Lifting The Bridges

Putting a New Technology To Work

Erie DVD

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A swingbridge crossed the Erie Canal at Albion before the Modern Barge Canal enlargement

This swingbridge at Albion, NY is just one of many bridges that had to be replaced for the 1905-1918 NYS Barge Canal enlargement. The masonry buildings you see on the other side are typical of those that crowded close to the canal at villages like this. The modern canal was to be wider, with much higher bridge requirements than before. The problem was, how to accomplish both with so many buildings like these that can't be moved easily.

A swingbridge crossed the Erie Canal at Albion before the Modern Barge Canal enlargement

Fortunately, a new technology had become available just in time to solve the problem: Direct current electricity - combined with a clever counterweight system - made it practical to lift the bridges when canal traffic came through.

A swingbridge crossed the Erie Canal at Albion before the Modern Barge Canal enlargement A swingbridge crossed the Erie Canal at Albion before the Modern Barge Canal enlargement

This is another view of the steel swingbridge shown in the top picture. Note the white wooden rails alongside the maintenance building on this side of the bridge. The towpath is on the left (north) side of the canal here, and there were times when boats had to pass on the south side of the canal. Those rails allowed the towropes to slide over the building. The sides of the bridge trusswork had a similar design for the same reason. Swingbridges like this one weren't the rule on the Erie. The question of why one was built at Albion might be answered by the historical marker that's found just a few yards from the site today.