Kentucky is a state with few 19th-century historic trusses remaining in its statewide bridge inventory, and the eastern half of the state has very few original roadway trusses remaining in general. That’s why it was surprising to come across fairly rare King Bridge Company trusses with Phoenix columns in Walbridge, Kentucky.
The one-lane roadway bridge was originally built for the Chatteroi Railway, which was incorporated in March 1873 with the purpose of constructing a railroad from a point near the mouth of the Big Sandy River at the Ohio River to the Great Western Mining & Manufacturing Company in Lawrence County. Despite some opposition to the construction of the Chatteroi, work began on the line on April 1, 1880, and Louisa was reached by mid-1881.
South of Louisa, intense landowner opposition along Three Mile Creek and George’s Creek forced the realignment of the Chatteroi along the Levisa Fork to mines at Peach Orchard, which opened in 1883. The realignment included the construction of a bridge over the Levisa Fork at Walbridge and a short tunnel.
The Chatteroi Railway went into receivership in July 1885 and was acquired by the Ohio & Big Sandy Railroad (O&BS), owned by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway owner Collis P. Huntington, in August 1889. The railroad was then extended southward deep into the coalfields of southeastern Kentucky.
In 1914, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, the O&BS’s successor, constructed a new, stronger crossing over the Levisa Fork at Walbridge which included the conversion of the c. 1883 Walbridge Bridge for automobile use.