Albion’s Main Street bridge was often in the news just over a century ago
By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian
Illuminating Orleans, Vol. 3 No. 4
ALBION – Albion’s Main Street bridge across the Erie Canal is a significant structure on Route 98, a busy north-south road.
The swing-bridge, photographed above, built in 1871, was replaced in 1913-14 by the lift bridge currently under repair. The Barge Canal Improvement Project 1905-1918, which widened the existing canal to accommodate larger, taller barge traffic, necessitated the replacement of the swing bridge.
Then, as now, the bridge project was a cause of inconvenience to many. Newspapers followed the project closely, as the following extracts show:
Orleans Republican, Nov. 20, 1912: Work has begun on the temporary bridge* at Main St. It should be made wide enough to carry the traffic properly and to hold up the new fire truck and fire engine. (*A temporary bridge was necessary as the Ingersoll Bridge was not built until later)
Orleans Republican – Dec. 4, 1912: The old swing bridge was finally demolished last Friday. The work of blasting out the concrete wall and the stone pile which supported the bridge is progressing rapidly.
Orleans Republican – Dec. 18, 1912: The Cooper Company* has installed a bright electric light with reflectors to aid in night work on the canal at Main Street. (W.S. Cooper Barge Contacting Company)
The new lift bridge was 132 ft. in length and had a span of 116 ft. It was built between 1912-1914 by the Lackawanna Bridge Company of Buffalo and I.M. Ludington’s Sons Inc. of Rochester, NY.
Democrat and Chronicle – May 16, 1913: ALBION BRIDGE AT LAST LOWERED
After removing about fifteen tons of cement block chips from the two sixty-ton cement counter-balance weights of the new electrically operated lift bridge at Main Street over the Erie Canal here, the bridge was finally lowered this afternoon about 3 o’clock with the two 12 horsepower electric motors installed west of the operator’s tower on the towpath side of the canal.
Orleans Republican – May 28, 1913: BRIDGE IN USE
The new lift bridge over the canal on Main Street was lowered for the first time on Tuesday afternoon of last week and traffic over the “raging Erie” was resumed in a straight line after many months of circling over the temporary structure.
The first vehicle to cross was a delivery auto driven by H.T. Stockton and other conveyances, as well as foot passengers who scrambled to be “one of the first” to walk over the new bridge.
The bridge is several feet higher than the old swing bridge and at present the approach on either side is very steep and abrupt. We hope this will soon be remedied.
As is often the case with technology, there were some glitches at the beginning which caused problems:
Democrat & Chronicle – June 10, 1913: APPOINT TRAFFIC OFFICER – To Watch Canal Bridge at Albion During Rush Hours
A new position has been created at the Main Street Lift Bridge over the Erie Canal by the appointment of Paul Kaneski, of this village, as temporary traffic officer at that time. He will be on duty ten hours each day and evening, working at such times that traffic is heaviest and will prevent fast driving of automobiles and horse drawn vehicles.
Democrat & Chronicle, July 13, 1913: ALBION BRIDGE IS SPUNKY – Goes Up in the Air and Refuses to Come Down for an Hour
Traffic across the Erie Canal in this village was at a standstill for about an hour on Saturday afternoon during the rush hour, when the Main Street electric lift bridge refused to work after being elevated to let a boat pass through.
The bridge has given considerable trouble in being operated and experts who have charge of that work for the state have failed to remedy the defect.
Electrician Paul R. West, of this village, was summoned after the bridge had been set out of service for an hour and discovered that a piece of cement which had been dislodged and had fallen back of a break band causing it to fail to release. He removed the chip, and the bridge was lowered.
Buffalo News, July 28, 1913: BOATS RAM BRIDGE
The new $40,000 lift-bridge which spans the Erie Canal in Albion was damaged Saturday when three heavily laden lumber boats crashed into it. Bridgetender Martin Lucas stated that the bridge would not lift, and the barges were carried downstream by the current.
Democrat and Chronicle, May 31, 1915: ALBION AUTOS CAUGHT AS BRIDGE IS RAISED
At noon on Saturday, Frank Lund and family of West Gaines, were driving over the Main Street bridge when the bridge started to rise, as Mr. Lund contends, without the customary bell signal having been sounded. As the car left the south end of the bridge, the auto dropped about three feet in front, leaving the rear part suspended on the bridge, breaking the crank casing. The bridge was lowered, and the car moved off.
Also, on Saturday, a woman driving on Main Street was part way on the bridge when it raised and left her machine partly on the ground and partly on the bridge which was lowered, after being raised several feet.
As we observe the dramatic images of the removal of the Main Street Bridge trusses this past week, we can but marvel at the accomplishments of the original bridge building team.