National Road and US 40 bridges at Blaine, OH

Two bridges at Blaine
Canon PowerShot S95

One bridge was built in 1826, the other in 1932. One guess which is which!

Both bridges carry the National Road/US 40 over Wheeling Creek near Blaine in Belmont County, Ohio. It’s just five miles from the Ohio River, the border with West Virginia.

The lower bridge came first. It’s the oldest standing bridge in Ohio, and is the longest of the few remaining S bridges in the state. Notice its “S” curvature? This was done in the name of economy: it’s less expensive to build and maintain a bridge that’s perpendicular to the creek it crosses. They merely curved the approaches to meet the road.

This was just fine in the days of horses and buggies with their slow speeds. As automobiles took over, it became a hazard. Drivers had to slow way down to negotiate the S. Some didn’t slow down in time.

Moreover, west of this bridge lay a very steep hill. It was challenging for cars of the day to climb. I’m sure pedestrians and horses didn’t much enjoy the climb either!

The upper bridge made travel easier on three counts: it eliminated the S, it offered a wider deck (38.1 feet vs. 26.9 feet), and it created a gentler rise to the top of the hill.

I know of four other S bridges on the National Road: one in Pennsylvania (here) and three in Ohio (two here, the third here). That last one was still open to traffic when I visited it in 2011, and I drove over it. By 2013 it, too, was closed (here).

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12 responses to “single frame: Two bridges at Blaine”

  1. Theron Avatar

    Lovely photo.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you! If I were to process it again I’d dial the reds back a little.

  2. Basil Berchekas Jr Avatar
    Basil Berchekas Jr

    As I understand it, the original bridge carrying the National Road (now it would be West Washington Street) over the West Fork of White River was an “S” bridge where there were slight curves east and west of the original bridge since the river bent slightly southeast/northwest at the crossing point, so the bridge was slightly aligned southwest/northeast to cross the river perpendicularly (with the shortest crossing distance)…at least that’s what I understand.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      For a while there were *two* bridges, one eastbound and one westbound. The westbound covered bridge wasn’t a classic S bridge but the road did bend at either end for it.

  3. Basil Berchekas Jr Avatar
    Basil Berchekas Jr

    I’m sorry, I forgot to mention this crossing of the West Fork of White River was in Indianapolis, Indiana.

  4. Basil Berchekas Jr Avatar
    Basil Berchekas Jr

    Hey, Jim! Thanks for the clarification. Appreciate it. The bridge with the “bends” at either end fooled me.

  5. […] via single frame: Two bridges at Blaine โ€” Down the Road […]

  6. Read.Count.Craft Avatar

    wow. really interesting with the ..i think its the perspective and the cars look like toys way cool history too

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Lots of history lurking on the old roads!

  7. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    I wondered why the bridge had curves at the ends. Interesting fact.
    Both bridges are quite nice-looking, though I prefer the older bridge. There are some modern bridges and huge expressway overpasses in Gangneung, but I think they are fairly ugly. Well, not ugly; just very functional and no one seems to have thought about aesthetics. Or they didn’t have the money to think about beautiful design. I wonder if the people who built the bridges in your photo thought they were things of beauty or just functional. Will people in 100 years think the bridges in Gangneung are lovely to look at?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The older bridge is just so charming. The newer bridge is beautiful, too, but manage not to rise to the level of charming. Here’s another view, one where I didn’t process too much red into the image.

      The S Bridge at Blaine

      1. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

        Charming, indeed.

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