This vintage Niagara Falls Postcard from 1910 shows the American Falls and the International Railway Bridge across the Niagara River.
The International Railway Bridge, built in 1873 by the International Bridge Company, allows trains to cross the Niagara River between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York.
The construction of this bridge at this point in the Niagara River was quite technically challenging in the 1800s. Not only is the Niagara River flowing at twelve miles per hour, but the depth is 45 feet at the location of the bridge. In winter, ice often forms in the Niagara River which then breaks up in spring in terrific and loud fashion. These large ice blocks flowing down the river have the ability to destroy any bridge in their path. Gravel was cleared from the bottom of the river and stone piers were sunk to hold the weight of the bridge and secure it from these natural impediments.
The bridge was built in two sections, one running from the Canadian shore to Squaw Island, New York, and the second from Squaw Island to the American mainland. Each section was built with what is called a swing span.
A swing bridge has a section of the bridge, usually near its center of gravity, that can actually swing out horizontally 90 degrees from its normal position. A bridge like this allows road traffic to cross the bridge, then suspending that, can swing out allowing large ships to pass by in the water underneath. The movable section then swings back in line with the stationary part of the bridge to allow road traffic to flow again.
The swing section from Canada to Squaw Island was removed in 1940 – 1941, while the other swing section to the American shore exists today and is still swinging.