Whitney Railroad Bridge

Winston-Salem Southbound Railroad Crossing of the Yadkin River


This bridge consists of a riveted Warren truss span along with a lengthy series of deck plate girder spans. As a railroad bridge, it was built to be considerably stronger than the vast majority of road bridges of the era. The structural members are thick and most are built-up, meaning they are stitched together using a small strips of metal in either an "X" pattern (latticing) or a "zigzag" pattern (v-lacing). While the average road bridge would have most likely used thin beams for the bracing at the top of the bridge, this bridge uses heavier latticed beams, in order to resist the greater stresses placed on it by crossing trains. All connections are riveted gusset plates and the bottom chord consists of beams instead of a series of eyebars. Engineering wise, this is not a spectacular bridge; it does not contain any unique or rare design features that I could see. At the same time, it is far more interesting than the sort of bridge that would be built today. Despite being nearly a hundred years old, it appears to be in exceptional condition, and will most likely remain in use for a while.

Unlike many other bridges I have visited, this bridge is very accessible from the nearby road, requiring only a short walk down the railroad right-of-way. This accessibility has probably been a reason for all of the graffiti painting that has been done to the truss span. Fortunately, in its 100-year existence nobody has unbolted its prominent plaque, which states that it was built by the Pennsylvania Steel Company of Steelton, PA.

The Winston-Salem Southbound Railroad (WSSB), which owns this bridge, is a short line jointly owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern. According to one website on the subject, the entire line between Winston-Salem and Norwood was constructed in 1910-11, making this bridge an original part of the railroad. For a few decades this railroad carried passengers (1).

One of the more unusual features of this bridge is the placement of the truss span at the shoreline, instead of out in the center of the river. For a very brief period in history this bridge was right above the spillway for the Whitney Dam, a structure that was never completed due to the failure of the company that built it. The dam was abandoned and demolished in favor of a downstream location, which today forms Badin Lake (2). A picture on the Badin Historic Museum shows the truss span crossing the old spillway. One of the walls of the spillway is connected to the bridge's abutment. There are also some granite blocks from the dam on the eastern side of the river, opposite the truss span.


The Facts:

  • Year Built: 1910
  • Builder: Pennsylvania Steel Co.
  • Route Carried: Winston-Salem Southbound Railroad
  • Crosses: Yadkin River (Badin Lake)
  • Location: Whitney, Stanly County, NC
  • Design: Warren truss with deck plate girder approaches
  • Coordinates: 35°28'25.48"N, 80° 8'49.37"W

Pictures:

  • Left: an oblique shot of the bridge, taken from the abutment. Center: the deck plate girder spans. Right: the portal.
  • Left: Portal bracing detail. Center: the prominent bridge plaque. Right: Inside the truss span.
  • Left: Front post / top chord connection. Center: a top chord connection. Right: a bottom chord connection.
  • Remnants of the Whitney Dam.
Sources:
  1. Stanly County and Its Railroads: Railroad History
  2. Badin Historic Museum: Museum Tour


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