Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23, 1905: First ever crossing of the gondola car

February 23, 1905: First ever crossing of the gondola car
By Tony Dierckins

 Duluth’s Aerial Transfer Bridge, predecessor to the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. (Image: Duluth Public Library.) On this day in Duluth in 1905, the Aerial Transfer Bridge made its first crossing with, as the Duluth News Tribune put it, a “load of human freight.” City Engineer Thomas McGilvray invited two hundred people to witness the ferry car’s first crossing. He included local dignitaries such as Mayor Cullum, Common Council President Roland D. Haven, Colonel Hubert Eva, Chief of Police Chauncy H. Troyer; Chief DM&IR Engineer Herman L. Dresser as well as members of his own staff and the team from the Modern Steel Structural Company, who built the bridge. At 4:30 in the afternoon of February 23, 1905, these men entered the car at the south tower and prepared to cross. The bridge was not yet fully complete—some of the false wooden work still stood against the south tower. McGilvray himself controlled the car, which began rolling without so much as a hiccup. One of the workmen posted atop the bridge as a safety measure decided to have a little fun with the crowd, striking at the false staging work with a wooden plank and shouting to cut the power. Afraid that “heavy objects were about to crash to the deck,” many sought protection under the car’s awnings. After a good laugh—and reassurance that a joke had been played, nothing more—the ferry car moved ahead. Riders felt “only a slight vibration” while the car moved northward. As it reached the north end of the canal with “a gentle motion, an almost imperceptible contact against the air cushion in the approach, it stopped and locked automatically.” The entire trip lasted one minute and fifteen seconds, but it had been over fifteen years in the making. TBridge_2.24.1905_DNT. Discover the entire history of the Duluth Aerial Bridge here.

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