Thursday, April 13, 2017

B&O Harpers Ferry Bridges and Tunnel

(1931 CSX/B&O Bridge Hunter, 1894 CSX/B&O/W&P+Appalachian Trail Bridge Hunter, Bollman Truss Bridge Hunter1839 Wooden B&O Bridge HunterSatellite)

I'm going to do both existing and both lost bridges in one posting because they are so close together that a picture of one tends to have a picture of the other bridge and/or the piers of the two lost bridges.

Jack Stoner posted
CSX train R217 rumbles west across a placid Potomac River at Harper's Ferry, WV on a pleasant April afternoon in 1987.
Francis Otterbein posted two photos with the comment: "B & O Railroad, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia."

1, The 1931 mainline B&O bridge is the one with the train. The 1894 bridge on the left (south) is Winchester & Potomac (note the 73 Google Photos). Both of these bridges and the lost bridge south (left) of the W&P are over the Potomac River. The two piers on the left of the photo are in the Shenandoah River, which joins the Potomac here. The Potomac is flowing right to left in this view.

2, 
Francis Otterbein posted
Winchester and Potomac Railroad Bridge and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Bridge at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

B&O PR Photo, Public Domain from Bridge Hunter
The Winchester and Potomac ran from Winchester, VA to Harpers Ferry in 1836. The bridge needed to connect with the B&O was completed in 1837. "This was also the first ever intersection of two railroads in the United States." The B&O acquired it in 1902. Since the B&O did the hard part of building across the Allegheny Front Escarpment, the W&P was a reasonable way to get the produce of the Shenandoah Valley to the eastern ports. But since the produce used the Maryland port of Baltimore or the Philadelphia port of Pennsylvania, the Virginia government did not allow the W&P to build south of Winchester. The rest of the valley had to wait for railroads to be built to Virginia port cities. [Wikipedia1] The W&P is now part of the Shenandoah Subdivision of CSX that runs between Harpers Ferry, where it joins the Cumberland Subdivision, and Strasburg, VA, where it joins NS's B-Line (a former Southern route). [Wikipedia2]

Satellite plus Paint
The Harpers Ferry Tunnel was dug in 1894 to reduce the curvature for the route of the 1894 truss bridge. The tunnel also allowed the 1894 route to be higher. I wonder if the earlier route had flooding problems.

The western end was widened in 1931 to allow the 1931 bridge to be built on an angle that reduced the curvature in Harpers Ferry.

B&O's first crossing was an 1839 covered wood truss. (Note, 1839 seems to conflict with the 1837 date in the above W&P source because this bridge did have a Y span to accommodate the W&P.) Two Bollman trusses were built here so I don't know if the one below was 1851 or 1870. It is the remnants of the piers for this bridge that we see south of the existing truss bridge in some of the above photos. Bollman worked for the B&O and patented this truss in 1852 to use iron instead of wood. It was obsolete by 1875 [HAER WV-36]
Public Domain from Wikipedia
The Bollman truss bridge that connected the north end of the Winchester and Potomac Railroad into the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad toward the end of the Civil War.


It is nice to see that some people understand that a trail (Appalachian) and railroad can share a right-of-way and created a trail+rail bridge. Some people have been trying to convert the tourist railroad between Tipton, IN and Indianapolis into a trail.

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