Monday, September 7, 2009

Historic Bridges - Long gone bridges

Near: old Potomac bridge; Far: old Shenandoah bridge

The history of Harpers Ferry has been intertwined with crossing the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers ever since Robert Harper began operating his ferry there in the mid 1700's. In 1824 a timber bridge was built across the Potomac replacing the ferry. In 1834 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad reached Sandy Hook. In 1836 the B&O Viaduct was completed crossing the Potomac to Harpers Ferry and in 1837 the Winchester and Potomac Railroad extended rail transportation from Harpers Ferry to Winchester. A highway and footbridge was also built across the mouth of the Shenandoah, connecting Harpers Ferry to Virginia east of the river. These early bridges were destroyed during the Civil War, rebuilt and later destroyed by floods. The major stone supports are all that remain.

Today there are two railroad bridges crossing the Potomac from Maryland to Harpers Ferry. In 1894, a Platt truss and plate iron span bridge was built by the B&O railroad. There is also a footpath on this bridge for the Appalachian Trail crossing. In 1931, a second B&O bridge (deck plate girder) was built, connecting to Harpers Ferry further upstream. This latter bridge eliminated a sharp curve for the mainline track. Both the B&O railroad and the Winchester & Potomac Railroad are now part of CSX Transportation. See Google maps for an aerial view of these bridges.

US Route 340 highway crosses the Potomac downstream from the town into Virginia, follows the river into West Virginia and crosses the Shenandoah upstream from the town. The US Route 340 bridge crossing the Potomac can be seen in the distance in last image.

Old Potomac bridge seen from the point
(1894 bridge in background)

Old Shenandoah bridge seen from the point

View of Shenandoah bridge from upstream

1 comment:

~Cheryl said...

This is so very interesting! What a history, and to see the vegetation growing on these dear bridge pillars really puts the "bygone days" into perspective. Wonderful post!