Steel Bridge, 1948

In the late spring of 1948, Portland experienced a terrible flood, commonly referred to as the Vanport Flood. This photograph of the Steel Bridge was taken May 28th, just two days before the dike that was holding back the Columbia River broke and flooded Vanport. At this point you can see that the water was already up to the bottom of the Steel Bridge.

Flood water beneath the Steel Bridge, May 28, 1948 :  A1999-004.1013

Flood water beneath the Steel Bridge, May 28, 1948 : A1999-004.1013

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13 thoughts on “Steel Bridge, 1948

  1. Really neat. Look at the steam loco, on the east side of the bridge, pulling the cars and the smoke wafting through the bridge girders. This was oil smoke since steam locomotives in this area were set up to burn oil because of the scarcity of usable coal in this part of the country.

  2. Yah, being an avid steam locomotive and railroad lover, I’m trying to figure out what railroad the locomotive is from . Being as it’s coming from the West Side and than heading South, Southern Pacific comes to mind. Or maybe Northern Pacific bringing a transfer South to Brooklyn Yard? However, the engine has a certain Union Pacific look to it! I can’t quite see the lettering on the tender clearly. Any help?…

  3. Squinting at the engine on my 30″ screen, the first word looks longer than ‘Union’ in relation to ‘Pacific’. I’d vote for ‘Southern’ with maybe an S at the beginning.. So much for my concise knowledge of vintage railroads….

  4. Helped clean up the remains of Vanport. Until the RR dike broke flooding Vanport it was the second largest city in Oregon population wise. The water continued east at a gentler pace to the airport.

  5. Yes Kenn, but UP trains left from Albina Yard (to the left in the picture) and didn’t cross the Steel Bridge on the way to the “Gulch”. I’m thinking Northern Pacific coming from the old Hoyt Street Yard? Besides, the tender on the engine is square, and most of the Union Pacific tenders were of the round or Vanderbilt style. Let’s keep trying, though. The dilemma is… I don’t think the NP crossed the Steel Bridge either.(unless an SP transfer to Brooklyn Yards) They usually went North and crossed the river at Fallbridge and stayed on their own trackage?…

  6. Pat, you are right about UP not being on the bridge to go east, my mistake. The SP&S did use it from the NW yards to their yard at Salmon Street between Union (MLK) and Third, would this be their engine type? I have a good map of their SE yard.

  7. Kenn, I just thought of something. If it is a Northern Pacific train,the reason the train is using the “gulch” to go east is because they can’t go north through Willbridge and over that bridge because the railroad dike at the Columbia RR bridge is gone, thus causing the flood! So I’m gonna say that it’s an NP train sharing trackage rights with UP to go up the gorge and cross back over the Columbia River to their own tracks at Biggs Jct. and over to the Washington side. Makes sense now that I think about it!

  8. My mom and all her family were separated during that flood. The water started coming, and people just hopped into cars, and strangers grabbed children off the streets to get them to safety. It took our grandfather, “Pop” (Samuel G. Whitney, who was in Las Vegas at the time of the flood working on the Hoover Damn), weeks to track them all down. But they all made it!

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