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Illinois Central Little Calumet River Railroad Bridges

Illinois Central Little Calumet River Railroad Bridges

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: September 8, 2011

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Illinois Central) Over Little Calumet River
Riverdale: Cook County, Illinois: United States
Structure Type
Metal 10 Panel Bolt-Connected Polygonal Warren Through Truss, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal Deck Girder, Movable: Double Leaf Bascule (Fixed Trunnion)
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
310.0 Feet (94.5 Meters)
Structure Length
590.0 Feet (179.8 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

Additional Information: Construction date, builders, and engineers refer to the original 1925 bascule span.

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Illinois Central Little Calumet River Railroad Bridges

As configured today, this bridge is actually four parallel bridges whose main spans are all truss bridges of the same general design that appear to date to perhaps the 1960s. Three of the truss spans share a single pier and each of these truss spans contain two tracks. Sitting on its own pier is a fourth truss on the eastern side that is more narrow and only carries a single track. Deck girder spans provide an approach to these truss spans. However, some of the approach spans are actually single leaf bascule spans that date to an earlier era of this waterway where movable bridges were needed, and when the waterway would have been more narrow. At that time, the bascule spans would have been the main spans of the bridge. At this time, less railroad tracks appear to have crossed the river as well since not all the bridges have these bascule approach spans. In fact, the configuration is somewhat unusual. When the bascule bridge spans were built, the westernmost bridge was apparently a single track bridge. As a result when the new double-track truss was built, an additional girder span was added to the western side of the bridge to accommodate the wider double track configuration. The two middle truss bridges in contrast both have a double-track bascule approach span. Finally, the eastern single track truss bridge has no bascule span and instead has a fixed plate girder span that is older than the truss spans but obviously newer than the bascule spans (since it is fixed yet offers less clearance that the bascule spans in closed position). As a result of this configuration the bascule spans are somewhat hidden beside the newer girder spans. The newer girder spans are of interest as well however. The westernmost bridge's newer girder spans still retain the United States Steel logo as well as the American Bridge name, both of which were painted on the bridge when built. These were never painted over during their life, which makes them a rather rare sight to see. The names are fading and flaking, but still visible.

Little Calumet River Bridge Aerial View

In the aerial view from 1959 shown to the above left, at the top portion of the photo this bridge is visible, shown before the river was widened and thus before the truss spans were added. The fixed girder span at the east side has been added, indicating that by 1959, the bascule span, and likely the former Indiana Avenue Bridge (seen in the middle of the photo) no longer operated for boats at this time.

The bascule spans have had much of their operating equipment removed. However, the bascules appear to have been a variation of the fixed trunnion bascule. The racks remain on the bridge, but the pinions and other gears are missing. The counterweights are removed, although the counterweight arms remain.

Thanks to Tom Winkle for providing boat transportation to assist in the photo-documentation of this historic bridge, which made possible the discovery of the bascule spans.


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

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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.


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