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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Covered Railroad Bridges - Newport, New Hampshire

At first we see what appears to be a covered bridge partly blocked from view by the overgrowth of scrub and trees on the bank of the river it crosses. This end of the bridge meets a dirt road, a recreational trail.

On second glance, there is more to understand. This is a railroad bridge, one of only two covered railroad bridges in the state of New Hampshire. The other is a short way down the road. There are only about eight of them left in all of North America.

These two railway bridges are called the Pier Bridge and Wright’s Bridge across the Sugar River in Newport. I think this one is the Pier Bridge, but I hope someone out there can either confirm that or set me right. We can see it is under renovation. We may assume the portable toilet will not be a permanent part of its restoration design.

The Piers Bridge was built in 1907 by the Boston and Maine Railroad to replace an earlier bridge from the 1870s. It is the longest covered railway bridge in the world. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the citizens of Newport have been working diligently to raise funds to preserve their covered bridges as historic treasures and as examples of their own personal heritage.

That is the emotional pull towards historic treasures we must have to truly value them: a sense of personal pride of heritage when we have them, and a sense of personal loss when we lose them.

Have a look at these two websites for more on the Pier and the Wright’s covered railway bridges.

UPDATE:  Thanks to the correction of one reader who sent me an email on the subject, my remark above that there are only two railroad bridges in New Hampshire is incorrect.  While the Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology  department currently recognizes eight covered railroad bridges in the U.S., among those listed there are indeed more than two in New Hampshire as I had stated.  There appear to be five in their guide.  I'd love to know if there are more that are not on the government's list.  Here is a link to that website:


Tony said...

Hunh, only 8 left! Wonder if the resurgent interest in rail travel will bring with it a resurgent interest in rail-structure building, even a 'retro' trend in bridge design would be nice.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

What a fascinating idea, Tony.

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