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BO - Harpers Ferry Bollman Bridge


Bollman Truss Bridge

The bollman truss is to the right. Note the old advertisement that is on that bridge.

Postcard scanned by Kim Harvey in May 2010


BH Photo #164088


Wendel Bollman's "suspension truss" patented in 1852 was the first iron bridge widely utilized by a railroad. Employing cast iron tension members, it was constructed over virtually every Baltimore and Ohio Railroad river crossing requiring pier to pier spans of less than two hundred feet. Because it appeared in such numbers at an important juncture in civil engineering history, as intuitive gave way to exact engineering and iron was widely being considered as a construction substitute for wood, Bollman's design received much attention. Its success helped usher in the era of iron bridges and the modern period of structural engineering. But success was short-lived. Competing designs required less iron. Unequal weight distribution among diagonal suspension members caused excessive stress that required frequent adjustment. Bollman's truss was obsolete by 1875.

-- Historic American Engineering Record


Lost Bollman through truss bridge over Potomac River on B&O Railroad/US 340
Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County, West Virginia, and Washington County, Maryland
Destroyed by flood
Built 1852; Converted to road-only use 1894; 3 spans destroyed by flood 1924; Totally destroyed by flood in March 1936
- B&O Mount Clare Shops of Baltimore, Maryland
- Wendel Bollman of Baltimore, Maryland
- Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (BO)
Bollman through truss
Warren through truss
Warren pony truss
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on February 14, 1978
Also called
Harpers Ferry Bollman Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+39.32330, -77.72779   (decimal degrees)
39°19'24" N, 77°43'40" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
18/264856/4356203 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Harpers Ferry
Inventory numbers
NRHP 78001484 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 44926 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • December 6, 2021: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • August 8, 2021: New photo from Art Suckewer
  • October 31, 2019: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • November 12, 2018: Updated by Martha Carver: Added images of museum exhibit and piers; adjusted map location
  • March 16, 2016: Updated by Luke: Noted loss of three spans in 1924 Flood and truss types of the replacement spans; Noted that post-1894, bridge was road-only
  • April 20, 2014: Photo imported by Jodi Christman
  • May 13, 2013: Photo imported by Luke Harden
  • May 2, 2010: New photo from Kim Harvey
  • April 18, 2010: Added by Kim Harvey

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