NEB&W Guide to the Railroad Causeway Across Lake Champlain

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NEB&W Layout Table of Contents


Introduction



Overview

  • A section of the topographic map shows the causeway was built curved to follow an underwater sandbar, as the lake was only a few feet deep here. On the "long fill", there were two bridges, a swing bridge on the north section and a fixed girder bridge on the southern section. The clusters of little squares along the shore line are summer cabins.



Causeway

  • When first built c. 1900, the fill was not yet protected with the large blocks of marble rip-rap.



  • Within a few years, the rip-rap had been added.



  • A postcard view of the shorter causeway from Grand Isle to North Hero Island, across what was called "The Gut". (Note the bridge is opened.)



  • A Rutland photo of the causeway appeared in the June 1, 1940 Railway Age. The caption specifically pointed out the use of marble slabs for rip-rap.



  • These two Phil Hastings photos which appeared in Jim Shaughnessy's The Rutland Road made us want to model this spectacular scene. The first view was taken from South Hero Island looking southwest, with the swing bridge barely visible.



  • There is a low-level 1940's photo of a train on the causeway, with the swing bridge in the background. Note how large the marble rip-rap is. Also, interesting to see the amount of foliage, not just a product of neglect toward the end.



  • Near the end, the tracks began to be overgrown with weeds.



  • The causeway after abandonment. Note the size of the blocks.



Swing Bridges

  • All three swing bridges on the causeway were built at the same time and as far as I know, all identical. This makes it nearly impossible to figure out which bridge is which in any photos.
    Up until near the end, the bridges were kept closed until a boat needed to pass. During the last few years, as the number of trains dimished down to just a few a day, the bridge was kept open unless a train was due. (This would mean the men would have to row back and forth to get on the bridge to operate it.)
    Before we had seen photos of the bridges, we had been to the causeway a number of times and walked from the South Hero side up to the bridge opening. Looking across the gap, we figured there would be some foreshortening, so trying to take that into account, we guesstimated the distance at 60 feet. Then one time we brought a boat and strung a string from one end to the other, later measuring it at about 180 feet, three times what we guessed. (And even that was not quite right, the three bridges were all 196 ft. 8 ins. long.)

  • The swing bridges were manually operated.



  • At the north end of the long fill was what was called the Point Allen bridge, the south end of the island named Allen Point, probably for Ethan Allen. (As I identify which bridge is in which photo, I will separate that photo into its own section.)



  • In a 1903 issue of Engineering News, there was an article about the new line, particularly the swing bridge mechanism on the causeways (and highway overpasses):
Thanks to Tom Amrine for helping get copies of this.



Drawbridge Tender Shanty

  • I think all three shanties were identical, but there may have been some variations. All three are built in the Queen Anne shingle style.



Modeling



On The Layout

  • Our causeway.



  • Tom Amrine built a mockup of the bridge that is so detailed, most visitors think it is the finished model.



  • The little causeway between Grand Isle and South Hero had been done at the same time as the "Big Fill" but then it got dripped on and had water stains. At one point, someone repainted the marble white, which made everything white, as well as repainted the wood "water" a hideous shade of blue. Kyle Baxendale repainted a more subdued blue and then feathered in the color along the (brown) shoreline.