Sacramento’s Tower Bridge, California

one of the towers

Long was to lazy to follow our walk to our last destination in the city of Sacramento.  The city’s Tower Bridge. A Sacramento landmark, where you can see off the Interstate 5 freeway and glows beautifully at night. Anyway, Laura and I went to the Tower Bridge Gateway and as we walk here is the history of this bridge.

M Street Bridge (1911)

“The original M Street Bridge was built by the Sacramento Northern Electric Railroad in 1911 and linked the cities of Washington (West Sacramento) and Sacramento. It carried electric rail cars (similar to the present Light-rail) loaded with passengers and freight. This bridge carried rail and auto traffic on the same deck with the railroad on the southern side and autos on the northern side. Autos had to cross the tracks on both sides. In 1926, the approach on the Yolo side was aligned with a new subway 100 feet west of the bridge and an easy grade approach was made by slicing sand filled base from the Sacramento River along with a blanket of clay along the sides to prevent erosion. This approach was paved over with 7″ inch thick concrete making a roadway with three lanes of 10′ each. The center drainage lane was 9” thick.

M Street Bridge

On December 22, 1933, the State of California, Sacramento County, and the Sacramento Northern Railway held a conference to plan the new bridge, with an agreement reached on March 8, 1934. Under the terms of the agreement, Sacramento Northern Railway relinquished its rights to the 1911 M Street Bridge in return for the rights to rail traffic over the new bridge until March 21, 1960, which was the original expiration date of its franchise to operate rail traffic over the 1911 bridge. Construction commenced on July 20, 1934.”

Sketch of Tower Bridge

“From a design standpoint, the bridge is a span-driven vertical lift bridge with a Pratt through truss lift span, which includes counterweights with counter chains. It should be noted however that the towers themselves do not have legs (posts) that angle outward toward the base, which makes this bridge different from many vertical lift bridges. On either end of the lift span is a Pratt through truss approach span, which is rigidly attached to the towers, a practice that was not uncommon among lift spans that include approach spans. There are also a number of built-up stringer approach spans leading up to the truss spans.

However, what makes this bridge unique is that it was designed under the guidance and supervision of an architect, specifically, Alfred Eichler. Eichler came up with the proposed appearance of the bridge which bridge engineers then proceeded to design. The effect of having an architect guiding the design process is strikingly obvious with this bridge’s unique and pleasing appearance, that has a strong Streamline Moderne influence, which is a form of Art Deco.”

We walked across while taking pictures of the bridge, and its steel parts and when we reached the other side and walked some more heading to the pyramid building. This side of Sacramento was mostly empty so we decided to stop and as we gaze at the river and admire this gigantic tower here is the continuity of its history.

The bridge style represents a rare use of Streamline Moderne architectural styling in a lift bridge, making it an outstanding expression of the social and architectural climate of the period of construction. The lift span towers were sheathed in steel to streamline its appearance. The American Institute of Steel Construction gave the Tower Bridge an honorable mention for its Class B prize bridge award in 1935.

Laura with the brige

On December 15, 1935, then-governor Frank Merriam dedicated the bridge, and led the inaugural parade across it. 1000 homing pigeons were released to carry the news throughout California. The first train had crossed the bridge on November 7, 1935. The Tower Bridge was the first vertical lift bridge in the California Highway System after it was formally accepted by the state on January 11, 1936.

The railroad tracks were removed in 1963. With the removal of the tracks, the roadway was restriped for four automobile lanes.”

We took some more pictures and I climbed up the rail and Laura snapped some shots. After that, we crossed back to the other side.

“For years, the bridge was painted with a silver aluminum paint under a special work order, but people complained about glare off the bridge. The concrete pylons were initially painted a sky-blue color. In June 1976 as part of Bicentennial projects, it was painted a yellow-ochre color to match the gold-leafed cupola on the nearby State Capitol.

In 2001, as the old paint job could hardly be distinguished, residents who lived within 35 mi (56 km) of the capital voted on a new color scheme. Their choices were all-gold; green, gold and silver; or burgundy, silver, and gold. The winning choice was all gold, and it was repainted in 2002. However, that did not lessen the bridge’s color controversy. Some people complained that the new paint was not as gilded as advertised. Others have suggested that copper would have been a far better color choice, especially in the context of nearby buildings. The new coat is expected to last 30 years.”

1930s-1960s color

That ends the history of the Tower Bridge of Sacramento as Laura and I made our way back to the Old Town and meet up with Long. California has a colorful relationship with bridges such as the Golden Gate of San Francisco, Bixby Creek Bridge of Big Sur, Colorado Bridge in Pasadena and the one in the capital itself.

Here are the links for more information:

Say Cheez!

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