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Recycled railroad bridges for trails

Rails to trails projects typically include the rehabilitation and retrofitting of bridges. Railway engineers in America built an amazing number of bridges, spanning small creeks and great chasms. The “Walkway Over the Hudson” National Recreation Trail in New York is one of the largest. When railroads are abandoned the bridges may or may not be left in place. Sometimes the steel bridges are scrapped along with the rails. Light-duty branch lines often have wood trestles which may have been burned or damaged by floods. However, in most cases the cost of removing bridges is greater than their scrap value and when a corridor is railbanked the bridges are left intact. In converting them to pathways, the main concerns are new decks and railings. In most cases the bridge structure, built to carry 100-ton locomotives, is far more solid than needed for bicycle and pedestrian use. The following examples of bridges come from several parts of the country. For the ultimate recycled railroad bridge see New York's Walkway over the Hudson.

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(Commentary and photos by Stuart Macdonald, September 2009)

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