1 vote

IC - Cairo Railroad Bridge


Book photo: Overview

This photo comes from George S. Morison's 1892 book, "The Cairo Bridge"

Photo archived by the Historic American Engineering Record

BH Photo #102082


Lost through and deck truss bridge over the Ohio River carrying the Illinois Central Railroad in Cairo
Cairo, Alexander County, Illinois, and Ballard County, Kentucky
Replaced by the current bridge, reusing many of the piers in the process
Built 1889 under engineer George S. Morison; replaced 1949-52
- Alfred Noble
- E.L. Corthell
- George S. Morison of New Bedford, Massachusetts
- Union Bridge Co. of Buffalo, New York & Athens, Pennsylvania
- Illinois Central Railroad (IC; ICG (1972-1988))
From Illinois to Kentucky:
One Pratt deck truss span, 106 ft.
Seventeen Pratt deck truss spans, each 150 ft.
Two pin-connected, 17-panel Whipple through truss spans, each 518.5 ft.
Seven Whipple through truss spans, each 400 ft.
Three Pratt deck truss spans, each 249 ft.
Twenty-one Pratt deck truss spans, each 150 ft.
One Pratt deck truss span, 106 ft.
Also had 9,901 ft of timber approach trestle.
Length of largest span: 518.5 ft.
Total length: 20,461.0 ft. (3.9 mi.)
Also called
The Grandest Bridge in the World
Approximate latitude, longitude
+37.02302, -89.17532   (decimal degrees)
37°01'23" N, 89°10'31" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/306493/4099639 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 15012 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • January 30, 2023: New photo from David Shedlock
  • January 11, 2023: New photo from Paul Plassman
  • August 30, 2022: New photo from Paul Plassman
  • August 3, 2022: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • December 17, 2021: New photo from Dave King
  • August 27, 2021: Updated by Paul Plassman: Added approach trestle info
  • December 7, 2019: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • January 8, 2019: New photo from Melissa Brand-Welch
  • November 22, 2018: New photos from Melissa Brand-Welch
  • February 5, 2018: New photo from Art Suckewer
  • June 25, 2017: Updated by John Marvig: Added category "railroad"
  • September 24, 2016: New photo from Dave King
  • February 21, 2014: New photo from Mark Frazier
  • March 13, 2006: Posted new photos

Related Bridges 


  • HAER IL-36 - Cairo Railroad Bridge
  • HAER NE-2 - (Behemoths: The Great River Bridges of George S. Morison)
  • Mark Frazier - mfrazier404 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Dave King - DKinghawkfan [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Art Suckewer - Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com
  • Melissa Brand-Welch - melissabrandwelch [at] msn [dot] com
  • Geoff Hubbs
  • Paul Plassman
  • David Shedlock


IC - Cairo Railroad Bridge
Posted August 27, 2021, by Paul Plassman


There was 9,901 feet of timber approach trestle in the original bridge according to this link https://web.archive.org/web/20120806180413/http://bridgestun... . Adding that to the 10,560-foot metal structure gives 20,461 feet. The reason it shows up as 10,560 feet in 1952 is because the timber approaches were filled in with dirt embankments in 1901, just twelve years after the bridge opened.

First Cairo Railroad Bridge
Posted January 15, 2019, by Ed Hollowell (erhollowell [at] aol [dot] com)

I have an article about this bridge from the July 1952 "Railroad" magazine. It says construction started in 1887, total length was 10,560 feet and the nine overhead trusses were replaced with six new trusses. Also three new piers were built on the Kentucky side of the bridge. The new spans were added in one day each so the bridge could be closed as little as possible. As the new trusses were finished they were raised to the pier height and the old truss was slid off while the new truss was moved into place.

The 1952 story has the bridge at 10,560 feet. I added up the trusses and came up with 10,496 feet. The Railroad story states that approaches were converted to embankments during the life of the first bridge and total length was reduced to 7865 feet. I am wondering where the entry distance of 20,461 feet came from as I suspect it is an error.

First Cairo Railroad Bridge
Posted January 8, 2019, by Daniel

That's a really strange looking truss. I see more tension members being used as braces above the crossmembers that're a little under halfway up, are those lateral or longitudinal?

First Cairo Railroad Bridge
Posted March 10, 2015, by Nathan Holth

HAER NE-2 Drawings Converted To PDF

Attachment #1 (application/pdf; 782,829 bytes)

First Cairo Railroad Bridge
Posted December 9, 2006, by Greg

This Bridge is huge