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photo of bridge

Elevation drawing (scale and details approximate)

photo of bridge

Elevation drawing looking downstream


OCRR Bridge at Brunot Island, main channel of Ohio River


USGS 7.5" Topo Quad - UTM Coordinates:
Pittsburgh West - Zone 17; 0581 4479
railroad, two tracks [Ohio Connecting Railroad, PRR, Conrail, NS RR]


-- Beaver Av
-- Ohio River back channel at Mile 2.3

steel through truss

508 ft

TOTAL LENGTH (including longest elevated ramp):

67.9 ft
Emsworth Dam normal pool level 710 ft

view page - OCRR Bridge at Brunot Island, back channel of Ohio River

Industry increased and Pittsburgh was booming at the end of the 19th Century. Traffic on the various divisions of the Pennsylvania Railroad became more and more congested. Three major projects were constructed to allow through trains to bypass downtown: the 1877 Port Perry bridge and tunnel joined the Pittsburgh and Monongahela Divisions near South Duquesne on the Monongahela River; the Ohio Connecting Railroad bridge first crossed the Ohio River at Brunot's Island in 1890; and the Brilliant Branch in 1904, with its Allegheny River crossing near Highland Park, linked the Pittsburgh Division mainline at East Liberty to the Conemaugh Divison.

Proving their value, both the Port Perry and Brunot's Island crossings would be replaced with stronger structures. The single-track bridge across Brunot's Island was replaced in 1915 with a double-tracked line. The construction was carried out by American Bridge while traffic continued to flow -- both over the railroad and on the main channel of the Ohio River. The PRR books by Kobus and Consoli give many photos and details of the reconstruction.

The OCRR was operated as part of the PRR's Panhandle Division with connections along the left bank of the Monongahela River to Port Perry. There were tracks into Corliss Yard leading southward into Crafton -- today the path of the Port Authority West Busway -- and Scully Yard along Chartiers Creek. Both of these yards have since been cleared.

As originally built, the OCRR bridge did not include wyes at each end. On the left bank, the track connected southward toward the South Side. About 1905, the other side of the current wye was added to allow traffic to the OCRR line into Scully Yard. On the North Side, the original configuration linked to the Fort Wayne connecting toward Bellevue and points downstream on the Ohio.

The first island on the Ohio River below Pittsburgh is roughly one mile in length and covers about 300 acres. It has been previously known as McKee's, Hamilton's and later, Brunot's Island. Thomas Smallman attempted to purchase the island from the Delaware indians in 1780. A survey of all islands near Pittsburgh was ordered by the state Executive Council in 1788. John Hamilton was given preference for ownership in the island as he had made improvements to the land.

Dr. Felix Brunot (1752-1838) came to America as part of the medical staff of Marquis de Lafayette's military expedition, participating in many of the battles of the Revolution. He first settled in Philadelphia but moved to Pittsburgh in 1797. He purchased and resided on the island in the Ohio River which still bears his name. As he was famous as a pioneer in the use of electricity in medical treatment, it is ironic that in later years Duquesne Light operated power generation facilities on the island.

His son, Felix R. Brunot (1820-1898) trained as a civil engineer and was a part in the Sheffield Steelworks, one of the largest firms of its type at the time. He was a leader in medical and humanitarian aid during the Civil War. In 1868, President Grant placed him as the head of the Board of Indian Commissioners. Later, Brunot was active as a director of the Western Pennsylvania Hospital, the Allegheny Cemetery, the Western University (University of Pittsburgh), the Monongahela Navigation Company, several banks and other interests.

The 1872 Hopkins map shows Ferry Av on the North Side (Westhall St on later maps). It was adjacent to the northern edge of the "House of Refuge," now the Western Penitentiary. A ferry in this location could have connected to the downstream tip of Brunot's Island, but may have simply crossed to McKees Rocks at Robb St. A carved panel on the McKees Rocks Bridge commemorates the 24 lives lost in the 1909 sinking of Graham's Ferry nearby.

The 1890 Hopkins map shows a small plan of lots including 4 named streets. The island is shown to be divided among five owners with an easement containing the newly constructed OCRR bridge. In Allegheny City (the North Side), the northern elevated tracks cross through the Allegheny Stock Yards of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad. Upstream stands the Edith Blast Furnaces of the Manchester Iron and Steel Company; downstream, the Superior Rolling Mill is shown to be in ruins.

The 1906 edition of the map shows the wye tracks complete at each end of the OCRR bridge.

In the early 1900s, a horse racing oval, featuring harness racing, was constructed on the island.

A ferry was also operated to service the Duquesne Light Company power plants. There have never been any other bridges to the island. And except for the railroad and a now-closed employee walkway from a Duquesne Light gate on West Carson Street, there is no public access to the island. Orion Power Midwest purchased the power plants in 1999.


USACE Ohio River Nav. Charts; Kobus and Consoli, "The Pennsy in The Steel City" and "The Pennsylvania Railroad's Golden Triangle"; Citizens Committee on City Plan of Pittsburgh, "Railroads of the Pittsburgh district : a part of the Pittsburgh plan."; Wilson, Erasmus "Standard History of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania"

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Introduction -- Nearby Structures

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Last modified: 16-Oct-2000

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