In yet another historic preservation accomplishment, the Museum has saved this vintage railroad bridge and brought it to the Museum property for subsequent exhibit. The bridge was designed by Pennsylvania Railroad assistant engineer Herman Haupt in 1851, built of cast and wrought iron in Altoona, and probably installed on the Philadelphia and Columbia branch sometime in the 1850s, where it carried trains over a creek or similar obstacle.
The Bridge is one of the oldest surviving iron railroad bridges in the United states, and the only complete example of its design with the shoes, Pratt trusses and cast iron arch intact. There are only two other bridges surviving of its type, a 90 foot incomplete example in the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum and the Church Street bridge in Ardmore, that is missing its arch and which is scheduled to be removed.
It was removed from the main line some time after the civil war when the engines became too large and heavy for its 60 ton weight limit. It was installed sometime in the 1870's or 80's as a vehicular bridge connecting two halves of a farmer's field just west of Ronks, PA, where it remained in service until May 2002.
Learning of its availability, Museum Director David Dunn devised a cooperative strategy to assure the structure's preservation. Amtrak donated the bridge, and a crane and operator to load the bridge at the removal site, which was over the main line between Lancaster and Phila. just west of Ronks, PA. (About 5 miles from the Museum). The Friends of the Museum, utilizing funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, provided key financial support.
Amtrak removed the bridge and installed a new one May 5-7, 2002 and set the two main trusses in an adjacent farmer's field for the Museum to pick up. Each truss weighed in at just over 13 tons.
During the move, Amtrak donated the crane and operator to load the trusses and Kevin Sollenberger of Carvell and Rick, Cranes Incorporated, donated his time and rigging for the loading process. Michael Venezia, of Venezia Enterprises, along with Daily Trucking of Carlisle, provided the trucks and permits to move the load.
A determination of its exhibit location is underway. Additional funding will be needed to restore the wear of time and to erect suitable support. Financial contributions to support such efforts are welcome by the Friends of the Museum.