Sunday, July 9, 2017

1890 TRRA Merchants Bridge over Mississippi at St. Louis

(Bridge Hunter, Historic BridgesJohn A Weeks III3D Satellite)
This bridge was designed by George Morison. Morison designed some of the first large-scale metal truss bridges in the country and many of the 19th century railroad bridges over the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers were associated with Morison. Many of his simple-span truss bridges are long spans even by today's standards, and some were record-breaking (or close to record-breaking) when first completed....The Merchants Bridge varies from his typical use of the Whipple truss, in favor of a Pennsylvania truss. [Historic Bridges]
John Weeks

The Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA) owns both railroad bridges across the Mississippi at St. Louis --- this one and the MacArthur Bridge. It is because of the monopoly prices that they used to charge to cross the river that the major east/west railroads interchange in Chicago or Kansas City. John Weeks indicated the prices were high enough that ferries ran on into the 1920s. Even today, CSX has quit using its L&N (Evansville) and B&O (Vincennes) routes to St. Louis. Only its Pennsy (Terre Haute) route is still used. I'm speculating that route survives to serve industries on the Illinois side of the river rather than to interchange traffic with BNSF and/or UP.

Even though it is double tracked, only one train at a time is allowed on it. Missouri wants to use $150m that is part of a $1billion fund application to replace this bridge. I think the CREATE projects to untangle the 75th Street area in Chicago [from 75thcip from CREATE] that needs $1 billion should have much higher priority than a $600m new right-of-way across Missouri. [StLtoday]

Merchants Bridge
Posted October 15, 2008, by Mark Dellbringge
The steel inside the bridge was modified a long time ago to accommodate taller freight. The approaches to the Merchants Bridge were rebuilt in 2005.

Merchants Bridge
Posted March 30, 2011, by Lyon Wonder (lyon_wonder [at] yahoo [dot] com)
Replace the Merchant's bridge with what? All the Mississippi river railroad bridges have been trusses. IIRC, the newest railroad crossing across the Mississippi river in the Midwest was the CB&Q/BN/BNSF bridge at Qunicy, IL, built in 1960.

Willam A. Shaffer added
Merchants Bridge
The Merchants Bridge spans the Mississippi River north of Downtown St. Louis, MO. (Photo by William A. Shaffer)
Historic Postcard from Bridge Hunter
Two of the three photos posted by David Hall concern the Merchants Bridge.

Dave Hall Posting
Dave Hall Posting
William A. Shaffer posted
All Red! Stop.
(Photo by William A. Shaffer)Trevor Young Looks very much like West Approach off the Merchants Bridge. I go right all the time to Luther.William A. Shaffer I believe you're correct!

William A. Shaffer posted
Merchants Bridge in the Fog - St. Louis, MO (2.23.19) 
(Photo by William A. Shaffer)

TRRA picks Walsh to rebuild Mississippi River rail bridge

"Built in 1889, the bridge is the oldest rail structure over the Mississippi River." The $172m project includes rebuilding the three main spans and its east approach. A comment points out that Eads Bridge is still used for light rail.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The oldest railroad bridge over the Mississippi River is going to be rebuilt, despite the loss of a federal grant that would have helped fund it.The Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis announced Tuesday that it's moving forward with a $172 million contract with Walsh Construction Co. to rebuild the Merchants Bridge, which opened in 1890.The bridge faced the potential of being shut down if not rebuilt in the near future. The project was put in doubt last month when the federal government denied a grant covering one-third of the costs. [Richard Mead posting]
Missouri is offering the three 518' spans for free!
Current Load Rating: May only be operated as single-track carrying railcars no heavier than 286,000 pounds.
[286k is the current standard. I don't understand why the following claims the bridge has a weight restriction. I couldn't find a speed limit for the bridge.]
The Merchants Bridge is a double-track railroad bridge that spans the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri and Venice, Illinois. The Bridge was originally constructed in 1890 and consists of three steel Pennsylvania through- truss spans of 518’ as designed by George S. Morison.  The Merchants Bridge rests on four river piers constructed of a timber cession set into bedrock and topped by granite and limestone.
Beginning in 1903 through 1977, maintenance activities included modifications to the stringers, strengthening of the main span diagonals and hangers, replacement of the approaches’ timber trestles with steel, new cover plates for the main span floor beams and the reboring/replacement of the six pins at the main span hangers. The overhead clearances were improved in 1986 by modifying the portals. Bottom flange angles were added to the floor beams in 1995 to increase capacity, main span hangers strengthened in 1996 and eye bar members heat shortened in 1998.  In 2006 the deck trusses were replaced and most recently the west approach was encased in 2017.
The Merchants Bridge is the 6th busiest freight rail Mississippi River crossing carrying 40 million gross tons (MGT) per year, and when combined with the MacArthur Bridge, also owned by the TRRA, comprises the busiest geographical crossing of the Mississippi River. The bridge is load- restricted due to the age and strength of the 1890-era truss structural steel. This weight restriction imposes significant costs on shippers and inefficiencies in freight transportation manifested in the form of additional cars, reduced freight line capacity, and increased equipment acquisitions. After 128 years of service, the Bridge is well past its expected operational lifespan. Engineers project that even with continuously rising maintenance expenditures, the Bridge can, at best, only be preserved at its current limited capacity for less than 10 years before it will have to be taken out of service. To avoid such fate, TRRA is replacing the structural steel to sustain the Merchants river crossing’s service to six Class I freight railroads, five short line carriers and Amtrak. Therefore, TRRA is advertising the three 518’ steel through-truss spans for removal and repurposing of these historic bridge components.
TranSystems is now accepting proposals for relocation and reuse of the three 518’ steel trusses until September 1, 2018. A proposal checklist is available upon request. Preservation covenants may accompany the bridge.

Update: Flood of 2019
Mark Arnold posted four photos with the comment: "The Merchants Memorial Mississippi Rail Bridge as seen from private passenger car, Hollywood Beach last Friday. The river is still above flood stage as you can see by the flood walls."
Dennis DeBruler Thanks for pointing out the water up against the flood wall. I would have missed the significance of that photo. I also assume that the trestle foundations are normally not in water.



Update: Flood of 2019
Note that crest was the second highest on record but the media continue to ignore the severity of flooding in the middle of the country.
Same page as above
Because the USACE took Lock #25 out-of-service March 8 for emergency repairs and because there then there was something wrong at the Louisiana Bridge, the Mississippi River has been closed to long-distance navigation for months. Then on May 1, Lock #24 and #25 closed due to high water. By May 8, all the locks and the St.Louis Harbor were closed. I wonder what mooring facilities exist for boats and barges to tie up to when the normal facilities are under water. I don't think towboats have anchors.

The 2019 flood is now (Apr 2021) showing up on Google Maps.
Street View, Jun 2019
Compare these images with the MoDOT photo above.
Street View, Jun 2019

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