Poughkeepsie, NY Railroad Bridge Fire, May 1974

The Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge The Bridge On Fire



Penn Central officials today estimated that it will take four to six months to repair the Poughkeepsie Bridge. A spectacular fire Wednesday afternoon destroyed 700 feet of trackway on the 86-year-old structure.
"We have no plans at this time to close down the bridge," JOSEPH HARVEY, Philadelphia, a spokesman for the railroad, commented. "Our engineers have determined that there is no structural damage to the bridge and that freight service will be continued after repairs are made."
(Transcriber's Note: The bridge never reopened for railroad traffic.)
HARVEY said it would take four to six weeks to obtain the necessary supplies -- 700 feet of rail, 600 bridge ties, and material for a catwalk -- before repair work could begin. He said that after the railroad is able to obtain the necessary equipment, it will take between 60 and 90 days to repair the damage.
HARVEY said that the east-west traffic on the bridge would be rerouted to Utica and Oak Island and then would ultimately cross the Hudson River at Selkirk, south of Albany.
He estimated that four to six freight trains with as many as 70 cars had crossed the city bridge each day.
The arterial highway from Delafield Street to Main Street remained closed today and traffic was being rerouted.
"Pieces of metal, such as spikes and plates, have been falling from the bridge," said RAYMOND CONNOLLY, an assistant resident engineer with the State Department of Transportation. "When they drop from that height, they hit the ground with the impact of a bullet. The arterial section will be closed until Penn Central has removed the damaged timbers and metal."
He declined to estimate when the section would be open to traffic, but city police said they thought it would be by Friday.
Only one passenger train, the 11:59 a.m. train from New York City, was delayed because of the fire.
The six north-south tracks were closed for about 45 minutes Wednesday afternoon, and today trains are moving through Poughkeepsie at 10 miles per hour.
The control switching system was damaged by the fire and at one time communications along the Hudson Division were out of service as far north as Albany. Trackmen said, today, however, that only local controls remained damaged and that signalmen would route the passenger traffic through the city trainyard.
Electricity for 400 Highland customers was interrupted for 30 minutes Wednesday afternoon because of damage to a cable on the bridge. Central Hudson spokesman PETER BURDASH said there was no damage to either the electrical generating plant or the auxilliary gas equipment beneath the Poughkeepsie Bridge.
He said that a water spray system had been activated on at the gas plant to protect four propane tanks from any heat. He said that the utility feared that falling timbers might have hit the gas plant's release valve, allowing gas vapors to escape, which could be ignited.
The Penn Central spokesman denied that the water main on the railroad bridge was in disrepair.
"Our engineers tell us that the water system is customarily turned off from November through May to prevent the lines from freezing," he said.
RICHARD JACKSON, an assistant division engineer with Penn Central in New Haven said, however, that some of the 28 valves on the bridge were not working and are in a state of disrepair. He declined to estimate the number that did not work.
Some Penn Central employes speculated that there was severe damage to the bridge and that it might never reopen.
"A preliminary look at the bridge shows that there is structural damage. A minute inspection of the bridge will have to be made to determine the extent of that damage," one employe said.
CHARLES SCHAFFER, a Penn Central welder, said he thought that the heat from the fire had removed the temper from the steel and made portions of the structure brittle. "I don't believe that you are ever going to see that bridge in operation again," he declared.
HARVEY said, however, that the railroad had not even considered the possibility of closing the bridge. "We know that we may have difficulty in obtaining some materials, such as ties and timbers which are in short supply, but the bridge will reopen," he said flatly.
(Transcribers Note: The bridge never reopened to rail traffic again.)

Poughkeepsie Journal New York 1974-05-09