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A transporter bridge, also known as a ferry bridge or aerial transfer bridge, is a type of movable bridge that carries a segment of roadway across a river. The gondola is slung from a tall span by wires or a metal frame. The design has been used to cross navigable rivers or other bodies of water, where there is a requirement for ship traffic to be able to pass. This has been a rare type of bridge, with fewer than two dozen built. There are just twelve that continue to be used today, including one converted into a lift bridge and one designed as, but not yet operating as, a transporter bridge.

transporter bridge
MovableBridge transport.gif
An animation showing how a transporter bridge operates with vehicular, pedestrian and shipping traffic
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The concept of the transporter bridge was invented in 1873 by Charles Smith (1844-1882), the manager of an engine works in Hartlepool, England. He called it a "bridge ferry" and unsuccessfully presented his ideas to councils in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, and Glasgow.[1]

The first transporter bridge, Vizcaya Bridge was built between Las Arenas and Portugalete, Spain, in 1893. The design from Alberto Palacio[2] inspired others to attempt similar structures. The idea came about in locations where it was seen as impractical to build long approach ramps that would be required to reach a high span, and in places where ferries are not easily able to cross. Because transporter bridges can carry only a limited load, the idea was little used after the rise of the automobile.

The first such bridge built in France, the 1898 Rouen bridge crossing the Seine, was destroyed by the French army to slow down German troops in World War II. Transporter bridges were popular in France, where five were erected and another partially completed.

The United Kingdom has four transporter bridges, though Warrington Transporter Bridge is disused and the modern Royal Victoria Dock Bridge, though designed with the potential to be used as a transporter bridge, has so far only been used as a high-level footbridge. The Newport Transporter Bridge was built in 1906 across the River Usk in Newport. Because the river banks are very low at the crossing point (a few miles south of the city centre) a traditional bridge would need a very long approach ramp and a ferry could not be used at low tide. The Newport bridge was a Ferdinand Arnodin design.[3] The Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge, crossing the River Tees, featured in the 2002 series of the popular British TV show Auf Wiedersehen, Pet; the programme's plot had the bridge being dismantled and re-erected in Arizona, USA.[4] The Widnes-Runcorn Transporter Bridge, demolished in the early 1960s, was the first of its type in Britain, and the largest ever built.

In the United States, two such bridges were built. The first was the Aerial Bridge built in Duluth, Minnesota in 1905, although the city had originally planned to build a vertical lift bridge at the site. The transporter design was used for about 25 years before the structure was reconfigured to lift a central span in 1930.

The second American transporter bridge was different from other designs and partially resembled gondola lifts used in mountainous regions. The Sky Ride was part of the 1933–34 Chicago World's Fair ("Century of Progress"), it was taken down after standing for just two years. However, it was the longest bridge of this type ever built at the time.

Two historic transporter bridges survive in Germany. A unique example is the bridge at Rendsburg, from 1913 which is two bridges in one: A railroad link crosses high above on the top span, and the suspended ferry carries traffic on the valley floor. The bridge at Osten is four years older and was the first transporter bridge in Germany.

Known transporter bridgesEdit

Surviving historic bridgesEdit

Bridge Image City Country Completed Span Clearance Height In Use? Coordinates Notes
Vizcaya Bridge   Portugalete/Getxo   Spain 1893 164 m (538 ft) 45 m (148 ft) 61.3 m (201 ft) Yes 43°19′23″N 3°1′1″W / 43.32306°N 3.01694°W / 43.32306; -3.01694 (Vizcaya Bridge) In use 24/7, passenger fare 0.35 euro in 2012, declared in 2006 World Heritage Site by Unesco. Prototype for subsequent bridges.
Rochefort-Martrou Transporter Bridge   Rochefort, Charente-Maritime   France 1900 140 m (460 ft) 50 m (160 ft) 66.5 m (218 ft) Yes 45°54′58″N 0°57′38″W / 45.91611°N 0.96056°W / 45.91611; -0.96056 (Rochefort-Martrou Transporter Bridge)} In use during the summer. This bridge may be seen in the film The Young Girls of Rochefort.
Aerial Lift Bridge   Duluth, Minnesota   United States 1905 120 m (390 ft) 41.1 m (135 ft) 69.5 m (228 ft) No 46°46′44″N 92°5′34″W / 46.77889°N 92.09278°W / 46.77889; -92.09278 (Aerial Lift Bridge) No longer a transporter bridge; converted into a lift bridge in 1929, in use.
Newport Transporter Bridge   Newport   United Kingdom 1906 196.6 m (645 ft) 50 m (160 ft) 73.6 m (241 ft) Yes 51°34′14″N 2°59′8″W / 51.57056°N 2.98556°W / 51.57056; -2.98556 (Newport Transporter Bridge) Re-opened on 30 July 2010 after closing completely in 2008 for a £2 million restoration. Appears in the film Tiger Bay.[5]
Osten Transporter Bridge   Osten   Germany 1909 80 m (260 ft) 30 m (98 ft) 38 m (125 ft) Yes 53°41′39″N 9°10′58″E / 53.69417°N 9.18278°E / 53.69417; 9.18278 (Osten Transporter Bridge) In use, but only as a tourist attraction.
Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge   Middlesbrough   United Kingdom 1911 180 m (590 ft) 49 m (161 ft) 68 m (223 ft) Yes 54°35′4″N 1°13′40″W / 54.58444°N 1.22778°W / 54.58444; -1.22778 (Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge) Refitted motors in 2010. Still in use, not in high winds
Rendsburg High Bridge   Rendsburg   Germany 1913 140 m (460 ft) 42 m (138 ft) 68 m (223 ft) Yes 54°17′37″N 9°40′56″E / 54.29361°N 9.68222°E / 54.29361; 9.68222 (Rendsburg High Bridge) In use, only known combo railroad/transporter bridge.
Puente Transbordador   Buenos Aires/Dock Sud   Argentina 1914 103.6 m (340 ft) 43.5 m (143 ft) 52 m (171 ft) Yes 34°38′18″S 58°21′22″W / 34.63833°S 58.35611°W / -34.63833; -58.35611 (Puente Transbordador) In use. It was closed in 1960 but was restored and reopened in September 2017.
Puente Nicolás Avellaneda   Buenos Aires/Dock Sud   Argentina 1940 60 m (197 ft) 21 m (69 ft) (not lifted), 43 m (141 ft) (lifted) 57 m (187 ft) Yes 34°38′17″S 58°21′21″W / 34.63806°S 58.35583°W / -34.63806; -58.35583 (Puente Nicolás Avellaneda) Transporter bridge below a liftable section of a vertical lift bridge. Since 1960 only used, when the road on the bridge is closed for maintenance work.
Warrington Transporter Bridge   Warrington   United Kingdom 1916 57 m (187 ft) 23 m (75 ft) 27 m (89 ft) No 53°23′1″N 2°36′27″W / 53.38361°N 2.60750°W / 53.38361; -2.60750 (Warrington Transporter Bridge) Disused. Listed as an "ancient monument", but still at risk. (One of two originally at this site; the other, from 1905 did not survive.)

New buildsEdit

Bridge Location Completed Span In Use? Notes
Royal Victoria Dock Bridge London, United Kingdom 1998 128 m No Designed to allow use as a transporter bridge but currently only in use as a high-level footbridge.
Erlebnisbrücke Near Mönchengladbach, Germany 2003 ~ 10 m Yes Human-powered small bridge.[6][7]
Transborder near Hamrštejn Castle borderline of Liberec and Chrastava, over Lusatian Neisse, Czech Republic 2010 23 m Yes Human-powered small wooden bridge.

Former historic bridgesEdit

Bridge Location Completed Span Notes
Bizerta/Brest Transporter Bridge Bizerta, Tunisia 1898 109 m Moved to Brest, France in 1909, damaged 1944, demolished 1947.
Bordeaux Transporter Bridge Bordeaux, France 400 m
Started 1910, but never completed. Demolished in 1942.
Devil's Dyke Transporter Bridge Devil's Dyke, UK 1894 198 m Demolished 1909.[8][9][10]
Kiel Transporter Bridge Kiel, Germany 1910 128 m Demolished, 1923.[11]
Maarsserbrug Maarssen, the Netherlands 1938 88 m Fixed bridge for regular traffic with transporter for agricultural usages, removed in 1959.
Marseille Transporter Bridge Marseille, France 1905 165 m Destroyed, 1944.[12]
Nantes Transporter Bridge Nantes, France 1903 141 m Demolished, 1958.[13]
Puente Transbordador Presidente Sáenz Peña Buenos Aires, Argentina 1913 Demolished, 1965.
Puente Transbordador Presidente Urquiza Buenos Aires, Argentina 1915 Demolished, 1968.
Rio de Janeiro Transporter Bridge Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1915 171 m Demolished, 1935.[14]
Rouen Transporter Bridge Rouen, France 1898 142 m Destroyed, 1940.
Sky Ride Chicago, Illinois, USA 1933 564 m Demolished, 1934.
Widnes-Runcorn Transporter Bridge Widnes-Runcorn, United Kingdom 1905 304 m Demolished, 1961.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lloyd, Chris (12 October 2011). "Transporter Bridge left boats in its wake". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  2. ^ El Gran Puente Colgante De Bizkaia
  3. ^ Newport Transporter Bridge
  4. ^ "Bridge not under threat, pet". BBC News. 13 May 2002. Retrieved 20 January 2009.
  5. ^
  6. ^ 51°14′17″N 6°28′29″E / 51.238043°N 6.474638°E / 51.238043; 6.474638
  7. ^ Erlebnisbrücke at Structurae
  8. ^ Tyrrell, Henry (1912), Transporter Bridges, Toronto: University of Toronto Engineering Society, p. 5
  9. ^ Waddell, John (1916), Bridge Engineering, Vol. I, New York: Wiley, p. 671
  10. ^ "Cableway for passenger traffic at Brighton, England". Engineering News-Record. 33 (5): 67–8. 31 January 1895. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  11. ^ 54°19′19″N 10°09′43″E / 54.321944°N 10.161944°E / 54.321944; 10.161944
  12. ^ 43°17′39″N 5°21′49″E / 43.294184°N 5.363646°E / 43.294184; 5.363646
  13. ^ 47°12′31″N 1°33′57″W / 47.208516°N 1.565756°W / 47.208516; -1.565756
  14. ^ 22°53′46″S 43°10′35″W / 22.896171°S 43.176345°W / -22.896171; -43.176345

External linksEdit