The Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge Fire 1974  by John Fasulo
     I was in the right place at the right time. Driving to Poughkeepsie one day I noticed smoke rising in the distance near the Hudson. As I got closer, I was diverted off of Route 9 onto local streets. I wound my way through town and realized at one point that the fire was on the railroad bridge, a historic structure built in the 1880s. I knew where the tracks came out onto grade level and rushed to the spot. As I parked the car, I saw one of the local papers photographers about to walk out on the bridge. His name was, "whity", It was a nick name as he was an albino and legally blind. We knew one another from photographing at fires and accidents in the past. I asked him if he wanted me to stick with him on the bridge. He said sure. The fire was about a fourth of the way onto the span. Firemen were on the bridge directing the ladder trucks high pressure hoses below. I shot about two rolls of film when I noticed exactly where we were standing. Below us was a propane tank farm. I asked Whitty if he had the photos that he needed. He said yes. I said good and told him what was below us.  I think he turned a bit whiter that afternoon.

   Since I knew that the Poughkeepsie Journal would have Whity's photos, I rushed down to the Evening News in Newburgh, NY where I knew the Editor, Ron Britzki. Walking into Ron's office, I found him on the phone frantically looking for photos of the bridge fire. He looked up and said, what do you have for me? I said, "Get off the phone, Ive got your fire photos"

   After the fire, the bridge never again saw a train crossing. For a century, the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge brought the countries goods from the South and West to New England. No more. The bridge still stands, rusted and silent. Numerous ideas for it use have been pandered over the years, including making it into a mall!  Throwing my hat into the ring, my idea is to once again use the bridge for a light rail link from the West side of the river to the East, bringing commuters to the train station at Poughkepsie. Don't hold your breath on this one.

John Fasulo
Sept 2006
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