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Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge

Fort Wayne Bridge

The Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge, also known as is a railroad structure that carries Norfolk Southern Railroad over the Allegheny River in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


The Ohio & Pennsylvania Railroad (O&P) was chartered in 1848 to construct a line from Allegheny City to Crestline, Ohio on the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad. 4 Construction began on July 4, and the section from Allegheny City west to New Brighton opened in July 1851, with the railroad opening to Crestline on April 11, 1853, providing a through line to Cincinnati.

On August 16, 1854, work began on the Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge to bring the O&P from Allegheny City across the Allegheny River into Pittsburgh to connect with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s mainline. The wooden truss structure opened on September 22, 1857, terminating at a temporary station at Penn and Tenth Streets.

The O&P was combined with the Fort Wayne & Chicago, Ohio & Indiana railroads to form the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Rail Road (PFW&C) in July 1856, with the line extending to Chicago by January 1859.

From its earliest days, the O&P and the PFW&C had been tightly integrated with the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) which was a major financier in their construction projects. The PFW&C was reorganized as the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway in February 1862.

In 1868, the superstructure of the Fort Wayne Bridge was replaced with a wrought iron truss structure comprised of five lattice truss spans and two plate girders at each approach. 1 10 The PRR began leasing the PFW&C in July 1869 and began operating it directly.

In 1901, the PRR began the process to rebuild the Fort Wayne Bridge, which was also referred to as Bridge No. 1 of the Eastern Division of the PFW&C, 3 in conjunction with the construction of a new passenger station immediately south of the crossing and the elimination of grade crossings elsewhere. 10 12 Construction was carried out by rolling the old bridge to temporary supports alongside while at the same time skewing it to bring it parallel to the new centerline, 12 14 a process that took two hours on April 13, 1902. 14 The new bridge was then erected atop the old piers. The dismantling of the old bridge was completed in July 1903, 16 and the new Fort Wayne Bridge was completed in 1904. 1

The only mayhem that developed during the completion of the new structure was on December 28 and 29 in 1901, when heavy rainfall caused the banks of the Allegheny to overflow. 13 Complicating matters was a big ice jam that formed in the river between the Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge and the bridge at Sixteenth Street that washed away some of the false work.

The new crossing was designed and constructed under the direction of Thomas Rodd, chief engineer, and J. C. Bland, engineer of bridges for the Pennsylvania Lines West, with substructure work performed by Omsler & Company and superstructure work performed by Drake & Stratton, 15 and built of steel at the Pencoyd and Keystone plants of the American Bridge Company. 2 3 5 It featured two tracks on the upper level for passenger trains with some long-distance freight mixed in and two tracks on the lower level for local freight movements that connected to the Strip District and freight station, along with a pedestrian sidewalk. The overall structure consisted of a main Pennsylvania through truss span of 333 feet, three western Pratt through truss spans of 156.5 feet, and an eastern Pratt through truss span of 156.5 feet. 3

The River and Harbor Act, passed by Congress in 1899, required the Secretary of War to declare bridges over navigable bodies of water in violation if they posed an obstruction to the free navigation of such waters because of insufficient height or width. 6 It was determined that the Fort Wayne Bridge would need to be raised by two or three feet to about 47 feet above Davis Island pool to meet the vertical clearance requirements set by the War Department. 1 11 Construction to raise the bridge began in 1918 and cost the PRR around $10 million to complete. 11

The PRR was merged into Penn Central (PC) in 1968, although the PFW&C remained separate, filing for bankruptcy in 1973. It became a part of Conrail until 1998 when tracks east of Crestline were sold to Norfolk Southern Railway.

In the wake of the collapse and bankruptcy of PC and six other northeastern carriers, the United States Rail Authority (USRA) developed proposals for a new railroad system. 17

One called for the removal of the Fort Wayne Bridge by rerouting through PC traffic along a new bridge further upstream on the Allegheny River or via a rerouting via the Brilliant Cutoff and Bridge, Conemaugh Division, and the South Side Route as part of the construction of Crosstown Boulevard/Interstate 579 by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). 8 18 19 This was opposed because it would result in the abandonment of the downtown passenger train depot utilized by Amtrak. 19 Another proposal from PennDOT called for the reuse of the lower level of the bridge for a roadway. 17

By 1976, the USRA retained the use of the Fort Wayne Bridge. 17 Ultimately, it was determined that one of the lower level tracks on the bridge, which served local freight destined for the Strip District with just one train per day, six days a week, could be eliminated because of an urban expansion and redevelopment project that was proposed for that area. 8 18 PennDOT proposed the construction of a $9 million railroad spur and overpass to serve the Strip District. 18

In 1979, the Fort Wayne Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 7

By 1983, it was decided that PennDOT would pay Conrail, PC’s successor, to rehabilitate 17 miles of track between Lawrenceville and Arnold so that it could continue to service the Strip District from another railroad. 20 PennDOT also purchased the lower deck of the Fort Wayne Bridge so that it could be abandoned with the provision that it could be used as a pedestrian crossing in the future. Work on removing tracks from the lower deck of the Fort Wayne Bridge and removing abandoned approaches was completed in 1989.

In 1999, a proposal has been considered to repurpose the unused lower level of the Fort Wayne Bridge to carry vehicles associated with automated people-mover vehicles. 9 Another called for the installation of tracks for light rail passenger service for Port Authority Transit. 21



  • State: Pennsylvania
  • Route: Norfolk Southern Railroad
  • Type: Pennsylvania Through Truss, Pratt Through Truss
  • Status: Active - Railroad
  • Total Length: 975 feet
  • Main Span Length: 333 feet
  • Spans: 156.5 feet × 3


  1. Cridlebaugh, Bruce S. “Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge.”, 3 Nov. 2000.
  2. Kobus, Ken, and Jack Consoli. The Pennsy in the Steel City: 150 Years of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society, 1997, pp. 19-22.
  3. “A Four-Truss Double-Deck Railroad Bridge.” The Engineering Record, 11 Oct. 1902, pp. 338-341, 364-366.
  4. Wilson, Erasmus, ed. Standard History of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. H.R. Cornell & Co., 1898, p. 138.
  5. Olmsted, Frederick Law. “.” Pittsburgh Main Thoroughfares and the Downtown District, Feb. 1911, p. 145.
  6. Hawley, Haven. “Three Sisters Bridges, Spanning Allegheny River at Sixth, Seventh & Ninth Streets, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, PA.” Library of Congress, Aug. 1998.
  7. “Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge (Fort Wayne Bridge).” North Shore Connector Final Environmental Impact Statement, Port Authority of Allegheny County, Apr. 2002, p. 3-36.
  8. “Final Environmental Impact Statement Interstate Route 579.” U.S. Department of Transportation, 1982.
  9. Kinbar, Sheldon A. “People Mover Fort Wayne Alignment.” Federal Register, 20 Jan. 1999, p. 3149.
  10. “Thirty Years of Bridge Engineering on the Pennsylvania Lines.” Engineering News-Record, 15 Mar. 1923, p. 490.
  11. “Pittsburgh Bridges Must Be Raised.” Municipal Journal, 26 Apr. 1917, p. 594.
  12. “Wonderful Work is Now Planned.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 31 Jul. 1901, p. 10.
  13. “Lehigh River Falling.” Harrisburg Daily Independent, 30 Dec. 1901, p. 2.
  14. “Bridge Moved in Two Hours.” Pittsburgh Press, 14 Apr. 1902, p. 7.
  15. “Extraordinary Work Going On.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 23 Jun. 1901, p. 15.
  16. “All Tracks of Old Fort Wayne Bridge Gone.” Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, 12 Jul. 1903, p. 13.
  17. Leherr, Dave. “Conrail Claims Panhandle Span.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 20 Feb. 1976, p. 9.
  18. Grata, Joe. “27 Years, $70 Million, And No Sign Of Road.” Pittsburgh Press, 23 Jul. 1978, pp. A-1, A-10.
  19. “PAT Gets Delay of Penn C Airing.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 19 Aug. 1972, p. 3.
  20. Grata, Joe. “Bridge project finally moving.” Pittsburgh Press, 22 Nov. 1983, p. B1.
  21. Grata, Joe. “Light-rail expansion a possibility by 2002.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 23 May 1998, p. 8.

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