Exploring Auburn’s Abandoned River Crossings

Two unique but abandoned bridges cross the Schuylkill River near Auburn, Pennsylvania.

Two unique but abandoned bridges cross the Schuylkill River near Auburn, Pennsylvania.

The River Road Bridge, a Parker through truss, carried River Road and was constructed in 1903 by Nelson & Buchanan of Chambersburg. It was built under the Act of 1895, which authorized state funding for bridges lost due to natural disasters. The bridge was closed to traffic after a 2017 inspection revealed the superstructure was in “imminent” failure condition.

Nearby is the former Pennsylvania Railroad Schuylkill Branch, partly converted into a rail trail. The Schuylkill Branch was part of the PRR’s effort to develop its anthracite coal holdings in the upper Susquehanna River watershed. At milepost 83.40, the PRR constructed an extensive truss and girder structure to carry the railroad over the river, the Reading Railroad, and the Schuylkill Navigation Canal.

The bridge partially collapsed after a derailment in 1910, leading to a reconstruction of the structure over the Reading Railroad. Another rebuild in 1919 focused on the river spans, while the truss over the canal was later replaced with earthen fill.

The Schuylkill Branch was abandoned north of Pottsville in 1965, as it had not met the PRR’s expectations. The Reading Railroad maintained its dominance in coal tonnage. More recently, in 2023, the river spans of the abandoned railroad were renovated for use as part of the Schuylkill River Trail, although the truss span over the former Reading line remains abandoned.

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