Norfolk Southern opens new Portageville Bridge in Western New York

Trains Industry Newsletter
Get a weekly roundup of the industry news you need.
By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine. View our privacy policy.
Norfolk Southern C44-9W No. 9345 leads train 36T, a Buffalo, N.Y., to Allentown, Pa., manifest train on a new steel arch span on Dec. 11. The arch replaces an iron truss bridge built by the Erie Railroad in 1875 and shown on the right.
Norfolk Southern Corp.
Portageville (N.Y.) Bridge in context
Norfolk Southern Corp.
PORTAGEVILLE, N.Y. — Norfolk Southern began a new era on its Southern Tier line on Monday when the first train rolled across the new 963-foot steel arch bridge spanning the Genesee River.

The $75 million bridge replaces the former Erie Railroad Portageville Bridge, an often-photographed iron-and-steel landmark built in 1875. It stands more than 230 feet above the Genesee River in New York’s Letchworth State Park.

“This is a very exciting day for Norfolk Southern and for the future of freight rail service in New York’s Southern Tier region,” NS CEO James A. Squires says in a statement.

The new span, built 75 feet south of the old truss bridge, allows NS to run industry-standard 286,000-lb. cars over the Southern Tier line, up from the current 273,000-pound limit. Trains can move across the bridge at 30 mph, up from 10 mph on the old span.

The line carries about a dozen trains per day and is a key link in Norfolk Southern’s route to New England from the west. It also handles some freight bound for Canada and northern New Jersey.

The first train to use the arch bridge was 36T, a Buffalo to Allentown, Pa., manifest train. The last train across the old bridge was I2K, an intermodal train bound for the NS terminal at Mechanicville, N.Y., NS spokesman Jon Glass says.

NS officially broke ground for the new bridge, and 1,200 feet of new track on either side of the river, on Oct. 28, 2015. The project was funded by a combination of NS, federal, and state money. NS paid the lion’s share of the cost by kicking in $59.5 million.

“The successful completion of this bridge is an excellent demonstration of how the public and private sectors can work together on freight transportation projects that generate significant public benefits and are vital to U.S. commerce,” Squires says. “It’s also a testament to Norfolk Southern’s robust bridge program and the ingenuity of engineers and railroaders.”

The 1875 bridge, the second built on the site, will be dismantled.

The Erie’s first bridge over the Genesee opened in August 1852. The timber span burned down in May 1875 and an iron replacement was quickly built.

Construction on the iron bridge began on June 13, 1875 and was completed in just weeks. It opened on July 31, 1875.

The old bridge was strengthened in 1903, when steel deck girder and steel deck truss girder spans were added, according to an engineering presentation by NS and Modjeski and Masters, a Pennsylvania firm that designed the new bridge.

The 1875 span, 53 miles southeast of Buffalo, was deemed beyond its useful life more than a decade ago.
Leave a Comment
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Please keep your feedback on-topic and respectful. Trains staffers reserve the right to edit or delete any comments.


The history of the Transcontinental Railroad.


Learn more about the stories and photos in this months issue

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy
Subscribe Up To 54% off the newsstand price!
Subscribe To Trains Mag Today