Lewes swing bridge lifted from canal

Placement at new historical display area completed the following day
February 15, 2022

Story Location:
American Legion Road
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

It only took a crew from Delaware Department of Transportation contractor Digging & Rigging Inc. a few minutes to lift the historic Lewes railroad swing bridge just after 9 a.m., Feb. 15. But it took hours to prepare the bridge and site, and build the huge 900-ton crane used for the lift.

Then it took another two hours for contractor Mid-Atlantic Transport to secure the 102-ton bridge structure to a dual-driver tractor-trailer for transport to its new home at a display site near the end of American Legion Road. The swing bridge’s second lift onto its new foundation took place before 11 a.m., Feb. 16.

The swing bridge has been in place on the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal since 1919.

The route included Gills Neck Road to Kings Highway, onto Freeman Highway and over the bridge to Cape Henlopen Drive, and then Savannah Road to American Legion Road. The journey was completed in less than 40 minutes.

As the swing bridge was moved to its new location, workers on the other side of the canal began to disassemble the crane for its move to the display area.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” said Webb Dulin, who operated the rear section of the trailer. “We actually had the easy part, with most of the hard work done before us. We understand how important this is because of its long history.”

The project to lift the swing bridge was halted Dec. 1 when it was determined the crane in place could not lift the structure. The weight was estimated at 70 tons, when in actuality, the bridge weighs 102.5 tons or 205,000 pounds.

DelDOT then hired contractor Digging & Rigging to bring in a 900-ton, all-terrain crane to lift the bridge.

The 106-year-old swing bridge, one of the last remaining hand-cranked railroad bridges in the country, has not been used for nearly five years. The bridge was deemed unsafe in 2017 and closed after the discovery that scouring around its supports in the canal had dropped the bridge's foundation 7 to 8 inches.

The Lewes Junction Railroad & Bridge Association can be credited with saving the bridge from being scrapped. Through the cooperation of DelDOT, the City of Lewes and the association, a plan was developed to save the bridge and find a location to display it.

According to association members, work still needs to be done to restore bridge parts that were detached prior to the move and to construct a fence around the display area. The association will also provide interpretative signage, benches and landscaping.

The project also includes removal of the embankment on the marsh side of the canal, and construction of a trailhead and fishing area at the end of the trail along the canal side.

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