Historic Structures

Wrights Covered Bridge, Claremont New Hampshire

Date added: May 18, 2018 Categories: New Hampshire Bridges

One of only eight remaining covered railroad bridges in the country. Wright's Bridge is structurally the most interesting of the four existing bridges built while Jonathan Parker Snow was bridge engineer at the Boston & Maine Railroad. The use of the arch, which is original here, effected modifications to the lattice design. Snow was an important advocate for wooden bridges into the early twentieth century. It was used as a railroad bridge until 1977 when the line was abandoned.

The Concord & Claremont Railroad received a charter in 1848 for a line extending west-northwest from Concord to Bradford, Newport, and Claremont. Work was soon completed to Bradford, but financial and engineering difficulties prevented its further extension until the early 1870s. At that time a separate company (the Sugar River Railroad) was incorporated to finish the work as described in the original charter. Service was completed through Newport to Claremont by September 1872.

The rail line followed Sugar River closely, and crossed it fourteen times on double town lattice truss bridges, all but one of which were covered. Two were eliminated in the late 1890s because of a change in the course of the river. The Sugar River Railroad bought right-of-way land from S.K. Wright in 1871 and built the original 120' covered bridge that bears his name in 1872.

Consolidation of America's railroad system in the late nineteenth century brought a succession of new owners to the line and its bridges. In 1873 the Concord & Claremont absorbed the Sugar River line, but it in turn was already under the control of the Northern Railroad. The Boston & Lowell Railroad leased the Northern in 1884, and then it was swallowed up in the vast Boston & Maine system in 1887, bringing long-term stability to the route.

Boston & Maine replaced the original Wright's Bridge with the present structure in 1905- 06. The new bridge was longer than the old at 136' and required the preparation of new abutments. At various points in its history the bridge carried number 178, or 50-26.

Area railroad service declined after World War II, and Boston & Maine proposed abandonment of this route in 1954. Instead, Samuel M. Pinsley, who owned several New England short lines, bought the route and incorporated a new Concord & Claremont Railway. Passenger service through Wright's Bridge ended in 1955, and the line was gradually abandoned, starting from its east end, which was the part built first. The section between Newport and Claremont saw its last regular freight train in 1977. After the abandonment, Pinsley threatened to tear down Wright's Bridge and the nearby Pier Bridge, which is also covered. He seems to have been annoyed by preservation efforts. After some negotiation, the State of New Hampshire bought the roadbed along with the two covered bridges. After removal of the tracks, the route was eventually converted to a recreational trail for all-terrain vehicles, horses, hikers, and in winter, snowmobiles. The trail is well used and the bridges are much appreciated.