US Rt 23 Overpass, Pickaway County Ohio (north of Circleville)

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Fri Oct 14 18:40:34 EDT 2016

Since sending the email below, I came across an additional two paragraphs on page 66 of “Norfolk and Western in Ohio" that I’d previously overlooked.  

One paragraph refers to the US23 overpass (bridge 1137A) specifically, stating that it was built after a contract was signed with the SVT "for an under grade crossing". This seems to confirm my first working assumption.

The other relevant paragraph refers to bridge upgrades in general, stating that bridge abutments re-built in 1902-1903 “were widened to accept a double track” and that “in many cases, the girders for a second track” weren’t placed until 1909-1910.  

Another thing that occurred to me after sending the previous email is that the book covers the years 1890-1930.  Given that the tunnel extension of the US 23 overpass isn’t listed in the bridges table of the book, but is shown in the 1933 ODOT photo, my working assumption #4 is that this span was built between those two dates.

I’ll send a note to the archives for some research assistance if no one on this list has additional detail.  I’d love to get a drawing of this thing.

Matt Goodman
Columbus, Ohio

On Oct 14, 2016, at 6:48 AM, NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:


A few miles north of Circleville, Ohio, at a place called Ritts Crossing, the N&W had (and still has) an overpass over “old” US Rt. 23.  “New” 23, a four lane 1950’s-era bypass of Circleville, separates from it’s original alignment at this location, staying to the east of the railroad.  

The N&W crosses the highway at a very shallow angle on a unique hybrid four-span structure.  The first span is a concrete slab affair which -  due the low angle of the crossing - is effectively a tunnel, followed by a three span open deck through-girder bridge.  The tunnel’s east wall  doubles as a pier / abutment for the steel spans. The southbound lane of US 23 passes through this tunnel with the pier separating it from the northbound lane which passes under the first of the three girder spans. The Scioto Valley Traction interurban line, which ran alongside the west side of the N&W north of this point, descended to US 23’s level and crossed under the second girder span to follow 23 into Circleville.  The function of the third and final span is unclear to me.  The intermediate steel spans are supported by free-standing steel columns. 

The tunnel component has always puzzled me, and I’m looking for assistance in working it out. To my eye, the steel section had a long enough span to accommodate the road and interurban traffic.

Here’s what I know about this bridge to help set some boundaries.
A 1914 SVT right of way provided by Alex Campbell dates the Agreement for crossing as 1901.  The survey shows the N&W as a single track railroad.  I’m assuming it was drawn prior to the 1911 double tracking, and not revised (this is a bit of a puzzle since the only date anywhere on this document is 1914). A snip from this survey is attached for reference.
Alex Schust’s book “Norfolk and Western in Ohio” lists a three span, half-through plate bridge being constructed in 1902 (Bridge 1137A).
An ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) photo dated 1933 shows the bridge in the configuration that it is still in today.  I’ve provided a link to that photo (bonus - solid coal train is passing over it)
The north abutment has 1948 cast into it.

My working assumptions follow.
Given the completion of the SVT is 1904 and the crossing agreement date noted above, my working assumption is that the coming of the interurban led to the roadway / railroad separation.
Masonry for this single track bridge was built to accommodate future double tracking (this was done, very cleverly, for the Kinnikinnick viaduct). 
A parallel span for the second track added 1910-11
Concrete slab span/tunnel added between 1911 and 1933????
ODOT may have taken the 1933 photo to document a roadway improvement that included the addition of the concrete span.
N&W rebuilt or strengthened the north abutment in 1948, possibly encasing an existing masonry abutment.  A similar improvement was executed on the Kinnikinnick bridge at some point (abutment and pier footings were originally stone, are now concrete).

Any comments on the assumptions above are welcome, especially when and why was this tunnel put in (and why this particular construction method was chosen).  I’ve so far not located anything specific to this bridge in the archives.  I suspect that the ROW map is available that might provide additional clues, but I haven’t located it on the site yet (pointer welcome!)

Location:,-82.9573495,151m/data=!3m1!1e3 <,-82.9573495,151m/data=%213m1%211e3>

1933 ODOT photo. Looking north <>
Related photo looking south, N&W bridge is beyond the C&O (1938, context photo only) <>

Attached photos
1914 SVT survey
2015 site photos (mine)

Matt Goodman

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