Saturday, April 26, 2014

Nickel Plate Road High Level Bridge

[View Larger Map]

If you happened to be reading this humble blog late last year (and you haven't quite gotten bored of it yet), you might remember me posting a flurry of Cleveland bridge photos. I was there for a weekend back in March 2012, and the posts have sort of been trickling out since then. Count your lucky stars I'm not in the breaking news business.

Anyway, I still have a couple of Cuyahoga River bridges left, believe it or not. Today's installment is yet another railroad bridge, this one for the Norfolk Southern line next to the Innerbelt Bridge (and/or its under-construction replacement). This post took a while took a while to put together because I had trouble figuring out what the bridge is called. You can't get far in this blog business unless you can at least name the thing you're writing about. I do know a few people in Cleveland, and I suppose I could have just asked them, but it feels like kind of a weird and esoteric question, and they'd probably ask me why I'm not writing about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame like a normal person, and I wouldn't have a good answer for them, and it would be embarrassing. Anyway, I tend to just trust in my Google-fu to eventually come up with the right search terms sooner or later, which is what happened this time.

So according to certain parts of the internet, this is the Nickel Plate Road High Level Bridge. To clarify the name a little, "Nickel Plate Road" was the original railroad that built it, and not the name of a city street, and "High Level" meaning the railroad runs on an elevated trestle above the Flats, unlike many of the other railroad bridges in the area, which are "low level".

As for the strange name of the railroad, I initially assumed -- given the industrial location of the bridge, the piles of gravel, the cargo ships, etcetera -- that the rail line must have served either a local nickel plating plant, or a Superfund site that used to be a nickel plating plant. But that's not the story at all. A railroad page at Cleveland Memory explains that back in the 1880s when the railroad was built, "nickel plated" meant shiny and fancy, and the railroad was intended to be a first class operation, no expenses spared or corners cut. The whole idea with making this a high-level bridge was to give the rail line a level route through the city, without slow uphill and downhill sections. The first bridge at this spot was a swing span bridge that opened in August 1882, as the final link in a line connecting New York and Chicago. That bridge was replaced with the current lift span bridge in 1917, to accommodate larger and heavier trains. In 1957, the lift section was replaced with one with a higher clearance, to allow larger ships to sail upriver from here.

So that's what I know about the bridge. It occurs to me that this is the umpteenth-plus-one railroad bridge I've posted about that's painted a flat black color. And I don't know why. Why black, of all colors? Not because it's chic or slimming, I imagine. Is black paint slightly cheaper? I have no idea. If you know, or have an interesting theory, feel free to leave a comment in the little box below. Thx. Mgmt.

No comments :