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Aerial Bridge: 1908

Duluth, Minnesota, circa 1908. "Aerial bridge car, Duluth Ship Canal." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Duluth, Minnesota, circa 1908. "Aerial bridge car, Duluth Ship Canal." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


On Shorpy:
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Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge

This is the railroad bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers and in continuous operation since built sometime in the early 20th century. As a child, I always wondered how the trains got up there, despite having traveled over the bridge in a train at canal level.

Films with Transporter Bridges

The transporter bridge in Rochefort, France can be seen at work in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, and the one in Newport, Wales can be seen at work in Tiger Bay.

A system like that gets close to the boundary of being recognisable as a bridge. It could plausibly have been called a "low-slung cable car" or a "suspension ferry."

Another one

Sited in Middlesbrough, England.
This one is still working too.

So few remain

This one in Rochefort, France, Europe is still operational.

They built them at a time and in places when they still had to fit sailing ships underneath but were not yet able to build or pay for high rise regular bridges, or traffic load didn't warrant the expense of such a bridge.

A quick look at the New Duluth Bridge

A much cleaner design. The entire center section travels up and down with the roadway.

About this bridge:

This bridge began life as an extremely rare transporter bridge—the first of just two such bridges ever constructed in the United States and what you see in this picture. This type of span, which is known variously as an aerial transfer, ferry, or transporter bridge, and was originally built in 1905. When it was completed in 1905, the Aerial Bridge's gondola had a capacity of 60 short tons and could carry 350 people plus wagons, streetcars, or automobiles. A trip across the canal took about one minute, and the ferry car moved across once every five minutes during busy times of the day. However, a growing population on Minnesota Point, a greater demand for cars, and an increase in tourism soon meant that the bridge's capacity was being stretched to the limit. The bridge was upgraded in 1929–30 to the current lifting design and continues to operate today.

High and the Mighty

What a tremendous amount of engineering for such a small passenger load. I've never seen anything quite like this. You'd think it would have been much, much easier to have engineered a drawbridge.

I'm especially charmed by the whimsical little paddle wheels. Were they there to make queasy passengers, used to sidewheel ferries, more comfortable during their aerial passage?

[The faux paddlewheels turn the cables that move the car. - Dave]


Just how rare is such a bridge. That's quite amazing! Wonder how it is if there's a good, strong wind blowin'!

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