Whirlpool Bridge
April 12, 2019
Whirlpool Bridge

About 1.5 kilometres (0.9 miles) downriver of the Rainbow Bridge and about 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) from Niagara Falls is a unique bridge. This was once the site of the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge, used to connect the commercial downtown districts of Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York.The original plan for a suspension bridge at this point in the river started in 1848, with William Hamilton Merritt. He hired Charles Ellet, Jr. to design and build a temporary suspension bridge. Before they could begin, they had to string a communication cable to the American side. Since stringing the cable by water was very dangerous, someone suggested flying a kite across the 800 feet (244m) wide gorge. A kite flying contest was held, to see who could fly a kite across the Niagara Gorge. Homan Walsh, a young boy, won the contest. The string of his kite was fastened to a tree on the American shoreline and it was pulled across by light a cord attached, then a rope, and finally a wire cable. After the temporary bridge was constructed, there was a financial dispute and Ellet left the project.In 1855 John Roebling, the architect who later designed New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, took over. His design became the world’s first railroad suspension bridge. This suspension bridge allowed trains and pedestrians to cross over the Niagara River between Canada and the United States. Some of the foundation of this bridge still remains and is visible to the present day.The Whirpool Rapids Bridge (commonly called the Whirlpool Bridge) is unique for 2reasons. Like its’ predecessor, the bridge has two decks. The upper deck has a single set of train tracks while the lower deck is a roadway reserved only for passenger vehicles only, no commercial vehicles and pedestrians are permitted.The second unusual feature is how the bridge was built. On April 9, 1896, construction on the Whirlpool bridge began. Two halves were built out from the gorge wall, each well anchored to prevent it from falling into the Niagara River gorge below. The new bridge was constructed under the old bridge, so that when the new one was completed and before the oldone was removed, there would be two complete bridges built into each other. Once The Whirlpool Bridge was completed, the old bridge’s suspension cables, towers, and any other parts which were not incorporated into the new bridge were removed. During the construction, the rail traffic was kept on its’ regular schedule, and the road traffic was only stopped for 2 hours each day. The bridge was completed on August 27, 1897.The Whirlpool Bridge was acquired by the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission in 1959. It is still in use to this day.

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