The Fisher Covered Railroad Bridge in Wolcott, Vermont is a historic covered wood railroad bridge. Operating from 1908-1994, it was the last covered bridge in the United States to carry railroad traffic.
The covered railroad bridge has practically vanished across the country. Only twelve examples of the bridge type remain in the United States, according to Richard Sanders Alien (1974). As one of the few surviving of the thousands of covered railroad bridges built during the railroad expansionist era of the late nineteenth century, the Fisher Bridge gains national significance. Two other covered railroad bridges remain in Vermont, at Swanton and East Shoreham, although the train lines they carried have long since been abandoned, and their tracks have been removed.
The Fisher Bridge is the most recent of Vermont’s three surviving covered railroad bridges to be erected. The bridge was built in 1908 by the Boston and Maine Railroad, which at the time controlled the St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain Railroad. The designer or architect has never been identified. The cheaper expense of wood construction compared to wood-iron (Howe truss) or iron construction explains why it was used so late on the little-used train route.
The Fisher Bridge has a feature that is unique among Vermont’s covered railroad bridges: a louvered monitor that runs nearly the entire length of the roof along its ridge. The monitor (which did not appear on the bridge’s original engineering designs) was used to allow locomotive smoke to escape. The monitor, which has been rendered obsolete since the advent of diesel locomotives on the railroad, still serves to give the bridge its distinct architectural character.
The Fisher Bridge was threatened with removal in 1968 when the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County Railroad renovated several bridges along the line to allow larger train loads. The Vermont Board of Historic Sites (now the Vermont Division of Historic Sites) intervened, along with other parties, to ensure that the bridge’s distinctive superstructure was preserved. The bridge’s timber deck structure was dismantled to give the requisite loadbearing capacity, and a steel deck truss structure was created to carry the railway, independent of the timber trusses.
Over the years, railroad traffic dropped significantly. In 1994, the bridge stopped carrying railroad traffic. Today it is part of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. It is open to the public and has its own dedicated parking area and information kiosk.
Looking for more great spots to explore nearby? Check out the GoXplr Vermont Map at goxplr.com/map/vermont!
Covered Bridge Specs
- Constructed: 1908
- Design/Style: Double Town lattice truss
- Total length: 104 feet
- Total width: 21 feet
- Carries: St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County Railroad line (now closed)
- Crosses: Lamoille River
- Usage: Open to pedestrians
- World Guide Number: 45-08-16
- NRHP: 74000222
- Address: VT-15
- Town: Wolcott
- State: Vermont
- GPS: Lat 44.53230 Lng -72.42778
- Parking notes: There is a dedicated parking lot for the covered bridge located right off VT-15, next to the bridge. There are spaces for about a dozen cars and parking is free.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE