This bridge is a rare example of a Strauss overhead counterweight type of bascule bridge, and the only example in the Chicagoland area. This type of bascule differs from the heel-trunnion bridge that Joseph Strauss also invented and built. Although a heel-trunnion bascule also has an overhead counterweight, the type of bascule that Strauss described in company literature as the "overhead counterweight type" referred specifically to those which had counterweights that would raise and lower vertically when the bridge was operated. Because of the unusual counterweight movement, this bascule type has a small footprint, meaning it does not take up a lot of space both visually and literally. The type was generally reserved for shorter bascule spans, while Strauss would build the heel-trunnion type for his larger bascule bridges. For this reason, the overhead counterweight bascule bridges usually feature a pony truss or through girder leaf, as opposed to the through truss design usually found on the heel-trunnion bascule bridges. This particular bridge has a through plate girder leaf.
This bridge has been abandoned in the raised position. It is located deep in a privately owned area of heavy industry, alongside several other historic railroad bridges at this location. The only reliable, legal way for the public to visit these bridges on the canal is to take a boat on the canal, or briefly glance them out of the typically dirty windows of the Amtrak trains that cross a nearby bridge. Because abandoned railroad bridges located in inaccessible industrial areas tend to generate little public awareness, and because railroad bridge owners often do not see the substantial cultural value in leaving an abandoned historic bridge standing, this significant historic bridge should be considered to be at some risk for demolition. As the only example of one of a Joseph Strauss overhead counterweight bascule bridge... one of his three most popular bridge designs... it would be a considerable loss if this bridge was demolished.
Thanks to Tom Winkle for providing boat transportation to assist in the photo-documentation of this historic bridge.
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