This is a bridge with a strange story to say the least. The completion of the New River Gorge Bridge in 1977, which crossed the entire deep river valley at high level, turned the Fayette Station Bridge that crossed at the bottom of the valley after a long series of switchbacks into a somewhat inconvenient and unnecessary bridge. In a deteriorated state, the bridge was closed to traffic as a result. However, in 1997, a project to reopen the bridge to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic (including adding sidewalks) was undertaken, allowing the many tourists who visit the area today to explore the river valley. This is one of the more unusual projects around. Nearly every single piece of original bridge material was replaced with new materials... yet a few original pieces were saved and reused. While from a preservation perspective saving something of the original historic bridge is better than nothing, it is somewhat curious that if you already are replacing 99% of a bridge, what point is there to saving the 1%? The new materials do appear to replicate the original design of the bridge including the built-up design and use of v-lacing and lattice. Two major changes however are the exclusive use of bolts instead of historically correct rivets, and it also appears that the pony truss approach span members are of significantly more massive construction. The original pony truss approach spans were quite lightweight.
It is somewhat hard to classify what happened to this bridge. A couple original parts were reused, so it wasn't a total replacement, yet calling this a rehabilitation would be suggestive of a project in which more original materials would be retained. The exclusive use of bolts and changing of dimensions of some truss members also makes the bridge fall short of what the word "replica" implies. Moreover, the sidewalks on the bridge are an all-new addition, as the original bridge didn't have any sidewalks. The only other major bridge project documented on HistoricBridges.org of a similar caliber would be the Cermak Road Bridge in Chicago although in the case of that bridge it isn't apparent that any major change in member sizes was undertaken, and the bridge always had sidewalks. Its also worth noting that the National Bridge Inventory lists this bridge as being built in 1997... rather than listing it as a 1889 bridge rehabilitated in 1997.
The couple retained original members from the bridge do convey an important bit of information... that the noteworthy Phoenix Iron Company fabricated original iron/steel on the bridge.
Another mystery for this bridge is who built it. The Virginia Bridge and Iron Company was listed as the builder of the bridge, but the Historic American Engineering record mentioned that historic photos showed a plaque on the bridge that looked like it was from the Wrought Iron Bridge Company and made the suggestion that the company may have fabricated the trusses. However, HistoricBridges.org is only aware of one bridge built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company that followed a Pennsylvania truss configuration, and it looks nothing like this bridge. The Wrought Iron Bridge Company usually used the Whipple truss for long spans instead of Pennsylvania or Baltimore trusses. Not having seen the plaque photo, HistoricBridges.org is somewhat suspicious of any association with Wrought Iron Bridge Company until further evidence presents itself.
In conclusion, the bridge as seen today looks similar to the original bridge, has a few pieces of original material, and looks a lot nicer than a typical modern bridge. That said, if you are an engineer, owner, or preservation advocate, please be aware that a project like this should be the last resort. It would be much preferable to retain a greater amount of original bridge material, and if anything has to be replicated, at least use rivets, but also try to retain original dimensions if possible.
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