Sep 02-01

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2001: September: Sep 02-01
Memories of the Portage crossing    ...scroll down to share comments
photo courtesy Kevin Musser

Charlie at Pasty Central on Sunday, September 2, 2001 - 08:31 am:

There are several lasting icons of the Copper Country: the Snow Thermometer, the sign which tells of the "purest most vitalizing air on earth", the Quincy Mine Building, and the Portage Lift Bridge. Prior to 1959 (corrected from '57 by Dave-see below), when today's bridge was built, it was a "swing bridge", constructed in 1895 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Here's an overhead shot from the 50's (from the MTU Archives)... and a similar view taken last month by Jonathan Hopper, flying with Rick Anderson:

You will find many more railroad memories at Kevin Musser's, which we are proud to host here at Pasty Central. A special thank-you to Dale Gruber for researching a link to the King Bridge company website which actually shows the two bridges side-by-side before the old one was dismantled.

Keeps those shoebox memories coming our way!
Jason Cooper, MI on Sunday, September 2, 2001 - 11:44 am:

Dear Charlie, My Grandma has been looking for a picture of the old bridge. If you have a picture of the whole bridge, is there anyway you could email a copy to me for her to have?
It would really be appreciated!

By David S. - FL on Sunday, September 2, 2001 - 01:47 pm:

I distinctly remember crossing the old bridge by train with my grandmother when I was just a boy of 9 years old. You say the new bridge was built in 1957 but I'm almost sure we crossed the old bridge in 1959 on our way to Illinois. Any further info on this?

By Charlie at Pasty Central on Sunday, September 2, 2001 - 03:17 pm:

Yes, David, you are right, it was 1959. In fact, the shot below from the MTU archives (found on the link above) was taken in December 1959, so the old bridge was apparently standing all the way into 1960. Maybe someone who lived in Houghton/Hancock at the time could shed more light on the history.

Old and New

By Daryl Laitila on Sunday, September 2, 2001 - 05:55 pm:

I just watched the video "Keweenaw Crossing" by the Michigan Transportation Department. According to the video the new bridge was open for traffic the first time at 8 a.m. on December 20, 1959. Construction started December 18, 1957.

The old bridge was in use for 65 years and because it was only 5 feet off the surface of the water, the swing bridge had to open for all water traffic. It opened an average of 700 times per year and was a big bottle neck for land traffic. It took about 30 minutes each time the bridge opened.

It seems amazing to me that they were able to build the center span a mile away in Ripley and then move it into position with only an 8 inch clearance.

By Nancy Nelson, WI on Sunday, September 2, 2001 - 10:04 pm:

Great pictures and information--and the view of HHS in the background of the last one (sob).

We knew we were going to pass driver ed. if Mr. Garity let us go across the old bridge. It was narrow, to say the least, and the cars of the 50's were fat.

By Casey Jones on Sunday, September 2, 2001 - 11:59 pm:

Hey Everybody!
Get ready!
There's a train a-comin'...
No wait...TWO!
Keep the Great Old Shots comin' Pasty Cam!

By Ken, Kalamazoo,MI on Monday, September 3, 2001 - 07:35 am:

It is absolutely amazing the information that is shared on I check here every day to see what is new. Keep up the great work!

By R Somero CA on Monday, September 3, 2001 - 11:29 pm:

The span was built on the Hancock side somewhere close to the old St. Joseph's hospital. I got up early on the day they floated it on barges to the new bridge and watched the whole thing. I was about 11 years old. It was a sight to see! My uncle worked on the bridge itself. Such good memories.

By Kevin Musser on Tuesday, September 4, 2001 - 10:49 am:

Check out the complete story of all three spans to cross the portage.
It is great to be aboard at, thank you for all the support.

By Mary, WI on Tuesday, September 4, 2001 - 11:11 am:

Hi everyone,
More trivia regarding the bridge. I have a blue and white button in a memory box commomorating the dedication of the bridge June 24, 25, 26, 1960.
Also a photo postcard of the old, old bridge dated October 1929. I can see a sign - Slow 10-15 Miles, lots of groups of people walking across and only 1 car visable going over. Also two people sitting on one of the park benches in the park across the street.
Yes, Nancy I see the old school too.

By Ken from da UP on Tuesday, September 4, 2001 - 11:24 pm:

Hei, Nancy, I too remember the old HHS from the picture. I went there in the 5th grade, '48?
Lived on Montezuma Ave then. On the hill behind the old BBQ restaurant on Sheldon Ave.

By Brian Juntikka, Florida on Saturday, October 27, 2001 - 12:28 am:

Although the new lift bridge opened to highway traffic on December 20, 1959, the railroads continued to use the old swing bridge until February 2 or 3, 1960. Reason was because the railroad spans below the new bridge were not completed until then. By the time the first Milwaukee Road train crossed the new bridge on February 2 or 3, 1960, the upper highway parts of the old bridge had allready been removed.

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