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Thebes Bridge



Photo taken by James Baughn

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BH Photo #102122

Street View 


Cantilevered through truss railroad bridge over the Mississippi River at Thebes
Thebes, Alexander County, Illinois, and Scott County, Missouri
Open to railroad traffic on two tracks
Built 1905 by a consortium of five railroad companies (CEI, IC, MP, StLIM&S, SSW)
- Alfred Noble (Chief engineer)
- American Bridge Co. of New York (Superstructure)
- C. Macdonald & Co. (Substructure)
- J.S. Paterson Construction Co. (Concrete arch approaches)
- Kelly-Atkinson Construction Co. of Chicago, Illinois (Erection of superstructure)
- Ralph Modjeski of Bochnia, Poland (Chief engineer)
- Walter E. Angier (Resident engineer)
- Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad (CEI)
- Illinois Central Railroad (IC; ICG (1972-1988))
- Missouri Pacific Railroad (MP)
- Southern Pacific Railroad (SP)
- St. Louis Southwestern Railway (SSW)
- St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway (StLIM&S)
- Union Pacific Railroad (UP)
From west to east:
Six 65-ft closed-spandrel concrete arches
One 100-ft closed-spandrel concrete arches
Two 521-ft through truss spans
One 671-ft cantilevered through truss span
Two 521-ft through truss spans
Five 65-ft closed-spandrel concrete arches
Length of largest span: 671.0 ft.
Total length: 3,817.0 ft. (0.7 mi.)
Approximate latitude, longitude
+37.21649, -89.46682   (decimal degrees)
37°12'59" N, 89°28'01" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/281117/4121739 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory numbers
IL 002-9910 (Illinois bridge number)
BH 15016 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • January 1, 2023: New photo from Jeremy Ruble
  • September 5, 2021: New photos from Patrick Gurwell
  • May 10, 2021: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • May 2, 2015: Updated by Luke: Added categories "Railroad", "St. Louis Southwestern Railway", "Southern Pacific Railroad"
  • August 20, 2011: New photos from Ben Tate
  • May 23, 2011: New photos from James Baughn
  • May 12, 2010: New photos from Robert Stephenson
  • May 5, 2010: New photo from James Baughn
  • April 25, 2010: New Street View added by Craig Philpott
  • June 4, 2008: New photos from David B. Haun
  • July 13, 2005: Posted photo from Brian Frierdich showing the east portal


  • Brian Frierdich - railtrekker [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • David B. Haun
  • Popular Mechanics, July 1905
  • Wikipedia
  • Craig Philpott - craigphilpott63 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • James Baughn - webmaster [at] bridgehunter [dot] com
  • Robert Stephenson - seinfeld99 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Ben Tate - benji5221 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Geoff Hubbs
  • Patrick Gurwell - pgurwell [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Jeremy Ruble - jaruble1982 [at] gmail [dot] com


Thebes Bridge
Posted July 7, 2015, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)
Thebes Bridge
Posted March 27, 2013, by Steve Tellers (s [dot] tellers [at] mchsi [dot] com)

I want to see this giant someday, along with the Cairo bridges and the Caruthersville Bridge. I will also see the merging of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and there is a old bridge at Metroplis, IL that sounds very interesting. I will also go to Lamberts Restaurant at Sikeston and eat like a pig there!!!!!!!I would guess it would take a earthquake of 9 or more on the Richter scale to knock the Thebes bridge down.

Thebes Bridge
Posted April 18, 2012, by Robert Keesee (perkins [dot] springs [at] gmail [dot] com)

This youtube clip shows a little of the Thebes RR bridge.


Thebes Bridge
Posted April 18, 2012, by Robert Keesee (perkins [dot] springs [at] gmail [dot] com)

I can photograph any part of this bridge, as I live very near it. Just drop me an email with your request.

Thebes Bridge
Posted April 18, 2012, by Robert Keesee (perkins [dot] springs [at] gmail [dot] com)

Some photo's of the Thebes R.R. bridge.

Thebes Bridge
Posted May 23, 2011, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

It will take a lot more than a 100 year flood to take out one of America's most significant early large-scale cantilever truss bridges.

Thebes Bridge
Posted June 28, 2010, by D. W. Adams (weetbixmarmite [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Very interesting bridge, indeed! I got to visit it back in December on my way home from Cape Girardeau. I hadn't been in Cape since the new bridge was built, and I was really hungry for Culver's and we don't have those here (but that's a different story), so I took off there one morning after work.

I didn't notice it at the time, but this bridge does have a rather unique arrangement of spans. Much like the main span of the Milton-Madison Bridge, the two large spans on either side of the middle span serve as double anchors, anchoring the fully-suspended span in the middle as well as a half-suspended span toward each end.

Thebes is a very geographically curious town. The former county seat of Alexander County, the old courthouse stands high above the old downtown on a bluff. The old downtown appears to have been destroyed at least twice since it was first laid out and currently consists of a mostly vacant grid of streets with a few houses, park land, and a municipal building. The long, straight, steep two-lane concrete highway that leads down to it is itself worth a few photographs. It's a true test of someone's vehicle, going either way.

Thebes Bridge
Posted June 12, 2010, by Guest (2256bys [at] gmail [dot] com)

I live just upstream of this brige, at Grays Point Missouri. Union Pacific uses the bridge presently. The bridge has been neglected over the last couple of decades with no new paint. It's rusty pretty much everywhere on the super structure.

Thebes Bridge
Posted April 25, 2010, by Martha Kelley Vines (vinesm [at] comast [dot] net)

I was in Thebes in March to visit family graves (Douglas, Lesar, Kelley, Rinehart), and I felt as if I had stepped back in time...except the beautiful Bridge and the Courthouse are the only remaining features of my grandparents' lives of so long ago. I have an OLD photo of Thebes before the Bridge was built...wow. I can understand how Thebes came to be defined by that Bridge and the RR. A haunting sight...

Thebes Bridge
Posted February 24, 2010, by madison

This bridge was actually seriously considered to host vehicular traffic as well as railroad traffic, instead of building the old Cape Girardeau bridge. But, it didn't go through and they ended up building an entirely seperate bridge.

Thebes Bridge
Posted January 16, 2010, by Calvin Sneed (us43137415 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

This is absolutely my favorite bridge in the entire United States.

It seems to incorporate every kind of truss imaginable. I appreciate the pictures on it. Would love some closeups.

Someday, I hope to see it in person.

Thebes Bridge
Posted December 21, 2008, by Ken Steinhoff (ken [at] pbbt [dot] org)

As the cub reporter fresh out of high school, I ended up writing an awful lot of obits for The Southeast Missourian.

One, in particular, stuck out in my mind. The singular most exciting thing in this woman's life was that she was on the first train to cross the Thebes RR bridge. I thought it was sad that that was the high point of her life.

What does it say about the arc of my life and career that I would remember that woman four decades later?

Thebes Bridge
Posted September 1, 2008, by Anonymous

One night about nine years ago a friend and I had walked out on this bridge and were greeted by the Thebes cop when we walked back to my car. He threatend to arrest us but only gave us a ticket to appear in Alexander County court later that month. Anyway, we got out of going to court and I never tresspassed onto railroad property again. The Thebes bridge is massive and will last another 100 years!

Thebes Bridge
Posted May 24, 2006, by Matthew Jones (drivalowrida [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I remember my family partying on a sandbar near this bridge quite a few years ago. My father and I walked by the river, underneath the bridge, and found a hammer which must have been lost during construction. I drove to Thebes today to visit my grandfather's grave, and went by the bridge. There wasn't a chance of me driving past the Union Pacific "no trespassing" signs, but that was close enough, anyway. Thank you for the pics!

Thebes Bridge
Posted February 21, 2006, by Jamie Prater (jdprater1s [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Hello, I am a 29 year old female that was born and raised in Thebes IL. As a child , I loved to watch the trains pass by and I wondered where they were headed. I am surprised to see that the old bride is still standing. It looks really unsafe, and I was warned to never get too close when I was still living there. The photos brought back many memories of walking underneath the bridge toward Rock Springs. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!!!