A sheave returns to Canal Park

Aerial-Bridge-Pre-1929-ViewDuring the winter of 1999-2000, the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge was given an extreme makeover, replacing some equipment used in 1929 to update the original Lift Bridge at right (1901-1905). That initial version used a gondola to carry people, horses and automobiles from the mainland to Park Point. In 1929, the gondola was replaced by a roadway that could be lifted to allow ships to go under it on their way to deliver and/or load cargo from the port. When the bridge went down, automobiles, people, bikes and anything needed by the people on Park Point were able to cross.
A sheave is a wheel with grooves in it. Four of them were installed in 1929 at the top of the new towers that were built inside the old bridge to support the roadway as it went up and down. Cables attached to the road way at one end and to a large counter weight at the other would run in the grooves of each sheave. When the bridge went up, the cables allowed the counter weight to go down.
In the 1999 update, all four sheaves were replaced, one of them seen above just being lowered on December 31, 1999. (That was just hours before the new millennium would be ushered in while the world waited to make sure it would still be there. Some experts predicted that computers would crash all over the world since they were not built to handle a date that did not start with 19.)
Three of the sheaves were sent to the scrap yard, as you see in the picture here. The other one was to be put on display in Canal Park as part of the 100th anniversary of the bridge. That was 17 years ago.
Finally, this morning (November 20, 2017), the Corps of Engineers brought that sheave over and deposited it close by the south tower on a concrete patio that was built to hold it. From there, you can look up to the top of the tower to see the new (now 17 years old) sheaves in action.
Above, a truck arrived on January 21, 2000 from Alabama with one of the 4 new sheaves.


  1. Thom Holden says:

    Thanks, Ken, good background and dandy photo history, too.

  2. I have wondered about that style of bridge. explains every thing with this story of the gondola. nice bit of engineering. thank you.

  3. Good Read,Thank’s Ken!!

  4. wow!

Leave a Comment