28 March 2016

Bilbao - Transporter Bridge

Puente Vizcaya, just outside Bilbao, and connecting Portugalete and Las Arenas, is the oldest transporter bridge in the world, the first of just 16 built to completion worldwide, and the only one built in Spain.

The bridge was designed by Spaniard Alberto de Palacio and Frenchman Ferdinand Arnodin. Construction commenced on 10 April 1890, and the bridge officially opened on 28 July 1893. The influence of the Eiffel Tower of 1889 is obvious.

Built of iron, it is 524 feet long, with towers 200 feet high and of 100 tons each, braced by cables that run parallel to the River Nervión. The original boom, gondola and traction gear weighed in at a further 400 tons. The bridge is joined together by 21,401 bolts and 10,629 rivets. The tower on the Las Arenas side boasted a sight-seeing lift.

The truss was dynamited on 17 June 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, but service recommenced in June 1941, with a lighter boom and larger but lighter gondola. The bridge received in November 1998 its fifth gondola. This hangs from a 36-wheel trolley, is 82 feet long, and can carry six cars and several dozen people at a time (bottom).

Still very much in use, operating every eight minutes during the day, every hour during the night, the journey taking just 90 seconds, the bridge is integrated into the ticketing for Bilbao's wider public transport system. Until 1999, except for a period 1941-45 when controlled from the gondola, it was operated from a booth up on the boom (above).

The 1998 overhaul included construction of ground-level waiting rooms and an enclosed walkway, with lifts at both ends, that enables one to walk across the river at about 147 feet above high water level (above). Known locally as the Puente Colgante, the Hanging Bridge, this world first was declared by UNESCO in July 2006 a World Heritage Site.

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