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Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Railroad Bridge

B&O Railroad and Foot Bridge (25K)

Image 1: B&O Railroad and Foot Bridge. This bridge across the Potomac River is both a railroad bridge and a foot bridge. Originally it was just a railroad bridge, created by the Baltimore & Ohio railroad to replace the old Bollman Bridge. The bridge was originally opend in 1894. Sometime after the destruction of the Bollmand Bridge, this railroad bridge was modified to carry foot traffic as well as rail. Although still used for rail traffic travelling along the line parallel to the Shenandoah River, there is a more modern railroad bridge spanning the Potomac beside this bridge. You can just make out one of the supports for this second bridge on the far left of the picture.

Another view of the B&O Railroad and Foot Bridge (23K)

Image 2: Another view of the B&O Railroad and Foot Bridge. This picture shows tourists crossing the bridge to get to Maryland Heights. At the opposite end of the bridge is a set of iron stairs, which lead to a trail at the top of Maryland Heights. This trail shows positions occupied by the Union and Confederacy during the battle for Harpers Ferry in September, 1862. Note that the iron stairs are made in metal grate fashion and you can see through them; the steps can be difficult to descend for someone suffering from a fear of heights.

Bollman Bridge ruin (28K)

Image 3: Bollman Bridge ruin. This picture shows the stone supports of the old Bollman Bridge. The Bollman Bridge was an iron spanned bridge built on stone supports.

The B&O railroad had a bridge that spanned the Potomac River prior to the American Civil War. On July 14, 1861, Confederate troops blew up that bridge. Over the course of the war the railroad bridge was destroyed and replaced nine times. In 1864 the B&O railroad began work on an iron spanned bridge. Named after its designer Wendell Bollman, this new bridge was completed in 1870. The Bollman Bridge carried rail traffic until 1894 when it was replaced by the B&O bridge, shown above. At that point, the Bollman Bridge was converted to carry foot and carriage traffic. The Flood of 1924 carried off three of the bridge's spans, but they were replaced. The Flood of 1936 destroyed the Bollman Bridge.

Bollman Bridge ruin and the Potomac River (18K)

Image 4: Bollmand Bridge ruin and the Potomac River. This picture shows the ruins of the Bollman Bridge supports on the left, and the Potomac River on the right. This is the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. In the background is the gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains where the Potomac River flows.

Bollman Bridge support (23K)

Image 5: Bollman Bridge support. The large stone structure in the foreground is a stone support for the Bollman Bridge. The supports in the background are for a foot and carriage bridge that used to span the Shenandoah River.

Carrige bridge ruin (38K)

Image 6: Carriage bridge ruin. This is a closer view of the supports for a carriage and foot bridge that used to span the Shenandoah River. Old photographs show that this smaller bridge was not there in 1877 but was in 1896. It appears to have been destroyed in one of the later floods (1924 or 1936 would be my guess).

The bridges and the bridge ruins are in an area of Harpers Ferry called The Point. In 1859, the Gault House Saloon, the Wager House Hotel, the Potomac Restaurant, and several other small businesses and shops were located in the area of The Point. There were also depots for the B&O Railroad and the Winchester & Potomac Railroad. A B&O railroad bridge crossed the Potomac River. On July 14, 1861, Confederate troops blew up the railroad bridge. Union troops burned down the buildings on The Point on February 7, 1862 to prevent the Confederates from using them as sharpshooter locations.

Images 2 and 5 were were taken in August, 1995 and captured on Kodak Royal Gold 400 film. Images 1, 3, 4, and 6 were taken in May, 1999 and captured on Kodak Gold 200 film. All of the photographs were shot with a Nikon F-601 autofocus SLR, using a Nikkor 24mm - 50mm f2.8 wide angle zoom lens or a Sigma 150mm - 300mm f5.6 telephoto zoom lens.