The Conant Creek Bridge along the Ashton-Tetonia Trail in Idaho.
Recently restored and reopened, the Kinsol Trestle links two formerly separated sections of the Cowichan Valley Trail on Vancouver
Island in British Columbia, Canada.
Old Pennsylvania Railroad bridge along the Schuylkill River Trail near Douglassville, Pa.
More Trail Tales
For the Fall 2012 issue of Rails to Trails, we asked our readers: What is your favorite bridge or trestle on a rail-trail?
Thornton Waite of Idaho Falls, Idaho, writes:
My favorite rail-trail bridge is the Conant Creek Bridge on the Ashton-Tetonia Trail in eastern Idaho. I like the bridge because of its historical significance as well as its spectacular views: of the Teton Mountains to the east, the view below of Conant Creek, and the rolling hills surrounding it. The Conant Creek Bridge is approximately 120 feet above the creekbed, and the three spans are each 164 feet long. The overall bridge is 572 feet long, including the end deck girder segments.
This bridge is a Pegram deck truss bridge, a unique design with the outer chords all the same length. It was erected in 1894 as part of the Oregon Short Line's bridge across the Snake River at American Falls, Idaho, and replaced in 1911 since the bridge design was not suitable for main line service. Since the Pegram truss bridge had pin connections, the bridge was simply disassembled and installed over Conant Creek on the Teton Valley Branch, which was being built at that time. In 1917 the Pegram truss was strengthened with a center truss.
The Teton Valley Branch line over Conant Creek was abandoned in 1990 and the tracks pulled up in 1992, but the bridges were left in place. The out-of-service line was opened as a rail-trail in the summer of 2011. Today the trail is a non-motorized recreational trail used by trail bikes, hikers and horses. In the winter months it is open to snow machines.
Tim Hostetler of Bellingham, Wash., writes:
The very best renovated rail trestle in my opinion is the historical Kinsol Trestle. Located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, it was "resurrected" and reopened last year, now connecting two formerly separated sections of the Cowichan Valley Trail. It's a great piece to a fantastic trail system.
Robert L. Callery of Woodbury, Minn., writes:
In 2011 a new bridge was opened for use on the 18-mile Gateway Trail that runs from St. Paul, Minn., to a county park north of Stillwater, Minn., on a former Soo Line Railroad grade. Actually, the bridge, first constructed in the 1870s, is now in its third deployment.
Originally, the bridge was in Sauk Centre, Minn., where it carried the city's Main Street over the Sauk River. Sauk Centre was the hometown of writer Sinclair Lewis, famous for his 1920 novel Main Street. In 1937, the bridge was moved 170 miles north to Koochiching County to provide a crossing of the Little Fork River for State Highway 65. In 2009, it was again dismantled, moved (200 miles south this time), and refurbished for its current deployment on the Department of Natural Resources' Gateway Trail, as a crossing over Manning Avenue.
The bridge epitomizes the rail-trail philosophy of repurposing and reuse. It may be the oldest metal truss bridge in Minnesota. Of wrought iron construction, it predates the widespread use of modern steel. The Minnesota Department of Transportation designated it one of 24 historic bridges to be preserved. Structurally, it is a single-span, 162-foot Parker through-truss with pinned connections. Each side truss has eight panels, supporting a 17-foot wide deck.
Developed as a Minnesota State Trail, the Gateway opened for use in 1993. It was designated a National Recreation Trail in 2002.
Walt Hug of Birdsboro, Pa., writes:
My wife and I live on the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) in Berks County, Pa. When volunteering as a Trail Ambassador for SRT, the old Pennsylvania Railroad bridge (with its 11 arches), near Douglassville, Pa., is a favorite spot with nice tranquil views in both directions.
Daniel B. Taylor of Gettysburg, Pa., writes:
When I first rode the Great Allegheny Passage from Cumberland, Md., to McKeesport, Pa., I was awestruck with a scene that suddenly appeared as I was crossing the Salisbury Viaduct just west of Meyersdale. There, in one panorama, lay visual representation of four different centuries in American history.
First, I saw fertile fields of corn growing, much as they may have looked in the 1790s when President Washington called for a militia force to put down an armed insurrection—the Whiskey Rebellion, which was occurring throughout this region of western Pennsylvania.
My eye wandered more directly beneath the bridge, to the snaking tracks of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, emblematic of the great railroad expansion of the late 1800s. No more than half a mile from there was a four-lane, limited-access freeway exactly like those that became ubiquitous during the latter half of the 1900s as part of President Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System.
Then, with a glance upward to the horizon, I saw a line of enormous, power-generating windmills arrayed along the ridge of the Appalachians, running on either side of the gap through which the Casselman River and rail-trail pass.
It's a unique scene, and almost mesmerizing to me. Every year when I ride the trail—always from east to west—that view captures my attention and my heart like no other.