A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Bridge completed 100 years ago: No big deal

Written August 2nd, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The Lafayette Street trestle leads to the Albany Railroad Bridge on July 26, as it has for more than a century.

Nobody is making a big deal of the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Albany railroad bridge across the Willamette River. That’s fitting, because when it was accomplished in 1921, the job made no splash in the papers of the time.

I paid attention to the age of the railroad bridge in a story back in January. If you missed it and care, you can read it here.

In the two Albany papers whose pages from 1921 are available on Newspapers.com, this bridge project is mentioned only twice, as far as I could find.

On Aug. 30, there’s one paragraph at the bottom of Page 4 of the Albany Democrat:

“Bridge Builder in Town,” it says. “W.H. Young and wife of Portland are spending a few days in Albany. Mr. Young is the builder and contractor in charge of the construction work on the new railroad bridge across the Willamette here. The old wooden bridge was the longest wooden railroad bridge in the world.”

That was it for the Democrat.

In the Evening Herald of Oct. 7, 1921, the bottom right corner of Page 1 looked like this:

In case you can’t read it, the story quotes construction superintendent Oscar Dilthy that the Southern Pacific bridge across the river will be complete by Nov. 15.

It reports the fascinating detail that the spans of the new steel bridge were put in place without disrupting train service on the line. “To make this possible, a small part of the wood structure has been removed from time to time and thus replaced by the steel construction.”

The wooden railroad bridge mentioned by the papers had been around since at least 1888. Like the steel structure that replaced it, it was a swing bridge that could be opened to let paddlewheel steamers go through.

If the new bridge was completed by the middle of November as the construction supervisor had expected, there’s nothing about it in the papers of that month. Maybe that’s because it was not a new crossing but just a replacement of the wooden spans that had been there for a long time. (hh)

The builders thought the completion of the job was important enough to inscribe the year it was done high up on the bridge.

5 responses to “Bridge completed 100 years ago: No big deal”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The new bridge was announced in the Albany Evening Herald on Thursday, Aug 11, 1921, on page 1: “Will Tear Down Famous Bridge; Want Steel One.”

    Evidently the wood bridge was famous for “being the longest wooden span in the world.”

    In other news, the “Hotel de Catlin Makes Bid for All Comers.”

    This was “…Albany’s jail de luxe” that was “kalsomined, disinfected and sterilized and shining like a silver dollar….”

    Evidently the Chief of Police at the time was named Catlin.

    The reporter isn’t identified, but it sure sounds like something cub reporter Hering may have written.

  2. thomas earl cordier says:

    thanks for the history hh. I wonder how many million of tons of freight came over. All that was done by hand drawings and math done by hand. Pre slide-rule era says google

  3. Bill Maddy says:

    The first railroad bridge across the Willamette river at Albany was built by the Oregon Pacific Railroad Bridge in 1887, at the time the bridge was built it was the longest wooden pivot bridge in the world. Bridge building started in 1885, finished January 5, 1887 and first train crossed bridge January 6, 1887. The tracks ran from here to the roundhouse built by Oregon Pacific Railroad (closed and razed in 1964).

  4. Lundy says:

    “African golf” caught my eye. Also, from the headline I thought a half-dozen firearms were used, then from the story I realized it was one six-gun.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Caught my eye, too. I’m not an expert on craps, so I went searching for “African Golf.”

      Evidently back in the 1920’s craps was a favored game amongst African Americans. And “Golf” was a reflection of the great disparity in financial status of craps players and golfers. A pair of dice was much cheaper than a set of clubs. Hence the name, African Golf.

      And a further search of 1921 newspaper articles in Albany reveals a lengthy one on Wednesday, August 21, 1921 announcing “Mysterious Klu Klux Organizing Quietly” and “33 Albany Men Get Bids to Membership in Mysterious Klan.”

      Alcohol was frowned upon back then in Albany. But it looks like racism was alive and well. I wonder who the 33 men were? Maybe the Albany Regional Museum folks would know.


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