Sunday, August 6, 2017

Willamette River Crossings: Union Street Bridge in Salem, Oregon

July 2017 (44.947, -123.0418) Union Street Railroad Bridge
Continuing downstream along the Willamette River we arrived at the Union Street Railroad Bridge in Salem, Oregon. This bridge (like last week's Van Buren Street Bridge) is from 1913 and was built by the Southern Pacific Railroad. It changed hands several times before it was finally sold by the Union Pacific Railroad to the City of Salem in 2003.  The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 and converted to a pedestrian and bicycle bridge in 2009.
This structure is a vertical lift bridge that uses a patented system developed by the designers Waddel and Harrington. The top of the towers are 65 ft above the trusses for a total height of about 100 ft. The towers stopped working in the 1980s and the mechanism (and operator's house) was removed soon afterwards (see bottom photo).
This longitudinally asymmetric five span bridge sits on concrete piers that were designed to be high enough to keep the track five feet above the highest recorded flood water on the Willamette. There is a 134 ft long lift span (shown in photo below) and four Pratt truss spans for total length of 755 feet. There is also an 850 ft long timber trestle on the west end.
This railroad bridge (which carried it's last train in the 1990's) underwent considerable modification before it began carrying pedestrians. Lead based paint, ballast and the track all had to be removed. Besides being redesigned as a pedestrian bridge, it was also redesigned to carry emergency vehicles.
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