3 votes

IC - Blackford Bridge


Photo taken by J.P. in December 0000


BH Photo #149386



The Tradewater River railroad bridge at Blackford was a vital link for the Ohio Valley Railroad that ran from Henderson, to Princeton, Kentucky. The bridge was the heartbeat of the small community of Blackford, Kentucky. The first bridge to be constructed was a Draw Bridge. It was shortly after 1886 when the Draw Bridge was constructed. At that time the Tradewater River was also a vital river route for small steam-boats traveling from the Ohio River at Sturgis, Kentucky up the Tradewater to what is call T's Landing. At T's Landing which is few miles above the railroad bridge.

T's Landing was a frontier trading post for local residents and native people who still lived in that area in the late 1880's. These folks were the main stay of the trading business on the Tradewater River. In turn it was their life line to the products moving down the Ohio River to the mouth of the Tradewater River. The area around T's Landing is now called Enon. All that remains are a few scattered new homes and the Enon Baptist Church. The hand cut stone piers of the original draw bridge are still in place underneath the newly renovated railroad bridge, now a walking trail and a single lane bridge for automobiles.

In 1892 the “Ohio Valley Railroad” sold the railroad line to “Chesapeake Ohio Southwestern”. In the same year it again was sold to the “Illinois Central Railroad“.

In 1914 a new 528 ft. long bridge was build by the Illinois Central Railroad with help from the U.S. Government that included a pedestrian walk bridge. The Illinois Central Railroad design was an upgrade in structure. The IC wanted to run larger and heavier classes of locomotives to pull coal trains from Union and Webster counties to the Illinois Central Kentucky division's main line at Princeton, KY. This main line ran from Paducah to Louisville, Kentucky. Today this main lines is operated by the (PAL) Paducah and Louisville Railroad.

The residents of Blackford in Webster County and the people of Crittenden County just on the west side of the river always wanted a bridge to carry wagons, and buggies across the Tradewater River. Many of the people on the Crittenden County side carried on their business in Blackford because it was much closer that Marion. Blackford was only a little over a mile from the excellent road of Hwy. 60 in Crittenden County which leads to Marion, Kentucky. Getting to Marion required the people of Blackford to travel 20 miles out of their way, which could take as many as three days.

The railroad bridge across the Tradewater marked the rise and fall of the community of Blackford, Kentucky. During it's hey day there were six doctors, livery stable, two blacksmiths, five hotels, drugstore, dry goods store, five grocery stores, hardware store, courthouse, millenary shop, flour mill, theater, four churches, and one of the strongest banks in the state. This town's heartbeat was truly the Tradewater River railroad bridge. As the railroad business declined in small towns so did the business in the town of Blackford.

Today the rails have been removed from Henderson to Fredonia, Kentucky. The rails from Sturgis, through Marion to Fredonia were remove in 1999. From Fredonia to Princeton the track is owned by the Fredonia Valley Rock Quarry. Special limestone rock is hauled twice daily to Princeton for shipments all over the world. The rock quarry runs it's own locomotive a U23B painted in CSX blue and gray colors with no markings.

Through the efforts of Mr. Brent Witherspoon and the support of many people a new walking and one lane automobile bridge is in place. It was built using the pier structures of the 1886 Ohio Valley Railroad bridge and the concrete piers and trestle timbers of the 1914 Illinois Central Railroad Bridge. From the way I read The Blackford Bridge Project's website, Mr. Witherspoon has received many awards for his hard work but, none more satisfying than the new walking and automobile bridge being built in honor of the Veterans of the United States of America.

The new Veterans Memorial Bridge and new blacktop right away (bridge approach) was named in honor of the Korean War POW / MIA PFC Thomas R. Robertson. PFC Robertson was from Blackford, Kentucky. For complete details see the website listed below.

Credits: T's Landing and Fredonia Quarry information from local history.


Pony/through plate girder bridge over Tradewater River on former Illinois Central Railroad
Blackford, Webster County, Kentucky, and Crittenden County, Kentucky
Open to pedestrians
Built 1914 by the American Bridge Co.
- American Bridge Co. of New York
- Illinois Central Railroad (IC; ICG (1972-1988))
wood trestle approachs on both sides
Total length: 528.0 ft.
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Also called
IC - Heart Beat Bridge
IC - Tradewater River Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+37.44674, -87.93856   (decimal degrees)
37°26'48" N, 87°56'19" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/416980/4144846 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 43631 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • December 29, 2011: Updated by J.P.: added small history line
  • April 28, 2010: Updated by J.P.: updated history and alternative name
  • November 16, 2009: Added by J.P.



Tradewater River Bridge
Posted November 16, 2009, by J.P.

when we visited this bridge, it looked like a storm or a car had nearly destroyedthe bridge. rails were falling off it was in horrible condition. They are tyring to get it converted over to a car bridge. I guess we will see.