Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge is the longest train bridge in the world.
Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge
Rail operations around New Orleans require crossing over water. Lots of water. Eastbound trains traveled over land. They crossed the Chef Menteur Pass and Rigolets Pass. This lengthened trips. So, crossing Lake Pontchartrain rather than going around it made sense, but it was a challenge. The New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad accepted the challenge in 1883. The NO&NE was incorporated in 1868 as the Mandeville and Sulphur Springs Railroad. It became the NO&NE in 1871. The railroad completed track construction in 1883. William Harris Hardy, a NO&NE vice-president, proposed the bridge in 1883. The railroad built the Lake Pontchartrain bridge the following year. Hardy rode the first train across the bridge in November, 1884.
Swamp on either side
The bridge spans 5.8 miles of open water, but its length covered an additional 15 miles of marsh. The southern approach required 12 miles of bridge and an additional 3 miles on the north end. So, the bridge is the longest railroad bridge in the world. In 1896, the railroad modified the bridge. They built embankments on both sides. So, the bridge itself only spans the 5.8 miles across the lake.
NO&NE to Southern Railway
Southern Railway acquired NO&NE in 1916. While it was part of the Southern Railway system, it maintained a bit of its original identity. Equipment operating on NO&NE carried the original railroad’s sub-lettering, below the Southern Railway identification.
In 1969, Southern Railway fully merged NO&NE into their Alabama Great Southern subsidiary. NO&NE ceased to exist. Southern Railway merged in 1990 to become Norfolk Southern. Norfolk Southern owns/operates the bridge today.
Hurricane Katrina wiped out 5 of the 5.8 miles of track on the bridge in 2005. So,NS immediately began repairs to this critical connection. The first train after the hurricane crossed the lake sixteen days later.
Trains on the bridge
Freight trains regularly cross the bridge daily. The Amtrak Crescent (#19 and #20) use the bridge to travel from New Orleans to New York City’s Penn Station daily as well.