During the early 1920s, the transshipment of goods to and from Port facilities required a number of shipping options depending on the origination and destination points. During the early 20th century, as it is today, the most efficient transportation option for large quantities of cargo was by train. This was particularly true for shipments to or from locations outside of the harbor area. In the late 19th and early 20th century railroads were the major mode of transportation in the United States. The total miles of U.S. railroad tracks in operation reached its peak of 254,037 miles in 1916. Early on the railroad companies realized that linking harbors to the national railroad system was a profitable venture.
Henry Ford Plant and Badger Ave. Bridge (1936)
During the period following World War I, the Port witnessed an increase in the importation of raw materials. Approximately 98% of the inbound cargo consisted of lumber, which was used to satisfy the explosion in growth of the Los Angeles area. Trains shuttled much of this lumber over the Henry Ford Bridge (the only rail connection to Terminal Island starting in 1934) from receiving companies like the Hammond Lumber Company and the Crescent Wharf & Warehouse Company to destination sites. Crude oil also passed over the bridge on its way from the surrounding California oilfields to East Coast cities and foreign countries. More recently, the bridge carried in and out more diverse products including canned fish, ship parts, military personnel and equipment, raw materials, finished goods, and containers. (see "Port History, Product" for more information on product types).
Click on the image to view an animation
Increases in the numbers of road vehicles transporting goods to and from the Port resulted in the While the area surrounding Cerritos Channel remained largely undeveloped during the earliest part of the 20th century, petroleum products and warships, many of which were launched at nearby construction yards, passed through the Henry Ford Bridge beginning in the 1930s. The twin bascule leaf design of the bridge provided the necessary clearance for many of the passing military and cargo ships. (For more on ship construction yards see Berth 240 pages)
Trains carrying personnel and cargo shared
bridge space with automobiles and trucks also carrying cargo.
Note oil derricks in background
In the mid-to-late1900s, increases in the numbers of road vehicles transporting goods to and from the Port resulted in the installation of three additional highway bridges to Terminal Island. During the World War II period, local officials started a program of bridge construction to aid in the transport of trucks carrying "break-bulk cargo," military equipment, and later trucks carrying standardized containers. The three most recently constructed highway bridges include the Schuyler F. Heim Bridge constructed in 1946; the Vincent Thomas Bridge completed in 1963; and the Gerald Desmond Bridge constructed in 1968. (For more on these bridges, see "Trend" page.) But until 1996 and the construction of the replacement bridge, the Henry Ford Bridge remained the only rail access to and from Terminal Island. (View photos of modern bridges at the port.)