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Lorain Railroad Lift Bridge

Lorain Railroad Lift Bridge

The Lorain Railroad Lift Bridge carries Norfolk Southern Railway over the Black River in Lorain, Ohio.

The New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, commonly referred to as the Nickel Plate Road, was constructed in the 1880s along the south shore of the Great Lakes to connect Buffalo and Chicago to compete with the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway. In Lorain, work began on the Nickel Plate’s bridge across the Black River on June 21, 1881. 8 The swing truss bridge, 200 feet in length, 30 feet wide, and 35 feet above the water, with an accompanying trestle of 800 feet, 8 was completed in 1882.

Work to replace the swing truss with a larger one began in 1903. At 3 AM on June 30, 1904, work on removing the old main span was begun which was floated away on pontoons while the new Warren through truss swing span was installed. 6 The much larger main span length of 340 feet 1 enabled 150 feet of horizontal clearance for vessels on the river. 7

Nickel Plate’s new bridge was finished on July 1, 1904. 6 Constructed by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland for $20,000, it featured the second largest span drawbridge of its kind in the world weighing in at 860 tons with a main span length of 340 feet. 1 During the process of removing the old span, which was floated away on pontoons, and the installation of the new span, Nickel Plate’s trains were detoured on the Lake Shore and B&O in Elyria. 6

In 1960, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a $20 million harbor improvement program along the Black River. 4 Scheduled for completion in 1966, the $22 million project entailed the deepening of the Black River and the replacement of the railroad’s swing bridge to provide a substantially wider navigation channel. 2 3 4 It was not until the early 1970s that work began on the bridge replacement project.

In 1974, the N&W, the Nickel Plate’s successor, completed its new $6.5 million Warren through truss lift bridge to replace the circa 1904 structure. 2 3 Designed by Hardesty & Hanover and erected by Allied Construction of Hammond, Indiana, the rebuilt crossing was the last component of the harbor improvement program. 2

N&W’s successor, Norfolk Southern (NS), acquired part of Conrail’s assets in 1999 which included the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway mainline which eventually became NS’s Chicago Line. 9 NS’s Cleveland Line, which followed the Nickel Plate’s route, was downgraded in the vicinity of Lorain as the Chicago Line was considered to be in better condition, had more tracks to carry trains on, and had less costly bridges to maintain such as the lift bridge over the Black River. The Cleveland Line also had little originating traffic because of the closure of significant industry in Lorain and spurs already existed to connect the Chicago Line to customers around the city.


  • State: Ohio
  • Route: Norfolk Southern Railway
  • Type: Vertical Lift, Warren Through Truss
  • Status: Active - Railroad
  • Total Length: 1,000 feet (1882)
  • Main Span Length: 200 feet (1882); 340 feet (1904)
  • Deck Width: 30 feet (1881)


  1. Tinker, Geo H. “Welded Steel Fender Pier.” Engineering News-Record, 23 Apr. 1942, pp. 72-73.
  2. Brady, Dan. “Norfolk & Western Railroad Bridge.” Brady’s Bunch of Lorain County Nostalgia, 30 Apr. 2012.
  3. Newark Advocate, 26 Mar. 1974, p. 7.
  4. “Engineers, Lorain People Discuss Harbor Program.” News-Messenger [Fremont], 2 Mar. 1962, p. 11.
  5. x
  6. “In Place.” Chronicle-Telegram [Elyria], 1 Jul. 1904, p. 9.
  7. “Some Facts.” Elyria Reporter, 29 Oct. 1903, p. 8.
  8. “State News.” Telegraph-Forum [Bucyrus], 24 Jun. 1881, p. 2.
  9. “Norfolk Southern plans key for area.” Morning Journal, 16 Jul. 2021.

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