locked Virginia's Governor announces Potomac River passenger train bridge replacement

Cohen Bob

Okay, so you construct a new, parallel bridge next to the 1904 Long Bridge and then what?

By my understanding, unless you ALSO expand the track infrastructure north of the bridge in concert with said construction, where clearances are tight, not to mention the First Street Tunnel into Union Station, all that has been accomplished is you have moved the choke point about one measly mile north of the Potomac River and the only accomplishment is at Virginia taxpayer's expense.

There are just two tracks north of the bridge into DC and CSX has just recently totally rebuilt its Virginia Avenue freight routing to two tracks, at someone's great expense, not that it has been used by passenger trains regularly since November 1907 (basically only re-routings and excursions), little has been actually accomplished other then fleecing taxpayers and a lot of hopes and wannabe this's, that's and t'other's.

A little very basic history here just for perspective:

The first bridge across the river was built here under President Thomas Jefferson's presidency, was burned by the Federals in 1814 to keep the British from entering DC that way (which they did anyway), rebuilt afterwards and remained a privately owned crossing until damaged by flooding around 1832.

It was rebuilt under government auspices under President Andrew Jackson in 1836-1837 and with various fits and starts, remained until the 1860s and the Civil War necessitated other exigencies.

By that time, it was old and rickety and could NOT support locomotives (although the Union tried without success I am told), and the US MRR built an entirely new parallel bridge 1863-1864 which was reopened in October 1864 and could support locomotives.

The older parallel bridge didn't last much longer but then neither did the just built US M RR bridge.

Under the guidance of Pennsylvania senator Simon Cameron, the bridge ownership was transferred from the government to (cough, cough, ahem !!)  "his" aligned Pennsylvania Railroad in June 1870, which promptly built an entirely new parallel structure replacing the CW built one.

When that new one opened in May 1872, the older one was removed, and with various fits and starts remained until 1907 when it was removed.

However, the next new bridge was built here 1902-1904 and opened August 28, 1904. A little sidelight to history here, the first train to pass across it was a Southern Railway passenger train to Bluemont, Virginia, the line which came under the auspices of the Washington & Old Dominion RR on July 1, 1912.

During World War II, the government recognizing the even then inadequacies of the existing bridge removed the truss spans and replaced them with girders as we see today, also with a new supporting pier between each of the older ones. All spans were replaced at that time EXCEPT the movable portion which still stands today over the channel. During the rebuilding, traffic was maintained, except for brief periods when a single old span was removed and two new ones were simultaneously placed.

Along the way, in 1902 or thereabouts, the PR's corporate structure changed a wee bit as its older PW&B (Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore RR), was "sold" to its PB&W (Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington) RR and that remained until Penn Central of February 1, 1968, which phased into Conrail in 1976, which then was phased out in 1999 to the present CSXT (Chessie Seaboard Expanded or multiplied) RR, which is where we are today.

In 1870, one of the stipulations by ole Simon Cameron was that the PRR (albeit B&P (Baltimore & Potomac RR or the Alexandria & Washington RR), as a condition of said ownership transfer maintain it in good, operable condition and permit any and all other RR passage across it in perpetuity.

Unless the government is ready to totally nationalize the railroads, (I sincerely doubt that for obvious reasons), the expenses of all this, while wonderful for the traveling public which largely doesn't directly patronize the railroads in passenger service, is a whopper of an expense. The public does of course benefit indirectly from the freight carried every mile of the way.

And 100 or more years ago the people and trust busters, and progressive leadership of the country told us that the likes of JP Morgan, Gould, Fisk, CP Huntington and the Big Four, and many others were evil individuals leading even more evil and bad corporations?

Do you detect a wee touch of cynicism from here?

end of soapbox.

Bob Cohen

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