray brothers and their partner Telli are 'standing where no one would want to go' according to the newspaper report. The tradition of placing a tree on the highest part of a structure as part of the 'topping out ceremony' has also been observed here.

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The bridge they built over the Tara in Montenegro.

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The bridge of Salgina.

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The Langwies bridge on the Chur-Arosa railway.

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The viaduct in Wiesen.

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