Bay Bridge troll has an Alameda twin

Bay Bridge troll has an Alameda twin

Michele Ellson

Photo courtesy of Rigging International.

The Bay Bridge troll has a sibling – whose address is right here in Alameda.

For nearly a quarter century, the second troll has adorned the lobby of Rigging International. But this week the trolls were reunited, when the original joined his sibling in an exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California.

Artist Bill Roan gave the troll to Rigging International, a specialty general contractor that provides heavy lift and transport services and equipment rental, as a gift for repairing the Bay Bridge after it collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. While the original troll was welded to the bridge, its twin was mounted to a bridge girder damaged in the quake and placed in the company’s Marina Village Parkway lobby.

While the troll’s existence was known, most people don’t recognize it when they visit the company, now part of the Sarens Group.

“They ask, they don’t know what it is. It’s kind of a little secret,” said Ken Carrion, now an account executive for the company.

Carrion was the first person on the Bay Bridge after it collapsed, he said, and not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about the darkness that followed the quake, the hundreds of aftershocks he felt as he worked to stabilize the bridge’s collapsed sections, the Marina district on fire in front of him and rescue efforts on the collapsed Cypress Freeway behind.

“Scary, scary, scary,” said Carrion, who was also the project manager who oversaw transport of the Space Shuttle Endeavor from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center last year. “You could hear the pain and the suffering at Cypress, and you could see the demolition and destruction in San Francisco, and you’re in the middle of it. It was quite the experience.”

The Oakland Museum of California wanted the iconic troll to be represented in their exhibit, “Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay,” so the museum’s curators asked Rigging International to borrow theirs; it’s been at the museum since the end of August. Museum director and chief executive officer Lori Fogarty said the museum's staff is "honored" to have both trolls on display.

"We couldn't think of a better temporary home for the twin trolls," said Fogarty, who said the museum is celebrating the "Year of the Bay" with four exhibitions this fall and winter.

Caltrans later agreed to loan the museum the original troll, which wasn’t visible to the public when it was on the bridge; while it’s unclear where the troll will end up, it’ll be on display at the museum through February 26, 2014.

The original troll is viewed by some as a good-luck icon that protected the old East Span of the bridge over the decades it took for the new one to be designed and built. And Carrion said he thinks the troll’s twin has brought good luck to its owners, too.

“Oh yeah,” he said when asked if the troll’s twin had brought luck. “Our company is still going. I’m still employed. We’ve survived all of the economic up and downs of the construction business through the past 20-plus years. Yeah, I think it has.”