13 thoughts on “Steel Bridge, 1948

  1. It looks like the sign on the building on the left says “Telegraph Shop.” This must have been a shop for maintaining Union Pacific’s telegraph lines and equipment?

  2. May 29, 1948, was the day before the huge Vanport Flood, which occurred on Memorial Day, May 30, 1948, when flood waters of the mighty Columbia burst through the SP&S Railway berm and flooded the adjacent community of Vanport. The Willamette River through downtown Portland was also approaching flood stage in the days just before May 30th. Thus the sand bags a flood preparations all along the docks and bridges on that fateful day.

  3. The Willamette river depth on the date of this photo Saturday 5/29/48 was 26.2 feet by Tuesday 6/1/48 the depth was 29.95 feet and by Sunday 6/6/48 the river depth was 29.75 feet and the temp. was 90 degrees.

  4. A shot of the bridge on the same day showing why they were pulling out the sand bags:

    Is that little building under the bridge in today’s shot still there?

  5. Great photo, Igor! Thanks for showing us this unique photo, graphically pointing out how high the water was that day on the Willamette. I’m amazed a freight train is crossing the bridge with high water just a few feet below it. Also, I like the steam engine in the photo just to the east of the bridge, heading toward Sullivan Gulch to the east or maybe the tracks along the eastside of the river toward the south. I kinda doubt the little building in today’s photo is still there given the massive changes in the configuration of the ramps leading to the bridge and the more recent creation of Waterfront Park. But who knows, the little building could still be there, somewhere under those ramps. It’s difficult to see what’s under the ramps due to high fences and barricades.

  6. In hindsight that’s a comically small number of sandbags. Dennis, amazing stats. I didn’t know about the heat wave but rapid snow melt certainly helps explain the flood and, as we have seen on multiple vintageportland photos, why the flooding lasted till late June.

  7. Igor the photos of the train crossing the bridge are from Friday 5/28/48 and today’s VP photo were from Saturday 5/29/48. Below are excerpts from evening Oregon Journal on 5/29/48 page 3.

    Some trackage at the north end of the Union Pacific freight yards was under water today but yardmaster A. C. Phillips reported operation of trains is unaffected.

    STEEL SPAN TO OPERATE
    He said that trains will be able to move over the Steel bridge even though tracks are under a foot and half of water. Company engineers informed him that the flood peak would have to reach an unexpected high 33 feet before the Steel bridge would be closed to trains.

  8. It may depend on the type of bridge, but I remember reading instances when trains were parked on top of bridges during floods, with the thinking being their weight might keep a wash-out from occurring. I don’t know if that ever led tot he loss of a train and a bridge, but it does seem to have been a practice.

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