Allan Renz laughed at the question: Would people care as much about one of the bridges his grandfather designed if the word “Heck” were in its name, instead of “Hell”?
“The rhythm of ‘Heck’ doesn’t work,” said Mr. Renz, whose grandfather was the civil engineer Gustav Lindenthal, who had a hand in the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Queensboro Bridges and was New York City’s first bridge commissioner.
Lindenthal’s credits also include the Hell Gate Bridge, the railroad span with a milestone coming up next week. The first train rumbled over the Hell Gate 100 years ago on Thursday, a moment that will be celebrated by bridge fans.
The Hell Gate Bridge is the main structure in a rail link between the Bronx and Queens that crosses over Randalls and Wards Islands. It is an essential connector in the heavily traveled Northeast rail corridor between Washington and Boston, and it was all about convenience. Previously, passengers traveling from Washington to Boston, for example, had to take one train to Jersey City and a ferry to Manhattan, where they had to find Grand Central Terminal and catch another train to New England.
Pennsylvania Station and the tunnels beneath the Hudson River, completed a few years before the Hell Gate, did away with the ferry ride. The Hell Gate did away with the dash from Penn Station to Grand Central and the second train. It was magic for once-harried passengers.