The bridge, on NS' Pocahontas Division mainline, carries freight rail traffic and supports economic development in the Tri-State region and Ohio River Valley.
"It's an important component of the Heartland Corridor, NS' groundbreaking public-private partnership that connects Virginia's ports to Midwestern markets to expedite the movement of international commerce," said Mickey Runyon, NS assistant division superintendent. "At the same time, it handles a steady amount of grain, coal and general merchandise. With some 35 trains a day and double-stack clearance, it's a workhorse."'
Although the bridge is 100, NS says its durability is unquestioned.
"The bridge has undergone major upgrades several times during the past century and its excellent condition is a reflection of the industry's continual investment, without taxpayer dollars, to give the nation an economic competitive edge," said Jim Carter, NS chief engineer. "Like everything on the railroad, it is well-designed and systematically well-maintained. We fully expect it to be serviceable for another 100 years."
NS' Ohio River bridge is nearly 4,000 feet long and 82 feet above normal water level. It was originally designed with a single track in 1892 by NS predecessor Norfolk and Western Railway (N&W), although it was constructed with piers wide enough to accommodate future double-track.
As nearby coal fields developed and the demand for coal in the Midwest grew, traffic increased, meaning more wear and tear. So, N&W rebuilt the bridge with double-track and a stronger overall structure. Updates included pier modifications and new trusses, completed entirely around the existing structure to allow train traffic to continue during construction.
It was on March 4, 1913, that work crews met in the middle to connect the ends of the main channel truss. The first train crossed the newly-completed double-track on June 9. It was the longest structure on the railroad and had taken 21.6 million pounds of steel and $1 million to upgrade.