The Maine Narrow Gauges (Historic & Preserved) > Maine Narrow Gauge RR Co. & Museum

Portland’s GT abandoned Swing Bridge (photos)

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Matthew Malkiewicz:
I first experienced the Maine 2-footers in August of 2008 with a visit to the WW&F Railway at Alna. Since then I’ve ventured back numerous times, with another planned in the near future. Every time driving north on Rt.295 I take notice of the abandoned Grand Trunk standard gauge swing bridge spanning the Back Cove in Portland. I always wanted to explore it but never did. The weekend before Christmas I was in Portland for the Maine Narrow Gauge Museum’s Polar Express train excursions; with some down time one afternoon I finally made it there.
The steel swing bridge and its wooden trestle were constructed to cross over the Portland peninsula, built in 1848 by the Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railroad. Tall masted ships needed to enter the Back Cove, so the bridge was designed to swing open about a center pivot to keep both train and water traffic moving. Quite the balancing act. Active for more than 100 years, in 1984 an arsonist lit the bridge on fire and caused damage beyond repair. It was permanently set in the open position and has been dead in the water since. The Maine Narrow Gauge currently operates on the old right-of-way leading to the bridge from the south around the Eastern Prom, but stops where land meets water.
The conditions presented my way were perfect; low tide, diffused afternoon sunlight, hardly any wind, and an unusually warm air temperature for December. I spent a few hours there, milling around seeking out composition.
Imagine the variety of classic trains that crossed this bridge, and the sailing ships which passed by.
Follow the link below to my gallery of images from the day.

Mike Fox:
Thanks Matthew. That last shot is spectacular.

Matthew Malkiewicz:
Thank you Mike!
I had a typo in my original text, which I have corrected. This is formally the Grand Trunk, and not Grand Trunk Western. The GTW was Port Huron to Chicago, whereas the GT operated in Maine.
I would assume there has not been any maintenance or care to the structure since the fire in 1984, yet the wood, especially where it is immersed twice a day in sea water, is in relatively good shape.
Looking at my photos, it appears only the southern approach was on fire, and not the draw span or northern section. Don’t know how yet, but I would like to get a lot closer with a boat to capture some additional images.

Mike Fox:
I remember when it burnt. It was on the news. Traffic was slowing through Commercial Street and the trains often left there with just a handful of cars and a buggy, picking up in Danville. CN sold off this line 5 years later.

Wayne Laepple:
Does St. Lawrence & Atlantic still come down to the B&M Baked Beans plant? I know they wanted to shut down that line since the plant was the only business left south of Auburn.


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