As railroad bridges go, this bridge got quite a bit of decorative treatment. It is similar, but delightfully different than the M-54 Railroad Overpass in Flint. This Imlay City example has true approach spans at each end, M-54 really had oversized abutments with tunnels to accommodate sidewalks. Both bridges carry trains, and the deck plate girder main span immediately identifies them as railroad bridges. But the decorative guardrails and the decorative treatment in the form of extensions of the supports and abutments has the look of a bridge built by the Michigan State Highway Department (now MDOT). The rather large bronze plaques that are on the bridge reveal that indeed the State Highway Department, along with the Federal Government, did build the bridge, with the cooperation of Grand Trunk Western Railroad Co. who owned the railway at the time. The construction date given on the plaque is 1934. The plaque credits Walbridge and Aldinger Co. with building the bridge. The bridge is today the property of CN, who bought out GTW a number of years ago.
The Imlay City downtown development has been working to try to make the downtown area, which is bypassed by M-53, more easy to find, as well as seeking ways to improve the downtown area. One of the things that has come under discussion is this bridge. It is likely that many people just glance at this bridge and write it off as an ugly railroad bridge, making the area less attractive. They don't look at the bridge closer and see how much care was taken into making this bridge look attractive when it was built. If the railroad company were to for whatever reason choose to tear this bridge down and erect a bridge that follows the standards of modern bridge design, I would bet that those people would then want the old bridge back when they saw the plain, nondescript nature of the new bridge. One of the things that detracts from a beauty of the average railroad bridge is the choice in paint color. Black is just not that nice of a color for a bridge. If this bridge's steel girders and the guardrails were to be repainted in a color, say for instance, sky blue, I think the bridge would look much more attractive. If the decaying sections of concrete were to be repaired, this would also make the bridge look nicer. Another thing that has been done is to paint interesting pictures on the concrete abutments and supports, like in the Ann Arbor Railroad Bridge. This bridge should be treated like a historic house or building... they don't look very attractive when they are first rescued by museums or concerned people, but after they are restored, they become very attractive landmarks. Such is the way with historic bridges also. Sadly, the owner of the bridge, CN, will not even allow the downtown development to repaint the bridge! This is odd, as it seems like a free bridge restoration for CN... they would not have to pay to have the expected life of their bridge extended. Perhaps in time, they will change there mind and allow this interesting bridge to be restored.
The above comments were originally written in 2003-2005. A revisit in 2022 found no changes at this bridge except for continued concrete and railing post deterioration. The concrete had been marked with paint to show deterioration, however it is not clear if this concrete inspection is a prelude to preservation, demolition, or continued "do nothing." The Dort Highway overpass mentioned in a previous paragraph has since lost its original railings, meaning this bridge may be at risk for the same.
Above: George Walbridge, Vice President of the contractor for this bridge. Source: Detroit Free Press, May 15 1931, Page 16
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Unorganized Photos
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