The Oneida & Western Railroad Bridge over the Big South Fork Cumberland River is located between Jamestown and Oneida, Tennessee. The line served vast pockets of virgin timber and coal mines in the Big South Fork Cumberland River region.
Construction began on the O&W on November 4, 19132 at the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway (Cincinnati Southern) at Oneida and was completed to the Big South Fork Cumberland River by June 1915 for a distance of 10.2 miles.1 This involved the placement of the Whipple truss over the Big South Fork.4 The bridge was once located along another rail line, but was relocated to the site in 1915 by the Nashville Bridge Company.
The O&W was extended as far west as Jamestown in 1930, but no further work was completed.1 2
At its peak in 1922, the O&W featured up to three daily round trips.1 But the advent of the automobile saw the passenger ridership decline between Jamestown and Oneida, a trip that would normally take 3.5 hours. Freight use similarly declined. By 1936, there were three daily round trips via motorcar. In addition, the Great Depression softened coal sales, and the last of the virgin timber had been harvested.2 The last profitable year for the O&W was in 1930, except for 1948.
The Jewell Ridge Coal Company purchased the railroad in 1946, and intended to use the line to access new coal reserves along the Big South Fork, and to an active mine at Zenith.1 2 But the O&W continued to bleed due to a lack of investment along the railway. By this point, there were only two to three trains operating per week on the O&W.2 The last train operated over the O&W on March 31, 1954.1 2 3