Lok Rhein: Investigation into the cause of the failed salvage attempt completed

Follow-up investigation report to clarify the cause of the failed recovery of Keßler locomotive 205 at the head of groyne 527 below Germersheim

1. as a result of a crisis meeting of all parties involved in the salvage operation on 1.10.2018 in Mainz, the salvage activities of the OHF had been suspended on 2.10.2018. The search team committed to immediately begin follow-up investigations to clarify the cause of the unsuccessful salvage operation while still in the dismantling phase.

2. all operational steps carried out by the OHF were carried out as requested in accordance with the specifications of a gentle salvage of the searched object. Additional soundings and the deeper excavation of the gravel, which was carried out above the target dimension, did not provide any indication of the presence of the locomotive at the specified “find spot”, nor any clue to the cause of the geomagnetic anomaly measured on the surface (on the water).

3. Since neither a positional nor a measurement error was found for the specified recovery point after a thorough check, the follow-up investigations concentrated on the question of previously unknown peculiarities at or below the foot of the groyne head. In particular, the search was for magnetically effective rock fragments (“foreign” material that could have been dumped together with the usual groyne material originating from the Hunsrück-Taunus quartzite ridge) that had not been noticed during the spreading of the gravel because of their “small” size. In a figurative sense, it was the search for a substitute material dumped in the gravel under the groyne head that could have faked the presence of the sought-after locomotive.

4. The depth of the magnetic (highly effective) replacement material now to be searched for had been clearly determined from the geomagnetic anomaly found. It concerned the upper metres of the gravel bed under the foot of the groyne head of groyne 527 between 91 – 87 m a.s.l.. NN, where the locomotive was assumed to be located. Therefore, there was a well-founded prospect that this last excavated material would be found in the upper area of the excavated fill before the deconstruction.

5. Since the deconstruction activities were not to be noticeably hindered by the subsequent investigations on the bulk material, only random measurements were possible. It must be considered a stroke of luck that with the help of our sponsor, the company “analytec Dr. Steinhau” (Chemnitz), several dozen magnetically very conspicuous rock fragments were detected on 8/9 October 2018, which could be found on top of the debris mountains or unrolled on their flanks and which also clearly stood out from the usual groyne material (quartzite) according to their external habitus. A kitchen or office magnet adheres to them even on vertically running surfaces.

6. The petrological/petrophysical investigations that were now necessary were carried out by Prof. Dr. Ernstson (University of Würzburg), Prof. Dr. Stanek and Dr. Käppler (TU Bergakademie Freiberg) and yielded the following results:

Rock response: magnetite-rich gabbro
shock stress: not present
magnetic susceptibility: 0.12 – 0.17
density: 3.1 g/ccm
magnetite content: 5 – 10

7. With the above-mentioned characteristic values it can be estimated that for the geomagnetic anomaly measured at the surface a bulk of about 1500 gabbro chunks of approx. 15 kg individual weight is sufficient to produce exactly this anomaly. For comparison, an estimate of the number of quartzite groynes used in the groyne: 15000. This seems to be the rather rare case that – for whatever reason *) – about 10 % of other (foreign) groyne material has been dumped, the origin of which should of course now be clarified.

*) That this could not be the rule was already established in 2009 immediately after the first measurement on the water, when the two groynes 525 and 529 adjacent to groyne 527 were examined and found to be completely magnetically inconspicuous.

8. For this purpose, various quarries in Hunsrück and Odenwald were consulted, which had also supplied material for hydraulic engineering in the past. Of particular interest were gabbro deposits in the Frankenstein complex of the anterior (or crystalline) Odenwald. Sampling on site finally allowed a comparison with the replacement material that had probably been stored in the gravel under the foot of the Buhnekopf. Agreement with the above-mentioned characteristic values within narrow limits suggest that this replacement material originates from one of those local iron-ore-rich gabbro-parts from quarries in the Odenwald, which also occur only rarely there (see also 10.).

9. This seemingly plausible hypothesis as the cause for the failed attempt to recover the locomotive can probably be consolidated in the future through further detailed investigations. However, the search team now considers it more important, especially under the impression of the many encouraging letters, not to give up the search for the locomotive in the Rhine, but above all in the responsibility towards all sponsors, the BARTENBACH agency, the SWR, the OHF, the HERDAM photo publishing house and the many locomotive enthusiasts we have taken along so far, not to lose sight of precisely this goal. The overwhelming appreciation of the results achieved so far in the search for the Keßler locomotive 205 and the unrefusable prospect of finding and recovering this locomotive one day after all, create a strong motivation to continue the “Locomotive in the Rhine” project with the patron, the Railway Museum Darmstadt-Kranichstein. The first concrete steps in this direction are already underway.

10. There are informative articles on the magnetic properties of the Frankenstein complex on the internet, e.g.:

SWR also reported on the results of the investigations: https://www.swr.de/swraktuell/rheinland-pfalz/Versunkene-Lok-im-Rhein-Warum-wurde-die-Lok-nicht-gefunden,av-o1079669-100.html

Additions to the cause study on the failed salvage attempt (12.5.2019)

1. almost half a year has passed since the final report on the root cause investigation at the end of 2018. During this period, further important details have been established to clarify the cause of the failed salvage attempt, providing a deeper understanding of the regrettable failure.

2. In the course of the Rhine regulation in the 20th century, which followed the straightening of the Rhine in the 19th century, 91 foundation sills were installed in the bottom of the Rhine near Germersheim in 1928 (internal report of the Water and Shipping Directorate Mainz from 1967; thankfully researched by Mr. Heinz Blaschke, Mainz), which consist of so-called sinking machines. These are approx. 8 m long, almost 1 m thick “sheaths made of fascines filled with heavy stones and laced with wire” (e.g. Frankfurter Zeitung of 17 February 1928; thankfully researched by Mr. Dieter Schaub, Heidesheim).

3. In the SWR-Landesschau on 24.9.2018, remains of fascines mixed with groynes were shown, as they were filmed during the test work for the suction of the gravel at the presumed location of the locomotive under today’s groyne 527 in the vicinity of the suction pipe used. This leads to the obvious conclusion that the magnetite-rich gabbro boulders from the crystalline Odenwald, which were found during the dismantling, could be the core stones of these sinking machines. 4.

4. These indications seem to close the causal chain, according to which the cause of the measured geomagnetic anomaly at the groyne head of groyne 527 is to be seen as old sinking machines with a strongly magnetically effective gabbro filling, which may have been built over by the present groyne consisting of a quartzite fill by chance a long time later.

5. However, the search team had not only committed itself to advancing the cause research, but also to making further efforts to find the sunken locomotive after all, based on the archival research conducted since 1987. In the meantime, recent geophysical measurements have provided new promising measurement data, whose initial positive assessment must first be substantiated by repeat measurements.

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