This vintage postcard shows The Hanging Bridge in Royal Gorge Canyon, Colorado. As seen in this old postcard, passengers alight the Royal Gorge train to view the Arkansas River, the sheer granite cliffs towering above them and the engineering wonder of The Hanging Bridge that spans the gorge.
The construction of the train route through the Royal Gorge presented a problem for the Santa Fe Railroad in 1879. At one point, the gorge is only thirty feet wide with sheer rock walls on either side and the Arkansas River racing through. There was no place to lay the rail lines on either side of the river.
Undaunted, C. Shaller Smith, designed an interesting solution which has been known as “The Hanging Bridge” since that time. His design, shown here, consists of a 175-ft. steel girder suspended across the river by girders anchored to the rock walls.
From the Denver and Rio Grande guidebook, D&RGW Guidebook c. 1936:
“The Royal Gorge, dominant factor in establishing the Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad as Scenic Line of the World, fully merits its position as America’s best loved travel wonder. The Scenic Limited, westbound or eastbound, makes a 10-minute stop every day at Hanging Bridge, so that passengers may alight to glimpse the marvels of this intriguing western wonder spot.
The Hanging Bridge, an outstanding railroad engineering achievement, is suspended between sheer canyon walls, just thirty feet apart at this point. For more than fifty years this bridge has attested the skill and daring of engineers who conceived the remarkable structure when the roaring waters of the Arkansas river threatened to make the narrow canyon forever impassable.”
Not to be confused with the Hanging Bridge (seen in this postcard), the Royal Gorge also boasts the world’s highest suspension bridge called The Royal Gorge Bridge. The bridge was constructed in six months, between June 5, 1929 and late November 1929. It was not constructed for transportation purposes; but to serve as a tourist attraction, and has continued to be one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Colorado since its construction.
Also from the Denver and Rio Grande guidebook, D&RGW Guidebook c. 1936:
“The World’s Highest Bridge, across the Royal Gorge 1053 feet above the railroad tracks, is 1250 feet in length and has an automobile thoroughfare 18 feet wide. Completed in 1929, the bridge cost $250,000.
The Royal Gorge Incline, recognized as the world’s steepest railway, runs on an angle of 45 degrees 1550 feet between the Hanging Bridge and the World’s Highest Bridge. This funicular was built by a leading elevator manufacturer, and operates two cars with a capacity of 21 passengers each. The ride up or down the narrow defile between towering canyon walls is a scenic delight.”
The Hanging Bridge and The World’s Highest Bridge of Royal Gorge, Colorado can still be seen today as visitors take the historic ride through the canon.