Tacoma Narrows Bridge Funsite
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Funsite 1940 Galloping Gertie Images

The 1940 Galloping Gertie Narrows Bridge Photos

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This is what the public was shown so they could envision the look of the new bridge about to be built. The era was the end of the Great Depression, and styles were still typical sleek & slender lines. The thin profile of the road deck, and the sweeping lines up the towers impressed many citizens. Of course, we know what happened because of the design.

This is a a rare Simmer image of the pre-bridge goings on, namely the concrete plant which was constructed off the western shore at Gig Harbor. The photo is dated November 3, 1939, and it was taken from the top of Tower #4. These photographers were just as susceptible to falling to their death as the bridge workers, as they were scaling the same heights with no safety gear or safety lines on at all.

Here is a closer view of the concrete plant, which was an amazing feat of construction in itself. To build a plant of it's size and production capacity in the water, and in a very short amount of time was incredible.

This look shows the barges around the piers- both of which are about to have the tower base legs installed soon. Some of the most difficult work had already been done by this time, in getting the piers constructed in a tough flowing tide. A number of pieces of equipment, including a barge or two had accidentally sunk to the bottom of the water. This photo was taken from the Tacoma hillside, and the railroad tracks can be seen near the bottom.

This view is of the towers going up. Derricks were used to lift sections in place, and then the derrick itself would be raised to the top of the completed section so the next sections could be installed. This shot shows about half of the near tower completed, with the far tower already done.

The work went quickly, and as you can see from this photo- both towers are now at their full height. Next comes the cable spinning operations.

Another picture of the barges & derricks at work. This closer look shows the tower base nearly complete.

An enormous amount of wood went into the making of the concrete forms for the anchorage structures on both sides of the bridge. Then again, an even bigger excavation was required for the hillsides to be able to hold the anchorages. The ground in this region is quite sturdy, being as the area has a solid base, so not much reinforcement was needed. The cuts into the earth were mainly straight down with little to no wall-collapse backers used.This photo was taken on the Tacoma side.

After the anchorage structures were started the multiple cable termination brackets were placed. the shot above shows these brackets just before the concrete was poured to secure them.

Then the towers went up and cables were spun across. Each group of cables were attached to the ends of the brackets as seen in this photo.

A distant shot shows the prep work taking place on the Tacoma side. The wide anchorage & roadway leading to the entrance was something new to the area. In 1939 this area of Tacoma was not developed much.

This photo taken from the tower on Feb. 18, 1940 gives an idea of just how much earth-moving was done in order to get the proper elevation of the roadway leading to the bridge toll booths & east side of the bridge.

This is a view from the Tacoma hilltop of the completed tower and catwalk, but taken just before the cable spinning had begun. The detail is hard to see- on the top of the tower is the support for the runners that carry the individual wires which make up the main cable.

An occurance that would not be allowed today is shown here; the public walking to & fro below the bridge which was under construction. This photo is dated January 30, 1940. At that time a person just took their chances going into a work zone. But today's standards & insurance regulations prohibit the public from doing so. It was a large attraction in 1940 to see the bridge being built, and daily visitors including children were the norm.

The photo above, and the four shown below are courtesy of contributor Sigmund Thompson. His Father, Dean Thompson, was a professional photographer who took these pictures as the bridge was being built. The shot above was taken from the Tacoma side hilltop, above the railroad tracks and looking towards Tower 5.

Another Dean Thompson photo shows a straight ahead view of Tower 5. As noted earlier, the public was allowed in and around the construction zone. And professional photographers were given even more access.

This Dean Thompson photo captured an unusual look at the Tacoma anchorage structure under construction. Note the derrick crane that was used to build the supports in front of the anchorage. These supports were used for the main cable wires spinning. This view is hard to find, even among the many professional shots that were taken. Mr. Thompson had a keen eye for capturing great views.

Here is a closer look at the Tacoma anchorage, and the set-up for the cable spinning. Note the individual strands of the main cables going into the anchorage on the bottom right portion of the photo. On the upper right in the photo you can see the spinning reels that were used to carry the hundreds of wires which made up each main cable.

The last Dean Thompson photo is a very interesting view from what would eventually become Olympic Boulevard, and then Highway 16. Notice the large amount of people walking in & around the work zone, and the older style earth levelling vehicle on the left side. This view shows just how "abrupt" the natural landscape was cut down & filled to make the bridge. Thanks again to Sigmund Thompson for contributing his Father's unique photos.

This photo, and the next one show details of the cable spinning setup & the near main cable partly finished.

The citizens of the area were fascinated by the construction techniques. It was a daily "show" as many people came to see the progress.

Occasionally the public was getting in the way, or causing too much distractions to the workers according to a newspaper report. The crew forman would then announce a temporary halt to citizens walking in the jobsite.

A worker's view of the job reveals a bit of a daunting daily task to climb up & down the catwalks. Each man had to be in good physical shape to perform his duties. At this point the cables have been banded together.

Here is a look at the bridge being built. One of the two towers is shown, with the crane and rigging getting ready for the next step of cable wire spinning.

A beautiful day led to this beautiful photo of the towers getting the catwalks completed prior to cable-spinning operations.

A big OOPS here. As construction progressed, a tug boat got a little too close to the pier with his load of lumber, and it ended up hitting the pier, causing the lumber to break loose and drift all across the waterway. The pier sustained no damage, but the tug boat operator's pay took a hit for this mess.

The towers are up, and the first section of girder is hanging up, waiting for more to come.

Two views of the 1939 cable stringing process, with the catwalks installed. The photos above & below also show the cranes on top of the Towers and the rigging that the cable-stringers travel on.



A look from the Tacoma side, circa late 1939, after the cables stringing was completed and the rigging had been removed.

The end of each main suspension cable divides into separate smaller cables (remember the main cables are made of lots of cables bound together), with each one secured to the concrete anchorage structures on each hilltop. This area is the cable splay, the securing tension bars can be seen on the left. This view also shows part of the 2 cable splay supports on the right, the cross-bar frames that stand upright. A side of 1 of these splay supports is what lies on the Gig Harbor hillside to this day, and seen in another current-day photo shown lower on this page.

The photo shown above was taken in the spring of 1940, as the crews were pouring the concrete for the road deck & sidewalks. Of interest is that the concrete plant for the caissons was located just off the western shore, but they did not utilize it for the deck. That concrete was brought in from the east side, as seen in the photo.

An amateur photographer was out on the water during construction, and took the photos above & below of the road girder sections being placed. These views are uncommon in the fact that boats were not generally allowed to be close to the construction. Perhaps the man was employed by the constructors?

Another look at the road deck as it was being assembled, a shot taken from the water below the bridge.

The picture above is an unusual postcard that has a caption stating the date of Gertie's demise, but it is in fact a shot of Gertie nearing completion. The last section of the bridge is about to be installed, which will result in the deck being lowered to it's correct arc across the span (the arc in this photo looks like it wouldn't line up because the full load is not yet on the cables). Apparently someone didn't check their facts before publishing the card.

Here is an interesting view from above of the bridge road deck work. A close look at the left and center sections of the bridge reveal what appears to be smoke coming from the roadway.The concrete work was being finished at this point, which may be the reason for this. Another aspect is the landscape showing sparse growth, versus the overgrowth present today.

The photos above and below are courtesy of the Moclips, Washington Museum of the North Beach. The first shot was taken from the Tacoma side, and it shows the south view of the nearly completed anchorage & toll booth structure. Note the wooden concrete forms still in place on the anchorage top edge, and the ladders that the workers were using to start removing the forms.

Here is another photo from the Museum of the North Beach in Moclips. Again taken from the Tacoma side, this view contains a rare look at a Washington State Toll Bridge Authority vehicle on the right. The picture was taken as the finishing work took place on the toll booth structure, with a road block placed just before the booths. Another unusual vehicle is the one on the left. It appears to be a convertible car with a covered trailer. The side of the trailer looks to read "Gilmors Public ---- (?) with a business logo below it. Behind the toll booth the work on the bridge appears to be nearly done, which would date these 2 photos to about June of 1940.

The 1940 Stadium High School yearbook, The Tahoma, focused on the bridge, which was nearly done when the class graduated in June. Many photos of the bridge construction were featured throughout the yearbook, and the cover design has an embossed bridge across it.

This yearbook image is a look at one of the towers under construction. The pier is scattered with equipment and materials, and the tower legs are about halfway done.

The next yearbook photo shows one of the numerous concrete pours which made the piers. The same piers were utilized for the replacement 1950 bridge, they were simply added to in height and width above the water level.

This yearbook picture shows men working at one of the anchorage splay assemblies. It gives you an idea of just how large the cable splay end fasteners were.

The next yearbook photo is a close-up of one tower just beginning to take shape. In the early phases of construction it was sometimes hard to tell the equipment from the bridge.

A last look from the 1940 Stadium yearbook of the cable-spinning setup over the catwalks.

The 1940 Lincoln High school yearbook did not follow the interest in the bridge as the Stadium yearbook did, but an advertisement in the back of the Lincolnian featured an interesting artist's depiction. The ad was promoting a scenic book titled "America's Vacationland", and the depiction of the bridge shows a more stylized version of the Tacoma Side. The toll booth has only 2 lanes, the cables going into the anchorage are very simple, and the entrance onto the Tacoma side shows three support towers under the roadway- none of which were ever made that way.


This is a little-known, but important part of the Narrows Bridge project. It was the Engineer's Field Office located about 1 mile from the bridge. This is where the construction & progress operations happened, Clark Eldridge was in his office here when the bridge started to collapse that November morning. He got to the bridge in time to see it go down. The photo is courtesy of the Washington State Archives, and office location is courtesy of Richard S. Hobbs.

This is the original 1939 blueprint that shows the elevations for the Field Office.

The Engineer's Office was at this location, seen here in a 2005 satellite photo. The building no longer exists, but it was situated on the south side of the road where the small "x" is (by the row of hedge bushes and the car on the road) upper center of the photo. This is now part of a private residence.

Above is a look at the nearly-completed bridge, from the Gig Harbor side.

Although the photo here is on a post card, it is included in this section rather than the Bridgeabilia section because of the interesting pre-completion view. Notice the light poles; they do not have their fixtures installed yet. And the side of the road deck has not been fully painted on the near side. If this was a color photo, it would reveal that the majority of the bridge is green, but the closest part from the under-deck support to the near shore is orange primer color.

Photographers loved to take panoramic photos from the turn of the century on, and bridges were very suitable subject material. This pano photo was taken for a newspaper article. To see the panoramic photo, click on the picture.

This picture was printed in a copy of a 1940 Pacific Builder & Engineer magazine, showing the pride of construction after the initial completion.

The shot above from the same magazine article shows an unusual view of the underneath side of the bridge. Note the hold-down cables on both sides of the road deck.

Thanks to a local contributor, Alice Howard of Yelm, Washington who provided this unique photo of a young girl (possibly her mother) standing on the bridge. Of interest, besides this being a one-of-a-kind family picture, is a rarely seen close look at the pedestrian curbing on the right side, and what appears to be a large size hose running towards the tower.

Here is a snapshot from the roadway leading to the Tacoma side with the toll booths. On the side of the road you can see the period autos, the one on the near left being a 1920's era car.

A closer look at the toll booths from the bridge side of them. This beautiful afternoon photo is a Simmer picture dated August 29 of 1940.

Another real photo post card reveals the moments just before the collapse. In the center of the twisting bridge roadway you can see an automobile. And you can imagine from looking at this, what a horrible situation the driver must have felt they were in.

Many theories of how to better stabilize Galloping Gertie were considered and planned for prior to the collapse. The popular two were either cutting holes in the deck sides, or adding curved shields to the outsides. The engineers actually were going to start manufacturing of the shields & installing them as soon as they were ready, but time ran out before this was accomplished.

There she goes! This photo was taken from the deck of a Coast Guard boat that was near the bridge when it collapsed. The crew watched the event- and most everyone was in shock that it happened. As evident from the whitecaps on the water; it was a very windy storm that sent the bridge into infamy.

The rare photo shown above was taken on the Gig Harbor side, just as the first of the bridge collapse was happening. The photographer is not known, but this was in the collection of one of the bridge builders; Joe Gotchy. It is courtesy of Joe's grandson, Tom Gotchy.

This is a November 8 photo of a ship and a tug boat cautiously going under the remnants of the bridge. Note that the main span is still hanging on at both towers. This was a dangerous situation which was soon resolved by removal of the hanging parts.

A close-up look at some of the remaining roadway and mangled framework that was left hanging dangerously after the initial collapse. This photo was taken from a boat below the bridge. The remains seen here soon dropped off, or were cut off within a short time, so they did not pose a continued hazard to boaters.

The same amateur photographer that took two water-side photos of the bridge girder construction shown earlier on this page, went back & took more photos after the collapse. Being below this enormous structure gives a better sense of just how severe the damages were.

Another "drive-by" look from the Narrows waterway at the Tacoma side of Gertie's remains.

Three more pictures from the 1940 issue of Pacific Builder & Engineering magazine show the remains. The shot above gives a good perspective of both remaining ends sagging, and the center span dangling into the water.

If you can imagine traveling on a boat, and looking up to see this tangled mess of metal & concrete. It looks like more could fall at any moment.

The picture above has a small area circled, where the side of the girder literally folded up from the stresses. Engineers of the time were amazed at how the bridge collapsed, and where the parts failed.


The above two photos show the damages from an airplane's view. The news media flocked to the bridge after the collapse, with lots of photographers all trying to get the best shots.These two photos by air were taken the day of the collapse.To see the bridge in shreds was painful for many people.

Another shot from the hillside reveals the former road deck hanging from the cables all the way into the water below.

Ship captains and boaters were all cautious as they made their way past the scene- not really sure if there was anything in the water that could snag their motors, or if any more pieces were going to fall from the bridge.

The United States Military was involved with investigating the collapse, as one of the main purposes of the bridge being built was for quicker transportation of military equipment & personnel between Tacoma & Bremerton's military bases. This photo and the next were taken by the military. The shot here was actually taken just after the private photo above; notice the boats below the bridge have moved just slightly further along.

This military photo was taken from the Tacoma side up on the hill above the roadway leading to the toll booths. There are a large number of vehicles parked there, as hoards of people gathered to see the devastating sight.

Here is a close look at what was left of part of the Tacoma anchorage where one of the main cables came to rest. The weight of the bridge supports, and the horrible whipping that happened when the tremendous load fell off caused solid concrete to snap like a cracker.

Another rare snapshot is shown above. This one is from the Gig Harbor hilltop on the north side of the bridge, and after it collapsed. The photo is dated December 14, 1940, and on the lower middle of the picture you can see the original path that led to the construction ramp at the bottom of the hill. Very few photos exist of this area.

A rare 1941 Engineering Report on the failure of the bridge was obtained, and these eight photos & blueprint designs are from that report. The first photo above shows the remains of the girders hanging near the east tower on November 9, with some pieces of concrete still falling off.

This photo was taken from the base of a tower that had bent more than 12 feet towards the shore, due to the violent forces which brought the bridge down. The Engineers report actually suggested that the towers could be repaired & re-used to build a new bridge with some new sections.

Another photo from the base of a tower reveals a scary sight; the tower had lifted off the pier by a few inches. Note the two books on the right, and the man holding a tape measure in the center.

Here is the main culprit that the engineers claim was the first failure that led to Gertie's demise. It is "the west guy of the mid-span tie connecting the south cable to the south stiffening girder..". It had broken from excessive stresses, and the following photo shows the next part of the bridge that failed.

The tangled mess of wires you see here resulted from the broken mid-span tie, which led to the north cable band slipping on the main cable. The band moved back & forth about three feet with such force that it cut through hundreds of the individual cables which made up the main cable. In the report, the engineers suggested that the bridge could be rebuilt using the same towers & main cables- with repairs as needed. They stated that the damaged parts of the main cables could be replaced by "splicing in" new sections of cables. This seems far-fetched to say the least.

The above blueprint shows what no other does; the elusive west span hold down cables & base. Note that the east & west span hold-downs were an after-thought. They were added after the bridge was finished so they weren't part of the original design plans & therefore- not shown on any original blueprints.

The Engineers came to one of their many conclusions that the bridge could successfully be rebuilt, using the same piers, the same towers, and the same main cables- with repairs done as needed. They did recommend a change in the girder design however, as shown here. It included as unusual braced design which would have placed the roadway below the trusses. As the viewers know, the actual replacement bridge, finished in 1950 does have a Warren truss design; but it has the roadway above the trusses, not below as the 1941 engineers suggested.

The final blueprint from this report shows an elevation view of their recommended "below truss" road deck. If their recommendations would have been done, the bridge would still have been replaced at some point, because their design was only for a two-lane bridge. And it would have been upside down of what it is today.

During World War II parts of the bridge were salvaged for scrap metal. Seen here are men working with jackhammers and hand tools as they break up the concrete to recover the metal. Again, a risky job where a man could have fallen to his death.

This group of three photos are dated November 25, 1940, and they were taken by an individual who visited the aftermath of Gertie's collapse to witness it for themself. These are unique photos, with the first one shown above being a dramatic look at the center span, or lack of it. Note the slack in the side span due to the weight of the former roadway not being there anymore.

The second view here shows just a bit of the remnants of the girders on the far left side, and the great distance missing where the main span used to be.

Seen above is the Tacoma side of the bridge, with Tower #5 as it was on November 25 of 1940. You can see where the girders are left dangling precariously over the water.

A distant view from the hillside of the remains of Gertie. It seemed quite eerie to see such a graceful structure in a state of devastation.

The salvalge operations to recover & recycle as much metal as possible from the collapsed bridge for World War II took a couple of years to accomplish. This photo is dated in October of 1942, and it shows some of the men posing for the photo after a long day's work with cable recovery. It was estimated that over 3000 tons of metal would be salvaged just from the cables alone. Much of the towers material was carefully disassembled, and re-used in other bridges' construction.

This is a part that has been lying on the Gig Harbor hillside since the 1940's. Some think it was a portion of the girder work supporting the road deck, however from examining it and period photos including the B & W photo above of the ends of the main cable with the splay supports, it is in fact the lower half of a support that was used to hold the cables & guy wires securely during assembly of the bridge. It was not installed on, nor a part of the bridge itself, but rather was temporarily constructed around a main cable, and after it served it's purpose, it was filled with concrete & pushed halfway down the hill (along with lots of other debris) in order to stabilize the hillside.


Here are 2 photos- the first is a 1940 picture showing one set of the two sets of metal fasteners secured in concrete that once held stabilizing cables, which were attached to both the north & south side of the bridge's side-span girder. The second picture is the same place as it is today. The Gig Harbor side span had a set of these also, but they were located in the shallow water between the tower and the shore. Their purpose was to reduce the movement of Galloping Gertie. Unfortunately they didn't work, as they were attached to the side-spans, but it was the center span that had the most movement and collapsed. It was not possible to place cables on the center span as there was not any concrete base such as these to secure to, the water was too deep to place any base there. The 1940 photo is courtesy of Richard S. Hobbs and the Washington State Archives.

The photo above is from the 2007 bridge looking down on the north-side hold-downs. The large amount of earth covering the metal parts is constantly doing damage. This photo is courtesy of Patrick S. O'Donnell, who has traveled across the USA taking photographs of bridges.

A closer look at one of the pair of hold-down assemblies meant to save the bridge.

Seen here are broken sections of the 1940 Galloping Gertie road deck with curbs. These concrete & rebar hunks were discarded down the Gig Harbor hillside during the 1940ís when the remaining roadway that did not fall into the water was cleared away so the removal of all scrap metal could be done.

The photo above is of Tower #3, which was built on the Gig Harbor shore in 1939 for the first bridge. The photo is circa early 1940's, taken by Frank Owen Shaw, and provided courtesy of the Harbor History Museum in Gig Harbor, Wa. It shows what was left after Gertie fell, and the remaining center span was disassembled & removed. This particular tower was not damaged in Gertie's famous collapse, so it was reinforced with a new center strut, and added width at the top, then the 1950 bridge was built utilizing it as a support.

This photo shows the same Tower #3 from a distance, after it was modified, but before the Warren trusses were completed & connected to it. This unique photo is courtesy of Tom Gotchy on his Flickr photos, and it was taken by Tom's grandfather, Joe Gotchy. Joe worked on the construction of both the 1940 and 1950 bridges.

The two photos above show views of the 1940 parts as seen from the 2007 bridge. The catwalk on the far side was added in order to give workers access, and to run piping that was used to carry electricity, and concrete for the 2007 bridge construction. After the 2007 bridge was finished, the temporary catwalk was removed. Both of these photos are courtesy of Patrick S. O'Donnell.



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