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Deering Bridge

Deering Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: 2008, 2010, and May 2012

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Metra Union Pacific North) Over North Branch Chicago River
Chicago: Cook County, Illinois: United States
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
145.0 Feet (44.2 Meters)
Structure Length
186.0 Feet (56.7 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

View Detailed Historical Articles That Offer Detailed Information and Photos About This Bridge

View Short Historical Article With Photos That Offer Brief Discussion of the Bridge

Joseph Baermann Strauss

This is a massive railroad bridge that looms over anyone who looks at it. The bridge is not particularly long, it is just very massive because it was designed to handle three sets of tracks. There is v-lacing and lattice on various built-up beams of this bridge, which adds to the intricacy and aesthetic value of the bridge. Large concrete counterweights, located overhead, are clearly visible. The bridge is skewed and its two truss webs are of unequal length as a result. The bridge is a Strauss heel trunnion bascule bridge. The bridge was built for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, and today the railroad line is Union Pacific.

The Deering bascule bridge is at least the third railroad bridge at this site. A single track wooden bridge was replaced by an 1887 double-track swing bridge that was 176 feet in length, weighed about 400 tons, and was powered by steam.

The current bridge was opened to traffic July 30, 1916. Maintaining railroad traffic during construction was essential, and the bridge had to be designed so that it could be built without interrupting traffic. The bascule bridge was constructed in the raised position so as to keep everything away from the active tracks which carried 200 trains every 24 hours. However when the bascule bridge is in the raised position, the counterweights come down to track level. To prevent the counterweight from blocking traffic, the counterweights were designed as two sections off to the side, rather than a single counterweight spanning between the truss webs. During construction, the 1887 swing bridge remained in place, but temporary wooden approach spans for the railroad line were built to aid in the construction process. In order that the transition from the old bridge to the new bridge could be made in the least amount of time, a detailed plan was developed that enabled the transition from the swing bridge to the bascule bridge to take only 18 hours. Among the more interesting methods employed to meet this swift transition, the swing bridge was moved to the open position and the vertical members and top chords of the center panels of the truss were cut out, which made room to lower the bascule into place for the first time. Once lowered, trains could travel on the bascule bridge, and workers could then continue to demolish the swing bridge without disruption to rail traffic. See the photos below.

Deering Bridge Construction

Strauss Bascule Bridge Company Chicago

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, who did work on  many of Chicago's bridges was a contractor for this project. The Kelly-Atkinson Construction Company, another familiar Chicago bridge contractor, was also involved with this bridge's construction. The Strauss Bascule Bridge Company played at least some role in the design of this bridge.

Adam Kerman reports that "Deering Harvester Company was nearby (merged into International Harvester). Charles Deering was a director of the Chicago and North Western. It was built for the triple tracking project on what's now the Kenosha Subdivision." This explains the name of the bridge. Further research revealed that there was a train station at this area called Deering Station.

Previous Deering Bridge

Be sure to follow the link at the top of this narrative to the PDF of articles about this bridge. There, you will find a fascinating and detailed discussion of the construction of this bridge. Included are photos showing the construction of the bridge and the previous swing bridge. Even the construction of the bridgetender building is described in detail right down to mention that the bathroom facilities were designed with "soil pipe discharging into the river below the water level," something that seems rather gross today but was not unusual in 1916.

Strauss Bascule Bridge Company DisplayDeering Bridge Machinery Room

The Strauss Bascule Bridge Company, like many bridge companies in the late 1800s and early 1900s, found work by making extensive use of advertising to raise awareness of the company and the benefits of its bridges, while at the same time often citing all the things wrong with bridges built by other companies. This was an era where the success of a bridge engineering company was not just based on the quality of service provided; it was also based on the features of a unique product only offered by that particular company. The 1911 issue of Printers' Ink (Vol 77) included an article about advertising through the use of exhibit displays. The article touched on an exhibit that the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company. The discussion provides a rare look into some of the creative advertising methods employed by a bridge company. An excerpt from the article is shown below. Mr. Kaufman, mentioned in the article is Phillip L. Kaufman, an engineer with the company.

"In another booth, The Strauss Bascule Bridge Company of Chicago advertised a proposition ranging from $150,000 to $200,000, by means of miniature models of bridges. These models represented railway bridges, highway bridges and bridges of every description. Mr. Kaufman the bridge expert, in charge of this advertising exhibit, had the advantage of operating in a space hung with beautifully colored pictures of work successfully accomplished in all parts of the world. The booth represented a living advertisement. The space was filled with every element of a good advertisement plus the human equation. Mr. Kaufman said he believed that exhibit advertising was an excellent method of presenting an argument and having it clearly understood. He defined the exhibit ad as a combination of a display ad and a salesman's talk. The results received during the show proved that when a visitor left the booth he had seen the bridge operated, heard its construction and operation intelligently described and had seen actual photographs of bridges in practical use. This display, taken in its entirety, was a big, attractive and convincing advertisement."

Deering Bridge Basculle Trunnion Diagram 

Trunnion Diagram


Historic Bridges of Chicago and Cook County

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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: Deering Bridge


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A collection of overview and detail photos, taken in 2008 and 2010. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer.
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Brian Teichert Gallery

Overview photos taken by Brian Teichert. Taken November 11, 2006. This photo gallery contains a combination of Original Size photos and Mobile Optimized photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer.
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