C&O Canal at North Branch Covered Bridge
WORLD GUIDE #
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad crossed the Potomac River into Maryland near North Branch, Maryland and continued north to pass over the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. As with the railroad bridge that crossed the North Branch of the Potomac River, little information is available about the Canal Bridge.
The Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania listed the Canal Bridge in its February 1965 issue of Portals magazine, declaring it a 1 span, 131 foot railroad bridge, crossing the C&O Canal, built in 1838 and burned down in 1861. (The Canal Bridge was likely built in 1842, the same year the four span North Branch Bridge over the Potomac was constructed or sometime between 1842 and 1848. The C&O had only reached as far as Hancock, MD by 1839)
In 1857 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad rebuilt the long bridge over the North Branch of the Potomac at the south end of the Canal Bridge. At that time they also reconstructed the C&O Canal Bridge to make it "sufficiently wide for double tracks, and otherwise strengthened and remodeled."
The Thirtieth Annual Report of the President and Directors to the Stockholders of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, 1856 and also 1860 list the Canal Bridge as one span, 131 feet in length. Confirmation that the bridge was a covered wooden one comes from page 47 of the 1861 "Annual Report" of the B&O Railroad when it reported to stockholders the bridge was destroyed by the Confederate Army:
May 28th, Patterson's Creek Bridge, two-spans, 72 feet 6 inches each, 170 miles from Baltimore; also pump-house and Engine adjoining, and Canal Span, North Branch Bridge, one span, 131 feet, 172 miles from Baltimore, were burned. These were covered wooden bridges, and were in excellent condition.
Richard Sanders Allen, author of Covered Bridges of The Middle Atlantic States, described the burning of the Canal Bridge and other bridges by the Confederate Army in late May of 1861:
On May 27, 1861, he (Col. George A. Porterfield) dispatched Col. William J. Willey and two men on a train toward Wheeling, and the three deliberately burned two wood-and-iron railroad bridges near Mannington, Virginia. Another group set fire to three scattered bridges on the Parkersburg line. The next day Southern partisans, bent in cutting communication to the East, burned Patterson Creek Bridge on the B&O, as well as the canal span of the Potomac crossing south of Cumberland, Maryland.
The B&O was crippled by the destruction of the North Branch Potomac Bridge and the Canal Bridge in 1861. It was not until November 12, 1862 did they report that the "trestling of the Canal Span was finished."
1865 Martenet Map shows B&O Railroad crossing the North Branch of the Potomac River and the C&O Canal south of Cumberland.|
UPDATED: 01/02/2014, confirmation from B&O "Annual Reports" the bridge was covered, probable build date revised, length & spans confirmed.