Free bridge arrives at WW & F for museum’s push north

Project needs permitting, fundraising
Posted:  Monday, October 9, 2017 - 8:00am
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What weighs an estimated 50,000 pounds, arrived in Alna Oct. 4 and may save Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum about two years in its push north to Route 218?

The Douglas fir Howe truss bridge the nonprofit just got for free from the National Park Service and National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, museum officials said.

Museum member and volunteer Wayne Duffett, who works in railroad bridge construction, heard the bridge might be available in Gorham, New Hampshire and went to check it out. It had been used for standard gauge, but otherwise was very similar to a prior railroad bridge in Alna, he said. 

Due to that, and the plan to use it rather than just make a static display of it, “This is a good home for the bridge,” Duffett said.

The 1918 bridge arrived last week, in pieces that laid stacked at the Cross Road museum over the weekend. Volunteers will assemble it there as the museum pursues local permitting. Officials expect to apply to the planning board before the end of the year.

“The shoreland protection zone is something that is not to be trifled with, so we have to meet all the town’s criteria, which we intend to do, however long that takes,” said museum president David Buczkowski.

The approximately 46-foot-long bridge would cross Trout Brook as part of the museum’s plans to lay track to Route 218, officials said. A train could be crossing the bridge in about two years, instead of the four it probably would take if the museum had to build a bridge, Buczkowski said.

The gift included the work of an engineering contractor, Tim Andrews, Buczkowski said. Volunteers will help Andrews put the bridge together, about a month and a half’s work. Then it will stay put while the permit is sought.

It was the Moose Brook Bridge when the standard gauge Boston & Maine Railroad used it, museum officials said. The narrow gauge museum will rebuild it narrower to lesson the environmental impact, Buczkowski continued. It will need an approach and abutments; those and other items such as test borings should cost the museum at least $100,000, he said. The museum has raised that many digits before. Restoring locomotive No. 9 took a quarter million dollars, raised over 10 years, he said.

“We’re doing (this) shorter.” The museum has sought members’ help through a fundraising campaign separate from the annual one, which will also benefit the bridge and other projects. The annual campaign started Sept. 1 and, at about $70,000 one month in, has already surpassed what it usually raises, Buczkowski said. The goal was higher than usual, $100,000, with $50,000 planned to go to the bridge project, he said.

After everything is set including the permitting, hired house movers will get the rebuilt bridge the four to five miles to Trout Brook, Buczkowski said. Until then, it will remain at Sheepscot Station, he said.

Members like adding track, so they are excited about the bridge, Buczkowski said.

Duffett is. A member since about 2011, the Portland man, interviewed separately Sunday, said he is donating his services to help with the rebuild. “I think this is exciting. It should be a fun project putting it back together,” he said.