1958: The 1st Closing of the Kinzua Bridge

photo credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Archives
Andrew Kinzua Stauffer, son of Charles Stauffer

1958: 860 Bid Kinzua Span Farewell: By Bill Evans
Andrew Stauffer Attends Events; Father Charles Stauffer Original Superintendent of Construction
McKean County Democrat, Thursday, May 15, 1958

Bradford May 12- A transportation era came to an end here Sunday when the last passenger train rolled over the rails of famed Kinzua Viaduct.

Attending the observances were 143 persons who boarded the Erie Railroad special train at Bradford and made the 18-mile trip to the spidery structure soon doomed by abandonment.

It was a nostalgic trip for many oldsters among the 860 passengers on the National Railway Historical Society special. The 16-car train, which originated its trip in Meadville, was the last of a long line of excursions, which had been arranged to the historic site in the viaduct’s existence.

Shades of the past, when scores of special trains each year were pulled up the rugged 1.6 percent grade from Bradford to Big Level, were recalled vividly by Andrew Kinzua Stauffer, 75, of Jamestown, who made the trip yesterday,

Made History

Mr. Stauffer’s father, Charles P. Stauffer, was the superintendent of construction on the viaduct when it was erected in 1882 and remained at the site as bridge inspector. “Andy”, was born in the shadow of the viaduct, and was water boy on the project when the bridge was modernized in 1900. He drove the “golden” spike in the new structure. Subsequently he served the Erie for 48 years, retiring as general bridge inspector for the railroad in 1948.

Engineer R. J. Harris, 402 south Ave., a veteran of 41 years on the road, pulled his special train into this city on time at 1:45 p.m. and took aboard 98 adults and 45 children from the old platform of the non-existent Erie passenger station. The three-unit Diesel labored its way up the grade through Lewis Run, Big Shanty, Irish Town and Taintor on a roadbed cut through the forest.

At every crossing in the woods spectators had gathered to photograph the line’s last passenger train. At the side of the viaducts crowed estimated at almost 2,000 persons gathered along the banks of Kinzua Creek 301 feet below and on the hillsides at either end of the 2,053-foot structure.

Shutters Click

Most of the passengers disembarked on the bridge for picture taking while the train proceeded to the Mt. Jewett yard limits, where the diesels were cut around for the return trip. The excursionists, numbering many railway fans who hold membership in the Buffalo Chapter of the Historical Society, had more than an hour at the viaduct, still second highest structure of its kind in the United States.

J. G. Ainey, Salamanca, trainmaster of the Allegany and Bradford divisions of the Erie Railroad, termed the trip “historic.” He said lease arrangements already have been made with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which will provide Erie freight trackage over its rails from Lewis Run to Mt. Jewett when the 14 miles of Erie single track between those communities is abandoned.

“We have no indication, though, just how soon the switchover will come,” he said. “ Certainly this will be the last passenger train ever to use these rails.”

Other Erie officials on the trip were Lester R. Edwards, Bradford, a director; Orlo B. Chapman, Jamestown, division passenger agent; John F. Long, Cleveland, photographer-reporter of The Erie Railroad Magazine. The conductor was William O’Brien of Bradford and the fireman was Walter Painter, Salamanca.

Harold, Beale Jamestown, was in charge for the Buffalo Chapter.

1959: Over 900 Go on Excursion To Famous Kinzua Bridge By: George Questa
McKean County Democrat Thursday, June 25, 1959 Smethport, Pennsylvania

Some 900 Holiday minded area trippers Sunday made what might well be the last excursion to the famed Erie Railroad Kinzua viaduct.

Close to 100 persons boarded the 16-car Kinzua special-15 passenger coaches and a refreshment wagon- at Bradford station for approximately 15-mile southbound trip.

The weather, with summer officially just hours away, was tailor-made. The temperature was in the 80s, the humidity low, and skies sunny and clear.

The junket was sponsored by the Buffalo Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, and was run off in family outing style. Plenty of youngsters were in evidence. The women wore cool, summery frocks, interspersed with shorts and pedal pushers, and the men wore caps, Panamas and short sleeves. Cameras and binoculars were out in force, along with picnic baskets.

Plan to Dismantle Span
The special train pulled out of Meadville at 10 a.m., circled north on Erie line through Cambridge Springs, Union City and Corry, and looped through New York State stops at Jamestown, Randolph and Salamanca before nosing into Bradford. For those who boarded here, the return trip ended at about 10 minutes to 5 o’clock Sunday evening.

Making the trip a nostalgic one for old timers was a fact that the Erie earlier had announced its plans to dismantle the 301-foot high viaduct as part of its proposed area track abandonment.

Since that announcement, however, a bill was introduced in the House at Harrisburg that would authorize the Commonwealth to acquire the bridge and adjoining grounds as a state park, with one of its sponsors Republican Albert W. Johnson, Smethport Republican.

The trip was “very possibly the last,” said Harold F. Beal, Jamestown, who directed the excursion for the Railroad Society. Mr. Beal said he didn't think the postponement had hurt the trip, because the weather Sunday was better, and public response to outings is “always good.” The special was put off from May 17 when a spectacular Erie Freight derailment at Falconer, New York tied up the tracks.

Mr. Beal had eight fellow Buffalo Chapter members with him on the trip. By the way, the Railroad Society is not a group of model train fans, he train fans, he stressed. They go in for the big ones. Asked why, the director answered simply. “ We like railroading.”

Mr. Beal added the excursion drew diehard railroad fans from as far away as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Michigan

On the downward leg, the train clattered across the spidery, 2,053-foot span and stopped about a mile from Mt. Jewett, while the engines reversed for the sightseeing expedition. The coaches rolled to a stop on the spectators about an hour to snap pictures, walk the long footboards, or open lunch baskets under track side trees.

At least two-dozen autos were seen parked along oil lease access roads 300 feet below. Two unimproved roads snaked along the Kinzua Creek, which cuts the broad valley spanned by the viaduct. The spot is about a mile from Kushequa and five miles north of Mt. Jewett.

Visitors who drove to the scenic spot were taking photos of the railroad junketers, who were returning the film complements. The air was filled with paper airplanes, cardboard pie plates and napkins as the small fry tested the valley tested the valley air currents.

Many Comments
Comments heard in passing were: “ Don, Don remember me?” And the answers, as old acquaintances were resumed by chance on excursion, “Limestone?”

“ Hey, Ricky, you know what happened? Kathy almost fell through the bridge!”
And, as the trippers lined the long viaduct railing, pointing below to a motor vehicle bucking up an overgrown access road in the valley: “ That’s a real swamp buggy. There he goes. See him?”

The Railroad, Society’s Buffalo and Rochester chapters are sponsoring a steam-powering rail trip July 19, from Fl. Erie to Orangeville, Ontario, and back via the Canadian Pacific, Toronto-Hamilton and Buffalo, and New York Central.

The Stauffer Family
Thursday, January 25, 2007

My name is Robert Stauffer of Milford, Ohio. My grandfather was Andrew Kinzua Stauffer, and my great, great grandfather was Charles Pugh Stauffer. I am more knowledgeable about Andrew than Charles.

CHARLES PUGH STAUFFER was born in 1860 in Honey Brook Township., West Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1860; I am not sure which month. I read his death certificate once and I think if I remember correctly, he was born in July. His death is a matter of contention for this reason.

My grandfather Andrew said he was eleven years old when his father passed away which would make the year of his death 1896, but I recently saw a newspaper article that indicated he passed away in MARCH

Charles had a younger brother, Oscar born about 1870 and a sister Elizabeth and I don't know her age. Elizabeth was a resident of Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania where her husband had a general store and was a butcher. Oscar was a resident of Long Island City, New York and passed away approximately in 1957. He had one son and he was a war casualty in WW1.

Charles Pugh Stauffer married Bridget O'Roarke in approximately 1881 or 1882 at a cathedral in Montreal Canada. Bridget was from Cork County, Ireland and spoke several languages and was a Tutor for a wealthy family. The Arch Bishop of Montreal married them. My aunt, Reba Stauffer, Hewitt of Jamestown, New York said she has the marriage certificate, however I have never seen it.

Mr. Charles Pugh Stauffer was an employee of the American Bridge Company and working in Canada. His field of endeavor was an engineer of maintenance and he was working in Canada when he met Bridget O’Roarke and their courtship was approximately 3 months. Mr. Stauffer also worked in Windsor, Canada after his marriage to Bridget. As you probably have heard, Mr. Charles Pugh Stauffer had several children: Maude Stauffer Stanz 1883; Leiah Stauffer Hoop, 1884;Andrew Kinzua Stauffer 1885; Georgina Stauffer Luke, 1890; Charles Stauffer 1889 or 1891. I am not sure but it would be on his grave stone in St. Bernard's cemetery in Bradford. The youngest of the Stauffer children was Margaret Stauffer Olsen 1896.

Charles Pugh Stauffer lived under the Kinzua Bridge in the valley underneath the bridge after he was hired by the Erie Railroad to maintain the bridge. The railroad built the family a house and provided them with food and supplies and staples. I always remember my Grandfather Andrew telling me how the trains would pass over the bridge and throw supplies such as meat, flower and other supplies over the bridge on the hillside and he would run up the hill and pick them up. After all, their house was approximately 3 miles from any store or supply mill, at least that's what was passed on to me by word of mouth.

Partial Biography of Andrew Kinzua Stauffer
Robert Stauffer, February 19, 2007

At the age of ten, Oriel Latney, a native American, chopped off my Grandfather Andy's right index finger chopping wood for his Mother. She rushed him to a doctor, I have no idea where, and he sewed it back on and healed real good. However, it was very crooked and in his senior years he said he had a little pain from it from time to time. He use to tell me stories about playing under the bridge when he was little with Oriel
and then as he go older, he would help his father with various maintenance projects. When he was about 10 years six months, he climbed the bridge from truss 14 over the top and his father watched him. Every once in awhile, Grandfather Andy would work with his Father on small climbing projects. Grandfather Andy was a good carpenter, learning at an early age from his father and the workers that came to the bridge for repairs. Just for information purposes, he started on the Erie Railroad on May 1st, 1900. His retirement certificate reads that he started on January 1st, 1901, but that's because he had to serve a 6 month probationary period to become a full time employee. He started as a water
boy for the construction crews at age 15 years 3 months. His first promotion was to the Paint Gang in about 1902, a job he held for several years. He didn't get married until 1912 and I have often wondered where he lived during the early years. He had a horse named "Prince" and he would stable him with Uncle Clair & Aunt Lehia who lived right down the road from where they lived in Mt. Alton. Andrew Kinzua Stauffer married Charlotte M. Scott from Deposit, New York on October 26, 1912 at St. Joseph's church in Deposit. Ms. Scott was the second oldest child of John and Mary Scott. Mr. Scott was a stonemason and farmer, and had 4 children, two boys and two girls. Their younger daughter, Gertrude was married also on that day at the same church, it was a double wedding. Now sometime in the interim of 1902 and 1908, Grandfather Andy was also a cook on the construction trains of the Erie.

Robert Bob Stauffer1944
Great Grandson to Charles Puch Stauffer 1860 -1899
Grandson to Andrew Kinzua Stauffer 1885 -1961
Son of Andrew K. Stauffer, Jr. 1918 - 1977
Great Nephew to Georgina Stauffer Luke


1883 Kinzua Bridge
1900's Kinzua Reconstruction
2000 Kinzua Bridge

return to main www.smethporthistory.org site