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NS - Vermilion River Bridge


Looking southeast

Photo taken in July 2009


View this photo on Flickr

BH Photo #203996


History - Timeline 

Transcribed by Mike Roegner

A couple of notes on these articles:
The writer mentions the track being elevated. In the original plans the track was to be raised and an underpass was to be built on South street (then named Green street). Since there isn't an underpass there now and there never has been, the Wabash must have figured building the bridge was all they were going to do.
It is mentioned that the previous bridge had a gauntlet track arrangement. For those unfamiliar with track work, that is a design where there are two parallel tracks, but a rail of one track falls within the gauge line of the other track. It allows two tracks to cross the bridge, but since the tracks overlap each other only one train can be on the bridge at a time.

December 24, 1926
Danville Commercial News

Contemplated Structure Here Would Cost Somewhere Near Million.

Santa Claus through the medium of the Wabash railway, has shoved prospects a new railway bridge and approach, costing almost a million dollars, into the stockings of Danville as Christmas present.
The old steel and stone structure which has spanned the Big Vermilion river at the foot of Hazel street for more than 70 years is to be replaced with a double track structure on the same site and arranged so that no further changes or alterations will be necessary when the Wabash gets ready to elevate the tracks. This is the idea behind plans already drafted.
The estimated cost of the new improvement is $650,000, but it is expected that close to a million dollars will be spent before everything is completed.
It is expected to start the improvement next spring. This money has not yet been aside from the expense of plans and preliminary surveys.
Engines and trains are getting so much heavier that something had got to be done soon. The double track bridge has got to come, too, in a short time. The old bridge, which has a set of double tracks arranged in gauntlet fashion, must be replaced with a structure that will permit trains to pass. Now one or the other has to wait when they come to the bridge. Sometimes this means a delay of 10 to 15 minutes.
Big Engineering Job
The contemplated improvement is the outstanding feature of railroad projects here for 1927. If the appropriation is guaranteed, bids will be asked in February and the contract probably be let early in March. This would give the contractor a chance to get busy on the contract as soon as the cold weather is gone. The job probably would take more than a year.
C. S. Johnson, of St. Louis, prepared the plans for the new bridge. He is the bridge engineer for the entire Wabash system and is reported to have been at work on the plans for more that a year.
Because of the proposed construction of the new bridge on the site of the old one, widening the new structure for double tracks and preparing for a possible elevation of the tracks 20 feet or more at some future time - all of which must be accomplished while trains are using the old structure - a concrete pier and steel girder type of bridge was the only one that could be considered.
Once Held Record
The present bridge about 3 years ago underwent some alterations and strengthening in order to permit some of the larger engines of the period to he operated across the river, but since that time heavier and bigger engine have been received and are being used on the division between Decatur and Tilton. They are too heavy to risk on the structure and have been confined to the 71-mile stretch between the two terminals. When they were receive her they had to be brought to the middle division over another route.
The new bridge, with the tracks elevated, would make it the highest structure of its kind in the state. For many years it held the record with 105 feet, and then another bridge, erected by the Chicago & Northwestern railway near Galena took the record.


September 15, 1929

Some 117 feet Long, Weighing Almost Sixty Tons Will Be Used In Bridge
Giant steel girders, some of the 117 feet in length, more that 10 feet side and weighing approximately 60 tons, have been unloaded on the south bank of the Vermilion river, and workmen are already engaged in placing some of them in position on the Wabash Railway company's new half million dollar bridge.
All of the steel for the bridge, which will be one of the largest and finest structures of its kind in this section of the country, as well as one of the largest on the Wabash system, was ordered several months ago, but on account of lack of room was not shipped until it was needed. It was made by the American Bridge Company, the largest concern of its kind in the world.
The huge cranes used by the contracting firm, List & Weatherly, handle the great steel girders with apparent ease. They are placed alongside the track, several hundred yards from the bridge, and when needed are picked up by the crane and carried to the place where steelworkers are ready to put them in position.
One Tower Erected
Workmen were busy last week erecting one of the seven great steel towers which rest on the river piers, and on which the rails for the double track will be placed. Thousands of rivets, weighing many tons, will be used in fastening the many steel parts together.
The steel towers are 34 feet high and each weighs almost as much as the mammoth steel girders that will rest upon them. The shortest girders are 88 feet long. these will be used on the bank piers, while the larger ones will span the river between the river piers.
Forms for the big concrete retaining walls, which will be erected at each approach,, are now being built and placed in position. False work for the tracks to rest upon until the fills can be made has practically been completed.
Work on the bridge is now being rushed in an effort to complete the big structure by the first of the year. The entire summer season has been ideal for bridge building and if good weather continues the contractors expect to have the bridge ready for use in the time specified in the contract.
East Track First
The east track will be completed first, and when this side of the new bridge is ready for traffic the west side, or old trestle, will be torn down and that portion of the new structure completed.
Many concrete piles, several hundred of which were used in the foundation for the abutments and piers, will be used in strengthening the big fills on both sides of the river. These piles will prevent the retaining walls, and also the fill, from slipping.
E. E. Barber, resident engineer, and his assistant, Mr. Reeves, are greatly pleased with the progress made in the building of the bridge. There has been few accidents among the workers, and no fatalities.

January 19, 1930
High Water Of Last Week Also Interfered With Work On Wabash Span

Work on the Wabash Railway company's new half million dollar bridge over the Vermilion River has practically been at a stand still since Friday morning. Only a few men were on the job Saturday. They were the watchmen guarding the property and the firemen, who were kept busy in keeping the fires going under the boilers.

Operations on the big structure were crippled by Friday's big snowstorm and zero weather kept the men away Saturday. Even the office, for the first time since work was started on the bridge, was closed.

High water during the week also interfered with the efforts of the contractors to complete the bridge in the time specified in the contract. When the Vermilion river went out of its banks it assisted the men engaged in removing the debris of the old structure by washing it away, but it prevented them removing the concrete piers of the old trestle. Dynamite was used in tipping some of these old piers over.

The huge concrete retaining walls on both sides of the north approach to the new bridge are practically completed. Nearly all of the concrete has been poured and most of the lumber used in the forms has been removed.

Unless high water and extreme cold weather causes further interference, the bridge will be completed, it is believed by the engineers in charge of the work, within the next six weeks or two months.

January 5, 1930
Crews On The Job Day And Night To Make Up For Time Lost During Blizzard

In and effort to complete the Wabash Railway's half-million dollar bridge over the Vermilion river before the spring floods come, those in charge of the construction of the big span are taking advantage of every hour in which the weather will permit work on the structure.

By working a large force, part of the time both day and night, time lost from the blizzard which stopped construction for several days, is being rapidly overcome, and unless cold weather and storms again interfere the contractors expect to complete the bridge in the time specified, or some time in March,.

Practically all of the steel has been placed in position and workmen are now engaged in riveting the sections together. Painters have almost completed their work, and less that 150 feet of the huge concrete retaining wall in the east side of the north approach remains to be poured. The west retaining wall has been completed and the forms removed.

The new bridge will not be considered competed until all the debris has been removed, the concrete piers that supported the old trestle torn down and hauled away and the structure is approved by the chief engineer of the railway company.


February 23, 1930
Retaining Walls Remain to be Done

The Wabash Railway company's half million dollar bridge over the Vermilion River in this city, under construction since early last summer, is near completion. Every piece of steel has been placed in position and riveted, and every yard of concrete has been poured, but considerable work yet remains to be done before the big bridge can be officially turned over to the company by the construction company List & Weatherly

About sixty percent of the painting held up by bad weather is to be done, and the fills around the huge retaining walls are to be made. Two of the tree stone piers and both of the abutments which supported the old trestle which was in service nearly a half century, have been remove, and the work of removing the remaining pier is being pushed rapidly to completion as the fills cannot be made until all frost is out of the ground.

Trains are now passing over both tracks on the new bridge.

The contractors plan is have their equipment off the ground and the bridge ready to turn over to the company's engineers for the final inspection by the latter part of April

Every precaution to prevent accidents has been used by the men in charge of the construction work, and as a result there has not been a fatality. "Safety First" has been the slogan throughout the months the bridge has been under construction. Until a few years ago statistics on construction work of this kind showed that for every 100,000 pounds of steel laid a life was lost.

There will be no footbridge, or walk for pedestrians on the new bridge. Signs have been placed at either end warning pedestrians to stay off the structure. Several persons who disregarded these warning signs have narrowly escaped being struck by trains while crossing the bridge, as the space between the outside rails and the edge of the bridge is not wide enough for a safe clearance.


Deck plate girder bridge over Vermilion River on Norfolk Southern Railroad
Danville, Vermilion County, Illinois
Open to traffic
Built 1929-30
- American Bridge Co. of New York (Fabrication)
- C.S. Johnson of St. Louis, Missouri (Designer)
- List & Weatherly Construction Co. of Kansas City, Missouri (Contractor)
- Norfolk Southern Railway (NS)
- Wabash Railroad (WAB)
Deck plate girder
Approximate latitude, longitude
+40.11834, -87.62990   (decimal degrees)
40°07'06" N, 87°37'48" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/446324/4441082 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Danville SW
Inventory number
BH 49087 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • March 28, 2017: New photo from Mike Roegner
  • March 22, 2017: Updated by Luke: Refined builders
  • March 22, 2017: Essay added by Mike Roegner
  • November 10, 2014: Updated by James Holzmeier: Added link to John Barriger III photo
  • July 14, 2013: Updated by Luke Harden: Added categories "Norfolk Southern Railway", "Railroad"
  • July 12, 2011: Added by Jacob P. Bernard

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