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Bellaire Bridge

Bellaire Bridge (Baltimore & Ohio Railroad)

The Bellaire Bridge carries CSX Transportation over the Ohio River between Bellaire, Ohio, and Benwood, West Virginia. The crossing was originally constructed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to connect it with the Central Ohio Railway.


On January 1, 1853, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) was completed between Baltimore and Wheeling, West Virginia, connecting the ports along the Atlantic Ocean with the Ohio River. 1 However, the B&O desired a link to Chicago, a growing market that few in the eastern seaboard had access to and on November 21, 1866, the Central Ohio Railway (CO) concluded a deal with the B&O for a term of 20 years during which the B&O would operate the CO. The deal was finalized on December 1. 2

With a later acquisition of the Sandusky, Mansfield & Newark Railroad, the B&O was linked from Bellaire to the port of Sandusky along Lake Erie, which gave it a direct connection to Chicago. 1

All that was needed was a bridge over the Ohio River from a point near Wheeling to the CO in Ohio. Discussions on such a crossing began after an Act of Congress was approved on July 14, 1862, which stated that any bridge built over the river must have an elevation of 90 feet or more over the low water in the channel, a main span of 300 feet or greater, and adjoining spans of 220 feet or greater. 4

Construction was delayed because of a ferry between Bellaire and Benwood, West Virginia whose owner had an injunction filed in court. 4 The issue eventually escalated to the U.S. Supreme Court where the injunction was lifted. Immediately after, the B&O selected Jacob Linville, president of the Keystone Bridge Company, to fabricate the superstructure of the new river bridge.

Construction of the foundations began on May 2, 1868, and the 3,916-foot crossing was opened to traffic on June 21, 1871. 4 The new bridge consisted of 1,490-feet of approaches. The Bellaire approach featured 43 arched spans, each consisting of 37 distinctive stones that represented the 37 states in the United States at that time. The Benwood approach consisted of stone piers with nine Bollman deck trusses, four deck spans, and two Linville and Piper through spans. The Bollman deck trusses were constructed by the B&O’s Mt. Clair Shop in Baltimore, while the remainder were built by the Keystone Bridge Company.

In total, the bridge consisted of:

  • Spans 1 – 7, 14, 15: Bollman deck trusses with lengths of 106-feet to 124-feet
  • Spans 8, 9, 10, 13: Deck spans with lengths of 209-feet to 213-feet
  • Span 11: Linville (Whipple/Whipple-Murphy/Double Intersection Pratt) truss with a length of 348 feet
  • Span 12: Piper truss with a length of 241 feet

The original Ohio River crossing was designed for a uniform load of about one ton per foot, but by the late 1800s, the superstructure required replacement because of heavier train cars and steam locomotives. 4

In 1892, plans were drawn for the replacement of spans 14 and 15 with new wrought iron deck trusses with a load limit of 107½ tons. 4 The spans were replaced by the Union Bridge Company in 1893. The replacements for spans 1 through 7 were designed in 1896 and replaced with soft open-hearth steel deck trusses with a load limit of 125 tons in 1900 by Pencoyd Iron Works. Plans to replace spans 8, 9, 10, and 13 were drawn up in 1896 and were replaced with soft open-hearth steel Parker through trusses with a load limit of 2½ tons per foot by the American Bridge Company’s Edgemoor Plant in 1902.

The replacement of spans 11 and 12 over the Ohio River were met with resistance by the War Department. 4 While the B&O had obtained a special War Department permit in 1900 for the reconstruction of spans 8, 9, 10, and 13 on the existing masonry, the military desired the replacement of spans 11 and 12 with a single 700-foot span which would require the extension of piers 10 and 12 and the removal of pier 11. It would cost the railroad $253,500 more than reconstructing the Linville and Piper trusses on the existing piers.

Another plan called for the removal of three piers, the lengthening of one pier, and the replacement of spans 9, 10, 11, and 12 with one span of 284½-feet and another span of 730-feet. 4 The scheme would cost about $563,000 more than reconstructing the Linville and Piper trusses on the existing piers.

The War Department and the railroad disputed who should bear the cost of the main span replacement cost differences and logistics. 4 The B&O ultimately decided that it would replace spans 11 and 12 with Parker through trusses of equal length. The reconstruction process involved the erection of spans 11 and 12 on the outside of the existing Linville and Piper trusses to keep traffic moving on the bridge as much as possible. Work on the new main spans was completed in 1905.



  • State: Ohio, West Virginia
  • Route: CSX Transportation
  • Type: Deck Truss, Parker Through Truss
  • Status: Active - Railroad
  • Total Length: 3,916 feet
  • Main Span Length: 348 feet
  • Spans:


  1. Ault, Hewetson. “A HISTORY OF BELLAIRE .” Bellaire Public Library. N.p., 14 Mar. 2010. Web. 11 Aug. 2010. Article.
  2. Wright, George B. “Central Ohio Railroad.” Annual Report of the Commissioner of Railroads andTelegraphs to the Governor of the State of Ohio for the year 1867. Columbus: Myers & Bros.,  1868. 61-62. Google Books. Web. 11 Aug. 2010. Article.
  3. Steiner, Rowlee. “Columbus Railroads.” 1952. Columbus Railroads. Web. 29 Aug. 2011. Article.
  4. Greiner, J.E. “The Reconstruction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Bridge over the Ohio River, at Benwood, West Virginia.”Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers 55.1001 (1905): n. pag. Print.

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