Historic bridge house will live on at museum
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Mon., Jan. 21, 2013
The 105-year-old Niantic River Bridge was officially replaced in September of 2012. Built in 1907 by the King Bridge Company, the 68-foot bridge carried Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line between East Lyme and Waterford. The new bridge, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, began construction in 2010. Shortly before its completion, Adrian Adkins from the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum made contact with the contractor, Gambro Middlesex. He was able to talk the company into donating ties from the old bridge, along with the old control house, to the museum. “They would have had to pay to dispose of it otherwise,” said museum member Cliff Lund, as he held a guide rope on the morning of Jan. 18.
It was bitterly cold that morning, cold enough to cause pain to exposed skin after mere minutes. But Lund and other volunteers were giving their time, as they do so often, to the museum - a labor of love for many residents of Windham and nearby towns. The task of the morning was to reinstall the roof of the control house, which had arrived on the museum grounds on Dec. 20. Gambro Middlesex transported the main structure and the roof, on two separate flatbeds, free of charge. They also brought a large number of pressure-treated ties, which the museum will use for a number of different projects.
“I’ve been in that house many times,” said museum member Bob Lemay, as he photographed the procedure. “That bridge is a main route for the fishing boats in that area.” Lemay said that the new bridge will provide better clearance for passing boats. The old control house, which dates back to 1907, was also replaced by a newer version. Lemay pointed to the front side of the small structure, which was dingy gray in comparison to the bright white of the rest of the building. “There wasn’t enough clearance between the bridge and that wall so they could never get in there to paint it,” said Lemay.
“This old house was constructed way back when steam engines ran on the New Haven Railroad,” said Lund, as he supervised one of the guide ropes controlling the roof. In the 1980s the house was refurbished, its windows replaced and vinyl siding installed. “We’re going to bring it back to its original clapboard siding and restore it,” said Lund. Eventually, the building will be restored to represent a particular era. “Most likely the 1920s or 1930s,” said Lund.