This bridge is historically noteworthy as part of the historic Pennsylvania Railroad. However, it is also noteworthy as an increasingly rare example of a highway over railroad plate girder bridge. Railroad over highway plate girder bridges are far more common. This example appears to retain good historic integrity. A result of the overhead electric cable for the railroad line, this bridge has ugly safety barriers added to it.
Information and Findings From Pennsylvania's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
The 4-span, 212'-long bridge, built in 1927 by the Pennsylvania RR, consists of 3 thru girder spans with built-up girders, rolled section floorbeams and concrete jack arch deck, and one steel stringer approach span. The bridge is supported on ashlar abutments with concrete caps. The piers consist of steel bents of built-up columns on concrete pedestals. The bridge, a representative example of its type and design, is historically significant in association with the Philadelphia-Harrisburg division of the PRR Main Line, one of the historically most important and heavily engineered railroad right-of-ways in the state. An important engineering consideration in the development of the line were efforts, especially in the early 20th century, to eliminate hazardous and delay-causing at-grade crossings with local streets and highways. The effort was made imperative when this section of the line was electrified in 1936-38. Due to electrification and the high-volume of rail traffic, the railroad considered grade-crossing eliminations and overhead bridges, such as this 1927 bridge, an essential part of railroad operations on the Philadelphia-Harrisburg division of the Main Line.
Discussion of Surrounding Area
The bridge carries a 2 lane road and 1 sidewalk over 3 electrified tracks of Amtrak and 1 nonelectrified siding track of Conrail on the south side of Downingtown. The line is the former Pennsylvania RR Main Line at the east end of the Downingtown yards. The yards are no longer in use, and Conrail maintains only a siding to serve local industry. At the bridge's northwest quadrant is a late-20th-century housing complex, at its northeast quadrant is a late- 20th-century light industrial building, at its southeast quadrant is an automobile dealership, and at its southwest quadrant a metal tank. The Main Line between Harrisburg and Philadelphia has been determined eligible by PHMC (DOE 9/14/93), based on its historic significance as a major trunk route. The line was electrified in 1936-38 as part of the PRR's electrification project, a major railroad engineering achievement of the 20th century.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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