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Metropolis Bridge


Side view from west

Photo taken by James Baughn

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BH Photo #102389

Street Views 


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


Written by Geoff Hubbs from Wikipedia

Not long after completion in 1917, ownership of the bridge was passed on to the Paducah and Illinois Railroad, a newly formed railroad jointly owned by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway. In 1925, the Illinois Central Railroad purchased a 1/3 share of the Paducah and Illinois Railroad, and assumed operations and maintenance, as the bridge served as an important link in their newly completed Edgewood-Fulton Cutoff route.
As of 2013, the bridge is still owned by the Paducah and Illinois Railroad, with operations managed by the Canadian National Railway and bridge maintenance/inspection managed by BNSF Railway, where it continues to see heavy use.


Six-span through truss bridge over the Ohio River on the Canadian National Railway at Metropolis
Massac County, Illinois, and McCracken County, Kentucky
Open to railroad traffic
Built 1917 for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy RR by the American Bridge Co. under the direction of engineers C. H. Cartlidge and Ralph Modjeski
- American Bridge Co. of New York (Superstructure)
- Charles Hopkins Cartlidge of New York City, New York (Engineer for CB&Q RR)
- Ralph Modjeski of Bochnia, Poland (Consulting Engineer)
- Union Bridge & Construction Co. of Kansas City, Missouri (Substructure)
- BNSF Railway (BNSF)
- Canadian National Railway (CN)
- Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (CBQ)
- Illinois Central Railroad (IC; ICG (1972-1988))
- Paducah & Illinois Railroad (P&I)
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
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:
Inventory number
BH 15525 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • February 15, 2022: New photos from Bambi Sharkoman
  • February 17, 2020: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • September 2, 2018: New photos from Steve Conro
  • September 15, 2016: New Street View added by Dana and Kay Klein
  • September 15, 2016: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added category "Riveted"
  • September 15, 2016: New photo from Jack Schmidt
  • 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



Metropolis Bridge
Posted June 2, 2019, by JD (jdayrail [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Maintenance will take place this summer. Keep your distance unless you enjoy becoming acquainted with BNSF police. Itís a different world for trespassing railfans these days, as it should be. Too many crew members have had to deal with fatalities or close calls with trespassers, particularly on structures with limited means of egress or the emergency platforms. Regardless of how well you think you know railroads and operations, itís no place for you.

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.


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.