The Lewes railroad swing bridge is still in need of a home, but officials have found a place to temporarily store it along Gills Neck Road.
Landowner Robert Kennedy has tentatively agreed to lease land adjacent to the bridge for at least three years.
“This is going to give us some time to find a final resting place for the bridge,” said Gary Wray of the Lewes Junction Railroad and Bridge Association, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving railroad history in Lewes. “This gives us time to build consensus on a place, raise money and plan adequately rather than force something down someone’s throat.”
The association has offered several potential homes for the historic bridge, one of only two of its kind left in the country, Wray said. Recent suggestions are Great Marsh Park near the dog park and George H.P. Smith Park as a pedestrian bridge across Blockhouse Pond to its center island.
When a permanent home is found, it will be up to the association to pay for transportation and assembly. Wray said he’s confident the association will receive Community Transportation Funding from legislators and raise whatever else is needed through donations.
Removal of the bridge will be paid for by Delaware Department of Transportation.
The bridge was built in 1916, and over the years it’s served the menhaden fish factory, Cape Henlopen State Park, Fort Miles and, more recently, SPI Pharma.
The railroad from Cool Spring to Lewes was decommissioned in 2017 after it was discovered the bridge had dropped 7 to 8 inches as the structure sank into the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal below. Significant erosion has taken place in the canal bank around the bridge structure, which DelDOT believes will be remedied by removing the bridge.
Once it is removed, DelDOT Director of Community Relations C.R. McLeod said, the shoreline will be replaced with rip rap.
Saving the bridge is only one goal of the Lewes Junction Railroad and Bridge Association. The group also has plans to procure several railroad cars, including an engine, passenger car and caboose, and relocate them to a 210-foot section of track between the Lewes Public Library and the Lewes History Museum. The group’s interest prompted DelDOT to leave a small section of track in place when removing the railroad in 2018.
The railroad cars would be part of a larger outdoor museum aimed at honoring Lewes’ nearly 150-year railroad history, ending Dec. 15, 2017, when the last train left town.