Bridge tenders in the PNW?

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BN Oly

New Member
I've often wondered... with the significant number of drawbridges in the PNW on the former BN lines (and a UP here and there) is there one central bridge tender (in Ft Worth or Omaha) or do some of the individual bridges have their own staff? I could imagine the Columbia River draws having enough rail and marine traffic to maybe justify their own staffing, but the likes of Bridge 14 in West Tacoma or the span in Everett or Marysville having anyone staff them. Anyone have any insight into the operations of these?
 

RacerTodd

New Member
I don't know about all of the bridges, but I've shot at Bridge 6.3 over Salmon Bay and Bridge 36.8 over the Duwamish River. I've seen personnel in both control towers.

I can't imagine having a bridge tender handling the bridge remotely, as they have to coordinate not only with rail traffic but with marine traffic as well. You have to have someone with eyes on site to watch over all that's going on.

Todd
 

bcp

Member
From:
http://www.railroadradio.net/content/view/40/137/

Other Operations

The BNSF has three drawbridges on the Fallbridge sub from MP 5.1 to MP 9.6. All trains must contact the Willamette River and Columbia River drawbridges on the east and west approaches. The Columbia Slough drawbridge is not always manned and is rarely opened. Many times though dispatcher decisions are made based on openings made by the drawbridge operators.

The UP has a drawbridge on the Portland Sub (Graham Line) between East Portland and Portland. All trains must contact the Steel Bridge operator to confirm the bridge is down and locked.

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Federal regulations, by state and bridge:
http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&rgn=div5&view=text&node=33:1.0.1.10.61&idno=33
 

SP&SFan

MP 72 - BNSF Spokane Sub.
I know the bridge at Wishram is controlled by the Pasco bridge tender in Pasco.. Was told this by a track inspector doing his thing while we seeked shade from the blazing heat of a summer's day out in the Columbia River Gorge...


SP&SFan
 

Beverlyhelper

beverlyhelper
Bridge Tenders

Don't know current situations, but I have many fond memories of working on Bridge 10 (as it was then known in the 1960's) just north of Delta Wye in Everett. We handled the bridge mechanics (a swing bridge) plus train orders for GN trains and the NP local up to Arlington (it was a GN telegrapher's job due to the train orders). Many days we'd leave the bridge open to allow marine traffic to flow by and the sun would set just right so that it shown through the bridge structure to the west. Idyllic service!
 

Ballard Beaver

ballard beaver
i know that trains have to call bridge 37.8 aka bridge 10 by delta junction for permission to cross, but not sure if it is manned. i thought it was. l

ike someone above said, the columbia river bridge west/south of pasco has a tender. as do bridge 6.3 and the duwamish river bridge in seattle.

i thought that the columbia slough bridge in portland/vancouver had a tender, i swear i have seen people in the little hut when i went across on amtrak.
 

Jon Bentz

New Member
The swing span at Marysville has a bridge tender. The span between Marysville and bridge 37.8 is not manned. Also, people who have boats at the Marysville marina have to call up the BNSF bridge tender and schedule a time for the bridge to open. A friend of mine worked this job for a couple of years and I would go up and visit occasionally. One funny thing about the Marysville bridge is that ( at the time ) didn't line up and had to be man handled back into alignment every time it was closed. No fun in the rain - or anytime for that matter.
 

BN Oly

New Member
Thanks for the info, its very interesting. I know that in days past the State of Oregon employed the physically disabled to staff highway bridges. I wonder if railroads do anything similar, like MoW employees forced to light duty, etc.

Being a bridge tender was always one of those jobs that seemed like it would be enjoyable. That and a fire lookout. Maybe something about the little huts and the solitude.
 

Beverlyhelper

beverlyhelper
Bridge Tenders

Thanks for the info, its very interesting. I know that in days past the State of Oregon employed the physically disabled to staff highway bridges. I wonder if railroads do anything similar, like MoW employees forced to light duty, etc.

Being a bridge tender was always one of those jobs that seemed like it would be enjoyable. That and a fire lookout. Maybe something about the little huts and the solitude.
You got that right. I've done both - fire lookout in Idaho and railroad bridge tending. Got a lot of reading done!
 

Allen Miller

New Member
Bridge 37.8 (formerly Bridge 10) in Everett is manned 24/7 and always has been. There is just too much river traffic to handle remotely. I broke in on Bridge 10 in 1970 and the railroad had grandiose schemes of running the bridge remotely using closed circuit cameras, etc. but the night-time log boat traffic and heavy fog on the river in the fall required the bridge to be manned with good eyes and ears.
We also operated an "Armstrong" interlocking plant from the bridge, controlling the Northern Pacific connection switch from their Rogers Siding and the wye track switches in Delta Yard, as well as being a heavy train order office. Because of the train order work, Bridge 10 was manned with telegraph operators, whereas Bridge 11 and Bridge 12 in Marysville were manned by Bridge and Building (B&B) employees.
Where water traffic is light, or train service is once a day, such as the Swinnomish Span near Anacortes, the bridge is opened by prior arrangement or the bridge is left in the open position and closed for trains at a set time each day.
 

Bilge_Rat

New Member
Can't speak for the PNW, but there are a few bridges on the Illinois River that are handled remotely from dispatch centers, so it is done in some locations. The EJ&E bridge just below Lockport Lock is controlled from the EJ&E dispatch center, and the lift bridge at Beardstown, Illinois is controlled remotely by BNSF, most likely from Ft. Worth. Before UP acquired them, the C&NW attempted to automate the lift bridge at Pekin, Illinois. This went badly. The bridge was lowered on boats transiting the span, the dispatchers ignored calls to open, etc. The captains and pilots on the Illinois started calling the USCG Bridge Division in St. Louis every time there was a problem, and the C&NW was eventually told to operate the bridge manually again. It still is to this day. After manual operation was reinstated, the tenders were calling the boats as they went through, thanking the wheelhouse guys for getting their jobs back for them!

Other rail bridges on the Illinois are operated by the train crews using the bridge. Either there is a bungalow at track level on each side with bridge controls, or they have to climb to the control house. Bridges at Seneca and Ottawa are operated this way. The old CRI&P bridge at Joliet is manned 24/7, as is PP&U bridge at Peoria. EJ&E has just finished a new bridge just below Dresden Island Lock & Dam (the old bridge was the most frequently hit bridge anywhere in the US), and it may be operated remotely, but we don't know for sure.
Tom
 
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RoadRailer

FP Engineer
The BNSF Columbia River Bridge between Pasco and Kennewick is manned by a bridge tender who also controls the normally raised BNSF bridge over the Snake River at Ainsworth.
The UP Kalan Bridge over the Columbia River, between Wallula and Kennewick, is remotely operated and controlled by signals on the approach. This bridge is normally open to river traffic as well.
 

Tacoma Tom

New Member
The bridge in West Seattle has a tender as I talked to him many times while working for the railroad. As said there is a bridge tender in Ballard on the Salmon bay bridge. He used to ride the same bus as I did and we had several chats. He told me that the Salmon bay bridge is so well balanced that it only uses a 5hp motor to lift the span up and down.
 




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