Honeymoon Bridge Collapse

The Upper Steel Arch Bridge, also known as the Honeymoon Bridge or Fallsview Bridge, was an international bridge which crossed the Niagara River, connecting Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, with Niagara Falls, New York, United States. It was located about 500 feet upriver of the present-day Rainbow Bridge.

The Upper Steel Arch Bridge connecting the USA and Canada

Although the original intention had been to strengthen and expand the existing Suspension Bridge, a decision to build the Upper Steel Arch Bridge was made in January 1897. The abutments were constructed 14 feet closer to the American Falls than the foundations of the Suspension Bridge were, and only a few feet above the water level of the river. It is this proximity to the water level which would ultimately prove to be the downfall of the bridge.

The Upper Steel Arch Bridge was completed on June 23rd, 1897. At the time, it was said to be the greatest steel arch bridge in the world. The bridge spanned 256 metres with trusses connecting the main span of the structure to each shoreline. The abutments extended to the base of the gorge. The Upper Steel Arch Bridge offered a spectacular view of the Falls. Because of the proximity of the abutments of the bridge to the surface of the river, they had to be constantly protected from the ice bridges which formed in the Lower Niagara River every winter.

Aerial shot of the Honeymoon Bridge

On Monday, June 8, 1925, people gathered on the bridge to watch the first illumination of the Falls (The Festival of Lights). The crowd quickly realized the bridge was heavily swaying, so they swiftly walked off the structure. Because of this, there was lateral bracing added to the bridge. The Honeymoon Bridge was known to blow about pedestrians and vehicles crossing, and the bridge decking was wooden, thus making it extremely dangerous when wet. On one occasion in 1930, an American motorist crossing the bridge into Canada applied the brakes of his automobile and skidded off the bridge and into the gorge, falling to his death.

Honeymoon Bridge circa 1898

Despite the reinforcement attempts, on January 23, 1938, a sudden windstorm on Lake Erie sent roaring ice down the river toward the bridge. Within 12 hours, the river was jammed with ice. The Niagara riverbed rose to 9 feet high, thus engulfing the Maid of the Mist docks and everything else around it. The buildup put too much pressure on the bridge abutments and caused overall structural damage. At this point, there was no saving the bridge. With the abutments of the Honeymoon Bridge encased with ice, the bridge would collapse on any given day. All vehicle traffic was ceased to a halt the day prior to the Niagara Falls Bridge Collapse on January 26th. No fatalities occurred due to this, although thousands of people visited the bridge to watch its inevitable collapse.

Movietone news video coverage of Honeymoon Bridge Collapse

On Jan. 27, 1938, at 4:20 p.m., the span of the Honeymoon Bridge broke free and fell into the river in one piece. For safer cleanup, the span was blown up into two pieces via dynamite. Not long after, a replacement bridge was underway. It was completed in November 1941 and named the Rainbow Bridge.

Honeymoon Bridge collapse






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