Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Houghton-Hancock Double-Lift Bridge over Portage Canal

(Bridge Hunter, Historic Bridges, Satellite, Street View)

Wikipedia, put in the Public Domain by Justin Murawski
The double-deck span can support road traffic on both levels. The lower deck also used to have tracks to support the railroads that originally built it --- Copper Range (1906 and 1920 maps) and Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railway. In 1961 it became part of  Soo Line, which became Wisconsin Central in 1987. But railroad traffic stopped in 1982. Below shows the span raised high enough to pass a boat.

Wikipedia, Chris857 Photo, CC BY-SA
Below is an older photo when the tracks were still intact showing the span lowered to allow a train to cross.

By railfan 44 - https://www.flickr.com/photos/129679309@N05/27482497891/, Public Domain, Link
Because the railroads ran close to the shore, they were low. You can see in the first photo that the level of that deck won't even pass speedboats. This is why it is important that the bridge is normally at the intermediate level during navigation season. But there is no canal traffic during the winter so the bridge is lowered so that snowmobiles and skiers using the old railroad right-of-ways as trails can also use this bridge.

The original bridge was a wooden swing bridge completed in 1875. This was replaced by a steel swing bridge in 1901. In 1959 the swing bridge was replaced by this bridge. It has a 100' clearance when fully raised. [Wikipedia] When built, it was the heaviest lift bridge constructed. [Posting]

A video of it being raised for a ferry. "It's hard to catch the bridge in action anymore but I caught it last fall when the twice a week ferry to Isle Royale left." (source)


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