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A train crosses the Portage Viaduct

The Portage Viaduct (also known as the Portage Bridge, Portageville Viaduct, or Portageville Bridge) is a steel arch railroad bridge over the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park, Livingston County, New York. It is the third bridge at this location: the first bridge burned in 1875 and was replaced by an iron bridge, which lasted until 2017.


Previous bridgesEdit

Old Portage Bridge in 1864
Ruins of the Old Portage Bridge, 1875

The Erie Railroad Company built a wooden trestle bridge over the Genesee River just above the Upper Falls in the mid 1800s. Construction started on July 1, 1851, and the bridge opened on August 16, 1852. At the time, it was the longest and tallest wooden bridge in the world.[1] In the early morning hours of May 6, 1875, the bridge was destroyed in a tremendous fire. The bridge was a total loss, leaving only the concrete bridge abutments.[2]

Upper Falls with train passing Portage viaduct

Immediately after the fire, officials of the Erie Railroad Company moved quickly to replace the wooden bridge with one built of iron and steel. Construction began on June 8, 1875, and the bridge opened for traffic on July 31, 1875. The bridge is 820 feet (250 m) long and 240 feet (73 m) high.[3] This bridge was used until December 10, 2017. Despite the weight restriction, the 400-ton Nickel Plate 765 passed over the bridge with passenger coaches as part of a heritage excursion in August 2015.[4]

Popular local rumor contends that the Portage Bridge was used for a famous scene in the 1986 movie Stand By Me.[citation needed] In reality, the bridge used in the movie is the Lake Britton Bridge in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park near Redding, California.[5]

Current bridgeEdit

While illegal to trespass on an active railroad, the current bridge offers exquisite views of the falls and gorge.

On November 29, 2011, Norfolk Southern Railway announced plans to build a new bridge approximately 75 feet (23 m) to the south of the 1875 bridge. Norfolk Southern offered the 1875 bridge to the State of New York, but the State declined it.[6]

A steel arch design for the new bridge, estimated to cost $71 million, was approved in late 2014.[7] Construction started on October 27, 2015.[8] Following the normal seasonal closing of the Portageville entrance for the winter in 2015, it will remain closed until completion of the project, expected to be in 2018.[9][10] By late 2016, surveying work for the foundation of the new bridge was underway.[11] In March 2017, construction of the main arch began.[12]

On December 11, 2017, the first train crossed the new bridge. The last of the 1875 bridge was demolished on the morning of March 20, 2018.[13]


  1. ^ Cook, Tom; Breslin, Tom (1977-09-18). "Glimpses of the Past – The Portage Bridge". Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  2. ^ Cook, Tom; Breslin, Tom. "Burning of the Portage Bridge". Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  3. ^ Cook, Tom; Breslin, Tom. "Pieces of the Past – A Walker Stereocard Label circa 1875". Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  4. ^ Ferrini, Julia (August 3, 2015). "Locomotive No. 765 passed through Wyoming County". Wyoming County Free Press. Retrieved January 10, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Stand By Me". Retrieved 2013-09-15. 
  6. ^ Sommer, Mark (November 27, 2011). "Historic Letchworth bridge is on the edge of elimination". The Buffalo News. Archived from the original on January 1, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2016. 
  7. ^ McDermott, Meaghan M. (December 30, 2014). "New railroad bridge approved for Letchworth park". Democrat and Chronicle. Retrieved February 28, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Modjeski and Masters Breaks Ground on New Portageville Arch Bridge". PRWeb. November 4, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Letchworth's Portageville park entrance is closed until 2018". December 18, 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  10. ^ "Portageville Bridge Project". Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  11. ^ "Portage Viaduct presentation Sunday in Fillmore". The Daily News. November 2, 2016. Retrieved March 8, 2017. 
  12. ^ Leathersich, Joe (March 22, 2017). "Construction begins on Portageville Bridge arch". Malone Telegram. Retrieved March 29, 2017. 
  13. ^ Surtel, Matt (December 12, 2017). "New era: First train crosses new Portage viaduct as service ends on 142-year-old icon". Batavia News. Retrieved December 12, 2017. 

External linksEdit