ALL...ABOARD: Contoocook Covered Railroad Bridge
Backstory and Context
High water was often an issue for the Contoocook Covered Railroad Bridge. During the flood of 1936 and the hurricane of 1938, the bridge suffered extensive damage. In fact, the only thing that prevented the bridge from being carried downriver was the strength of the steel railroad tracks. Following the 1936 flood, the Claremont and Hillsboro Railway lines suffered so much damage that there was talk of discontinuing them. Claremont, however, had just finished paying franchise and demanded that the washed-out bridges, including the damaged bridge at Contoocook, be restored. Following damage from the 1938 hurricane, trains from West Henniker to Hillsboro were given up.
From the NH Division of Historical Resources:
Location: East of N.H. Route 103 in Contoocook Village on the old Concord and Claremont Railroad line spanning the Contoocook River.
Style of Bridge: Double Town-Pratt lattice truss
Year of Construction: Originally constructed in 1849-50 with major reconstruction in 1889.
Original Cost: Unknown
Structural Characteristics: The bridge is 140'1" long and has clear spans of 64'0" and 67'0". It has an overall width of 21'6" and a roadway width of 15'1", and a maximum vertical clearance of 19'4". The rail line has been abandoned.
Maintained By: New Hampshire Division of Historic Resources
World Guide Number: 26-07-07
New Hampshire Number: 10
Historical Remarks: The structure was originally built when the Concord and Claremont Railroad laid its first 33 miles of track from Concord to Bradford, N.H. In the fall of 1850 when trains began to run regularly between Concord and Contoocook, a "day of great festivity" was held. Speeches were made, the band played, and the cannon thundered. A thousand people sat down to eat at a public dinner that cost $200 to put on. The bridge washed off its abutments in 1936 when the Contoocook River flooded and again in 1938 from a hurricane. The bridge was kept from washing downstream because the rails were bolted together at each joint. After the flood water receded, the bridge was drawn back to its location and restored. From 1962 until 1990 a Contoocook merchant owned and used it as a warehouse. In 1990 the bridge was given to the New Hampshire Division of Historic Resources under RSA 234:31. In the National Register of Historic Places Inventory (nomination form) it was stated that this bridge is the oldest covered railroad bridge still standing in the United States. The Railroad Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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New Hampshire SP Contoocook Railroad Depot, Accessed June 17th 2020. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/77845393.
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Photo credit Bob LaPree
Photo credit Bob LaPree