Tuesday, January 24, 2017

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

(Bridge Hunter, no Historic Bridges, Satellite)
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 posted
On March 29, 1886, the Kentucky legislature passed a bill giving the Chicago St. Louis & New Orleans Railroad the right to build a bridge across the Ohio River. The CStL&NO, as you may know, was an IC subsidiary. It was also the legal owner of most IC trackage south of the Ohio River. Generally speaking, whenever the IC embarked on a major construction project on trackage south of the Ohio River, the contracts were signed in the name of the CStL&NO, not the IC.
Politics played a heavy role in the bridge construction. Businessmen, politicians, and residents of Paducah lobbied heavily to have the bridge built in their city, instead of at Cairo. Thus, when the Kentucky legislature passed the bridge bill, the IC was given permission to build the bridge at three locations: within the city limits of Paducah, three miles upstream or downstream of the Paducah city limits, or at Cairo. Well, the IC did not yet serve Paducah, but they did have a major presence in Cairo, so naturally the bridge was built at Cairo.
Construction of the bridge "officially" began on July 1, 1887, however, works crews had actually been at work since mid-March. The first train crossed the bridge on October 29, 1889, and the bridge has been in continuous service since then. Several major changes have been made over the years. In 1905-06 the entire wooden approach trestle and all but a short section of the steel approach trestle on the Illinois side was filled in. Then in 1914-15 the bridge was strengthened to accommodate the new 2-8-2's. In 1934-45 the entire steel approach trestle on the Kentucky side was replaced along with the short section that still remained on the Illinois side.
But the most significant improvement took place between 1950 and 1952 when the spans across the river were replaced. New spans were constructed on a floating platform next to the spans they would replaced (the floating platform was actually two 200' deck girder spans used to replace a 400' span on the Kentucky side).+

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.

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