Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lemont SantaFe Railroad Bridge

(Bridge Hunter, Historic Bridges3D Satellite)

Update:  I learned from Ramon Rhodes in Facebook that Santa Fe designates this bridge as 24B. Ramon has posted a 2009 photo essay by Joe Padgen. I have already mentioned a posting by Ramon concerning Bridge 9B. He explains that the number in a bridge designation indicates the milepost that was established with Dearborn Station as 0.

Update: I learned from a comment on some Cal Sag bridges that this is the lowest bridge at 17 feet on the main navigation channel to O'Brien Locks. The Canal Street RR Bridge is the lowest on the navigation channel to the Chicago River Locks.

Update: Stuart Pearson posted some interesting pictures on Facebook.

I first discovered the SanteFe Railroad Bridge across the Sanitary and Ship Canal near Lemont when I moved to the Chicago area in the 1970s. It was impressive enough that it was the first bridge that I visited after I retired. It is on my to-do list to find and scan the pictures I took in the 70s. But I can get the blog started with the pictures I took recently. The first three pictures were taken with my cell phone because I could not retake the pictures of the barge with the big spool. The remaining pictures were taken later after I bought a new SLR camera.

Even though the bridge was designed to be a movable bobtail (asymmetric) swing bridge, it was fixed by the 70s. Back then, I watched an empty barge being pushed very slowly under the bridge with crew members on the barge watching the clearance between the top of the barge covers and the bottom of the bridge because there appeared to be just a few inches to spare. During a recent visit, I noticed an 6-barge tow of empties heading downstream. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera working yet when I saw it. It was a rather big tow for this canal because many of the tows are just one or two barges. I closely watched the tow go under the bridge. Several of the barges had covers, and it appeared that there was a foot of clearance. Evidently, that is plenty of clearance because the tug did not slow down for the bridge.

When I arrived, there was a barge "parked" on the side of the canal next to the bridge with a big spool of cable. It was clear that the spool was too high to go under the bridge.


Later, I figured out that the pickup truck was towing a pump. And they were pumping water into a bulkhead that was about 10 feet long on the spool end of the barge. You can see the hose and some of the bulkhead portal just beyond the top left side of a drainage channel in the following image.

This second picture was taken a while after the first one because I had driven down to the end of the industrial frontage road and back between taking the two pictures. If you look closely, you can see that the barge is beginning to tilt so that the spool end is a little lower than the other end. But it is going to take a lot longer to sink the spool end enough to get it under the bridge so I left and went into Lemont. Later, when I was leaving Lemont, I noticed from the "high bridge" that the barge was going under the bridge. So I parked my van on the shoulder when I got off the bridge and trotted back up the pedestrian walk. It  turns out, I did not need to hurry because the barge was not moving.

This is the first time I have seen a tugboat move a barge on the hip. Note the offset (asymmetric) design of this bridge so that the navigation channel is not obstructed by the swing pier. This is the West elevation, and the camera is facing upstream. The swing pier is setting on bedrock because this stretch of the canal is dug through a limestone outcropping.

The East elevation is not cluttered with weed trees, but I could not frame the whole bridge even with an 18mm focal length. So this is most of the bridge and...

...this is the short span.

I was fortunate that a train was stopped on the bridge so that you can see the immense scale of this bridge. The sky that day was blue, but I overexposed the pictures so that you can better see the details of the bridge. The two lane road in the middle has just a 9'9" clearance, so the road on the left is dug into the bedrock to create a truck road with a 14'5" clearance. The little "road" on the right is a bike trail. Above it you can see part of the metal counterweight used to balance the weight of the long span.

One advantage of the bobtail design is that you can easily get a underside view of the short span.

And this view shows the fresh cut they made in the limestone to create enough clearance for trucks.

Because of the size of this bridge, you can clearly see the tension vs compression members. The tension members are pin-connected rods whereas the compression members are built-up beams. And the number and size of the rods varies as the load varies. Most steel truss bridges I've seen use just one standard size. But if a bridge this big, it would be a significant waste of steel if the size of the links were not customized. I've inserted this close up of the center tower with its original size so that you can pan it and see the details. Note that the top cords have 4 big rods. And the upper-left to lower-right diagonals have two big rods whereas the other diagonals have two little rods. And all of the diagonals have turnbuckles so that the tension can be adjusted. I had assumed that the counter weights on the short span would balance the long span. But if that was the case, I would expect the diagonals in the central tower to be symmetric.

I was concerned about the amount of rust I saw on the bridge. And then I discovered the pictures taken by lazzo51. His collection contains about a half-dozen pictures for this bridge, and they are all much more rusty than my May 2014 pictures. So this bridge has had some maintenance.

Update: a trackside photo.

20140820 0238
Whenever I'm in the area, I got to the end of the old Lemont Road to check out the barge traffic. The sun happened to be good for catching another picture of the bridge. (Most of the property along the canal is fenced off and you can't legally get close to the canal. This spot is the other extreme, it doesn't even have handrails. I learned later that towboats stop here to let crew members get off and walk into town.

Jerry Jackson posted
Warbonnet Wednesday. Lemont, IL early 1991, probably March or April. Notice that only one or two units have the Flag supporting Desert Storm.
Mark Hinsdale posted
At Lemont IL...
Jerry Jackson commented on the above posting
Strange seeing power other than ATSF there.
Jerry Jackson used as a cover photo

Jerry Jackson commented on the above posting
Jerry Jackson posted
The power on the Lemont shot was, 7435, 7402, 7445 and 7421.

Jerry Jackson posted
©Me Westbound, Lemont, IL May 1991.

Jerry Jackson commented on the above posting
Crossing the Des Plaines river.
Jerry Jackson posted four photos with the comment:
I usually planned 90% of my shots, even though I didn't have access to modern apps, radios, time schedules, etc. I depended on hot trains leaving Corwith on-time and I was rarely disappointed. I was shooting with a Nikon F4HP and a Nikkor 100-200mm straight f:4 lens. I picked up a cheap KMart 2x tel-extender, under $10 I'm sure. I set-up on the west side of the bridge over main (Stevenson?) street in Lemont, IL and waited. I was shooting at least at a minimum of f:8. I forget the shutter speed. All shots were hand advanced. I think #3 wins the gold star.


[I believe Jerry posted the same view, but it appears he has digitally enhanced the photo. His comment indicates 1991.]

Zaky Joseph commented on Nick's posting
Jerry Jackson posted four photos with the comment:
Flippin' Friday. Flip through these reposted photos iffin' you like. These were taken either while awaiting the first westward trip of the new GP60M's or just after. Both trains are on the same main, so probably a before shot. I doubt that I stuck around after the 60M's. This train, lead by an SD45-2 and a C30-7 (In my actual favorite Santa Fe scheme.) are eastbound, running wrong main. The north track was typical for outbounds from Corwith. A very crappy morning as it was way overcast and I was shooting with a straight f/4 zoom and coulda used a few more open f/ stops. I shot these manually and I did manage to luck out between trucks shaking the Lemont road bridge. Yes, I know there's a parking garage there now. Lemont, IL May 1990.



[Note the small electric power tower in front of the tall part of the truss. That tower was a high-tension tower when it was built. It was part of one of the first high-tension power lines built. It carried electricity from the Lockport Powerhouse to downtown Chicago.]
Robby Gragg posted
Continuing with the green theme, back in November of 2012 a pair of former BN SD60Ms lead L-CHI102 west through Lemont. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Zaky Joseph posted
"SEND-ME-BACK SUNDAY"... Send me back to June 30, 2004 when a westbound M -IHB KCK freight (Manifest-Indiana Harbor Belt to Kansas City, KS) on the former Santa Fe Chillicothe Subdivision passes under the iconic Cal Sag Channel bridge at Lemont, Illinois with a former ATSF GP60M #147, former ATSF gp30 (BNSF #2464) and a BNSF geep, still in BN green.

Jon Bentz posted
James L. Ludwig House track off to the right served Dalman Lumber and Gorski Distillery. The depot was on the photographer's right-torn down so the cranes and abutments could be installed for the Lemont Road bridge/.
Jon Bentz The bridge piers were under construction when I was there. The depot hadn't been torn down yet.
Paul Jaenicke Wonder when the swing bridge in the background was no longer swinging?
James L. Ludwig Barge struck it in the 1950s and did not report the damage. And since there was no one to lay claim to the damage and the Santa Fe couldn't afford rerouting their hot freight traffic and crack passenger trains to bypass Joliet and use other railroads they decided to tell the Metropolitan Water district that it would be permanently closed to traffic other than barges that would have to swap power on both sides or run low cabins through.
Paul Jaenicke James L. Ludwig Do they run low cabins often? Thanks for the info.
Dennis DeBruler Paul Jaenicke The towboats that work in the Chicago area have retractable cabins because now all of the bridges are fixed except the South Branch Bridge. The Albert C is running light with its cabin in the air because they hit something and it won't go down anymore. It passes the Mary C that has its cabin down.
Dennis DeBruler And here is the Mary C going under the bridge. I've watched them pump water into barges to lower them to go under and then pump the water back out.
James L. Ludwig Paul Jaenicke Yes they do I've seen other boats running with canopy up being stupid enough not to realize that the speed they were cruising at caused a wake that made the waves raise the boat height until they scraped the bottom of the bridge.
James L. Ludwig To the left downhill from the locomotive was a spur that served the canal side storage tanks of Tri -Chemical industries operated by Chevron which stored fuel and chemicals. The owner defaulted on lease payments to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the facilities were torn out in the the late 1980s.

Matt McClure posted four photos, and Jerry added some more photos as comments.

Stuart Pearson posted a closeup view.

Jacob Metzger posted fallen flag locomotives on the bridge and a towboat by the bridge.

Jacob Metzger posted the same photo to a different group, and Ramon Rhodes provided a picture of a towboat in a comment.

Middle River Marine has a crew at this bridge to ballast and de-ballast.

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