Thursday, April 13, 2017

CSX/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)

(Update: see the first part of derailments for more views of these bridges. 
There was a fire on the bridge on Jan 24, 2024.)

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.

The renovated B&O depot and interlocking tower is behind the photographer.
B&O PR Photo, Public Domain from Bridge Hunter
Bill Rogerson posted
Dennis DeBruler Harpers Ferry Bridges and Tunnels:!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4...
Angel Reyes posted
B Tupper Upham: The F3 powered Columbian?
Angel Reyes: yes
Thomas C. Gibbons: Now served by the Capitol Limited, some Washington DC area commuter trains, and the Appalachian Trail, which runs across the bridge to the right.

Dale Lee Sumner posted
A quick history of the B&O Bridges across the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry
1836-37 — A covered, wooden trestlework bridge of eight spans was designed by Benjamin H. Latrobe and erected by Lewis Wernwag. It was most commonly known as the Harpers Ferry Bridge, sometimes as the Wernwag Bridge. It served two purposes; as a railroad bridge on one side and, on the other, as a toll bridge for pedestrian/wagon traffic.
1839 — Because the Winchester and Potomac Railroad refused to share its tracks, a Wye Span was integrated into the bridge structure to permit the B&O to follow the Potomac River's left (Virginia) upstream bank for its route west. Unfortunately, this resulted in two very constricting and dangerously sharp turns for the trains to negotiate – one to the left to mount the bridge and one to the right to dismount the bridge (no matter which direction of travel).
1851 — The wooden Winchester Span, the first span on the Virginia side of the Potomac (it wasn't the State of West Virginia until 1863), was replaced by an iron Bollman suspension truss, a composite of wrought iron tension members (diagonals and bottom chord) and cast iron compression members (top chord, end posts, and verticals).
1861-65 — The bridge was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times (NPS says nine times) during the Civil War.
1868 — The B&O started construction to replace all the bridge's remaining wooden trestlework over the Potomac with iron Bollman trusses.
1870 — The Bollman Truss Bridge became fully operational for railroad traffic. This magnificent bridge had eight Bollman truss spans of different lengths. A suspension truss bridge was the first successful all-metal bridge designed for a railroad.
1893-94 — A tunnel was blasted through Maryland Heights, and a new (upstream) railroad bridge was constructed to adjust the alignment of the tracks across the Potomac. This bridge was known as the Winchester Branch. Subsequently, the Bollman Bridge was converted into a pedestrian/wagon bridge. It was a one-way at a time toll road. Ultimately, with the growth of automobile traffic, the bridge was paved.
1926 — U.S. Route 340 utilized the Bollman Highway Bridge to cross the Potomac.
1931 — Another new railroad bridge was built across the Potomac to adjust the alignment further. This bridge was known as the B&O Mainline.
1936 — The Bollman Highway Bridge was swept away during a historic flood. It was never rebuilt.
2023 — Only three of the six supporting bridge piers of the Harpers Ferry/Wernwag/Bollman Bridge remain upright. They are majestically visible; two (A and B) near the West Virginia side of the river and one (F) near the Maryland side. The other three (C, D, and E) exhibit significantly diminished height and resemble extended islands of stone masonry rubble.
Comments on Dale's post

Bryan Russel shared Richard Hafer's post of two photos and the comment: "Comparison views of Harper's Ferry, WV in 1865 and 1974."

Trainbook posted
CSX E792 marches across the Potomac River at the confluence with the Shenandoah with the snow-covered Blue Ridge Mountains serving as the backdrop during a brief snow shower.
Photo and words by Jon Wright.
Discover Jon Wright's pics on Flickr:

Marty Bernard posted
2. B&O Harpers Ferry, WV Bridges April 1972. Bill Howes photo
Marty Bernard shared
Rob Nichols: Thomas Jefferson supposed wrote to European friends that the view at Harper's Ferry all by itself was worth making the trip to America.

Marty Bernard posted
2. B&O at Harpers Ferry, May 1975, Bill Howes photo

Marty Bernard posted
3. B&O eastbound freight (Virginian) on Potonac River Bridge. Harpers Ferry, WV July 4, 1971. Bill Howes photo

The 1894 bridge after US-340 was moved to it in 1936.
Dale Lee Sumner posted
Automobiles driving across the Potomac on a railroad bridge?
Until it was destroyed by the great flood of March 1936, the Bollman (Highway) Bridge provided·pedesterian/vehicle access across the Potomac River. It was a crossing point for US Route 340. After the flood, the pedestrian/vehicle traffic was detoured across a temporary plankway installed on the 1894 railroad bridge. The replacement US 340 bridge was constructed at Sandy Hook between 1940 and 1947, with a prolonged interruption due to World War II. In 1987, the Goodloe E. Byron Memorial Pedestrian Walkway (Footbridge) was built onto the 1894 bridge.
[I wonder if this is why CSX tolerates trails crossing this bridge. The shared used has been grandfathered in.]

Dale Lee Sumner posted
The 1894 Bridge at Harpers Ferry
Even though it isn't especially large or long (a total length of 896 feet and 6 inches), this bridge represented state-of-the-art engineering in the early 1890s. It was a single-track, steel structure with eight masonry piers constructed with local "Gettysburg Granite" on firm bedrock. Built by the Pencoyd Bridge & Construction Company, it was started in 1893 and opened for train traffic on April 12, 1894. Its nine steel spans were a combination of six deck plate-girder spans and three Pratt trusses. (Plate-girders differ from the now commonly used hot-rolled steel I-beams because they were fabricated from plates, and sometimes angles, joined together by welding, bolts, or rivets to form I-shapes [typically found below the tracks]. A Pratt truss includes vertical members and diagonals that slope toward the center [typically found above the tracks].) Not only was the bridge designed to handle the heaviest loads of the day, but it was also located with a better alignment. To straighten the train's route between Maryland to West Virginia, the 927-foot Harpers Ferry Tunnel was also burrowed through the southern tip of Maryland Heights at the same time. This "new" bridge was 8 to 11 feet higher than the original B&O bridge. This provided a better gradient and made the bridge less vulnerable to floods. Similar to the Wye Span built (in 1839) for the original B&O bridge, the 1894 bridge also incorporated a branching Wye (on the West Virginia end) to accommodate rail connection to the Winchester and Potomac Railroad (which became the B&O Valley Line in 1902 and is now part of CSX Transportation). The 1894 bridge is still in use today.
Tom Dunne shared
Al Moran: I believe this was double track until the present mainline bridge was built in the 30s...
James Eells: Al Moran it was, it was the Main Line until 1931.
Wayne Davis: The original bridge was a Bollman Truss Bridge. Cool history.
Randall Hampton shared
This is before half was turned into a pedestrian bridge for the Appalachian Trail. That walk is especially great late at night, after all the tourists have left. There's no lighting on the walkway, but you can't fall into the river. You can hear the whitewater, but you can't see it.

Timothy Carroll posted
Randall Hampton shared
The current Harpers Ferry bridge for the Winchester branch, back in the day when it was the only RR bridge there. The line to Winchester comes in under that semaphore on the right. This was the first bridge to make use of the tunnel.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park posted
“But the train whistle shrills out her memories to me.” – Jim Croce 
What memories do you have of trains? Have you waved to the conductor?
From the arrival of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad just across the Potomac River in 1834 to the present, trains have held a special place at Harpers Ferry. Trains have changed in size, shape, and style, but they still hold a place in our hearts. To this day, visitors to Harpers Ferry wave as freight trains rumble by on the old Winchester & Potomac Railroad trestle. Train horns echo off the mountains as they signal for the Potomac Street crossing. People can still board passenger and commuter trains at the 1890 station on Potomac Street and travel to places near and far. 
 The trains have created many memories over the last 189 years. Imagine seeing the first locomotive in Harpers Ferry! The local newspaper described the scene as “a spectacle as magnificent as it was novel.” Volunteers for the Mexican War took the train from Charles Town to Harpers Ferry for one last meal before heading off to war. Ulysses S. Grant took the train to Harpers Ferry to plan General Philip Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the Baltimore & Ohio ran special excursions to Harpers Ferry for picnics, special tours, and visits to Island Park, a local amusement park. Circus trains unloaded clowns, elephants, and giraffes and marched them up High Street to “Circus Hill.” Members of the Niagara Movement traveled to Harpers Ferry for their second annual meeting, where W.E.B. DuBois declared, “We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American.” Whether for business or pleasure, trains have brought us many places. 
Image: Baltimore & Ohio freight train crossing the Potomac River c. 1898 (Library of Congress) Alt text for the photo: A steam locomotive pulls a freight train of hoppers across the Potomac River bridge, the town of Harpers Ferry in the background. 
Tom Dunne shared
Anne Calhoun: Really nice photo of the 1851 Bollman truss (now only the piers remain) and the 1894 Pratt truss bridges. The Bollman (which had been paved for highway use) was washed out by a flood sometime in the 1930's, I can't remember the exact date.
James Eells: Anne Calhoun 1936

Redeker Rail Video & Photography posted

Bilofoto posted
Had a blast at Harpers Ferry hiking the other day!
Randall Hampton shared
Harper's Ferry. The main line is the one on the right.
Daniel Rusz: On the left bridge (left of the tracks) is the Appalachian Trail.
Daniel Rusz: The line to the left goes to Winchester, VA.

Tom Jimkiewicz posted
One of the most famous spots on the B&O and in American railroading, Harpers Ferry. Went to tour the nearby Antietam Battlefield and had to make a stop here. The history oozes from this place, railroad, civil war, civil rights, even ancient.
Jim McAfoose posted
Harpers Ferry WVA 11/17
Comments on Jim's post
Simon Robinson posted
Some Track Maintenance in Harpers Ferry as the Gravel Train slowly heads for the Tunnel.

Walter Langston shared
2 trestles with csx rock train crossing river from harpers ferry west virginia to Maryland

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.

Harpers Ferry Park Association posted four photos with the comment:
(Image Information: HF-1726, Historic Photo Collection, Harpers Ferry NHP/This aerial photo, taken on March 18, shows the rising waters of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers; HF-1724, Historic Photo Collection, Harpers Ferry NHP/Aerial photo taken the next day, on March 19, shows the extent of the damage caused by this record flood of 1936. The rivers rose to an all-time crest of 36.5 feet, leaving Harpers Ferry in ruins. The remaining railroad bridges were weighed down with loaded coal cars to hold them in place; HF-54, Historic Photo Collection, Harpers Ferry NHP/Lower Town businesses are inundated during the Flood of 1936; HF-1219, Historic Photo Collection, Harpers Ferry NHP/Aftermath of the record Flood of 1936 from Maryland Heights, showing the ruined highway bridges across both the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers)
Michael Pittell The bridge on the bottom is gone and the one on the right of the three on top is also gone.Thomas Wilson The top right bridge is on the old original piers of the B&O Railroad. The middle top one is the 1890s bridge and the upper left is the 1930s bridge.Richard Schaffer This was the beginning of the end of commerce & industry in Harpers Ferry. Everything from infrastructure to real estate to the HF economy began to collapse, especially since the "new" 340 would bypass the town. The town's industry would quickly become destination tourism, yet even to this day we have politicians and residents that adamantly oppose it-

Adam Maxey Still trains going across in this photo with two bridges lost. Thats crazy.
Nathan McDonald Actually, the B&O just pushed strings of loaded cars onto the trestles in hopes of keeping them from washing away. There's no engine attached to either of them.
Nathan McDonald I know right? That's a ton of weight, and a lot of times it didn't even work. Water's a powerful force, as Harpers Ferry can attest!
Eric M Ziegler They still do this today.
David Hartman I remember when csx did the same thing in '72 during hurricane Agnes.
Rick Morrison B&O placed loaded hoppers on the bridges to weight them down. And they have done this several times since the 1936 flood. Nothing since has rivaled the the severity of '36.


Steve Messer commented on Photo 1 in response to a question about the "strange second truss setup."
That used to be a railroad bridge with a wye.
Peter Smith That is the original railroad bridge.....replaced by the new tunnel and bridge.
Bill Semmett A switch on a bridge over running water? Wow.

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

Robert Slavy posted
I was waiting on an Amtrak train and then love got in the way. Harpers Ferry 1983.
Randall Hampton: The switch once served a long double ended station siding, which several years ago got paved over on one end. The other end was used by the MoW department. The last time I was on the bridge, some key components of the switch had been removed, though it wouldn't take much work to put them back if they change their minds. I suppose there's too much tourist traffic in summer to make that spot a good working lot for MoW anymore.
John Kozo: Now there is a pedestrian walkway on the right.
Shu Mitsui: Pettigrew Arriel 95% of the traffic stays on the Cumberland Sub heading west. There’s a couple of rock running stone trains and an occasion manifest and grain train that will bear off the bridge on to the Shen, but there’s only a few of the per day.
However, note that this span of the bridge is the Shen sub, so everything you see in this pic bears off. Anything trying that tries to go straight will hit an abrupt dead end. There is no straight form this span
This photo helps explain Shu's comment above. There is another switch in the tunnel and 95% of the traffic takes the tracks we see in the left background of this photo.
Shu Mitsui commented on Robert's post
wide view from 2014 of the same area.

Speaking of rock trains:
Robert Slavy posted
The end of the rock train in Harpers Ferry. 1983.

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.
Francis Otterbein posted
A rare old photo of Harpers Ferry taken after the Civil War. Throughout this conflict, the B&O was in a precarious position as it ran right along the Union-Confederate lines. Confederate Stonewall Jackson occupied Harpers Ferry in 1861, yet for a month, did nothing about B&O trains passing through laden with coal and other materials for the Union war effort. Then Stonewall wised up, began disrupting B&O operations, burning and looting trains, commandeering engines for the Confederacy.
Michael CalorosoNot many iron bridges before the Civil War. Impressive.
[This posting is in a Public Group. Follow the link for more pictures of the older bridges.]
Roads Traveled Through Time posted
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia     abt 1865
Tom Dunne shared
Charles Wingate: The bridge was fine until the equipment got too heavy; the problem was that there were very sharp turns at each end of it. They relieved that somewhat in the 1890s with the second bridge (which is also when they built the tunnel), but eventually they straightened the mainline out by widening the mouth of the tunnel, putting the junction to the Shenandoah line in the tunnel, and putting in the current bridge on as straight an alignment as they could manage.

Rod Russell commented on Tom's share
Mid-war in 1860s.

William A. Shaffer posted
Harpers Ferry Tunnel
(Photo by William A. Shaffer)

Randall Hampton posted
Not often do you see a junction inside a tunnel. The old B&O / Chessie main from Baltimore / Washington to Pittsburgh / Cleveland / Chicago continues straight on the double track. The single track line to Winchester branches off. A modification on the far left has been made for stacked containers.
Randall Hampton Same tunnel as my group's banner pic.

The banner pic referenced above by Randall Hampton
Randall Hampton I considered several banner pics to be the first one, but this is the one in my collection that seems to best represent the theme of the group. B&O came to Harper's Ferry early in its westward expansion, and it's still an important high traffic line, carrying container trains from the port of Baltimore to the Chicago area.
Steven Larrick Iconic scene, second only to the Thomas Viaduct..,

Carl Venzke posted
Engines 4008 and 4032 lead a coal train east at Harpers Ferry, WV on October 4, 1974.
Steve Larrick posted
Aerial view of B & O Railroad Potomac River Crossing at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, USA. Looking east across the Potomac River. Left to right: B&O plate girder bridge completed in 1931; 1894 bridge for the B&O Valley line to Winchester, Virginia; stone piers of the former B&O Bollman truss bridge (washed out by a flood in 1936); stone piers for a highway bridge (across the Shenandoah River). 1970
Anthony Migliaccio posted
June 20, 1981. B & O Shenandoah Branch bridge across the Potomac River. Bridge is still in use daily. Photo taken from Maryland Heights. Photo Credit A.F. Migliaccio From my collection
Francis Otterbein posted
Winchester and Potomac Railroad Bridge and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Bridge at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.
Leon l Lancaster posted
view from the harper's ferry tunnel around 1990. probably would still be doin' time if caught. nice perspective
Francis Otterbein posted four photos with the comment: "Winchester and Potomac Railroad Truss Bridge and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Bridge crossing the Potomac River at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. The B & O is in the foreground and the old Winchester & Potomac is in the back (photos 2) The portal, built in 1931, (photos 3 & 4) is in Maryland. All my photos taken in the mid 1990’s."




Note the CPL signals.
William A. Shaffer posted
Tunnel at Harpers Ferry, WV (5.08.17)
(Photo by William A. Shaffer)

William A Shaffer posted

LC-DIG-highsm- 31334
Credit line: Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Carol M. Highsmith's photographs are in the public domain.

Gerry Meyle Sr. posted
55 years ago today. B&O E8A 1454 with train no 9 arriving at Harpers Ferry, W.V. August 13, 1966. This locomotive would be converted to Amtrak Fuel Tender 400 in the 1970s. Bob Pennisi photo, from my collection.
George Keller: I think that this engine sets in Bellevue , Ohio today.

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.

1 comment:

  1. I've always been fascinated by the overlapping history here, with the C&O Canal and the various railroad routes and structures. This is an excellently-collected and written summary that captures lots of information that might otherwise be lost. Thank you so much for compiling this!