Swinging for 100 Years

Bridge over the Petaluma River is renovated and back in action.

The Northwestern Pacific Black Point Swing Bridge will be 100 years old this year, and there will be little pomp and circumstance surrounding its birthday.

There should be a celebration, as there has been coordinated efforts with several agencies who have recently finished repairing the 1911 steel Howe truss bridge’s supporting structures: piles, bracing, caps  and steel bearing assemblies. Workers have updated all the electrical and mechanical systems on the swing span to meet modern standards.

I happened to meet one of those proud workers, Greg Eversen of Summit Signal, Inc., who was happy to answer my questions about the bridge.

The bridge was out of commission from 2001 to June 2011. In June, limited service resumed with low emission locomotives and cars carrying animal feed and lumber up north four to five times a week. One of the train’s stops is Behrens Feed Mill in Petaluma and it continues on up to Winsor to deliver lumber.

The swing bridge stays open, running parallel to the river, to accommodate boats and barges traveling up and down the Petaluma River, since the height of the bridge span is approximately six to eight feet depending on tidal conditions.

The bridge  requires an operator to be on the swing span and in the operator house located above the track in the center of the swing span. It takes five to 10 minutes for the propane-powered, motor-driven pivot to move into the open and closed positions.

When the bridge is closed and ready to support the trains, it slowly swings perpendicular to the shore. How do the workers get out the center span when the the bridge is in the open position or return back to their cars when their shift is over? Why, that would be by row boat.

This bridge is one of three swing bridges along this line. The others are the Napa Bridge and the Haystack Bridge. 

Happy 100th Birthday, Northwestern Pacific Black Point Swing Bridge.

Thank you to David Anderson, North Coast Railroad Authority's project engineer and Greg Eversen of Summit Signal, Inc. for the information they provided to insure the accuracy of this article.

Shirley Pedersen Lowe November 12, 2011 at 01:59 AM
I grew up ,just up river a bit from this bridge so many memories of it. My family home is still there in Black Point.
Brad Curtis November 12, 2011 at 04:04 PM
We love our bridge on the river! It adds a sense of nostalgia and we're especially loving the 4-5 car trains come through.
Brant November 12, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Perhaps renovating the bridge is a knock-on jobs opportunity provided by SMART reconstruction of the rail line between Novato and Santa Rosa?
Karen November 12, 2011 at 05:30 PM
Thanks for this interesting article. I love the sound of the train whistle as it goes through town.
Sue McQuinn November 12, 2011 at 08:00 PM
I was amazed the bridge is still manually operated without electricity and the operator needs to row back and forth in order to reach the pivot bridge. How is that for nostaglgia?


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