Amtrak and the Greater Astoria Historical Society celebrated the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Hell Gate Bridge Monday with not only experts on the history of the railroad overpass, but engineers and thrill-seekers sharing their love for the steel arch that connects Queens to Randalls Island.
The first passenger train made the crossing over Hell Gate in April 1917 after construction was completed as a joint venture between the Pennsylvania and the New Haven Railroads, Deputy Chief Engineer of Structures for Amtrak Jim Richter.
“In those days, the railroads were one of the most powerful and influential businesses in the country because they moved everybody. So, if you study up on the history of the railroads, it was really instrumental in the development of this country,” Richter said.
The right of way was purchased by the Amtrak in the 1970s.
Today, train passenger traveling between New York and Boston still travel over Hell Gate.
Bob Singleton, executive director of the historical society, said the bridge is remarkable for the mastery of engineering that went into it at a time when computers were non-existent and slide-rulers were the builders’ best friend. Singleton compared the decades of work that went into the Second Avenue Subway to Hell Gate, which was built in only a few short years entirely with private capital funds from the railroad companies.