A history and twelve photos of the trestle bridge
Construction activity for its replacement has already started appearing in satellite images.
|Existing from NYDOT|
|Proposed from NYDOT|
|Satellite, Mar 2019|
The 1875 trestle was built to replace a burned 1852 wooden bridge and then rehabilitated in 1903. The wooden bridge was "the longest and highest wooden bridge in the United States." Plans are to replace the current trestle with a steel arch bridge. NS offered to donate it to the State Park since a lot of people trespass on it now. But the state agency turned it down because they said they could not afford to preserve it. So NS plans to spend $1m to tear it down. So preservation would have cost more than $1m?
|Test Train, photo taken on July 31, 1875, from Bridge Hunter|
The original wrought-iron bridge looks so spindly. Obviously the rebuilds with steel in 1903 and more steel in 1944 were extensive.
|HAER NY,61-PORT,1--2 from Photos from ny1222|
6. Photocopy of 19th century photo of the original bridge, , courtesy of Erie Railway Company - Erie Railway, Buffalo Division, Bridge 361.66, Spanning Genesee River, 0.6 miles west of State Route 436, Portageville, Wyoming County, NY
|Paul Kitchen posted|
Photo taken in Aug 2015. I believe this was the last steam train to cross this trestle in Letchworth State Park NY. Portageville Viaduct. This trestle has since been replaced and torn down. In service 1875-2017.
|Mike Stellpflug posted|
CP 8707 & CSX 687 lead NS train 38T across the Portage Bridge in Letchworth State Park on 3/5/2011.
Forgotten Railways, Roads, and Places shared
Adam Dietrich Here is the new bridge: https://geneseesun.com/a-grand-bridge-fitting-for-the.../ [cars can now be fully loaded and travel at 30mph instead of 10mph.]
|Modjeski and Masters photo from ConstructionEquipmentGuide from posting|
The original wooden trestle.
|John Kucko Digital posted|
This Day [May 6] In History: It was in the early hours of May 6th, 1875 when the old wooden railroad trestle (top image/Nunda Historical Society) at what is now Letchworth State Park caught fire and collapsed into the Genesee River gorge. At the time, the bridge—built in the 1850’s—was considered among the most sensational structures in the world. The fire was believed to have started from sparks from the last Erie Railroad steam train that crossed the Genesee River that night. One theory is that the fire was allowed to occur since the wooden structure was in such disrepair. At any rate, the night watchman on call that evening/early morning never properly put out the sparks from his watering station. William Pryor Letchworth watched from his residence there (the Glen Iris Inn) as the fire burned out of control in those overnight hours, the giant wood structure collapsing into the river. Astoundingly, in less than three months, the iron trestle was built in the same spot.
Carmen J Narde shared
Marty Bernard posted six photos with the comment:
Norfolk Southern's Erie RR High Bridge in Letchworth State Park, Livingston County, New York
The Erie Railroad Company built a wooden trestle bridge over the Genesee River just above the Upper Falls in the mid 1800s. It burned and was replaced by the bridge in my photos in 1875. That bridge has now been replaced.
My photos show a NS crew working on the bridge September 24, 2007.
For more details see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesee_Arch_Bridge
Marty Bernard shared
|John Kucko Digital posted|
That Friday Feeling: Captured this seven years ago today--one of my first train shots at Letchworth State Park. It remains among my favorite captures and serves as a reminder at just how beautiful WNY is. What a sight seeing the trains cross the Genesee River at 240 feet high!
|John Kucko Digital posted|
Morning Glory: As spectacular as an autumn morning can get to begin the day here at Letchworth State Park.
[I do hope that John views these photo copies as advertisements. He also posted a drone video of the bridge with trains crossing it. He also has non-railroad autumn photos. And at the bottom of this page I have links to some of his other bridge photos.]
|Garry Coon commented on John's post|
My favorite pic from the demo of the piers! That was the best view I have ever had in my office! So fortunate to have discovered your work through this historic job! I take a lot more pics! Sitting up on that pier looking down the river is something I will never forget! My favorite drone shot is of Thomas Belford stripping ties of the old bridge!
|Hal Johns commented on a share of John's post|
Here is what it looks like when you are on a train going over the bridge ..
Daniel Snavely provided three photos as comments on a share of John's post.
7/2017 - The two halves of the new Portageville Bridge on the NS Southern Tier Line were joined this week. The new bridge will replace the 1875 trestle and is expected to open next year.
Read more: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portage_Viaduct
Sean Angelo NS wanted to replace that bridge for a while, as it was getting tired. Plus, there was a 10mph on that bridge, which was a dispatching nightmare. The new bridge should be able to allow speeds of 30mph, helping to keep the trains moving through the southern tier.
AltoonaWorks Sean Angelo The few trains there are, anyway.
Sean Angelo 8 trains a day I've been told.
[It also removes the weight restriction of 273,000 pounds. Today's standard is 286,000. [Progressive]]
Construction of the new Portageville Bridge on Norfolk Southern’s Southern Tier rail line in New York reached a milestone over the weekend. Bridge builders installed the last piece of structural steel to connect the arch span. Iron workers attached a pine tree on the steel frame, a tradition that signifies there were no fatalities during this phase of construction.Ken Gentzke Jr The new bridge would allow NS to pull 286,000 lbs max cars over this bridge. Currently they are only able to pull cars around 240,000 lbs max cars. Can't remember the exact amount. These heavier cars went for longer routes.
The $70-million railroad bridge, which spans the Genesee River Gorge in Letchworth State Park near Castile, N.Y., is a public-private partnership among Norfolk Southern, the New York State Department of Transportation, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
Norfolk Southern hopes to begin running trains on the bridge by the end of this year. The bridge will enable the railroad to better serve customers in Buffalo and the state’s Southern Tier region, supporting businesses, job creation, and economic growth.
Joe Stoltz Actually I think the new bridge will handle 315,000 pounds at a speed of 35 mph vs a substantially lower weight rating and 10 mph speed limit it now has.
|Lee Farley commented on Keith's posting|
There's the 150 on the left and 130 on the right
NS Southern Tier Line were joined. The new bridge should be in service early in 2018 I believe.
Walt Lankenau I like how they use cables to counterbalance the partial arches before they're connected.
The project has had its share of engineering challenges. For example, NS needed to blast and remove more than 16,200 cubic yards of weathered and fractured rock from the gorge walls. On the gorge's west side, the contractor needed to use large cranes to remove the rock because there was no vehicular access to the gorge floor.
The Class I faced environmental difficulties, too. The bridge is located in a state park that’s home to two federally endangered animal species: Northern long-eared bats and timber rattlesnakes. The park also is home to bald eagles, a federally protected species.
To reduce construction noise that could disturb a pair of nesting bald eagles, NS adopted a plan to drill bridge foundation piles in lieu of the "more typical method of pounding," Swanson said. The Class I also limited the use of explosives to excavate arch foundations.
Although NS develops an annual budget for bridge work, the railroad typically funds major bridge replacements through a separate line-item budget. NS has provided nearly $60 million for the $72 million Portageville Bridge replacement, while state and local funds will cover the remainder. The project marks the largest public-private development that NS has ever developed for an individual bridge project, Swanson said.
|Norfolk Southern (source)|
At 2:20 p.m. Monday, Norfolk Southern general merchandise train 36T became the first to cross the new Portageville Bridge.
[I sure hope the NS page is permanent because it has a map.]
|Norfolk Southern posted (source)|
At 1:40 a.m. on December 11, 2017, the last train crossed the old Erie-built 1875 Portageville Bridge over the Genesee River Gorge in Portageville, New York. At 6:00 a.m., the track would be taken out of service for 8 hours to be cut over to the newly-built bridge. For more information about Norfolk Southern, visit www.nscorp.com.
[Note that they used the new bridge to hold the lights needed to take a night photo of the last train. It really captured the truss+girder design of the trestle.]
|AB Connections, p. 12 (source)|
[American Bridges has several more photos and a detailed explanation of how this tieback system held the arch halves until they were connected. Erie started with an 800' timber trestle in 1852. But when that burned in May 1875, they replaced it with an iron bridge in three months. In 1903 the spans were replaced with steel girders and pin-connected trusses. But the iron towers served into the 21st Century.]
|Bob Eisthen posted|
Soo Line 6023 at Letchworth Park, New York. June 27, 2004
Reuben Brouse photo
|Norfolk Southern Corp posted|
Portageville Bridge - Norfolk Southern began running trains over the new bridge in December 2017. Learn more: http://bit.ly/2Bbjbl4#infrastructure
David Andrew Wieting Looks like the stone piers remain in the river. The removal of the old bridge really does open up the views of the canyon. New bridge is worthy of inclusion with the famous two track version in NM on the BNSF over the Rio Grande.
|Ted Gregory shared a CANAM Bridges link, which has some more photos|
|RailwayAge's article on the dedication|
The first Norfolk Southern movement across the new bridge occurred in December 2017, following two years of construction. The span it replaced, the Portageville Bridge, can be seen at right. It has since been dismantled, with portions preserved for historical purposes.
|[Screenshot at -2:34]|
Jim Kerins posted
Nickel Plate 765 crossing The Letchworth Trestle in NY State (@ 1:15)
|Patches Croteau shared|
John Kucko Digital
Raging River: The Genesee River roared mightily today at Letchworth SP as a westbound Norfolk Southern freight train passes 235 feet above the action. Thanks to Vertigo Drones for the guidance in flying the Typhoon H Plus.
|Mike Froio shared|
HAER-NY-54-41 Longitudinal view across Genesee River Gorge with new railroad bridge arch above and Portage Viaduct beyond at right, looking northwest. In September of 2018 I returned to do the second part of our HAER survey at the Portageville viaduct Milestone Heritage Consulting. The major difference in this visit was that the replacement bridge was nearing completion and afforded us views previously impossible. This view compares the staggering scale of the structures while showing the challenges of construction in such a beautiful and rugged landscape. The bridge was designed by @modjeskimasters and constructed by @american_bridge for @norfolksouthern
[I could not find this photo on the Library of Congress site.]
|Michael Froio Photography posted|
HAER NY-54-36 Broadside detail view of span 9 deck truss from new railroad bridge showing railing, ties, deck truss and truss support header on the east face of tower E bent 9, with Genesee River Gorge Upper Falls below, looking northeast. In September of 2018 I returned to do the second part of our HAER survey at the Portageville viaduct Milestone Heritage Consulting. The major difference in this visit was that the replacement bridge was nearing completion and afforded us views previously impossible. This view compares the staggering scale of the original structure while showing the challenges of construction in such a beautiful and rugged landscape. The bridge was designed by @modjeskimasters and constructed by @american_bridge for @norfolksouthern
[I'm looking forward to the HAER info being posted.]
Mike Froio shared
Starry Starry Night (including the Milky Way) by John Kucko Digital
NKP 765 smoking, literally, over the trestle
A video of the final train going over the old trestle (source)
JohnKuckoDigital answers several questions along with a photo of a train using the new arch.
RiverRailPhoto also caught the train.
JohnKuckoDigital posted images and explanations of previous bridges
Modjeski and Masters, Inc. photo album (Their 360 views make me appreciate WTTW's 360 views because WTTW is really 360 degrees. These are no more than 180 degrees.)
A video of blowing a span out of the old bridge. Skip to 0:10 or -0:38. (source)
A John Kucko Digital photo of an iron worker cutting off a truss member of the old bridge. He must be using a drone and he caught the waterfall in the background. The mist being thrown up by the fall reminds me that the Northeast has received some heavy rains lately.
John Kucko Digital posted five photos of the inspection truck in operation with the comment:
Trestle Tales: One of the most dangerous jobs around was that of bridge inspection of the 1875 High Bridge at Letchworth SP. This soon to be gone trestle had to be inspected very regularly, meaning folks would be hanging 230-240 feet above the raging waters of the Genesee River and the Upper Falls there. This was always an amazing sight to see as inspectors examined the bridge from stem to stern. I remember one telling me "you just hope the truck arm is working well that day." The new arch has a much safer means of inspection--a secure catwalk that allows for inspection and regular maintenance. "Old Shaky" (what the trestle was referred to by train engineers and conductors) is in its last weeks--built in 3 months, lasting 142 and a half years.
John Kucko Digital posted a photo the "Genesee Arch Bridge" in a dedication ceremony on May 24, 2018. Norfolk Southern's ceremony included stopping a westbound on the bridge for a few minutes.
Six John Kucko photos of both bridges Three of them feature the NKP 765 stem locomotive.