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Elysville Lower & Upper Covered Bridges

(Lower) Baltimore & Howard MD-03-13x & MD-13-04x Patapsco River Mofified Queenpost 3 333' 1839 1856
(Upper) Baltimore & Howard MD-03-10x & MD-13-05x Patapsco River Mofified Queenpost 2 310' 1839 1853
The two Elysville Covered Railroad Bridges have historical, although a short-lived past. Elysville later became Alberton and is now known as Daniels. When the bridges were built in 1839, Howard County was a part of Anne Arundel County. Howard County was formed in 1851, shortly before the bridges were lost.
Elysville Bridge Model & Truss
Cutaway model of Latrobe's Elysville Bridge and part of its "Little Schaffhausen" design, as shown in Richard Sanders Allen book, Covered Bridges of the Middle Atlantic States.

A very detailed description of the little town of Elysville and the bridges is best told in a website article:
Over the centuries, the hidden industrial town of Daniels has seen many changes. First named Elysville, then Alberton, what remains is named Daniels, after the company most recently to have owned and operated it. The town began with a flour mill which evolved into a cotton mill, and sprouted churches and 118 employee houses.
The town was located at the head of the particularly winding stretch of the Patapsco River that caused the B & O Railroad headaches for many years. The earliest (1830) alignment had trains screeching around an 18 degree curve on tracks that hugged the south bank of the river to avoid the steep cliffs.
The first alignment was so awful that before the decade of the 1830s ended, the railroad gave in and constructed two bridges to span the river and reduce the 18 degree curve. The two bridges were named Lower and Upper Elysville bridges and spanned the river at unusual angles, allowing the tracks to cross back into Baltimore County briefly.
Both the Lower and Upper bridges were over 300' long and designed by Benjamin Latrobe. He based his design on a bridge in Switzerland that employed an odd collection of diagonal struts. In a surprising (for the B&O) cost savings move, the structures atop these stone abutments were built of wood and were covered.¹
The bridges were close to being finished by the spring of 1839. The portals had pointed arches. Upper Elysville Covered Bridge had two spans of about 145-150 feet each and the Lower bridge had three spans of 110 feet each. Both bridges were about 26 feet wide. Together, the bridges were built at a cost of $12,000. The trusses of the Elysville bridges were composite structure, principally of timber, but with cast iron joint hardware and some wrought-iron tension members. This model later was used for bridges between Harpers Ferry and Cumberland.²
The Elysville bridges were also known as Little Schaffhausen after the bridge in Switzerland. Covered bridge historian Richard Sanders Allen described it as a modified queenpost truss, with numberous keys, wedges and blocks to hold it together. The bridges had unique inside ceilings of sheet iron to protect it from sparks. Unfortunately, the timber did not keep well and the bridges literally shook themselves apart by 1853.³
The reality of it is that the bridges did not actually shake themselves apart. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad continuously upgraded its wooden bridges, replacing timber and restructuring them to handle the heavier engines as time and technology progressed. In 1848 the B&O repaired or rebuilt nine of the 13 wooden bridges along the main stem of the railroad which stretched from Baltimore to Cumberland. The Elysville Lower Bridge was likely one of these bridges. The first indication the railroad company extensively repaired the Elysville Uppper Bridge was included in the 1850 Twenty-Fourth Annual Report of the President and Directors to the Stockholders of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company declaring the Upper Bridge in Elysville and Winchester span at Harpers Ferry are not in sound condition-"both of which we contemplate renewing during the current year." The Upper Bridge may or may not have been rebuilt or repaired in 1850 as intended. There is no information about either of the Elysville Bridges in the 1851 or 1852 "Annual Reports."
The B&O started to replace many of its wooden bridges with iron bridges in the early 1850s. The Upper Elysville Bridge was one of the first to be replaced. The 1854 B&O "Annual Report," p42, confirms the Elysville Upper Bridge was replaced as suggested in Richard Sanders Allen book mentioned above.
The amount expended East of Cumberland appears large; but this includes the cost of two large bridges which have been rebuilt with iron structures, and an aggregate length of 657 feet-Elysville 310, and Monocacy 347 feet. The rebuilding of the former was brought about by its decayed state, and the latter was built to replace the one destroyed by fire on 17th of March last. The Elysville Bridge was commenced in the latter part of the fiscal year of 1853 [July-Sept].
The "Annual Report" for 1855 stated all wooden bridges will be replaced with iron. It continues to say $18,325.19 has been expended for the Elysville Lower Bridge and the bridge should be completed late 1855 or early 1856. The "Annual Report" for 1856 spoke of the completion of the Lower Bridge:
The Lower Bridge at Elysville, consisting of three spans of each 111 feet, has been reconstructed of iron of sufficient width of two tracks. Besides the superstructure, two new piers were erected to replace the old ones.
Based on the detailed information provided in the B&O "Annual Reports", the length and replacement date for the Upper Bridge should be 310 feet, 1853 and the Lower Bridge should be 333 feet, 1856.
The Lower Elysville Railroad Bridge was located east of the Upper Bridge. Traveling east to west, the railroad entered Lower Elysville Bridge in Howard County, exiting briefly into Baltimore County for about 1/4 mile before returning into Howard County via the Upper Bridge.
Elysville Lower Bridge Abutment Elysville Upper Bridge Abutment
Elysville Lower Bridge...west pier in foreground and west abutment in background...as it appears in Patapsco River today. Photo taken 2008. Elysville Upper Bridge...pier in foreground and east abutment in background...as it appears in Patapsco River today. Photo taken 2008.

¹ Website: http://www.trainweb.org/oldmainline/omld4.htm#top.

² James Dilts, The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore & Ohio, The Nation's First Railroad, 1828-1853 (Stanford University Press, Stanford, California: 1993), p. 255-256.

³ Richard Sanders Allen, Covered Bridges of the Middle Atlantic States, Their Illustrated History in War and Peace (The Stephen Greene Press, Brattleboro, Vermont: 1959), p. 21-22.

UPDATED 01/02/2014: For information about replacing the wooden covered bridges with iron bridges and the lengths of the bridges from the B&O "Annual Reports."

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