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M-53 Imlay City Railroad Bridge

Van Dyke Road Imlay City Railroad Bridge

M-53 Imlay City Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: May 11, 2005

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Canadian National) Over M-53 (Van Dyke Road)
Imlay City: Lapeer County, Michigan: United States
Structure Type
Metal Deck Girder, Fixed and Approach Spans: Concrete Slab, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1934 By Builder/Contractor: Walbridge and Aldinger Company and Engineer/Design: Michigan State Highway Department

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
51 Feet (15.5 Meters)
Structure Length
102 Feet (31.1 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s) and 2 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

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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.


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