Touted as one of West Virginia’s oldest metal railway bridge, the Whipple Truss, or the rusting railroad bridge over the Elk River will be getting a second lease in life. Abandoned when locomotives started getting bigger and faster, the City of Charleston is making efforts to rehabilitate the old truss bridge for pedestrians and bikers, as part of a citywide trail system.
The Whipple Truss got its name from a New Yorker, Squire Whipple. He was the first engineer to use scientific principles to analyze the stresses in iron bridge beams. As metal replaced wood for building railroad bridges, Whipple’s arched or “bowstring” truss was adapted as the official canal bridge in New York. Succeeding design features a straight upper beam or cord, which was used in the truss bridge in Charleston.
The bridge was instrumental in building Charleston. Thanks to it, trade was made easier, as did traveling around the valley. It even led to Charleston annexing Elk City and its residents in the late 1800’s.
With its historical background and its stragetic location in connecting the trails on the West side with the other trails downtown, the Whipple Truss’s rehabilitation and conversion to a hike and bike trail is a welcome change in the city.