The demise of the Poughkeepsie bridge and the freight bridge line which justified it will probably never be documented to everyone's satisfaction, but the facts are as follows:
Until the late 1960's, the Poughkeepsie bridge formed a link between the independent New England railroads, headed by the New Haven, and several mid-Atlantic region carriers, primarily the Erie at Maybrook, but also including Lackawanna and Lehigh Valley (via Lehigh and Hudson River), the Pennsylvania (via PRR's Belvidere-Delaware Branch), and at one time, New York, Ontario and Western.
On New Year's Day, 1969, Penn-Central was forced to absorb the New Haven and almost immediately began diverting traffic away from both the Poughkeepsie gateway and the remaining New York harbor carfloat operations in favor of its major Selkirk classification yard and a routing via the former West Shore. That left only the E-L and L&HR connections, which would justify only 1-2 freights in each direction daily.
Over the next three years, trafffic declined further and flooding from Hurricane Agnes in 1972 drove the E-L into bankruptcy as well. By the spring of 1974, plans for the implementation of what would become Conrail were well underway.
Around 1:00 PM on Wednesday, May 8, 1974, an eastbound freight crossed the bridge. Within one hour, flames were clearly visible on the east end of the bridge. A fire line installed on the superstructure proved unusable because the pipe had burst in several places after it had not been drained in anticipation of the previous winter.
When it was all over, some 700 feet of the bridge's superstructure had been engaged; the rail (probably continuous-welded by this time) showed extreme kinking, but the issue of superstructural wekening was never resolved. Initial reports were optimistic regarding restoration of the bridge, but with final implementation of Conrail less than a year away, the plans evenutally fell through.
One final note: In the last days before the inception of Conrail in late March of 1976, hope was still held for creation of a "little Conrail" involving E-L/LV/Reading/CNJ/L&HR. Loss of the Poughkeepsie Bridge/gateway possibly weakened this option. The plan was reportedly scuttled in the wake of the unions' insistence on job guarantees, but regardless, layoff notices were posted on much of the former E-L within a few weeks.
Last edited by 2nd trick op on Sat Mar 25, 2006 6:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
What a revoltin' development this is! (William Bendix)