Fisher Covered Bridge (St. Johnsbury & Lamoille County Railroad)
The Fisher Covered Bridge is a covered double Town Lattice bridge over the Lamoille River in Lamoille County, Vermont. It was constructed in 1908 for the St. Johnsbury & Lamoille County Railroad (SJ&LC).
The Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad (P&O) was chartered on February 11, 1867, conceived as a through route from Portland, Maine west to Ogdensburg, New York along the St. Lawrence River. 1 Construction of the P&O’s Vermont Division began in 1869, extending west from St. Johnsbury. It had also extended a few miles east of St. Johnsbury, to Lunenburg, in 1875.
By 1877, the P&O Vermont Division had reached Swanton, a distance of 96 miles. 1 The railroad, however, declared bankruptcy on October 19 and the goal of reaching the St. Lawrence dwindled. The Vermont Division was reorganized as the St. Johnsbury & Lake Champlain Railroad (StJ&LC) in 1880, which was acquired by the Passumpsic Railroad, a Boston & Maine (B&M) subsidiary. The remainder of the P&O was reorganized as the Portland & Ogdensburg Railway in June 1884, becoming a division of the Maine Central Railroad in August 1888.
The StJ&LC was quite profitable, with freight traffic consisted of commodities, dairy products, forest products, limestone, talc and asbestos. 1 Additionally, the StJ&LC a connection with the Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain Railroad (O&LC) to connect to Ogdensburg along the St. Lawrence River, providing much traffic to the StJ&LC and the P&O.
The O&LC was then acquired by the Rutland Railroad, which used its new subsidiary to route its own freight to Ogdensburg, bypassing the StJ&LC. 1
In 1948, the StJ&LC was reorganized as the St. Johnsbury & Lamoille County Railroad (SJ&LC). 1
By the 1950’s, light gauge rail and covered bridges prevented the SJ&LC from accepting heavier freight cars. Over time, many of the covered bridges were either outright replaced or strengthened so that light diesel locomotives could be replaced by modern diesel locomotives that could pull heavier freight cars.
The Fisher Covered Bridge, at milepost 39, was renovated in 1968 with the addition of steel stringers and a reused deck plate girder to increase the load carrying capacity. The wood truss was retained for decorative purposes only. It was the last operating covered bridge on a railroad.
The state of Vermont purchased the SJ&LC from the B&M in 1973, renaming it as the Lamoille County Railroad (LC). 1 The state began a rebuild of the railroad from 1977 to 1979 that saw new ties, ballast and 100-pound rail laid to replace the aging 56- and 85-pound rail.
By the 1980’s, most of the mines and manufacturing centers along the LC had closed. 1 The state leased the railroad to a private operator in 1989 until all operations ceased in 1994. Severe flooding washed out large sections of track between Wolcott and Hardwick in 1997.
The state of Vermont attempted to revive services in 1998 but legalities and costs, along with a lack of customers, stalled those plans. 1 Finally, the state converted much of the LC corridor into a rail-to-trail beginning in 2002.
In 2001, the Fisher Covered Bridge was renovated into a park by the state.