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Illinois Central Sanitary and Ship Canal Bridge

Kedzie Avenue BNSF Railroad Bridge

Illinois Central Sanitary and Ship Canal Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 12, 2006 and September 7, 2011

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Chicago: 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
322.7 Feet (98.4 Meters)
Structure Length
327.7 Feet (99.9 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

View Historical Articles Discussing The Canal and Bridges

This is the swing bridge visible southwest of Kedzie Avenue, and is one of three very impressive and rare swing bridges remaining on the Sanitary and Ship Canal.

This swing bridge the flattest peak at the center of the span among the group of canal swing bridges, which makes it look shorter. It was likely built around 1897 as most of the swing bridges on the Sanitary and Ship canal appear to have been built. The McArthur Brothers and Winston and Company were the substructure contractors and the Carnegie Steel Company Limited was the superstructure contractor, which presumably means that the Keystone Bridge Company, also a Carnegie-owned company was the name that would have appeared on the bridge plaque, since this is the case with the other bridges on the canal built by this company. The bridge cost $64,961.97. The weight of iron and steel when the bridge was completed was 1,519,183 pounds.

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

Side Note: Digging The Canal With Steam Shovels

Steam ShovelSteam Shovel

The digging of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, originally called the Chicago Drainage Canal, was an impressive operation. The ad to the right shows a steam shovel that was used during the digging of the canal. The diagram on the left also illustrates this type of steam shovel. Steam shovels were the excavators of the past. While their function was the same as today's excavators, they were quite a bit different in appearance and operation. Below are a couple photos of steam shovels and a diagram of how a steam shovel worked.

Steam ShovelSteam ShovelSteam Shovel

Information and Findings From Chicago Landmarks Designation

General Information

Address: North of 35th St., between Pulaski and Lawndale Avenues
Year Built: 1898 - 1900
Architect: Sanitary District of Chicago
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: December 12, 2007

The Illinois Central Railroad Swing Bridge is one of only a few surviving swing-span railroad bridges in Chicago. The bridge, which dates from the late 19th century, was part of the system of fifteen bridges constructed by the Sanitary District of Chicago to cross the Sanitary and Ship Canal. Construction on the Canal began in 1892; at its completion in 1900, the 28-mile waterway effectively reversed the natural flow of the Chicago River from east to west. The bridge's span is set atop a central pier, which when fully open creates a navigable channel on either side of the pier. The bridge rests on ashlar limestone abutments on the river embankments while its center pier is made of cast concrete and limestone. It was originally built for the short-line Illinois Northern Railroad, which was part of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. The bridge's operating machinery has been removed and its span is locked in fixed 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.

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: Illinois Central Sanitary and Ship Canal Bridge


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Passing Under Bridge

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Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.


Maps and Links: Illinois Central Sanitary and Ship Canal Bridge

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HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this bridge.

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

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