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Torrence Avenue Railroad Bridge

Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad Bridge

Torrence Avenue Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 11, 2006 and September 7, 2011

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Key Facts

Chicago: Cook County, Illinois: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1968 By Builder/Contractor: American Bridge Company of New York, New York

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
Not Available
Structure Length
Not Available
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View a historical article about a former Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad Calumet River Bridge

About This Bridge

This bridge sits right next to a highway bridge and is abandoned, with the truss sitting in the raised position. Built in 1968, it is a late example of this technology, but appears to have excellent historic integrity including original bridge tender building.

This railroad bridge is a designated Chicago Landmark, while the highway bridge next to it is not. It is not apparent that the railroad bridge is more significant than the much older highway bridge. However, it is possible that the city designated the railroad bridge as a landmark because they feared the railroad owner might demolish it otherwise, where as with the city-owned highway bridge the city did not feel the need to protect the bridge.

The previous bridge at this location was an early Strauss trunnion bascule bridge. The structure was a single leaf through truss bascule built in 1910.

2011-2013 Historic Preservation Work

Despite being abandoned, this bridge appears to have a bright future, likely a benefit of the Chicago Landmark designation. The contract to rehabilitate the parallel Torrence Avenue bridge during 2011 - 2013 also included preservation work for this bridge as well. A visit in September 2011 showed this project had begun, with workers repairing the concrete counterweight. The work also will include cleaning and painting of the bridge. The bridge also served a couple unique purposes for the Torrence Avenue Bridge rehabilitation. The towers of the bridge were used as a means to access portions of the Torrence Avenue Bridge during rehabilitation. Additionally, the lift span deck was converted to allow vehicular traffic during the Torrence Avenue Bridge rehabilitation.

Previous Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad Bridge

Previous Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad BridgePrevious Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad Bridge

Information and Findings From Chicago Landmarks Designation

General Information

Address: North of 126th St., East of Torrence Ave.
Year Built: 1967 - 1968
Architect: James Peterson
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: December 12, 2007

The Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad Bridge is an outstanding example of a "tower-driven" vertical-lift bridge. Located on the Calumet River, the bridge is based on the early 20th century patents developed by the Kansas City-based firm of Waddell and Harrington. The bridge was fabricated and built by the American Bridge Co. of Gary, Indiana and the Corbett Construction Company of Chicago. The spans are suspended between a pair of 210-foot towers and have a vertical lift of 125 feet. Its towers rest on concrete piers extending 80 to 90 feet to bedrock, and the approach spans' piers and abutments are supported by metal shell cast-in-place concrete piles. The bridge's immense span is vertically raised and lowered by a system of 64 cables and four giant pulleys. The cables are connected to massive steel-encased concrete counterweights which are suspended within the towers' framework. The bridge is powered by gasoline motors housed at the base of the north tower. The Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad Bridge provides a dominating visual presence to the surrounding area. Today the bridge is no longer in use and is currently in a raised position.

This Bridge Is A Designated Chicago Landmark

Visit The Chicago Landmarks Website


Historic Bridges of Chicago and Cook County

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Chicago and Cook County are home to one of the largest collections of historic bridges in the country, and no other city in the world has more movable bridges. HistoricBridges.org is proud to offer the most extensive coverage of historic Chicago bridges on the Internet.

Chicago / Cook County Bridge News

October 2015 - Patrick T. McBriarty, author of Chicago's River Bridges, informs HistoricBridges.org that in recognition for the "outstanding and original reference work that will support future scholarship in the history of technology", the book was awarded the biennial Eugene S. Ferguson Prize by the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) at the SHOT Annual Meeting's awards banquet. See press release. This is the third award for this book. Order Now Direct From The Publisher! or order on Amazon.

October 23, 2015 - The Franklin Street Bridge celebrates its 95th Anniversary. Please view this announcement prepared by Chicago Loop Bridges or view it on the Chicago Loop Bridges Website.

September 2015 - Fall Bridge Lift Season is Underway. View Schedule.

May 2015 - Michigan Avenue Bridge celebrates its 95th Birthday this month! Click here for a news article.

October 2014 - A visit to Chicago revealed that the Van Buren Street Pedestrian Bridge was not demolished, but instead extensively rehabbed. The railings are new, but replicate the original design. The concrete encasement was removed and not replaced, and instead the exposed riveted steel beams have been painted. The riveted beams look quite nice, and given the condition of the bridge prior to the project this seems like a good outcome. In other news, the rehabilitation and repainting of the La Salle Street Bridge is ongoing, and the project to extend the Chicago Riverwalk under additional bridges on the Main Branch is continuing.

September 2014 - Chicago's dubious distinction of offering numerous boat tours that pass under the bridges but offer narration only of the buildings has ended with the start of a Wendella tour that focuses on bridges! Information is here.

July 29, 2013 - A project study has been initiated for the reconstruction of historic North Lake Shore Drive. This project puts a large number of historic bridges at risk for demolition and replacement. However, it could also be an opportunity to rehabilitate the bridges. Visit the project website.

May 15, 2013 - The Ashland Avenue Bridge over North Branch Chicago River has been recommended for Chicago Landmark designation by the Chicago Art Deco Society.

April 30, 2013 - Illinois Landmarks has included Chicago's Bascule Bridges as one of their Top 10 Most Endangered Historic Places. View The Official Page.

General Chicago / Cook County Bridge Resources

Chicago's Bridges - By Nathan Holth, author of HistoricBridges.org, this book provides a discussion of the history of Chicago's movable bridges, and includes a virtual tour discussing all movable bridges remaining in Chicago today. Despite this broad coverage, the book is presented in a compact format that is easy to take with you and carry around for reference on a visit to Chicago. The book includes dozens of full color photos. Only $9.95 U.S! ($11.95 Canadian). Order Now Direct From The Publisher! or order on Amazon.

Chicago River Bridges - By Patrick T. McBriarty, this is a great companion to Holth's book shown above. This much larger book offers an extremely in-depth exploration of Chicago's movable highway bridges, including many crossings that have not existed for many years. Order Now Direct From The Publisher! or order on Amazon.

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Overview of Chicago Bascule Bridges (HAER Data Pages, PDF)

Chicago Loop Bridges - Chicago Loop Bridges is another website on the Internet that is a great companion to the HistoricBridges.org coverage of the 18 movable bridges within the Chicago Loop. This website includes additional information such as connections to popular culture, overview discussions and essays about Chicago's movable bridges, additional videos, and current news and events relating to the bridges.

Additional Online Articles and Resources - This page is a large gathering of interesting articles and resources that HistoricBridges.org has uncovered during research, but which were not specific to a particular bridge listing.


Photos and Videos: Torrence Avenue Railroad Bridge

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