The Kenova Railroad Bridge carries Norfolk Southern Railway over the Ohio River between Kenova, West Virginia, and South Point, Ohio.
The Kenova Railroad Bridge was originally a single-track crossing that was constructed in 1892 by the Edge Moor Bridge Company of Wilmington, Delaware 2 for Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W). 1 It featured 34-foot-wide piers that were spacious enough to accommodate the eventual widening of the bridge with the addition of a third truss line in the middle to support heavier loads. With the development of the Williamson and Logan coal fields in the early 20th century and the demand for coal increasing greatly in the Midwest, traffic on the river crossing grew.
Because the weight of the newer steam locomotives and cars would be too heavy for modified trusses, it was decided to construct a new double-track bridge designed by N&W’s Charles S. Churchill and C.W. Bryan of the American Bridge Company. 2 The new bridge would be built around the existing structure to allow train traffic to continue unimpeded during construction. Construction started on April 15, 1902. 3
The wide piers that were built in 1892 were found to be too narrow for the new proposed bridge trusses. 2 To remedy the issue, riveted steel girders were fabricated to underlay the trusses atop the piers. Additionally, the channel trusses were fabricated using the cantilever method to avoid having to install falsework in the river that would cause navigational hazards and blockages. 2 3 Temporary bracings were used to support the spans under construction.
On March 4, 1913, work crews met in the middle to connect the ends of the main channel truss, and the first train crossed the newly completed bridge at 10 AM on June 9. 1 It was not formally finished until workers finished painting in September.
The new Kenova Railroad Bridge, completed at the cost of $1 million, was the longest structure on the N&W, at 4,000 feet in length, and one that required the usage of 21.6 million pounds of steel. 1
As the bridge was vital to N&W’s operations and carried vital war materials and soldiers, the river crossing was the potential target of Germans during World War II. 1 During the conflict, saboteurs were caught nearby which led to the deployment of a Coast Guard unit to protect the crossing.
The Kenova Railroad Bridge gained notoriety on November 15, 1967, when the world’s longest, heaviest freight train traversed it with 500 loaded coal cars and six locomotives. 1 The five-mile-long train was operated by N&W in a contest with the Pennsylvania Railroad.
In 1980, the N&W merged its business operations with the Southern Railway, becoming the Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) in 1982. Today, the bridge remains a critical component of NS’ Pocahontas Division mainline, and a component of the Heartland Corridor, with 35 trains per day crossing carrying coal, grain, general merchandise, and a growing number of double-stack containers. 1
- State: Ohio, West Virginia
- Route: Norfolk Southern Railway
- Type: Baltimore Through Truss, Pennsylvania Through Truss
- Status: Active - Railroad
- Total Length: 4,000 feet
- Main Span Length: 521 feet
- Deck Width: 43 feet
- Roadway Width: 24 feet
- “Norfolk Southern notes 100th anniversary of vital rail link across the Ohio River.” Norfolk Southern Railway, 4 Mar. 2013.
- Holth, Nathan. “Kenova Railroad Bridge.” HistoricBridges.org, 7 Jun. 2014.
- “Norfolk and Western Railway Company Notice.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 16 Apr. 1912, p. 13.