Jones Falls Covered Bridges
WORLD GUIDE #
||B & S Railroad Jones Falls Lower or Main Branch
||B & S Railroad Jones Falls Middle or Bridge 1.19
||B & S Railroad Jones Falls Upper or Rockland or Bridge 2.29
Col. Stephen H. Long built his famous Jackson Bridge (MD-03-12x) in 1829. It was a 109-foot span built for the Washington Road (Baltimore-Washington Pike) to cross 40 feet above the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Thus began a successful string of bridge building in the eastern United States using the Long truss design patent.
The Jackson Bridge was the only wooden bridge built by the B & O Railroad for its line that led from Baltimore to Washington. The B & O preferred stone arch bridges but allowed Col. Long to build this one bridge. Unfortunately, the dispute of wood versus stone arch bridges ended Long's bridge building relationship with the B & O. Long patented his truss design in 1830 and sold his services to the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad.
Long agreed to building three truss bridges across the Jones Falls on the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad line between Baltimore and Timonium. One of the bridges, the longest, was on the York Branch. The other two shorter bridges were on the Green Spring Branch which broke to the west from the main York Branch near the current Lake Roland area.
The President of the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad, Geo. Winchester, issued this news release in January 1833:¹
Messrs. Hassard and Curley have constructed for this company three bridges upon the plan of Col. Long, two of them about 70 feet in length, and the largest 100 feet. I am well acquainted with the different plans that have been adopted for the construction of wooden bridges, particularly Towne's and Burr's, which have been generally used in this part of the country, and I am satisfied Col. Long's plan is superior to any of them, in point of strength, solidity, permanency, and above all, in the facility with which it can be repaired, by replacing any piece of timber without disturbing the structure, so that by constant slight repairs, the bridge will be perpetually renewed, at a very slight expense.
These bridges have been passed more than five months, with a team engine and tender weighing at least ten tons, with heavy trains of carriages attached, without causing the slightest perceptible motion of any kind in the bridges which maintain the exact position they occupied when first erected. My position in respect to these bridges is sustained by the whole Board of Directors, amongst whom there are several gentlemen who possess much theoretical and practical knowledge of this subject.
The Baltimore and Susquehanna Annual Report issued in October 1832 reported on Long's wooden structures on the line from Baltimore to Timonium:²
On this branch [Green Spring Branch] of the road (besides a number of culverts and small bridges) there are two bridges across Jones' Falls built on the plan of Colonel Stephen H. Long: the one near Beatty's powder works is 70 feet long, and the other near the Rockford [Rockland] Factory 67 feet, -they are built of the Susquehanna white pine, and independently of the abutments, cost $2,000.
On the York Branch, a bridge larger than any yet constructed, has been erected over the Jones' Falls near the junction of the two roads, it is on the same plan as the other [Long plan]. Except that the floor is placed on the centre of the cross timbers, instead of the base, which is a great improvement in the appearance of the structure-it is a span of ninety-seven feet, resting on stone abutments without any piers, and is found to be solid and unmovable as those of smaller stretch.
The Jones Falls bridges were also mentioned in the publication Construction History - Journal of the Construction History Society:³
Long's truss design was well accepted. By 1832 three Long trusses, two of 70 feet span and one of 100 feet span, were built for the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad; they were probably the first wooden truss bridges in the US designed to carry railroad loads. In January 1835 Thomas Hassard, one of the "special agents" for Long's patent, stated that he had built 19 Long bridges, including several for the Boston and Worcester and the Boston and Providence Railroads.
Through the helpful effort of Railroad Historian and Author Herbert Harwood we are able to locate all three of Stephen Long's Jones Falls covered bridges. Much of the text below was provided by Mr. Harwood to me in an email.
The Lower Bridge (southernmost bridge), that we also refer to as the Main Branch and York Branch, originally thought to be the 67-foot long bridge is actually the longest of the three bridges, at 97-feet. This bridge crossed the Jones Falls near where Roland Run, Towson Run and Jones Falls all came together in the area now known as Lake Roland. This line of the railroad is now used by the Maryland Transit Authority Light Rail System.
The Middle Bridge, or Bridge 1.19, at 70-feet was located west of Beatty's Powder Works, later Bellona Gunpowder Mills on the Green Spring Branch at mile 1.19, meaning the mileage from the main junction at Relay, later renamed Hollins, to the bridge. The Pennsylvania Railroad later designated the crossing as Bridge 1.19. The mills are now submerged under the western end of Lake Roland where the original railroad line made its first crossing of the Jones Falls. The successor of this bridge is still in place as part of the Lake Roland/Robert E. Lee Park red trail. The existing bridge measures 65 feet. (See photo of girder bridge below map.)
The Upper Bridge, or Rockland Bridge and Bridge 2.29, originally thought to be the longest of the three bridges, is actually the shortest at 67-feet and was located on the Green Spring Branch north of the Middle Bridge. It was a short distance west of the branch's Rockland Station, and was later designated as Bridge 2.29. The old bridge may have actually crossed a low lying tributary of Jones Falls, located just south of Ruxton Road about half way between the intersection of Ruxton and Falls Roads and the entrance to I-83 South off of Ruxton Road. It is also possible that Jones Falls was redirected during the building of Interstate 83 in the 1950s. The current view of MapQuest indicates the route of Jones Falls crossing Ruxton Rd/Old Court Rd where the abutments to the Upper Bridge still remain. This is not the current route of Jones Falls. It crosses Falls Rd Route 25, then Ruxton Road west of where MapQuest indicates.
Abutments still remain from the Upper or Rockland or Bridge 2.29.
The 1830s B&S Railroad line stayed west of the Jones Falls all the way to the present Lake Roland. The location of the Lower Bridge was the first stream crossing. The rail line was realigned in the late 1830s as a part of a project to extend the railroad to York, which was completed in 1838. The Green Spring Branch became useless to the B&S for many years until the newly formed Western Maryland Railroad made a deal with the B&S to take over the railway and use the branch as its main route from Owings Mills to Relay.
Long's truss design continued to be an integral part of bridge building, particularly railroad bridge building, throughout the 1830s. As with many of the early nineteenth century bridges, it is a difficult task to determine if the bridges were covered. Documentation of the early bridges often include details about the truss work, while details of the covering, comparitively speaking, is relatively insignificant.
An ad for building "frame bridges" on the Long design was placed in American Railroad Journal, January 1837. The ad listed many of the Long truss bridges already built, including the three on the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad over the Jones Falls and many other bridges, both railroad and wagon bridges. Most of the bridges listed in the ad have been identified as "covered bridges" in the Covered Spans of Yesteryear website, which lists all known covered bridges to ever exist in America. Among them are Amsden Mill or Upper Bridge over the Contoocook River at Henniker, New Hampshire (NH-07-53x), Souhegan River Railroad Bridge at Milford, New Hampshire (NH-06-32x), Lyman's Bridge over the Connecticut River connecting New Hampshire and Vermont (NH-05-61x: VT-14-123x), Tonnewanta Railroad Bridge crossing the Erie Canal in New York (NY-28-07x), Hartford Village Bridge crossing White River in Vermont (VT-14-54x), and Ferry Hill Bridge crossing the Stillwater River in Penobscot County, Maine (ME-10-26x). Some of these listed on the website have old photographs showing them covered. There are over 800 covered bridges still standing in America and twenty of them are of the Long truss.
In 1841 Colonel Long wrote a paper describing his bridge truss design titled Description of Col. S.H. Long's Bridges, Together With a Series of Directions to Bridge Builders. In a section of his paper titled Of The Roofing and Sheathing, Long detailed application of the rafters for the roof, sheathing, ribands [decorations], shingling and weather boards. Long made it well known that he supports roofing for his truss bridges.
Although we have no photographs or a definitive description of the roofing for the three bridges over the Jones Falls, it is a safe assumption to consider them wooden covered bridges.
The already financially strapped Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad was damaged even more by a catastropic wreck on July 4, 1854. The Maryland Legislature authorized the Baltimore and Susquehanna, York and Maryland Line, York and Cumberland and Susquehanna Railroads to merge and restructure as Northern Central Railway Company, frequently referred to as NCRR. The NCRR was officially organized in December of 1854 and took over the railroad properties on January 1, 1855.
All three of the Jones Falls' bridges were likely replaced by the Northern Central Railway as early as 1854, assuming they were not replaced by the B&S at an earlier date. One of the first items the railroad had on its agenda was to reconstruct the bridges along the line to make them structurally strong enough to handle the additional weight of the new engines and rail cars. The NCRR also preferred stone or iron bridges over wooden structures. It is possible the bridges on the Green Spring Branch survived until around 1857 when the Western Maryland Railroad took over the branch and rebuilt the railway.
If the Lower Covered Bridge was not replaced by 1858, it was most likely replaced between 1858 and 1860 during the construction of Lake Roland. Lake Roland was built as the main reservoir as a part of the city's municipal water system. The system was terminated in 1915.
The Baltimore Riots of April 19, 1861 saw the first blood of the Civil War spilled. At this time, the beginning days of the Civil War, the city of Baltimore and Marylanders in general, were sympathetic to the South's cause. Citizens of Baltimore attacked the men of the Sixth Massachusetts, Pennsylvania Regiments, as well as other troops numbering over 2,000, who were on their way to Washington to help defend the capital. The Northern troops had been transported via the Northern Central Railway and the Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore Railroad to the city of Baltimore. At Commerce Street, citizens turned back the rail cars after allowing nine of them to pass. Tension continued to mount and fighting erupted between the citizens and the Northern troops. Some of the troops were able to proceed to Washington and others were turned back to the north. The Baltimore Riots ended with four soldiers and twelve citizens killed and scores wounded.
After the Baltimore Riots Maryland Governor Thomas Hicks and Baltimore City Mayor George W. Brown cooperated with the Baltimore Police Department allowing them to destroy bridges on the Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore Railroad and the Northern Central Railway as far north as Cockeysville, virtually preventing any Northern troops from arriving by railway to the city. Reports identified bridges over the Western Run and Beaver Dam, some bridges near the city and the iron bridge at Lake Roland as destroyed. This iron bridge was likely the replacement for the aforementioned Lower Covered Bridge at Lake Roland. It is possible all three bridges over the Jones Falls were also destroyed, but if they were they were likely iron bridges by this time.
¹ American Railroad Journal and Advocate of Internal Improvements, Vol. IV (New York: January to July 1835), p. 691.
² Fifth Annual Report of the Directors to the Stockholders of the Baltimore and Susquehanna Rail Road Company (James Lucas & E.K. Deaver, Baltimore: October 1832), p. 4-5, 7.
³ Construction History - Journal of the Construction History Society Vol. 5 (Carfax Publishing Company, United Kingdom: 1989), p. 29
Additional Reference Notes
Herbert Harwood, Railroad Historian and Author, through an email providing locations for the Middle and Upper Bridges.
Todd Sestero's website RailFan Guides of the U.S.
Col. Stephen H. Long, Description of Col. S.H. Long's Bridges, Together With a Series of Directions to Bridge Builders (Wm. F. Geddes: 1841).
Maryland Historical Trust, Survey No. B-1305 BA-2864 (Crownsville, MD: August 2000). (For information about Lake Roland and bridge remants along the Northern Central Railway).
War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. II (National Historical Society, Gettysburg, PA: 1971). p. 8-19 (For information about the burning of bridges after the Baltimore Riots.)
George William Brown, Baltimore & the Nineteenth of April, 1861 (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London: 2001). (For information about the Baltimore Riots, casualties, bridge burnings.)
Richard Sanders Allen, Covered Bridges of the Middle Atlantic States (The Stephen Greene Press, New York: 1959), p. 18. (For information about Long's Jackson Bridge, his relationship with the B & O Railroad and with Thomas Hassard, and his contract to build three bridges over the Jones Falls.)
John W. McGrain, Historical Aspects of Lake Roland (Maryland Historical Magazine, Baltimore, MD: Vol 74, No. 3, Fall 1979), p. 253-273. (For information about Lake Roland, the Baltimore Riots and the bridges of Jones Falls.)
Edward Hungerford, The Story of The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad 1827-1927 (G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York-London: 1928), p. 63 & p.366. (For information about Long's Jackson Bridge and the burning of the NCRR bridges.)
Website Covered Spans of Yesteryear . (For information about Long truss covered bridges still standing)
UPDATED: 3-22-2016 changing the location of the Upper Bridge crossing and a photo of the existing abutments of the Upper Bridge.