Thursday, October 27, 2016

Aban/BN/CB&Q Bridge over I-57 in West Frankfort, IL

(no Bridge Hunter, Satellite)
20160329 1962
I've noticed this BN logo several times on my trips to and from Kentucky. I had always assumed it was BNSF's route through southern Illinois. But, thanks to a posting by Aaron Qualls, I learned that it is near West Frankfort and that it is an abandoned branch. The width of this bridge for a rural area has always amazed me. It is even more amazing given that it was just a branch.

Streetview
Looking at an old aerial photo explains the width of the bridge --- I-57 is on the west side of town and CB&Q had a railroad yard on the southwest side of town.

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
The wye in the upper right-hand corner of the following satellite image is the same wye that is on the left of the above aerial photo. The wye in the lower-left corner is where this branch connected to the CB&Q mainline through southern Illinois. The upper branch of the first wye was the MoPac.

Satellite
IC had a branch coming into town on the east side that they built jointly with CB&Q. This branch was expensive because it was elevated. (The branch at the top of the aerial excerpt below. About a fourth of the way from the left you can see it also crossed the C&EI tracks.)

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
Why did CB&Q, IC, MoPac, and C&EI have so many branches around West Frankfort? Because in the vicinity were the following coal mines: Orient Mines 1 & 2, Producers Mines 18 & 19, and Old Ben Mines 9 & 15. Studying the railroad map that includes these coal mines, it appears that each mine wanted at least two railroads servicing it. And I'm sure the railroads wanted to serve the mines.

Looking at a satellite image, all of these mines must have been underground mines. Between the operational expense of shaft mining and the high sulfur content of the coal, I assume all of these mines closed soon after the Wyoming Powder River Basin was developed. And when the mines closed, the railroad branches disappeared. So now only the north/south route of UP/C&EI remains in this area.

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