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Home > Archives > Acela Express crossing the Niantic River Bridge, 2015.

Acela Express crossing the Niantic River Bridge, 2015.

Color digital image showing an Acela Express (Washington-New York-Boston) train crossing the Niantic River Bridge between East Lyme and Waterford, Conn.; image dates to December 2015.

<i>Acela Express</i> crossing the Niantic River Bridge, 2015.

An Acela Express train crosses the Niantic River Bridge, also known as Amtrak Bascule Bridge 116.74. It spans the Niantic River in Connecticut and is one of five movable bridges along the Northeast Corridor between New Haven and Boston.

In 2012, a new two-track, electrified railroad bascule bridge opened 58 feet south of its 1907 predecessor, which had reached the end of its useful life. The new bridge allows Amtrak trains to now travel at speeds of 60 miles per hour, up from 45 miles per hour.

Drawbridge Tender Merrill Perkins opens the bridge between 15-18 times a day during an average shift. During the summer, among the three shifts, the drawbridge can see as many as 1,000 openings per month. Perkins communicates with a boat captain and train dispatcher to prepare for the bridge’s opening, which takes approximately two minutes.

Although it’s a solitary job — Perkins sits alone in the bridge tower during his shift — he has developed a strong rapport with harbor captains in the close-knit boating community. “I’ve worked with a vast number of wonderful people over the years. Working for Amtrak and learning so many aspects about the railroads has truly been an amazing experience.”

Photographer: Steven Ostrowski for Amtrak. From the Amtrak Corporate Collection.