Poughkeepsie Journal—Thursday, May 9, 1974

Long, Colorful History

Journal Staff Writer

Poughkeepsie's railroad bridge has along and colorful history, including a reported death-defying leap by dare devil Steve Brodie in 1888.

Although the Brodie story has been subjected to some skepticism, various reports indicate that Brodie, already famous for a successful leap off the Brooklyn Bridge, did the same thing in Poughkeepsie.

The old Poughkeepsie, Daily Eagle, predecessor of the Journal, reported in 1888 that Brodie leaped from the bridge, was rescued by some friends in a rowboat, and taken to New York to recover.

The railroad bridge was the first bridge across the Hudson below Albany and was one of the engineering wonders of the 19th century.

It was originally planned as a suspension bridge but was finished as a cantilever structure.

'Great Hope'

It was called the "great hope" by its boosters in the 19th Century but never lived up to its promise of bringing Poughkeepsie's. population to the 50,000 mark.

The bridge was completed at the end of December 1888 and took 20 years to build.

The first charter for the bridge passed the State Legislature in 1871, but was amended a year later to allow piers in the river. The cornerstone was laid in 1873. Work by, the American Bridge Co. began in 1876 and a year later the first caisson was launched.

Charter Fight

Work began for a third time on the bridge in 1886. Work progressed rapidly but in 1887 a great fight developed in the Legislature for an extension of the charter.

The last pin, making the bridge complete from shore to shore, was driven on Aug. 29, 1888. The first train crossed the bridge the following month.

In 1912 when the railroad began using Sante Fe, a heavier engine, the bridge was strengthened. The Penn Central received the bridge as part of its merger when it was forced to acquire the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.

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