I happened to be driving through San Carlos yesterday where I saw the Hiller Aviation Museum and decided to stop in to have a look. I wasn't expecting to find much but I was very surprised to see a collection of Hiller coaxial helicopters. I had previously not known anything about Stanley Hiller and was amazed to discover that at the age of 15, he designed the world's first successful coaxial helicopter, and produced a working model. At 17, he presented his design for the XH-44 "Hiller-Copter" to the U.S. Army in Washington D.C., winning not only their approval, but also a draft deferment during World War II. Immediately thereafter, he established the first helicopter factory on the West Coast at 1930-50 Addison Street in Berkeley, California. On July 4, 1944, he tested the XH-44 at the Memorial Stadium at the University of California in Berkeley where he had been admitted as student at age 15. This initial test was followed by a successful public demonstration on the Marina Green in San Francisco adjacent to the U.S. Army's Crissy Field a few months later.
My fascination with bascule bridges started with a chance encounter in Auckland Harbour with a Scherzer rolling lift bridge, then a coincidental sighting of the same type in Constitution Dock, Hobart. California seems to be the home of the vertical lift bridge so the plan for this week’s Sunday drive was to take the four hour round trip to Sacramento and Rio Vista to see their bascule bridges.
Wow! What a revelation. Sacramento is the capital of California and its port is located at the navigable limit of the Sacramento river. The old port area is the historic centre of the city and houses the history museum, the railway museum a massive paddle steamer converted to a hotel as well as my vertical lift Tower Bridge built in 1894. I started my photographic survey of the bridge on the city side and worked my way towards Raley Field baseball park on the other side. Half way across the bridge I looked down the river and saw another bascule bridge! Ten minutes walk downstream is the historic metal truss “I” Street swing bridge built in 1911. I haven’t been this excited since I don’t know when.
Tower Bridge Vertical Lift Bridge
“I” Street Swing Bridge
“I” Street Bridge swinging open
Rio Vista Vertical Lift Bridge
I should be able to survey the Three Mile Slough Bridge, the Mokelumne Bridge and the Alameda County bridges before I leave California. I’ve also started planning for my bascule bridge world tour when I retire and found that there are almost 40 bascule bridges over the Chicago river. Can’t wait to tell Mrs Tinkerer!
On the way out of town I stopped in on the California Automobile Museum and met yet another happy retiree who volunteers at the museum chatting to people and looking after the car collection.