June 29, 2001
Mr. Nelson, I drove by the `Fisher' bridge in Wolcott, VT. I was surprised and pleased to see major rehab or restoration work being done on the bridge. Can you enlighten me on this project? Would this be in connection to the "Rails to Trails" project announced by the State of Vt. recently concerning the old SO & LC RR right of way?
I'm a railfan and modeler and as such appreciate the preservation of old railroad structures. I do have a concern for the "Fisher' covered bridge if this roadbed is turned into a recreational trail. My concern stems from snowmobilers and the likelyhood of them having parties within the bridge and causing a fire, accidental or otherwise. I do not have to tell you that too many covered bridges have been lost because of fire.
I would appreciate your information and comments. Enclosed is a stamp for a reply or if you wish, use my e-mail address.
Mr. Robar: I checked with the Vermont Agency of Transportation and I was informed that the Agency has no ongoing projects concerning that bridge. Last year there was a handicap-accessible fishing platform put in on the river bank. Perhaps the Lamoille County Planning Commission has taken a hand. I will try a contact there.
Thank you Joe for your reply. Again, last week I drove by the Fisher Bridge to Morrisville, the restoration, rehab work was still going on. Steel staging is erected on the inside and some on the outside of the bridge. It appears the roofing has been stripped with new roof boards applied in some areas. Also it looks like some new heavy framing is in place at the top of the sides. I do not know if this is temporary or permanent.
The next time I'm going that way I will plan to allow time to photograph and ask questions.
Mr. Robar: I'm sorry we don't seem to know much. I received a reply from the Lamoille County Planning Commission and he knows nothing about it, nor did VTrans.
If you take photos I would be pleased to have copies for the record. Meanwhile, I am forwarding your latest email to the VTrans contact. Maybe it will ring a bell.
Previous work on the Fisher Bridge was done under contract by Jan Lewandoski, an excellent bridge wright and timber structures contractor. I will also forward this to him, maybe he knows what the activity is.
That is indeed my crew working on the Fisher Bridge, for the fourth time, structurally repairing the 4th corner and replacing the rotten portions of the roof and roofing. This remarkable bridge, built late in 1908, was easily able to carry its 150 ton live load for 60 years until leakage of the low pitched rolled roofing covered roof caused substantial deterioration of the top chords and some lattice. We also have changed bed timbers and bottom chord members and entire 31 ft. lattice that rotted out near the abutments in the past. This bridge is difficult to work on because it is so heavy, it no longer has a floor system so it is unstable below, and the double lattice makes it hard to disassemble. Pins are commonly 21 to 29 inches long, and the truss is 42 inches through at the bottom, and 25 ft. tall.
Features to note in the bridge are the double lattice, the unusual metal tension connectors in the bottom chord, and the large natural knees at the portals.
Footnote: Our inquiry found that is was Vermont's Division for Historic Preservation that had let the contract for repairs to the bridge. The St. J.&L.C. R.R. agreed to deed the bridge over to the State in the event of the railroad's abandonment, but the entire line was deeded over to the State in 1973. While inactive, the LVRC has not been abandoned. In the lease between the State and the Lamoille Valley Railroad Corporation the Agency of Transportation would be responsible for maintaining the wooden superstructure, while LVRC would be responsible for maintaining the modern steel bridge that now supports the track structure.
[Our thanks to Roger Robar for the use of his photographs and for bringing about this interesting bit of research. J.N.]