Museum Memories: Building the Kuskulana Bridge

The crossing of the Kuskulana River was a major challenge to the engineers of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway. This bridge was designed to provide three simply supported steel truss spans. The spans consisted of a 225-foot span across the gorge to cantilever from two 160-foot anchor spans erected on each shore. The steel work rested on four supports and the bottom of the steel work was 240 feet above the river!

Adding to the difficult conditions due to terrain was the fact that this bridge was built in the dead of winter when there were only four and a half hours of daylight and bitter cold temperatures. It meant the workmen had to build houses around the boilers and engines and in order to pipe water and compressed air across the river, the pipes were packed in a 12-inch box filed with hay.

The Kuskulana Bridge was an engineering masterpiece when completed on Jan. 1, 1911.

This photo came from the archives and collections of the Cordova Historical Society, established in 1966.