May 8th Marks Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge Fire
Construction of The Walkway Over The Hudson may have never happened if a fire had never engulfed the original Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. An incident on May 8th, 1974 changed things forever.
According to Carleton Mabee's Bridging the Hudson:
An hour after a Penn Central train with 100 cars crossed the bridge on May 8, 1974, a thick cloud of black smoke hung over the bridge. Wooden ties were smoldering and wooden walkways were burning, fanned by a moderate breeze. Because Penn Central had no guards or maintenance men on the bridge at the time, the fire was not quickly reported. When firemen arrived at the site, they found they could not easily pump water up to the top of such a high bridge. When they tried turning on the water to flow into the steel pipe which ran the length of the bridge, a line meant to help fight fires, they found that because it had not been drained the previous winter, it had burst at several points – Penn Central had known it but had not repaired it.
Having opened in 1889, it was originally used to transport raw materials to eastern industrial centers according to the Walkway Over The Hudson website. Passenger trains soon got in on the action and at its peak would see more than 3,500 cars a day cross the river.
After many years of planning and fundraising, The Walkway Over The Hudson opened in 2009 and welcomes more than 500,000 people each year.
DID YOU KNOW: The now Walkway Over The Hudson was painted black during World War 2 to make it less visible in the event of an attack.
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