A short distance north of the depot at New Woodstock stood an iron bridge that carried the LVRR Elmira - Cortland Branch trains into and away from the town. The trains stopped running in 1967, the tracks have been torn up, the depot is a museum, but the bridge survives pretty much as it was then (below).
Photo courtesy of James Wright, New Woodstock, photographer - 3/20/12
This bridge features prominently on my layout, being at the front edge where trains first appear as they approach the village from the north (below).
In preparation for modeling this bridge in 2004, I spent some time taking field photos of the structure, and its abutments. It did not take long to realize that I would not be able to insert a ready-made scale bridge here or create this bridge from a kit.
In many ways this riveted panel bridge is typical of a great many used at that time on railroads in the Northeast. I am informed it is listed as bridge E 98, a plate girder one span 39' 9" over Six Mile Creek.
However, it exhibits some design elements that force a scratch-built model to be true to the prototype. The panel beams simply rest on concrete sills at each end, with only a flat iron pad as a "bearing" (below). That is not that unusual in itself.
But what appears, at least to me, to be unusual, and certainly not represented in ready-made bridge kits, is that rather than being perfectly straight, the bottom beams bend upward slightly as they approach the supports on the abutments (see below).
And the bottom beam is reenforced by additional layers of flat iron, like the leaf springs on a truck (below).
My point is not so much that this design is unique, but rather that I could not hope to find a kit bridge of the correct length with this exactly tapered beam construction. And so I was "doomed" to make my own.
Fortunately, in my pre-layout enthusiasm, I had bought a stack of old, yellowed Railroad Model Craftsman magazines, complete with the musty basement smell that spells "history" .... and in the February and March 1979 issues, Al Westerfield published a two-part article titled "Two Small Bridges". The second part of the article described how to scratch-build a riveted truss bridge, complete with HO scale plans. The subtitle of the article so intimidating, that I put the magazine away three or four times before even beginning to imagine I could tackle such a project.
"TWO SMALL BRIDGES
Part 2: More pieces and the need to simulate rivet heads make the second bridge more challenging than the first."
The plan looked right, and it would be no great problem adjusting the length and tapering the ends of the panels to match the prototype. But the process of embossing tiny rivet heads on ultra-thin strips of styrene, using a home-made jig and a sharpened nail??? But after re-reading the article six times, and getting up the courage to try......it worked out. I find that punching out microscopic rivet heads can be therputic, once you get the system down.
The bridge abutments presented another idiosyncratic design feature...in that they did NOT match! Note on this 1938 air photo (below) how the southern abutment is straight across, while the northern one has wing-walls, more typical of more modern bridges. The northern abutment also takes the brunt of the outward bend of the stream, perhaps a factor?
This mis-match can also be seen in this field photograph, where the straight south wall is in shadow and one wing wall of the north end is in sun (below).
Photo courtesy of James Wright, 2012.
Another difference is the masonry itself. The south abutment is laid stone with a concrete foundation and concrete sills for the bridge (below).
Unless otherwise indicated, photos by author.
The stone in the south abutment has a contoured, dimensional face, typical of many types of 19th century architecture.
By contrast, the stone in the north abutment is flat faced and very heavily coated with mortar. In fact at first the north-west wing looked like poured concrete. (below).
Photo by James Wright
But what first looked like the imprint of boards in the pouring form, or separations at pour boundaries, turned out to be courses of well-dressed, thick, flush-faced stone (below).
At each end a heavy poured concrete sill is placed on top of the stonework to accept the iron beams of the bridge.
1. Were the two abutments built this way originally? (Since the stone used and the masonry techniques are so different, they seem to suggest widely separated events.)
2. Since the southern abutment seems to be the older one, did the northern one collapse and had to be replaced, or was it replaced due to some evolution of the railroad? (In canal history, the canals were enlarged to accept wider and/or longer boats, and this usually happened on one side or end. But is there a comparable event in this railroad's history?)
3. What is the unusual form of the iron panel beams, tapering up at the end? (One possibility is heavier locomotives required stronger bridges, and the only way to fit a "thicker" bridge panel here without raising the track or altering the concrete sills would be to taper up the ends.)
Some new data.
Thanks to the generousity of Bruce Tracy, we can see a rare look at this bridge "in operation" in a postcard image taken from northwest of New Woodstock, on old Rte 13. (Below - all three courtesy of owner from the Tracy Collection).
LVRR Camelback locomotive like that shown in the New Woodstock postcard.
Two things are evident in this extreme enlargement and enhanced image. First, the south abutment, straight with contoured stone in the wall and a poured concrete sill supporting the bridge, looks as it is today. Second, the opposite abutment, north, appears to be as straight, suggesting an earlier version of what is there today.
But it may an artifact of the camera angle. Note the face of the sloping end of the abutment on the north (left) is flat like a ramp, while on the southern one it is stepped, a result of the laid stone.
Question: Where, in the LVRR archives, would we find documentation on when, and why, this northern abutment was rebuilt in different stone and a different shape, and why?