New Bridge Opened

There appeared in the January, 1928 number of the L&N Employees Magazine, a brief article on the first train operated over the Covington and Cincinnati bridge, which was formerly opened on Christmas Day, 1888.  Engineer E. P. Maurer, at that time, with the C & O Railway, now a retired L&N Engineer, living in Butler, Kentucky, was at the throttle of the engine to pull the first train across the old bridge.  Plans had been made to have Mr. Maurer handle the first train of the C&O across the new structure, when it was opened to traffic early in April of this year, but due to illness he was unable to be present.  Mrs. Maurer, however, to keep the "first" record in the family was on L&N train 25, engine 159, on April 3, the first L&N train to cross the towering new bridge, and is very proud to have represented her husband.

There are reproduced here photographs of the first engine, Phoenix Bridge Company's No. 10, top pull a train across the old bridge, and of engine No. 159, K1 type, first locomotive to pull an L&N train over the enlarged and heavier bridge.  You can see for yourself what a difference a matter of forty years will make.

The old and new bridge can easily be compared, as the new one is immediately downstream from the old and is built to handle heavier equipment.  One pier is built as an extension of one of the old piers and the others are independent only because of a difference in the span lengths.  The superstructure consists of through trusses continuous over the three spans, and provides a roadway for two tracks.  The level of the track on the new bridge is approximately three feet higher than the old bridge.  The two new river piers were sunk under air to rock 160 feet from the base of the rail, while the two shore piers are constructed of concrete piles.

The erection of the new bridge was commence in June, 1927, under the supervision of the chief engineer of the C&O Railroad, C. W. Johns, and pushed to completion with all speed possible.  Resident Engineer R. A. Handley represented the L&N Railroad.  There was no interruption n traffic, a large portion of the work being done from midnight to six in the morning.  Approximately 700 men were employed in the work over a space of nearly two years, and it is a remarkable feature that not a single man has been killed in the actual construction, although work of this nature is classed as extremely hazardous.  The bridge is of the cantilever type and the main span was built simultaneously from the Ohio and Kentucky sides, joining to a "cat's hair" in the middle.  The main span is 675 feet in length, with flanking spans of 450 feet each, making a total of 1,575 feet for the bridge, which contains 8,620 tons of steel.

Although this bridge is not owned by the L&N Railroad, a big majority of our freight is handled across the bridge, and several L&N passenger trains use it into the Union Central Station [3rd & Central] each day.  It is a vital factor in our operation into that terminal.  The old bridge did not permit of us running passenger trains over the river with road engines.  They were cut off in Central Covington, and small engines attached which would cross the bridge.  Any weight engine can now go over the new structure, and a great deal of time, as well as inconvenience to passengers, will be saved. Instead of two approach tracks on the Covington side, there will be four, which will materially assist in unraveling the traffic congestion, so much in evidence in the past, and which should mitigate claims for delays, late deliveries of freight, and broken passenger connections.

In connection with the heavier bridge, grade separation through the business district of Covington was accomplished by placing the new south approach to the bridge on a 0.3 per cent grade, extending from the river, to replace the 1 per cent grade of the former approach.  This extended the approach grade from Sixth to Fifteenth street and elevated the tracks that the streets might pass there under as far south as Eighth Street.  This was an important move, as the trend of the times is to eliminate crossings at grade for the promotion of safety to pedestrians and vehicular traffic.  Work is still in progress on the viaduct on the Ohio side.  A long approach is necessary, as the terminal tracks are approximately fifty feet below those on the bridge.  The total cost of all these improvements is approximately $9,000,000.

The tracks at the Covington passenger station, Pike Street, were elevated sixteen feet, and three covered platforms, each about 900 feet in length, were provided, one on each side and one in the middle of the tracks.  The platforms are reached by subway and steps from the passenger station.  Each platform has an elevator for handling baggage.

Included in the projected improvements in the Cincinnati Terminals is a new union passenger station, which, it is stated, should be finished in four or five years.

The old bridge will be converted into a highway bridge for three lanes of traffic and will extend from Fourth and Main Streets, Covington, to Third and Smith Streets, Cincinnati. 

The old bridge was built in the remarkably short time of sixty three days, and designed with a switchback approach, by Epes Randolph, of the Kentucky Central Railroad, later the Kentucky Division of the L&N Railroad and stands today as it was constructed then.  At that time it was the finest truss bridge of its kind in the world.  This time-worn structure  has served well and dependable for forty years, and untold freight and passenger traffic has crossed its supports for the progress and advancement of the country.

It is expected that the new monument to progress effected by steam transportation will play its part in like manner and for years to come.


by R. A. Handley and M. V. Clarke, from the L. & N. Employees Magazine, May, 1929.