Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kinzie Street Bridge

As befits it's almost central location in the United States, Chicago was (and is) a rail hub. Most of the major American roads have facilities in the area, and the city itself is still laced with tracks and infrastructure. Other than the city's grand stations, probably the biggest landmarks are the bridges.

The first rail bridge at Kinzie Street in Chicago was built in 1852, allowing trains access to the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad's Wells Street station. A swing bridge replaced it a few years later, and this one opened in 1908. The G&CU became the Chicago and North Western, which closed the Wells Street station in 1911, and this bridge reverted to handling freight only. This line originally went all the way to Navy Pier, but latterly it handled shipments for the Chicago Sun-Times' printing facility, which moved in 2001. Since the Times was the last customer using the bridge, it was permanently raised.

The Kinzie bridge is a single leaf bascule bridge, and at the time of it's building was the longest and heaviest in the world. It was granted landmark status in 2007, and has remained as a monument to Chicago's railroading heritage. Amazingly (to me, at least) a lot of the infrastructure still exists. The tracks and signals are still there on the other side of the river, as does this signal  on the Sun-Times side. Presumably it could be made operative, despite the rust, graffiti, and broken windows in the control house.

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