The WR Draw Bridge: A Hidden Jewel between Newark and Kearny, NJ



Steeped in rich history and bearing the telltale signs of a bygone era, the Erie WR Draw Bridge, colloquially known as the "Cut Bridge" stands as a living testament to the industrial past of Newark and Kearny, New Jersey. This landmark, which once 'cut' a path between the former Maas & Waldstein Company and the Northern New Jersey Oil Corporation properties, is a fascinating piece of local history, which I endeavored to understand back in 2016, only to find my nascent research skills wanting.


In the heydays of my urban exploration and my modestly viewed YouTube channel, the bridge was a mysterious entity that intrigued me. Initially known as the Consolidated Rail Corporation Railroad Bridge, it is presently recognized as the landmarked WR Draw Bridge, a name that bears testimony to its strategic location. Constructed in 1897 and subsequently modified in 1911 and 1950, this plate girder swing bridge, spanning over the Passaic River, is a unique architectural marvel. Its function in the passenger service on the Boonton line ceased in 2002, and its freight duties concluded with the inception of Conrail. Furthermore, the bridge's substructure was adapted to accommodate New Jersey Route 21 traffic, currently serving as a bustling conduit beneath its span.


Devotees of HBO's acclaimed family crime drama, 'The Sopranos', may recall the WR Draw Bridge from the introductory sequence credits (0:45), as the show's lead character Tony Soprano, portrayed by James Gandolfini (RIP), passes underneath this very structure. As a non-native New Jerseyan, it was only in retrospect that I recognized the bridge from the series that I had ardently watched during the early 2000s. Quite a few local bridges and other various New Jersey landmarks make an appearance.


The Erie WR Draw Bridge is now on the precipice of a transformation. Slated to become part of a nine-mile mixed-use trail encompassing hiking, walking, biking, and running that will traverse 135 acres and eight municipalities from Montclair to Jersey City. The project, tentatively named the Essex-Hudson Greenway Project (once conceptualized as the Iron and Ice Trail), is on the verge of becoming New Jersey's answer to the New York City High Line. Currently, the trail construction has begun as miles of rail lines have been ripped up this past winter 2022.


A preliminary agreement has been forged between the Norfolk Southern Railroad and the Open Space Institute, an organization dedicated to the preservation of natural, scenic, and historic landscapes. With the remaining NJ Transit Boonton line acquired for an impressive $65 million, New Jersey envisions transforming unused industrial zones into vibrant public green spaces in a phased development. In due time, it is hoped to join the ranks of the world's innovative urban park spaces such as Massachusetts' Cape Cod Rail Trail, the Coulée Verte René-Dumont in Paris, France, and Manhattan's celebrated High Line.


You can view the bridge in my past post here


You can also purchase, “Walking The Old Boonton Line” by Wheeler Antabanez, a writer, photographer, and Weird NJ correspondent, Wheeler Antabanez's exploration of the abandoned railroad route from Montclair to Jersey City. This once-active rail line, which will soon be transformed into a bike path, runs through numerous New Jersey cities, preserving their historical charm. In the winter of 2021/2022, just before its transformation, Antabanez walked the route and took a helicopter ride for aerial photos, immortalizing the area's final moments in its untouched, wild state.



Location: 40°46′36″N 74°09′00″W



Source:

1. Mroz, Jacqueline, "Why NJ's Essex-Hudson Greenway Will be a Game-Changer for Commuters, City Residents", New Jersey Monthly, January 21, 2022

2. The Essex-Hudson Greenway

3. WR Draw Bridge, Wikipedia

4. DeBruler, Dennis, "Erie's WR Bridge over the Passaic River", Industrial History, May 5, 2016

5. Port Series. (1979). United States: U.S. Government Printing Office. [Page]

6. Weird NJ


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