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Chicago and Illinois Western Railway Bridge

Chicago and Illinois Western Railway Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: September 7, 2011

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Key Facts

Location
Chicago: Cook County, Illinois: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1914 By Builder/Contractor: Strobel Steel Construction Company of Chicago, Illinois and Engineer/Design: Theodor Rall

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
Not Available
Structure Length
Not Available
Roadway Width
Not Available
Spans
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View The Rall Bascule Bridge Patent

View Excerpts From Two Historical Texts Describing Rall Bascule Bridges

Theodor Rall Bascule Bridge Patent Drawing

This bridge is one of the most unusual and rare movable bridges in Chicago, and has been recognized and protected by its designation as a Chicago Landmark. It is one of the few examples nationwide of a Rall bascule bridge. The patented design involves a bascule leaf that rests on roller bearings that roll back on a short track as the leaf raises. This is different from a Scherzer rolling lift bridge because in a rolling lift bridge the leaf bears directly on a track and there is no roller bearing. The original patent for the bridge design has a drawing shown above that shows the motion of a Rall bascule bridge. The Chicago and Illinois Western Railway has the essential details outlined in the patent. According to the comments in the Chicago Landmarks list, the bridge was built in 1914.

Theodor Rall, the inventor of the Rall bascule bridge, was the chief engineer of the Strobel Steel Construction Company. A 1917 advertisement for Strobel Steel Construction Company, makes a point of stating that the company designed and built Rall bascule bridges. The company also built trunnion bascule bridges, and indeed was a contractor for a number of trunnion bascule bascule bridges in Chicago as well.

Strobel Steel Construction Company Chicago

According to a 1923 edition of the Engineering News-Record, Theodor Rall, whose name was misspelled as "Theodore" was reported to have died.

Some websites and other resources make vague claims that Chicago has a "retractile" movable bridge. HistoricBridges.org believes these claims to be false, and that Chicago does not have a retractile bridge. It may in fact be that these resources are referring to this Rall bascule bridge. The confusion may come from the fact that this bridge does roll back on a short track as the bascule lifts. This bridge is not a retractile bridge however. Retractile bridges do not rotate up like this bridge does, they simply slide back.

The Collateral Channel was constructed in the 1890s to connect the West Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Some time after the channel was built, the West Fork was completely filled in, and today there is no remaining visible trace of the West Fork. The Collateral Channel remained however as a slip for the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

This bridge has industrial properties surrounding it, making it impossible to get beside or under the bridge from on land, therefore requiring a boat to get a full photo-documentation of the bridge. Thanks to Tom Winkle for providing boat transportation to assist in the photo-documentation of this historic bridge.

Rall Bascule Bridge DiagramRall Bascule Bridge Diagram

Information and Findings From Chicago Landmarks Designation

General Information

Address: 33rd St., East of Kedzie Ave. (Slip of Sanitary and Ship Canal)
Year Built: 1914
Architect: Theodor Rall
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: December 12, 2007

Chicago & Illinois Western Railway Bridge Single-leaf bascule span The Chicago & Illinois Western Railway Bridge is a rare-surviving example of a patented bridge design by Theodor Rall. Although this bridge type was invented by Rall, the patent was held by the contractor, Strobel Steel Construction Company of Chicago. The Rall type was one of the designs most frequently used by the railroads in the early twentieth century and is significant for combining the bascule bridge technologies of both rolling and trunnion motion. The bridge is a single track, single-leaf bascule span which runs on an east-west axis over a slip in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. This low-profile bridge is supported by three unevenly-spaced piers made from reinforced concrete. Visible struts are located on the sides of the bridge along with a trunnion, which when engaged by an electric motor, pulls the leaf up and rolls it back wards along the horizontal track girders. Today, the bridge's mechanism has been disabled and it remains in fixed position.

This Bridge Is A Designated Chicago Landmark

Visit The Chicago Landmarks Website

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Historic Bridges of Chicago and Cook County

Flag of Chicago Seal of Cook County

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.

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.

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Photo Galleries and Videos: Chicago and Illinois Western Railway Bridge

 
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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
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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 Photo Gallery
1987 Photos
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos taken by Don Sadecki. Scans of photos taken in 1987. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer

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Maps and Links: Chicago and Illinois Western Railway Bridge

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