Sunday, March 30, 2014

Oregon Slough Railroad Bridge

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As you might already know, a few years ago I sort of stumbled into a bridge project for this humble blog. It started out with the Morrison Bridge, then a couple of others, then I figured I'd go ahead and do all the Willamette River bridges in town. Then I decided to do Columbia River bridges, and somehow ended up doing Clackamas and Sandy River ones too. And now... I guess I'm not really sure what the scope of this thing is anymore. There have been a few trailing items out there, trailing because I haven't been able to get quality photos of them. With the Clackamas River Railroad Bridge, I finally threw up my hands and figured I'd just go with the subpar photos I had, and try to make up for that with a little extra history work. The Lewis & Clark Bridge at Longview is likely to get a similar treatment. I have exactly one blurry photo of it, but it's a long way to go just to take more bridge photos.

And then there's the subject of today's post, the Oregon Slough Railroad Bridge (aka BNSF Bridge 8.8) between Hayden Island and the south bank of the Columbia. The Vancouver Railroad Bridge carries trains the rest of the way, between Hayden Island and the Washington side of the river. It's similar to what the obscure North Portland Harbor Bridge is to the Interstate Bridge. The cool thing about it is that (like its Vancouver sibling) it's a swing span bridge, where part of the bridge pivots out of the way instead of raising when ships need to pass. Ok, I'm probably stretching the word "cool" to the breaking point here, but hey, I kind of specialize in that. Bridge 5.1 on the Willamette is on the same railroad line, and it used to be a swing span too until it was replaced in the 1980s.

I don't imagine this bridge has to open very often; there are a handful of commercial shipping businesses of some sort along the south side of the channel, but most of the channel is just houseboats. Still, I saw at least two people at the bridge's operator booth, possibly for a shift change. So I suppose it's always ready and able to open if the need arises, once in a blue moon. If you're ever doing pub trivia and they ask you to name all the Portland bridges that open, this is the bridge that will win you the contest, assuming you have a good trivia master. The others are, on the Willamette, doing downstream: Hawthorne, Morrison, Burnside, Steel, Broadway, and BNSF Bridge 5.1. Then on the Columbia, it's the Interstate, the Vancouver Railroad Bridge, and this one here. That's the whole list. Feel free to split your winnings with me, or at least leave a comment and say thanks, if you'd be so kind as to do that.

I've had a todo item for this bridge for quite a while. I drove by the bridge a several times but never could find anywhere to park. I had a couple of photos from the North Portland Harbor Bridge showing it way off in the distance, and I almost just went with those. Then I realized there was a segment of the Marine Drive Trail atop the levee from the Expo Center to the bridge, so I could just ride the MAX Yellow Line to the end and walk the rest of the way. This worked pretty well, and I got a bonus look at that weird bit of trail. It doesn't look like it gets a lot of use. I saw one other person there, and he was practically a speck off in the distance. He kept looking back, I guess to make sure I wasn't going to mug him or something. Then it started raining heavily. It could be my imagination, but the guy way up ahead seemed to relax when he realized I had an umbrella and wasn't just trudging along in a hoodie, like the umbrella was a badge of respectability and non-threatening-ness or something. I'm not sure how that works, to be honest.

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