Some additional information about the Rock Island Bridge:
The bridge did indeed have a lift span installed in 1970, (not 1972), but it had nothing to do with any complaints from the City of Little Rock. The bridge, as built, had a swing span with a center pier located at the midway point of the present lift span. As part of the Arkansas River navigation project, all bridges were modified to give a wider opening between piers, ironically so that barges on this government subsidized waterway could better compete with railroads. The swing spans on all three railroad bridges in Little Rock were thus replaced with lift spans at about the same time.
Until the Rock Island's shutdown in March 1980, the lift span of this bridge was controlled remotely from an office in the Biddle yards in south Little Rock, with both TV cameras and radio communication used to coordinate barge and railroad traffic.
Passenger train service continued on this bridge from the time it opened in 1899 until Rock Island passenger service ended in November 1967. Rock Island freight trains continued to use the bridge until Rock Island's shutdown ended service on the Memphis-Little Rock trackage. Cotton Belt operated parts of the Rock Island, including this bridge, for 60 days, and then the Little Rock & Western (a shortline railroad which purchased part of the Rock Island) operated over this bridge daily until approximately November 1984.
During Little Rock & Western's use, there was no remote control function, and the bridge was left open for barge traffic except when a LRWN train was approaching. A railroad employee would climb the ladder into the control house, lower the bridge for the train, and then raise it again, each time the bridge was used.
Details of the attached photos:
12-1969 - view of the original bridge, as construction crews begin the work of changing out the swing span
9-1970 - swing span shifted out (up river) but not yet dismantled, and lift span in place
1-1973 - Rock Island eastbound local (using a leased Rio Grande locomotive) coming off the North Little Rock end of the bridge. There was an elaborate trestle and several bridges carrying the elevated trackage over Washington and Broadway streets in North Little Rock as the track curved eastward and past the now restored Argenta station.
8-1973 - Rock Island eastbound freight train on bridge. The track running left to right under the caboose is the Missouri Pacific's Little Rock-Pine Bluff line, now also relocated. The photo was taken from the historic east Second Street bridge, now also gone.
View this photo on Flickr of pedestrians on the bridge.
Does anyone know how long the lift span is? Thanks in advance!
This bridge did not have the lift span when it was built.
As I read on another site, the lift span was added in 1972.
The way I read it, the City of Little Rock was sending in letters, telling that river traffic could not go under the bridge, so after 2 or 3 years of complaints, Rock Island closed the bridge in 1971, and mid 1972 reopened with a new lift span.
Sadly, Rock Island only got to use the new lift span for 8 years, until they went bankrupt in 1980.
Earth Day festivities were being held on the Clinton Library grounds when I was visiting this bridge on 21 April '07. Attached are two views that will compliment the nice array of photos already posted for this bridge.
Webmaster's note: The photos that were here have been incorporated into the main site.