Open main menu

Wikipedia β

A train crosses the Portage Viaduct

The Portage Viaduct (also known as the Portage Bridge, Portageville Viaduct, or Portageville Bridge) is an iron railroad bridge in Livingston County, New York, located within Letchworth State Park. It is the second bridge in its current location and is currently being replaced by a third bridge. The first bridge burned in 1875 and was replaced by the current iron bridge that same year. At 142 years old, the iron structure is posing risks leading to weight and speed restrictions that inhibit the productivity of the railroad.


Old Portageville Bridge FireEdit

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 great wooden railroad bridge was destroyed in a tremendous fire. The bridge was a total loss, leaving only the concrete bridge abutments.[2]

Current Portageville ViaductEdit

Upper Falls with train passing Portage viaduct

Immediately after the Portage Bridge fire, officials of the Erie Railroad Company moved quickly to replace the wooden bridge with an iron and steel design. Construction began June 8, 1875 and the bridge opened for traffic July 31, 1875. The bridge is 820 feet (250 m) long and 240 feet (73 m) high.[3] It is still in use today (As of January 2016). 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. In reality, the bridge used in the movie is the Lake Britton Bridge in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park near Redding, California.[5]

New Portageville ViaductEdit

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 demolish the Portage Bridge and build a new one approximately 75 feet (23 m) south of the current Portage Bridge. Norfolk Southern had offered the old bridge to the State of New York, but the State declined it.[6]

An arched design was approved in late 2014, with an estimated cost of $71 million to build the new bridge.[7] In the fall of 2015, trees were cleared from the site on both sides of the river. 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.[8][9]

The new bridge, known as the Portageville Arch Railroad Bridge, broke ground in the Fall of 2015.[10] By late 2016, surveying work was still underway for the foundation of the new bridge.[11] In March 2017, construction of the main arch began.[12]


  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. ^ "Letchworth's Portageville park entrance is closed until 2018". December 18, 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  9. ^ "Portageville Bridge Project". Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  10. ^ "Modjeski and Masters Breaks Ground on New Portageville Arch Bridge". PRWeb. November 4, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 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. 

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 42°34′40″N 78°02′58″W / 42.5778°N 78.0495°W / 42.5778; -78.0495 [[Category:Buildings and structures in Livingston County, New York]