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Metropolis Bridge

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Photos 

Side view from west

Photo taken by James Baughn

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Description 

At time of construction, the main span over the river channel of 720 feet was the longest simple truss span in the world. More on this bridge in April 2000 Trains Magazine article by William Middleton

Facts 

Overview
Six-span through truss bridge over the Ohio River on the Canadian National Railway at Metropolis
Location
Massac County, Illinois, and McCracken County, Kentucky
Status
Open to railroad traffic
History
Built 1917 by the American Bridge Co. under the direction of engineers C. H. Cartlidge and Ralph Modjeski
Builders
- American Bridge Co. of New York (Superstructure)
- Charles Hopkins Cartlidge (Engineer for CB&Q RR)
- Ralph Modjeski of Bochnia, Poland (Consulting Engineer)
- Union Bridge & Construction Co. (Substructure)
Design
From north to south:
Series of deck plate girder approach spans, total trestle length 1593 feet
One riveted, 9-panel Parker through truss, 300 feet
Four pin-connected, Pennsylvania through trusses, 551 feet each
One main pin-connected Pennsylvania through truss, 720 feet
One pin-connected, 8-panel Pratt deck truss, 246 feet
Trestle deck plate girder approach, 600 feet
Total length 5663 feet
Main span offers 53 feet of river clearance at high water
Dimensions
Length of largest span: 720.0 ft.
Total length: 5,663.0 ft. (1.1 mi.)
Deck width: 37.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+37.14461, -88.74204   (decimal degrees)
37°08'41" N, 88°44'31" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/345288/4112335 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Metropolis
Inventory number
BH 15525 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • March 13, 2014: Updated by Matt Lohry: Corrected main span type--the main span is a Pennsylvania truss, not a Pratt.
  • August 17, 2013: New photos from Ben Tate
  • June 26, 2012: Updated by Nathan Holth: Fixed builder syntax.
  • November 29, 2011: Updated by Alexander D. Mitchell IV: Updated details
  • October 2, 2006: Posted additional photos from the river

Sources 

Comments 

Metropolis Bridge
Posted June 20, 2011, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

To address the comment about the silver Parker truss span, no, it was never a deck truss span. While it is possible the span seen today is not original, the original span there was a Parker truss. This bridge's construction is extremely well documented in period engineering periodicals. The 720 foot span of this bridge was the longest simple span truss ever built when completed. There were several reasons why a simple span was selected instead of a cantilever, one of them being the sand in the area as opposed to rock, which may explain why the equally unusual and large simple span Brookport Bridge nearby is also not a cantilever.

Metropolis Bridge
Posted February 20, 2010, by Madison

Today I recently visited this bridge. You look at these things online and you really don't get a sense of how massive and amazing the engineering was on these bridges, especially for this being 93 years old!

When we approached the bridge, all of it was completely rust. We were on the Illinois side, and we decided to jump on the supports underneath, ignoring the "no trespassing sign". It was pretty awesome.

When we got out of the car I was marveled. To imagine that back in 1917 they were able to build this just astounds me. We were underneath the Illinois side supports and I got freaked out just climbing those 15 foot members.

To imagine that people had to walk across the spans at the top with welding equipment just floors me. For 1917, this is amazing. I want to be a structural engineer when I grow up, and Ralph Modjeski is one of my inspirations.

Oh yeah, by the way, back in the 1960's both of my uncles (when they were preteens, of course) walked across this. I got freaked out 15 feet above the ground. To imagine they walked across a railroad bridge with no guard rails across the approaches, (not sure if they're any across the spans) is crazy! I would never have the guts to do that. Although, I did recall that there were decks and ladders across the spans for emergencies.

But this bridge truly is amazing. The engineering and architecture is astounding. I salute the brave men who built this huge thing.

Because they're a lot braver than me.

Madison.

Metropolis Bridge
Posted October 13, 2009, by Todd aka "bridgebuilder" (mrwalk08 [at] aol [dot] com)

Don't quote me, but I believe the "white" camelback truss probably was a sister pratt deck truss like the one on the other side of the "black" river trusses. Looks like a later modification to me. On walking over railroad bridges for pics: It may be rewarding, but foolhardy. It is very risky, and all about judgement and timing.

Metropolis Bridge
Posted May 17, 2007, by Randy Brush

I see five black camelback bridge and one new white camelback bridge (1950). what happen one camelback bridge was lost. Thank you.

Metropolis Bridge
Posted October 8, 2006, by Joe

I once walked across this entire bridge and took some great photographs, I got lucky because the train came after I walked back but there was some ladders off the side to get on in case of emergency, that and I had to look out for the cops. I do not recommend doing what I did.