Unused Pedestrian Bridge Demolished By Train In Manayunk

 

Manayunk Towpath January 2 2012

Bridge that was demolished by train on March 19 | Mike Szilagyi photo

An abandoned pedestrian bridge spanning the Schuylkill Canal collapsed last Monday after being struck by an extra-tall freight car, part of a train serving a paper mill on Venice Island. The spindly steel truss bridge is the same one shown in a January Hidden City Daily article about the completion of renovations to the Manuyunk Canal towpath (click HERE for that article).

Until last week’s accident, two abandoned truss bridges crossed the canal, the trail boardwalk, and the freight track between Cotton Street and Carson Street. The bridge struck by the train is the southernmost of the two. Built to enable Manayunk’s workers to walk to the industries that once filled Venice Island, in recent years the bridge was closed to pedestrians, serving only as a support for utility lines. The destruction of the bridge means the loss of one more intriguing–and visually appealing–remnant of the city’s industrial heritage.

1906 map - North end of Venice Island showing canal towpath

1906 Schuylkill Navigation map showing towpath on Venice Island | collection of Reading Area Community College

It’s worth noting that the present-day “Towpath Trail” was not constructed on the canal towpath. Standard practice for the Schuylkill Navigation Company was to place the towpath on the river side, i.e. the island side of its canals. The Manayunk Canal towpath was located on Venice Island, its alignment occupied since about 1890 by the railroad track.

Today, a paper mill owned by Paperworks Industries is the last remaining customer on this 1.3 mile long Venice Island branch owned and operated by Northfolk Southern. The line also includes the 19th century iron “Blackie Bridge” crossing the Schuylkill River at Lock Street. Should the paper mill decide it no longer requires freight service, or if the mill should relocate as has been rumored, Norfolk Southern will likely offer the right-of-way and the bridge for sale. Trail advocates see that eventuality as an opportunity to construct a parallel bikeway the length of Venice Island. A parallel bike route here could alleviate potential trail user conflicts: bikes across the canal on the former railroad; dog walkers, strollers and joggers on the boardwalks.

About the author

Mike Szilagyi was born in the Logan neighborhood of Philadelphia, and raised in both Logan and what was the far edge of suburbia near Valley Forge. He found himself deeply intrigued by both the built landscape and by the natural “lay of the land.” Where things really get interesting is the fluid, intricate, multi-layered interface between the two.

Send a message!



Comments are closed.

Recent Posts
More Time Needed For Zoning Board Consideration Of Blatstein’s Broad & Washington Proposal

More Time Needed For Zoning Board Consideration Of Blatstein’s Broad & Washington Proposal

April 28, 2016  |  Morning Blend

ZBA asks for two weeks to digest project’s “excessive information,” why the 30th Street Station rail yards might be (almost) completely capped after all, Mantua residents to consider rezoning and gentrification issues, and a call for selective painted bike lanes > more

Reaction To 19th Street Baptist Demo Scare Points Up Changing Sensitivity At L&I

Reaction To 19th Street Baptist Demo Scare Points Up Changing Sensitivity At L&I

April 28, 2016  |  News

A demolition notice mistakenly placed on the doors of 19th Street Baptist Church in Point Breeze sent the preservation and planning community in hot pursuit of answers this week. Michael Bixler reports > more

DNC 2016 The Latest For

DNC 2016 The Latest For “Convention City”

April 27, 2016  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

As the city gears up for the 2016 Democratic National Convention in July, Harry K. gives us a whirlwind tour of Philadelphia political conventions > more

Valet Parking Lot Imagined As Interim Use On Market

Valet Parking Lot Imagined As Interim Use On Market

April 26, 2016  |  Morning Blend

More surface parking coming to Market Street, a look at the winning designs of the Play Space Competition, and baseball mural coming to MLB’s Urban Youth Academy > more

State And City Plan Ahead In Historic Preservation Efforts During Natural Disaster

State And City Plan Ahead In Historic Preservation Efforts During Natural Disaster

April 25, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Historic structures to be attended to in case of natural disaster, filming at Holmesburg prison, and Parks and Rec forgoes upkeep of Northwest golf course > more

In Rittenhouse Square, A Parish Hall That's Seen It All

In Rittenhouse Square, A Parish Hall That’s Seen It All

April 25, 2016  |  The Shadow Knows

Billiards, hospital beds, food bank, and Father Divine. If this building had a resume "versatility" would be at the top of its skills set. The Shadow takes a look behind the doors of this former parish hall at 21st and Naudain > more