Side view of original troll, courtesy of Bill Roan.

The Bay Bridge troll is back among the living after two months in seclusion. On Wednesday, he will begin a four-month gig at the Oakland Museum of California as part of the museum’s “Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay” exhibit. He will be on view through Feb. 26, 2014, at 1000 Oak St.

For Oakland blacksmith Bill Roan, it’s a start, but not the the outcome he has in mind for the little man he hammered out in 1989. He designed and fabricated the 14-inch metal talisman, then gave it to the iron workers who were rebuilding the Bay Bridge after a section collapsed in the Loma Prieta earthquake.

New troll. Photo: Noah Berger, MTC

When the new span of the Bay Bridge was officially opened on Labor Day, Roan’s 14-inch metal troll was among the dignitaries present. After the festivities, however, he was put out to pasture, replaced by a younger man. (The new troll, designed by visiting Colombian artist Freddy Rodriguez, is slimmer than the original troll, stands upright and clutches a sledgehammer.)

At the time, Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler said a search committee would select a permanent home for the original troll. He is quoted as saying the location should be out of direct sunlight, at least partially visible “to those who seek him out” and probably situated within view of the bike and pedestrian path.

Roan would rather see him back on the bridge and is lobbying to get the troll out of prison by getting the governor’s pardon. (See the petition below.)

“I want to thank all its supporters and the people that have signed the petition to the Governor to free the troll from its confinement,” Roan said Monday when the museum exhibit was announced. “I hope Governor Jerry Brown will someday send Caltrans a written pardon to free the troll so that it can roam freely about the New Bay Bridge, joining its fellow ironworkers  maintaining the structure and and keeping us all safe during our daily commute.”

Roan last saw his metal offspring Sept. 2 at the ribbon cutting and wrote this about the experience:

“The strange thing about seeing the troll at the opening bridge ceremony, again after all these years, I have pictures of the troll when it was first put on the bridge, torso bent over, legs flexed and ready to run into danger if another earthquake should arrive at the bridge,” Roan said at the time.

Bill Roan working at the forge circa 1988. Photo courtesy of Bill Roan.

“I distinctly remember measuring the infant troll before it was put on the bridge and it was 14″x14”. Now it has grown into a handsome strapping, 24 year old Union bridge worker. Now at almost 19 inches tall, it is standing tall and straight with all the confidence and cockiness of anyone its age.

“After  the ceremony I was able to talk to James “Fish” Sturgeon about taking the troll down. After cutting off the bolts and grinding the welds, he grabbed the troll to pull it off and he said, ‘It was if it was fighting back, not wanting to go, knowing their was still a bridge to protect. I had to wrestle it off.’

“Another odd thing, when the troll was removed a shadow of the troll was left in its place on the girder. The protective and benevolent magical energy that the troll has been casting on the Bay area commuters and all the bridge workers has etched the trolls image into the steel.

“I am truly humbled  by the admiration and devotion that the bridge workers showed the troll and its creator after the ceremony. The troll is a shining symbol for all the workers that have stood together to build such a magnificent new bridge span. It isn’t about me. It was made for the workers who came together to rebuild the Bay Bridge. They did the work. They baked the cake, and I just put the candle on top.”

Petition to the Governor of California Jerry Brown

We the free and independent citizens of the Great State of California, demand the immediate release of a fellow citizen, known simply as the Old Bay Bridge Troll. Who was unjustly evicted from its home and deprived of its livelihood.

Condemned not by a jury of its peers, but by a hand full of bureaucrats. Who used eminent domain to condemn and then confiscate its property.

Said Bridge Troll, gained all rights to protect the citizens, commuters, Bridge workers and law enforcement officers, lawfully through squatters rights of 1989. This indiscriminate incarceration by Cal Trans at the highest level has deprived the troll of its freedom to roam the New Bridge Span at will, to make repairs as needed and to have free association with its fellow Bridge workers.

We, the undersigned, further demand an immediate accounting of the Old Bay Bridge Troll’s current whereabouts.

Name County and State Country of origin








Mailing address: Governor Jerry Brown, c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814


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