Swing bridge

A swing bridge is a movable bridge that has as its primary structural support a vertical locating pin and support ring, usually at or near to its center of gravity, about which the turning span can then pivot horizontally as shown in the animated illustration to the right. Small swing bridges as found over canals may be pivoted only at one end, opening as would a gate, but require substantial underground structure to support the pivot.

Swing bridge
AncestorTruss bridge, cantilever bridge
RelatedOther moving types: Bascule bridge, drawbridge, jetway, vertical-lift bridge, tilt bridge
DescendantGate-swing bridge – see Puente de la Mujer
CarriesAutomobile, truck, light rail, heavy rail
Span rangeShort
Design effortMedium
Falsework requiredNo

In its closed position, a swing bridge carrying a road or railway over a river or canal, for example, allows traffic to cross. When a water vessel needs to pass the bridge, road traffic is stopped (usually by traffic signals and barriers), and then motors rotate the bridge horizontally about its pivot point. The typical swing bridge will rotate approximately 90 degrees, or one-quarter turn; however, a bridge which intersects the navigation channel at an oblique angle may be built to rotate only 45 degrees, or one-eighth turn, in order to clear the channel.


  • As this type requires no counterweights, the complete weight is significantly reduced as compared to other moveable bridges.
  • Where the channel is wide enough for separate traffic directions on each side, the likelihood of vessel-to-vessel collisions is reduced.
  • The central support is often mounted upon a berm along the axis of the watercourse, intended to protect the bridge from watercraft collisions when it is opened. This artificial island forms an excellent construction area for building the moveable span, as the construction will not impede traffic.


  • In a symmetrical bridge, the central pier forms a hazard to navigation. Asymmetrical bridges may place the pivot near one side of the channel.
  • Where a wide channel is not available, a large portion of the bridge may be over an area that would be easily spanned by other means.
  • A wide channel will be reduced by the center pivot and foundation.
  • When open, the bridge will have to maintain its own weight as a balanced double cantilever, while when closed and in use for traffic, the live loads will be distributed as in a pair of conventional truss bridges, which may require additional stiffness in some members whose loading will be alternately in compression and tension.
  • If struck from the water near the edge of the span, it may rotate enough to cause safety problems (see Big Bayou Canot train disaster).





  • Gladesville Bridge, Sydney. Opened 1881, closed 1964; had a small swing span on the southern end.
  • Pyrmont Bridge, Sydney. Opened 1902. Closed to traffic 1988. Still in use as a pedestrian bridge.
  • Glebe Island Bridge, Sydney. Opened 1903. Tramway defunct. Closed to traffic, 1995; supplanted by Anzac Bridge. Still in existence.
  • Victoria Bridge, Townsville, Queensland. Opened 1889, closed to traffic 1975. Still in use as a foot bridge.
  • Sale Swing Bridge, Sale, Victoria. Opened 1883. Closed to traffic in 2002. Restored to full working order in 2006.
  • Dunalley Bridge, Dunalley, Tasmania. Still in use.


  • Belize City Swing Bridge, Belize City, Belize. Oldest such bridge in Central America and one of the few manually operated swing bridge in world still in operation. (Restored in 2000s)


Bridge Name Waterway Co-ordinates Status Comments
Cambie Street Bridge Connaught Bridge False Creek, Vancouver, British Columbia 49°16′19″N 123°6′54″W Demolished/replaced (1985), formerly vehicle, pedestrian & streetcar traffic Short documentary "Swingspan" tells the history of the bridge and its demolition.
Canso Canal Bridge Canso Canal, Nova Scotia 45°38′50″N 61°24′45″W Still swings, Vehicle/Rail Traffic Links Nova Scotia mainland with Cape Breton Island
CNR Bridge Fraser River, British Columbia 49°11′50″N 122°55′24″W Still swings, Rail Traffic Between Queensborough in New Westminster, British Columbia and the mainland
Derwent Way Bridge Fraser River, British Columbia 49°11′09″N 122°55′55″W Still swings, Vehicle/Rail Traffic Between Queensborough in New Westminster, British Columbia and Annacis Island in Delta, British Columbia
Fredericton Railway Bridge Fredericton, New Brunswick 45°57′25″N 66°37′43″W No longer swings, pedestrian traffic. Constructed in 1887 and opened 1889. Last train on the bridge was on 1996.
Hog's Back Bridge Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Ontario 45°22′11″N 75°41′54″W Still swings, Vehicle Traffic This bridge swings from one end. There is an adjacent fixed bridge over Hog's Back Falls
Iron Bridge Third Welland Canal, Thorold, Ontario 43°08′15″N 79°10′38″W No longer swings, Rail Traffic Carrying the CNR Grimsby Subdivision over the third Welland Canal.
Kaministiquia River Swing Bridge Kaministiquia River, Thunder Bay, Ontario 48°21′31″N 89°17′15″W No longer swings. Road and rail traffic only. Currently closed due to 29 October 2013 fire[1] Built in 1908 by Grand Trunk Railway; currently owned by the CNR
Little Current Swing Bridge North Channel, Little Current, Ontario 45°58′48″N 81°54′50″W Still swings, Vehicle Traffic (formerly rail) Built by Algoma Eastern Railway, 1913
Montrose Swing Bridge Welland River, Niagara Falls, Ontario 43°02′45″N 79°07′11″W No longer swings, Rail Traffic Formerly Canada Southern Railway, now CPR
Moray Bridge Middle Arm of the Fraser River, Richmond, British Columbia 49°11′30″N 123°08′13″W Still swings; Eastbound Vehicle Traffic Connects Sea Island, Richmond, BC (location of Vancouver International Airport) to Lulu Island, Richmond, BC
New Westminster Bridge Fraser River, British Columbia 49°12′29″N 122°53′38″W Still swings, Rail Traffic, formerly had 2nd deck for vehicles Between New Westminster and Surrey.
Pitt River Bridge Pitt River, British Columbia 49°14′52″N 122°43′44″W No longer swings, Vehicle Traffic Twin side-by-side bridges connecting Port Coquitlam, British Columbia to Pitt Meadows, British Columbia
Pitt River Railway Bridge Pitt River, British Columbia 49°14′42″N 122°44′01″W Still swings – Rail Traffic (Please Contribute)
Wasauksing (Rose Point) Swing Bridge South Channel, Georgian Bay, near Parry Sound, Ontario 45°18′54″N 80°2′40″W Still swings, Vehicle Traffic (formerly rail) Links Wasauksing First Nation (Parry Island) to the mainland at Rose Point
Welland Canal, Bridge 15 Welland Recreational Waterway, Welland, Ontario 42°58′37″N 79°15′21″W No longer swings, Rail Traffic Built by Canada Southern Railway, ca. 1910. Now operated by Trillium Railway
Welland Canal, Bridge 20 Approach Span 2nd and 3rd Welland Canal, Port Colborne, Ontario 42°53′14″N 79°14′58″W No longer swings, Abandoned (formerly rail) Abandoned 1998 when adjacent Vertical lift bridge was dismantled.
Bergen Cut-off Bridge Red River, Winnipeg, Manitoba 49°56′49″N 97°5′53″W Centre span permanently in open position, allowing unrestricted river traffic Decommissioned CPR railway bridge (last used in 1946)
Superstructure built by Dominion Bridge Co. 1913–1914



  • Le pont tournant rue Dieu, across the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris, is a distinctive location in the 1938 film Hôtel du Nord, and is featured in the opening shot of the film.



  • Garden Reach Road Swing Bridge, for Calcutta Port, Kidderpore, Kolkata
  • Poira-Corjuem Bridge, for GSIDC, Corjuem, Goa by Rajdeep Buildcon Pvt. Ltd.



  • Ponte Girevole, Taranto (built in 1958, after an 1887 one of similar design but using different materials) – a very unusual type, with two spans that separate at the bridge's center and pivot sideways from the bridge's outer ends.[2][3]


  • Kalpaka Tilts, Liepāja, connecting the city with the former Russian/Soviet port Karosta.


  • Chain Bridge, Klaipeda. Built in 1855 and still working today, this is the only swing bridge in Lithuania. When the bridge is turned, boats and yachts can enter the Castle port. Rotation of the bridge is manual; two people can rotate the bridge.

The Netherlands

The "Abtsewoudsebrug" in Delft, close to the Technische Universiteit Delft, is a bridge of this type. 52°0′5.71″N 4°21′50.10″E

There's another one on the channel between Ghent (Belgium) and Terneuzen (The Netherlands) at Sas Van Gent.[4]

Many inner cities have swing bridges, since these require less street space than other types of bridges.

New Zealand

(A "swing bridge" in New Zealand refers to a flexible walking track bridge which "swings" as you walk across.)[5]



  • A swing bridge at the Giżycko is one of four bridges that cross over the Luczanski Channel. It is one of ten (four still in operation) swing bridges in Poland.


United Kingdom

In the UK, there is a legal definition in current statute as to what is, or is not a 'swing bridge'[7]

United States

The largest double swing-span bridge in the United States is the 3,250 feet (990 m) long, 450 feet (140 m) navigable span, 60 feet (18 m) clearance George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge.[9]

Omaha NE Turn Style Bridge is now a historical landmark. Located 86H674H5+98 Used for rail transport. Connecting Council Bluffs, Iowa to downtown Omaha, Nebraska


  • Carmelo Bridge. Built in 1912 is the oldest swing bridge in all of Latin America.
  • Barra del Santa Lucia Bridge. Built in 1925 as a railway bridge, today is used only by pedestrians.


See also


  1. "Burned bridge fate in CN's hands, officials say". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 31 October 2013. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  2. "Photograph of the Ponte Girevole (Taranto, Italy) while fully open" (JPG). Cityofart.net. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  3. "Apertura Ponte Girevole Taranto". 16 April 2008. Archived from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016 via YouTube.
  4. "Draaibrug over het kanaal Gent-Terneuzen bij Sas van Gent". Beeldbank Zeeland Seaports. 1 August 1977. Archived from the original on 17 February 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  5. Walkway swingbridge manual / prepared and finalised by S. Chiet ... [et al.] Published by : New Zealand Forest Service, Wellington [N.Z.] : 1986.
  6. "History". Kyivdiprotrans Institute. Archived from the original on 30 December 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  7. Highways Act 1980. London: HMSO. 1980.
  8. "Shotton Steelworks – general scenes". Archived from the original on 11 January 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  9. "BUILDING BIG: Databank: George P. Coleman Bridge". Pbs.org. 13 May 1995. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  10. Wood Wortman, Sharon; Wortman, Ed (2006). The Portland Bridge Book (3rd Edition). Urban Adventure Press. pp. 119–120. ISBN 0-9787365-1-6.
  11. "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  12. "Photo: UP 8007 Union Pacific EMD SD9043MAC at Clinton, Iowa by Eric Salter". Railpictures.net. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  13. "Photo: UP 3806 Union Pacific EMD SD70M at Clinton, Iowa by Eric Salter". Railpictures.net. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  14. "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  15. "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  16. "Historic Fort Denaud Swing Span Bridge, History of the Fort Denaud Bridge The Fort Denaud Bride is a vital link between residents and agricultural operations on both sides of the Caloosahatchee River". hendryfla.net. Archived from the original on 16 January 2018. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  17. "Bridge: GTW Grand Haven Swing Bridge". Michiganrailroads.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  18. "International Railroad Bridge". Buffaloah.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  19. "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  20. Amtrak Moveable Bridge Smart Card
  21. "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  22. "Photo: NS 9869 Norfolk Southern GE C40-9W (Dash 9-40CW) at Toledo, Ohio by Matt Smith". Railpictures.net. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  23. "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  24. "North Landing Bridge (Mt. Pleasant Rd)". Archived from the original on 16 August 2016.
  25. "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  26. "Historic "S" Swing Bridge". visitnc.com. Archived from the original on 26 February 2018. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  27. "West Seattle Connection: World's Only Hydraulically Operated Double-Leaf Concrete Swing Bridge" (PDF). City of Seattle Engineering Department. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  28. "Freight – Q324 Crosses the St. Joseph River on a wonderful may evening – Railroadfan.com Photo Gallery". Railroadfan.com. 9 June 2007. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  29. Leaphart, David (2016). Walt Disney World Railroads Part 3: Yucatan Jewels (1st ed.). Steel Wheel on Steel Rail Studio. pp. 148–149. ISBN 978-1-533-03707-7.
  30. "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
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