Transportation Tuesday: Two Loves Collide – Historic Preservation, Transportation, and the Susquehanna River Bridge

Sorry for the pun.

Photo: r25 Productions. Flowers by Amanda’s in Havre de Grace.

Since I was a little girl, driving into Havre de Grace meant curving around the high stone embankment to the right and passing under the hulking iron bridge that carries the Pennsylvania Railroad over the Susquehanna: it’s been doing so since 1906. That bridge says Havre de Grace to me like little else; so much so that some of our wedding photos are in front of it.

 

Rendering of the new bridge at Havre de Grace. Photo: Amtrak.

Amtrak’s Vision for the Northeast Corridor document outlines future plans to provide improved service from Boston to DC, and beyond. With increased ridership over the past decade, the two-track bottleneck over the Susquehanna is slowing things down. I’m hoping what I see in the image (left) is the old bridge standing behind the new, each carrying two tracks a piece. Still, what on either bank of the river would have to make way for construction of such a bridge and its increased trackage? Long a site of ferries, canals, and bridges of varying incarnations, the 1906 bridge is hardly the first (check out the double decker bridge that sat beside it until the 1940s in a postcard here). It’s evident that rail is the quickest way to move up and down the east coast, especially as airport delays lengthen, and the railroads replace old track with concrete ties and seamless rail. It used to take me 3.5 hours to get from NYP to BAL – now it only takes 2.5.

It’s a big change at the site of repeated big change throughout our country’s history. It needs to be done – it needs to be done sensibly.

A Rendering of the 1866 P. W. & B Railroad bridge, prior to its transformation into the double decker bridge. It was scrapped in the 1940s for the war effort. It’s pilings are visible just next to the 1906 PRR bridge.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.