The railroad bridge was constructed in 1909-10 as a means of crossing the four main lines of the Middle Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Prior to the completion of the bridge, traffic was required to cross the tracks at a Milford Street Crossing. The Railroad Bridge eliminated the risk of a collision between vehicular and train traffic. The bridge came as motorized vehicles were becoming very popular and the protection against accidents was very much in demand.
The following paragraph is taken from: Historicbridges.org
"The one-span, 87'-long, reinforced concrete arch bridge is supported on concrete abutments with paneled pilasters at the corners. The bridge has concrete parapets and paneled spandrel walls to accent the arch. The date "1910" is inscribed at the crown. As part of the extension of the viaduct in 1937, the parapets and posts over the east wingwalls were removed. The arch bridge is historically significant in association with the PRR Main Line. It dates from a period when the PRR concentrated on eliminating dangerous at-grade crossings in cities and towns. The bridge is complete except for the loss of two sections of parapet over the east wingwalls. Although not individually distinguished, it contributes to the historic railroad line."
This railroad bridge didn't connect directly to the Juniata River Bridge until the current steel structure was build in 1937. From 1910 until 1937, traffic would enter the railroad bridge from Market Street, proceed down to First (Water) Street and then enter the covered bridge to cross the river. This traffic pattern was altered significantly with the construction of the current river bridge in 1937.
Because of the direct link between the two, it may be common for people to think of the two bridges as a single unit, but their history suggests otherwise.
The following information is taken from an article by Jane Cannon Mort in the Fall 2021 edition of "JUNIATA JOTTINGS" that focuses on replacement of the 1910 edition of the bridge.
As for the construction of the 1910 overpass, it appears that planning had begun at least as early as 1906, when a local newspaper article, published on May 9 that year, reported: "At the regular monthly meeting of the Borough Council on Monday night, Pennsylvania Railroad offcials were present and submitted plans for the erection of an overhead bridge crossing their track at the foot of Market Street and extending west to Milford Street, where the grade will come to a level with the road leading from the river bridge."
The article further explains: "it is the aim of the company to abolish all grade crossings and just as soon as this could be done at this place, the new depot would be built.
"This structure will be erected about the center of the plot owned by the company on Second Street, and plans for the same have already been made."
A later article, published in the Port Royal Times on Dec. 1, 1909, provides an update on the planning process: "Work Will Soon Be Started on the Overhead Bridge," the headline states. "Every indicator now points to the early erection of the overhead bridge at the foot of Market Street," the article begins. "Supt. C. A. Preston was in Port Royal on Wednesday of last week, looking over the ground, and gave out the report that work would be started within a month.
"Men were at work the latter part of last week removing the sod from the company's ground near the railroad, and at the same time the bridge is being erected, a new depot will be put up. "The Railroad Company (PRR) now has all the land necessary for erection of the bridge between Market and Milford streets on the east side of the PRR, having recently purchased W. S Musser's lot. "It is reported that the new bridge will be made of concrete."
"More tracks made for more trips," Professor George Pierson writes. "The local paper noted (2/28/1906) that in the previous 24 hours, 164 trains had passed through Port Royal, hauling 8,132 cars. That translates into an average of one train every nine minutes with an average train length of 50 cars!
"The paper opined that with so many trains, Port Royal's grade crossings were increasingly dangerous to cross, especially with westbound trains rounding the curve over Tuscarora Creek Bridge at high speeds. A horse and buggy crossing Market Street or Milford Street at grade had little warning. Something needed to be done." The railroad agreed and work began on the bridge that would carry Market Street over the four-track line of the PRR.
At the time the truss bridge was built, the northeastern end of the railroad overpass was reconfigured and raised up, then attached to the truss bridge via a steel stringer span, according to the website www.histoiicbridgesorg. "There are very few surviving bridges that contain such an intersection right in the middle of the bridge," the website states.
Years before, when construction of the overpass began, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and Port Royal Borough amended the original plans that had been set forth in an ordinance adopted by the town council in 1907. That ordinance called for "a steel bridge to cross the tracks of the Pennsylvania railroad diagonally from the intersection of Second and Market streets."
The amendment, proposed in February 1910, called for "a concrete bridge to cross the tracks in a line with Market Street and at the same time the borough vacates 29 feet of said street between Second and Water streets," according to an article in the Feb. 23, 1910, edition of the Port Royal Times.
"There was a goodly representation of the citizens present at the meeting, and a number of protests were made regarding the vacating of Market Street," the article states. But, the article states, the original ordinance "provides for any damage that may result from the building of the bridge, and in view of this fact and after considerable discussion, the amendment was passed."
At the meeting, Supt. Preston reported that "the erection of the new bridge would cost the company about $54,000, and that the structure would be the only one of its kind between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and would be similar to the new concrete bridge at Harrisburg."
By March 1910, construction was underway for the new depot [station], situated along the tracks at the foot of the overpass. [After demolition of the station in 1969], there remains only a crumbling wall and long-abandoned steps leading from Second Street to nowhere.
"The company is putting up a cement wall the entire length of their plot between Milford and Market streets, and when completed, will make a fine background for the new building," the Port Royal Times reported on March 16, 1910. "Work on the erection of the overhead bridge will be started just as soon as proper arrangements can be made."
By the April 13, 1910, edition of the newspaper, those "proper arrangements" had apparently been made. "The work for the erection of the overhead bridge is being pushed as rapidly as possible, but the company has experienced considerable trouble in getting a solid foundation for the abutment of the bridge," the newspaper reported. "On the west side of the tracks it has been necessary to dig a depth of 25 feet before a suitable foundation could be found, at this depth they struck solid rock."
Work on the bridge appears to have progressed rapidly after that. An article published in the May 18, 1910, edition of the Port Royal Times, says, "The Pennsylvania Railroad Company placed the large girders over their tracks at this place on Sunday morning, preparatory
to laying the concrete for the new bridge.
"Many of our citizens contemplated witnessing the placing of those large girders, but they were in position before 7 o'clock a.m."
Work on the bridge and depot continued through the fall, and by Nov. 28, 1910, the Harrisburg Telegraph reported, "The Pennsylvania Railroad Company has a force of men putting the finishing touches to the new station and bridge at Port Royal, with the hope of opening it
by the latter part of November."
If you copy and insert the address below into your browser you can see an AMTRACK train go under the 1910 edition of the railroad bridge and proceed north toward Mifflin.
WORK ON PORT ROYAL BRIDGE TO BEGIN THURSDAY
(From the Sentinel Sep 13, 2022)
PORT ROYAL — PennDOT will begin preliminary work Thursday to replace a Route 75 bridge spanning the Norfolk Southern Railroad in Juniata County.
The project will start with demolition work on a two-story building located at 101 Second St. in Port Royal Borough.
The contractor will implement intermittent single-lane closures between First and Third streets while completing the demolition work. Flaggers in the roadway will provide traffic control during these closures. Starting Thursday, drivers should build extra time into their travel schedules to avoid delays if they pass through the work zone during one of these closures.
PennDOT anticipates work on the bridge beginning in early January and continuing through mid-July. The contractor will close the roadway and implement a detour while the bridge is demolished and replaced. PennDOT will issue an update on the project with details and mapping for the detour route before implementation of the closure.