The C & O Bridge  

(Formally The Charleston Interurban RR bridge)

C & O Bridge

The turmoil surrounding Charleston's bridges is a long story of which I wont go into here. But in a nutshell, Charleston (they say) couldnt afford to build a bridge across the Kanawha River. Private Ferry's were adequate in the early days, but Charleston was expanding and growing fast.  So businessmen built two bridges and placed Tolls on them.  The main reason they did this was to sell land on the south side of the Kanawha.   The Toll bridges first built were the South Side Bridge and the Kanawha City Bridge.  Later,  the traffic was so bad that in order to get to this new development called South Charleston,  another bridge was needed,  but once again,  money was scarce, and the taxpayers were dubious.  A plan was suggested to hang a single traffic lane onto the Charleston Interurban RR and make it another Toll bridge. CIRR went along with this because they were already charging the Trolleys to cross anyway.  For the next 20 years,  pedestrians, trolleys, and cars paid to cross the CIRR - C & O Bridge.


 C & O Bridge

They called the C&O Bridge  "The South Charleston Bridge" at one time.



C&O Train Car Bridge

After years of searching, I FINALLY found a photo of the bridge set-up for cars.  See larger photo HERE






Here is a second photo:

C&O Train Car Bridge

That muddy street would be 1st Ave on the West Side.  See larger photo HERE


*********


I always wondered if the driver could see the river as he drove along that very narrow VERY high road.   The answer is in these photos. Yes he could!  There was nothing but a set of cable wires separating him from the edge.  Remember,  the roadway was literally hanging over the outside of the bridge!  That wall you see in the photos was actually on the other side of the bridge's main girders, and I believe it served two purposes: 1... to not frighten the driver as a huge steam engine was just feet away... and 2... to prevent coal from tumbling off the top of the coal cars and onto the roadbed OR car and driver. So now this mystery is solved.


*********

TODAY

C & O Bridge


The pedestrian walkway is still visible, but the roadway to the left in this shot was removed.







C & O Bridge

This is one of the hangers used to support the roadway.   As you can see, it's been cut off.






C & O Bridge

 Can you imagine driving on the OUTside of a bridge up that high?  The roadway was wood and one lane.






C & O Bridge

Then you have to wonder how the cars got up on the bridge.  Was there a ramp beside the trestle?  Of course,  and I was fortunate enough to have taken this photo last year before the area was paved for the new school parking lot. It clearly shows the ground supports still in place (on the photos right side)  that held up the automobile ramp.




The bridge already had one roadway, but it was a single lane. Traffic was held up for blocks,  so the city wanted to place a second roadway on the other side of the bridge so that the traffic could flow both ways.  They also talked about buying or leasing these roadways in order to remove the Tolls.  The roadway was to be 10 feet wide.  Not much room for error that high up

C & O Bridge

THIS WASNT WORKING....  and the city knew that another bridge had to be built.  As there was no Boulevard at the time, and the road fronting the river ended pretty much at Florida Street, it was decided to possibly lease the roadway on the bridge, whereby removing the Toll,  and building a second FREE bridge next to it on Florida Street.

C & O Bridge







C & O Bridge

Imagine hanging off the side of this bridge as you drive your car across on your 10 foot space....

What happened next?

The city finally decided  that the new badly needed bridge would be built at Patrick Street instead of Florida Street.  I must assume that they got word that the WPA was going to build the Boulevard, and it would extend to Patrick Street thereby making a Florida Street bridge plan  null and void.   So...  that's exactly what they did....






C & O Bridge

Now the citizens had a free bridge to cross.   

But what about the old C & O Toll Bridge?






C & O Bridge

Naturally.... it died as a Toll Bridge

Now, the roadway and it's hangers were no longer needed.






C & O Bridge






C & O Bridge

The bridge is now in terrible shape.  The legs that hold up the trestle are rusted horribly at ground level and the superstructure itself is in dire need of repair.  It would cost much more than it's worth to repair the bridge for any use,  and in my opinion, both ends of the bridge are places that few would want to be after dark.... or even in daylight for that matter.


C&O Railroad Bridge

Showing the roadway coming off the South Side.

Kanawha Train Bridge







A big  "Thank You!" to Anne McClure for providing me with a batch of old negatives that her former Father-In-Law,  Henry Eary shot...  including the two photos of the old C&O Bridge shown above.   Henry took many great photos that will will find on other pages of this website.





MORE BRIDGE HISTORY BT HENRY BATTLE

The Trestle Bridge or the CSX bridge was built by the Charleston Interurban RR in 1907 for its full size passenger and freight (read coal!) cars.  A wooden side structure that permitted pedestrian and light vehicular use was added, which served the local community well until 1932 when the Patrick Street Bridge opened.  The Interurban RR, heavily promoted by Gov. MacCorkle, eventually ran from Cabin Creek to St. Albans.  The same group built the Kanawha City 35th Street Bridge in 1915 to properly accommodate both rail and automotive traffic, perhaps unwittingly foretelling the future. When automobiles finally did render the Interurban RR obsolete, the C&O RR acquired the Florida Street bridge to supplement their Kanawha River crossing farther east at Deepwater, WV.  The 35th Street bridge was converted to pure automotive use while the Florida Street bridge remained in use by the CSX RR.

The Florida Street spans, which had to be quite high to clear the river traffic, are steel in an arched truss arrangement, still the standard today for such applications.  This bridge was built at the peak of the Age of Iron & Steam, and represents that era perfectly. The great girders are fastened with massive rivets, hot-set by sweating ironworkers, not machines; they can be easily seen and touched at the northern end where the bridge ramps down to ground level.  Likewise, a visitor can put his hands right on the huge timbers forming the trestles leading to the spans, a vivid reminder that wood can be an essential structural material,  suitable for the heaviest industrial use alongside and integrated with steel. 



n



Back