11 votes

NS - Portage Viaduct



Photo taken by Historic American Engineering Record

View photos at Library of Congress

BH Photo #171387


Street Views 

Brief History 

Written by Sherman Cahal

The Portageville Railroad Bridge is a railroad bridge over the Genesee River in Livingston County, New York. The aging structure is being replaced with a steel arch.

The Erie Railroad completed a wooden crossing of the Genesee on August 16, 1852 at a cost of $175,000. At 234-feet-high and 800-feet-long, with 13 stone piers, it was the largest wooden bridge in the world.

The Erie Railroad moved to quickly replace the wooden bridge with an iron and steel structure after it burned in 1875. A contract for a wrought iron bridge was let to the Watson Manufacturing Company of Paterson, New Jersey on May 10, just four days after the fire. Construction began on the second crossing on June 8, 1875, opening to traffic on July 31.

Increased weight of locomotives and railroad cars necessitated the replacement of the bridge’s iron structural members with steel in 1903. The bridge was again renovated with additional 200 tons of steel to the towers in 1944.

On April 1, 1976, the Erie Railroad’s Buffalo line was folded into Conrail’s Southern Tier mainline. Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) began operating the entire Southern Tier route on June 1, 1999 through a lease agreement. NS acquired the route through a merger on August 27, 2004.

In a 2008 inspection report by NS, cracks, missing ribets and extensive corrosion were noted. Structural gaps between the lateral columns and pier foundations were also found. A fatigue analysis found that all bottom chord members and diagonal members of the structure, except for two in the center panel of each deck truss, showed levels of fatigue beyond an acceptable range.

A detailed inspection of the bridge by NS in September 2009 revealed broken rivets and structural cracks that required an emergency closure of the crossing. Emergency repairs were completed and the bridge reopened to traffic within three days. A 24-hour vibration and stress monitoring system was installed shortly after, a first for NS.

In 2008, the state of New York provided $1 million towards preliminary engineering and environmental review for either the repair or replacement of the Portageville Railroad Bridge on behalf of NS.

Activities of the preliminary engineering and environmental review stage included a project scoping meeting in October 2008, the publication of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in November 2012, a public comment period from November 2012 through February 1, 2013, and a public hearing in January 2013. In July 2013, it was determined that Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality improvement program funds could be made available to support construction of the project.

For NS, the goals of the project included:
* The reduction or elimination of the need for extensive ongoing maintenance towards the circa 1875 bridge.
* The ability to increase capacity on the Southern Tier mainline by utilizing standard 286,000-pound rail cars (Cooper E80) over a rehabilitated or new bridge.
* The ability to match FRA Class 4 speeds over a rehabilitated or new bridge.

Alternative 4 (out of 9), for a new bridge 75-feet south of the existing crossing, was selected by NS on November 29, 2011. A steel arch design for the new bridge was approved in late-2014 with an estimated cost of $71 million.

In the fall of 2015, trees were cleared from the new bridge site and ground was broken for the new crossing shortly after. In March 2017, construction of the new crossing began.


Deck truss bridge over Genesee River on Norfolk Southern Railway north of Portageville
Wyoming County, New York, and Livingston County, New York
Open to traffic with speed and weight restrictions; replacement under way
Future prospects
Targeted for bypassing with new steel arch bridge. Construction began in 2015.
Built 1875 for the Erie Railroad, rehabilitated in 1903 and 1944.
- Octave Chanute of Paris, France (Designer)
- Watson Manufacturing Co. of Paterson, New Jersey
- Canadian Pacific Railway (CP)
- Erie Railroad (ERIE)
- Norfolk Southern Railway (NS)
Main spans: Steel Pratt deck truss (originally wrought iron pin-connected Pratt truss)
Approaches: Steel stringer (originally Pratt truss)
Wrought iron trestle towers with steel reinforcements.
Length of largest span: 118.2 ft.
Total length: 820.0 ft.
Also called
Portage Bridge
Portage Viaduct
Portageville Bridge
Portageville Viaduct
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.57763, -78.04961   (decimal degrees)
42°34'39" N, 78°02'59" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
17/742130/4718132 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 45773 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • October 25, 2017: New Street View added by Dana and Kay Klein
  • August 27, 2017: New photo from Dana and Kay Klein
  • May 10, 2017: Essay added by Sherman Cahal
  • February 20, 2017: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added category "Pin-connected"
  • February 19, 2017: New photos from Dana and Kay Klein
  • February 3, 2017: Photo imported by Alexander D. Mitchell IV
  • October 1, 2016: New photo from Dana and Kay Klein
  • August 5, 2016: New Street View added by Dana and Kay Klein
  • August 9, 2015: New photo from Jacob P. Bernard
  • January 3, 2015: Updated by Alexander D. Mitchell IV: Updated replacement timetable, added project page link
  • December 25, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added Octave Chanute to builder's section.
  • November 28, 2011: Updated by Alexander D. Mitchell IV: Added news report on planned replacement and demolition
  • February 3, 2011: Updated by Ed Hollowell: Future Prospects Added
  • December 19, 2010: New photos from Jacob P. Bernard
  • October 15, 2010: New photo from Jodi Christman
  • July 31, 2010: Added by Jacob P. Bernard

Related Bridges 



NS - Portage Bridge
Posted June 4, 2015, by Karen (jwperson [at] aol [dot] com)

Contract is being let in June 2015 for the construction of a new bridge and demolition of the old bridge. The old bridge will remain in use until the new one is complete. Time to photograph this bridge if you haven't already. It will be gone by 2018 if the contract is on schedule.

Portage Bridge
Posted January 17, 2013, by martin v oulton jr (oultonm [at] ymail [dot] com)

I have never heard that 1875 structure being called the portageville bridge. Do a little research. On the east side of the bridge was the Portage Station. It has historically always been refered to as the Portage Bridge. Portage and Portageville are two separate areas. Portageville is a mile from the bridge. On the east side still stands an old highway marker showing the name Portage.

Portage Bridge
Posted July 10, 2011, by Anonymous

The info is incorrect. Up to a dozen trains run over the trestle every day.

Portage Bridge
Posted July 10, 2011, by Bob Morgan (morgans212 [at] nc [dot] rr [dot] com)

Status says closed and scheduled for replacement due to weight restrictions...

This appears to be a fairly heavy train on the bridge yesterday...http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=368193&nseq=12