Main Body

Movable Bridges

Railroads, rapid transit right-of-way and power pole are generally considered to be necessary evils, so utilitarian are they, that no one gives a thought to making them beautiful. Movable bridges, generally placed in this same category, are, however, prominent structures; indeed even more so than the ordinary highway bridges. In Cleveland these “ugly ducklings” among bridges are treated with disgust when they are closed to traffic to allow a ship to pass. But they perform functions vital to Cleveland industries. Cleveland is unique in one respect. He who travels up the Cuyahoga River from its mouth to the turning basin will probably see a greater variety of types of movable bridges than can be seen in any other place in the world. One reason is that one time seven different railroads entered Cleveland. All needed bridges to take them across the valley and the river to terminals, and each had a design peculiar to the location. From the mouth of the Cuyahoga River to Akron there are eighty-four bridges — over three and a half per mile. Twenty of these are over the navigable portion of the river — that is, from the mouth to the turning basin. One can see viaducts, stone-masonry arches, concrete arches, cantilever spans, and girder spans, swing bridges, vertical lift bridges, bascule bridges, jackknife bridges and Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridges. Clevelanders can take pride in this aspect of their city that has long gone unappreciated [Figure XII].

Let us journey up the Cuyahoga River from the channel entrance at Lake Erie and explore the history and development of the movable bridges in Cleveland’s original “harbor”. The first bridge as we enter the Cuyahoga River is a modern vertical lift bridge. This type is the most popular today, for ease and rapidity of operation and for navigation clearance. A vertical lift bridge operates in much the same fashion as does an ordinary window sash, which moves up and down in vertical guides and is hung from sash-cords that go over a pulley at the top, with a counter-weight at the other end. A vertical lift span is easily recognizable by the high skeleton towers, one at each end of the span. The cables which carry the counter-weights pass over giant pulley wheels, called “sheaves”, at each end of the lift span.

Vertical Lift Bridge in operation at Eagle Street.
Figure XIII. Vertical Lift Bridge in operation at Eagle Street.

These counterweights equal the weight of the lift span, and the height of the tower is determined by the height to which the span has to be raised to provide the necessary clearance over the waterway. The towers are tied at the top with a truss that keeps them in perfect alignment. For long spans in the movable bridge class, he vertical lifts are the most efficient. The first vertical lift bridge of this type was built in 1894 by a eminent civil engineer H.A.L. Waddell, in Chicago [Figure XIII].

The Penn-Central Bridge (No. I) over the Cuyahoga, was designed by Howard, Needles, Tammen and Bergendoff, part of a $13,236,000 program started in 1946 by the Corps of Engineers to replace six bridges. This fine specimen of a vertical lift is a double-track railway bridge, originally serving the main line of the New York Central and the ore traffic to the Pennsylvania Railroad docks on the main line of the railroad between Chicago and New York City. It replaced an old swing bridge that had a center pier, which was an obstruction to traffic. The old bridge permitted the use of only half the channel for navigation purposes. Before we advance farther up the river, let us glance at the “old riverbed”. Here are two bridges to interest us. The current structures replaced older spans in the same location.

The original Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bridge was a wing-type, swing bridge built in 1897. It handicapped the industrial growth of Whiskey Island because it limited crossings to ten-ton trucks. It had a channel width of 140 feet. In 1907 the Baltimore and Ohio Railway Company replaced it with a new bridge, from designs prepared by the railroad under the direction of J.E. Greiner, Chief Engineer. The structure was designed by the Scherzer Rolling Lift Company; the steel work was fabricated by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland and erected by the Pittsburgh Construction Company. This bridge introduces us to another type of movable bridge-the Scherzer Rolling Lift. This type was popular around 1900, designed by William Scherzer of Chicago. Steel trusses or girders across the navigable channel are supported by, and rigidly connected to, large steel rollers or rockers, that have a weight at the rear to counterbalance the front end. The rollers, or rockers, are only segments of a circle, because the entire movement of the structure to achieve a full clearance of the channel opening describes an arc of less than ninety degrees. At one time there were nine of these Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridges in Cleveland. This type is no longer being built; the trunnion bascule and the vertical lifts are today’s favorites. The rolling action caused the pier to move under the variable load when the bridge moved [Figure XIV]. This particular bridge over the Cuyahoga River has a 230-foot span. When built in 1907, it was the longest single-leaf Scherzer ever built, and it still holds the record. The clear width of the channel is 210 feet; total strength of the bridge, including a short fixed plate-girder span at the east end, is 334 feet. The counterweights, placed in steel boxes in the planes, of the trusses, are balanced in all positions. The substructure consists of three piers at the heel that carry the track girders on which the bridge rolls, a rest pier, and a abutment for the rear end of the fixed approach span. All the piers are concrete supported upon piles. Another special feature of the bridge is the arrangement of the operating mechanism. The operating pinion is carried by the moving structure and by gears with a horizontal stationary rack on a tower erected upon the piers of the heel of the bridge. The axis of the pinion is located in the part of the truss which has merely a horizontal travel in the combined rolling and swinging movement of the bridge.

The second bridge is the present Willow Avenue Bridge, which provides vehicle access to Whiskey Island. The old Bridge (1898) was a swing

Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge near McKinney Steel Co.
Figure XIV. Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge near McKinney Steel Co.

bridge with a span of 170 feet. The present Willow Avenue Bridge is a vertical lift, designed in 1964 by Trygve Hoff and Associate. It is a handsome structure that proves a movable bridge need not be ugly. Its span is 310 feet long. The automatic electric skew control and four motors at the top of the tower give exceptional lifting power. The skew control equalizes both ends of the bridge for a uniform lift of its 750-ton span. It can be raised to its full height of 98 feet in one-half minutes. The counterweight cables provide the means of movement.

The next movable bridge on the river is known as Bridge No. 3. This bridge is also a B. and O. Railway Bridge. Built in 1956, it is a record-making, jackknife located just north of the Detroit-Superior Viaduct. It replaced a Scherzer rolling lift bridge that had a main span of 161 feet. The present structure has a main trunnion bascule span of 255 feet long and a clear channel distance of about 231 feet. It carries a single track on the 22-foot width of the trusses. There is a vertical clearance of about 23 feet from the top of the track to the bottom of the counterweight when in the lowered position. The substructure consists of two concrete piers with 30-inch steel

Twin bridges built for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad, a jackknife bridge in the foreground and a Scherzer rolling lift bridge in the background.
Figure XV. Twin bridges built for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad, a jackknife bridge in the foreground and a Scherzer rolling lift bridge in the background.

caissons and 10-inch pipe piles. This bridge is an outstanding example of a single-track, jackknife bascule bridge. In this peculiar type, each rail is supported directly upon the lower chord of the truss. When the bridge is opened, the span pivots around one end. The weight of the bridge is balanced by a weighted lever arm supported by the tower located at the fixed end of the bridge. When in open position he lever arm folds against the upright truss — hence the name “jackknife”. However, J.A.L. Waddell, in his monumental work Bridge Engineering, dubbed this type as a “freak” and dismissed it as “defunct”.”[1] (It was first used in 1845 at Manchester, Massachusetts.) [Figure XV].

The Center Street Bridge, the only swing bridge in the area, and the oldest extant swing bridge, lies at approximately the spot where Moses Cleaveland landed in 1796. It is the site of the first bridge over the river, and it became involved in the notorious “Bridge War” because the Ohio City inhabitants wanted two bridges: the Center Street and the Columbus Road Bridge. Both are vehicle bridges. The first Center Street Bridge was a wooden structure that was replaced five or six times. One of these was the

Sightseers pass under the Detroit-Superior Bridge as the Center Street Bridge swings open below.
Figure XVI. Sightseers pass under the Detroit-Superior Bridge as the Center Street Bridge swings open below.

“floating bridge” mentioned earlier. The present bridge, a steel truss with unequal arms, was built in 1901. This example of the center-pier, swing type, is fast disappearing from the American scene [Figure XVI]. This rim-bearing swing span is 249 feet; 8 inches; minimum channel clearance is 122 feet. The bridge turns horizontally about a vertical axis, like a railroad turntable. It is supported on a center pier, called the “pivot pier”. The two projecting arms act as cantilevers when the bridge is open. When closed the bridge becomes a truss. Since the two arms are unequal, a balancing counter-weight is required on the shorter arm. This is accomplished by a solid deck of concrete on the short span and a open mesh deck on the long span. The span was originally operated by a small steam engine in the operator’s house, but is now operated by and electric motor. Contractors for the substructure were L.B. and J.A. Smith Company. The King Bridge Company built the superstructure. This structure has the pivot pier on the north bank, similar to that of the old Superior Viaduct. When this type of bridge was first used, the pivot pier was placed in the middle of the channel. When the bridge was open, the free end of the bridge was protected by long fenders built of timber piles and walers. Little wonder that this type was replaced with longer — and more expensive — spans.

After passing under the Detroit-Superior Viaduct and the Union Terminal Bridge, we come to the other bridge site of the “Bridge War” — the Columbus Road Bridge. Its history dates back to the very earliest days of Cleveland and Ohio City, as we have seen in Chapter 1. Its superstructure was of wood and covered — probably the only covered bridge Cleveland ever had. By 1846 transportation demands had outgrown this bridge, and agitation for a new structure began. However, the city of Cleveland and Ohio City could not agree as to who should build it, whereupon the county settled the dispute and assumed the responsibility.

In 1870 and iron bridge was built, but this, too, soon had to be replaced. In 1895 a new bridge, designed by city engineer Walter F. Rice, was built. It was an extraordinary structure — a double-swing span — the first of its kind in the world. Each leaf was mounted on a separate pier and turntable. The clear opening between fenders was 115 feet. Each river arm was 65 feet; the short spans over the piers was 15 feet. The combined length of the two leaves was 279 feet. In 1940 the present Columbus Road Bridge was designed by Wilbur Watson and Associates. Its vertical lift span provides a 220-foot clearance [Figure XVII]. At present it needs repairs.

The Columbus Street crossing exemplifies the life-history of the low — level bridge over navigable waters. First came the crude and narrow structure, with a center leaf to open the channel to river traffic. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the timber bridge was followed by a light iron bridge with a wider roadway; it generally was a swing bridge. Near the end of the century, came a still heavier structure, generally of steel, to carry increased loads. Finally an entirely different bridge type emerged, designed to accommodate modern transportation needs; the vertical lift.
At a point of Columbus Road which was to be the hub of “Cleveland Centre” — a pioneer real estate promotion for trade with an international flavor — we encounter an extraordinary railroad bridge built for the New York Central Railroad. This bridge serves the team tracks of the oldest railroads in Cleveland, dating from 1851. Founded by Alfred Kelley, mayor, canal commissioner and promoter, it was originally called the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad. At a later date, Indianapolis was added making it the “Big Four”. When extended to St. Louis, the name became abbreviated to CCC & St.L.R.R.

Detailed in silhouette of the present Columbus Road Bridge in the open position.
Figure XVII. Detailed in silhouette of the present Columbus Road Bridge in the open position.

The present bridge, erected in 1953, replace an older Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge, built in 1902, with a clear channel opening of 110 feet. The new bridge was designed by Howard, Needles, Tammen and Bergendoff, and received the American Institute of Steel Construction Award of Merit for the most beautiful bridge in its class. It has a vertical lift span of 260 feet, with a clear channel of 200 feet. The two 135 hp motors are located at the top of the two girders. and a drive shaft activates the counterweight sheaves. Massive balance chains adjust the changing load. Normal lift is about 90 feet. The electrical contractors were Dingle-Clark, and McDowell Wellman erected the steel work.

The middle and lower West Third Street bridges were torn down as part of the Terminal Tower complex and the Collison Bend Cut 5A project. The present Carter Road Bridge, a vertical lift, designed in 1940 by Wilbur Watson and Associates, replace the two older structures. Carter Road, appropriately named after Lorenzo Carter, the first permanent settler, has long been the site of an important vehicle crossing. There was a bridge at this general location as early as 1853. The first bridge collapsed in 1857 when “overloaded with cattle”. This was followed in 1888 by an iron swing bridge with one pivot span of 180 feet and one fixed span of 105 feet. The fourth bridge on this site was a Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge, built in 1903, and the first of its kind in the city. It had a double-leaf drawspan 138 feet long. The roadway was 23 feet wide with two 6-foot sidewalks.

The present structure formed part of the Cleveland Public Works Administration’s 5.5. million dollar program for the widening and straightening of Cuyahoga River. The lift span is 220 feet long; the clear channel opening between fenders is 201 feet. Total length of the bridge is 284 feet. The concrete piers support the superstructure. And each pier foundation comprises six 30-inch steel cylinders about 140 feet in length, supplemented by steel batter piles and a steel pile enclosure. The normal lift of the bride is a about 75 feet, with a clearance of a little over 97 feet for a large lake freighters. The emergency lift provides for an extra 51/2 feet. Overall width of the bridge is 58 feet, 6 inches. The roadway has four vehicle lanes and is 46 feet, 6 inches wide, with two 5-foot sidewalks. The superstructure was fabricated by Mt. Vernon Bridge Company and was erected by the Bass Construction Company. The contractor cantilevered the center span out from each tower in a raised position. The foundations were built by the Western Foundation Company of Chicago.

The Eagle Avenue Viaduct replaced the middle West Third Street Bridge, which was a double Scherzer lift. Built in 1908, it had a channel opening of 116.2 feet. The present viaduct has an overall length of 1,998 feet from Scranton Road to Ontario Street. The ramp includes the vertical lift span over the Cuyahoga River, built on the same grad as the viaduct. This lift span has the distinction of being the first vertical lift in Cleveland, having been built in 1931, and the sixth such structure in the United States. The span is 225 feet, with a clear channel opening of 187 feet, and is 52 feet wide. Designing engineer was F.L. Gorman, and the engineer in charge of construction was Noah H. Suloff. The resident engineer was G. Brooks Earnest, who later became President of Fenn College, (predecessor of Cleveland State University). The bridge has been recently remodeled with new electrical controls, but the original 100 hp motors were retained in service.

The electric motors are above the operator’s cab and drive a pair of drums that have several wraps of cable. As the motors turn to lift or lower the bridge, the drums haul in and feed out the cable that are connected to the top and bottom of the towers, thus pulling the bride up and down.

The bridge has free-standing towers, a design no longer used because the alignment shifts, and then the bridge binds.

Under the Lorain-Carnegie High Level Bridge, there is another type of movable bridge-a trunnion bascule with a single leaf. This replaced a Scherzer type of draw that had a span length of 125 feet and was built in 1902. In 1920 the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and St. Louis Railway erected the present structure. It has a clear channel length of 140 feet and opens to a full angle of 82. A single track runs through a riveted truss with a length of 175 feet and a width of 18 feet. In addition to the lift span, the bridge consists of a 45-foot tower span and a 42-foot deck plate girder approach. The three piers are of concrete. It is worth more than a casual glance, for the concept is old.

The prototype of the bascule bridge is the drawbridge across the moat of a medieval castle. The modern prototype is the Tower Bridge over the Thames in London, built in 1894. The present-day trunnion bascule bridge comes with one leaf or two. The leaf (or leaves) is supported at the shore and on a trunnion or shaft. In opening, the bridge rotates about this shaft and raises its leaves to a nearly vertical position; in the opening position the trunnion supports the entire dead weight of the structure. The river arm is longer, of course, than that part of the bridge extending to the rear of the trunnion. This makes necessary the use of counterweights at the rear of the bridge.

This particular bridge was designed by the Strauss Bridge Company and built by the American Bridge Company. Joseph Strauss was the famous American engineer who designed the Golden Gate Bridge, and he held numerous patents on bascule bridges. He designed many of the lift bridges in Chicago, where one can see excellent examples of both the single-leaf and the double-leaf bascule. Strauss also designed the drawspan in the Arlington Memorial Bridge over the Potomac at Washington, D.C.

Another railroad movable span is the structure on the High Level Norfolk and Western Viaduct at University Avenue. This structure was built in 1917 for the original Nickel Plate Road and designed by the Chief Engineer, E.E. Hart. It consists of a plate girder viaduct and six deck and through riveted truss spans of moderate length. A double-track viaduct, the total length is 3,010 feet. The height above the river is 68 feet. At one time it was the longest viaduct in the United States. The river span at present is a 267-foot vertical lift, erected in 1957 to replace the 167-foot Scherzer Rolling Lift. The engineers were Hardesty and Hanover and the railway company engineers R.T. Hewitt, H.H. Whitmore and E.F. Marley. The first river span at this point was a swing bridge with a pier at the center of the river. Then in the 1800’s the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad extended its line through Cleveland. In 1882 a wrought-iron viaduct with alternate tower spans and intermediate spans of Fink truss design, supported on sandstone masonry piers, carried the double tracks across the valley. J.A.
Latcher, Chief Engineer, W.M. Hughes, Bridge Engineer, and W.D. Boch, Substructure Engineer, designed the viaduct.The present West Third Street Bridge is a vehicle crossing that has a long history in the city of Cleveland.

The present structure is a vertical lift, built in 1940. Years ago this street was known as Central Way, which was opened in 1872, under the tracks of the Cleveland and Mahoning Railroad. It became the principal throughway for the heavy traffic to the first iron refineries in that area. In 1883, a wooden drawbridge, the last of the wooden bridges, was swept away by flood. This was replaced by an iron, pivot-span bridge 138 feet long, which stood until replaced by the present bridge was being built. A temporary pontoon was constructed of welded steel with a roadway 20 feet wide 123 feet long. Electric driven winches pivoted the deck in a ball-socket device in the anchored pontoon; and when swung open, there was a clear channel of 80 feet. The vertical lift has a span of 200 feet and is identical with a Columbus Road Bridge.

The Erie Railroad Bridge, a jackknife, is currently on the river replacement program. This crossing of the river is also one of the earliest, dating from 1850. The present bridge replaced an older swing bridge, the east pier of which is still in use. The bridge collapsed in the 1900’s as a result of a train wreck. The present bridge is to be replaced by a single-track lift bridge, but the current bankrupt Erie Railroad, now in the hands of Conrail, and the closing of the Erie Ore dock make its replacement and uncertainty.

The Newburgh and South Shore Railroad Bridge one of the “twin bridges”, has been retired from active service since 1967 and remains in the upright position. One of the oldest remaining such movable bridges, in the United States, it had a glorious past. It is a Scherzer rolling lift bridge, built in 1903-4 by H.L. Schuler. It is a double-track single-leaf span 160 feet long, with two 50-foot deck plate girder spans on two concrete abutments. The original 50 hp General Electric motors are still there. At the time of erection, it was the longest single-leaf truss span Scherzo bridge.

The rail traffic is now being carried by its twin, a Baltimore and Ohio bridge. It too is a Scherzer rolling lift, built in 1906 to serve the American Steel and Wire Company’s Central Furnance via the West Third Street yards of the railroad. D.D. Carothers and J.F. Greiner supervised the work. It is a double-track railroad structure with an overall length of 205 feet and a lift Span of 160 feet. It is supported on concrete piers with pile foundations. The main span is composed of triangular-shaped trusses 291/2 feet apart on centers, with inclined top chords supported intermedially between panel points. The trusses have a maximum depth of 44 feet and are connected by top and lateral sway-bracing. All connections are riveted. Like its twin, the rolling mechanism was originally powered by two General Electric 50 hp railway-type motors. But in 1950 two new motors were installed. The operating mechanism is on the movable part of the bridge, while the operator’s house is on the shore. The bridge was built at the Toledo plant of the American Bridge Company from plans furnished by the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company. At present the structure is owned and maintained by the Chessie System.

Just north of the Clark Avenue Bridge at low level is the River Terminal Railway Bridge. Built in 1913, the Scherzer Rolling Lift span is 148 feet long, with a channel opening of 130 feet. It is of great importance to the Republic Steel Corporation, since the bridge provides the rail connection across the river to link the company’s blast furnaces with its open hearths. It was originally designed for Cooper’s E50 loading. In 1950, the River Terminal Railway Company strengthened this single-track structure. Subsequently all of the stringers in the Scherzer Rolling Lift span and approach spans were strengthened by adding cover plates to the top and bottom flanges. The floor beams and trusses in the life span were likewise strengthened. These improvements were made while the bridge continued to carry normal railroad traffic. When completed the bridge exceeded the load carrying capacity of any railroad bridge in the country. The dual 1560-ton hot metal cars require utmost safety and pose unusual loading conditions on the bridge. Hazelet and Erdal, Chicago, acted as consultants on the strengthening work. Leonard Larson, Chief Engineer of Republic Steel, and E.J. Lisy, Mayor of Maple Heights, and engineer for the River Terminal Railway Company, reviewed the plans and supervised the field operations. The Bethlehem Steel Company contracted for the work, using high strength steel.

Although there are more lift bridges on the river, we need not discuss them all. In a river trip of only few miles one can see movable brides of all of the principal types and in addition can witness the evolution of movable structures. The city is fortunate in having a specimen of an old swing span with its center pier, Scherzer rolling lift bridges (popular at the turn of the century), and jackknife bridges (original built from the early 1900’s), the trunnion bascule, notably of the Strauss type and finally the modern vertical lift. This is truly and unique experience which Clevelanders and visitors to the city should enjoy when exploring the Flats.

A postscript might be in order to mention the men who operate and maintain the movable bridges in the valley. Their job is a lonely one: even the view can become boring. The bridges are all subject to the prior demands of water traffic which call for the bridges to open upon signal. (A list of the bridges and the rules for opening may be found on the Fold Out).

Since most of the bridges are manned twenty-four hours a day, year round, several shifts are required for each bridge. In the case of the vehicular bridges, a bridge operator, stationed in the control house at the center of the bridge above the roadway, actually runs the mechanism. The “end man” is stationed at the end with the most traffic, to act as eyes for the operator and to flag down the speeding motorist or to make sure no pedestrian gets a ride (deliberately or by accident). The boat’s signal for opening the span over the main river is one long and two short whistles; for opening the two bridges over the old riverbed, one long, one short, one long, one short. Then the operator on the movable bridge, which is equipped with a whistle synchronized with a white light, will answer with a long, and a short whistle, plus a light signal. If a bridge cannot be opened immediately, three blasts of the whistle and the light will be given as a check signal. During certain rush hours, the bridge operator has to alert, and, while the current in the river is running, he knows not only the exact location of each bridge and the depth of the water under it; he also knows the type of bridge, its vertical clearance and the clear width of the open span.

When a lift bridge is to be opened, a series of steps take place. The traffic lights turn to red, the alarm bell clangs, and the gates are lowered. Then the barrier cable is lowered, which will stop a vehicle from plunging into the river. Next the bridge lock id drawn that allows the bridge to move. A switch can be energized that will raise the bridge. Interlocks prevent premature movements. As the bridge rises, the operator gets a ride. When the span reaches, full height a guide tells the operator the height of the opening, and automatic stops prevent override. When the navigation lights turn from red to green over the channel, the ship can pass.

The bridge motors actually turn a drum mechanism that literally pulls the bridge up and down by the cables. The counterweight and cables are used to balance the bridge. In fact, compensating cables are used to adjust even this weight change. In spite of the mass of several thousand tons, the bridges move very easily and have ample power. Most bridges have two motors, although one is adequate. Most have a gasoline motor-generator of auxiliary means as standby in case of power failure.

The six city movable bridges are part of the over 300 bridges that fall under the responsibility of the City Engineer’s office. The top priority is to keep the six movable bridges in operations. The bridges, being electrically operated, must be constantly inspected to ferret out malfunction and to repair the controls, to replace the navigation lights and to keep the motors in working order. Each bridge has its own peculiarities, and the newest movable bridge is eleven years old. Being movable, the bridges have to be oiled and greased on a routine basis. And a general construction foreman coordinates all maintenance of the city’s bridges.

Repairs to the deck, railings, expansion plates and other structural steel are done by the steel worker foreman and his crew. The towers of the bridges move inward towards the river, and, coupled with expansion of the span, the bridges appear to grow — which requires instant modification of the end plates and guides. In summer the operators on the West Third Street Bridge are often seen watering down the end — not to keep the down, but to keep the steel cool so the bridge does not bind.

The chief bridge operator schedules the work force and steps in for unexpected absences. Each bridge has its own support facilities, and the operators do their own housekeeping. All of the men are motivated by a high degree of responsibility and have long years of service. In winter a reduced work schedule allows for earned vacations, to be taken when navigation is curtailed.

There have been amusing experiences as well as tragic ones. The Center Street Bridge, as the oldest, is a swing bridge. The long end and the short end can swing in either direction, short going around. When a boat passes the operator opens the bridge so that he can follow the boat when he is closing the draw. This way, traffic is accommodated with less delay. On occasion, he overshoots, and takes the fence down at the old Fireboat Station, now the International Longshoremen’s Union Office. This bridge operator usually is the first to observe the suicides from the Superior High Level Bridge. The Columbus Road Bridge was the scene of an unusual accident when a pedestrian one dark night climbed under the barrier, sat on the sidewalk, and let his feet dangle when the bridge came down. One night the Center Street Bridge operator heard calls of distress and finally realized that a man was trapped on the B. and O. Bridge (No. 3) which was in the raised position. Evidently he was walking across the railroad bridge when the operator went off shift. Since no trains were scheduled, the bridge was raised for the night and our pedestrian had an unwelcome ride. The Fire Department rescued him.

Once a dump truck body opened up on the Eagle Avenue Bridge and demolished the operator’s control room — with the operator inside. He was not seriously injured, however. A similar accident occurred on the West Third Street Bridge. The No. 1 bridge at the mouth of the river recently has had two accidents. The span was raised when an engine ran through the block signal and hit the west counterweight. The undercarriage passed under, shearing the engine and cab completely off, killing the crew. A detailed car recently was dragged along through the span, tearing up the steel. This accident required extensive replacement of main members. A bridge of lighter construction might have completely collapsed. Repairs were made by re-routing the trains during daytime.

Constant maintenance and excellence of engineering have made these structures endure for decades. Only changes in the use of the river have been responsible for replacement of most of the bridges.

  1. J.A.L. Waddell, Bridge Engineering (John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1916) Vol. I, p. 668.


Bridges of Metropolitan Cleveland Copyright © 2016 by Cleveland State University Michael Schwartz Library. All Rights Reserved.

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