Until Norfolk Southern demolished it, this huge bridge with bents dating to 1875 and 1903 truss spans soared over a valley and a nearby waterfall combining to form a dramatic centerpiece to a park.
This bridge sat on cast iron supports that showed an 1875 date on them. The truss spans were replaced in 1903. As such, it might be more appropriate to consider this a 1903 bridge. However, the 1875 bents were some of the finest surviving examples of pre-1880 metal railroad bridge bents in the country. Often a substructure is not a major part of a bridge's historic significance, but that was an exception with this bridge. In 1875 these bents were a major engineering achievement, and they supported what was then one of the highest bridges in the world.
Taxpayer dollars were taken from the American public and given to Norfolk Southern Corporation (not a government agency) to help them in their quest to demolish and replace this beautiful historic bridge. The loss of this bridge had a devastating effect on the Letchworth State Park, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Given the state of America's public highways and bridges, (and the lack of maintenance and preservation thereof) the use of taxpayer dollars to support private companies is questionable at best. To make matters worse, the state park which surrounds this bridge wanted absolutely nothing to do with an option to preserve this historic bridge next to the replacement railroad bridge and create a signature attraction at the park. Federal taxpayer dollars may have been used to help Norfolk Southern, but using taxpayer dollars to enhance a beautiful public state park apparently was off limits. Alternative funding such as a fee for use of such a pedestrian bridge were also soundly dismissed for unclear reasons. Preserving the bridge for pedestrian use would have saved this unique historic bridge but also would have increased park and railroad safety by giving people a safe place to view the gorge. The historic bridge had a long history of trespassers who would walk on the active railroad tracks to see the spectacular views that can only be had from the bridge. With the historic bridge demolished, now the new railroad bridge will continue to be a target of people trying to get that view.
Above: A rare view of a restored historic steam train crossing the bridge. Photo Credit: Marc Scotti.
View of the bridge from waterfall. Photo Credit: Marc Scotti.
Above: The sun sets at the bridge in one of final days before its demolition, with the completed modern replacement bridge visible. Photo Credit: Marc Scotti.
Above: Historical photo showing bridge with the previous 1875 trusses on it.
This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.
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