Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Railroad bridges

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 12, 2009

Western New York is full of old railroad bridge abutments, if you don’t know what to look for you could miss these often times beautiful stone piles that are often jutted up against the back road you may be barreling down. I can see these stone piles that once supported railroad trestles from a mile away and they always evoke the same wonderment.

I always think about trains, constantly, when I am driving, I try to pick roads next to abandoned train tracks with the thought that I may come across an old roundtable, or water stop, or maybe an old abandoned bridge with a nice stone arch, quite rare in upstate New York because the stone is brittle, mostly limestone from Syracuse to Buffalo and Limestone crumbles easily, you cant climb the walls of the abandoned quarries of Leroy and Batavia, it just doesn’t work.

Sometimes I stop at these bridge abutments and wonder what the bridge may have looked like, I dream about the passenger trains that used to service every town in America, how the population must have felt when the train “came” to their town. I try to see if the old telegraph poles are left, maybe I can even find some stray insulators lying around?

Often times the bridge supports will have a date, 1924, I seem to recall as being carved out the top of one of these stray stone structures that sits on the side of Route 31 around Lyons or was it Newark? Why was the bridge removed? Did it collapse? Was the line decommissioned and the bridge sold for scrap? Why are the tracks still visible on the elevated earth embankments? Shouldn’t they have been sold for scrap as well?

I especially like when the bridge supports are visible in water, evoking images in my head of a huge bridge. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has some of these as you cross the Susquehanna. What about the bridge supports visible on the Genesee River in Rochester right near the point of High Falls? They are so low and I cannot for the life of me figure out why a bridge would be all the way below the street level? Was there a tunnel? Its all a mystery to me.

Sometimes the stone supports are there and only half the bridge is there like that of the bridge near Avon, New York, just south of the original east west highway known as US highway 20, there is a stone arch bridge which is magnificent, I wish you would check it out sometimes, very impressive, although its hard to figure out where on earth the tracks came from.

Am I the only one fascinated with railroad bridge abutments and supports, that contain no bridge, only the memory of the bridge, for romantics like myself to imagine what was once there.

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