14 votes

NS - Portage Viaduct (1903)



Photo taken by Historic American Engineering Record

View photos at Library of Congress

BH Photo #171387

Street Views 


Final Train Over Bridge (in daylight)

Last train over the bridge in daylight, 4:27 PM on Dec. 10, 2017. New span is behind old bridge.

John Kucko Video

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Demolition of Portage Viaduct

Demolition of Portage Viaduct Jan. 2018

John Kucko Video

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Tracks shifted to new bridge and old bridge abandoned Dec. 10-11, 2017. Demolition commenced second week of January 2018. Replacement bridge 75 feet south of this bridge built for Norfolk Southern. New steel arch bridge dedicated May 24, 2018 and named the Genesee Arch Bridge, a single arch with no piers in the river.

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
Built 1903 reusing 1875 substructure; rehabilitated 1944; bypassed with new bridge and abandoned Dec. 2017; demolition begun Jan. 2018.
- McClintic-Marshall Co. of Chicago, Illinois & Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Canadian Pacific Railway (CP)
- Conrail (CR)
- Erie Lackawanna Railroad (EL)
- Erie Railroad (ERIE)
- Norfolk Southern Railway (NS)
Main spans: Steel Pratt deck truss
Approaches: Steel stringer
Wrought iron trestle towers with steel reinforcements.
Length of largest span: 118.2 ft.
Total length: 820.0 ft.
Also called
Erie - Portage Viaduct (3rd)
Portage Viaduct
Portage Bridge
Portageville Bridge
Portageville Viaduct
Bridge 361.66
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 

  • January 10, 2022: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • November 22, 2021: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • May 22, 2020: New photos from Roger Deschner
  • December 29, 2018: Updated by Josh Schmid: Bridge fully demolished
  • May 25, 2018: New Street View added by Leslie R Trick
  • May 24, 2018: Updated by Ed Hollowell: Additions to future prospects about replacement bridge.
  • January 10, 2018: New video from Alexander D. Mitchell IV
  • December 12, 2017: New video from Alexander D. Mitchell IV
  • December 11, 2017: Updated by Luke: Added builder
  • December 10, 2017: Updated by Alexander D. Mitchell IV: Bridge closed to traffic night of Dec. 10-11, 2017 as track relocated to new bridge
  • 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 Viaduct (3rd)
Posted March 19, 2019, by Brendan Delay (brendandelay [at] ameritech [dot] net)

When I visited this bridge in the late summer of 1992, it had a strong guardrail to protect railroad workers walking or doing maintenance. However, I did notice the rust on the metal components which were over the Genesee River, which would get humidity.

It was an amazing sight to look upward to view a locomotive pulling cars on that bridge, hundreds of feet suspended over the river.

The bridge lasted a very long time when we considered the dynamic loads over it.

NS - Portage Viaduct (3rd)
Posted March 11, 2019, by Dana and Kay Klein

3 of 4

NS - Portage Viaduct
Posted December 11, 2017, by Luke

For posterity, my backing of John's splitting entries argument is based off this https://books.google.com/books?id=BXNJAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA252&dq=e... which shows that only the substructure dates to 1875, and we date by superstructure, not substructure.

NS - Portage Viaduct
Posted December 11, 2017, by Dan Schoenherr (htis2008 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Very recent imagery of the 2nd and 3rd (or 3rd and 4th) bridges here.


(Posted on Rochester reddit two days ago by the photographer himself.)

My understanding is that this replacement became necessary as a direct result of the shale oil boom in the southern tier and that the NYS/Letchworth State Park officials were not the least bit interested in preserving the old span as a pedestrian walkway at any point in the process.

If you are familiar with this area you just might want to go sniffing around the internet for pictures of it during Hurricane Agnes in 1972; particularly the Middle Falls.

NS - Portage Viaduct
Posted December 11, 2017, by Luke

Historic media refers to the current iteration as the third and mentions it was a reconstruction.: https://books.google.com/books?id=X1E0AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA1184&lpg...

NS - Portage Viaduct
Posted December 11, 2017, by Anonymous

Not convinced it was replaced as added to. Not sure though, 4 bridges with additions makes logical progression.

NS - Portage Viaduct
Posted December 11, 2017, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I actually think there should be a fourth, the 1903-present structure. If the entire superstructure was replaced in 1903, I would consider it a separate bridge from the 1875 structure. I'm not quite sure why everyone calls the existing bridge an 1875 structure.

NS - Portage Viaduct
Posted December 11, 2017, by Dana and Kay Klein

This really should now be split into 3 bridges.

1) Erie RR wood trestle built 1851-2. Burned May 6th 1875

2) Current bridge as of two days ago! opened July 31st 1875 closed December 10th

3) New NS Arch

NS - Portage Viaduct
Posted December 11, 2017, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

If the iron was replaced by steel in 1903, wouldn't that indicate the bridge was replaced at this time?

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