The Life of the Aerial Transfer Bridge (1906-1929)
From Crossing the Canal: An Illustrated History of Duluth’s Aerial Bridge, copyright © 2008, Zenith City Press, Duluth, Minnesota. Image: Duluth Public Library.
Duluth Takes Control of the Bridge
Modern Steel Structural eventually had to replace the entire overhead works of the bridge where the trucks rolled along the rails; besides the trucks operating poorly, the rail they rolled on had not been properly aligned. With a new truck system in place in early 1906, MSS had satisfied its obligation to Duluth and the bridge, and the City took complete control of the structure.
That April the City settled up with MSS, paying the company $54,734.15—it had already paid the firm $35,000 in September 1904 to get the job started. But the total amount came to $90,000, more than $10,000 less than the contract had called for. Another $6,765.85 went directly to C. A. P. Turner. Back in April 1905, during the bridge’s first month of operation, Turner had written the Common Council explaining that MSS had not met the terms of his contract with them: permitting their the use of his patents in exchange for 8 percent of MSS’s contract with the city. When the city plunked down the $35,000 down payment in September 1904, Turner had received $1,400, with a balance due of another $1,400. He never received the second payment. As far as Turner was concerned, until he got that money—and another $3,148 for other work—MSS had “forfeited its rights to the patents.” And since MSS had built the bridge using patents it had no right to, the company certainly couldn’t sell the bridge to the city. By April 1906, interest and other work done by Turner brought the amount to nearly $7,000. In a single resolution the Common Council first paid off Turner, satisfying MSS’s contract with him, then MSS, who was now free to sell the bridge. The remaining $3,500 went to the Duluth Canal Bridge Co. in August 1905, to settle once and for all the issue of who owned the bridge’s foundations.
Duluth did, along with the bridge they lead to.
1906 – 1910: Working Out the Bugs
In March McGilvray reported that the bridge had run perfectly since February 6, handling two hundred to three hundred teams of horses and thirty thousand people a day. He estimated the cost of operating the bridge, including the $4,000 in interest on the bond, at $10,578.31. It may not have been as big a savings from the ferry operation as anticipated, but McGilvray’s spin on the numbers illustrates the bargain that was the bridge: it cost the city “one-fifth of one cent per passenger for operation, maintenance, interest, and power.” He closed his report with a request for the city to install a telephone in the ferry car so its operator could call for help should the car break down in the middle of the canal. It was not granted.
Over the next year McGilvray continued to petition the city for improvements on the bridge, mostly for safety. A metal net was installed over the ferry car to protect passengers and teams from falling icicles (see the photo on page 107) and McGilvray requested a hand-railed gangway on the lower chord of the truss and a covered stairway to access the truss—he wanted to stop the “dangerous acrobatic feats” required of bridge workers to maintain the structure. At his request the Common Council sought bids for a rowboat for the purpose of “saving human lives and otherwise.” They also allowed him to purchase duplicate parts—such as wheels, hangers, and cable—to have on hand in case of failure. The Common Council records for 1906–1907 show that the Council granted each of the engineer’s requests save one: he had again asked for a telephone, and the Council took no action.
In February 1907 the Duluth Evening Herald reaffirmed McGilvray’s report to the city, reporting that the ferry had not missed a trip in a year, having safely moved 50,000 teams and 2,500,000 passengers making six to eight passes an hour. Already people were guessing as to how long the bridge’s capacity could keep up with increasing demand to cross the canal, and some speculated that it was only a matter of time before a private enterprise tunneled the canal in order to reach the point by rail and exploit its industrial potential. Turning Park Point into an industrial center would render the ferry bridge obsolete.
Of course the tunnel and the industrialization of Park Point never occurred, but that didn’t mean the bridge didn’t get busier. As its use increased, so did the population and activity on Park Point; both the city and the community south of the canal did their best to keep up. An example of this occurred in November 1907, when the Common Council asked the Duluth Street Railway Company and the Park Point Street Railway Company —which operated as wholly separate entities—to allow riders to use transfers when getting off one streetcar line to cross on the aerial bridge so they wouldn’t have to pay an additional five-cent fare to use the streetcar on the other side. Few of Park Point’s residents worked south of the canal, and Alderman Joseph Hartel argued it wasn’t fair to have them pay twenty cents a day to commute to work when most of the city’s citizens paid nothing. Meanwhile, heating systems were added to the ferry car to keep passengers warm in winter weather. In his 1907 report, McGilvray once again asked for a phone as well as two more electric motors because in cases where one motor had shorted out, the other motor strained to propel the ferry car.
It wasn’t all work and no play for McGilvray during this crucial time in the bridge’s life. The engineer enjoyed an active life and was the skipper of his curling team—and a pretty good one at that. In 1903 the Duluth News-Tribune ran a caricature of McGilvray dressed in plaids, donning an oversized tam-o’-shanter cap, and ready to launch a curling stone; beneath the drawing was a limerick:
Here’s Thomas McGilvray, you see.
As a skip he’s a winner, B-gee!
When he starts in to curl
The game goes with a whirl.
His opponents are all up a tree.
With the bridge operating apparently perfectly by 1907, its history became one of maintenance and incidents surrounding it and the canal it crossed. In November 1908 another great storm hit the western tip of Lake Superior, causing lake waters to roll so high bridge operations had to be suspended for the first time since the Mataafa Storm: the paper reported that “the car cannot cross the canal without being struck by waves.” Considering that the bridge rested fifteen feet above the canal’s waters, waves had to have been at least that high. Water easily crested over the canal’s piers; a few old-timers said it was the highest they’d seen since the construction of the “ditch”—higher than the Mataafa Storm. After a couple of rather rough crossings, the bridge operator phoned the Board of Public Works, saying that the bridge could be damaged; certainly its electric motors, mounted beneath the car, would short out because of the water. Councilors must have finally heeded McGilvray’s request for a telephone.
The paper noted that the car had been tied up “on the Duluth side.” Of course, both sides of the canal were in Duluth, but the report illustrates how even eighteen years after Park Point returned as part of Duluth, the two communities had not finished melding together in the minds of their citizens. Not all Park Pointers took the event in stride. The Board had difficulties arranging for a temporary ferry to make crossings. Eventually the tug Pacific was called on to act as ferry, but before that had been arranged the Board of Public Works had received an earful from angry Park Pointers. Many used their telephones to let the Board know their disgruntled state. The paper reported about one particularly angry Park Pointer who scoffed at the idea that the bridge would be unsafe in the gale and “yelled over the phone that the Board ought to get a couple of four-year-old children to run the ferry if they were afraid to do it themselves.” The Board retorted that the caller would certainly get the job himself if he were to apply. The newspaper also mentioned that a woman called the paper to report that the aerial bridge’s car had been “swept away and that it was riding the waves out in the middle of the lake.” She was mistaken.
Temporary ferry service such as that provided by the Pacific was employed every twelve to eighteen months when bridge operators overhauled the structure. In the bridge’s first few years, its arguably relaxed schedule allowed operators twenty minutes between trips to perform any maintenance, and with redundant equipment at hand, broken parts could be quickly swapped out and repaired at another time rather than shut the bridge down to repair the parts in place.
The Transfer Bridge in Mid Life
By 1910 the ferry made seventy-five round trips a day during operating hours, and the time between trips no longer allowed on-the-fly maintenance. Starting that year, overhauls were made annually and lasted ten days.
Except for the time when his colleague William Patton filled the role from 1900–1904, Thomas McGilvray had served as Duluth’s City Engineer since 1897. But at the end of 1912, he stepped away from public office. He may have been uncomfortable with a big change to Duluth’s government: the shift from an alderman-based Common Council to a commissioner-based City Council. Commissioners represented the city departments: Finance, Public Works, Public Safety, Public Utilities; the mayor acted as the Public Affairs Commissioner. (The city switched to its present Mayor/City Council form of government in 1956.) Perhaps McGilvray didn’t like the idea of answering to an elected public works commissioner. At his retirement reception McGilvray’s fellow city engineers presented him with a Masonic emblem, and the paper reported McGilvray delivered a “neat speech.” In 1913 he rejoined Patton at his Duluth Engineering Company, where he would work until 1917 before going into private practice. McGilvray unsuccessfully ran for County Surveyor in 1918. His loss may have been due to a little bad press a few months before the election. In May, he and two companions were charged for drunkenness and disorderly conduct, and the Temperance movement was in full swing; Prohibition would go into effect the next year. The newspaper account of his arrest did not elaborate on the events surrounding it.
An incident in 1913 displayed just how disruptive a bridge closing could be—especially an unexpected one. At about 1 p.m. on September 4, as the ferry car approached the north pier with a load of passengers—no teams or automobiles were aboard—a frayed cable snapped, and the car ground to a halt. The car had not reached the end of its journey, so passengers had to descend by ladder. Captain E. D. Peck of the Corps of Engineers immediately provided the use of a government launch to ferry passengers until the city could secure the services of a steam launch.
The Plowboy eventually took over the job, but its cargo was limited to people. Dozens of wagons, teams, and autos were stranded on Minnesota Point until workers could complete repairs, which took two weeks as the city decided it might as well put the bridge through its annual maintenance at the same time.
Another great storm stopped bridge operation on April 28, 1914. Incoming boats were forced to turn back and ride out the storm on the open lake—the waters were too rough to navigate the canal. The newspaper reported that hundreds of people armed with “cameras and Kodaks” headed to the canal to watch and take photos of the storm, but most were forced to seek shelter in the Corps of Engineers’ building and the moored aerial bridge ferry car. Twenty-five Park Point residents spent the night in the ferry car; others were forced to find rooms in hotels.
At least one man didn’t think conditions on the canal posed that great a danger. Twenty-four-year old laborer Sivo “Stans” Sanden, a resident of the Torvilla Hotel a few blocks north of the canal, bet a companion one dollar that he could walk the North Pier from end to end. Setting out from beneath the aerial bridge, Sanden darted from one light post to the next, hiding behind the posts as the waves crested and running to the next before another breached the canal. About halfway through his adventure, bridge operators saw Sanden hesitate long enough to throw off his timing. When the next wave hit, it swept him over the pier and into the canal’s roiling waters. He may have hit his head along the way: witnesses said he made no attempt to swim to safety. Police and members of the life-saving station arrived quickly, having been notified by bridge operators using the ferry car’s telephone. None of the would-be rescuers could locate his body.
By the summer of 1917 city officials were once again wondering how long the bridge could keep up with demand. Mayor C. R. Magney and Finance Commissioner Phillip G. Phillips of the City Council reminded citizens that the bridge’s estimated life was twenty years, and that it would reach that mark in just six years. They dismissed the idea of replacing the bridge with a larger structure of the same kind; a recent carnival on Minnesota Point forced the bridge to transport thirty-two thousand spectators, which it did with some difficulty, proving that a ferry bridge could never handle the expected traffic in the years ahead. Only a tunnel would both handle the estimated traffic needs and be allowed by the Corps of Engineers, which controlled the canal, and a tunnel would take about the same amount of time to build. Despite the clamor Phillips and Magney created, the tunnel idea died.
The next year marked the first tragedy to occur on the bridge, the accidental death of Duluth pioneer and bridge operator Thomas White. On December 19, 1918, White—substituting for vacationing bridge supervisor Leonard Green—climbed to the top of the bridge to perform maintenance, mostly oiling the trucks and pulleys. No one witnessed how the accident occurred, but as the ferry car left the South Pier and headed across, White was somehow pulled into a pulley, crushing his chest. Some passengers waiting to board heard White scream, but the sound of the ferry in motion prevented the operator from immediately hearing his cries. It took a firefighter and two bridge operators quite some time to free White from the bridgeworks and lower him down by ropes, and he died just minutes after reaching the hospital.
While maintaining the bridge had proved deadly to White, not a single accident involving the ferry bridge resulted in the death of a passenger. In her book, This is Duluth, Dora May McDonald noted only two accidents, both involving the approaches to the ferry car. In one, a driver of a team carrying beer drove his horses right off the approach and into the canal; a 1956 article in the Duluth News-Tribune claimed it had been a laundry team, not a brewery team, and added that the horses drowned (if it was indeed a brewery team, it likely belonged to Van Blatz Brewery of Milwaukee, which operated a distribution warehouse on Park Point). In the other incident, DM&N Chief Engineer H. L. Dresser drove his car off the approach. McDonald reported that James Ten Eyck, the Duluth Boat Club’s legendary rowing coach, happened to be waiting for the ferry when the accident occurred; he removed his pants and dove into the canal, bringing Dresser to safety. Still another tale combines these two accounts into one event, with Dresser’s car forcing the team overboard before following in his car. None of these accounts included a date, however, and searches in newspaper archives for contemporary accounts have turned up nothing.
Another unverified tale turns potential tragedy into humor. The story goes that a young betrothed couple began arguing as they crossed the canal in the ferry car. The disagreement caused the woman great anxiety. Distraught, when she descended the ferry car she immediately ran to the edge of the pier and, in a dramatic effort to end her own life, threw herself into the canal. Her rash act was supposedly foiled by her enormous hoop skirt: when she landed in the canal, instead of sinking to the bottom, she popped up and bobbed like a buoy until rescuers arrived and plucked her to safety.
Not every event surrounding the bridge involved maintenance or potential tragedy. On March 18, 1918, pilot Wilber Larrabee became the first person to pilot an airplane beneath the aerial bridge (others would follow, see “Barnstorming the Bridge” on page 134). Larrabee, of Minneapolis, was in town to perform a “revue” of acrobat flying, with the dive beneath the bridge his headline maneuver. Unfortunately, a follow-up article on Larrabee did not provide any details of the stunt and only reported that it had been accomplished.
1920s: The Beginning of the End
Throughout its life span, the Duluth Aerial Transfer Bridge never had an accident with a vessel navigating the canal—not that there hadn’t been many close calls. Operators liked to say that sometimes the car came so close to a vessel, there would certainly have been a collision “if the boat had been covered with one more coat of paint.” Hyperbole aside, the closest recorded call came November 8, 1921, when the outbound steamer Joshua Rhodes came within fifteen feet of the car. With about fifty passengers aboard—plus a full load of cars, trucks, and coal wagons—trouble with the trucks stopped the ferry car about two-fifths of its way south across the canal as the Rhodes approached. Its operators leaped into action: one rang the emergency signal on the bell—five loud clangs, the Duluth Evening Herald reported—while another climbed atop the ferry car and waved his arms, trying to get the Rhodes ’ captain’s attention. A nearby tug blew its whistle and waited nearby in case it was needed to help push the Rhodes away from the ferry car. Luckily, officers on the Rhodes were paying attention and were able to steer the ore boat just in time to allow it to pass safely.
A winter storm in February 1922 illustrates just how important the bridge was to Park Point’s residents. A blizzard had buried the city, turning it into “a labyrinth of tunnels and narrow snow-banked lanes,” according to the Duluth News-Tribune. The Point had been hit hard, with snowbanks as high as trolley cars. To make matters worse, a cable had snapped on the aerial bridge, cutting Park Point off completely. The town’s fire chief, John Randall, worried that a fire on the Point would quickly become a tragedy. “I don’t know what we can do for Park Point,” he told the newspaper. “Unless a snow-shoe volunteer fire-fighting, snow-bucket brigade is organized, people must be extra careful to avoid any possible fires.” Bridge boss Leonard Green explained that the gale had fouled one of the cables, which became caught up in the bridge’s hangers. The problem would take only eight hours to fix, but no work could be done until the weather abated. When the weather cleared and the bridge was repaired, one of its first duties was to transport a National Guard tank to Park Point to help clear snow.
Snowstorms weren’t the only problem facing Park Pointers. With more and more people using the ferry bridge, especially in summer, they were often delayed to and from work. To alleviate the problem, in June 1922 Mayor Samuel Frisbee Snively and Public Works Commissioner James A. “Bert” Ferrell introduced an ordinance to the City Council granting bridge privileges to Park Point residents: they would have precedence over other passengers queuing up for a ride “every other time it crosses from the north to the south side of the ship canal between 5:30 and7 p.m., from June 1 until Oct. 1.” The measure passed, but not without some effort by Washburn, Bailey & Mitchell, the law firm hired to represent Park Point residents.
After the measure had been introduced, City Attorney J. B. Richards gave his opinion: the ordinance violates the state constitution and discriminates against those Duluthians who did not live on Park Point. A. M. C. Washburn, on behalf of Park Point, argued the ordinance was both valid and justified in the entire city’s interest both from a “traffic view and from the viewpoint of public health, safety, and morals.” He added that the measure would stand up to any legal argument against it and if an arrangement with the Duluth Boat Club could be worked out, there should be no problem whatsoever.
But after both attorneys gave their opinions, the Council did not move to take any action, which infuriated Washburn. “Does the mere filing of the city attorney’s opinion automatically dispose of the ordinance?” he objected. “If it does, this council certainly is unique as a legislative body. It strikes me as a cheap way of getting out of learning the constitutionality of such a measure.”
Two commissioners took exception to Washburn’s remarks. Finance Commissioner Leonidas Merritt said that while he sympathized with Park Pointers, he told them he would vote for the ordinance only if the city attorney approved of it—he would not expose the city to endless lawsuits. Public Utilities Commissioner Phillips, under whose jurisdiction the bridge operated, was incensed. “Don’t make any more trouble for me,” he told Snively and Ferrell. “I think that you who are so anxious for this ordinance ought to take over the care of the bridge, I am not going to vote for any kind of ordinance that is going to exclude any taxpayer from the use of the bridge.”
Washburn wasn’t done. He reminded the council that the city attorney’s ruling was “not infallible” and that “Mr. Richards…was for their guidance, not their master.” The ordinance passed, with Merritt and Phillips casting the only “nay” votes.
The next year saw the passing of one of the engineers who helped create the bridge. William Patton, who stood in for McGilvray during Mayor T. W. Hugo’s 1900–1904 administration, died on November 30 at age sixty-three. Besides being instrumental in the aerial bridge’s construction and the president of the Duluth Engineering Company, Patton had been a very active Mason. He was one of four charter members of the King Solomon Temple of England—the other three were former presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and General Thomas J. Shryock, a lumberman and one-time treasurer of Maryland. Patton was a past master of Duluth’s Palestine Lodge No. 79 and in 1910 the grand master of the Minnesota Grand Lodge. At his death he was considered “one of the leading Masons in the world.”
The bridge Patton helped build was also nearing the end of its life. Even with privileges in place for Park Point residents, the bridge simply could not keep up with the needs of the city—on either side of the canal. In 1901, when the transfer bridge idea was still an idea, just shy of 53,000 people lived in town and only one of them, B. E. Baker, owned an automobile (a single cylinder Oldsmobile runabout, although J. R. Zweifel also claimed his Locomobile steamer got there first). In 1925, the population was closing in on 100,000 and 17,340 automobiles and 2,600 trucks drove Duluth’s streets. The bridge had in part created the growth that was rendering it obsolete: with a convenient mode of conveyance across the canal, Park Point and the entire southern portion of Minnesota Point had opened to more full-time residents and businesses, and it continued its role as “Duluth’s Playground.” With more and more of the people living, working, and playing on the Point—and getting to and from the isthmus on automobiles—soon there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day for the bridge to move everyone who needed to use it.
And as it neared the end of its estimated life, city officials began to join Park Pointers in expressing their concern. In May 1925 Public Utilities Commissioner Phillips asked the City Council to take the responsibility of maintaining the bridge out of his hands. The meeting was not focused on the bridge, but on parks improvements, something very dear to Mayor S. F. Snively, who donated his own time and money to build Seven Bridges Road and complete Skyline Parkway. Phillips objected to Snively’s idea that gravel used to help build a link between the Fond du Lac Road and Jay Cooke State Park be paid for with bond money. “I don’t like that,” Phillips told the Mayor. “What are we going to do in the future when we are faced with real bond issues, if we load ourselves down with bonds now?”
Snively replied, “Always afraid of the future….”
“I have a right to be,” Phillips retorted. “What are we going to do in the future when the aerial bridge is declared unsafe? What will you do, if you are mayor a few years from now, and I ask you and the rest of the council to take responsibility for the bridge?”
No one replied. When asked by a reporter if the bridge was in any immediate danger, he simply replied that, “It is over twenty years old and can’t be expected to last forever,” before explaining that the future he was concerned with included an expense of $4,000,000 to replace the bridge with a tunnel. Not everything about the bridge’s final years involved lawyers and City Council decisions. In July 1926 J. C. Craig sought to thrill Duluthians by diving from atop the bridge, 186 feet into the canal below. Craig’s jump, sanctioned by Mayor Snively and other city officials, was intended to break the record of 133 feet set by Steve Brodie when he launched himself off the Brooklyn Bridge. Craig considered Brodie a “piker,” a derogatory term in vogue at the time meaning cheapskate or a person who does things in a small way. The thirty-three-year-old Craig fancied himself no piker; indeed, the paper reported he’d been “making eyes at death so long he has earned the nickname of ‘Daredevil.’” Craig announced he would not only leap from the top of the bridge, but also blindfold himself and walk across the beam backward and forward until he was ready to jump.
Craig did beat Brodie’s record, but not by as much as he’d hoped. High winds made it impossible for him to reach the very top of the bridge, and he had to jump from a beam on the lower edge of the span, reducing the jump to 140 feet. But as promised he put on the blindfold, walked forward and backward, hung from his toes, and basically “frolicked about” as the newspaper reported. After his successful jump, he ended up chilled to the bone (he called the canal’s waters “the coldest current in the world”) and battered—but his body was not as bruised as his ego. Despite drawing a crowd of about ten thousand onlookers, passing the hat brought him only $65.
While the Aerial Transfer Bridge was largely known for the traffic jams it caused during its final few years, it also continued to serve Duluth as a tourist attraction and provided many memories. One man even claims to have been born on the bridge’s ferry car. In 2005 Richard Sundberg told a local reporter that his parents, Albert and Rose, were caught in a stalled ferry car during the stormy night of September 6, 1927, while rushing to the hospital from their home on Park Point. Sundberg couldn’t wait to get to the other side and came into the world “right there on the bucket of the bridge.” But the newspapers failed to report any such birth on the bridge at the time, and some lifelong Park Pointers—those with “sand in their blood”—also have no recollection of the event. Maggie McGillis, born on the Point in 1922, said she heard no such tale growing up, but knew Sundberg to be “always kind of a smarty. He may have made this up.”
Another likely apocryphal tale is of a woman who was not born on the bridge, but conceived there. Her parents named her “Aerial,” the tale goes. Of course, there is no record of such an event ever taking place on the bridge. When you consider that the ferry took about a minute to cross and was usually quite crowded and always had an operator on board, her parents would have pulled off a remarkable feat (although her father may not have wished to brag too loudly). Despite its role as Duluth’s icon, the aerial bridge was fast becoming—like daredevil Craig—nothing more than a novelty. Operating beyond its projected lifespan, the bridge was serving more as a tourist attraction than a practical way of crossing the canal. The next few years would see a movement toward the building of a replacement bridge, but just as building the first aerial bridge was fraught with obstacles, it would be a bumpy ride before anyone crossed the canal on a new bridge.
The Ferry Bridge’s Final Crossing
Word of the famous span’s imminent demise spread fast: by March 10 a film crew from Fox Studios had arrived to take footage of the Duluth Aerial Transfer Bridge before it passed into history.
Work on the bridge did indeed begin before April 1. On Monday, March 25, KCBC went to work under the direction of chief engineer O. A. Zimmerman and superintendent of construction Thomas Weathers. The company’s first task was to excavate the old foundations and lay new ones strong enough to carry the extra weight of the new bridge. This involved tearing up the approaches, so when the work began, car and wagon service on the bridge ended. Foot traffic continued until July, and to accommodate pedestrians, a “gangplank” ramp was constructed to access the ferry car from the street.
As if to put an exclamation point on the idea that the bridge’s practical life was over, it suffered another breakdown on June 19. The dynamos in the electric motors burned out, possibly due to a lightning strike days earlier. Once again the Corps of Engineers came to the rescue, using a twenty-five-foot motorboat
to ferry passengers across. Repairs were made, but the motors only needed to work eleven more days.
On the morning of July 1, 1929, the aerial transfer bridge crossed the canal for the last time. The Duluth News-Tribune heralded the event with a banner headline, “Noted Aerial Bridge Passes into History”:
With its battered old warning bell tolling, the whistle of the Park Point street car bleating mournful accompaniment and ships tooting, the ferry car of the famous Duluth aerial bridge made the last trip of its career of twenty-four years at 8:45 a.m. today, with city officials, pioneers and a crowd of interested citizens as passengers.
Tears stood in the eyes of James Murray, veteran bridge car operator, selected to pilot it on its last voyage, as he started it back to the mainland from Park Point. After bringing it to its final stop he removed the control lever and stepped slowly from the operator’s cab to the main platform. “It was a good old car and I hate to see her go,” he said to the other veteran operators who were all on hand to make the last trip.
Murray had pulled the lever to start the car’s final journey after Commissioner Chris Evans, who had been instrumental in bringing about the bridge’s conversion, gave the brief command, “Let’s go.” The car passed from the North Pier to the South, paused while the steamer Charles L. Hutchinson navigated the canal as the last craft to pass under the ferry bridge, and then returned to the North Pier. Immediately upon the last passenger’s departure, workers from KCBC climbed aboard and started
dismantling the ferry car, work expected to take several weeks. No account could be located as to what happened to the car or its amenities. One of the benches was rumored to have been taken home by a Park Point resident; today one is on display at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center and another at the St. Louis County Historical Society, which also keeps a broken operator’s handle donated in 2005 by Jack Hicken, son of ferry bridge operator John Hicken.
Murray had been joined on the final trip by fellow operators William Maynard, Urban Nehring, Frank Lampert, and Leonard Green, the first and only superintendent of the aerial transfer bridge. Other dignitaries aboard included Duluth pioneers Richard Thompson, J. D. Campbell, and Henry Van Brunt, who were part of the first test trip in February 1905; city officials Mayor Snively, commissioners Evans and Phillips, and police chief E. H. Barber; Mrs. E. H. Borth, who was the first woman to cross in the ferry bridge back in 1905; and Ann Murray, who reportedly rode the ferry bridge more times than any other person outside of an operator. Many others not named by the newspaper also took the final trip. No reports indicate that either of the bridge’s “fathers,” C. A. P. Turner and Thomas McGilvray, took part in the aerial transfer bridge’s final crossing of the canal.