The Southern Bridge connects Cincinnati, Ohio to Ludlow, Kentucky over the Ohio River, and carries Norfolk Southern Railroad.

History

In 1874, the Cincinnati Daily Gazette announced that the proposed location of the railroad crossing would be at the base of Horne Street.(3) The requirements of the bridge necessitated a center span of 400 feet in the clear and a draw, and the proposed crossing featured two spans of 400-feet each. Planned were two trusses at 420-feet (3) and a center span of 520-feet,(4) a record for a bridge of that design.

A proposed draw-span of 185 feet would provide two open passageways of 160-feet each near the Kentucky shore.(3) The draw was required near the Kentucky shore because not far downstream from Horne Street, the Ohio River bends to the south. If a boat, in approaching the bend during high water when the current is strong, there would be elevated chances that the vessel could land on the Ohio shore, not having sufficient room to make the turn. The draw, as designed, would only be used at a time of high water, when it would be impossible to pass under the bridge.

To the south of the draw would be a truss span of 200 feet and a 88-feet span to the Kentucky approach.(3) The northern pier would rest on the high Ohio bank, and three of the piers would be located in the river.(3) The bridge would be 102.5-feet above the low water mark, and 40-feet above the high water mark of 1832.

Construction was completed by the Keystone Bridge Company of Pittsburg for $750,000 and was regarded as one of the cheapest spans of bridge-building in the West.(4) It was the longest truss span in the world.(5) The span was the seventh bridge built over the Ohio, and the third at that point.

The bridge was tested on November 8, 1877, which required running trains of increasing weight over each span in succession, with stops and sudden jerks to prove the strength of the structure.(4) A single engine was sent across, then two, three and upward to seven. Four cars, loaded with 15 tons of rails each, were added, making the total weight upon a single span 3,880 tons. The total deflection of the channel span was only two inches.(4)

The first iteration of the bridge was completed in 1877,(1) and carried the Cincinnati Southern Railroad, the only major railroad in the United States owned by a municipality.(2)

The Ohio River truss featured a swing span on the southern end.(2) The bridge was rebuilt while maintaining services in 1922.(1) It is the busiest railroad crossing in Cincinnati.(2)

Statistics

  • Designation: Norfolk Southern
  • Crosses: Ohio River
  • Bridge type: Truss
  • Main span length: 520 ft. (1877)
  • Number of lanes: 2
  • Cost: $20 million
Further Reading
  1. Cincinnati Southern Bridge at Structurae
  2. Cincinnati Southern Bridge at Cincinnati Transit
Sources
  1. “Cincinnati Southern Bridge.” Structurae 2009. 2 Sept. 2009 Data.
  2. Mecklenberg, Jake. “Cincinnati Southern Bridge.” Cincinnati Transit. 2 Sept. 2009 Article.
  3. “THE CINCINNATI SOUTHERN RAILWAY BRIDGE.” New York Times 28 July 1874. 2 Sept. 2009: 3. Article.
  4. “TESTING A GREAT BRIDGE.; THE NEW SOUTHERN RAILROAD BRIDGE OVER THE OHIO RIVER SUBJECTED TO SEVERE TESTS.” New York Times 9 Nov. 1877. 2 Sept. 2009: 1. Article.
  5. Hall, Charles Gilbert. “Building the Road.” Cincinnati Southern Railway; a History: A Complete and Concise. Cincinnati: Ault & Wiborg, 1902. 54. Print.