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Landmark Bridge Razed Near Rochester

With a historic bridge in the balance, CSX decides to opt for safety and convenience rather than historic preservation of the Hojack Bridge.

Tue May 21, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Laurie Mercer

Bystanders watch the Hojack Bridge demolition.
Bystanders watch the Hojack Bridge demolition.
Bystanders watch the Hojack Bridge demolition. The Hojack bridge is dismantled. A welder assists in the deconstruction of a support rail. CSX said that given the age of the structure, careful planning brought it down as anticipated. Manitowoc and 777 cranes, played a big part in the historic bridge’s demolition and removal.

Charlotte, N.Y., where the Genesee River spills into Lake Ontario, is missing one iconic landmark. Constructed in 1905, the rim-bearing, subdivided Warren Truss horizontal swing bridge with central pivot was built for the New York Central Railroad.The structure was designed to last for the next 107 years.

The bridge was opened and closed to accommodate both railroad trains and boats. A double-tracked structure replaced a turn bridge built around 1875 that was moved by one man and a pole. The Hojack Line ran from Niagara Falls to Oswego.

A desire to save the historic bridge, which served as the centerpiece to a long-standing effort to bring back the neighborhood of Charlotte, was not without its support ers. Various groups — Hojack Heroes and SOB (Save Our Bridge) — found Alan King Sloan to contribute his thoughts. Sloan is a descendant of the founder of the King Bridge Company that once created what was then a notable engineering masterpiece.

“We save old maps, old paintings, old quilts, old teapots, old cotton gins, old baseball cards as valuable collectibles to be admired and treasured for their artistic and historic merit. But what about old bridges?” said Slone.

A CSX spokesperson said, “In the past year CSX twice offered to sell the bridge to any qualified party that could take ownership and demonstrate the ability and financial resources to dismantle the bridge.” No one accepted either of those offers.

“CSX was obligated to remove the bridge consistent with the current USCG enforcement proceeding under the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899. The preliminary work began in August 2012, followed by removal of the superstructure from October through the end of the year. The remaining steps were removal of the pilings and supports and dredging,” said the company spokesperson.

Demolition of the Hojack began in late summer 2012. The entire multimillion-dollar process began with asbestos abatement and ended with the removal of the support and the dredging the river bottom.

CSX said that given the age of the structure, careful planning brought it down as anticipated.

“One unique feature (to the demolition) involved the need to remove the pieces of the steel truss symmetrically from either end of the structure to maintain the balance on the center pier,” said the spokesman. “The bridge choreography was worked out well in advance.”

The structure was demolished using the Komatsu 490 and 300 excavators, Manitowoc 222 and 777 cranes, John Deere 120C and 230, 240 Volvo long-stick excavator and a Volvo A25C articulated dump. CSX had spud barges for crane work, and hopper, a push boat, Manitowoc 222 and 777 cranes. A Caterpillar D15G dozer, a fork truck, Komatsu 490 and 300 excavators, a Vibromax 1105 roller, and various cutting, welding, and diving equipment.

The material removed included 850 tons of steel, more than 3,000 tons of boulders, stones, concrete and rail ties. The material was recycled. In addition, the sediments dredged as part of the project went to an approved disposal site.

For history buffs, all is not lost. CSX, working with the NYSDEC and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, recognized and documented the history of the bridge through a comprehensive historic mitigation plan. This plan included a combination of photographs, a detailed written history, and scanned pictures of the demolition process in every stage. The original twin-cylinder steam engine, date plaques, and rotation indicator stand, were donated to the New York Museum of Transportation in Rush.

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