The Benwood Bridge connects Bellaire, Ohio and Benwood, West Virginia and carries CSX over the Ohio River. Early proposals for the bridge came from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s president, John Garrett, who had envisioned the expansion of his railroad into the states west of the Ohio River, especially to Chicago, Illinois, that few had access to.2 Garrett had made attempts to expand the B&O southward, but the Civil War made that possibility dim. On November 21, 1866, the B&O acquired by lease the Central Ohio Railroad for 20 years and the Sandusky, Mansfield & Newark Railroad in February 1869, which linked Bellaire to the port of Sandusky along Lake Erie, making a connection to Chicago possible.3
Car ferries existed at Wheeling and Parkersburg that connected to existing railroads across the Ohio River,2 but plans for their replacement with fixed span began immediately after the conclusion of the war. Early proposals called for a bridge at Wheeling, but due its topography, a bridge further south at Benwood was chosen.
The discussion of a bridge at Bellaire raised the ire of an existing ferry owner, who had operated between Bellaire and Benwood for decades. An injunction was filed in court, which escalated to the U.S. Supreme Court where the injunction was lifted.
Chief engineer James L. Randolph and John L. Wilson, master of road, were selected as supervisors for the new bridge.2 Jacob Linville, president of the Keystone Bridge Company, was selected as the chief engineer for the new bridge.(?) The first stone for the crossing was laid at Union Street in Bellaire on May 2, 1868 and by the end of the year, $364,000 had been expended on the planning, materials and early construction of the Benwood and Parkersburg crossings. By October 1, 1869, that figure had risen to $648,000.
By April 1871, the Ohio viaduct had been completed to Rose Hill.1 It required the careful erection of 43 stone arches, each 33-feet, 4-inches wide with a height of 10 to 20 feet above ground level. Each arch was supported by 37 ring stones, 18 on each side of the keystone, which symbolized a united Union consisting of then 37 states. Over 14,854 cubic-yards of masonry was required for the approaches, while the piers and abutments required an additional 35,375 cubic-yards. The viaduct and long-span wrought-iron trusses over the river were opened to railroad traffic on June 21.2 Both the Parkersburg and Benwood spans cost a combined $2,237,000.
In 1905, the main spans over the Ohio River were replaced by six Parker through trusses fabricated by the American Bridge Company. A new metal, single- and double-track viaduct split off from Bellaire and proceeded northward.
The Benwood Bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 1976. In 1983, the original Central Ohio Railroad alignment east of Cambridge was abandoned to Bellaire and the tracks were removed to its junction with the main span of the Benwood Bridge.
- Designation: CSXT, formerly Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
- Crosses: Ohio River
- Bridge Type: Parker through truss
- Total Length: 3,916 feet; 8,566 feet (with viaduct)
- Main Span Length: 348 feet
- Height: 40 feet
- Stover, John F. “Garrett Expands His Lines.” History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Purdue: Purdue Research Foundation, 1987. 146-47. Print.
- Ault, Hewetson. “A HISTORY OF BELLAIRE .” Bellaire Public Library. N.p., 14 Mar. 2010. Web. 11 Aug. 2010. Article.
- Steiner, Rowlee. “Columbus Railroads.” 1952. Columbus Railroads. Web. 29 Aug. 2011. Article.