Walkway Over the Hudson Honoring Local Emergency Responders on 45th Anniversary of Poughkeepsie-HighHighland Railroad Bridge Fire

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May 03, 2019

On Wednesday, May 8 at 11 a.m., Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park will host local first responders on the Walkway to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the great fire that crippled the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge in 1974. The event is complimentary to attend and open to the public. Free parking is available on the Poughkeepsie side of the Walkway at 61 Parker Avenue, and on the Highland side at 87 Haviland Road. The ceremony will be held near the elevator platform.

Over a dozen firefighters (or representatives from their families) who battled the blaze will be present and honored. Chief Peter Miller of the Highland Fire Department, who was part of the crew that fought the 1974 fire, and Chief Mark Johnson of the City of Poughkeepsie Fire Department will deliver remarks. Representatives from the Arlington Fire Department and Clintondale Fire Department will be present, along with members of EMS crews and other first response groups that were called to duty 45 years ago.  Local, state, and national elected officials have been invited. 

According to various published reports, on May 8, 1974, a spark from an eastbound train ignited railroad ties on the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. By the time the fire was extinguished, over 700 feet of track was damaged. At the time, officials from Penn Central Railroad estimated the bridge would be repaired and reopened to rail traffic before the end of the year, but no trains would ever again cross the span and the structure sat dormant for decades.

In October 2009, following a years-long grassroots community campaign, the bridge was reopened as Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, which has since welcomed more than five million visitors to enjoy sweeping panoramic views of the Hudson River Valley.

“We’re proud to acknowledge the unwavering vigilance and dedication of first responders past and present,” said Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart, Executive Director of Walkway Over the Hudson. “It’s our honor to recognize not only those who helped extinguish the fire in 1974, but all the members of our community that keep us safe every day.”

Community members with photos or recollections of the 1974 event are encouraged to share them through Facebook or via email at walkway@walkway.org. 

For more information regarding this and other events, visit walkway.org or call 845-454-9649.

About Walkway Over the Hudson
Connecting the City of Poughkeepsie and the Hamlet of Highland in the Hudson Valley region of New York State, Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park is a renowned tourism and recreation destination visited by nearly 600,000 people each year. Standing 212 feet above the river's surface and more than 6,700 feet (1.28 miles) long, the Walkway is the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. The park provides unique access to the Hudson River's breathtaking landscape for pedestrians, hikers, joggers, bicyclists, and people with disabilities. Supported by a diverse coalition of members, donors, and corporate sponsors, the Walkway frequently hosts community events and fundraisers, and is open daily from 7 a.m. until sunset, weather permitting. For more information, visit walkway.org.

Geoff Brault