This bridge's leaf was destroyed on May 6, 1988 at 8:08 PM when the Pontokratis, a vessel traveling inland collided with the bridge. The leaf collapsed as a result, falling and wrapping itself around the boat. It caused the Calumet River to close for ten days while the bascule leaf was removed. The fixed approach span and the mechanical frame of the bascule span were not removed and these remain in place today.
Rick La Fever provides the following additional details about how the trains dealt with the loss of this bridge:
This bridge once carried the Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad(B&OC.T.R.R.) across the Calumet River. The US Coast Guard deemed the bridge unsafe for maritime use (they felt it would fall into the waterway blocking the channel) so it was demolished. The CSX Corp (successor to the B&OC.T.) had other routes around the river so they just rerouted the almost non-existent business to other lines. At the time only the Chicago Short Line Railroad was using the bridge regularly. The CSL now uses the NS bridge to reach some trackage on the west side of the waterway since most of the line is on the east bank of the waterway.
This bridge was historically and technologically significant as an example of a Strauss heel-trunnion bascule bridge. The design and patent for this design was held by the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company, owned by noted engineer Joseph Strauss. For this bridge, another noted engineer, J. E. Greiner also provided design services for this bridge, producing specifications for the bridge. The bridge was noted for having the longest bascule span in the world when completed, although it did not hold that record for very long, as bridges built soon after exceeded the span.
From a historic preservationists standpoint, it is good that the fixed approach span and the mechanical frame of this bascule bridge were not demolished when the leaf was removed. These elements remain in place today both as a visual reminder that a Strauss heel-trunnion bascule bridge was here. The ends of the mechanical frame where the leaf was attached have a twisted appearance, allowing observant viewers to infer that the bridge was destroyed by accident, since a proper demolition would have cut apart the bridge more cleanly.
Be sure to view the photo gallery for this bridge which includes photos of the collision and of the bridge prior to destruction. The links at the top of this narrative include a link to legal proceedings which include a very detailed account of the collision.
The photos of H. A. Field and F. S Harvey are shown below. These men were in the field as engineer assistants during the construction of the bascule bridge.
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