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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Gateway Western Bridge
Illinois River Railroad Crossing
Pearl, IL

Gateway Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A
• Location: River Mile 43.2
• River Elevation: 420 Feet
• Railroad: Kansas City Southern Railway
• Daily Traffic Count: ??? Trains Per Day (Estimated)
• Bridge Type: Steel Truss W/Lift Span
• Bridge Length: ??? Feet, ??? Foot Longest Span
• Bridge Width: ??? Feet, ??? Tracks
• Navigation Channel Width: 315 Feet
• Height Above Water: 20 Feet
• Date Built: ???
A large steel truss railroad lift bridge crosses the Illinois River near the tiny town of Pearl, Illinois. Please let me know if you can fill in any details about this bridge.

A bridge at this location appears on a 1867 map, but does not show up on 1865 or 1866 maps. The cut stone piers of the current bridge likely date back to 1866. The 5 pony truss sections appear on a 1901 photo from the Illinois State Historical Society. The lift span section is a modern retrofit.

The lift bridge retrofit was completed in such a manner to keep the river crossing open as much as possible during the project. This was accomplished by building the lift span on shore. At the same time, the piers for the towers were built between existing bridge piers. This was done to avoid disrupting existing swing span traffic. The towers, lift mechanism, and cables were then installed. As part of the change over, the lift span was placed on a barge and floated in place. Cranes were used to lift it into place and allow the lift cables to be connected. Once the lift span was in place, the swing span was removed, as well as the fixed spans on each side, and their piers. Short sections of steel girder bridge were installed to connect the lift span to the remaining bridge sections. Once finished, the lift span was lowered, and the bridge was back in operation. The conversion process resulted in a bridge closure that was less than a week.

This bridge was built by the Chicago & Alton Railroad as a route to Kansas City that did not have to pass through Saint Louis. In addition to delays in sorting and switching in Saint Louis, the bridges in Saint Louis were held by a monopoly who charged very high rates. Over the years, this bridge was owned by the B&O, Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, The Illinois Central Gulf, Gateway Western, and now the Kansas City Southern.

Gateway Western Bridge
Gateway Western Bridge

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