Thursday, November 19, 2015

C&NW's Kinzie (Wells) Street RR Bridge over the North Branch

Update: A railfan following a newsprint train in 1999 across this bridge to the Sun-Times building. The Trump building has replaced the Sun-Times bridge and has made this bridge useless. 1989 Flickr photo of CN&W locomotive crossing bridge. Chicago Switching calls it the "Carroll Avenue Bascule Bridge" and has a couple of albums: 1, 2. (For future reference: Carroll Avenue.)

Mike Welch posted
Mike Welch It is lowered once per year to:
1) Maintain ROW rights.
2) Help Chicago keep it's title for the most active drawbridges in the world.
Matt McClure or both!
Brian Weber Also for preventative maintenance to insure
the bridge remains operable.
(Historic Bridges, Bridge Hunter, John Marvig, HAERPatrick McBriarty's page in Chicago Architecture, 3D Satellite 149+ photos) Historic Bridges has an exceptionally detailed description of the history of this and the predecessor swing bridge. See the first paragraph in Bridge Hunter for a nice summary. The comments in Bridge Hunter indicate the proper name is Wells Street Bridge because C&NW's earlier passenger terminal was on Wells Street. Freight trains also used this bridge because when the Galena & Chicago (C&NW's predecessor) was first built, there was a lot of heavy industry along the north shore of the main stem of the Chicago River. Even after the heavy industry was displaced by office and retail space, freight continued to run to Navy Pier and to deliver newsprint to the Sun-Times building. Now it no longer carries any revenue traffic. But as the hi-rail on the lowered UP/C&NW bridge above shows, it is used once a year to maintain an active status. Some of the comments explained it is an annual ritual required by NTSB. (Update: Union Pacific spokeswoman Calli Hite provided the info that the annual usage by a Hy-Rail truck keeps the line in "active status." But I found no explanation of why UP wants to keep it active. Hite also said that engineers took the opportunity to install new lighting on the bridge to stay up to date with U.S. Coast Guard requirements. (DNAinfo))

Mike Welch commented on his posting above
They use a truck to demonstrate that the tracks are still usable. NTSB requires this is done yearly.Erik Coleman I think you mean FRA, they set inspection requirements. NTSB has no regulatory authority.

Daily News Archive
Alex Nitkin has more info on the bridge lowering. A discussion in Abandoned Rails  (click the "Comments" link) indicates there is a track connection on the west side. There was another discussion in Chicago & North Western Railroad Fans. Patrick McNamara's comment provided a photo from the Daily News Archive. Note how close to the water this bridge is. That looks even lower than the Canal Street RR Bridge. Most of the movable bridges can stay down for barge traffic because the bridges on the tows can be lowered to go under the bridges and then raised to see over the barges. This Daily News photo must have been taken soon after it was constructed because it looks like the pier for the predecessor swing bridge has yet to be removed. David added comments to Mike's posting that is mentioned above. The comments indicate that there were two swing bridges at this sight before this bascule bridge was built. Bascule bridges are desired because they allow the passage of larger boats.

David Daruszka posting
David Daruszka posting

John White -> Forgotten Chicago
John's comment:
They dropped this old thing down yesterday for it's annual inspect. Photo courtesy of the Sun-Times' Chris Fusco's Twitter feed.

Kinzie Street Bridge, Author: Barbatus, CC BY-SA
Update: I was so focused on catching the rare event of the bridge being down that I forgot to include a photo of its normal up position. A Flickr photo has a better view of the counterweight and some other views if you scroll backwards.

A three picture collection in Facebook. (Click the "X" in the upper-right corner to get to the other pictures.)

This posting has more pictures in the comments and some links: Chicago Switching and Chicago Loop Bridges.
MWRD posted
Historical Photo of the Week: Construction of the West Side Intercepting Sewer on April 16, 1934, in an area near the west end of the Chicago & North Western railroad bridge over the North Branch of the Chicago River. Branches of the West Side Intercepting Sewer encircle the downtown business district to convey sewage to our Stickney Water Reclamation Plant. The intercepting sewer begins at Fullerton Avenue and from the area shown in the photo flows south beneath Canal Street. The Chicago & North Western railroad bridge is still there but is locked in the upright position. From this point the tracks ran all the way east to Navy Pier but now no longer exists.
C&NW Historical Society posted
Can you guess the site of this photo without reading further? The clue is the counter weight of the bob tail trunion bridge seen at the upper left of the photo. It is an undated photo with no photographer attribution. Do the autos signify that the photo date is some time in the 1920s? If you guessed that the street is Orleans Street and that the bridge is the Kinzie Street railroad bridge in Chicago, you are correct! The view looks north toward the "tower" which controlled the many tracks which once served the Wells street depot once stood where the Merchandise Mart, far left of the photo, now stands. The white building behind the tower is the C&NW freight office. The photo is in the archives of the Chicago and North Western Historical Society. Should we post a trackage map of the area?
[Please access the "posted" link to see the comments for answers and corrections.]
C&NW Historical Society posted
Some people asked to see the track layout of the C&NW yard which once lay under the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Photos posted a couple of days ago show the upper left of the map. Note the "signal tower" in the upper left of the map. Photos of the tower were posted here recentil. This map is from the August 29, 1929 ENGINEERING NEWS RECORD (page 325), The article talks about the building of the Merchandise Mart on air rights over the C&NW yard.
Mark Llanuza posted
Its the year 2001 tower men Mike Kummer at the controls for the left bridge for Canal st the Chicago sun times bridge that went to Navy Pier.
Chicago & North Western Historical Society posted
This is Chicago probably about 1930s. We are looking across the Chicago River to the northwest. At the far left (looking west) is the east end of the C&NW lift bridge over the north branch of the Chicago River. That bridge carried the C&NW line to the Kinzie Street rail yard and eastward to Navy Pier. To the right is the northwest corner of the Orleans Street bridge. The empty lot is the site of the current Holiday Inn. at "Wolf Point."Chicago & North Western Historical Society The photo with no photographer data is held at the archives of the C&NW Historical Society.Patrick McNamara Please correct the caption. There was no "Kinzie Street" rail yard - there were Team Tracks on the West Side of the River that were called just that. The Kinzie Street Bridge carried the C&NW over the River to the Merchandise Mart LCL Depot and points East. Before that, of course, it was the bridge that carried ALL C&NW trains to the Wells Street Depot. This view of Wolf Point was taken in 1952 by Louis Zimmerman.
David Daruszka commented on a posting
This is actually the third bridge at that location and the tracks served the C&NW's Wells Street Station, It was replaced by the Merchandise Mart which initially served as a warehouse and freight transfer station. The first swing bridge.

David Daruszka commented on a posting
The second swing bridge.

David Daruszka commented on a posting
The Strauss trunion bascule bridge.

David Daruszka commented on a posting
 The design of the new bridge was unique in that it could be raised in an almost vertical position. This was necessitated by the narrow width of the channel to allow passage of river traffic through the full channel.
Jerry Jackson posted two photos from the location of this bridge with the comment:
I had a delivery to the Fashion Center on Kinzie and N.Orleans in Chicago. While waiting I shot this (Badly cropped) picture of a sand barge headed up the North Branch of the Chicago River. Btw, the sky is that color because of pollution, I also took this shot from the same spot, of the ex-CNW bridge that served the Sun-Times Bldg. I've heard that it's still in service, but rarely. The CNW page has many current pictures of this line if anyone wants to see more and learn about this spot. 1986 IIRC.
Doug Kaniuk info:

Fred Van Dorpe Jerry Jackson the bridge is closed once a year sometime in November for a mow rail truck to go across so it doesnt get abandoned by the FRA after being inactive for more than a year. I really want to see them close it and then reopen it for that procedure, but I dont have a way of finding out what day and time exactly they do it. 

Also, heres a good article about the Navy Pier line's history.

David Daruszka The bridge was designated a historic landmark in 2007.

The are quite a few more informative comments and photos.



A photo by Mark Llanuza from cnwvets (source: Richard Mead posting) assuming Canal Street Bridge was another name for this bridge:
Mike Kummer at the Canal St. Bridge Tower, 1995. Mike worked at the Clinton St. Tower and had to get over here whenever the bridge needed to be lowered.
Patrick McNamara commented on a posting
November 19, 2015 was the last time it was down - the navigation lights were all switched out (replaced) - Erin VandenBerg photo.
Jeff Kehoe posted
Here's a 'blast from the past' as MILW heads into Chicago's Union Station in April of 1967. Wonder who had the 'big idea' to paint that bottle of booze on the building in the background?---Geo. Strombeck photo
[I knew this was an early Strauss design. But I never noticed until I looked at this photo that it doesn't have the "teetor tower" at the top. Instead, the operational strut is at the top. I took another look at David Daruszka's diagram above and this design is quite different from Strauss' later designs.]

Jim Arvites posted
On this Day in History on January 23, 1970 the Milwaukee Road passenger train "Afternoon Hiawatha" made its final runs between Chicago and Minneapolis.
[I was trying to figure out why the bridge was only part way up. But after looking at the other photos already in these notes, I see this is as far as it goes up. That explains why Strauss later designed the "elephant ears" on the side that could go down below track level so that the span can go straight up.]

Barry Butler Photography posted
...and now for your self-gift! “Chicago, A City Above All”, my first book. I have another shipment of books arriving in two weeks. Order now and you’ll see it soon. All books are signed. If you love Chicago, I’m confident you’ll enjoy this book. Click here to order -

Forgotten Railways, Roads, and Places posted four photos with the comment: "Some pics of the out-of-service Chicago & Northwestern Railway Bridge over the Chicago River, and line leading up to it, last used in regular service in 2000. Owned by Union Pacific, it is lowered only once a year for an inspection."




Rex Fermier Where is this?
Forgotten Railways, Roads, and Places Clinton St just south of Fulton St
Dennis DeBruler Forgotten Railways, Roads, and Places It is just south of Kinzie Street by the river:!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4...
Dennis DeBruler This photo was taken from Canal Street:!3m6!1e1!3m4...
Marty Buehler commented on the above posting
Here is the bridge showing in an art print that was made for the anniversary of Gateway Transportation-a Chicago trucking firm no longer in business. My father in law drove, making local deliveries, for Gateway in the Chicago area.

Mike Breski posted
The Chicago & North Western switches newsprint cars in downtown Chicago in September 1981. John Bjorklund, collection of Center for Railroad Photography and Art
Philip Wizenick In the 1960’s and 70’s carloads of freight went to the Port of Chicago, and tank cars of chemicals to the Water Filtration Plant.
Andre Kristopans Looks like SW8 801. That was the assigned loco for a long time
Jim Mac Donald The night that train hit Wells St at the east end of The Merchandise Mart. I was working on the 19rh floor (NBC). We thought it was an earthquake. The engineer just kept “pouring the coal to it”. Train moved pretty slow.

Mike Breski posted again
[Back when it was down because it was being used.]

MWRD posted
Construction of the West Side Intercepting Sewer is seen in this photo from April 16, 1934, in an area near the west end of the Chicago & North Western Railroad Bridge over the North Branch of the Chicago River. Various branches of the West Side Intercepting Sewer encircled the downtown business district to convey sewage to what is now the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant. The intercepting sewer begins at Fullerton Avenue, and from the area shown in the photo, flows south under Canal Street. The Chicago & North Western Railroad Bridge is still there but is locked in the upright position. From this area the tracks ran all the way east to Navy Pier, but the tracks no longer exist.

Malcolm MacPherson posted four pictures.

Bjorklund caught a newsprint train going over the bridge in 1981 (click the second thumbprint below the picture). Since he also has a photo of the Tribune plant being serviced, we don't know if this newsprint is going to the Sun Times ore Tribune or both.

A Steven Kakoczki photo of a UP switcher pulling newsprint boxcars across the bridge.

At 2:31 in this video, this bridge appears in the left background.

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