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Saturday, January 3, 2015

The "A Piece of Railfanning History" Story

Jerry's rusting train bridge that he made to simulate one
in Lancaster.  His wife Sue took the photo.
It was an ordinary day.  Just got an email from my friend Just Sue who lives in State College.  I talked to her husband, Jerry, a couple of days ago and asked him if JS could possible take a photo of the bridge he built for his HO train layout that is meant to simulate the one in Lancaster, PA that used to take the workers of Armstrong Cork Company across the railroad tracks from their parking lot to the floor plant where they made Armstrong linoleum.  
A Lancaster Newspaper aerial photo of the bridge that
carried Armstrong Cork Company workers from their
parking lot to the floor plant where they made linoleum.
As you notice the tracks have been recently removed.
Well, the two photos she took for me are great and will show you just how good a job Jerry did when you compare it to the photos I took a few weeks ago  while on a photo shoot in north-west Lancaster.  The 280-foot-long metal bridge, that has layers and layers of rust on it, was built in 1922 by the former Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading & Columbia Railroad.  The beautiful steel structure with criss-crossing patterns and extremely stressed wooden planks as the walkway was a safe stepping stone for the Armstrong workers to get to their job in the industrial days of Lancaster.  
Photo I took showing you the massive size of the bridge.
Recently it served as the only way to get across the tracks in the rail yard for students at nearby Franklin & Marshall College so they could access some of their sport's venues.  Since it was used by the Armstrong workers, Armstrong maintained the bridge after it was built, but in the early 1980's they, along with F&M and the School District of Lancaster, sued Conrail over the maintenance of the bridge and won.  
Stairs on either end are in need of
some maintenance.
Then Norfolk Southern bought much of Conrail and refused to maintain the bridge anymore which lead to years of neglect.  Norfolk Southern has since moved their rail yard and the tracks no longer are under the bridge.  The piece of railfanning history for over 92 years is going to be removed soon.  But, do not fret.  It will not be lost to time.  It will probably be used on the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail or carry trail users across the Little Conestoga Creek on the Farmingdale Trail in East Hempfield Township.  These are both possibilities according to the new owners of the bridge, Lancaster County Solid Waste management Authority.  The railroad company gave the span to the LCSWMA and they said they intend to preserve and honor the history of the bridge.  The beginning of the move could start as soon as next spring.  Here's hoping it happens and those who carried their lunch pails across the span for years will get to admire it one more time.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.



Two F&M students travel across the bridge the dreary day I visited the site.

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