I didn’t plan for our trip across Maryland to become the 2009 Grey Family Old Bridge Tour, but that’s how it turned out. I enjoyed it, of course, but I worried that my sons’ enthusiasm would quickly wane. How many old bridges can 10- and 12-year-old boys stand to see in one day? But somehow they didn’t run out of “Wow!” and “Cool!” and they never tired of running along every old bridge we stopped to explore.
One stop was left before we crossed into Pennsylvania. My youngest son was stoked because we had just come from photographing him next to a sign welcoming us to a county with which he shares a name. He was more than ready to see the 1813 Casselman River Bridge.
Do just a little research into the National Road and you’ll soon find photos of this bridge. It seems to be the best-known bridge on the National Road. At 80 feet long it was the longest stone arch bridge ever built in the United States. I had trouble backing up far enough to get the whole bridge into a frame.
Photos hardly do justice to how tall this bridge is. The top of the arch is 30 feet above the waterline! It creates quite a peak on the road’s surface. Some modern sporty cars might scrape their undercarriages when they crest it.
Early automobiles had enough ground clearance that this was not a problem, as this 1916 photo shows.
No cars travel this bridge today. While it became a part of US 40 in 1926, it was left behind when a new bridge was built nearby in 1933. Today, the old bridge is part of a state park, and the approaching road has been removed on each side.
The 1933 bridge built to carry US 40 has become historic, too. Many steel bridges like this one (a Pratt through truss design, in case you’re curious) have been demolished in favor of more modern bridges. Even this bridge has been bypassed. US 40 (and I-68) now use the bridge in the background, a plain “slab and pier” design that bridge fans call a UCEB – an Ugly Concrete Eyesore Bridge. The 1933 bridge has to be content to carry Alternate US 40.
Okay, bridges can’t feel contentment. At least I was content as we drove over this bridge that it still carries traffic. Check out its skew!