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  INCLINE PRESS: The Alameda Connection #2








OAKLAND <<>>ALAMEDA
DRAWBRIDGES
The Alice Street Bridge, with its manually operated swing span, was constructed in 1873 by the Central Pacific Railroad. During the years preceding the construction, a trip by rail between Oakland and Alameda was a lengthy, round-about ride through the outskirts of Oakland and San Leandro. It served for 17 years before being removed in 1900.



In the c1885 photo above, a hay scow is heading for the open draw of the Alice Street bridge. Alameda Library photo.


The Harrison Street Bridge was completed in 1898, by the Southern Pacific Railroad, and was a near carbon copy of the Park and High Street bridges.
Bridges on the estuary at that time were opening at the rate of up to 100 times a day, and accidents were routine. The worst accident was a head on collision of two trains on the bridge that killed eleven people and injured many more.




This c1898 photo shows the Harrison Street Bridge in the partly open position to allow the hay scow to pass through. The bridge was a fixture on the estuary until removed in 1924.
In 1928, The Posey Tube was completed under the estuary at the former location of the Harrison Street Bridge. Alameda Library photo.


The Webster and Harrison Street bridges were so close together, less than 140 yards separated the ends of their moveable spans when both bridges were fully open at the same time. Ships passing through both bridges had to negotiate a 150-ft wide channel for 800 feet, and with the strong currents and tide in the estuary, it was often impossible without some sort of mishap.




The above, c1924 photo, shows the Harrison Street span partially open for the passage of some small water craft. The Third Webster Street Bridge is in the background.
Scrapbook photo from Alameda Library.


The Fruitvale Drawbridge
The Fruitvale Drawbridge was a legend in it own time and earned the name, "The Broken Bridge" before it even opened. Completed in 1901, it didn't actually open to traffic until 1902, due to mechanical problems with its drawspan. That became the pattern for the next 70 years. By the beginning of the 1920s repairs to the structure had exceeded the original price of the bridge twice over. Much of the problem was due to the design of the bridge, including the fact that that one side of the drawspan was 5.5 feet longer than the other and the three truss arrangement, which practically invited collisions on the surface of the span.

The moveable span was operated manually until 1911, when an electric motor was installed to do the job. At that time the control house, which had been situated at one end of the bridge, was lifted to the top of the drawspan and fitted with the controls to operate it.

During most of the 70 years the Fruitvale Bridge obstructed traffic on the Oakland Estuary, just about everything imaginable happened to it except the one thing everyone wanted, its removal.

This bridge, and the High and Park Street Bridges were built by the U.S. Corps of Engineers in exchange for permission and some rights of way to dredge the channel between San Antonio Creek and San leandro Bay. In another exchange, having to do with a repair bill for $3.24 on the Fruitvale Bridge, the U.S. Government, Southern Pacific Railroad and Alameda County went to court in what became famous as the "Nuts and Bolts case." Three years and many thousands of tax dollars later, the case was settled with the decision to replace the old bridge.




This is the original Fruitvale Bridge c1903. A train can be seen approaching the swing span. Alameda Library photo.




In this c1970 view of the Fruitvale bridge you can see the control shack in the center of the span where it was placed in 1911. In the early years, trains accounted for most of the traffic on the surface of the bridge, but in 1951, the rails were removed and autos and pedestrians made up 100% of the traffic.




The Fruitvale Bridge from the Oakland side showing the three truss arrangement. Originally, train tracks occupied the area where the walk is shown.




I don't think this was routine, but it was not all that
unusual either. Just about everything happened
to this bridge at one time or another, including being
struck by a submarine. Alameda Library photo.

In january 1972, the federal government finally removed the ancient Fruitvale bridge and began construction on a new Fruitvale Bridge.




Miller Sweeney, Southern Pacific, Park and High Street bridges
















mibgda-2day@sfchangehappens-books.com

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