Twenty or thirty years ago I remember my dad and I talking about the Grand Trunk railroad, or more accurately the Southern New England Railroad. I recall saying something about none of the bridges ever being completed. He told me that was wrong and there was one that he used to jump off when he was a kid. For some reason, I always thought this bridge was in Sturbridge where the line crossed the Quinebaug.
At the time I never did much research on the line so earlier this year I decided to try to find where this bridge was, assuming it was in Westville. There are no abutments, no piles, or any other evidence a bridge of any substance had been built there. There is a bridge in almost the same place that was built several years ago as part of converting the SNE to a rail trail, but this was built at the site of a previous road bridge as seen on the USGS map of 1945.
So where was this mysterious bridge? I knew it had to have been somewhere near Central St, but where? When I found the remains of the Marcy Mills, I thought it could have been slightly up river from there. Since I always seem to take the hard way when I am researching anything I first looked at a Google map of Southbridge. What a great tool for researching where a rail line went. By drawing a line from where I knew the bed was, I could connect the dots.Looking at the map, you can see there is even a road bed and on the other side of the river, there were power lines that could have been installed on the old bed, a fate for much of the SNE. There were two flaws in my theory though, first, there was a building smack dab in the way, and there was a steep downgrade.
The next piece of evidence I came across was from the book “The Titanic Railroad“. There were two pictures of the bridge in the book of a bridge with a background of Paige Hill. This was still in the general area. One of the pictures shows a pretty substantial bridge, so why was there no evidence?
This would be a bridge that would be a tempting target for young boys to cross. This picture depicts the cut into Paige Hill at the left of the picture. The second picture shows the beginning stages of the bridge and it appears that there are some pilings in the water.
I looked around the same area trying to ascertain where and how the bridge crossed the river, I spent time looking at the buildings on Central and Hook streets wondering if some of these buildings may have been altered after the line was abandoned and even came up with a probable route. I was wrong but I thought it may have been except for the steep grade.
The answer turned out to be right in front of me the whole time. As I walked down the abandoned New Haven line I arrived behind 12 Crane Street, something urged me over to the bank overlooking the river. What did I see? The missing bridge, or what was left of it.
Now it all became clear to me, what I assumed was the old SNE bed wasn’t. Rather it was the road between the New Haven bed and the road running next to the river as seen in the map above. The trestle was high which matched the bed. The bridge wasn’t meant to be the final one so the small pilings made sense. The only thing I didn’t find was the telltale 1914 engraved anywhere. But I had found the missing bridge.