history of Erie "DB" drawbrdge over the Hackensack River

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history of Erie "DB" drawbrdge over the Hackensack River

Postby pumpers » Mon Apr 03, 2017 1:24 pm

I'm trying to create an exact history of RR lines in the Secacus/Kearny/west Jersey City area in the late 1800s/early 1900's time frame.

When was Erie DB draw built? This is the one that in the early 1900's until recent years carried the Erie NY & Greenwood lake (the Boonton line from 1960's until the Montclair connection was built about 15 years ago) and the Erie Newark Branch (formally the Newark and Hudson RR) over the Hackensack, location is : N 40.75825 W 74.09386 It went out of service 10-15 years ago.

Wikipedia ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DB_Draw ) says 1889 and cites a NY Times article. But the article ( http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-fr ... 94689FD7CF ) says it replaced a bridge originally built by the Morris and Essex (later the Lackawanna, now NJT Morristown line). The details are complicated (see http://warofyesterday.blogspot.com/2012 ... lroad.html ) but in short the M&E built a 2nd bridge for its traffic (at N 40.74329 W 74.07683 , later replaced at the same location by the current "Lower Hack") due to getting its own Bergen Hill tunnel around 1877. The first bridge the M&E built (around 1863 at at N 40.74602 W 74.07545) was then taken over by the Erie Newark and Hudson RR . It was only a few 100 yards north of the 1877 bridge . So it sounds like the NY Times article is describing this bridge being replaced, which is about a mile south of DB.

Further, in 1889 the Montclair RR, the predecessor of the NY&GL was even not yet owned by the Erie, and the 1889 NY Times article talks about Erie building a bridge. (DB draw did replace an earlier NY&GL bridge on the same location as DB, I just don't think DB was the bridge in the NY Times article. )

So this is all to say I don't trust the Wikipedia date.

Any experts out there who know when DB was actually built? It is very confusing and hope I have described it correctly (correct my errors please!)

Thanks, JS

One more confusion is that around DB draw was built, the Erie Newark and Hudson realigned in the meadowlands in Kearny to connect to the NY&GL to use DB (the "modern" Newark Branch alignment) or whatever was their previously, and the I believe the new bridge in the 1889 NY Times article was abandoned after only 20 years. Nothing in that location since at least ~1911 or so. Perhaps it was moved a mile north and became DB?
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Re: Erie Hackensack River bridges

Postby timz » Wed Apr 26, 2017 7:24 pm

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet ... 79~1020006

As I recall, circa 1910 NY&GL and Newark Branch trains both used the ex-DL&W bridge, then maybe around 1916 they both switched to the upstream bridge. So why does the above 1891 map show the upstream bridge? No idea.

Today's NE Corridor still has a bridge over the SE-to-NW Erie connection on the above map, and another over the old Newark Branch.

RR Gazette 15 May 1908 has an article about the Erie changes west of the tunnel.

"The location of the Newark branch line and of the New York & Greenwood Lake line and their point of divergence will be changed. These lines now leave the main line just west of the tunnel and cross the Hackensack river, whence the Newark branch runs westerly, while the New York & Greenwood Lake follows the bend of the river and proceeds northwesterly. The old line of the New York & Greenwood Lake originally crossed the river at a point higher up. Under the rearrangement the tracks of the Newark branch and the New York & Greenwood Lake will be the same and will follow the old location of the latter road crossing the Hackensack river near Snake Hill on a new bridge now being built. The two lines will diverge just west of the bridge."
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Re: history of Erie "DB" drawbrdge over the Hackensack River

Postby pumpers » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:33 pm

Giving this a bump.

Timz, thanks for the 1891 map. The "upstream bridge" shown in 1891 is the original bridge used by the Montclair Railway, which is what became the NY&GL. This was before the M&E was in the area, and before the Erie Long dock tunnel. Once in Jersey city the Montclair headed south to reach what eventually became the PRR at Marion Junction, and then use trackage rigths to get to the waterfront through their Bergen cut.

Eventually it all came under Erie control, and to route the NYGL to their Long Dock tunnel to their Pavonia terminal, they first connected the NYGL to the Newark & Hudson (which went to the tunnel) on the east side of the Hackensack. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesm ... 737955.pdf
But by 1887, the old Montclair RR bridge over the Hackensack was apparently shot, so the Erie started plans to route the Montclair (now NYGL) to the old M&E bridge further south (to connect to the Newark & Hudson - later Newark & Paterson and then Erie Newark Branch route) , which by then the M&E was no longer using. The connector (legally the Arlington RR) is clear on the 1891 map. Here's a link in the NYTimes from the 1887 legal filing.
https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesm ... 902541.pdf Note the link says "avoid the necessity of the Montclair Bridge".

Related, now on to my pet peeve - when was DB built? Most places on line give 1889 as the date when DB was constructed. The only justification I found is the DB draw Wikipedia article which cites this 1889 NY Times article about a new Erie RR bridge over the Hackensack. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesm ... 212395.pdf

But 3 things don't fit in that article:
(i) The article say the new bridge it is a plate girder drawbridge (as often used to span a short distance - two plate girders, one on either side hold the weight), but DB draw is a truss bridge
(ii) They say it is replacing a bridge built by the M&E about 20 years before that (this was the first M&E bridge of 1863 actually - 26 years old), which the M&E used to get to the Erie Long Dock tunnel. That is nowhere near the DB location.
(iii) THe article says the bridge has 2 50-foot openings for boats. In DB, the openings are 90 feet on either side (from what I can estimate from modern Google maps aerial photos).

So it's clear that the "lower" Erie bridge in that 1891 map is what was built in 1889, not DB. A new bridge there in 1889 make sense if the NYGL and its heavy passenger traffic was now going over it after the 1887 or 1888 connector. And it the new "lower" Erie bridge dissapeared around 1912 or so, when DB opened and all Erie traffic was routed that way. Maybe the 50 foot openings for boats was too small, so it was best to get rid of it.

So I really want to know, when was DB built. THere must be some article in one of the trade journals. DB draw was built in the general area of the old Montclair RR bridge in the Snake Hill area - my guess is probably around 1910 as part of the Bergen Arches and Penhorn Creek RR project around 1910, a massive investment. - a good description is here: http://warofyesterday.blogspot.com/2012 ... lroad.html

And related, it seems pretty clear the current M&E bridge over the Hackensack ("Lower Hack") was built 1928. So did the first bridge built in that location by the M&E in that location in 1877 lasted 51 years, or was there another bridge in between?

Edit: The 1928-built (current) lower Hack replaced one built in 1902 (https://www.state.nj.us/transportation/ ... stdist.pdf page 25), which I presume in turn replaced the 1877 bridge.
Last edited by pumpers on Wed Aug 29, 2018 4:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: history of Erie "DB" drawbrdge over the Hackensack River

Postby pumpers » Wed Aug 29, 2018 4:03 pm

Look what I found!
"The Railway and Engineering Review," March 1908. http://www.jon-n-bevliles.net/RAILROAD/ ... 032108.pdf
It describes the construction clearly of what became known as the Erie DB bridge just south of Snake HIll, which is supposed to open a few months later in June 1908. Thanks to Jon Liles for maintaining that site with the article (and many many more). One minor detail on the map in the article - on the NY&GL, west of the solid connector to the old Newark Branch, the NY&GL probably should be solid (existing), not dotted for new, unless perhaps they were doing some major ROW upgrade.

And if you google "Jersey City Terminal Improvement of the Erie", a May 1908 Article in "The Railway Age' should come up, giving more of an overview of the new system plan to get trains in and out of the new Bergen Arches to and from the 6 Erie lines. Unfortunately the map scan is not very clear. And near the end of the article: " a new bridge over the Hackensack river in the vicinity of Snake Hill is also required to carry the new Newark branch tracks," followed by some technical specs of the bridge.

This all confirms what Timz posted last year from RR Gazette.

So DB was built in 1908, not 1889 as commonly cited.
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Re: history of Erie "DB" drawbrdge over the Hackensack River

Postby snavely » Thu Aug 30, 2018 4:55 pm

FYI, good size estimate by you: the horizontal clearance of DB in the open position is 99 feet for marine traffic, per the NOAA Hackensack River navigation chart.
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