4 votes

Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940)


Tacoma Narrows Bridge - 1940 - Opening Day

University of Washington Libraries. Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collection, UW22310z

Photographer Unknown

BH Photo #120046


The construction, opening, and collapse of the bridge

Play video on YouTube

Small Timeline 


February: Legislature authorizes a Tacoma Narrows Bridge.


Nov. 26: Construction begins on the bridge.


May: Two months before completion, workers notice a bounce or "galloping" of the bridge in winds as light as 4 mph. Some chew on lemons to combat nausea.

June: Carpenter Fred Wilde dies of a head injury after falling 12 feet. Days later, a bridge worker falls 190 feet into the water and survives.

July 1: Opening ceremony. Engineers proclaim no danger in the $6.6 million bridge's "bounce." Tolls: 55 cents one-way for car and driver, 10 cents per passenger.

Nov. 7: Just 4 months old, "Galloping Gertie" collapses. In gusts of 42 mph, the roadway at 10 a.m. begins a lateral twisting motion. An hour later, a 600-foot section of road in the western half of the center span breaks free and falls into the water. Minutes later, the rest of the central span falls.


June: The bridge's tear-down and salvage operation is complete. Steel is reused to help relieve shortages during World War II.


Lost suspension bridge over Tacoma Narrows on Primary State Highway 14-A in Tacoma
Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington
Built 1940, collapsed on November 7, 1940
- Clark H. Eldridge (Design Engineer)
- General Construction Co. of Federal Way, Washington (Foundation Contractor)
- Leon Moisseiff of Riga, Latvia (Consulting Engineer)
Wire suspension
Length of largest span: 2,800.0 ft. (0.5 mi.)
Total length: 5,939.0 ft. (1.1 mi.)
Deck width: 39.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places
Also called
Galloping Gertie
First Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+47.26881, -122.55103   (decimal degrees)
47°16'08" N, 122°33'04" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
10/533961/5235134 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Gig Harbor
Inventory numbers
NRHP 92001068 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 37083 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • June 3, 2022: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • April 11, 2020: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • April 7, 2014: Updated by Nathan Holth: Bridge ruins are on National Register.
  • November 26, 2010: New photos from Jacob P. Bernard
  • November 22, 2010: Essay added by Jacob P. Bernard
  • July 30, 2010: New photo from Jacob P. Bernard
  • August 23, 2009: Updated by Anthony Dillon: Name of route at time bridge stood
  • August 5, 2008: Added by Michael Goff

Related Bridges 



Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940)
Posted November 2, 2021, by Melissa Brand-Welch (melissabrandwelch [at] msn [dot] com)

Jason, I completely agree. Everyone should watch the documentary. I watched it with my grandchildren and they loved it too.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940)
Posted November 2, 2021, by Jason Smith (flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com)

This bridge became the focus of a documentary released this year, entitled 700 Feet Down, which looks at the bridge remains which has become a new habitat. It's in the running for the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge Literature and Media. Preview here: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2021/11/02/bri...

Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940)
Posted November 7, 2020, by Jason Smith (flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com)

On this day 80 years ago, Galloping Gertie, the nickname of the first Tacoma Narows crossing, came tumbling down due to a wind storm. A documentary about the event can be found here....... https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/11/07/tit...

Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940)
Posted June 13, 2019, by Clark Vance (cvance [at] dogmail [dot] com)

The videotape "Gertie Gallops Again," prepared by Tacoma Municipal Television for the show "CityScape," includes underwater filming of the present remains. It's in libraries.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940)
Posted April 14, 2017, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

I remember reading something to that effect as well Nathan. Although the towers appeared to be unaffected in the old photos, upon inspection they were found to be compromised.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940)
Posted April 13, 2017, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I would have to read the histories again to confirm my memory, but as I recall the specific reasons the towers were scrapped, were that although they did not collapse, they sustained damage as the cables and deck were torn apart and fell into the river. Imagine all the weight of the deck and girders, plus the tension of the cables as that all ripped apart and fell into the river.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940)
Posted April 13, 2017, by Ed Hollowell (erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com)

I'm kind of surprised that they scraped the towers and cables. I always assumed that the towers, at least were reused.

First Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Posted April 7, 2014, by Nathan Holth

Information about the bridge ruins is attached.

Attachment #1 (application/pdf; 302,022 bytes)

Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Posted August 23, 2009, by Steven Rosenow (srosenow_98 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

A small correction. At the time Gertie stood, Washington State Route 16 was then known as Primary State Highway 14A. WA16 didn't become signed as such until Washington reassigned state highway numbers in a renumbering program that took effect in 1964.

It should be changed in the record for historical accuracy, that it crossed the Narrows at Primary State Highway 14A.

Per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_state_highway_renumbering_...)

Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Posted August 5, 2008, by J.R. Manning (thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

Gallopin' Gertie looked pretty nice on opening day!