The Traveling Bridge

Updated: May 7, 2020

Hi, thank you for checking out our new blog, Folsom Unveiled. My name is Kaitlyn Scott and I’m Folsom Historical Society’s historian. Each week I will be highlighting a different topic related to Folsom’s history that not everyone knows about by diving deeper into a place, event, person or piece in our collection.

Folsom is very proud of its bridges, which is made obvious as the city’s logo features an image of Rainbow Bridge, a bridge that recently passed its 100th anniversary. Rainbow bridge was built to take the place of Folsom’s old steel bridge which itself was built to replace a broken suspension bridge. The steel bridge, now known as either the Truss bridge because of its style or the Walker bridge for a later location, is the star of today’s blog because of its unusual history.

From 1862 to 1892, you could cross the American River by paying a toll at Ecklon’s suspension bridge, at that time called simply “Folsom’s Bridge”. The costs were: foot passenger both ways, 10 cents, team both ways same day, 50 cents and on horseback each way, $1.25. Someone wasn’t happy about this cost and the rumor mill began to spread that the bridge was unsafe, and the county should take it over and stop the toll. After assuring the public that the bridge was indeed safe, the county did take over but on May 7th, 1892 the bridge collapsed, some said because it was old and weak the cables snapped while others insisted that the cables had been cut on purpose.

Ecklon Bridge after the cables snapped in 1892
Ecklon Bridge after the cables snapped in 1892

Folsom was now without a bridge and advertised for a company to build a new one on the same site as Ecklon’s Bridge. The bid was given to the San Francisco Bridge Company for $30,350 with the promise that it would be finished in 90 days. If that sounds too good to be true, you’re right. The contract was made in June and work didn’t begin until the middle of October of 1892, leaving many businesses unable to work as usual and churches to shut down unless water was low enough for people to ford, which is very 1990s Oregon Trail. Obviously, residents were upset. A temporary crossing was later built by the prison and at long last the new steel bridge was completed on February 18th, 1893 and in typical Folsom style, it was celebrated by a party and dance at the New Western Hotel on Sutter Street.

Truss Bridge in the early 1900s, pre Rainbow Bridge

George Trejo fishing in the American River, the Truss Bridge is in the background

For years the Truss bridge had a normal existence but around 1914 Folsom realized that it needed a new bridge to accommodate the growing population with automobiles. The Rainbow Bridge was built and after its completion a few years later, the Truss bridge was abandoned, and its floor torn out to prevent use.

Truss and Rainbow Bridges before the removal

In 1926, the bridge was sold to Japan for $500 and was to be dismantled and shipped over for its adventure abroad, however, there were delays and in 1930, the county bought the bridge back for $250. Later that same year, it was moved to Siskiyou county and stayed there until the 1990s. After over 60 years over the Klamath river, Siskiyou county decided to retire the bridge and once again the Truss Bridge was without a home.

Folsom saw this as a unique opportunity to provide the community with a pedestrian specific bridge and to gain back a piece of its history. In 2000, the bridge was brought back to Folsom in pieces and reassembled on its original 1893 stone abutments, which had fortunately never been moved.

Reinstalling the bridge on original abutments