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Shenango River Railroad Bridge

Erie Railroad Bridge

Shenango River Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Jon Clark

Bridge Documented: July 31, 2011

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Norfolk Southern) Over Shenango River
Rural: Mercer County, Pennsylvania: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1895 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
135.4 Feet (41.3 Meters)
Structure Length
264.0 Feet (80.5 Meters)
Roadway Width
18 Feet (5.49 Meters)
2 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

This historic bridge was demolished and replaced by Norfolk Southern in October 2012!

This bridge was an interesting example of the rare lattice truss configuration. The bridge had two spans, one dating to 1895, which was the original construction of this bridge. In 1905, one span was replaced for unknown reasons, possibly due to a derailment which historically is one of the causes of sudden unexpected truss replacements. The 1905 span was, like the 1895 span, a lattice truss. The two spans provided an interesting comparison of evolving railroad bridge design over a relatively short period of 10 years. The most obvious change was that the 1905 span had a heavier, less interesting solid plate portal bracing, which likely provided more strength than the lattice design seen in the 1895 span.

This bridge was demolished and replaced in 2012. The rate of historic bridge demolition on active railroad lines has dramatically increased since 2010, and it is now clear that railroad bridges are no more safe than historic highway truss bridges from demolition. One oddity of this bridge is that Norfolk Southern apparently worked with PennDOT to list this bridge on PennDOT's bridge marketing website for third parties to purchase, relocate, and reuse. This effort is certainly far more opportunity than most railroad bridges ever get to be saved from demolition, and as such is a step in the right direction. However, unlike highway bridges offered through PennDOT's bridge marketing program, a steep $60,000 surcharge was added to the normal financial responsibility that a third party would have to relocate and preserve the bridge. This would be a significant burden to anyone seeking to preserve the bridge. Saving our nation's rich railroad bridge heritage will require more extensive effort. It is hoped that railroad companies will in the future have a change of heart and engage in philanthropic acts to improve the quality of life of the communities in which the company's facilities exist. For example, it would have been great if Norfolk Southern, which already had committed a crane to lift this bridge off of the tracks in one whole piece, could have assisted financially in the relocation of the bridge to a nearby non-motorized trail. It would have been a good public relations effort for the company and perhaps would be a way to promote the company and the work it does. Other companies have provided aid to the cause of historic bridges through financial assistance. Nucor Steel for example, has more than once donated funds to make possible the Iron and Steel Preservation Conference, which focuses on the restoration of historic metals, in particular metal bridges.

Information and Findings From Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Bridge Marketing Website

Discussion of Bridge

The Norfolk Southern Railway Bridge MI-130.35 is a two-span Double Intersection Warren Through Truss (also known as a Warren Quadrangular Truss), which has a distinctive crosshatched appearance. The bridge carries a single track of the Norfolk Southern Railway over the Shenango River 0.5 mile northeast of the Borough of Shenango. The bridge is bordered by Hempfield Township on the east and by West Salem Township on the west in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. The Shenango River serves as a boundary between Hempfield and West Salem townships.

The superstructure of the bridge is 264 feet long, 18 feet wide, and 41 feet high. The bridge is skewed at approximately 48 degrees in relation to the flow of the Shenango River. The stone abutments are built on right angles to the tracks, while the center pier is skewed to match the flow of the river; this design makes the span lengths equal, with one truss on each span longer than the other. The long trusses measure 135 feet, 4.5 inches; and the short trusses are 120 feet, 4 inches. Each truss is 16 feet, 6 inches wide on center and the through truss vertical clearance is approximately 21 feet, 4 inches. The truss panels and the stringer span lengths are approximately 15 feet, 0.5 inches.

This bridge was constructed in 1895 by the Erie Railway Company. The entire west span was replaced in 1905 for unknown reasons and was constructed by the King Bridge Company. A helper bent was added to the center pier in 1949, and additional repairs to the stringers and floor beams were also made at that time. Extant nineteenth-century examples of this bridge type are very rare within both Pennsylvania and the United States. The Norfolk Southern Railway Bridge MI-130.35 was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) in a letter dated August 28, 2008. The bridge is eligible under Criterion C as a rare example of the Double Intersection Warren Through Truss design.

A minimum purchase price of $60,000 must be met to purchase the bridge superstructure. Norfolk Southern reserves the right to accept an offer from a qualified 501(c)(3) non- profit group of less than $60,000 if the non-profit group meets all of the other elements/requirements of the Marketing Plan. All bids must state that the purchaser shall enter into a purchase agreement that requires the purchaser to relocate, rehabilitate, and maintain the bridge superstructure according to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Historic Buildings (National Park Service [NPS] 1993). The successful purchaser shall be required to abide by these preservation covenants and shall record a covenant with the deed for the property on which the bridge superstructure is relocated that confirms it shall be preserved. The bid offer must also be accompanied by a description of the intended use of the bridge superstructure.

The purchase price shall not include the cost to remove, relocate, rehabilitate, erect, and maintain the bridge superstructure at its new location. The bid must estimate these costs and affirmatively state that the bidder has the funds necessary to purchase the bridge superstructure and undertake the proper relocation and rehabilitation. For additional information on what should be included in the bid package, see the Bridge Marketing Plan prepared for this project.

The purchaser of the bridge superstructure will be responsible for its removal and relocation within eight weeks of the bridge superstructure becoming available, which is anticipated to be in the early summer of 2010.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


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Maps and Links: Shenango River Railroad Bridge

This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.

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