A bridge carrying Norfolk Southern’s Pocahontas Division over the Ohio River between South Point, Ohio, and Kenova, W.Va., observed this week the 100th anniversary of its rebuilding.
Construction crews met at the bridge’s midpoint on March 4, 1913, to connect the ends of the main channel truss.
The first train passed over the bridge on the morning of June 9 and construction wrapped up in September when workers finished painting the structure. At the time, the bridge was owned by the Norfolk & Western Railway.
The bridge was the longest structure on the N&W. Designed in 1892 as a single-track structure, burgeoning coal traffic led the N&W to rebuild and double-track the bridge. The renovations included pier modifications and new trusses that were built around the existing structure to allow rail traffic to continue during construction.
The project cost $1 million and required 21.6 tons of steel. When completed, the bridge was 4,000 feet long and stood 82 feet above the normal water level of the river.
“The bridge has undergone major upgrades several times over the past century and its excellent condition is a reflection of the industry’s continual investment – without taxpayer dollars – to give the nation an economic competitive edge,” said Jim Carter, an NS chief engineer based in Atlanta. “Like everything on the railroad, it is well-designed and systematically well-maintained. We fully expect it to be serviceable for another 100 years.”
The bridge has had some notable occurrences throughout its service history. During World War II, saboteurs were caught nearby and a Coast Guard unit was assigned to stand guard.
The world’s longest, heaviest freight train traversed the bridge on Nov. 15, 1967, when N&W operated 500 loaded coal cars and six locomotives as part of a contest with the Pennsylvania Railroad. The N&W train was five miles in length.
Today some 35 NS trains cross the bridge daily. The traffic includes intermodal, grain, coal, and general merchandise.