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Aden Road Bridge

Aden Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: January 6, 2012 and May 11, 2012

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Aden Road (VA-646) Over Railroad (Norfolk Southern)
Rural: Prince William County, Virginia: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1882 By Builder/Contractor: Keystone Bridge Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
78 Feet (23.8 Meters)
Structure Length
78 Feet (23.8 Meters)
Roadway Width
16 Feet (4.88 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

Bridge Status: This bridge was altered, with trusses placed on a replacement superstructure, using special hammerhead abutments designed to provide trains more room!

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

This bridge was originally built as a railroad bridge to carry a single railroad line of the Virginia Midland Railway over an unknown crossing. It was one of a number of bridges built by Keystone Bridge Company at this time. Between 1903 and 1904 these bridges were replaced. One of the spans was relocated, either immediately at that time, or at least before 1928, to this location at Aden Road where it became a highway bridge carrying traffic over the railroad line.

This bridge is a highly significant historic bridge. It represents an earlier era of railroad bridge construction of which very little remains. The bridge is not as rare and old as the first metal railroad bridges from the 1850s-1870s which often featured cast iron and rare truss designs such as the Bollman and Fink. However, the bridge is almost as rare since although it utilizes a more traditional wrought iron pin-connected Pratt truss design, it was still built in an earlier era of railroad bridge construction where railroad bridges were fairly lightweight in construction. Bridges from these earlier eras were so lightweight that as railroad loads rapidly increased from the 1880s into the  20th Century, nearly all of these earlier railroad bridges were replaced with much more massive railroad bridges, many of which survive today. Indeed, the Aden Road Bridge appears to be an example of this trend, since it was replaced after just over 20 years of service, a very short time. Because the bridge was likely replaced only because it was not strong enough and was still in good condition, the railroad decided to reuse the bridge as a highway bridge, where traffic loads would have been much less demanding.

As an early pin-connected Pratt truss, the Aden Road Bridge contains distinctive details, evidence of how engineers were still experimenting with different design details for truss bridges and had not moved toward the use of standardized details yet. Unusual details include the overhead lateral bracing rod connections to the ends of the struts, and the use of v-lacing instead of cover plate on the top of the top chords and end posts. Also noteworthy is the lightweight portal bracing that includes a decorative circular portal knee brace. Finally, the attachments between the floor beams and the bottom chord connections is unusual.


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