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Gates Mills Railroad Bridge

Gates Mills Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: June 30, 2006

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Rail-Trail) Over Chagrin River
Gates Mills: Cuyahoga County, Ohio: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1899 By Builder/Contractor: New Columbus Bridge Company of Columbus, Ohio
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
Not Available
Structure Length
110.0 Feet (33.5 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

The design of this bridge, particularly its narrow width, relate that this was once a railroad bridge, although today nothing remains of the tracks, and indeed there are houses built where this rail line once went, unless it took some very sharp turns. The bridge has been turned into a pedestrian path. The bridge itself is a nice structure, featuring a skew, and v-lacing on the verticals, sway bracing, bottom chord, and some diagonals. Lattice is under the top chord / end post. The structure is a seven panel pin connected Pratt through truss. The bridge rests on stone abutments. The structure was built in 1899 by the New Columbus Bridge Company of Columbus, Ohio.

Information and Findings From Ohio's Historic Bridge Inventory


The former railroad bridge serves a pedestrian trail in the Gates Mills center. The community was incorporated as a village in 1920. Initially developed by Holsey Gates in 1826, who built a sawmill, and it prospered as a proto-industrial settlement until the last quarter of the 19th century. The hamlet was discovered by Cleveland professional men who developed country retreats there starting in the 1890s. In 1899, Gates Mills was connected to downtown Cleveland by the Eastern Ohio Traction Co. interurban line, which was but one of the many electric railways that made Cleveland and its environs one of the foremost interurban regions in America prior to 1920. The electric interurban trains were cleaner, more frequent, and cheaper to build and use than steam railroads and were responsible for residential development of many former protoindustrial and agricultural areas like Gates Mills in the pre-World War II era. The Gates Mills Improvement Society was organized by land owners in 1905 to ensure the development and preservation of the New England character of the village, which is enhanced by the pin connected railroad bridge in the center. The bridge serves a pedestrian trail. Service on the interurban line ceased in 1926.

Physical Description

The 1 span, approximately 110' long pin connected truss bridge is an idiosyncratic design particular to the fabricator. The built up members are robust to accommodate street railway loading, and the floorbeams are framed in above the lower panel points. The end panel floorbeams are connected using eye bars, and there are subties from the pin to the bearings. The bridge is complete.


Retains integrity save for context of serving a street railway line.

Summary of Significance

The pin connected Pratt thru truss bridge was fabricated by the New Columbus (OH) Bridge Co. in 1899 for the Eastern Ohio Traction Co as part of its 33-mile long line between downtown Cleveland and Chardon (Geauga Co). The line supported the residential development of former farming communities along the line, which had not been well served by steam railroad service. Always as a weak line, service was suspended about 1925. The bridge, however, remains as a pedestrian crossing in the center of the New England-like village, and it represents a late but atypical design of a pin-connected Pratt thru truss railroad bridge. By the time this interurban (electric) railway was constructed, steam railroads had moved away from pin connected bridges in favor of stiffer (stronger) one with rigid, riveted connections. This bridge retains the pinned field connections of a waning technology yet the box section members are robust and the bracing is stout. The floorbeams are framed into the verticals and unusual floorbeam hangers at the end panels above the lower chord, which is also a means of making a truss stiffer. Of particular curiosity is the thin subtie between the end lower panel point and the pin at the bearing. Its function is not known. The bridge proves that, despite more than a decade of standardization, idiosyncratic bridge designs persisted. The presence of a bridge plaque confirms that the bridge was not moved to this location and reused, and an identical example was observed on the west side of Tuscarawas Ave. (Factory St.) over the Tuscarawas River at Canal Dover. It serviced the Northern Ohio Traction Co. that by 1910 was complete to Uhrichsville. The New Columbus Bridge Co. was incorporated in 1894 and absorbed by American Bridge Company in 1900.


The bridge is one of over 150 extant pin-connected truss bridges dating from 1874 for pony trusses and 1876 for thru trusses. Twenty six predate 1888 and represent the era of experimentation that evolved into standardized designs by about 1888. This example has moderate significance.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


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