The Wilbur Bridge carries CSXT over Rondout Creek in Kingston, New York.
The West Shore Railroad was a vital transportation network that connected Weehawken, New Jersey, to Buffalo, New York, with a route extending along the west bank of the Hudson River to Albany. The initial construction of the New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway (NYWS&B) was completed in 1883 following a series of bankruptcies and reorganizations.
Central to the NYWS&B was the bridge over Rondout Creek in Kingston, New York. Construction on the $350,000 began on November 8, 1882, with the first train crossing the new bridge on May 8, 1883. 8 The superstructure was designed and erected by the Clarke, Reeves & Company, a Philadelphia-based subsidiary of the Phoenix Iron Works, 5 8 in accordance to the specifications and directions of Col. Walter Katte, chief engineer of the North River Construction Company and E.L. Corthell, chief engineer, and A. Lucius, engineer in charge of bridges of the NYWS&B. 8
The Rondout Creek viaduct, also known as the Wilbur Bridge for its location next to the Wilbur bluestone shipping docks, was a marvel of engineering at the time. The bridge was equipped with a single double-intersection Pratt through truss (or Whipple) of 163 feet, two triple-intersection Pratt through trusses (or Whipple) of 241 and 264 feet, double-intersection lattice deck spans of 20 feet, 30 feet (×5), 50 feet (×6), and 60 feet, and iron support towers 155 feet high. 2 6 8 9 The total height of the bridge was 195 feet, making it an imposing landmark on the Hudson River.
In November 1885, the New York Central Railroad (NYC) acquired the NYWS&B and reorganized it as the West Shore Railroad. By 1901, the West Shore Railroad had plans to construct a new steel viaduct over Rondout Creek to accommodate the much greater weight of the rolling stock and locomotives 1 and to allow the NYC to use the West Shore alignment for its fast freight and passenger trains. 9 The old bridge was designed only for loads of two 80½-ton consolidation engines followed by a moving load of 2,240 pounds on each track.
The Secretary of War approved the plans for the reconstruction of the Wilbur Bridge in place on January 30, 1902, 4 and the American Bridge Company was awarded a $275,000 contract for the project in February of the same year. 1 Construction on the new Wilbur Bridge began in July 1904 3 and was expected to be completed within a year, with no interruption to traffic during the construction process. However, work was stopped in mid-January 1905 due to foundation work, but steel construction resumed on March 27 and continued until June. The new Wilbur Bridge was finally completed in 1905, featuring a total length of 1,228 feet with a main Parker through truss span over Rondout Creek of 270 feet in length and a height of 155 feet above tidewater. 1 This made the bridge the highest on the line and among the highest in the eastern United States.
During this time, New York City began acquiring land for its water supply system in the Croton River watershed. Railroads were required to install bridges over any inundated areas at their own expense. 5 The railroad decided to salvage the 163-foot Pratt through truss from the Wilbur Bridge and relocate it to serve as Bridge L-158 on the Mahopac Branch of the New York & Harlem Railroad. The only change required was a reduction in span width from 29 to 17 feet. 6 The relocated bridge remained in use until 1960.
Another span was salvaged by Samued D. Coykendall, who moved it further downstream. 7
The NYC became a part of Penn Central in 1968 and was later passed to Conrail in 1976 following the bankruptcy of Penn Central in 1970. In 1999, when Conrail was divided between CSX and Norfolk Southern, the West Shore Railroad, along with most of the former NYC lines, became part of CSX. This marked the end of an era for the West Shore Railroad, which had served the region for over a century as a vital transportation network.
- State: New York
- Route: CSX
- Type: Parker Through Truss
- Status: Active - Railroad
- Total Length: 1,244 feet (1882); 1,227 feet (1905)
- Main Span Length: 264 feet (1882); 270 feet (1905)
- Spans: 163', 241', 20', 30'×5, 50'×6, 60' (1882); 70'×2, 77', 143', 68', 51'×6 (1905)
- Deck Width: 29 feet (1882); 30 feet (1905)
- Total Height: 195 feet (1882); 198 feet (1905)
- Navigational Clearance:
- “New Bridge for West Shore.” New York Tribune, 4 Feb. 1902, p. 3.
- Lossing, Benson John. The Great Wonderlands of Our Republic.” The Countries of the Western World, 1890, p. 122.
- “West Shore Railroad Bridge Near Kingston.” Twenty-Third Annual Report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners of the State of New York 1905, 1906, p. 286.
- “Report to the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army.” Annual Reports of the War Department, 1902, p. 586.
- Smith, Raymond. “Bridge L-158“. New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, 16 May 1978.
- Stott, Peter H. “New York & Mahopac Railroad: Bridge L-I58.” Historic American Engineering Record, 1976.
- “To Move a Big Railroad Bridge.” New York Tribune, 7 Nov. 1902, p. 6.
- “The Rondout Bridge.” Scientific American Supplement, 21 Jun. 1884, pp. 7050-7051.
- “Renewing Bridges on the West Shore.” The Railroad Gazette, 18 Nov. 1904, pp. 560-563.