Additional Information: Peter Dudley contacted HistoricBridges.org and provided an additional theory as to the history of the bridge. He believes the unusually old looking details of this bridge suggest it may have been built by the Chicago & Canada Southern Railway (C&CS), completed between Slocum Junction (just west of Trenton MI) and Fayette OH in 1873. If so this bridge would date to ca. 1873, which is certainly possible given the extremely unusual details of this bridge.
Thanks to Michael Netter for directions on finding this bridge. This is definitely a bridge to visit in the winter, as it is so overgrown, you can barely see the bridge even a few hundred feet away from the woods that surrounds this bridge. Each span of this two span bridge is a seven panel structure. The center pier is of stone. There is a wooden approach system to the bridge. The tracks have been removed from the bridge, although the wooden ties remain.
Long ago, this rail line was part of the line that crossed the Grosse Ile Free Bridge. This is a rare example of a multi-span railroad through truss bridge in Michigan. However, based on its design details, this bridge is potentially even more significant as one of the oldest metal railroad bridges in Michigan. The bridge features many innovative and distinctive details that characterize the earlier truss era where experimentation and unusual design details were more common. The bridge also has several cast iron details, further suggestion that this is a very old metal bridge. A discussion of some of the unusual details follows.
The bridge features extremely unusual portal bracing and struts (sway bracing), similar to the struts found on the older trusses of the Mead Avenue Bridge. These struts connect to the top chord at a unique u-shaped connection assemblies, which are bolted to the top chord and also rest on cast iron brackets. The overhead lateral bracing also connections to these assemblies. There are extremely unusual inserts inside the end posts doing the job that battens, v-lacing or lattice usually does. Neither lattice or v-lacing is present on the end posts. The connection detail of the lateral bracing under the deck near the end post was unusual as well: a loop-forged rod connects to a ring that is itself part of the sole plate for the bridge. The bottom chord connections were observed to have amazingly intact cast iron sheaves that included part numbers cast into them. Built-up vertical members (with v-lacing present) as well as the diagonal member and bottom chord eyebars are all more traditional in design. The bridge has strikingly little section loss or pack rust (suggesting the bridge could be wrought iron) and all the unique structural details appear to be unaltered.
This is a technologically significant structure for these unusual details, and for its two-span configuration. It is historically significant as a remnant of a rail line that originally ran down to Fayette, Ohio.
HistoricBridges.org has been unable to determine a date of construction for this bridge. Given the unusual details that suggest a very old bridge, it would be nice to identify a reliable construction date for this bridge to confirm whether indeed this bridge is truly one of the oldest metal railroad bridges in Michigan.
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