Milton’s hidden railroad bridges

I generally post stories of Milton people, but this story is about two railroad trestle bridges in the last remaining section of railroad track within Milton, between Route 30 and Federal Street. Until the existence of these bridges was pointed out to me, I never noticed their existence even though they appear clearly in satellite imagery of that area, imagery that I have looked at dozens of times! Both bridges are west of Federal Street; the nearest to that street spans Ingram Branch and the other crosses over Pemberton Branch. Neither can be spotted from the street, as they are hidden by trees and other vegetation, and are well back from any roadway.

The photo below is of the span over Pemberton Branch, which is in remarkably good condition; DelDot, who I believe owns the track and the right-of-way, has apparently maintained it. It is certain that it would have been rebuilt multiple times since the Queen Anne RR reached Milton in 1897.

Railroad trestle over Pemberton Branch; with little or no vegetation cover over the water, the bridge is visible in satellite imagery  (photo by Phil Martin)

 

View of track looking to northwest, from the trestle bridge over Pemberton Branch; the two inner rails are guard rails, which were commonly used on bridges and curves to reduce the chance of the train leaving the track in the event of a derailment (photo by Phil Martin)

 

Railroad trestle over Pemberton Branch (photo by Phil Martin)

 

The photograph below is of the bridge over the Ingram Branch, very close to Federal Street. This structure also appears well maintained, and is similar in design to its sibling over the Pemberton Branch. It is taller than the latter, and considerably more overgrown on all sides.

Bridge over Ingram Branch, near Federal Street (photo by Phil Martin)

From various reports I have read, DelDot has been very active in transforming former railroad right-of-way into paved biking and walking trails throughout the state. The terminology used is RTT (rails to trails) and RWT (rails with trails); RTT is a full conversion of right-of-way to a paved trail, while WWT is a trail running parallel to an active track. In Sussex County, much of this trail development has been east of the Coastal Highway; one example is the Junction and Breakwater Trail that runs from Lewes to Rehoboth. In Milton, the stretch of track between Chestnut and Federal Street, where the former depot stood, was converted into a paved biking/walking trail sometime after 2010, after some environmental remediation. This conversion was termed Phase I. Phase II would extend the trail to Lavinia Street, and a third phase would extend the trail beyond that, possibly to Route 30.  I was told by a property owner who lives next to the railroad right of way on Federal Street that the track area had recently been surveyed. We can hope that this is an indication that Phase II may proceed in the near future. Having now seen a portion of this abandoned right-of-way, I am convinced it would make an excellent trail.

 

6 thoughts on “Milton’s hidden railroad bridges

  • Kay

    I used to play around those tracks all the time when I was a little girl. We had trails all through the woods from behind the school to the railroad tracks, which was right in back of my house, two doors from the tracks on Federsl Street. Those were the days!!!

  • Lee Revis-Plank

    Wow! How wonderful it would be for me to be able to walk to Frderal street without fearing for my life along Lavinia! The photographs are wonderful … Thanks for this particular topic!

  • Phil Martin

    Note: Vlad Tsyganov, a model railroader from Harrington, first clued me in on the existence of the two trestle in Milton. Thanks to Vlad for a great tip

  • I worked on the Delaware Coast Line Railroad (DCLR) from the early 1980’s to early 1990’s, & ran many trains & did repair work on both of these bridges. After I left the DCLR, I worked at DelDOT’s Rail Services Office (closed in 1999) & had to inspect both of these bridges while the railroad was still active east of Route 30. It is a shame that Draper King Cole closed its doors in Milton & that pretty much ended freight rail service on this line until the DCLR picked-up the customer at Route 30 & still serves them today.

    • Phil Martin

      I’m delighted to hear from you Joe. Trains have always had a special place in my heart; I never worked on a railroad, but I rode trains across Long Island, commuter trains to the northern NYC suburbs, and AMTRAK between DC and NYC. As a kid, I used to put pennies on the rails when I knew a train was coming, and picked up the flattened result later. I climbed into empty box cars on a siding, and did other foolish things that boys do.
      Do you have any photographs of yourself or others inspecting or repairing either of these trestles in Milton? If you do, I would love to add it to the post to prove that once upon a time, people tended to the rails and bridges.
      Can you tell me the year that freight service east of Rt. 30 ended? Also, do you know anything about the Milton depot, and when it was demolished?

      • Thanks Phil. I’ll try to see if I have photos, but most of the time, we were just doing our day-to-day work & didn’t have cameras around (not like today where everyone has a camera on their cell phones).

        Freight service stopped east of Route 30 around 2001 when Draper King Cole closed operations. What’s interesting is that Dogfish Head Brewery’s vats occupy the former boiler house that Draper King Cole had 2 steam boilers installed back in the mid-1980’s. They shipped both boilers in by rail & I was on the train that delivered them.

        As for the Milton depot, I’m not 100% sure when it was torn down & replaced by the “Sears garage” (a common replacement by the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1950’s & 1960’s). The garage (acting as the freight house) was there until the early 1970’s when Penn Central (the PRR’s replacement) tore it down.

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