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Willard Road Bridge


Williard Rd Deck truss

Photo taken by Janis Ford in October 2014


BH Photo #308090

Ohio Historic Bridge Inventory Info 

Written by Ohio Historic Bridge Inventory


The bridge carries a 1 lane road over a rail line carried in a depressed section (cut). The setting is rural and sparsely developed. The approach roadway is on a curve, and the bridge is wider than the approach roadway.

The rail line crossed by the bridge was established ca. 1845 by the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railway (C&P). The C&P was incorporated in 1836 in the state of Ohio, but incorporation in Pennsylvania was delayed nearly a decade before construction began. The C&P's main line connected Pittsburgh to Cleveland by way of Rochester, Pa. and Steubenville, Oh., with branches to Bellaire and New Philadelphia, Ohio. The line was absorbed into the Pennsylvania RR system in 1871.

About 1919, the Pennsylvania RR realigned and double-tracked the old C&P line for about 3 miles north of Summitville, Ohio. The original line had curved to the east following Brush Creek Fork through the village of Millport. The new straighter alignment adopted in 1919 cut through the hills west of Millport, rejoining the original line near the Columbiana-Carroll county line at McKaig Road. The Columbiana Board of County Commissioners had previously authorized the railroad to change its grade and that of certain highways on Aug. 27, 1917. As a result, the railroad was obliged to build a bridge where its new cut intersected Willard Road, a previously existing county road. The deck truss is the bridge placed by the railroad about 1919.


The steel deck truss is historically and technologically significant as the only pin-connected deck truss bridge remaining in the state. It was originally a rail-carrying bridge designed for railroad loadings. The style/design of the truss dates ca. 1890, but it was not placed here until ca. 1919. This reflects the typical challenge that railroads faced as increasing steam locomotive weights drove the evolution of truss bridge design promoting innovation and frequent replacement of bridges to meet the increased loads. Pin-connected truss bridges, because of the problems associated with stress reversals under heavy loads, became a particular concern, promoting the transition from pinned to riveted connections starting the mid 1890s to 1900s. Older truss bridges were not uncommonly re-used as highway overpasses where loads were not so great. The original location of this bridge is unknown. According to county atlases and records, the bridge was placed ca. 1919 by the Pennsylvania RR as part of a project to improve its line that served as a freight route between the upper Ohio Valley and Cleveland. The construction of the cut to maintain a steady grade necessitated the construction of an overpass where the line intersected Willard Road northwest of Millport.

Pratt trusses were undoubtedly the most popular truss design of the last quarter of the 19th century and continued to be built into the 20th century, although eventually superseded in popularity by Warren trusses. The design, which initially was a combination of wood compression and iron tension members, was patented in 1844 by Thomas & Caleb Pratt. The great advantage of the Pratt over other designs was the relative ease of calculating the distribution of stresses. More significantly, it translated well into an all-metal design in lengths of less than 200'. Significant surviving examples of all-metal Pratt trusses mostly date to the last quarter of the 19th century, and they are found with thru, pony, and the less common bedstead configuration. Prior to about 1890, a variety of panel point connections were in widespread use (including bolts, cast-iron pieces, and pins), but engineering opinion was coalescing around pins as the most efficient and constructible. Many of the connection details were proprietary and associated with individual builders or companies, and thus earlier examples are generally taken to be technologically significant in showing the evolution of the design. Later post-1890 Pratt trusses show a progression toward less variation in their details such that by 1900 the design was quite formulaic with few significant differences between the designs of various builders. This marked the end of the pin-connected Pratt's technological evolution and, in fact, it was soon waning and eclipsed in the highway bridge market by more rigid, rivet-connected truss designs, particularly the Warren but also riveted Pratts. The transition to riveted connections, which happened even earlier with railroads than highways, was in no small part due to concerns about stress reversals at the pins under heavier loads and improvements in pneumatic field riveting equipment in the early 1900s.


Deck truss bridge over NS RR on Willard Road (TR 843)
Columbiana County, Ohio
Open to traffic
Relocated here 1919, rehabilitated 2012
- Conrail (CR)
- Norfolk Southern Railway (NS)
- Penn Central Railroad (PC)
- Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR)
Pin-connected Pratt deck truss
Length of largest span: 140.1 ft.
Total length: 148.0 ft.
Deck width: 24.0 ft.
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Approximate latitude, longitude
+40.71236, -80.90799   (decimal degrees)
40°42'44" N, 80°54'29" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
17/507771/4506830 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Average daily traffic (as of 2015)
Inventory numbers
ODOT 1536915 (Ohio Dept. of Transportation structure file number)
BH 27405 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of July 2018)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Very Good (8 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 78.4 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • November 19, 2021: Updated by Paul Plassman: Tweaked coords
  • February 25, 2019: Updated by John Marvig: Added category "Rail-to-overpass"
  • June 12, 2017: Essay added by Nathan Holth
  • June 10, 2017: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added category "Pin-connected"
  • November 9, 2014: New photos from Janis Ford