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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Meredosia Rail Bridge Ruins
Former Illinois River Railroad Crossing
Meredosia, IL

Meredosia Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A
• Location: River Mile 71.1
• River Elevation: 420 Feet
• Railroad: Wabash Railroad
• Daily Traffic Count: 0, Last Train Crossed January 28, 1955
• Bridge Type:
• Bridge Length:
• Bridge Width: 1 Track
• Navigation Channel Width:
• Height Above Water:
• Date Built: 1857 (Estimated)
While looking for a good location to see a profile view of the Meredosia highway bridge, I found the remains of an old bridge just downstream and on the city side of the river. Given that there is an old depot and remains of railroad tracks in the area, it makes sense that this was an old railroad bridge. In fact, it was the Illinois River crossing at Meredosia for the Wabash Railroad.

I have not determined exactly when the bridge was built, but it appears on maps from 1858, but not on maps from 1857. It was a lightly built through truss bridge. It featured cables and rods where as a heavier bridge would have stringers. There were at least 3 truss spans, plus a truss swing span across the navigation channel, and a short pony plate girder section on the east end of the crossing.

The Wabash Railroad had its own car and locomotive shops, so they were one of the last railroads to convert to diesel locomotives. While diesel locomotives were available in the late 1930s, the war prevented many rail lines from adopting the new technology. After the war, steam rapidly disappeared. But on the Wabash, they did not convert until the late 1950s.

Interestingly, the Meredosia rail bridge was built too light to carry a diesel locomotive. As a result, they had to keep a few small 2-6-0 Mogul steam locomotives to make the run from Meredosia over to Quincy. In the end, the last train passed over the Meredosia rail bridge on January 28, 1955. At the same time, the Wabash was planning an upgrade to the mainline that ran from Springfield through Valley City and over to Hannibal. This line ran to Naples, Illinois, right on the Illinois River. The line branched north to Meredosia, and south to a swing bridge at Valley City. In the upgrade, curves were straightened, grades were cut down, heavier rail was installed, and a new lift bridge was built at Valley City. When the new lift bridge was opened in 1959, the line to Meredosia was cut, and the bridge at Meredosia was dismantled.

Today, what remains is a cut-stone bridge pier, a depot, an old caboose, and some abandoned railroad tracks. The city has converted this area into a small park and camp grounds. It sees usage in the summer, so the area is not forgotten. But what is forgotten is the railroad history of Meredosia that goes far beyond this old bridge. Meredosia was the site of some of the very first railroading in the US. The first line was the famous B&O in Baltimore. The second line to be chartered was the Northern Cross running east out of Meredosia. Before they could get up and running, a line in Ohio claimed second place. The Northern Cross was sponsored by the State Of Illinois, who wanted to make sure they were able to compete in the modern economy by providing rail links to the major waterways. The little line from Meredosia to Morgan City, some 12 miles, expanded to Jacksonville and later Springfield. Then it went east to Indiana, and west to Hannibal and Saint Louis. It eventually worked a deal with the Pennsylvania Railroad and some shorter lines in Missouri and Kansas to form a contiguous rail link from New York City to Detroit, down to Saint Louis, then Kansas City, Denver, and up to Cheyenne where it met the Central Pacific, which took it to San Francisco.

Meredosia Bridge
Meredosia Bridge

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