Posts Tagged ‘movable bridge’

On a recent trip to London, Karen, the kids, and I visited Tower Bridge. It took eight years, starting in 1886, to build this double-bascule bridge:

The two towers and the upper walkways contain an exhibit about the history and construction of the bridge. The walkways also provide great views of London:

The pointy building on the left is the Shard, Europe’s tallest building. The ship in the center is HMS Belfast.

From inside the south tower, a non-movable suspension portion of Tower Bridge is seen:

Here is a detail shot showing some of the original workings of the bridge:

And this is part of one of the old steam engines that used to open the bridge, the origin of steampunk perhaps?

Now the whole process of opening and closing the draws is computerized, and we were lucky to be in London on a day when the bridge was opened. First the Olympic rings were raised:

Then the roadway:

A vessel requiring an opening of the bridge must request it 24 hours in advance. In the picture above, the bow of a Thames sailing barge is just sneaking into the frame on the right. Tower Bridge opens about 1000 times per year.

Finally, the bridge is open and the barge passes through:

(For one more view of Tower Bridge, this time with the Paralympic logo, go here.)

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The Blynman Bridge in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is one of the busiest movable bridges in the world, averaging 10,000 openings per year. Here it is opening for a lone sailboat last week:

There’s not a lot of horizontal clearance between the leaves, but this boat breezed right through:

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Karen and I have just returned from a short visit to Paris (France, not Texas). I have been there twice before, but until Karen told me there was a canal that ran through the middle of the city, I was oblivious to its existence. Thanks to the internet we were able to rent an apartment just a couple of blocks from the Canal Saint-Martin.

Our plan was to hang out in the neighborhood and pretend we lived there. We would sit at cafes and drink coffee, and we would stroll along the canal, as these Parisians are doing:

The canal was constructed between 1802 and 1825, by order of Napoleon I, to bring fresh water to Paris and for the transport of goods. It runs 4.5 kilometers from the Bassin de la Villette to the Port de l’Arsenal just off the Seine River. Nine locks raise or lower boats a total of 27 meters.

This barge in the Bassin de la Villette flew the Dutch flag:

There are three movable bridges that cross the canal. Two are swing bridges, and one is a vertical lift bridge. This is part of the lifting mechanism:

Two companies run tours along the canal, and there was no way we were not going to take a canal-boat trip. Here is one of the boats that Paris Canal operates. This is the company we used.

This bridge is confused. It says, “Rise up!” but it doesn’t rise.

It swings!

Here is a boat from the other company, Canauxrama, with just a few tourists. (It was a cold, rainy day.)

As soon as the gate goes up, the waiting traffic takes off:

The canal is still used for commercial traffic. Here a barge passes through the Parc de la Villette (the starting point for our boat trip) and approaches the junction with the Canal Saint-Denis:

This sign is at the first lock on the Canal Saint-Martin: 4.5 kilometers to the Seine.

Despite the weather, Karen was very happy to be descending the canal:

Inside the first lock:

Eight of the nine locks on the canal are double locks where you pass directly from one lock into the next:

Just below the Bassin de la Villette the canal passes through a short tunnel. The “1825” carved into the rock is the year the canal opened:

Here we both are, happy to be on a boat, in a lock, in Paris:

About half of the canal runs through a tunnel. Only this first section has artificial lighting. The rest of the tunnel is dark, except for openings every block or so to allow light and air in.

At the end of the two-kilometer-long tunnel we exited into the Port de l’Arsenal, just below the Bastille:

This marina is home to a variety of boats, one much more colorful than the others:

And there’s this Dutch canal boat:

At the end of the canal, two means of transportation cross. The Seine is visible just beyond the last lock:

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It may not be an official designation, but November is Historic Bridge Awareness Month—at least it has been since 2006 when it was unofficially declared to be so by HistoricBridges.org. A visit to their site shows that they mostly document bridges in the United States and Canada. Here’s one more to add to their lists:

Karen and I visited this bridge on our honeymoon to Bermuda in October. This is the Somerset Bridge, and it’s generally believed to be the smallest drawbridge in the world. (Although this bridge in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, seems to also claim that distinction.) The Somerset Bridge is opened by removing the plank that covers an 18-inch gap between the two halves of the bridge. Supposedly a sailboat’s mast can then pass through the bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge was not opened while we were there, so we did not get to see it in action.

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At the end of August Karen, the kids, and I, along with our usual excursion partners Elisa and Jon, took an eco-cruise of the Hackensack River and the New Jersey Meadowlands. You’re probably thinking, “What’s so eco about some sports stadiums and a mall?” and that’s exactly why the Hackensack Riverkeeper runs these tours. For about two hours you get to take a relaxing cruise on a pontoon boat through the remarkably peaceful wetlands. It’s a truly unique and surprising area.

You can see a lot of birds in the meadowlands. A major avian migration route from the Arctic down to the southern United States and northern South America runs straight through. Hundreds (thousands, maybe) of least sandpipers stop off here and pick their sustenance out of the mud, and there were plenty of other birds, like this snowy egret (thanks, Nancy):

You can also see the New York City skyline from here, partially hidden by a bit of nature:

And you can see the skyline and the birds at the same time, a truly disorienting juxtaposition:

Back in the days when we didn’t know much about ecology and healthy ecosystems, city planners tried to control the meadowlands with gates to keep the tidal flow out. Here’s is what’s left of one of those gates:

The Hackensack River is also a great place to see movable bridges. Some are still in use, such as this single-leaf bascule bridge and the vertical lift bridge below:

Some are no longer used and are left in the open position, like this swing bridge:

A number of ospreys have made their nests in the meadowlands. There are some telephone poles around with platforms on top, which were supposed to be inviting places for the ospreys to build their nests, but the birds instead prefer to build on seemingly less-hospitable structures. In this picture you can see the nest atop the poles on the right with the radio antenna. Two ospreys are also visible: One is perched on the fourth horizontal bar from the bottom on the large tower, and the other is flying toward the nest from the right:

Finally, an eco-cruise on the Hackensack River lets you go underneath the New Jersey Turnpike, which opened in 1952. An increase in traffic rendered the original turnpike too narrow, so it was widened by adding lanes. Here you can see the original inverted-U cement supports for the bridge and the newer cement posts on either side, which support the added lanes:

This picture from 1951 shows the turnpike under construction:

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This past Sunday was the last day to see the new Willis Avenue Bridge resting on its barges at Weeks Marine in Bayonne. On Monday the bridge was towed across the harbor and up the Buttermilk Channel and East River to its final destination on the Harlem River.

Leaving the Liberty State Park anchorage Sunday morning, Karen and I headed for the Kill Van Kull, intent on circumnavigating Staten Island. But first we detoured to check out the new bridge:

A real bridge to nowhere:

This one shot shows the Willis Avenue Bridge, the skylines of Jersey City and Manhattan, and (very faintly) the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges:

And here you can see the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge off in the distance to the left of the cruise ship (click the photo for a larger version):

All photos by Karen

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Thanks to Karen for the title!

This morning the brand new Willis Avenue Bridge began its trip from the Port of Coeymans, where it was built, down the Hudson. The 350-foot, 2700-ton bridge took 15 months to build and will replace the current Willis Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River, which has been in use since August 22, 1901. Details about the current bridge and the replacement project are on New York City’s Department of Transportation site.

Karen and I passed under the old bridge for the first time back in July 2008.

The new span was loaded onto barges this morning and will head for Bayonne, New Jersey, before finally being towed to the Harlem River. It looks like the tugboat Cornell has the honor of towing the barges. (See pictures on Cornell‘s Facebook page.)

If you’re planning to travel on the Hudson this week, you should be aware of these scheduled river closings and restrictions to travel. The East and Harlem rivers will also be subject to closings as the bridge makes its way up the Buttermilk Channel to its final destination.

If you want to see the bridge as it comes to New York, it should be near the George Washington Bridge around 3:00 a.m. on July 14 and at the Holland Tunnel ventilator tower around 4:15 a.m. The bridge should then transit the Buttermilk around 11:00 a.m. and head up the East River. (UPDATE: The “East and Harlem rivers” link above indicates the barge will be moved up the East River on the 14th, but it will not be moved until just before installation in August.) The new bridge will be installed on August 2, and the old bridge will be removed on September 20.

In 2005, New York City put the current bridge up for sale for $1 with free delivery within 15 miles, on the condition that the buyer keep it as a bridge and not scrap it. No one bought it, and the bridge will be demolished, with a piece kept as a monument in Harlem River Park.

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