The lighthouse keepers on the bridge

The Minnesota Department of Transportation released this video last week about one of the more fascinating jobs in the state — the guy who runs the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

Like the lighthouse keepers before them, eventually the last bridges requiring humans to operate them will likely disappear.

  • John O.

    I have always wondered about how the railroad lift bridge that crosses the Mississippi River near Union Depot is operated–and by whom.

    There is some type of enclosure at the top of it, so it is reasonable to assume that *someone* has to climb up to the top of the lift to raise it to allow larger boats to navigate the river.

  • davidz

    Crossings of navigable waterways are usually required to be manned by the entity that crossed the water.

    In the case of the lift bridge in downtown Saint Paul or the swing bridge just a little ways upstream from there, it would be the railroad.

    It’s a RR employee who is assigned to the task. A friend from a number of years back once worked a shift on a bridge in IA for several months. By RR and Coast Guard rules, the working environment was pretty spartan. The RR & navigation radios were always on, and no other radios/tv/etc were permitted. No reading material other than the RR & CG rulebooks were allowed. No visitors were permitted. No sleeping either. Just stay awake and be responsive to calls for the bridge to open.

    It was not his favorite posting, but not the worst he had either.

  • Jamie

    John O: My knowledge is a good 20 or more years old now, but someone at least USED TO work in that little “enclosure” on that bridge. I was actually up there once with a friend who worked there. I was terrified. It was nothing to her to climb up there every day. She worked for a railroad company — don’t remember which one.

  • John O.

    The folks who staffed that bridge probably had some spectacular views, but having a pizza delivered up there would probably have posed a bit of a challenge.