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Feature Article on Big Four Bridge. Topic: LANDMARKS
Written by Jim Sayre in November, 1999


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A Boy’s Eye View
Teenager Bob Harshbarger witnessed construction of the Big Four tracks and bridge south of Sidney in 1923-24. He wrote his memories in 1981:   "That summer, 1923, found me experiencing some new adventure that was fulfilling, exciting, and educational. The New York Central or Big Four Railroad was doing a massive remodeling of their track line in this area. The main line had come right down almost through the center of town here in Sidney. There’s still evidence of that here. Some suspension shattering crossings on four north-south streets. It was left there for switch engines to accommodate some businesses along the old line and I don’t know why in theee-devil so many of us have to suffer those rattling crossings for what little the track is used.

"To avoid going down grade to get into Sidney, and upgrade to get out again, the railroad started clear out there west of Hardin into Sidney where that beautiful arched bridge spans the Miami River ravine, and out to beyond Pasco to tie in with the old original line.

"There were hundreds of men on the construction crews, and work went on seven days a week. Some of us boys in the neighborhood would ride our bikes to the areas on Sundays and watch the work. It was a panorama fifteen miles long. There were huge excavating machines, graders, donkey engines, steam pile drivers, huge cement mixers, and elevators that lifted green cement up over a hundred feet high. Oh, that was just like watching a free circus for me.

"I had never seen a pile driver work before, and I remember coming home one evening and "hey mom" I saw a thing that can drive a forty foot long post in the ground. Practically every thing was run by steam. Now where can you find anything steam powered?" Bob Harshbarger Memoirs, 1981, by courtesy of his family.

Big Four, Again
Shelby County resident Thompson Epler’s 90th birthday is Dec. 2. Ninety years is a remarkable accomplishment, but Epler’s 90th birthday is even more special because it occurred 75 years ago, in 1924, when he recalled 1850, the year the Big Four Railroad was about to come to Shelby County.

Epler was born on his parent’s farm south of Port Jefferson just four years after his father bought government land in 1830. Construction of the Miami-Erie Canal and "the Port Jefferson branch," in his words, were among his childhood memories. "When the State dam at Port Jefferson was built, Mr. Epler’s father and one of his neighbors had a contract for furnishing the lime for the stone work. To burn the lime they cut trees and made huge log heaps on which they piled the lime stone to be burned" Sidney Daily News, Dec. 2, 1924.   What Epler remembered best was construction of the railroad that helped spell the canal’s economic doom. His memory was jogged by the 1924 opening of the Big Four bypass bridge south of Sidney.  In about 1850, according to Epler, he attended a mass meeting in a Port Jefferson area school house, which was called to promote the sale of stock in the new railroad. The stock salesman was John Mills, of Sidney. According to the newspaper interview, Mr. Mills at that time lived on the corner of Poplar street and West Ave., later the residence of Mr. Benjamin Slusser.


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