STRUCTURES - ABANDONED AND ACTIVE
Note that this page is image intensive - please be patient.
Bridges, stations, signals, telegraph poles, crossings, roundhouses, etc... all still exist in the area and built to withstand the test of time. The most formidible abandoned structure in the area is the turn bridge (story and picture below) in the Genesee River in Charlotte. This bridge originally served the "Hojack" line which was abandoned in the late 70's. A short distance away is the Charlotte Station which now houses a plumbing business. There's the old Lehigh Valley RR station in downtown Rochester on the river's banks which stands empty. A large iron bridge traversing the Gensee River Gorge near the High Falls once served the soon to be decommissioned RG&E BeeBee plant with coal deliveries. Upstream in Letchworth State Park is the impressive Conrail bridge spanning 800 feet wide and 234 feet high over the Genesee River in Portageville. Below are some pictures that I took recently while picnicing with the ball and chain of the bridge and some nice views from the bridge (yeah yeah... I trespassed - I know).
Charles Woolever has compiled an excellent database of classic railroad stations in New York State, especially the Rochester area.
US Army Corps of Engineers Documentation and Mitigation Planning for Historic Preservation - Hojack Swing Bridge
Large file - 2,700 kb in .PDF format (Adobe Acrobat Reader required - a free download from http://www.adobe.com )
Includes photographs of the control room!!
Alternate download site: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rochester_railfan/files/hojackmitigationplan11_27.pdf
Genesee / Finger Lakes Regional Planning Board Special Studies Series Report
Click here to download a formal study on the Hojack Line from 1971 (large file - 367 kb - ZIP'ed - need a word processor to view - can view in WordPad which comes with Windows 95/98/NT). Great reading with lots of good information on operations of this line in 1971.
This found it's way into my mailbox recently (9/2001):
Our archeological firm has been contracted to develop a mitigation plan for the Hojack Swing Bridge across the Genesee River in Rochester, NY. Part of this plan is contacting interested parties for their input on what measures should be taken to preserve the historical, engineering and architectural values of the bridge. I am sending this preliminary inquiry to you to determine if you would like to contribute to this plan. If you are interested, please contact me by e-mail or through the contact information listed below. I would be very interested in any comments you may have.
We are subconsultants to an engineering firm contracted to the Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District. Our project is to collect information from interested parties and compile it into a comprehensive plan to preserve the historic value of the bridge.
If you would like to have comments included in the report, you can send a letter to me at the address listed below. Your letter or a summary of your comments will be included in the report.
Scott D. Stull
Sr. Historic Archeologist
Hartgen Archeological Associates, Inc.
Please note that the comment period for this project ended some time ago.
Recently, I received an e-mail with some little known history of the turnbridge in Charlotte. I also have a scan of a 1908 postcard of the bridge (see below).
Thanks to Jim Hebner
This double-tracked structure replaced a turnbridge built sometime in 1875 by the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad (a picture of the original bridge is on display at the New York Museum of Transporation in Rush, NY). Since it was a light structure one man with a pole could move the bridge. Shortly after the Rome Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad was formed and replaced the structure with the one you see now in 1905. The RW&O was eventually absorbed by the New York Central.
It is believed that the turning mechanism was steam powered untill the 1950's when either a gas or electric motor was installed. During the time the NYC and Penn Central ran trains over this bridge, it was painted black until around 1977, shortly after Conrail was formed when it was painted the silver/grey color you see today. The bridge served the NYC's Ontario Branch, better known as the Hojack Line - which ran from Niagara Falls to Oswego. The line was abandoned and torn up in the late 1970's after years of declining service and track deterioration. All that remains is a 3 mile section around the Charlotte area to service the RG&E Russell Station in Greece, as well as a ~40 mile segment in Wayne County operated by shortline Ontario Midland Railroad.
It's reported that the bridge was placed out of service around 1993. Markings on the rails and ties at the bridge landings show that they were inspected as recently as 1994. The line running south, known as the Rochester Running Track or simply the BeeBee line, from the bridge to the RG&E BeeBee Station was put out of service in 1994 when Conrail and RG&E decided to no longer maintain the track and bridges as BeeBee station was planning to cease operations in 1999. The trackage was salvaged in 1998. CSX is still responsible for maintaining the bridges for safety reasons.
In the bridge's heyday, the bridge would remain in a closed position across the river to facilitate rail traffic. The bridge would open to allow boat traffic. A fulltime bridge keeper would be stationed there. In later years after through traffic on the Hojack ceased and only local traffic needed to get to the other side of the river, the bridge would remain open to facilitate boat traffic and a bridge operator would drive over, take a rowboat across the Genesee, and operate the bridge to allow local trains to cross.
With a surge control project in the mouth of the Genesee River completed in 1998, plans to develop the Port of Rochester are now underway for commercial and recreational purposes. A fast ferry between Rochester and Toronto is being actively planned.
Currently, there are no plans for the disposition of the bridge. Removal would be costly and complicated, and subject to the US Army Corp's of Engineers, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and other government agency's approval to ensure that the Genesee River and Lake Ontario are not polluted, and that navigation on the Genesee River is not affected.
Here's another website geared towards the preservation of this historic structure - The Bridge Project: http://www.thebridgeproject.com
In 1997, Conrail was ordered by the STB to leave the swing bridge intact until some studies could be performed. Read on...
25511 SERVICE DATE - MAY 8, 1997
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD DECISION
STB Docket No. AB-167 (Sub-No. 1162X)
CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORPORATION--ABANDONMENT
EXEMPTION--IN MONROE COUNTY, NY
Decided: May 2, 1997
Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) filed a notice of exemption under 49 CFR 1152 Subpart F--Exempt Abandonments to abandon approximately 8.50 miles of its line of railroad from approximately milepost 0.10 to approximately milepost 7.20 (Rochester Running Track) and from approximately milepost 92.90 to approximately milepost 94.10 (Ontario Industrial Track) in Monroe County, NY. Notice of the exemption was served and published in the Federal Register on June 20, 1996 (61 FR 31607-08).
By decision served July 22, 1996, the proceeding was reopened at the request of the Board's Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA) and the exemption was made subject to the conditions that Conrail: (1) retain its interest in and take no steps to alter the historic integrity of all sites and structures on the right-of-way that are 50 years old or older until completion of the section 106 process of the National Historic Preservation Act, 16 U.S.C. 470f; and (2) not salvage or dispose of the entire right-of-way until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes its review under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344.
By letter dated October 22, 1996 Conrail requests that the Board remove the conditions imposed in the July 22, 1996 decision so that it may proceed with the abandonment of the line and removal of the track. It submitted letters from the New York State Parks, Recreational and Historic Preservation Agency (SHPO) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The SHPO has expressed concern about the future plans for the historic swing bridge at milepost 94.0, which once connected the two sides of the Genesee River. Also, the Corps advised that it regulates work in the Genesee River (a navigable waterway) under section 10 of the Rivers and Harbor Act of 1899, (33 U.S.C. 403) and that it should be contacted concerning the use of the swing bridge at milepost 94.0 to determine if authorization under section 10 of the Rivers and Harbor Act of 1899 is required. SEA states that, although the issue of documentation remains with respect to the historic swing bridge at milepost 94.0 of the Ontario Industrial Track, it appears that the previously imposed conditions can be modified to the extent necessary to permit Conrail to salvage the track. However, an evaluation of the potential impact of this project on historic resources has not been completed. Therefore, SEA recommends that the conditions imposed in the July 22, 1996 decision be modified as set forth in the ordering paragraph below.
As conditioned, this action will not significantly affect either the quality of the human environment or the conservation of energy resources.
It is ordered:
This proceeding is reopened.
Upon reconsideration, the historic preservation and the salvage conditions previously imposed in the decision served July 22, 1996, are modified to require that Conrail : (1) retain its interest in and take no steps to alter the historic integrity of the swing bridge at milepost 94.0 of the Ontario Industrial Track until completion of the section 106 process of the National Historic Preservation Act, 16 U.S.C. 470f; and (2) consult with the Army Corps of Engineers concerning the change in use of the swing bridge at milepost 94.0.
This decision is effective on its service date.
By the Board, David M. Konschnik, Director, Office of Proceedings.
Vernon A. Williams
FORMER HOJACK LINE TURNBRIDGE IN CHARLOTTE OVER THE GENESEE RIVER
Taken in 1997 - open to allow boat traffic to navigate the Genesee
Three years young in a closed position - From a 1908 post card - thanks to Ken Distefano
Courtesy of Michael Finn - year unknown - taken from east approach
HIGH BRIDGE OVER THE GENESEE IN LETCHWORTH STATE PARK
In Letchworth State Park is the impressive Norfolk Southern bridge spanning 800 feet wide and 234 feet high over the Genesee River in Portageville. This trestle was built in the late 1800's as a replacement for a wooden trestle that was at the time, the largest wooden trestle in the world. The wooden trestle burnt in a spectacular fire in 1875. It was owned by the Erie Railroad, which later became the Erie Lackawanna, Conrail and now Norfolk Southern. Both NS and the Canadian Pacific run trains over the trestle, as well as an occasional Amtrak excursion ride from Buffalo to Corning. The trestle bridges the gorge and the Genesee River. Also below are the remains of the Genesee Valley Canal and the Pennsylvania RR's Rochester Branch. Because of the sharp turns on the approaches to the bridge, and high winds, the bridge has a posted speed limit of 10 MPH Although the public is technically not allowed on it, there are no trespassing signs, the railroad and park seem to tolerate it. It's not uncommon to see a good deal of people on the bridge taking in the awesome view of the river gorge on a nice day. There are walkways on either side of the tracks. -- Thanks to Charles Woolever for the historical information.
Norfolk Southern is planning on replacing this structure with a new one a little to the south. Plans call for the existing bridge to be transferred to the New York State Department of Recreation Parks and Historical Preservation so hikers and park goers can access both sides of the park.
RAILROAD HATING ex-BALL-&-CHAIN RELUCTANTLY POSING IN FRONT
OF THE PORTAGEVILLE BRIDGE AT LETCHWORTH STATE PARK
VIEW OF THE FALLS FROM THE PORTAGEVILLE BRIDGE
A RECENT FALL SHOT
LOOKING DOWN FROM THE PORTAGEVILLE BRIDGE
PARK VISITORS CHECKING OUT THE VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
Of course, no one listens:
VIEW FROM THE AIR
POSTCARD OF ORIGINAL WOODEN BRIDGE
A picture of the original wood Portage bridge is on display
at the New York Museum of Transporation in Rush, NY.
Hits since 11/18/99
Copyright 2001 by Les Wilson - all rights reserved