1 vote

Black Run Bridge (Ruins)


View Southwest, West Bridge Abutment

Photo taken by Emory Kemp for HAER

View photos at Library of Congress

BH Photo #153570



The bridge abutments along Black Run are part of an impressive list of engineering structures built by the Harrisville Southern Railroad, a Ritchie County short line. The were built with the labor of Italian stone masons, and exhibit fine craftsmanship. Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, they are a visible reminder of the short line railway age in Ritchie County.

Black Run Bridge Ruins 

Written by J.R. Manning

Have you ever been out bridge hunting and come across the remains of a bridge? Abutments, piers or any combination of bridge components, all tell-tale signs of a history that is usually more of a mystery.

I've often come across several such ruins that seem to have no rhyme or reason to why they were there, or any trace of what was once there.

In Ritchie County, West Virgina, these abutments are such ruins. The Historic American Engineering Record did the research on these abutments, though, as part of a mitigation study for a proposed reservoir.

The researchers found that this site is about all that remains of a short line called the Harrisville Southern Railroad. It was founded by a consortium of business owners in Harrisville, West Virginia, to connect to the Baltimore & Ohio, a few miles away, in nearby Cornwallis. The rails followed the Black Run and required 11 bridges and 12 trestles to reach Cornwallis from Harrisville, an impressive amount of engineering work for a railroad that was only 6.1 miles in length.

The Harrisville Southern was one of three short lines in Ritchie County, but it was the only one built to standard guage, allowing it to transfer rolling stock with the B&O. The line was completed in 1915, but only operated until 1929 when competition from paved roads was its undoing. Ironically, the last freight load it carried was sand and gravel for road paving.

The land was sold at a sheriff's auction in 1929, but the owners retained the right to remove the infranstructure. The rails were pulled up, the bridges and trestles dismantled and everything was sold.

These bridge ruins are all that remain.

The study is very interesting, and you can see it for yourself by following the link to the HAER website.


Lost Bridge over Black Run on Harrisville Southern Railroad
Harrisville, Ritchie County, West Virginia
Built 1915 as part of the Harrisville Southern Railroad; Scrapped in 1929
The abutments are built of sandstone blocks that once carried a bridge that was 85' in length. There were 11 bridges on this railroad line and 12 trestles. These ruins may be all that is left of the Harrisville Southern Railroad.
Total length: 85.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+39.20583, -81.06787   (decimal degrees)
39°12'21" N, 81°04'04" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
17/494140/4339619 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 43961 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • January 29, 2010: Essay added by J.R. Manning


  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • HAER WV-67 - Back Run Bridge (Ruin), Approximately 2,000 feet (610 meters) upstream & s, Harrisville vicinity, Ritchie County, WV


Black Run Bridge (Ruins)
Posted March 12, 2012, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Thanks for this information. That rail-trail is on my list of things to do someday.

Black Run Bridge (Ruins)
Posted March 11, 2012, by David M. Scott (oldgator [at] zoominternet [dot] net)

I appreciate the work involved in creating this web site and the time taken to research the Harrisville Southern Railroad. However, it is apparent that the researcher did not fully inspect the area.

To say that these abutments are the only evidence remaining of the HS RR implies there is nothing remaining of the road bed itself. This is not true as you can walk on the old road bed from its intersection in Harrisville with Court Street/State Route 31 downstream along Front Run to its confluence with Back Run.

There are also bridge abutments where the RR crossed Front Run and then, I believe, some evidence of abutments below the mouth of Front Run on the south side of Back Run, across from the large rock overhang known locally as Courthouse Cave.

The road bed may then be traveled on following Back Run, through Kroger's Pass, to the point where a bridge crossed Back Run and the RR continued around the hill where it then crossed Third Run right before that stream empties into the North Fork of the Hughes River. I believe the abutments at Third Run are still visible as they were later used for the highway bridge that crossed Third Run after the RR was removed.

Before the river was turned into a lake, the RR bed could be traveled on all the way to North Bend State Park and to the point where the abutments still stand to this day where the RR crossed Bonds Creek before entering Cornwallis.

The county road from Harrisville to North Bend State Park actually travels on the RR bed from near the mouth of Jughandle Run to the point where the county road leaves the river and starts up the hill to the Park Entrance.

The RR bed continues along the river through the River Campground to where the park road crosses the river on, I think, some abutments that were built for the RR.

The park's "Trail For The Blind" is actually on the RR bed. Where the "TFTB" ends, the RR bed continues and is used today as a hiking/biking trail to obtain access to the North Bend Rail Trail at Tunnel #13. The previously mentioned abutments for the bridge crossing Bonds Creek can be seen where the RR bed ends and a trail was constructed north along Bonds Creek to join with the North Bend Rail Trail.

I don't know if anyone will really read this or believe anything I've said but I thought someone may find it interesting.