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.



Comments are closed.

Recent Posts
Fairmount Park Guard Houses: A Survivor's Guide

Fairmount Park Guard Houses: A Survivor’s Guide

July 29, 2014  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

The Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust is busy restoring the few of these uniquely Philadelphia buildings that remain. Harry K tells us why they're important and where to find them > more

Design Advocate Says New Zoning Classification Needs Revision

Design Advocate Says New Zoning Classification Needs Revision

July 29, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Ruben on the dangers of IRMX, US House votes to rename 30th Street Station, a look at the Linc’s $125 makeover, and the street melodies of yore > more

Lost & Found (And Lost Again)

Lost & Found (And Lost Again)

July 28, 2014  |  Vantage

Keep a close eye on construction sites and you sometimes see a hidden layer of history come to light. Peter Woodall has been saving up good examples for a while now and brings us this collection > more

NoLibs Zoning Chair Discusses How Best To Ensure Density

NoLibs Zoning Chair Discusses How Best To Ensure Density

July 28, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Larry Freedman on the necessity of “sincere and informed” discussions with developers, Ken Weinstein offers to facilitate inclusion of Germantown Ave trestle in regional trail network, St. Joseph’s to get state historical marker, and readying for the Civic Design Review of the Morman Church’s apartment complex proposal > more

A Call For Open Parking Data And The Better Planning It Allows

A Call For Open Parking Data And The Better Planning It Allows

July 25, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Why we can’t ignore the parking problem any longer, developer to talk loft conversion in South Philly, more student housing in UCity, videographer chronicles Philly’s “Makers,” and all taxis to get cameras > more

A Place Called The Plateau Is Where Everybody Goes

A Place Called The Plateau Is Where Everybody Goes

July 24, 2014  |  Last Light

With yesterday's dedication of the John K. Binswanger Grove of Park Champions, the Fairmount Park Conservancy ushered in a new era of growth at the Belmont Plateau. It's always been Brad Maule's favorite place to survey the growth of the Philly skyline > more