On November 21, 1924, Captain A. R. Morse accidentally steered the 600-foot, 8,000-ton steamer Merton E. Farr into the Interstate Bridge, the only non-railway bridge connecting Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin at the time. A defective steering gear was blamed for the accident.
Damage and Cleanup
The Farr, loaded with 430,0000 bushels of flax, experienced only slight damage to her bow. However, the bridge was heavily damaged.
The next day, the Great Northern Railway, which owned the bridge, put eight barges and a crew of 100 men to work to clear the wreckage and rebuild the bridge, a task estimated to take between a month and 45 days.
An Engineering Challenge
Rebuilding the wrecked bridge span was an interesting engineering challenge, as reported by the Duluth News Tribune:
The eight barges will be sunk to the bottom of the harbor, four on each side of the span, and cross pieces will be placed under the span and to the sunken barges. Then the water will be pumped out of the barges which, rising to the surface, are expected to float the span.
Meanwhile, other plans had to be made to transport people and goods across the bay while the bridge was out.
Several crafts became ferry boats, conveying people, wagons, automobiles, and even streetcars across the bay. Passenger docks were hastily built on Rice's Point at the end of the streetcar line.
The Interstate Bridge
The Interstate Bridge was the vital link between Duluth and Superior until 1929.
The wreck of the Farr was one of several accidents that damaged the bridge over the years.
It highlighted the need for a safer, more reliable crossing that could better accommodate ship traffic on the busy harbor.