Charleston Railroad Bridge

Charleston Railroad Bridge

The disused Charleston Railroad Bridge carried the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad over the Kanawha River in Charleston, West Virginia.


History

The Kanawha Bridge & Terminal Company was incorporated in 1907 with the intent to construct an interurban, railroad, and wagon crossing between Charleston and South Charleston. 3 9 It would connect with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) in South Charleston with the Kanawha & Michigan Railway in Charleston, and provide a method for the Charleston Interurban Railroad to expand toward St. Albans. 2 4

A contract to build the abutments and piers was awarded to D. Minatti in April and a contract to erect the superstructure was let to the American Bridge Company in August. 1 The new crossing, which consisted of a Pennsylvania through truss main span, three Pratt through trusses, and significant plate girder approach spans, opened in 1909. 2

Charleston Railroad Bridge Postcard
The postcard has been released into the Public Domain as it was published prior to 1923.

The Chesapeake & Ohio purchased the Kanawha Bridge & Terminal in 1910. 4 In 1912, the Charleston Interurban opened its branch to St. Albans. 8

The automobile lane was closed to traffic in 1932 when the Patrick Street Bridge opened. 2 In 1935, the Charleston Interurban passed into the hands of the Charleston Transit Company, which converted the interurban railroad service to buses in 1939, and interurban service ceased on the Charleston Railroad Bridge. 8

In 1956, the Charleston approach trestle was modified to accommodate the construction of Kanawha Boulevard in 1956, 6 and later the South Charleston approach trestle was modified to include the building of MacCorkle Avenue. The river crossing was repaired in 1982 5 and last used in the late 1980s.

Rail to Trail

In 2003, the city of Charleston began talks about repurposing the mothballed Charleston Railroad Bridge into a rail-to-trail project. 6 In 2006, CSX (the successor to the C&O) offered to donate the bridge to the city and sell its 5½ to the city at fair market value, although the city said that such a sale would be determined based upon detailed inspection.

It was initially estimated that the conversion of the railroad bridge into a pedestrian and cyclist path would cost $3.2 million. 6 A total of $6 million was raised with state and federal grants and contributions from local businesses.

An in-depth inspection of the railroad bridge was conducted by the Michael Baker, Jr. company in March and April of 2011. 5 6 7 The inspection report noted that the crossing was in fair condition because of a rehabilitation project that the C&O undertook in 1982, although the river piers supporting the trusses would need strengthening because of a lack of rebar and the quality of concrete that was used in the early 1900s. Additionally, the bridge would need replacements to some top lateral bracings and bottom chords and diagonals because of section loss, the approach plate girder spans would need significant repair because of rust, and the timber stringer spans would need repair or replacement. The crossing would need to be repainted to prevent further rust packing and corrosion and a new bridge deck would need to be installed for pedestrians and cyclists. 7

The repairs were estimated to cost $13 million, although a full repainting of the entire structure would cost $17.5 million. 6 Because of the high potential costs of reusing the Charleston Railroad Bridge, the proposal to convert it into a trail was tabled.


Information

  • State: West Virginia
  • Route: Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad
  • Type: Pennsylvania Through Truss, Pratt Through Truss
  • Status: Abandoned / Closed
  • Total Length: 4,291 feet
  • Main Span Length: 415 feet
  • Spans:
    • South Charleston and Charleston approach timber stringer spans: 1,915 feet
    • South Charleston approach plate girder spans: 580 feet
    • South Charleston approach truss span 1: 150 feet
    • South Charleston approach truss span 2: 150 feet
    • Charleston approach truss span: 130 feet
    • Charleston approach plate girder spans: 860 feet
  • Height: 70 feet

Sources

  1. “Railway Bridges.” Railway Age, 16 Aug. 1907, p. 238.
  2. Waters, J. “The C & O Bridge.” 2013.
  3. Interstate Commerce Commission (1929). “Valuation Docket No. 457, Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company et al.” Valuation Reports. 24: 476, 497.
  4. Poor, Henry V. (1915). Poor’s Manual of the Railroads of the United States 1915. New York: American Bank Note Company. p. 1247.
  5. CSX Kanawha Trestle Inspection Report.” Michael Baker Jr., Inc., 2011 Aug.
  6. Carballo, Rebecca. “Why nothing has crossed the Kanawha trestle in 30 plus years and likely never will.” Charleston Gazette-Mail, 16 Jul. 2019.
  7. Balow, Jim. “Pier Review Outlook Cloudy for CSX Trestle.” Charleston Gazette, 31 Aug. 2011, p. 1A.
  8. Tanner, Borgon. “Streetcar Lines.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, 29 May 2020.
  9. “Vandalia Addition.” Raleigh Herald, 2 May 1907, p. 8.

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