Blackledge River Railroad Bridge
Blackledge River Railroad Bridge
|Location||Former Air Line RR right-of-way and the Blackledge River, Colchester, Connecticut|
|Area||less than one acre|
|NRHP reference #||86002109|
|Added to NRHP||July 31, 1986|
The Blackledge River Railroad Bridge is a Warren truss bridge that was built on the site of a c. 1870 railroad bridge. The original bridge was completed and opened by August 3, 1877. Likely built by the Colchester Railway Company, the bridge was part of the 3.59 miles (5.78 km) of track from Colchester, Connecticut, to Turnerville (now known as Amston, Connecticut). The line was leased to the Boston & New York Air Line Railroad and reported improvement in 1879 and a new 110-foot long (34 m) iron bridge by 1881. The line was leased to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1882. After dominating the region, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad petitioned for changes to the Air Line and the approval came on July 7, 1911.
The historic Blackledge River Railroad Bridge was constructed c. 1912 as an improved version of the previous bridge. The new 108-foot long (33 m) bridge integrated the previous abutments into the design and was elevated a further 5 feet (1.5 m) above the Blackledge River. The railroad bridge was abandoned in the 1960s and sold to the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 1986. The bridge is now located in Airline State Park. By 2007, a wooden pedestrian bridge was built atop the railroad bridge and crosses over the Blackledge River.
According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination, the first bridge was constructed in the early 1870s by the New York and Boston Air Line Railroad. The details on this bridge are largely unknown, but contradictory evidence exists placing the construction of the bridge between 1876 and 1877. According to Marshall, the Air Line Railroad was completed in 1873 and the Colchester branch was completed in 1877.
Organized in 1876, the Colchester line was completed by the Colchester Railway Company. The line operated 3.59 miles of track from Colchester, Connecticut, to Turnerville (now known as Amston, Connecticut) and it opened on August 3, 1877. The line was leased on April 3, 1878 to the Boston & New York Air Line Railroad company for 999 years. In January 1879, the Air Line reported that the Black Ledge bridge had 25,000 yards of earth moved to replace a high piling and 2,500 cubic yards of masonry added in preparation for the installation of a new bridge. In 1881, the Air Line announced the replacement of the Howe truss and the installation of a new 110-foot long (34 m) iron bridge. On October 1, 1882, the line was leased to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad for 99 years. The Air Line reported to the Railroad Commissioners in 1899 that a bridge over Blackledge River was completed. The New York, New Haven and Hartford dominated the region by 1905, having acquiring over three dozen railroads. In 1907, the company sought to improve and modernize the Air Line. On April 17, 1911, the company petitioned the Railroad Commissioners for alterations and changes. The approval for the changes came on July 7, 1911.
The Blackledge River Railroad Bridge was rebuilt to increase the flood clearance and the load-bearing capacity of the bridge, but its abutments were integrated into the new bridge. Completed c. 1912, the replacement Blackledge River Railroad Bridge is a riveted steel, double-intersection Warren deck truss. The original granite stone abutments which supported the previous bridge was reported to be five feet lower, were integrated with the brownstone abutments of the rebuilt bridge. The bottom chord of the span is 32 feet (9.8 m) above the Blackledge River. The truss is 108 feet (33 m) long and about 18 feet (5.5 m) deep. The top and bottom chords are typical box girders with diagonal members and the deck is open. At some point, the bridge was altered with the addition of a sewer pipe.
The line continued to serve local passenger and freight trains for decades, but flooding in August 1955 destroyed the critical bridge work in Putnam and lead to its closure in the 1960s. Several years after its abandonment the railroad was sold to Connecticut's Department of Transportation. By 1983, the abandoned railroad bridge had its span sealed off and its tracks lifted. The bridge is in the Salmon River State Forest and is a part of the Air Line State Park Trail. A new wooden bridge allows transportation over the Blackledge River. Constructed prior to 2007, the new wooden bridge decks the railroad bridge. The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection was assisted by the Coast Guard Academy and the 192nd Engineering Battalion of the Connecticut National Guard.
The National Register of Historic Places nomination lists the Blackledge River Railroad Bridge under both criteria A and C. Criterion A requires the property must make a contribution to the major pattern of American history, and criterion C concerns the distinctive characteristics of the building by its architecture and construction. The basis for its criterion A, is that it was part of a major improvement to the engineering and lines under the operation of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The bridge was listed under criterion C as "a representative example of the typical medium-length railroad bridge of the early 20th century." The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 1986.
- List of bridges documented by the Historic American Engineering Record in Connecticut
- List of bridges on the National Register of Historic Places in Connecticut
- National Register of Historic Places listings in New London County, Connecticut
- National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Clouette, Bruce & Roth, Matthew (1986). National Register of Historic Places - Blackledge River Railroad Bridge. National Park Service.
- Marshall, Benjamin Tinkham (1922). A Modern History of New London County, Connecticut, Volume 1. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 181. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
- 39th Annual Report of the Railroad Commissioners. Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company. 1891.
- Blakeslee, Philip. "A Brief History Lines West Of The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Co". Retrieved 31 March 2014.
- 26th Annual Report of the Railroad Commissioners. Connecticut Railroad Commission. 1879.
- 28th Annual Report of the Railroad Commissioners. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
- 47th Annual Report of the Railroad Commissioners of the State of Connecticut. Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company. 1900. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
- 59th Annual Report of the Railroad Commissioners. Connecticut Railroad Commission. 1911. p. 16.
- Double Intersection Warren Truss Bridge, Spanning Blackledge River, Colchester, New London County, CT: 15 photos, and 3 data pages, at Historic American Engineering Record. 1983.
- "Air Line State Park Trail". Connecticut Department of Enery & Environmental Protection. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
- Bernard, Chris (2010). New England Biking: More Than 100 of the Best Rides for Road, Mountain, and Cyclocross Biking. Avalon Travel. p. 412.
- Marteka, Peter (2006). "Rolling Out Connecticut's Air Line" (PDF). Rails to Trails (Fall).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Blackledge River Railroad Bridge.|
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. CT-7, "Double Intersection Warren Truss Bridge, Spanning Blackledge River, Colchester, New London County, CT", 12 photos, 3 data pages, 1 photo caption page