These Used to be Quite Common

When I was a child one of the highlights of car travel was watching for bridges carrying railroad tracks over the highways.

Back in those days it was common for railroads to affix their herald to the side of the bridge or, in some instances, paint their name on the concrete arches of the bridge.

The Pennsylvania Railroad seemed to do a lot of painting of its name on concrete or so it seemed at the time.

A few railroads would spell out their names in other ways on the bridges.

But the most common method of identification was putting the herald on the bridge, typically fastened to the plate girders.

Maybe its my imagination, but it seemed like back the early 1960s nearly every bridge carrying rails over a highway had identification on it.

By the end of the decade, though, the practice seemed to be vanishing.

There probably were a number of factors to explain that including how railroads had lost interest in promoting themselves as they increasingly got out of the passenger business.

Cost was probably another reason. But as much as anything, there probably was a change in thinking by railroads and state highway departments in regards to identifying railroads on their bridges.

Some of these identification signs still exist although some of the heralds have been painted over.

It is rare to see a herald or name of a modern day Class 1 railroad on a bridge, although the CSX herald was placed over that of the Baltimore & Ohio on a bridge west of Lodi, Ohio.

Earlier this year I made it a point to photograph two bridges in Dayton that still had B&O capitol dome heralds on them.

I also made sure to get the Norfolk & Western herald shown above on a bridge in Noblesville, Indiana.

This herald is pretty much hidden by a bridge carrying a hike and bike trail over the White River in downtown Noblesville.

In fact I walked past it a few times before I saw it. Photographing it was a challenge because it was obscured by metal work on the trail bridge. That’s why the photo is angled as it is.

This also is the closest I’ve been to one of these heralds, which used to be quite common in N&W territory.

It has been decades since the N&W owned the rails carrying this bridge over a Noblesville street.

The track now ends a short distance away to the left and is used only by a tourist train, the Nickel Plate Express.

This used to be NKP branch line that ran from Indianapolis to Michigan City, Indiana.

Because it was a branch no one thought it was worth the time or money to remove it.

That was a good thing from my perspective because it gave me a chance to relive those days when we’ve be traveling and I’d see a railroad bridge and I would wonder where those tracks led.

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