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Hohman Avenue Railroad Bridge

Hohman Avenue Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 12, 2006 and September 2010

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Key Facts

Hammond: Lake County, Indiana: United States
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Warren Through Truss, Movable: Single Leaf Bascule (Page) and Approach Spans: Metal Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1909 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
110 Feet (33.5 Meters)
Structure Length
255 Feet (77.7 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s) and 2 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

This historic bridge was demolished in 2015 illegally by a private individual!

2015 Update: This Rare, Historic Bridge Demolished Illegally By A Complete Idiot!

In late January 2015, police found and confronted an individual who was directing the demolition of this historic bridge. It turns out this individual was some random private individual who didn't know who owned the bridge, didn't file any permits, and never received permission of any kind to destroy one of only two Page bascule bridges left in the country. As if this alone wasn't amazing enough in terms of how stupid this person is for doing something like this it gets better. After being confronted by police, he claimed that abandoned bridges could be demolished without permission because they are abandoned. The obvious reality is that absolutely under no circumstances are abandoned bridges ever available using this man's argument. Even abandoned bridges are ALWAYS owned by someone, and that someone must give permission for any action, and must also comply with all applicable laws, and acquire all appropriate permits. For example, demolition of this bridge may have required Section 106 and mitigation since news articles suggested an Army Corps permit was needed. Section 106 would have found the demolition of this bridge to be harming a historic bridge and extensive mitigation would have been required. HistoricBridges.org believes this person should be required to pay for what reasonable mitigation for demolition of this historic bridge would have been. That should be the blast cleaning and repainting the Chicago and Alton Railroad Bridge in Chicago, the only other remaining bridge of this type.

 The facts are crystal clear. This man is a self-centered low-life criminal from whom lies are pouring out of like a waterfall. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this bridge and it was in great condition. This individual basically took a safe structure and created a dangerous situation that also resulted in needless destruction of a historic bridge for his own personal benefit. He also may have cost the city millions of dollars. This bridge might have made a great rail-trail in future years. Now, if the city wants a rail-trail on this line they will be to construct a new bridge or relocate a different historic bridge, which will cost far more than it would have to convert the Page bascule for pedestrian use.

Hopefully this incident will serve to deter any other idiots out there who might be contemplating such nonsense as demolishing an abandoned historic bridge without permission. Doing so is illegal. If HistoricBridges.org is ever made aware of any attempts to illegally demolish a historic bridge, we will immediately notify the authorities and request prosecution to the maximum extent of the law.

About This Bridge

Finding a multi-span movable truss bridge is the last thing one might expect to find on the Grand Calumet River of today, which is little more than a small creek or large ditch these days, but indeed several historic movable bridges (that have not moved for decades) that even have approach spans to make the bridges larger remain on the river. This is a stark contrast to some of the modern crossings of this river which in some cases are a series of culverts. In the time since boats once navigated the river, numerous changes to the flow of water in the area have drastically reduced the Grand Calumet River in size. Indeed, the river carries little more than runoff today and it is one of the most polluted rivers around. Some estimates had placed the river's content to be 90% storm drain and industrial runoff, and years before the current environmental regulations resulted in toxic chemicals being dumped into the river. Some sections of the river even have a sickly green color.

The bridge seen here is a very unusual bascule bridge which has had extensive machinery removed. All that remains to tell of its movable past is the unusual shape of the truss at the northern end, and the gear track along part of that truss section. Based on these remains, it is evident the bridge is an extremely unusual design of bascule bridge, a Page Bascule Bridge like the Chicago and Alton Railroad Bridge. The truss bridge features riveted connections. There is a fixed through truss span at the south end of the bridge, with an unusual combination of a diagonal member and an end post at the south end (an odd detail which is not replicated at the north end). Otherwise, both the fixed and movable trusses feature the Warren configuration. The rail-line is long abandoned and seriously overgrown.

Volume 9 of the Bridgemen's Magazine (1909) has a tiny paragraph that seems to explain the unusual endpost design of the fixed Warren truss span.

A convertible bridge span of the through truss type, which can be changed into a bascule bridge, should the growth of shipping require it, has been contracted for by the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway for the crossing of the Grand Calumet River at Hammond, Ind. The span is 108 feet. A single leaf Page bascule bridge of the same length forms the remaining river span of the same crossing.

Based on this paragraph, it would seem that the fixed span has the unusual endpost design so that it could be connected to a bascule counterweight and machinery and turned into a movable span.

Gary Sprandel contacted HistoricBridges.org and provided the following personal recount of the history at this bridge.

The Hohman Ave junction (just southeast of the bridge) once hosted 7 railroads. As per the map, running due east-west was the New York Central, Pennsylvania (later Penn Central and Conrail now CSX IIRC) and the Indiana Harbor Belt, Conrail pulled up the NYC tracks and IIRC one of the Pennsy mains sometime in the mid to late 80's. The 4 roads that used the bridge in question were the Nickle Plate Road, those are the tracks that curve east after the east west tracks on the map, they are still active and owned by the Northfolk Southern. The other 3 were the Monon(later Louisville & Nashville in 72 IIRC) and the Erie Lackawanna with C&O trackage rights to Griffith In. Those are the tracks that the map shows heading southeast on the bridge alignment. The machinery removal you noted was done sometime in the mid to late 70's though it was not planned at the time. If you look at some of the photos closely you may note a very slight twisting, that along the removal of the counter weight and it's associated structural members occurred when a L&N grain train derailed, the car had been bouncing along the ties for a bit and (at least my guess) took a bad bounce once the derailed wheels hit the open ties of the approach trestle and piled up on the lift end. Since the L&N had the nearly parallel ex C&EI just to the west and Conrail had abandoned it's former EL tracks the decision was made to just clean up the wrecked freight cars and abandon the line over the bridge. Bear in mind I'm pulling this from memory of a news story in Trains magazine around the time though I did spend the last few evenings trying to search for the info on the net with little results. I am ,however, certain of the overall events though some of the finer fiddly bits are a bit foggy.

Information and Findings From DHPA Historic Bridge Survey

Statement of Significance

From south to north, this structure is intriguing. The originally stationary Warren through span is unique, and the now-stationary north span suggests a form of bascule not otherwise extant (even in part) in Indiana today.

Architectural Description

Now an all-riveted two span Warren through with a plate girder approach to the north carrying a single track, this structure once housed a single leaf bascule. The southernmost through span appears as originally constructed upon the concrete substructure. A variation of a Warren, the span consists of six typical panels and an unusual one on the south. Diagonals of laced channels head inward from the endpost-top chord connection to frame a W; verticals of laced double angles are attached at the endpost-top chord connection and at midspan. An extra diagonal or endpost is added to the truss, on the south, making for the seventh panel. Like the diagonals, the chords and endposts are fabricated from laced channels. The five-panel Warren through span retains some tell-tale signs of its life as a roller-bearing bascule. An undulating track girder remains, but the rest of the moving mechanism and power source have been removed. The original approach span has been replaced. ALTERATIONS: Now an all-riveted two span Warren through with a plate girder approach to the north carrying a single track, this structure once housed a single leaf bascule. An undulating track girder remains, but the rest of the moving mechanism and power source have been removed. The original approach span has been replaced.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes


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