The Bridge Club: Lititz Pike Bridge over the PA railroad tracks

Let’s welcome another player to the Bridge Club table…the Lititz Pike bridge over the railroad tracks just at the north edge of the City of Lancaster. For more than a century, the Lancaster-Lititz Turnpike guided travelers north into the fields and woods of Manheim Township, undeterred by any railroad tracks. That changed in the late 1800s when the Union railroad created a shortcut of the railroad alignment that for decades ran right through the center of the City.

McGovern property identified
1864 Manheim Township map with modern overlay.

In the mid-1800s, the structure we now know as the Stockyards Inn was actually the stately “Annadale” residence of Colonel S. C. Stambaugh. But, as many residents (plus one president) knew, the railroad was soon to be realigned north to bypass the City eliminating the station at Queen and Chestnut.

Instead, tracks would be laid just alongside Annadale, where the Union Stockyards soon would be established. The tracks would also travel past another stately mansion, that of John McGovern. This important transportation corridor prompted a bridge to be created so that the carriages, wagons, horses, and pedestrians could safely make their way over the railroad tracks.

Illustration of the McGovern Estate from the 1883 Ellis & Evans “History of Lancaster County.”

This hard-working trestle bridge was raised, enlarged, and strengthened when trolley cars began traversing the same arc over the railroad tracks.

Trolly crossing the 1932 bridge, just south of McGovern Avenue.

Before the 1920s, McGovern Avenue remained a bucolic tree-lined thoroughfare reminiscent of its agrarian counterparts on the north side of the tracks. This, too, was to change when the PA Railroad opened its new station in 1929.

But, as it does even today…increased traffic demanded more from this bridge’s elevated conveyance. More capacity…more safety features…more longevity. The 1927 aerial depicts the bridge’s structure quite clearly and it’s quite easy to imagine that the introduction of motorized vehicles to such a configuration was fraught with peril.

Beginning in 1915, the future of the bridge was being considered. Even as we do today, there were counterproposals, objections, concerns about the expense, worries about the delays, and then the inevitable relief when the “new” bridge was opened in 1932. But, that hair-raising configuration with a dogleg turn onto McGovern Avenue & then Duke Street was what we all dealt with for more than a few decades.

  • Bridge deemed to be dangerous
  • Planning for the bridge to be replaced
Early concerns about safety on the bridge – March 2, 1915
June 26, 1932
September 9, 2012.

Both the station and the bridge suffered from more decades of “deferred maintenance” and achingly slow upgrades. Then, in the early 2010s, the station was able to receive some much-needed facelift improvements. Within a few years after that, the Lititz Pike bridge was itself replaced, aligning Lititz Pike with North Duke Street in a much more commodious fashion. McGovern Avenue, though, never recovered any of its tree-lined charm and the mansion is now nearly all forgotten.

Liberty Street mini-golf


A photograph sometimes captioned as being of the Lititz Pike bridge from the 1890s. I believe that this is the Fruitville Pike bridge with the Lititz Pike bridge in the distance.

2 thoughts on “The Bridge Club: Lititz Pike Bridge over the PA railroad tracks

  1. Thank you for this extemely interesting information and photos. At least two thoughts come to mind: “holy smokes” — not holy, and here’s yet another example of how easily accomplished it is to tear down beautiful buildings. Seeing the ownership of properties from years ago goes a long way for explaining the naming of streets and areas in M.T. Thank you, Ben!

    1. You’re very welcome, Neville. It was a fascinating research project and challenging story to tell.

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