Thomas Viaduct

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Thomas Viaduct
Thomas-viaduct-1.jpg
Coordinates 39°13′18″N76°42′48″W / 39.22167°N 76.71333°W / 39.22167; -76.71333 Coordinates: 39°13′18″N76°42′48″W / 39.22167°N 76.71333°W / 39.22167; -76.71333
CarriesRailroad
Crosses Patapsco River
Locale Elkridge, Maryland
Owner CSX Transportation
Heritage status NRHP 66000388
Characteristics
Design Arch bridge
MaterialPatapsco granite
Total length612 feet (187 m)
Width26 feet 4 inches (8 m)
Height59 feet (18 m)
Longest span58 feet (18 m)
No. of spans8
History
Designer Benjamin Henry Latrobe, II
Constructed byJohn McCartney
Construction start1833
OpenedJuly 4, 1835 (1835-07-04)
Thomas Viaduct, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
USA Maryland location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Area0.5 acres (0.20 ha)
NRHP reference # 66000388 [1]
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966
References
[2]

The Thomas Viaduct spans the Patapsco River and Patapsco Valley between Relay, Maryland and Elkridge, Maryland, USA. It was commissioned by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O); built between July 4, 1833, and July 4, 1835; and named for Philip E. Thomas, the company's first president. [3]

Patapsco River river in Maryland, United States

The Patapsco River mainstem is a 39-mile-long (63 km) river in central Maryland which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The river's tidal portion forms the harbor for the city of Baltimore. With its South Branch, the Patapsco forms the northern border of Howard County, Maryland. The name "Patapsco" is derived from the Algonquian pota-psk-ut, which translates to "backwater" or "tide covered with froth."

Elkridge, Maryland Census-designated place in Maryland, United States of America

Elkridge is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Howard County, Maryland, United States. The population was 15,593 at the 2010 census. Founded early in the 18th century, Elkridge is located at the confluence of three counties, the other two being Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad former rail system in the United States of America

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was the first common carrier railroad and the oldest railroad in the United States, with its first section opening in 1830. It came into being mostly because the city of Baltimore wanted to compete with the newly constructed Erie Canal and another canal being proposed by Pennsylvania, which would have connected Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. At first this railroad was located entirely in the state of Maryland, with an original line built from the port of Baltimore west to Sandy Hook.

Contents

At its completion, the Thomas Viaduct was the largest railroad bridge in the United States [4] and the country's first multi-span masonry railroad bridge to be built on a curve. It remains the world's oldest multiple arched stone railroad bridge. [5] In 1964, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark. In 2010, the bridge designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Masonry The building of structures from individual units of stone, brick, or block

Masonry is the building of structures from individual units, which are often laid in and bound together by mortar; the term masonry can also refer to the units themselves. The common materials of masonry construction are brick, building stone such as marble, granite, and limestone, cast stone, concrete block, glass block, and adobe. Masonry is generally a highly durable form of construction. However, the materials used, the quality of the mortar and workmanship, and the pattern in which the units are assembled can substantially affect the durability of the overall masonry construction. A person who constructs masonry is called a mason or bricklayer. These are both classified as construction trades.

Bridge structure built to span physical obstacles

A bridge is a structure built to span a physical obstacle, such as a body of water, valley, or road, without closing the way underneath. It is constructed for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle, usually something that can be detrimental to cross otherwise. There are many different designs that each serve a particular purpose and apply to different situations. Designs of bridges vary depending on the function of the bridge, the nature of the terrain where the bridge is constructed and anchored, the material used to make it, and the funds available to build it.

National Historic Landmark formal designation assigned by the United States federal government to historic buildings and sites in the United States

A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, district, object, site, or structure that is officially recognized by the United States government for its outstanding historical significance. Only some 2,500 of over 90,000 places (~3%) listed on the country's National Register of Historic Places, are recognized as National Historic Landmarks.

The viaduct is now owned and operated by CSX Transportation and still in use today, making it one of the oldest railroad bridges still in service.

Viaduct A multiple span bridge crossing an extended lower area

A viaduct is a bridge composed of several small spans for crossing a valley, dry or wetland, or forming an overpass or flyover.

CSX Transportation Class I railway system in the United States of America

CSX Transportation is a Class I freight railroad operating in the eastern United States and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The railroad operates approximately 21,000 route miles (34,000 km) of track. The company operates as a subsidiary of CSX Corporation, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.

Design

This Roman-arch stone bridge is divided into eight spans. It was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, II, then B&O's assistant engineer and later its chief engineer. The main design problem to overcome was that of constructing such a large bridge on a curve. The design called for several variations in span and pier widths between the opposite sides of the structure. This problem was solved by having the lateral pier faces laid out on radial lines, making the piers essentially wedge-shaped and fitted to the 4-degree curve. [2]

Arch bridge bridge type characterized by its supporting arches

An arch bridge is a bridge with abutments at each end shaped as a curved arch. Arch bridges work by transferring the weight of the bridge and its loads partially into a horizontal thrust restrained by the abutments at either side. A viaduct may be made from a series of arches, although other more economical structures are typically used today.

Pier (architecture) architectural upright support for a structure or superstructure

A pier, in architecture, is an upright support for a structure or superstructure such as an arch or bridge. Sections of structural walls between openings (bays) can function as piers.

The viaduct was built by John McCartney of Ohio, who received the contract after completing the Patterson Viaduct. Caspar Wever, the railroad's chief of construction, supervised the work.

Ohio U.S. state in the United States

Ohio is a Midwestern state in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Of the fifty states, it is the 34th largest by area, the seventh most populous, and the tenth most densely populated. The state's capital and largest city is Columbus. Ohio is bordered by Pennsylvania to the east, Michigan to the northwest, Lake Erie to the north, Indiana to the west, Kentucky on the south, and West Virginia on the southeast.

Patterson Viaduct United States national historic site

The Patterson Viaduct was built by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) as part of its Old Main Line during May to December 1829. The viaduct spanned the Patapsco River at Ilchester, Maryland. It was heavily damaged by a flood in 1866 and subsequently replaced with other structures.

The span of the viaduct is 612 feet (187 m) long; the individual arches are roughly 58 feet (18 m) in span, with a height of 59 feet (18 m) from the water level to the base of the rail. The width at the top of the spandrel wall copings is 26 feet 4 inches (8 m). The bridge is constructed using a rough-dressed Maryland granite ashlar from Patapsco River quarries, known as Woodstock granite. [6] A wooden-floored walkway built for pedestrian and railway employee use is four feet wide and supported by cast iron brackets and edged with ornamental cast iron railings. The viaduct contains 24,476 cubic yards (18,713 m3) of masonry and cost $142,236.51, equal to $3,454,512 today.

Coping (architecture) covering for the top of a wall

Coping consists of the capping or covering of a wall.

Maryland U.S. state in the United States

Maryland is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east. The state's largest city is Baltimore, and its capital is Annapolis. Among its occasional nicknames are Old Line State, the Free State, and the Chesapeake Bay State. It is named after the English queen Henrietta Maria, known in England as Queen Mary, who was the wife of King Charles I.

Granite A common type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock with granular structure

Granite is a common type of felsic intrusive igneous rock that is granular and phaneritic in texture. Granites can be predominantly white, pink, or gray in color, depending on their mineralogy. The word "granite" comes from the Latin granum, a grain, in reference to the coarse-grained structure of such a holocrystalline rock. Strictly speaking, granite is an igneous rock with between 20% and 60% quartz by volume, and at least 35% of the total feldspar consisting of alkali feldspar, although commonly the term "granite" is used to refer to a wider range of coarse-grained igneous rocks containing quartz and feldspar.

History

The Thomas Viaduct Obelisk located in Relay, Maryland Thomas Viaduct Obelisk.jpg
The Thomas Viaduct Obelisk located in Relay, Maryland
Thomas Viaduct, c. 1858 Thomas Viaduct wide angle shot.jpg
Thomas Viaduct, c. 1858

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was one of the oldest railroads in the United States. Construction began on July 4, 1828, with the original route following the upper branch of the Patapsco River which led west to Ellicott's Mills (later renamed Ellicott City) from the lower Patapsco which is the "Basin" (now Inner Harbor) at downtown Baltimore and the Baltimore Harbor and Port of the lower river estuary leading southeast 15 miles to flow into the Chesapeake Bay. (See Baltimore Terminal Subdivision and Old Main Line Subdivision.) In 1835 the Washington Branch was constructed, including the Thomas Viaduct. This new line branched at Relay, the site of a former post road hotel and changing point for stage horses. The 1830s Relay House served as a hotel until it was replaced by the $50,078.41 (equal to $1,047,334 today) Viaduct Hotel in 1872. The Gothic combination railroad station and hotel operated until 1938 and was torn down in 1950. [7]

When the Thomas Viaduct was completed, a 15-foot (5 m) obelisk with the names of the builder, directors of the railroad, the architect (engineer) and others associated with the viaduct was erected at the east end in Relay, by builder John McCartney. [8] On one side the monument reads: The Thomas Viaduct, Commenced July 4, 1833 Finished, July 4, 1835. He also celebrated the completed work by having his men kneel on the deck of the viaduct while mock "baptizing" them with a pint of whiskey.

Until after the American Civil War, the B&O was the only railroad into Washington, D.C., thus the Thomas Viaduct was essential for supply trains to reach the capital of the Union during that conflict. To prevent sabotage, the bridge was heavily guarded by Union troops stationed along its length.

In 1929, extensive mortar work on the masonry was carried out, and again in 1937. To counteract deterioration of the masonry, the Thomas Viaduct underwent more cosmetic upgrades in 1938 performed by the B&O Maintenance of Way Department. The work consisted primarily to improve facilities for drainage, relocation of loose arch ring stones and the application of a grout mixture to the stone spandrels filling. Nevertheless, the bridge is still indicative of the way in which the B&O track and major structures were put down in the most permanent manner possible. At an unknown date, railing blocks were removed from the north side of the deck and a bracketed walkway added giving more lateral clearance. Little work had been done on the viaduct until the repairs of 19371938 which, according to a 1949 report by the Chief Engineer of the B&O, would keep future maintenance to a minimum.

The Royal Blue on the Thomas Viaduct, Relay, Maryland, in 1937 B&O Royal Blue in 1937.jpg
The Royal Blue on the Thomas Viaduct, Relay, Maryland, in 1937

From the 1880s to the 1950s, Thomas Viaduct carried B&O's famed Royal Blue Line passenger trains between New York and Washington. Until the late 1960s, the bridge also carried B&O passenger trains traveling to points west of Washington, such as the Capital Limited to Chicago and the National Limited to St. Louis.

With the advent of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, B&O ended its passenger train service, except for local BaltimoreWashington commuter trains. In 1986, CSX acquired the B&O and all of its trackage, including the Thomas Viaduct. Today, MARC's "Camden Line" train service runs daily trains over the Viaduct. See Capital Subdivision.

During design and construction, the Thomas Viaduct was nicknamed "Latrobe's Folly" after the designer Benjamin Latrobe II, because at the time many doubted that it could even support its own weight. Contrary to these predictions, the Thomas Viaduct survived the great flood of 1868 as well as Hurricane Agnes in 1972, two floods that wiped out the Patapsco Valley and destroyed nearly everything in their path; and to this day it continues to carry 300-ton (270 tonne) diesel locomotives passengers and heavy freight traffic.

The bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark on January 28, 1964, [9] and administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. In 2010, the bridge designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

In 2014 and 2015, the non-profit historic preservation organization Preservation Howard County placed the Viaduct on its list of the top 10 endangered historic places in Howard County. [10] The Patapsco Heritage Greenway group announced plans to add handrails to the bridge in 2015. [11]

See also

References and footnotes

  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
  2. 1 2 Yearby, Jean P. (1984). "Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Thomas Viaduct" (PDF). Historic American Engineering Record. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  3. Howard County Historical Society. Images of America, Howard County. p. 17.
  4. Maryland Department of Natural Resources Patapsco Valley State Park. "Patapsco Valley State Park History". Archived from the original on August 9, 2007. Retrieved October 3, 2007.
  5. U.S. Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. The National Register of Historic Places, vol, 1, p. 193. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1972).
  6. Park, John R (2002). Maryland mining heritage guide: including Delaware and the District of Columbia. Miami, FL: Stonerose Pub. Co. pp. 32–33. ISBN   0970669720.
  7. Howard County Historical Society. Images of America Howard County. p. 116.
  8. Laura Rice. Maryland History In Prints 1743-1900. p. 81.
  9. Patricia Heintelman (July 30, 1974). "National Historic Landmark Nomination: Thomas Viaduct". National Park Service. and Accompanying photos in 1962
  10. "Top 10 endangered historical sites in Howard County". The Baltimore Sun. 11 July 2014.
  11. Amanda Yeager (26 May 2015). "Former school tops Howard County's endangered sites list". The Baltimore Sun.

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