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photo of bridge

Elevation drawing looking downstream


Bessemer and Lake Erie Bridge

Harmar - Plum

USGS 7.5" Topo Quad - UTM Coordinates:
New Kensington West - Zone 17; 0599 4487
Butler and Pittsburgh Railroad [Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad]

-- BLE RR (Harmar [formerly Horne, Red Raven, River Valley]) on right descending bank of Allegheny River
-- BLE RR (Plum [Black's Run]) on left descending bank of Allegheny River

Allegheny River at Mile 14.3, Fourteen Mile Island
subdivided Pratt deck truss, subdivided Warren deck truss
32 girder spans, 6 truss spans

500.0 ft clearance channel span

TOTAL LENGTH (including longest elevated ramp):
3438 ft

79.0 ft est. clearance, deck 160 feet above river level
Lock and Dam No. 2, Highland Park, normal pool level 721.0 ft

1897, Butler and Pittsburgh Railroad Company [Pittsburgh, Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad]

This single-track bridge across the Allegheny River was opened October 27, 1897, completing a rail route which connected the iron ore and coal docks at Conneaut on Lake Erie to the Mon Valley steel works owned by Andrew Carnegie.

Carnegie had been discussing rail transport with other lines, but determined the best way to protect his interests was to control the rail line himself. Several smaller companies had constructed sections of the route. "Bear Creek Railroad (name changed to Shenango and Allegheny Railroad Co.) was incorporated in March 1865 for the purpose of moving coal 21 miles from Pardoe to Shenango for delivery to other railroads and the Erie Extension Canal. By 1883, Shenango and Allegheny had extended north to Greenville, PA and south to Butler, PA. By 1892, the line had extended north to reach the port of Conneaut, OH. The extensions carried their own descriptive corporate names and survived a series of corporate reorganizations to become the Pittsburgh, Shenango and Lake Erie." The rail line had been completed as far as Butler, still 40 miles distant from the Mon Valley.

"The first ore boat arrived in Conneaut in 1892 stimulating the interest of Andrew Carnegie. In April 1896, a tri-party agreement between PS&LE, Union Railroad Company and Carnegie Steel Company called for construction of a line from Butler to East Pittsburgh. The Butler and Pittsburgh Railroad Company incorporated April 8, 1896 and completed, spectacularly, by October 27, 1897 including a long, single track bridge across the Allegheny River. Also in 1897, PS&LE and B&P were consolidated into the Pittsburgh, Bessemer & Lake Erie under majority ownership of Carnegie."

"Four years later, Carnegie formed the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad under this exclusive ownership and arranged to lease PS&LE for 999 years. This arrangement stayed in place with the formation of U. S. Steel in 1901, which bought out Carnegie interests."

"In 1906, B&LE leased, and later sold, to Union Railroad the portion of line between North Bessemer and East Pittsburgh."

The 1897 bridge was replaced in 1918 by the current structure. The original piers were doubled in width to the downstream side; the new trusses were constructed beside the originals. When the new trusses were complete, the superstructure was dismantled. The new bridge was then slid on metal girder skids, still visible, into its present position.

The northern approach, which is now covered by fill, was a series of over 30 girder spans which brought the track out onto the truss spans. A station near Gulf Lab Rd and the junction with the Cheswick and Harmar RR line was originally called "Horne". The name was changed to "Red Raven" by residents living there. Later, it was renamed "River Valley".

"In 1988, the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad became part of Transtar, Inc. Transtar is a privately-held transportation holding company with principal operations in railroad freight transportation, dock operations, Great Lakes shipping, and inland river barging. The Transtar subsidiary companies formed over the years to meet the transportation needs of various steel making facilities that were the predecessors of today's USX Corporation. Prior to 1989, the Transtar companies were wholly owned transportation subsidiaries of USX (formerly United States Steel Corporation). In December 1988, these transportation companies were acquired by a new holding company, Transtar, Inc."


view page - Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad, Allegheny River Bridge, 1918 -- Historic American Engineering Record document


field check; USACE Allegheny River Nav. Charts; Transtar website quoted passages; Harmar Twp. Centennial Album 1875-1975

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Introduction -- Nearby Structures

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Last modified: 05-Nov-1999; 29-Feb-2016