Koppel Bridge

Kopell EC Bridge     The Koppel Bridge was built and owned by the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler, and New Castle Railway (more commonly known as the Harmony Line). The original Koppel Bridge (known as Magnificent Seven) was constructed mostly of wood and the sparks from the trains passing underneath often set the bridge on fire. Chuck Hall recalled that this was a tricky fire to combat as the firemen had to hang under the bridge to extinguish the flames. The reason the bridge was known as the Magnificent Seven was due to the fact that the bridge had seven piers. Though it was made of wood, the Swanson Brothers of Youngstown built a solid bridge that stood fifty seven feet above the water from 1890-1913 and was the longest bridge on the ”Harmony Line” .

Mr. Hall had many other memories of the bridge including when he was young and didn’t have the money for the toll. He along with his friends, would walk down a short distance and walk across the very narrow train bridge which was extremely dangerous. The important thing was to not let your folks know you did that.

     As most of you may recall, the Koppel Bridge was a toll bridge and many of you recall the name of the man who took the toll. Chuck Hall remembers the very nice man of Russian decent (he thinks), Walter Matetich, that collected the tolls for almost the entire life of the bridge. Sheri Ferrell shared that her Great Grandfather, Willard E. Shaner (1853-1935) was also a toll collector on the bridge in the late 1920’s. One evening a man pointed a gun at Willard in an attempt to rob him. Willard had a pencil in his hand and tried to push the gun away with it but was shot. He started walking across the bridge to get to a hospital when her grandfather, Fred Shaner (who was a policeman) found him and took him to the hospital.

I have been told that a popular thing young people would do was to turn off your car lights and run the toll booth to avoid the five cent toll. May 15, 1957 marks a special day as the last tool was collected to cross the bridge. As Bob Mallary pointed out that the alternative was a long drive. He remembers commuting to Geneva and going across the old bridge daily between ’57 and ’59. It seems to Bob the bridge closed down for a time for repair and he had to go down River Road to 588 and into Beaver Falls and then back up the hill to Geneva.

    Chuck Hall shared one more story of the bridge that includes the famous Danny Kaye. As you can see, it bows down in the middle like the old road bridges making it appear unsafe. Some time ago Danny Kaye’s famous orchestra was to play at one of Ellwood’s clubs. Upon approaching the bridge Danny looked out the window and what he saw made him “chicken out” and he refused to cross it. They took the long way through Wampum to get to their destination. Which is funny as the old trolley cars weighed forty four tons each; but this does raise a question. Back in the late fifties when the bridge closed as Mr. Mallary shared, how did the Koppel kids get to school as they would have been part of the Ellwood City School District at that time?

As I have mentioned, many have shared their memories of the Koppel Bridge but we would still like to hear your memories. Please share your memories below or email them to info@ellwoodcitymemories.com

Originally published December 16, 2008

3 thoughts on “Koppel Bridge”

  1. It’s true what Bob Mallery said about the Koppel Bridge for repairs because the LHS Marching Blue Band “opened” up the bridge. There were dignitaries to make speeches and our band to play a couple songs. I remember being scared to twirl my baton in case it flew out of my hand and down it would go.

    1. Hi Linda, do u remember the metal grating? You could see the river below between the grates, a little scary for us teenagers!! Eventually, the bridge was black topped. Take care!

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