Thursday, October 13, 2016

These Old Walkin' Shoes: Mystery Train

Last night I was looking at Google Maps of the area around my grandmother's house in Lyndonville. In satellite view, I flew over the small Western New York Village, recognizing places I once played during the summers spent with my grandmother. As I moved the scene around town, I realized that the old Hojack Railroad Bridge was gone.

The old train line that ran through the area was officially abandoned in 1978. I can just barely remember one time having to wait for a train at the crossing by the Lyndonville Fire Department. It could be apocryphal, but I'm pretty sure I saw a train there once.

After the line was abandoned, I had a wonderful time exploring the old rails and ties where it crossed the back  lots across the street from my grandmother's house. I collected railroad spikes and date spikes and brought them home. It drove my dad crazy. I'm sure my collection is long gone, dad having thrown them out during any number of garage cleanings when he thought I wasn't looking.

As a pre-teen and young teenager, I had a great deal of fun exploring along the right-of-way. Just behind the Fire Station, the railroad crossed Johnson's Creek. Crossing the old bridge there was kind of a right of passage, especially for a kid like me who was afraid of heights.

The rotting ties had spaces between them that gave the explorer glimpses of the rushing water below. After years of disrepair and abandonment, some of the ties were in terrible shape. I was pretty afraid to cross where there were larger gaps. At my youngest, I would cling to the iron sides of the bridge. I could grab the sides for stability and hopefully have something to grab if the ties collapsed.

As a got older, I got more daring and would run right down the middle of the bridge where things were the most deteriorated. It got to the point that I had no fears whatsoever. Even later, when I was dating Wendy, I wanted to show off some of my old haunts. The railroad bridge was always a highlight. I took her out there to show off how brave I was by running the length of the bridge.

Looking back, it really wasn't as dangerous as I thought when I was fifteen. At any rate, it was part of my formative years. There is a special spot in my heart for that old railroad bridge. So, when I saw that the bridge was gone, I was a little heartbroken.

To be honest, the bridge was likely a liability for the village. However, it did make it easy for people on the east end of town to quickly get over to Main Street. When I realized the bridge was gone, I thought it would have been great if the Village installed a pedestrian bridge and made the old right-of-way a trail for its residents to use.  I have no idea if they were even able to do that, or want to. It was just a thought.

Seeing that old bridge dismantled and carted away makes the area seemed a little barren, a little less full of life. Where will the hobos camp, sheltered from the elements? Those memories of running across the bridge to pick the good blackberries on the other side are only in the past. As more pieces of history are lost to "progress," I get a little sad.

If any of you have memories of the Hojack bridge in Lyndonville, please feel free to comment below. Just be sure to keep the sordid details out of them. (If they're really good stories -- private message me --jk).

Goodbye, old friend. I will miss you.

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