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.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Duluth Canal and Lift Bridge History

I took some time during the past few weeks to put together this video on the history of the Lift Bridge and Canal.  We have such a rich nautical history around the "Head of the Lakes" that I thought a video would be worthwhile.  Sorry that it so long (53 minutes), but, there is a lot to tell.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Edward L. Ryerson (Fast Eddy on Ice)

Anyone traveling from Superior to Duluth during the past few years can’t help but notice a particularly striking Laker tied up near the Blatnik Bridge.  The boat is the Edward L Ryerson, once labeled the “Queen of the Lake”.

Since today was a bright beautiful winter day, it was a perfect time to stop by the old girl and see how she was doing. Winter is a great time to walk across the frozen slips and get a better look at many of the boats layed up for the season.

The Edward L. Ryerson, is one of only two remaining straight-deck bulk carriers still part of the American fleet on the Great Lakes.  Built by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Co., the new boat was launched January 21, 1960, and christened Edward L. Ryerson for the Inland Steel Co. of Chicago, IL. The new laker was the first of five American-flagged ships to be added to the "730-class" of lake boats in the early 1960's.  The Ryerson became the third of thirteen 730' carriers to eventually share in the "Queen of the Lakes" title for being the longest ships on the Great Lakes.  

The boat's namesake, Mr. Edward Larned Ryerson, was born in Chicago on December 3rd, 1886.  He had been president of the steel service center Joseph T. Ryerson and Son, Inc. until 1935 when it was merged with Inland Steel.  Mr. Ryerson was chairman of the board from 1940 until his retirement in 1953 of both Inland Steel and his original company.  Mr. Ryerson died in Chicago on August 2nd, 1971.

The Edward L. Ryerson is among the most beautiful of all lakers, from her beautifully flared bow and the top of her pilot house to her significant but streamlined stack to her curved and tapered stern as well as her striking paint job, no expense or effort was spared during her building to achieve this goal.  Over $8 million was reported to have been spent on the actual accommodations alone.   The Ryerson was built to transport iron ore, fast at the expense of poor capabilities to haul other cargo. A conversion to a self-unloader was deferred because of excessive cost to retrofit the square holds.

The Ryerson is a fast boat and is able to reach speeds up to 19 mph earning her the nickname "Fast Eddie" as one of the quickest ships on the Great Lakes. She can carry approximately 24,869 tons, one third of today’s 1000ft lakers.

The Ryerson’s  working career was placed on hold in 2009 when she laid up at Superior's Fraser Shipyard and has been on hold ever since. Economic conditions are still keeping this beautiful vessel from a return to service, but, someday, the lady may once again become a subject of delight for photographers and boatwatchers alike.

To learn more about the Ryerson: visit

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jay Cooke Swinging Bridge

It has been nearly eight months since to devastating floods that swept through the Northland last June.
Today I had a chance to visit Jay Cooke State Park and the famous swinging bridge.  While the bridge walkway is still somewhat crumpled, the beauty of the park has not changes.

The muffled sound of the St. Louis River running under the ice and the chickadees chirping on the snow covered branches is an indication that springtime is not far off.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Harbor History - Minnesota Point Lighthouse

The other day I hiked down to the end of Park Point and upon seeing the ruins of the old Minnesota Point Lighthouse I was inspired to do a quick historical video on this once important lighthouse. I hope you find this 23 minute presentation interesting and informative.