The history of any place—at least any inhabited place—is tied to transportation, and Ballard is no exception. Ballard’s location bordering Puget Sound and Salmon Bay means that water, and traveling in it and over it, have played an integral role in Ballard’s growth and development.
Here’s a look at a particular Ballard transportation link: the Salmon Bay Bascule Train Bridge. This bridge was built in 1914 and remains in regular use today. Visible from the Locks as well as other points in Ballard and Magnolia, the train bridge connects the two neighborhoods and opens regularly for the passage of boats underneath. When closed it permits trains to cross over Salmon Bay on its two tracks.
A bascule bridge balances its opening span with counterweights that allow the bridge to open and close quickly, using little energy in the process. The Salmon Bay bridge is a single-leaf version, with just one opening span.
Built by Great Northern Railway and also known as Bridge No. 4, the bridge now carries the tracks of the BNSF Railway. Train enthusiasts can watch for BNSF freight trains, Amtrak passenger trains and Sounder commuter trains crossing the bridge. In between passing trains, the bridge span rises for boat traffic to and from the Locks.
A 1914 photo (above) from the Ballard Historical Society’s photo archives shows the bridge the year it was completed. In this view looking east from Magnolia, a train can be seen traveling north to south across the bridge.
A more recent photo (right) from the bridge’s Facebook page looks west from Magnolia. Orange BNSF engines can be seen heading north across the bridge toward Ballard.