In the 1860s, a project to control the flow of the Rhine was completed. It included flood-proof dams that allowed for the construction of bridges over the river. (Previously, river crossings relied on ferries.) From 1867 to 1879, 13 covered wooden bridges were built in the Rhine Valley—today, the only one that remains is the Alte Rheinbrücke (Old Rhine Bridge), which links the municipalities of Vaduz in Liechtenstein and Sevelen in Switzerland.
Over time, the rest have been destroyed by floods or fire or have been decommissioned due to old age. On July 8, 1870, Sevelen had made the decision to build this last witness of the romantic wooden bridges on the Rhine and to stop the Rhine ferry. The imposing building stood on September 27, 1871 and cost CHF 28,000. Around 1900, the dilapidated bridge structure had to be replaced.
The bridge at Sevelen is the largest bridge of its kind in Europe, and a significant example of Swiss timber engineering. It measures 135 meters (443 feet) long and 6 meters (20 feet) wide.
It was built according to the so-called Howe’s system, which combines diagonal pressure elements made of wood with vertical tension elements made of metal. By tightening the screws of the metallic tension members, the structure could be pre-stressed, and settlements could be readjusted. The five pillars create six fields, the inner four of which are around 20.5 meters (67 feet) long. The outer two fields, which connect the bridge with the Rhine dams, are each 26.8 meters (88 feet) long.
Since 1973, the bridge has been open only to pedestrians and cyclists, and heavier traffic relies on a newer concrete bridge nearby. In 1981 the government of Liechtenstein put this last covered wooden bridge over the Rhine near Sevelen-Vaduz under a preservation order.