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Calumet River Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridges

Calumet River Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridges

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 11, 2006, September 7, 2011,and September 10, 2012

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Various) Over Calumet River
Chicago: Cook County, Illinois: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1912 By Builder/Contractor: Kelly-Atkinson Construction Company of Chicago, Illinois and Engineer/Design: Waddell and Harrington

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
210 Feet (64.01 Meters)
Structure Length
210 Feet (64.01 Meters)
Roadway Width
31.25 Feet (9.53 Meters)
1 Main Span(s) and 2 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

 HAER Data Pages, HTML - HAER Data Pages, PDF

Additional HAER Documentation For The Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Bridge

Additional HAER Data Pages, HTML - Additional HAER Data Pages, PDF

View historical article about the electrical operation of these bridges.

View a short historical biography of John Lyle Harrington of Waddell and Harrington.

View a short historical biography of Charles Ellsworth Atkinson.

View historical biographies of John Alexander Low Waddell of Waddell and Harrington.

Calumet River Railroad BridgesThe bridges are currently Norfolk Southern owned. There used to be two of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway Bridge also but one was demolished in 1965. The Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad bridge is the one that is in the lowered position in the photos. The two that are in the up position are the abandoned Lakeshore and Michigan Southern railroad bridges.

When traveling on one of the many Amtrak trains that cross this bridge, a plaque is visible on the end post of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway Bridge. John Muntean sent a clear photo of the plaque, which can be found in the photo gallery. The plaque identifies the bridge as a Waddell and Harrington Lift Bridge and lists the Pennsylvania Steel Company as the builder. There may be more plaques on the other bridges. If anyone knows of more plaques on these bridges, Contact us!

In mid-February 2012 an unusual repair project took place for a portion of the bridge that remains in use by trains, the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad Bridge. A problem was found with the shaft that holds one of the large wheel-shaped cable drums in place at the top of the towers. The cable drum is four feet in width and weighs 60,000 pounds. The repair project was designed to repair the shaft. A portion of the project was limited to 112 hours by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard typically has very strict restrictions on how long navigation can be obstructed on waterways under its jurisdiction, like the Calumet River. An estimated one week crane rental was needed to complete the project, needed to remove the cable drum and ship it to a shop to be repaired.

Also, one of the cable drums was completely replaced, and the original drum was found laying in a railroad yard just over the state line in Indiana.

Historic American Engineering Record feels that these bridges are the most notable and central railroading symbol for Chicago, the railroad capital of North America.

Next to this bridge is the remains of a Strauss bascule bridge. This bridge has a separate webpage located here.

Thanks to Tom Winkle for providing boat transportation to assist in the photo-documentation of this historic bridge.

Additional Technical Facts (Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Bridges)

Construction Date

Main Span Length Tower Height Bridge Width Skew Amount Designer
1912-1915 209.75 Feet Aprox. 190 Feet above water level. 31 Feet Each 50 Degrees Waddell and Harrington of Kansas City, Missouri

Additional Technical Facts (Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway Bridge)

Construction Date

Main Span Length Tower Height Bridge Width Skew Amount Designer Fabricator Superstructure Contractor Substructure Contractor
1912-1913 210 Feet Aprox. 190 Feet above water level. 31.25 Feet 50 Degrees Waddell and Harrington of Kansas City, Missouri Pennsylvania Steel Company, of Steelton, PA Kelly-Atkinson Company of Chicago, IL Dravo Contracting Company of Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad Bridge Plaque


PATENTED IN U.S.A., AUG 24, 1909.

MAR. 22, 1910, MAR 29, 1910, MAY 31, 1911.



Information and Findings From Chicago Landmarks Designation

General Information

Address: East of Chicago Skyway, North of 98th St. (Calumet River)
Year Built: 1912 - 1915
Architect: Waddell & Harrington
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: December 12, 2007

The two Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway bridges over the Calumet River are among four surviving examples of the "span-driven" vertical-lift bridges in Chicago. Built from patents by Kansas City-based engineering firm of Waddell and Harrington, these bridges are a prominent visual landmark in the surrounding area. The pair consists of two adjacent, double-track, steel-truss spans that together make up the largest multiple installation of Waddell and Harrington's patented design. The towers that support the spans share a foundation with a remnant of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Bridges. Operating on the same principles as an elevator, the spans are raised and lowered by a system of cables and pulleys. The spans which were designed to operate independently or as a single unit were driven by motors located in a control room. Today, the operating machinery has been removed and the spans are locked in a partially raised position. The massive structures are easily seen from the Chicago Skyway.

These Bridges Are Designated Chicago Landmarks

Visit The Chicago Landmarks Website


Historic Bridges of Chicago and Cook County

Flag of Chicago Seal of Cook County

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Complete Bridge List

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.


Photo Galleries and Videos: Calumet River Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridges

View Photo Gallery
Bridge Photo-Documentation
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Bridge Photo-Documentation
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Video
Bridge Being Lowered
Full Motion Video
Taken from in a boat. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Bridge Being Raised
Full Motion Video
Taken from in a boat. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.

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