A bill authorizing the North Coast Railroad Company to bridge the Columbia was introduced before the U.S, Congress in January 1907 and received quick approval. A party of engineers and surveyors arrived at Wallula, Washington in June 1907 and spent the next year and a half checking locations and sounding the river at every likely crossing between the Columbia’s gap and the mouth of the Snake.
The Puget Sound Bridge & Dredging Company was contracted to build the bridge and pitched its camp in January 1909. The firm of Hurst & Wood began construction of short spurs to link the bridge site with the Northern Pacific’s and the Oregon - Washington Railroad & Navigation Company’s lines at the same time.
The Engineering News praised the completed crossing as, “A remarkable timber bridge of up to date design.... A timber bridge comprising nine 150 foot Howe trusses, one 240 foot swing draw span and nearly 1000 feet of heavy timber trestle. … It is stated that the life of the bridge is estimated at 10 or 12 years. This would seem to be an ultraconservative estimate. … on the Columbia River bridge great attention was paid to the design of joints and in every point of contact of timber on timber an iron plate or casting has been introduced to reduce the possible rotting. While the necessities of traffic may require the replacement of this bridge with steel in the next decade, it does not seem probable that the cost of upkeep or the possibility of failure should bring about its removal for at least twice that time.”
The North Coast Railroad was soon merged with the O-WR&N. That line spent $1,500,000 replacing the wooden structure with six steel camelback trusses, one of them a swing span, and a long series of plate girder spans between 1922 and 1923. The O-W R&N was absorbed by its parent company, the Union Pacific, in 1938. That railroad closed the swing span and replaced the adjoining span to west with a vertical lift drawspan in 1955 in order to accommodate the modern barge traffic which came following completion of McNary Dam the previous year.