Tuesday, January 24, 2017

1949-1952 CN/IC Bridge over Ohio River at Cairo, IL

(Bridge Hunter, no Historic Bridges, Satellite)

Predecessor  bridge

20161126 6772, cropped +0+40, taken from 8th Street River Access
A grey bridge against a grey sky is a bummer, but I can't change the weather. Fortunately, cranking up the contrast did help some.
I drove down a side street trying to get a closer view.
But the closer I got, the more the obstructions got in the way.
This bridge reused many of the piers of the previous 1889 bridge.

Note that the Kentucky side has a long trestle to let flood waters pass.

Over the river, they reused the old bridges piers, but in the approach they changed to a steel trestle. However, they let the old truss piers stand. Illinois Central Railroad Scrapbook The approach trestle on the Kentucky shore is not original. By the early 1930s the trestle was falling apart due to a combination of heavy use and brine dripping from reefers. So, the original trestle was replaced by an all new approach trestle. Incidentally, believe it or nor, there also was a steel approach trestle on the north side of the bridge. Around 1903-1905 it was replaced by the massive fill and freight yard that still exists.

Illinois Central Railroad Scrapbook shared a video of a tow barely fitting under the old bridge. (Click "Not Now" if you are not a Facebook member.)

Illinois Central Railroad Scrapbook posted
Between 1950 and 1952 the IC rebuilt its Ohio River bridge at Cairo, IL. To save costs the existing piers were reused, and new spans were constructed on a floating platform next to the bridge. Once the new span was ready, the old span was pushed out of the way and the new span was rolled into position. This technique had never been attempted before on bridges of this size.
After each span was replaced, it was stripped of rails, ties, wires, etc. The steel skeleton was then dropped into the Ohio River, accompanied by a massive SPLASH, and divers would then cut up the span for scrap. In this view from August 21, 1951, the third span is taking the dive. This view is looking from the Illinois shore towards Kentucky. Collection of Cliff Downey
Alex Sansone How exactly was it pushed over ?
Illinois Central Railroad Scrapbook When each span was replaced, it was rolled onto a steel platform next to the pier (the platform is visible in the photo above). At the top of the platform is a "sled" that attached to the bridge span, and the sled was on an incline. The pins holding the sled were pulled, a barge would give a gentle tug, and then gravity did the rest.
Lou Maxberry I was present at one of the replacement sections. As info. The contractor that removed the steel from the river was blind also all of his divers were blind.
Mike Thompson Just layer rail over that a few years ago
Cliff also made an album of 12 pictures of the reconstruction of the bridge. The first picture includes a steam powered crane. Each picture has interesting comments so I hope this "type=3" Facebook link is permanent.

Cliff Downey posted two photos with the comment:
In recent weeks I've posted several photos of IC's Ohio River bridge at Cairo, IL, taken in the early 1950's when the bridge was rebuilt. Here are a couple more, but a little background info is needed to understand these photos.
On November 14, 1951, crews from American Bridge Company (the contractor on the bridge project) replaced the 400' through truss span on the far southern end of the bridge with a pair of 200' deck girder spans.
During the move the old span was moved onto a platform next to the bridge and afterwards was stripped down to a bare frame. Once stripped, the old span would be dropped to the ground so it could be cut up for scrap and hauled away.
By the afternoon of November 28 all was ready for the span to make its great fall. In one of the photos, the old span can be seen resting on the temporary platform. Note that the span is sitting atop a skid, which itself is mounted on an angled ramp. Once the all-clear is given, a few bolts and pins under the ramp were removed, and a winch mounted on a barge gave a good tug.
Gravity then took over and the span fell onto the river bank below. As seen in the second photo, on the day the span fell, the river bank was partially flooded. Note that at the end of each of the old spans was a beam with the words "Cairo Bridge" cast into it, along with 1889, the year the bridge was completed.
Both photos taken by IC photographers and are from the collection of Cliff Downey

Illinois Central Railroad Scrapbook posted
In mid-1950 the IC began rebuilding its Ohio River bridge at Cairo, IL. Most of the bridge piers were in good condition, so the railroad decided to replace the old superstructure with new spans.
In its original form, the Cairo bridge consisted of long approach trestles on both sides of the river (the approach trestle on the Illinois side of the river was filled in around 1900, and the trestle on the Kentucky side of the river was replaced in the early 1930s).. The main part of the bridge, over the river itself, consisted of two 518' spans plus seven 400' spans. After consulting with bridge engineers, the IC decided that the three 400' through truss spans on the Kentucky side of the river would each be replaced by a pair of 200' deck spans. New piers were built at the center of the old piers to support the 200' deck spans.
The first span (the 518' span closest to the Illinois shore) was replaced in October, 1950. The next span was not replaced until June, 1951. Afterwards, crews replaced one span roughly every 4-8 weeks. By early 1952 only one span was left to be replaced. That was the 400' span that was right on the river bank on the Kentucky side of the river. This span was to be replaced by two 200' spans. These two spans had actually been built in mid-1950. They were lashed together, mounted on barges, and served as a construction platform. The other spans were built atop these two spans. With the rest of the bridge completed, it was time to put these two spans into place.
The attached photo was taken on February 11, 1952, the date that the old 400' span was rolled out and the two new 200' spans were rolled into position. In the photo, the old span has already been rolled out the way and is sitting off to the left. Crews are hard at work, securing the new spans to the piers, putting finishing touches on the track and side walkway, and making ready to reopen the bridge.
The photographer is perched high above the tracks on one of the 400' spans (drones were unheard of in 1952) and is looking towards Kentucky. As noted earlier, these two spans were right on the Kentucky shore, but thanks to high water the river is running far inland. The IC runs north-south through Cairo, according to timetable directions, but due to the Ohio River's ever-changing course, the photographer is looking almost directly east!
IC photo, Cliff Downey coll.
Robert Coughlin I remember crossing the Ohio river on this bridge many times. You know your high up when there are trees that are 50 feet tall and you are above them by another 50 to 100 feet.

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