1 vote

LS&MS - Ashtabula River Bridge


Before disaster

BH Photo #185637


The center deck truss span collapsed at 7:28 p.m. on December 29th 1876 during a blizzard, while a passenger train was crossing, killing about 92 people. It was the worst train accident in the U.S. prior to 1918.

The center span was rebuilt, but was destroyed by fire September 1895. (Photos #16,17)

Rebuilt again with a "fishbelly" inverted deck truss, and the west stone arch approach span was replaced with a Pratt deck truss span. (Photo #18)

Finally, the whole bridge was replaced in 1904.

Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster 

Source: Wikipedia Excerpt

On December 29, 1876, A train of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway carrying about 160 passengers passed over the bridge as it failed. All but the lead locomotive plunged into the river. The train's oil lanterns and coal-fired heating stoves set the wooden cars alight. Firefighters declined to extinguish the flames, leaving individuals to try to pull survivors from the wreck. Many who survived the crash burned to death. The accident killed approximately 92 people. It was the worst rail accident in the U.S. in the 19th century and the worst rail accident in U.S. history until the Great Train Wreck of 1918.


Lost Deck truss bridge over Ashtabula River on Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway in Ashtabula
Ashtabula, Ashtabula County, Ohio
Collapsed, rebuilt, then replaced by a new bridge
Built 1864-65; main span collapsed December 29, 1876; replacement span destroyed by fire September 1895; entire structure replaced 1904
- Amasa Stone (railroad president, bridge designer and supervisor)
- Charles Collins (railroad president)
- D.H. Lockhart (masonry)
- Joseph Tomlinson III (engineer)
- Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad (LS&MS)
Main span: Iron Howe deck truss
Approaches: Stone arch
Length of largest span: 150.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.87850, -80.78940   (decimal degrees)
41°52'43" N, 80°47'22" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
17/517474/4636307 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Ashtabula North
Inventory number
BH 46889 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • August 14, 2022: Updated by Brandon Cooper: Added category "Joseph Tomlinson III"
  • January 7, 2022: Updated by Roger Deschner: Add history of rebuilt bridge after collapse disaster
  • December 1, 2021: Essay added by Nathan Holth
  • November 26, 2016: New photos from Jacob P. Bernard
  • December 5, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added categories "Railroad", "Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad"
  • December 16, 2011: New photo from Jacob P. Bernard
  • November 10, 2010: Added by Eric Root

Related Bridges 



LS&MS - Ashtabula River Bridge
Posted August 14, 2022, by Brandon Cooper

This bridge was the ultimate end product of nepotism and cronyism. Amasa Stone was much more than the railroad president, as he oversaw the bridge's design and construction as a Howe deck truss, a design his brother-in-law William Howe invented and Stone later admitted the design was "experimental" on this after repeatedly saying the bridge was sound. And to make matters worse, the steel used to build the bridge was rolled by the Cleveland Rolling Mill, a firm managed by Amasa's older brother, Andros.

LS&MS - Ashtabula River Bridge
Posted January 8, 2022, by Luke

They'd be successors, since they're new superstructures/main spans.

LS&MS - Ashtabula River Bridge
Posted January 8, 2022, by Roger Deschner (rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com)

There is very little available information about the repaired iterations of this bridge, other than the three photos here. If anybody can uncover more information about them, separate entries would be good, perhaps linked by "Parts reused in" rather than "successor".

A source might be the extensive holdings of the Ashtabula County Historical Society. https://ashtcohs.com/ They have a book about the disaster for sale, as well as a 400-page PDF online to rummage through. Tasks for another day, or perhaps for a future visit to Ashtabula.

LS&MS - Ashtabula River Bridge
Posted January 8, 2022, by Luke

The successor bridges should be their own individual entries.