The Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio Railway built the taller of the two structures which stand before you in 1908. At 167 feet over the Copper Creek-Clinch River junction, the Copper Creek Viaduct was then one of the tallest railroad bridges in the eastern United States. Construction of this trestle - and many other bridges and fifty-five tunnels - by the CC&O opened up coal deposits in Virginia and Kentucky via a superbly engineered direct rail route to numerous cities in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Prior to its completion, alternate rail routes to these markets were over one hundred miles longer and featured some of the steepest grades in the United States.
More than a century later this viaduct is still a vital link in the rail network of Clinchfield's successor company, CSX Transportation. An average of 18 to 24 coal trains currently pass daily over this bridge, keeping the lights on in such major cities as Charlotte, Columbia, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Charleston. Northbound coal empties are returning to the rich coal seams of Eastern Kentucky, Virginia, and Southern West Virginia. Additional trains carrying general merchandise, grain, plastics, lumber, chemicals, and aggregates also pass over this trestle.
The lower bridge was constructed by the South Atlantic & Ohio Railroad around 1890 and is currently owned by Norfolk Southern Corporation. Close to one hundred per cent of the business handled by Norfolk Southern consists of both empty and loaded coal cars to and from Virginia coal mines. Contractual agreements between CSX and Norfolk Southern, though they are competitors, allow each to use the other's tracks, so trains of both railroads can often be seen on either of the Copper Creek trestles. Note the CSX trains on both trestles in the photograph to the left.