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Harlem Avenue Railroad Bridge

Santa Fe Railroad Bridge

Harlem Avenue Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: March 2008, September 23, 2012, and December 12, 2012

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Forest View: Cook County, Illinois: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1899 By Builder/Contractor: Keystone Bridge Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
364.2 Feet (111 Meters)
Structure Length
372.5 Feet (113.5 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

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

HAER Data Pages, PDF

View A Historical Biography of Emil Swensson

Like most of Chicago/Cook County's historic railroad swing bridges, this bridge is very important, since it is an example of a structure type that was once common in the area, but was replaced with Chicago's trademark historic bascule bridges which stand today. Only some of the railroad bridges never made the change to a bascule.

This bridge is difficult to find a good place to photograph from. However a little dead-end road that runs along the south side of the canal appears to be public and passes near the bridge.

The McArthur Brothers and Winston and Company were the substructure contractors for this bridge. The Keystone Bridge Company, listed on the bridge plaque, appears to have been the fabricator for the bridge. However, a report by the canal's chief engineer, Isham Randolph, indicates that the superstructure contractor was Carnegie Steel Company. These were both companies associated with Andrew Carnegie, and this bridge was built around the time that the companies were in flux, eventually resulting in the creation of US Steel and the American Bridge Company, so this may explain the inconsistency. The total cost of the bridge was $76,404.19 and the total weight of iron and steel when the bridge was built was 1,724,636 pounds.

Emil Swensson was an engineer for the Keystone Bridge Company who worked his way up the company to become Chief Engineer around the time this bridge was built. Isham Randolph was Chief Engineer for the Sanitary District. Their portraits are shown below.

Emil SwenssonIsham Randolph

Side Note: Shop Riveting

One of the reasons why bridges like this swing bridge and many other truss bridges from the 19th century and the very early 20th Century have pinned connections is because it avoided having to drive any rivets in the field. Until portable hand-held pneumatic hammers became common in the early 20th Century, most riveting was done in the shop using very large riveting devices that were very heavy and if they moved at all only moved within the shop. Due to their size, these devices were not economical to use in the field. Some example of shop riveters are shown below.

Shop Riveters

Sanitary District Plaque





Builder Plaque



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.

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: Harlem Avenue Railroad Bridge


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Maps and Links: Harlem Avenue Railroad Bridge

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2021 National Bridge Inventory: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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