9 votes

NS - Kenova Bridge


Kenova Railroad Bridge

Photo taken by Jack Schmidt in June 2019


BH Photo #462035

Street Views 


The structure originally was designed as a single-track bridge in 1892 by NS predecessor Norfolk and Western Railway. As nearby coal fields developed and the demand for coal in the Midwest grew, traffic increased. N&W rebuilt the bridge as a double-track structure and reinforced the infrastructure with pier modifications and new trusses. The modified bridge opened on March 4, 1913.

From Norfolk Southern website March 4, 2013:

NORFOLK, VA. - Today marks the 100-year anniversary of the completion of the modern version of Norfolk Southern's bridge over the Ohio River between South Point, Ohio, and Kenova, W.Va. - a dependable link in the nation's freight rail transportation infrastructure.

The bridge, on NS' Pocahontas Division main line, carries essential freight rail traffic and supports economic development in the Tri-State region and Ohio River Valley. "It's an important component of the Heartland Corridor, NS' groundbreaking public-private partnership that connects Virginia's ports to Midwestern markets to expedite the movement of international commerce," said Mickey Runyon, NS assistant division superintendent, Bluefield, W.Va. "At the same time, it handles a steady amount of grain, coal, and general merchandise. With some 35 trains a day, and double-stack clearance, it's a workhorse."'

"The bridge is crucial to the operations of the Pocahontas Division," added Gary Shepard, NS division superintendent, Bluefield. "It is an example of the type of quality and hard work produced by our valued employees."

Although the bridge is 100, its durability is unquestioned. NS bridge forces monitor and maintain it for reliability and safety. "The bridge has undergone major upgrades several times over the past century, and its excellent condition is a reflection of the industry's continual investment - without taxpayer dollars - to give the nation an economic competitive edge," said Jim Carter, NS chief engineer, Atlanta. "Like everything on the railroad, it is well-designed and systematically well-maintained. We fully expect it to be serviceable for another 100 years."

Major river crossings by railroad bridges are relatively few in number across the country. NS' Ohio River bridge is nearly 4,000 feet long and 82 feet above normal water level, and it creates a memorable scene, especially as the early-morning sun reflects downstream.

The bridge originally was designed with a single track in 1892 by NS predecessor Norfolk and Western Railway, although it was constructed with piers wide enough to accommodate future double-track.

As nearby coal fields developed and the demand for coal in the Midwest grew, traffic increased, meaning more wear and tear. So, N&W rebuilt the bridge with double-track and a stronger overall structure. Updates included pier modifications and new trusses, completed entirely around the existing structure to allow train traffic to continue during construction.

It was on March 4, 1913 that work crews met in the middle to connect the ends of the main channel truss. The first train crossed the newly completed double-track at 10 a.m., June 9. The bridge was "completely finished" in September, when workers finished painting. "Overall, it was a remarkable achievement under traffic," Carter said. "To read the accounts is a humbling experience." Rail Employees at Kenova Railroad employees at Kenova (undated)

It was the longest structure on the railroad and had taken 21.6 million pounds of steel and $1 million to upgrade. Its importance was not just physical but strategic. As N&W's gateway to the West, the bridge was said to have been one of the Germans' targets on American soil during both World Wars. During WWII, saboteurs were caught nearby, and a Coast Guard unit was detailed to protect it. "Had any of these dastardly efforts come to fruition, it would have impeded the movement of coal, vital war materials, and soldiers traveling to military and manufacturing installations," said Tim Hensley, a noted railway historian who lives within walking distance of the bridge's West Virginia approach.

One of the more unusual sights on the bridge occurred Nov. 15, 1967, when the world's longest, heaviest freight train traversed it. With 500 loaded coal cars and six locomotives, this five-mile train was operated by N&W in a contest with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

"Today, the Kenova bridge is an integral part of the landscape - a beautiful, historic, and key part of our national rail system," Hensley said. "I see it as a link from the past to the future."


Pennsylvania - Baltimore through truss bridges over the Ohio River on Norfolk Southern Railway
Kenova, Wayne County, West Virginia, and Lawrence County, Ohio
Open to traffic
Built 1913
- American Bridge Co. of New York
- Norfolk & Western Railway (NW)
- Norfolk Southern Railway (NS)
Two tracks side by side
1 Pennsylvania through truss bridge
4 Baltimore through truss bridges (2 from north shore, 2 from south shore)
Total length: 4,000.0 ft. (0.8 mi.)
Also called
Norfolk Southern Ohio River Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+38.40564, -82.57312   (decimal degrees)
38°24'20" N, 82°34'23" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
17/362644/4251994 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 44754 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • July 21, 2021: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • April 2, 2021: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • December 6, 2019: New photos from Jack Schmidt
  • June 5, 2017: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added categories "Pin-connected", "Riveted"
  • March 6, 2013: Updated by Alexander D. Mitchell IV: More history added to Description
  • August 26, 2010: New photos from Calvin Sneed
  • April 4, 2010: Added by Calvin Sneed

Related Bridges 


  • Calvin Sneed - us43137415 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Alexander D. Mitchell IV
  • Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth
  • Jack Schmidt - jjturtle [at] earthlink [dot] net
  • Geoff Hubbs


NS - Kenova Bridge
Posted July 16, 2022, by George Oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Brandon,are you talking about the Big Sandy tunnels?

NS - Kenova Bridge
Posted July 5, 2022, by Brandon Cooper

I watched the most recent video he posted today and he said the line has invested good amounts of money in notching the tunnels and lowering the floors to ensure the double stacks and other excess height cars can use the line.

NS - Kenova Bridge
Posted July 5, 2022, by George Oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I saw a recent railfanning video on this bridge by a man named Jawtooth.The bridge seems to be in great shape and constantly used.

NS - Kenova Bridge
Posted January 15, 2022, by Paul Plassman


All photos on this page except #4-6 appear to be of the predecessor bridge and belong on this page: http://bridgehunter.com/wv/wayne/bh93690/

Norfolk-Southern Ohio River Bridge
Posted October 12, 2016, by Clover N. Star (greydelislefan [at] gmail [dot] com)

Passed under this bridge many times in my youth on the Ohio side. Awesome to see that it's as old as it is and is still in great shape.

Norfolk-Southern Ohio River Bridge
Posted February 18, 2015, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Very little (and some apparently incorrect) information on this bridge both here on Bridgehunter as well as on other contemporary internet sources like Wikipedia, and someone even voted this bridge with very few stars here on BH. As such, I am happy to present, hot off the press in the current update stream, the HistoricBridges.org research results for this bridge http://www.historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowse... which revealed detailed articles about the construction of this bridge in period engineering literature. Innovative methods were used to construct this bridge without disruption of railroad traffic, while also altering and reusing the original stone piers with unique "pier girders." Literature also provided an apparent explanation for four panels of pin-connected eyebar in the bottom chord of an otherwise rivet-connected truss which was to enable "closing" of the bridge as the ends of the span were erected outward via cantilever method to meet in the middle. Finally, my research indicates that the 1904 reference is an error. I could not find that any significant event happened with this bridge in 1904. The bridge seen today was completed in 1913, using portions of the previous bridge's stone piers.

Norfolk Southern Ohio River Bridge
Posted July 29, 2010, by Todd (mrwalk08 [at] aol [dot] com)

This is a very cool railroad bridge. Many summers did I pass beneith it going to and from Camden Park as a part of a carload with my sister and cousins. Me being the dedicated bridge fan, I always craned my neck out the window to admire this monster, especially when a train is on it.