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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Memphis Suspension Railway
Mississippi River Crossing At Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis Suspension Railway

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 736.4.
• River Elevation: 187 Feet.
• Structure: Pedestrian Bridge And Tram.
• Daily Traffic Count: N/A.
• Bridge Type: Steel Truss.
• Length: 1,700 Feet.
• Width: 17 Feet (Estimated).
• Navigation Channel Width: 300 Feet (Wolf Harbor).
• Height Above Water: 80 Feet (Estimated).
• Date Built: Opened 1982.
In 1909, a ship ran aground in the Mississippi River in front of the downtown Memphis riverfront. Over the years, a sandbar formed around the wreck. This sandbar grew into an island and eventually connected to a peninsula along the Wolf River. This peninsula was referred to as Mud Island. The City of Memphis started to develop the island in the 1980s. The lower end of the island is a park that includes a concert venue and a museum.

To provide access to Mud Island, the city designed and built a monorail system. The monorail consists of two Swiss built tram cars suspended on a single rail under a 1/3-mile long truss bridge. The cars are connected by a cable. The cable is driven at 7 miles per hour to pull the cars from end to end. Both cars move at the same time and pass each other at the center of the crossing.

The monorail bridge structure also supports a pedestrian walkway. The path runs through the truss structure. While the walkway is open on the sides, it does have a roof. This allows pedestrians to cross from the convention center station on Front Street to the Mississippi River Museum on Mud Island without being rained upon.

The tramway is formally known as the Memphis Suspension Railway, but it is most commonly referred to as the Mud Island Monorail. The walkway opened on June 29, 1981, The tramway did not open until over a year later. It celebrated its grand opening on July 3, 1982. The US Coast Guard required that the monorail have the same clearance over Wolf Harbor as the nearby Hernando De Soto Bridge, which explains why the structure was built 80 feet above the water level.

The Mud Island Monorail was featured in the movie ‘The Firm’ starring Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman. During a foot chase near the climax of the movie, Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) was chased across the bridge and back by a hit-man (Tobin Bell). This excellent movie gets high marks from this author for showing scenes from the Memphis waterfront.

The photo above is the tramway support bridge looking west across the Wolf Harbor river channel towards Mud Island. The photo below is the railway station located on Mud Island near the Mississippi River Museum.

Memphis Suspension Railway
Memphis Suspension Railway
The photo above is the downtown railway station located near the civic center. The photo below is a close view of the tram car parked inside the downtown railway station. The net below the front of the tram was installed after a worker fell to her death when attempting to clean the windows on the front of the tram car.

Memphis Suspension Railway
Memphis Suspension Railway
The photo above is the tramway support bridge looking northeast towards the station near the civic center. The photo below is a close view of the structure above the support pier nearest to the riverfront visitor center.

Memphis Suspension Railway

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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