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January 15, 2024

Vintage Photos of the Marseille Transporter Bridge, Which Was Inaugurated in 1905 and Destroyed in 1944

The Transporter Bridge of Marseille is a huge steel structure which dominated the Vieux-Port for almost 40 years, from 1905 to 1945. On his painting “The Vieux-Port entrance” – which was done shortly before the Bridge was destroyed – Marcel L’Enfant chose to depict only its piers, probably for aesthetic reasons. However, it is a great opportunity to touch on a bit of the history of Marseille!

In 1902, the construction and operation of a transporter bridge over the Vieux-Port of Marseille was concessioned to the french architect Ferdinand Arnodin, for a duration of 75 years. The architect had already built two bridges of this kind. He was to fund this bridge's construction entirely, which cost him the astronomical sum of 1 500 000 gold francs.

Inaugurated in 1905, this building at the leading edge of progress of the time was 242m long and 86m tall. It allowed the crossing of the harbor from one bank to the other without disrupting boat traffic, by means of 10 by 12 meters baskets. The bridge was the pride of the people of Marseille, their own Eiffel Tower. From 1905 to 1940, it recorded more than a million human crossings per year, and up to 60 000 vehicles crossings some years.

Each basket could carry up to 300 people in just 1.5 minute in calm weather, every 8 minutes in both directions. Each of them made more than 250 crossings every day (by way of comparison: a ferry-boat could only make 20).

Closed in 1940 because of the war, the bridge was permanently damaged by German soldiers on August 22, 1944 during the Battle of Marseille. They blew up its North pier to push the building into the harbor, hoping it would block the Allied troops. Le South pier was then blasted by Public Roads employees in September 1945.


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