Tacoma Narrows Bridge Funsite
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Funsite 1950 Images

The 1950 Sturdy Gertie Narrows Bridge Photos

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Engineers learned valuable lessons from Galloping Gertie's demise. Time-tested designs are better than experimental ones; and even then- making a test model is a pretty good idea. The photo above shows the 1950 bridge design in the testing stages. The model of the bridge underwent many tests, as the photo, dated April 28, 1948 shows. This bridge scale model cost $11,600 to construct.

The 1950 Narrows Bridge construction was quite different than the 1940 construction. The 1940 bridge was assembled sections that were pre-made offsite- similar to the 2007 construction. But the 1950 bridge was basically "stick-built", or assembled from individual framing members. The piers were not new in the water- they utilized the same 1940 piers, with new concrete & reinforcement added to the sides & top. The two pier's tops were raised due to the salt water corrosion that happened to the base of the 1940 metal towers, the sides had to be widened because the 1950 towers had a wider space between them. The 1940 bridge was 2 lanes wide, the 1950 is 4 lanes wide. This is a look after the 1950 towers were up and the cable spinning had begun.

An unusual event happened as the bridge towers were being built- an earthquake hit the region in April of 1949, and one of the tower's top saddles that was about to carry a main cable shook loose from the tower. It crashed through a barge on the water, and both sank to the bottom. The article seen above shows 2 shots- one of the tower base going up, the other shows the diver who found the fallen saddle. It was estimated that the 23 ton saddle fell at 129 miles per hour, it took 5 1/2 seconds for it to fall from the height of the tower to the barge, and it hit the barge with 32,000,000 foot pounds of force. To this day, and due to the salt water exposure the saddle had (they recovered it & put it back up) the saddle requires more maintenance than it normally would have.

Each tower was a structure in it's own right; having elevators, electrical panels, communications, and various access locations at different levels. Bethlehem Steel took pride in them, with large banners placed on them letting people know who was responsible for them.

The many photographers who documented the construction were risking injury or death taking pictures, as there was no safety standards or equipment that was required- so safety gear was seldom used. These photos were more than likely taken by the construction workers- this being a look from the shore towards the towers.

Here is a peek over the edge, below is the base of the tower, with lots of materials surrounding the pier top. The cranes have been brought up to the roadway level, and they start working on girder assembly.

A hair-raising image at the Tacoma anchorage site being worked on. The photographer here must have gone up a catwalk, and then went out to the middle of the upper tower strut to get this shot.

Looking down from a catwalk to the tower base.

This is a similar look down from the tower towards the anchorage, this view is from Tower #4 looking at Gig Harbor.

A historic moment is shown here; the road girders assembly had just been started on the tower. The cranes are opposing each other as each lifts girder members in place. It actually became a bit of a race as different crews were trying to get their section done before the other crew.

This particular aerial view is a good example of how the old 1940 side span was modified to take it's part in the "new" 1950 bridge. Notice how the main cables are out a ways from the width of the span. Shortly after this photo was taken the sides of the framework were extended to match the new width.

Here is another aerial look at the progress. Although commercial aircraft logged flight schedules, most small planes at that time were allowed random flight plans & it was o.k. to fly close to the construction to take photos such as this.

In this last of the aerial photos the details of the girder work is clear. It took great courage to venture out onto beams far above the water in order to assemble the framework. The daily risk was the norm for the iron workers, but in the back of their minds their co-workers who did fall to their deaths was a constant reminder of the dangers.

The photo above and the twelve images below are Earl R. White's personal snapshots he took during the construction. Below Earl's group is Joe Gotchy's group, courtesy of his grandson Tom Gotchy. The photos from Earl R. White, and Joe Gotchy may Not be copied nor duplicated in any part or form. The shot seen above is of two workers standing in the middle of a framing member. These men constantly climbed up & down, walked across; or stood on framing even as the parts were hanging on the crane. One slip and there was nothing between them and the cold waters below.

The above photo is one of Earl's favorites. This iron worker is only resting his midsection on a small projection of the frame, while he is fastening parts. This, and all these types of tasks took nerves of steel (that's a pun).

Stopping for a short rest & a quick cup of coffee is about all these guys had time for. The amount of work that was completed by the men who built the 1950 bridge would be hard to duplicate today.

Here Earl is on the Tacoma anchorage as the catwalk construction is underway. He describes this procedure as one of the most dangerous ones necessary before the cable spinning would begin.

The photo shown above gives a perspective look at what it was like to be on the end of a guy wire secured to a framing member that was being swung into position. The men had to pull & push in many different directions, and all the while they had to keep their balance.

Sometimes a worker would notice the camera was pointed towards him, and he would pose. Others would be very busy, and not pay any attention to any distractions. They could only afford to ham it up when they were not doing a task.

If you were lucky while doing your job making a bridge you had a wire or something to hang onto. Much of the time getting around meant walking or balancing on a beam without anything to hold.

Seen above is an example of being not concerned enough for safety. The men were aware of the camera on them, and at this moment looking in the camera's direction was more important than making sure one didn't slip & fall to their death.

Earl's photo above was taken from the Tacoma Tower #5, looking across the water towards Tower #4.

Once the catwalks were completed, the workers had a little more to stand on for the cable spinning operations. But many tasks still were performed out of the reach of these safety walks.

Above is another of Earl's snapshots taken as the catwalks were under construction.

Here is a great view looking down to the railroad tracks on the Tacoma shore. Note the canopy under the construction zone and over the tracks, so that if anything fell, the canopy would keep the trains traveling underneath from damage. Unless whatever fell was heavy enough to penetrate the canopy.

The last photo from Earl R. White's group is seen above. A couple of ironworkers are on a comfortable spot, as compared with being on a single beam. In any case, they did their jobs hundreds of feet in the air, and generally without the safety lines that are standard today.

The photo above was taken by Joe Gotchy as he went across the catwalk looking back at the west midspan. It seems as if the girder work is floating, but it really is held in place with the suspender cables. This photo, and the group of photos below were taken by Joe Gotchy, and provided courtesy of Joe's grandson; Tom Gotchy.

Working closely as a team, Bill Vogel operates the winch while Joe runs the derrick controls to place framing members. Joe could not see the end of each piece, and he relied on signals inside the derrick, controlled by the signalman outside. To achieve such precision required a lot of skills and experience.

Derrick vs. derrick. Both east and west crews worked hard to get their tasks completed, and this photo is unusual in that both are in the same shot.

This view from the catwalk was taken just above the traveling derrick. A close look in the middle of the photo shows that the two crews were just about to meet at midspan.

Seen above is the traveling derrick at the edge of the construction. Great care was needed, and co-ordination between the workers, to accomplish the task of assembling the many parts that made up the framework of the bridge.

A dizzying look straight down at the water and equipment barge makes most people uncomfortable. But this is what the workers dealt with every day.

This unusual photo by Joe is a side view from the water, of just a small portion of the construction. At first, the angle of the framework was more inclined, but as the work progressed and the weight was put on the suspender cables, the incline gradually settled to a gentle arch.

Shown here is the edge of the work zone, with a beam hanging from the cable & about ready to be installed.

The photo above shows Hal Mousseau and Hank Meir assembling the lower portion of a truss. Although they had solid footing on the beams, the water must have seemed too close, and the edge so near. This, of course, because it was near.

The crew is removing the traveling derrick being as it's job is done. This in itself was no easy task. The derrick was an exteremely heavy and bulky piece of machinery.

Here is a nice tower shot looking at the edge of the work as it progresses towards midspan. Gig Harbor is in the background.

A close look at the left side of the framework reveals wooden planks that helped the workers travel back & forth across the bridge. This was a luxury as, up until this point, workers tread upon beams & equipment to get around.

A most interesting procedure is shown in the photo above- the height of the derrick was above the catwalk over the main cable, so an opening was put through the catwalk, in order for the derrick operation to continue.

Seen above is a great view of the traveling derrick getting moved to the next work location. So many materials and equipment moves were required to build this bridge; and each & every one demonstrated the immense skills needed by all the workers.

One man is walking on the beam, being sure to keep his balance, while the other gets ready for another task. Perhaps an odd observation, and one to ponder while looking at this photo is: did the men who smoked cigarettes go through them quickly while working on the bridge, due to the blowing wind burning them up more rapidly than if they were indoors?

Some work went on, even as some workers took a break. Above, Al Sonn is using a measurement tool to check the main cable diameter. Precision is of the utmost importance in construction of this type. Many measurements were repeated as steps were completed, such as fastening the cable bands, to ensure nothing altered the components of the bridge.

Joe captured an excellent image shown above. This being just before the Warren trusses were built up to the 1940 Tower #3. It shows the transformation this tower went through, with an extra strut added, the beefed-up concrete base, and the extended width at the top to hold the new 4-lane road that was coming.

A look from one of the cross-catwalk accesses is seen here, looking towards the Tacoma side. The railroad tracks are just up from the rocky shore.

The photo above was taken from a relatively "safe" vantage point on the beams, and it is a good look at the framework that supports the yet-to-be installed road. The cross-catwalk access seen in the upper middle of this shot is where many photos were taken from, as that spot was ideal for getting good views without the main cables & catwalks being in the way.

A beautiful arch of cables makes this photo particularly attractive. It also gives the viewer a sense of the great distance the bridge traverses. The cross section appearance of the deck structure seems to be floating in front of the tower.

The end of Joe Gotchy's photos, courtesy of Tom Gotchy is shown above. This being a panorama style shot from the transport boat that took workers to & from the bridge. Looking towards the Gig Harbor side, the gerter work is almost done, with just the midspan not yet constructed. This group of pictures were possible only from a worker's camera, and great thanks to Tom for providing them from his grandfather's collection.

An observer took this photo from a distance. It shows the terrain around the Tacoma area as homes construction was starting to occur. The Narrows bridge brought interest in home building as there was going to be something to look at again, and Highland Hill was expanding with growth.

Risky work here, do you see any safety lines attached to these men? No. They are in the process of banding the main suspension cables, as seen by the slim bands wrapped around the cable to the left. Ingenious equipment was created to perform many tasks on the bridge, and some of this equipment was thought of & first used on the 1940 construction.

A great find was this book, written by the 1950 bridge engineer; Charles E. Andrew - and seemingly his own personal copy, as it is embossed with his name on the front cover. It is the final report he made, and it includes the following photos from the book.

Although it's hard to see the details from this far away shot, this is a really unusual picture. It is of the west shore, after Gertie was dismantled to a skeletal version, and before the remains were re-built as part of the Sturdy Gertie bridge. You can see the outline of the framing as shadows on the hill behind the tower. To the front of the photo is the pier in the water.

The same piers were re-used for the 1950 bridge, and seen here is the second tower going up, with the other tower nearly completed in the background.

Each section of the towers was lifted by cranes, and fastened in place. The cranes were raised up as the work progressed.

This view shows a tower with it's top struts not yet completed. To give a perspective on this photo; a full grown man standing on the deck of the tower would be difficult to even see.

The photo above is from the anchorage looking up the catwalks towards to tower. The cable spinning has not yet begun, but the workers can be seen on both catwalks.

Here is a great aerial view of the Warren trusses & road girders partly assembled. As each area was installed, it would be attached to the suspender cables. The action of the load changing (increasing) as work went along would change the main cables position. Note that the work took place at two places simultaneously. This was so that the load was evenly distributed.

The concrete road surface was caringly applied & finished by hand. Each contractor performed their work with care, as nobody wanted a repeat of the Gertie disaster to be on their head.

A last look at photos from Charles Andrew's book is of the bridge as the concrete roadway was partly laid. A much stouter bridge design has lasted far longer than it's predecessor.

Here is a July 2, 1950 view of the large quantity of rebar & associated work needed to make the 4 lanes of the deck, each having grating between the lanes.

Earl R. White provided the next few newspaper articles, including this terrible report of one of his co-worker's death. Stewart S. Gale was climbing back up from undoing a temporary bolt on a lower strut, when a weld on the part he was climbing broke, and he fell to the water. Despite all the recovery efforts made to bring back his body, and due to the weight of the tools he had strapped to him, his body was never found. A grim event that reminded everyone how dangerous building a bridge is.

It sounds a little strange, but it was a true fact that there was a railroad on the bridge before any cars ever crossed it. It was built during the framing stage to transport materials to the spot they were needed. This qualified as a true "short line" in railway terms.

The article above shows a view of the railroad action, and boasts about the speed & progress of the deck framing. With all the delays projects like this can have, the deck work went ahead of schedule. The lower photo shows where the "end of the railroad was at the time, and how the materials were offloaded to the work site.

Seen above is the final tightening of the cable bands before the catwalks were removed. Each step in the construction such as this was noted as a major accomplishment. With so many things that could have gone wrong, to complete tasks without disaster was rewarding.

Here are a series of news photos which show the progression of assembly for the deck. Viewers got a close-up look when the work came close to the Tacoma shore, and the photographers began snapping this series of pictures.

The article above explains that a temporary road was laid across the bridge in order to get vehicles & equipment access to install handrails, and other key parts prior to the rebar & grating placement; which eventually made up the permanent road.

This news report featured a night time photo of the bridge lights, an important tool needed for continuous operations. Work was done morning, noon, and night with little stoppage until the bridge was completed.

This is a great view of what happened to the 1940 concrete anchorage structures. The same cable separation, or splay technique was used to secure the ends of each main cable, with a final cable band keeping one side of the joined cables together- the other side of the band allowed the individual cables to separate, where they were each attached to bars which were in turn fastened to the anchorage. Note the rough anchorage edge on the far left with the metal rebar sticking out. This was because the 1940 anchorage structures had to be changed to accomodate the 1950 specifications, but they were solid concrete & rebar weighing many tons. To get them apart & re-done men used dynamite to blast the structures, then jackhammers did the rest, resulting in left-overs that you did not want to accidently bump into.

A close-up look at one of the banding machines, and what the many cables looked like before they got banded together. Harry Takehara, seen on the right foreground has his lunchbox hanging in front of him, and a crescent wrench in his hand, so it must not have been lunchtime yet. Behind him looks like a scary sight; the man in the plaid shirt, on the right in the background appears to be falling off the catwalk, but is not really falling. That is how the workers got around, jumping, stretching, and hanging on for dear life.

Here is an aerial view of the bridge minus the roadway, with Mt. Rainier poised gracefully in the background.

The photo above was taken on Opening Day for the new bridge, and it shows the stream of people & autos enjoying the sturdier bridge. The shot is unusual- taken from an airplane that was flying quite close to the tower. Note the shielding structure over the railroad tracks, which was first installed prior to the bridge construction.

Another shot here of Opening Day; this one from the sky on the east side. As you can see to the right in the photo- the large area is where the materials and equipment site held the immense quantity of metal and wire, wood for concrete forms, and the various shacks where plans and daily chores were done in. You can also see the procession of the first cars driving across, and the crowds of people waiting to walk on the bridge.

This photo, and the two below were all taken by an amateur photographer from the Gig Harbor side, on New Years Eve; Dec. 31 of 1950. The shot above shows the stark landscape, and the new plaque describing the Narrows bridge.

The next photo here was taken in the middle of the bridge's roadway. The many lamp posts give an eerie look to the picture, keeping in mind this day was somewhat overcast weather.

The last of the Dec. 31, 1950 photos was taken a little further back & up the hillside. As you look across the bridge deck, you see the gentle arc, almost as if the Tacoma side was at a lower elevation- but it really isn't.

The shot above is an unusual panoramic photo provided courtesy of Mathew Hargreaves. He had been doing extensive research, and came across this photo. Although Mathew did not take this photo- he has taken many professional quality panoramic photos of the Twin Narrows bridges during the 2007 construction. To see the full-size of the photo above, just Click on the Photo.

This is a beautiful view of the nearly-completed bridge from the Gig Harbor shore. The top of the near tower still has some rigging that needs to be removed, and the Tacoma shore still has the protective canopy over the railroad tracks. The photo was done by Richards Studios.

The shot above shows a glimpse of the construction buildings on the Tacoma side, just after the bridge was finished. The area is still used today as the site for most of the bridges' offices, maintenance & materials storage.

Painters often have a way of autographing their work as a sign of pride- sometimes it is unseen, sometimes it is plain as day. This Narrows bridge painter signed his name to his work. It is obvious, but only if you know where to look. The painter's signature is located underneath the road deck, and is visible from the Gig Harbor shore. H.H. McCoy is what was written in Narrows green color paint.

A problem became evident a few years after the bridge was finished. Some deterioration was found on bolts that held up the suspension cables. This was probably due, in part, to the original assembly being done in wet weather, which led to moisture collecting around the lower bolts, according to Earl White. He, Tommy Myers, Art Knoll, and Joe Dowsett started in September of 1954 replacing 2,200 cable clamp bolts across the structure, which took nearly 1 year to do. This photo shows the men (in the circle) on top of the main cable working on this lengthy task. The photo was taken by Howie (Howard) Clifford of the News Tribune. The bolts were removed 1 by 1, each was cleaned & treated, re-painted with special paint, and then reinstalled. Each bolt hole was cleaned & painted with the special paint as well. The newspaper article is courtesy of Earl R. White.

The photo above is a professional portrait of the 1950 bridge, taken in the early evening just as the sun is setting, with Mt. Rainier proudly shining in the background, and the moon above the bridge. The photo is by an award-winning photographer, John McAnulty.

Shown above is a tower-top view of the original War Memorial Park as it was in the 1970's. This park was frequented by many residents & visitors, as it provided a great look from the parking lot across the water. Of course, the park was re-located in order to facilitate the construction of the 2007 bridge, and now the War Memorial Park can be found up the road from the bridges; on the old Olympic Blvd. road that once led to the 1950 bridge entrance.

Tom Arnold was dispatched to inspect some jewel connectors in this Apr. 28, 1972 photo. Maintenance is always needed with moving structures such as suspension bridges.

This set of pictures was taken after an accident on the bridge where a cement truck crashed & lost it's cab. This occured in July of 1999.

At that time the 1950 bridge was the only one & it carried traffic in both directions. This wreck closed the bridge for hours.

A huge crane truck was brought to the site to get what was left of the body of the heavy concrete mixer back upright.

Great care was taken to ensure as it was brought up off the pavement, that it didn't overturn to the other side.

This shot shows the cement truck finally back on it's wheels- minus the cab which was removed separately.

The bridge's guard rail did it's job. though it was severely damaged & required replacement- it kept the truck from falling off the bridge & probably saved the driver's life.

Standing on the Gig Harbor side, this is a look up one of the two main cables to the top of the tower. It shouldn't surprise anyone, that movement can be felt on these cables if you ever get the opportunity to put your hand on one. This view also gives a sense of just how steep a climb it is to scale to the top.

The photo above shows the platform that has been set up on the north side under the road deck. During the 2007 bridge construction, when this photo was taken, piping was placed as seen on the platform floor. The left hoses carried concrete for the towers, and on the right is a high voltage power line. This photo is courtesy of Steve Biber.

Seen above & below are the remaining parts of the 1940 bridge on the Gig Harbor side. The supports including the tower seen in the middle of this photo and to the right of it, were built-up with additional metalwork, and then the 1950 bridge was built on top. The Warren trusses from the 1950 construction on the left stopped at this tower, and you can see the sides of the solid-side 1940 girders. The 2007 bridge is in the background.

Another look from underneath the Gig Harbor side.

This close up shows the utility walkway under the bridge. Workers can actually walk all the way across the bridge underneath.

Here is a detail view of the Warren trusses meeting the 1940 Tower 3, which was added to as the old bridge was 2 lanes wide, the 1950 bridge here is 4 lanes wide.

Here is a great look down the length of the Warren trusses. It seems as if they go on forever, and in reality; nearly 5000 feet worth of truss work is a large distance. This photo is courtesy of Steve Biber.

The worker seen above is doing the smart thing- securing his safety line. He is standing on top of a tower, and is probably not looking down as he secures himself. This photo is courtesy of Patrick S. O'Donnell, a photographer who travels the US, taking photos of bridges far and wide (yes, that is a pun).

If you ever are lucky enough to go on a tour of the 1950 bridge, you will first go up the tower in a small one-person size elevator. The photo above shows this can-shaped elevator. A see-thru cage door closes you inside, so when you are traveling up or coming down, you can see the different sections of the tower, and how the parts were assembled together. This photo is courtesy of Steve Biber.

Here is a view down a shaft inside a tower. Climbing inside the tight spaces is not for the faint of heart, or the claustrophobic. This photo is also courtesy of Steve Biber.

An early morning sunrise is shown in this photo from the Gig Harbor side of the bridge, looking east towards Tacoma. Steve Biber was on the 1950 bridge during the new bridge's construction, and he was able to take some great photos. The above one is courtesy of Steve, and is professional quality.

A product of satellite technology, here is a look from the sky, showing the full length of Sturdy Gertie on a sunny day. This is probably the best view to get a sense of just how long one mile on a bridge really is. Keeping in mind that this is the 4-lane bridge. The first bridge was half as wide as this. Note the piers for the 2007 bridge are completed, and the Towers have just begun to take shape in this photo. The orientation is that Tacoma is on the lower left side of the photo, and Gig Harbor is to the upper right.

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