Sunday, July 9, 2017

1890,2022 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.

This photo was moved to "MacArthur Bridge at St. Louis, IL"

This photo was moved to "MacArthur Bridge at St. Louis, IL"

This photo was moved to "MacArthur Bridge at St. Louis, IL"

This photo was moved to "MacArthur Bridge at St. Louis, IL"

So, were they able to give away the spans? Walsh also used Mammoet to move spans for the replacement of the BNSF overpass across I-294.
Screenshot via Karsten Muenzer share  (public link)
A historic and exciting operation is underway in St. Louis as crews remove the first truss on the Merchants Bridge. In the coming days, the first newly constructed truss will be floated into position, raised and placed.
The project includes the removal and replacement of the bridge’s three trusses. The bridge dates back to 1890 and this project will forever change St. Louis' 131 year old skyline. The old truss weighs 1796t (1980 US tons) and the new truss weighs 4082t (4500 US tons).
Mammoet's technical solution entails two large gantry systems assembled over the Mississippi River. Congrats to The Walsh Group and the entire Mammoet project team for the implementation of this idea and successful execution thus far! Stay tuned for more on this exciting project.
To learn more about our civil related services, click the link:

David Gulden shared
Dennis DeBruler: Note the replacement truss at 0:16 in the video.

Mark Sparky Eddleman posted two photos with the comment: "Doing the demo on this railroad bridge in st louis. It's called the Merchant's bridge and it was erected in 1890. The reason I'm posting this is the steel. It amazes me that the steel was produced 130 years ago and for the most part its in great shape."


17 photos of raising the new span into position The comment indicates that a 10 day bridge outage is planned. I'm surprised. I had expected them to do each span during a weekend to minimize the length of an outage.

Allen Smith posted, cropped
Merchants Bridge main span replacement over the Mississippi River in St Louis, MO. The bridge is owned by Terminal Railroad of St Louis and carries freight for several Class I railroads. As you can see one span is replaced with two to go.
Charles Fannin: Heavier load rating.
Allen Smith: Charles Fannin heavier span too. New span is 8.8 million lbs vs 3.8 million for the old.
Joseph Randall: Charles Fannin Hasn't the bridge been restricted to only one train at a time for quite some time?
Allen Smith: Joseph Randall correct, the bridge was limited to one at a time. New bridge is designed for heavier loads, ballast deck and larger track centers.

Mar 4, 2022: removing he second span.
Screenshot @ 0:28
Removing the second truss at Merchants Bridge! Walsh Construction and Mammoet work to remove the 520-foot-long span of the historic rail bridge. This is the second of three spans that are being replaced over the Mississippi River in St. Louis. The first span was removed and replaced in September 2021. Terminal Railroad Association of St Louis Burns & McDonnell TranSystems
Video: Trey Cambern Photography

safe_image for Watch: Crews remove second span of Merchants Bridge
[It has the same video as above.]

Mammoet posted two photos with the comment:
Alongside Walsh Construction, Mammoet recently executed lifts for the historic Merchants Bridge rehabilitation project in St. Louis, Missouri. Originally built in 1889, the rail bridge crossing is the oldest rail structure spanning the Mississippi River. 
Mammoet's technical solution entails two large gantry systems assembled over the Mississippi River. Each new truss measured 158 meters (520 ft) in length and weighed 4,082 metric tons (9,000,000 lbs.) whereas each of the existing trusses only weighed 1,796 metric tons (3,959,502 lbs.) Each of the newly constructed trusses were floated by barge into position, raised and placed. 
Photo credit: Walsh Construction and Trey Cambern Photography


Allen Smith posted two photos with the comment: "Merchants Bridge truss span replacement, St Louis, MO over the Mississippi River. Last truss span almost completely bolted up. Two spans replaced so far. This span will  be floated in a few weeks. The breeze was perfect to fly the flag."
Dan Kleinhenz: Seeing the crew on top makes you appreciate the size of the steel beams and plates holding it together. If I recall the plates are 1” or 1 1/4” thick.


Photo courtesy of Walsh Construction and Trey Cambern Photography via TheFreightway via Facebook
For $24, on Aug 26, 2022, you can take a special 1.5 hour river cruise to see the last span replaced.
"This step marks one of the last significant milestones in the $222 million project to replace this vital rail artery across the Mississippi River, which is one of the nation’s primary east-west rail corridors serving one of the nation’s largest rail hubs. The Merchants Bridge is one of two freight rail bridges spanning the Mississippi River in the St. Louis area and this project will double the capacity on the bridge, enabling users to move their freight faster, more cost-effectively and more reliably."

0:54 video @ 0:05
Third Truss Removal
[This view allows a comparison between the old and new trusses.]

Aug 26, 2022: safe_imge for The Merchants Bridge is undergoing reconstruction
Screenshot @ 1:40 from a video in the above "undergoing reconstruction" article.

safe_image for Replacement of 132-year-old St. Louis rail bridge nears completion
[This must have been the installation of the first new span.]

Four photos provided by Mark Eddleman in an Aug 25, 2022, email with the comment: "Just got off work, 18hr day lowering the final section and working on the top of piers preparing to pour a pad for the new bearings to sit on. New span going up Friday. Weighs 9.2 million pounds. Rises at a rate of 20ft per hour."




stltoday, Hillary Levin, Post-Dispatch
The project cost $222m and three years. The new truss is ready on the east bank and the old truss sets on the west bank.
The old bridge could carry just one train with a speed limit of 5 mph. The new bridge can handle two trains with a speed limit of 20 mph.
"Terminal Railroad officials say freight delays costing an estimated $36 million a year would continue if the bridge work wasn’t carried out. And they say the deteriorating conditions on the span would have required it to be closed around 2025, spurring far greater losses for the freight industry." [So it was replaced with 3 years to spare.]
"90% of the project was financed by the sponsoring freight railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration kicked in $21.5 million. During the project, he said, the bridge continued in operation except for 30 days — 10 days for each truss replacement. A single track will be put back in service around Wednesday [Aug 31, 2022]...Previous parts of the project included seismic retrofitting of the bridge’s piers and rehabbing the Illinois approach. The Missouri approach was rebuilt in 2016. Meanwhile, plans are underway for an estimated $60 million renovation of the other freight bridge, the MacArthur, which opened in 1917 and connects to East St. Louis."

1:22 video @ 0:06
The third truss is installed at MerchantsBridge; marking the final major construction milestone for the historic rail crossing!

6 Flickr photos by Matthew Chapman of the lift of the third span

Redeker Rail Video posted four photos with the comment: "I received a call before dawn yesterday from a buddy that TRRA was having a grand opening ceremony for the Merchants Bridge Project & would be putting the 2 Terminal SD60I’s on Terminal Job T101 to pass by in the background of the Ceremony for their first trip over the completed bridge. He said Terminal wanted us to get some photos of the move & how far away was I as all of this was to occur around 9:30am. Luckily I was in Effingham, IL. Only 1.5 hours away. I made it over with plenty of time to spare & despite the westward move in the morning the shoots turned out pretty good. St.Louis, Missouri 9/15/2022"
Terry redeker shared




On the approaches, deck truss spans were replaced with deck girder spans, but I could not find a date.


  1. Sparky mark.eddlemanAugust 16, 2022 at 12:29 PM

    Hey Dennis. We are taking down the third span of the Merchant's bridge on the 25th and putting up the new span on the 27th. Shortly after that the bridge will be capable of running two trains at once for.the first time in many many years. I would be happy to forward you my collection of pics taken through out this whole renovatio. I worked doing the demo.and a deckha d during the process. My email is to.message me if u or info.

    1. I am interested. I sent an email so that you will get my email address.

  2. A correction is needed: the four photos posted under "Update: Flood of 2019" are actually of the MacArthur Bridge, not the Merchants Bridge. The MacArthur Bridge is also owned by the Terminal Railroad Association but is a couple of miles downstream of the Merchants. Now that the Merchants rebuild is complete, work is already started on upgrading of the MacArthur.

    1. Thanks! This is an example of why I allow comments even though I have to deal with a lot of spam. I have moved that information to my MacArthur notes:

  3. I watched the replacement of the last span on two days, August 26 and 27, 2022. Here are a few of the dozens of photos I took that day:

    1. Thanks. I added the link to my notes so that it is easier for readers to access those photos.