Mind The Gap!

The William Cribari (aka Bridge Street) Bridge is not the only local span that occasionally opens, to accommodate Saugatuck River traffic.

This was the scene earlier today, at the Westport train station:


Alert “06880” reader Frederic Chiu — who captured the scene — notes, “I sometimes forget Westport is a functioning river town.”

(Though “functioning” is debatable. His train was delayed due to “drawbridge failure.”)

47 responses to “Mind The Gap!

  1. Ha! My train is now 30 minutes late! Just pulling up now! Frederic

  2. I don’t recall ever seeing this before. I thought the railroad bridge was high enough for anything to pass under. I wonder what was happening underneath… what was passing…

    • I have seen & waited for The Bridge Street bridge to open & close for ships & boats (more often in the 60s & 70s). I meant I have never seen the railroad bridge open.

  3. didn”t you asses ever see the very tall masted sail boats in the river

  4. Hi Dan-

    Bill Cribar(i)….my friend…

    ill send you details…the Smithsonian /Cropper date is now firm: Dec. 1 Thursday

    Roger Kaufman rzktroger@aol.com

  5. An “06880” reader passes this along:

    “I heard confidentially the other day that as part of the ongoing track upgrades, the Norwalk train bridge will be replaced in next 12 months

    More importantly, the Westport commute to NYC will increase by 15 minutes during that long-term construction

    The information was from someone in the boating community in Norwalk. Does anyone know anything about this?”

  6. Watching these tracks soar into the air with their overhead lines folding in on themselves is like watching a pair of rusty but strangely adroit robots rising from a deep sleep. The crew is fascinating to watch and it’s clear this is really dangerous work. The irony is that Westporters can observe it all from just a few feet away by standing on the pedestrian walkway that runs along the side of the bridge.

    • Brilliant descriptive imagery Mr.Boyd. (Descriptive imagery: the preservationists’ stealth weapon). I wish you’d posted a video. (Now I’m thinking of the Björk video w/ the robots. I forget the name of the English director — but it’s amazing). I’m in Fairfield so I can’t stroll down to the bridge & wait for it to open (ideally w/ coffee in one hand & something resembling a bagel in the other. Come BACK Peter’s Bridge Market…).

      They are quite beautiful. I love the lacyness of these kind of steel & iron structures. (Confession — should that sound weird: I am a formally trained goldsmith). I once saw a Corbusier (sp?) iron & crystal chandelier that was a thing of WONDER and latticed iron bridges surrounded by shimmering water gives me the same impression.

      • *Le Corbusier

      • I’ve been wondering about something. When train service began two days after Christmas in 1848, that pedestrian walkway was there. This feature, which was requested by our state reps, was supposed to ease the sting of losing the fight to keep the railroad away from Westport. It’s still there today.

        In a world where almost every object or experience now comes with a trigger warning, this travel path is in a retro league of its own. For all intents and purposes you’re basically out there on one of the busiest rail corridors in the nation with just a low railing thrown in as a sort of safety gesture. Try not to have a heart attack when the Acela screams past your left shoulder with a few feet to spare…

        I love that this raw, 19th century industrial-accident-waiting-to-happen type experience has somehow evaded the danger nannies. But I digress. What I was wondering is this: how many other bridge walkways are there on this line? It couldn’t just be us, right? Or could it?

        • x Mr.Boyd re. the pedestrian walkway

          It would be interesting to know if they were just bowing to the wishes & wants of Saugatuckers! (Only).

          I’m not sure if pedestrian rights were more respected then (prior to the disrespect & danger now for pedestrians since post WWII car culture) as there were a LOT of road accidents where pedestrians were killed by horse & carriage. (Although that was probably more a result of pedestrian crowding & density vs. lack of respect / acknowledgement as happens now).

          There is an old photo of downtown Norwalk (late 19th or early 20th c.) filled w/ so VERY many people it looks like Times Square! I suspect Saugatuck was just as busy then (when the tracks were put down — even earlier than when the Norwalk photo was taken).

          When the first car came to Westport in the early 1900s it was a big enough story that it was recorded. (In the early 70s my friend Liz lived in the house where the first car owner lived — across from the 1830s mill building that became Embalmers Supply Co. next to Glendinning beach… The beach now a driveway to the restoreduntilruined mill. The first garage in town was built into the side of the hill there & still there in the 1990s & fingers crossed still there now…The forest green carriage doors — very small for one car — in the side of the hill).

          There must have been no other way to cross the river by foot in Saugatuck. The other bridge would have caused people to be too far from their homes & farms (& what are the dates of both bridges? I should know that as a local…).

          Perhaps in other CT towns & villages there wasn’t such a densely populated place combining businesses & homes right next to a river & train station?

          When I was in downtown Eugene Oregon in 1979 I was shocked that there were no train platforms & people just walked over the tracks to get to the other side w/ the whole terrain around the station perfectly flat… like an enormous accident scene waiting to happen.

          It’s an interesting question.
          I promise to read your forthcoming dissertation (or following book) on when the train tracks came to Saugatuck! (W/ additional research by Ms. Crowther).

          • PS: You’re right — it is very weird that this is still allowed and has not been walled off. Now I hope the type of people you are referring to do not read this blog! Hahaha… Should we be calling attention to this? I’ve never been on it — but I can imagine what you’ve described of the trains going by that close as a brain chemistry altering moment.

            Also I noticed you wrote the year. I missed that before — hence pay no attention to my question about the build dates.

        • I hate to throw a shadow over this post — but I’ve remembered a woman was killed crossing/walking this bridge only recently. She must have been on the actual tracks though (?) vs. this walkway you’ve written of. So it’s even more of a wonder that it’s been left as is. Perhaps they (State of CT) assume w/ car culture that nobody uses it anymore?

          • Elizabeth Thibault

            I think the transportation department is WELL aware of the heavy usage of the pedestrian path on the bridge. Anyone who commutes from the Compo, Imperial Ave, and western Greens Farms area walks over this bridge. There has been talk about it being temporarily closed to foot traffic when additional work is done on the bridge, and that was met with fierce opposition. It’s actually perfectly safe and really not that nerve-wracking when a train goes by, because they’re normally slow is they’re on the close track – the Acela is typically on the inside track. (The Metro-North conductors will even give a friendly wave back at you, when they slowly track past.)
            The specifics about the poor woman who was killed were only speculated about, as there were no cameras or witnesses. She had recently moved to the area and was unfamiliar with the bridge and path. Knowing the state of the tracks at both ends of the bridge though, I struggle to think of how she ended up on the tracks part, since it would have involved jumping a fence or off the end of the platform. The benefits of the path far outweigh the risk of an extremely rare occurrence such as this one.

            • I’m not sure if you misunderstood me? I wrote that she must have been on the tracks. I wasn’t calling for it to be closed. I lived in Greens Farms & the trains would even stop for me when I waved them down — after they had left the GF platform & I was running late. I had to walk up the sandy hill. This was in the 80s — when I moved back for two years. My comments show that I want the bridge preserved as it is.

      • *The Björk robot video is ‘All is Full of Love’ directed by Chris Cunningham.

  7. “06880” is not the only show in town. Westportnow has had a youtube video of the rr bridge in operation since July 2015.


    • Michael Calise

      Thanks Tom,
      Great Video – Look at it again and watch the workman to the right as the last bridge section drops into place.

      • I only noticed watching the video the second time — after you pointed that out Mr.Calise — he crosses himself! (See at 3:26) I suppose all of us who ride the train there should thank him! Beautiful.

        Out of only curiosity I was trying to work out if he was Orthodox or Catholic but I wasn’t quick enough in observing. (right to left vs. left to right).

        Another brilliant & very low tech part of this vid is the hand HAMMERING something at end… in ONE place only… after everything else was said & done… & crossed…

  8. In 1974 while recovering from surgery I decided to invent and build an overhead catenary system for my large model railroad. I spent several hours studying the SAGA bridge to see how it worked. It is quite ingenious how the overhead mechanism retracts and deploys. Two similar model bridges were modified by me to accomodate the overhead wires on my layout. The bridges lift…wires move with it and then refit when lowered.

    I have provided a link below to show how the models work on my layout and through the bridges.


  9. Hmmm. Link didn’t come out right…hope this works


  10. Robert Mitchell

    If anyone is interested, our bridge is a single leaf Scherzer rolling lift bascule bridge. Or, in other words, a drawbridge, as opposed to the Cribari Bridge, which is a swing bridge.

    • So many bridge experts on this site! … or engineers… or obsessives… or all of the above… I love it. I picture the lot of you playing w/ the metal Erector Set toy when you were little…

  11. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    Wow! I almost deleted this with out checking for further response. I thought I knew it all concerning Westport’s bridges. Wrong! Another bridge to be saved? It is certainly, strangely beautiful and more pleasing in looks than a new bridge will be.

    • Fingers crossed it is only the Norwalk bridge being replaced. (& I’m not sure of any of the details of that bridge… how old… how rare… preservation over the years etc.)

  12. Think of it as the Tower Bridge, and realize the beauty and function.
    Hardly a delay.

  13. This bridge, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been targeted for replacement. As with its more famous older sister up stream, it will no doubt fall to ordinary citizens to defend the scale, character and nature of whatever follows. And those citizens should expect certain entities in their local government to undermine their efforts in myriad ways that truly defy belief. Not that I know anything about that.

    • Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

      I think that you would know a great deal about that! Let me know, and everyone else, when we need to get busy. It is a beautiful structure.

    • One would assume that any building named on the National Register of Historic Places would be untouched. Seems that the Register has no confidence.

      • Although, the National Register is an indication of a given thing’s historic significance, at the end of the day, it’s merely an honorarium. Nevertheless, some people who shall remain nameless stubbornly maintain an almost childlike confidence in the NR’s ability to preserve historic bridges – despite shocking evidence to the contrary in an adjoining town.

        • So no UNESCO heritage sites?

        • Do you mean the Norwalk bridge which is coming down? How old is it? If it is on the National Historic Register as well what is it’s name there? Is it rare? (As bridges go?). Or perhaps you are referring to another bridge? (Please forgive so many questions!).

          As Ms.Schmerker said: please let us know when any help is needed. Since you are leading the charge on bridges.

          • *Or rather PREVENTING ‘the charge on bridges’

            • The Walk Bridge in Norwalk is the man-caused disaster to which I was referring. It’s of a similar vintage as Westport’s, I think.

  14. x Morley Boyd

    Thanks for answering. That is sad. The website I visited today (posted/linked by someone in this thread) was ever so cheerful in tone. I wonder if there was any opposition. It’s like swimming against the tide. Only in this area — w/ so very many house teardowns — more like a riptide. There goes my weekend! Sussing out details on this Norwalk bridge.

    Ms.Crowther did that to one of my weekends last month or the month before w/ the mention of a local murder… I fell down a rabbit hole of 20th c. aviators & literary icons finally landing in a Midwest university archive.

  15. x Morley Boyd (re. bridge walkway danger)

    What timing! Dan’s Friday Flashback is about The Compo Inn & someone just posted an article in the thread about Zelda Fitzgerald crossing the Saugatuck Railroad Bridge & almost being hit by the train! (Sorry I can’t link it here now — don’t ask why!)

    • *Westport Magazine article

      • I remember that article. Poor Zelda. I’m sure the near miss was no accident. To bad she didn’t know what else was headed her way. The train would have been a more dignified end.

        • I remembered having read that article also ten years ago (now that ten years goes by as soon as I turn around). I’d forgotten the RR bridge part. It hadn’t occurred to me… what you wrote… until you wrote it. It’s a heartbreaking life story… for both… Perhaps some people burn far brighter & hence faster…

  16. x Elizabeth Thibault

    Re. The State being well aware of pedestrians.

    I live in Fairfield now. My 91 year old neighbour from my building (mixed use / shops / businesses / partial market rate / partial elderly) was just tragically killed two weeks ago crossing Black Rock Turnpike (basically a highway) whilst the light was set on blinking. (Which it switches to in the evening). Because cars no longer stop or even slow down here for a blinking light. Another crosswalk light is completely broken.

    I have written to the State & everyone else to impress upon someone ANYONE the need to have the light not be set at blinking here. There are two nearby elderly housing complexes w/ the road — driven by trucks & speeding cars — lying between those homes & a supermarket. If I can barely make it across in one piece how can a 91 year old.

    Not only have I gotten no response in the form of a return email etc. but the broken light is still broken & the blinking light is still set on blinking.

    Then for poetic effect today somebody taped a tag sale poster over the flowers I have tied w/ a ribbon on the telephone pole on which she died (the candle & dolls I put there made it hard to miss as the site of a recent death).

    This has little to do w/ your post except that honestly I don’t believe the State of CT is very aware of pedestrians or their health or safety or wishes & wants. The State is in charge of the traffic lights.

    That said all of my posts show that I want the bridge to remain as it is with the pedestrian walkway kept open. I think we were only joking that miraculously it HASN’T been altered.

    Given the horrific accident which just occurred w/ my neighbour I believe the State is NOT paying attention. In the case of my elderly neighbour the indifference of the State had a tragic consequence. In the case of the Saugatuck RR Bridge I believe that indifference has had a beneficial consequence.

    I could be wrong: they may be a loving nursemaid to pedestrians w/ the exception of this dangerous highway that I watch frail elderly people attempt to traverse every day. But my feeling is that the neglect exhibited by the State can be for good or evil — depending on the scenario.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      No, I think the state just doesn’t care really much about Fairfield County, as there seems to be a lot of resentment in Hartford towards the towns here that are financially well off. There’s an attitude of resentment and “let them take care of things themselves,” even when it’s a state responsibility. Heck, we’ve seen that with the pedestrian fatalities on the Post Road East, by Shake Shack and Stop and Shop. I don’t think it’s a disregard for pedestrians as much as a disregard for our general area.

      • A strange, non-uniform system.

      • “No”… “No” WHAT? Or WHY?

        This will be my last post on this — as I am TRAUMATISED from my neighbour being killed. (Especially in the HORRIFIC manner in which it transpired).

        The STATE is responsible for the traffic lights on BRT. The town cannot touch them.

        I come from a culture where it is rude to say the word “no” in ANY circumstances — which admittedly can lead to some confusion when someone disagrees w/ you & you are dancing round w/ them in a game of ancient empathic etiquette unsure of what they mean.

        However it FLOORS me when people say “no” for ZERO reason in the face of someones’s gory TRAUMA. What EXACTLY are you objecting to about every SINGLE thing I have said in this post. ESPECIALLY when I have said NOTHING counter to your views.

        • *I meant ‘these posts’ plural — NOT ‘this post’ singular.

          Also the last post to which I refer was meant x Ms.Thibault

        • Elizabeth Thibault

          I’m sorry for any confusion I might have caused with poor phrasing choices. I’m not disagreeing with you. I just think there’s a tragic disregard at the state level for our valid local concerns. This “there’s nothing we can get them to do,” has been reiterated to me in regards to several concerns I’ve expressed to our legislators, on topics that range the gamut, including the dangers on PRE to the proposed communication tower on Greens Farms to requests for noise and safety barriers around I-95, (which Westport is the only town in Fairfield county without these!) I don’t think it’s a disregard specific to pedestrian safety, it’s an overall and general disregard for our concerns.