Years ago I used to transit beneath the railroad lift
bridge at the Second Narrows, east end of Vancouver Harbor in British Columbia
. We were towing float camps aboard barges up to logging locations on the north coast. Many times the height of logging equipment
on the barge was higher than clearance of the rail bridge. With tides running at over 6 knots on full flood or ebb through the narrows once you were committed with the tow, it was very difficult to change direction or hold position awaiting a bridge opening. I recall
cursing the bridge tender many times when he failed to raise the lift
section after calling him before we left the dock
with the barge in tow. We were always careful to alert the bridge tender before we left the dock
and hooked up the tow as it had to be coordinated with tides as well.
I happened to run into the bridge tender in a pub one evening close by to where the bridge was and he explained his side of the issue. Being a rail bridge, he was guided by the railway needs of incoming and outbound trains, many of them miles long coming into Vancouver with loads of grain from the prairies. Holding a train because a bridge lift was required had to be balanced against keeping the rail track clear upstream and downstream from the bridge. If he stopped a train for the bridge lift, he could block both eastbound and west bound rail traffic because in those days the trains ran on a single
track, unable to pass except several miles east of the bridge.
It brought a whole different perspective on bridge liftings, particularly rail bridges, to me.
Folks out for a pleasure sail who call or request for a lift need to keep in mind there are other factors that bridge tenders are dealing with than getting the sailboat to their marina in time for sundowners or meet some friends. Just sayin' there are more issues to be considered when passing beneath a lift bridge, either road or rail. Cheers, Phil