Rating:
7 votes

Merchants Bridge

Photos 

Overview

Photo taken by Jack Schmidt

BH Photo #107261

Street View 

Facts 

Overview
Three-span through truss railroad bridge over the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Venice, Illinois on Terminal Railroad Assosiation
Location
St. Louis, Missouri, and Madison County, Illinois
Status
Open to two tracks of railroad traffic. Only one train is allowed to cross the bridge at a time, due to its age.
Future prospects
Truss replacement and pier rehabilitation, in progress currently.
History
Completed in May 1890; approaches rebuilt in 2005
Builders
- E.L. Corthell (Chief engineer)
- George S. Morison of New Bedford, Massachusetts (Consulting engineer)
- Henry Williams Parkhurst of Chicago, Illinois (Resident engineer)
- Union Bridge Co. of Buffalo, New York & Athens, Pennsylvania (Contractor)
Railroad
- Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA)
Design
Three 18 panel Pennsylvania through truss main spans.
Dimensions
Length of largest span: 517.5 ft.
Total length: 4,340.0 ft. (0.8 mi.)
Approximate latitude, longitude
+38.67482, -90.18642   (decimal degrees)
38°40'29" N, 90°11'11" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/744765/4284449 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Granite City
Inventory number
BH 22652 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • February 10, 2022: New photo from Bambi Sharkoman
  • December 4, 2021: Updated by Brad Smith: https://www.constructionequipmentguide.com/walsh-puts-merchants-bridge-back-on-track/54522
  • May 18, 2019: New photos from Joe Sonderman
  • June 28, 2016: New photos from John Marvig
  • June 22, 2016: Updated by John Marvig: Added information
  • October 6, 2014: Updated by Nathan Holth: Added span length and panels.
  • October 9, 2013: New Street View added by J.P.
  • May 11, 2012: Updated by Kim Harvey: this bridge is slated for replacement
  • October 8, 2011: New photos from Ben Tate
  • December 21, 2010: Updated by Mark Dellbringge: Modified status description
  • September 13, 2010: New photo from Eric Kinkhorst
  • March 10, 2006: Posted photo from Jack Schmidt

Sources 

Comments 

Merchants Bridge
Posted November 14, 2021, by Art S. (Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Tony,

The loads and traffic volume that bridge saw during WWII far exceeded anything needed today.

I'm curious if there is a genuine need that is outside the original spec. Besides double stacking (which I'm not certain is an issue) I haven't thought of any.

I suspect that replacement is simply expedient. If the railroad genuinely doesn't believe the bridge can brought back to original spec., I'm sure some here could clarify that ;^)

Regards,

Art S.

Merchants Bridge
Posted November 13, 2021, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Well said Art... I couldn't agree more!

Merchants Bridge
Posted November 13, 2021, by Art S. (Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

To Anonymous,

Simple: fix it.

It's not made of unobtanium and the reduced load rating isn't based on the design. The issue is deferred maintenance and possibly not being able to accommodate double stacks (if the latter is an issue, it can be addressed).

For perspective, the older Firth or Fourth Bridge https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=u... is in a harsher atmosphere and still functioning at its original spec.

This bridge can be brought back to original spec. and there are ways of doing so economically.

Sincerely,

Art S.

Merchants Bridge
Posted November 13, 2021, by Anonymous

So what are we supposed to do with an aging railroad bridge that has a need to carry both passenger and freight trains, has deteriorated to the point that only one train can cross at a time despite being double tracked, and is pretty darn close to a single point of failure in the regional railroad system? It's one of only two railroad bridges into St. Louis, the other being the also-aging-but-in-slightly-better-shape MacArthur Bridge. I know that the Lincoln Service uses this bridge to and from its terminal at the St. Louis Gateway Center (while I think the slightly heavier Texas Eagle uses MacArthur), and both bridges serve tons of freight trains as well. You can't built a one way couplet with railroad tracks, at least not easily. Something needs to be done so that this double track railroad can carry two trains simultaneously again.

Merchants Bridge
Posted November 9, 2021, by Sherman Cahal

Thankfully, we have engineers and inspectors who have been on-point with its condition and how it could be financed. Delaying its outright replacement with band-aids would only require it to be outright closed in 30 years.

A full report can be found at https://www.modot.org/sites/default/files/documents/TheMerch...

Merchants Bridge
Posted September 14, 2021, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

This is an atrocity. This is what happens when you have privately owned historic bridges and no laws to protect them. This bridge was designed by one of the most famous and important engineers in American history. And that means NOTHING. If it were located in the UK it would be Grade II* Listed (or better) and protected from demolition. Here in the USA its scrap metal. Nice.

Merchants Bridge
Posted September 14, 2021, by John Marvig

https://mobile.twitter.com/asraza/status/1437798327257550848...

At least one span has been switched out/is being switched out.

Merchants Bridge
Posted July 13, 2018, by George oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I agree with you 100% Nathan that private funds should be used instead of federal monies.The railroads built these bridges with their own money,not government money and should bear total financial cost for any rehabilitation or removal work.If anybody can prove me wrong on this,I welcome your arguments against what I posted.

Merchants Bridge
Posted July 12, 2018, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Correct, this is a demolition of a bridge built by one of the most important engineers in American history, and one of the longest simple-span bridges of the 19th Century. The loss of this bridge is an atrocity. I am just glad the federal funding got canceled. Public tax dollars should not be given to private big corporations, especially to demolish rare historic bridges. If they want to destroy priceless treasures they deserve to do it on their own dime.

Merchants Bridge
Posted July 12, 2018, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I believe this is a total replacement of the remaining historic portions of the structure. Darn shame.

Merchants Bridge rebuild
Posted July 12, 2018, by Shaun Speers (speersfms [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Excerpt of article from KMOV in St. Louis:

http://www.kmov.com/story/38613955/oldest-mississippi-river-...

The Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis announced Tuesday that it's moving forward with a $172 million contract with Walsh Construction Co. to rebuild the Merchants Bridge, which opened in 1890.

The bridge faced the potential of being shut down if not rebuilt in the near future. The project was put in doubt last month when the federal government denied a grant covering one-third of the costs. But further delays could have resulted in higher steel prices.

Merchants Bridge
Posted October 18, 2016, by Echo Anderson (Echo Anderson [at] Historic bridges [dot] org)

HeHeHeHeHe.

Merchants Bridge
Posted October 7, 2016, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Do it for Halloween and you might get away with it!

Merchants Bridge
Posted October 6, 2016, by Clark Vance (cvance [at] dogmail [dot] com)

Dress up as a train and see if you can make the signals change!

Merchants Bridge
Posted October 6, 2016, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Volunteers to test Clark's theory?

Merchants Bridge
Posted October 6, 2016, by Clark Vance (cvance [at] dogmail [dot] com)

Seeing two cameras pointing in the same directions makes me wonder if one or both are for computer image based traffic control rather than actually providing images for human viewing. You may have seen similar cameras at intersections providing images to software that decides when to change the lights.

http://rhythmtraffic.com/deploying-insync/components/#camera...

Merchants Bridge
Posted October 6, 2016, by John Marvig

Mark,

I did notice the cameras. A few minutes after I began walking back to my vehicle, some sort of security officer came driving down the path. I'm guessing they take security on this bridge very seriously.

Merchants Bridge
Posted October 6, 2016, by Mark Dellbringge

Thanks for the new pix of the Merchants Bridge. I note with interest the picture of the portal bracing on one span. Do you notice the security cameras (at least two) in that shot?

Merchants Bridge
Posted March 31, 2011, by Sharon Spear (sweetsexysharon [at] gmail [dot] com)

Federal money...contain themselves...in the same sentence? No, they can't contain themselves.

I wish the Bridgehunter community could get the federal bridge money that all the states receive. I'm sure there's a LOT of bridges we could save. And probably save money doing it too!

Wake up Sharon! You were dreaming....

Merchants Bridge
Posted March 30, 2011, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

They just can't contain themselves can they? Hey, here's another landmark nationally significant historic truss bridge we haven't blown up and sent to the scrapyard yet, lets waste a bunch of tax dollars to replace it with a cable-stayed bridge so all of America can look like Vancouver.

If they do attempt to replace this bridge I will ensure this bridge is found eligible for the National Register which will trigger Section 106.

Merchants Bridge
Posted March 30, 2011, by Lyon Wonder (lyon_wonder [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Replace the Merchant's bridge with what? All the Mississippi river railroad bridges have been trusses. IIRC, the newest railroad crossing across the Mississippi river in the midwest was the CB&Q/BN/BNSF bridge at Qunicy, IL, built in 1960.

Merchants Bridge
Posted March 30, 2011, by Sharon Spear (sweetsexysharon [at] gmail [dot] com)

Uh-Oh! Federal money involved! The second paragraph in this article:

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/article_d1379b81-84...

Merchants Bridge
Posted August 24, 2009, by Mark Dellbringge

I think the TRRA owns the Merchants Bridge, just as they do the MacArthur bridge downstream. However it is used by many of the local railroad companies (UP, NS and BNSF among others). Due to its age (built in 1890) only one train is allowed to cross the main span of the Merchants Bridge at a time, despite the approaches having been rebuilt.

Merchants Bridge
Posted April 14, 2009, by jack (jackkav [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

what rr is this on?

Merchants Bridge
Posted October 15, 2008, by Mark Dellbringge

The steel inside the bridge was modified a long time ago to accomodate taller freight. The approaches to the Merchants Bridge were rebuilt in 2005.

Merchants Bridge
Posted October 29, 2005, by KEN AVIS (d1avis [at] comcast [dot] net)

I LIVED IN A SMALL HOUSEBOAT WE CALLED "THE SHACK" WHICH WAS ON THE BANK OF THE RIVER NOT MORE THAN 100 YARDS SOUTH OF THIS BRIDGE ON THE ST. LOUIS SIDE FROM 1942 THROUGH 1947. MY BROTHERS AND I DELIGHTED IN CLIMBING INTO THE STRUCTURE OF THE BRIDGE TO FIND PIGEON NESTS.

MY SISTER USED TO MIMICK THE SOUND OF TRAIN ENGINES CROSSING THE BRIDGE AND THEREBY GAINED HER NICKNAME WHICH SHE IS STILL KNOWN BY TODAY WHICH SHORTENED IS "CHUKE".