In the liberal, hippie’esque town of Portland, Maine, you can find a vibrant local music scene, beautiful green spaces, and a creepy abandoned bridge. For years, this structure, adorned with railroad tracks, has stood in the Back Cove of the Portland Peninsula. Interestingly, it is a swing bridge that is permanently held in the open position.
Swing bridges are moveable bridges that operate on a twisting mechanism. They are supported by a large column that allows a segment of the bridge to be moved out of the way when a ship needs to travel underneath. Though the exact history of swing bridges is unknown, there are countless carcasses that can be found throughout the world.
This particular bridge’s history is known, though. In 1840, a railroad was built to connect Portland and the nearby town of Yarmouth. Eventually, the train tracks were expanded to connect Maine with the Canadian city of Montreal. This bridge was built to let the trains travel uninterrupted, but also allow ships to pass through the Back Cove.
But, in 1984, the bridge was severely damaged during an arson fire. The motive behind the crime, or its perpetrators, were never discovered. The railway company felt that repairing the bridge would cost more money than it was worth, so they decided to leave the damaged remains where they were when they were set ablaze over thirty years ago.
This is an unusual approach disaster-cleanup. Typically, the remains of a bridge like this one, especially if it was destroyed in an arson fire, would be cleared to allow ships to pass through the harbor. But, this particular bridge is so important to the people of Portland that they can’t even imagine the possibility of destroying it.
Nowadays, the abandoned bridge serves as an interesting landmark for Portland residents and tourists alike. Visitors have often expressed an unusual feeling of nostalgia while passing by the bridge. They imagine the countless shipments of goods that once traveled over its tresses.
For those who are hoping for a more intimate connection with the bridge, they can travel on the train lines that run parallel to the bay. Originally, these were the tracks that connected to the old swinging contraption. After the fire, though, the railroad company elected to move the tracks onto the mainland to prevent the need for a bridge.
A long time ago, this swing bridge was an important passageway for trucks and trains transporting exports to and from Canada. Now, it no longer serves a functional purpose, but it holds a special place in the hearts of many New Englanders. Sometimes, just knowing that someone, or something, is nearby is enough to make it valuable.
It’s true that there are countless bridge carcasses that can be found throughout the world, but few hold the significance of this one in Portland, Maine. Over the next century, it will remain important to the people who live nearby, but still be the source of plenty of stories and folklore for those who pass by.