Canal Street Lift Bridge

Vertical Lift Bridge over S. Branch Chicago River
Armour Square, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Canal Street Lift Bridge
Built By Pennsylvania Railroad
Contractor (Superstructure) Pennsylvania Steel Company of Steelton, Pennsylvania
Contractor (Substructure) Great Lakes Docks and Dredging Company of Chicago
Engineer Waddell & Harrington of Kansas City
Currently Owned By Norfolk Southern Railway
Length 387 Feet Total, 272 Foot Main Span
Width 2 Tracks
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Through Truss Vertical Lift
Substructure Type Concrete
Date Built Opened 1915
Traffic Count 100 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
PRR Bridge Number 458
Significance Regional Significance
Documentation Date July 2018
In 1856, the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad began an expansion of a mainline from Columbia City to Chicago.
A majority of the line opened in 1858, and officially opened to traffic by early 1859. The new mainline was the first to connect Pittsburgh to Chicago, both major Great Lakes Area cities.

The western portion of the mainline extended from Gary, Indiana to Chicago.

The Pennsylvania Railroad began leasing the PFtW&C in 1869, and fully incorperated it by 1918.

The line became a heavy mainline, forcing double track by 1906. Crossings of the Chicago and Calumet River also were rebuilt to heavier standards.

By 1968, the Pennsylvania Railroad merged with competitor New York Central to form the Penn Central Railroad.
However, the PFtW&C stayed separate from the Penn Central and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1973.

The railroad became part of Conrail in 1976, which downgraded much of the route to Pennsylvania. However, the section between Gary and Chicago retained some freight importance.
When Conrail was split between CSX Railroad and Norfolk Southern Railway in 1998, the NS acquired this line. It currently parallels another mainline, and both combined are known as the Chicago District.

View an article regarding the construction of this bridge.
View an article regarding the construction of this bridge.

This massive lift bridge is the only vertical lift bridge over the Chicago River, with each tower standing 195 feet above the river.
While the bridge was started in 1913, it would not be completed until 1915. This bridge replaced a swing bridge built in 1883, and consists of a 10-panel Pratt Through Truss with riveted connections and a skew of 47 degrees. The bridge rests on concrete substructures.
When first built, the bridge was considered to be the most massive lift bridge in existence. The bridge has seen little change since then, only losing the title of heaviest lift bridge.
The bridge was designed to be able to raise the grade 25 feet further up, as well as possibly be able to support an additional bridge.
In addition, the bridge was designated a City of Chicago Landmark in 2007. Overall, the bridge appears to be in good condition, with no significant deterioration noted.

Historic Photo
Photo of the current and previous bridge, from the Railway Age-Gazette; Volume 57

The author has ranked the bridge as being regionally significant, due to the large scale design.
The bridge can be viewed from Ping Tom Park, and above is an overview.

S. Branch Chicago River Railroad Bridges
Upstream St. Charles Air Line Bridge
Downstream Confluence with Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal


Source Type


Build Date Historic Article
Engineer Historic Article
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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