Thursday, August 13, 2015

1898 IR/BN/CB&Q/OO&FRV Bridge over Illinois River in Ottawa, IL

(Bridge Hunter, John Weeks III; 3D Satellite)

The Illinois Railway/BN/ CB&Q/OO&FRV Railroad Bridge over the Illinois River in Ottawa is neat because it is so easy to photograph. Unfortunately, it was not only cloudy the day I visited, it was actually spitting some raindrops as I took pictures from the north shore. It was built in 1898 with four spans. In 1932, one of the spans was turned into a lift span as part of the 9-foot navigation channel project.

(2019 Update: Davis Schroomberg commented on a post: "Temporarily abandoned. It's was not deemed structurally sound in early 2019, so it needs to be repaired before it can be used again. There are currently hundreds of coal cars held captive south of this bridge in Streator and Grand Ridge."
2022 Update: Ken Hejl commented on a post: "Actually the bridge is in good shape.
The problem is the piers are on sandstone footings which is soft. It cannot support the heavier weights of current carloads. If new business were to surface the piers need to be sunk deeper to provide more support." So they should be able to get empty cars in and out of storage using a light locomotive with short cuts.)

20150809 4027, east side from the north shore

There was not a gap big enough in the tree line along the north shore to catch the entire bridge. But I noticed the south shore was lined with concrete, and it did not have weeds and trees. The south shore was Allen Park, and I guessed correctly that the entrance was off of IL-71 if you drive a ways downstream.

East Elevation from the south shore
The south approach is a wood trestle. It amazes me that wood is still used in the 21st century. In the following picture, you not only see some of the trestle, you can see that the piers are still made of cut stone, probably from the 1898 construction.

I took a picture right under the trestle as I crossed to the west side of the bridge because I could. I think this is the first time I have had an opportunity to be under a major trestle.

On the west side, I had enough room to get all four spans with my widest angle --- 18mm.

A view of the north portal from a railroad crossing.

By the late 1800s, steel truss bridges had been built for several decades and Pratt trusses that place the longer diagonal members in tension are expected. In these closeups of the south span we see that the tension members use tiebars. This takes advantage of steel's tensile strength and reduces the amount of steel used for the members. Furthermore, the number of tiebars is reduced as the members get further from the piers because they have less bridge to hold up.

Frank Grimm shared a DNE 31 Flickr Photo

Marty Bernard posted
3. CB&Q 4960 crossing the Illinois River Bridge at Ottawa, IL on April 11, 1963. Roger Patelski photo

Bob Kalal commented on Marty's post
I was there in 2016.

(new window)  Too bad they didn't start the video earlier and catch the train on the bridge. The train must have gone north over the bridge because we can hear the horn as it approaches several crossings in town.

I found the video link on Facebook, and Will Pamperin commented "did you know that the bridge is powered by cable and a 4-cylinder IH diesel engine in the shack on top. Vary noisy inside.... ear plugs a must!" Thanks to the magic of YouTube offering other videos, here is a video of it going down and a train crossing. The diesel engine is not near as noisy going down. It doesn't have to work as hard to lower as it does to raise it. Maybe they did not adjust the counterweights after a paint job. I wonder how many freight cars the engine took to Streator, because one empty lumber car is not much revenue. The comments in another video confirms that the lumber car is from Streator instead of a town north of Streator. Given that Streator is served by BNSF and NS, this demonstrates that Class I railroads really don't want to do local switching.They evidently charge enough for the service that it is cheaper to use a shortline that is over 15 miles away.

John Joseph Walsh III posted 17 photos of this bridge.

Photo by Ted Gregory, June 2018
I went back to my folder of photos and found a comparable view.

Last frame of a video taken by Ted Gregory
Don Crimmin posted
Mutt and Jeff - Omnitrax SW14 1472 and Hudson Bay Railway SD50 5001 roll ballast hoppers westbound west of Grand Ridge, IL, enroute to Streator, IL 6-19-13
Kevin Mengoni Taking those Storage Cars Down Streator Line, what a pain Those Coal Cars and Sand Empties were.
Dennis DeBruler So the bridge over the Illinois River was still working as of 2013.
Kevin Mengoni Dennis DeBruler Bridge needs Several Million Dollars worth of repair before it or The Streator Line can be used again.

Harold J. Krewer commented on a post
There is no bridgetender anymore. When a train needs to cross, an employee walks out to the lift span and lowers the bridge.
There are stairs on the north end of the lift span that get you up to the lift span, then another flight of stairs on the lift span to get you to the control house.Here's a shot when the IR had to take a car of fertilizer to Grand Ridge back in March 2010. They then went on to Streator and pulled about 30 sand hoppers out of storage in North Yard.
My photo:
Rob Conway I've operated that bridge many times. It is powered by a gas engine (there are two, one is a backup) with a manual transmission and clutch! You would think it is strictly electric, but it isn't.
The process goes something like this.
1. Get on the marine radio and check for traffic moving with the flow of the river. If so, wait for it to pass. If not, go to step 2.
2. Start the engine and sound the siren.
3. Engage the clutch and put the transmission into the Down gear.
4. Ease off the clutch lever and slowly engage the transmission.
5. As the bridge descends, watch the height indicator.
6. As the indicator gets close to the deck, feather the clutch for a smooth contact with the deck.
7. Check the track locks.
8. Clear the train onto the bridge either by radio, or by hand sign.
9. After train clears, raise bridge into proper position as indicated by the height indicator.
10. Shut down engine. Hang around and listen to the southbound trains work up the heavy grade.
I didn't mention that climbing the stairs up to the operator shack is a workout. Climbing down is a piece of cake.

Harold J. Krewer commented on a post
March 3, 2010. One load to Grand Ridge, 30 storage cars from Streator North Yard to come back to Ottawa. My photos:

Don Crimmin posted
On December 12, 1997, BNSF ran their final train over the old CB&Q Streator, IL, branch. On December 16, leased AT&SF GP39-2 3419 heads west across the Illinois River bridge at Ottawa with what might have been the first IRN train to operate west of Ottawa.
At least one car for Grand Ridge and lumber for the north side of Streator.
Don commented on his post
Westward again after setting out the lead covered hopper at Grand Ridge. 12-16-97

Dustin Holschuh posted the question: "Is the line from Ottawa to Streator still in use ?"
Kevin Mengoni Used for storage, ottawa bridge needs alot of updating and millions to bring up to code. Don't see going to streator anytime in the future.
Ken Hejl 5 miles of coal hoppers stored north of Streator.
Been there for 3 or 4 years.

[The comments contain several photos of car storage operations.]
Dennis DeBruler commented on Ken's comment on Dustin's post
Looking at a satellite image, they were storing covered hoppers at one time.,-88.../data=!3m1!1e3
Kevin Mengoni Dennis DeBruler yes we did for the sand plants
Kevin Mengoni Ken Hejl. Roughly 4 yrs, no plans on moving through Ottawa anytime or ever.
Ken Hejl Kevin Mengoni The switch in Streator to the NS has been removed. Someday when these cars move, it is either over the bridge or put the switch back in and cut a lot of trees. Just looked at these c as rd today while in Streator.
Dennis DeBruler Ken Hejl If they are coal hoppers, I could see them being scrapped in place. But if that is the fate of the cars, I would think they would do it sooner instead of later to save the storage costs.
Ken Hejl Kevin Mengoni You said the bridge needs millions to bring it up to code. So is it out of service? If the owner of these storage cars wanted them pulled out, could the bridge be used as is?
Kevin Mengoni Ken Hejl. Bridge is very out of service and the Streator Line is out of service, bridge needs millions just to bring it to Code and line needs alot of work also. If the Storage cars need to be moved, they'll have to go south through the N.S. or we'll have to fix our end of stuff.
Derek Temple Kevin I remember talk back around 95 that one of the reasons bn got rid of the line was because of the ottawa bridge and how they didn’t want to pay for its repairs, so let some short line come in, which can not afford it and make the feds pay for the repairs. Lol
Ken Morrison around curves, up and down hills, broken for road crossings-an everlasting monument to the tied-down train!
Harold J. Krewer commented on Dustin's post
March 3, 2010. One load to Grand Ridge, 30 storage cars from Streator North Yard to come back to Ottawa.
[He posted a few more photos from this chase to Steator and back.]

Michael Riha posted
"Sheltering In Place" -- Miles of unneeded coal hoppers on miles of unneeded railroad, on Illinois Railway's former CB&Q branch between Ottawa to Streator. The string starts just north of Grand Ridge and except for breaks to keep the roads open, continues to just north of Streator. Sunday before Memorial Day, 2020.
Steve Pajak So that is where the FSTX cars are now. These were built new in 1995 and leased to Consumers Energy in Michigan.
Craig Cloud KBS does same, per foot basis.
Michael RihaAuthor It's a great revenue stream for shortlines and museums. Monticello and Union have done this as well.
Craig Cloud Michael Riha until cars become obsolete or sitting for so long bearing seals dry out.
William Hite They have been there quite a while now. Two, maybe three years.
Michael Schwiebert Unfortunately the aluminum bodied coal hoppers aren’t good for anything other than hauling coal (unlike many of the steel rotary dump gons that have found a second life hauling scrap metal or construction debris). With the continuing decline of coal for power generation, these may never see another loading.

Pete Fileca posted
Co worker took this years ago in northern Illinois. I think this is the fox river.
Illinois river in Ottawa
Jimmy Fiedler
 there are several hundred empty coal Hoppers stored south of the bridge.... If you drive down rt 23 you can see them... The connection down in streator has been cut... I don't believe it has been used in a couple years now and there are no other reasons 2 use the bridge other than to access the empty coal cars being stored there.
Heard a rumor today they’re going to start cutting up the cars. Who knows for sure tho since it came from an outside source and not the IR.
[Since the cars being stored are coal cars, I've speculated that they would be cut up and this bridge would never be repaired. But you would think they would cut them up sooner instead of later to avoid paying storage costs.]

Derek Temple posted
I see the coal empties over the Illinois river today [Sep 1, 2020]!
[So they did lower the bridge somehow rather than scrap them in place.]

Adam Elias posted
OMLX 1019 leads a cut of coal cars in the rain across the Illinois River drawbridge in Ottawa, Illinois. On September 1, 2020 the Illinois Railway began pulling cuts of the 520 total coal cars from BNSF that have been stored on the branch line to Streator since March 2016.
Great shot. Should we be worried? If they clear the line of storage cars will there be any practical use for leaving the tracks in place?
Arnold Niederer
 rumors of 700 cars coming to take their place.....rumors
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Arnold Niederer
 line only use is storage now, no business left to service. NS Streator interchange already taken out yrs ago.
Kevin Mengoni
 i remember when it was put in back in 2003
Originally BNSF had a "paper barrier" in the lease preventing any interchange in Streator, but Omnitrax got that thrown out.
The switch to the NS went in and a few years later it came back out with not a lot of traffic having gone through it, certainly not enough to justify hanging on to 18 miles of railroad and a drawbridge.
It would have made a nice connection between NS and IAIS if it wasn't for CSX and all those pesky interchange rules...
Heard they paved over the road after the bridge
Wasnit true or not?
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Rick Pacione
 all roads were paved, had track maintained out cutting crossings and removing debris from the line and inspecting everything.
Usually a decent economic sign when cars are released back to owners.
Eric Skretteberg
 They’re going for scrap. Lol.

Robert Jordan posted
Couple followups to Ottawa River Bridge post. 5/5/2009 Illinois Railway is crossing bridge SB toward Streator. They would meet the NS local with a single unit long hood forward, both trains in the yard(Q yard??) exchange cars and NS headed back east short hood. Didn't see Ill Railway do any local but they may have going back north, but think they just took off.  

Ken Hejl added two photos to a post with the comment: "Over and back. 57 cars.
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Steven Kakoczki
 last and final trip next week probably Mon morning. 50 or so left that's it. No more streator or bridge moves.
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Ralph Maitland
 getting rid of em all, far as we know nothing else comin in.


Some more postings by Ted concerning the 2018 flood of the Illinois River: one (Illinois Railway discussion) and two.

In Sept 2020, I got hit with a Double Doomsday. Both Facebook and Google changed their software. I said "changed" instead of "updated" because the new software is not better. In fact, Google's Blogger software is far worse except for a search function that works. Specifically, it has three bugs concerning photos and their captions. So I'm no longer copying photos and interesting comments from Facebook. I'm just saving the link. I hope you can see posts in Private Groups.

Lots of railfans chased the run that pulled the last cut of cars out of storage

One of seven photos posted by Carter Solberg
OMLX 1019 heads south down the Streator branch on the Illinois Railway. 10/19/20 Click photos for details.

Carter also posted
Gary Talsky: The bridge was "down" last Monday around Noon but I couldn't see any movement(s).
Ken Hejl: Gary Talsky With the river being closed to traffic, the railroad puts the bridge down and leaves it down until they return from Streator.

David Hahn: Are they abandoning this part of the line?
Ken Morrison: as I understand it, from other posts here on this page, they are casting about for more cars to store...

Nick Hart posted
Crossing the river this afternoon. 10-19

Nick Hart posted
The last one? For years, the Illinois Railway Streator Branch has been home to a significant number of stored BNSF coal cars. Lately, the IR has slowly been removing the cars to send back to the BNSF for scrapping. Led by OMLX GP38-3 #1019, the last cut is seen today, crossing the Illinois River lift bridge in Ottawa, IL. With the IR not having any business south of here and the line now being empty, one has to wonder if this was the final train movement over this iconic bridge, that was built in 1898 for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.
October 19th, 2020
[A comment indicates the last revenue train was in 2012.]

Ken Hejl added two photos as comments on a post.


safe_image for 2013 Flickr

safe_image for 2012 Flickr

A Bridge Not Too Far

The Illinois Railway operates to Streator, IL on an as needed basis, and that means dispatching a train over the venerable former CB&Q liftbridge over the Illinois River at Ottawa. Power today for the run to the lumber yard in Streator is HLCX GP38-3 916, built as B&O GP38 4804 in 1970. Even though the Geep turns 42 this year, the bridge is about 70 years older! Photo by John Eagan on 5/10/12.

Lloyd Scott Hardin posted three photos with the comment: "n/b 12 pk."



A video of another cut being pulled across the bridge earlier in the fall, but it doesn't show the bridge going up afterwards.

Former CB&Q Streator Branch bridge over the Illinois River at Ottawa, August 3 2013. Built in 1898, in 1932 one of the spans was converted to a lift span as part of the Illinois Waterway improvements. As of 2019 it was out of service due to structural problems.
Harold J. Krewer: Moveable bridges, like crossing signals, are required to be inspected and tested at regular intervals by qualified employees. By taking the bridge OOS, you save money by not having to inspect/test it.
Being OOS doesn't always mean it's unsafe or defective.
Rob Conway: I ran many trains over that bridge and also operated it as bridgetender many times.
Being up in the "bird's nest" while loads of sand were rumbling across below was a very interesting experience.
The bridge is still in service, but there are some specific conditions on its use.
Ron Johnson commented on Robert's post
They hauled several hundred coal cars across it last fall. They were being stored on the Streator branch for several years and were going to the scrapper, it was around 5 or 6 moves over a few weeks.

Gary Heavner commented on Robert's post
Me running across it in 2016

Ken Hejl commented on Robert's post
September 2020. In service.

1 of 6 photos posted by Jeff Mathre
Eric Skretteberg: We wonder if the bridge will ever be strengthened? At some point, if not, it may have to be dismantled for safety.
[A comment on a detailed photo pointed out that the roof on the bridge house is new.]

Bing Owens posted a dozen photos

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