Nelson Rail Bridge

Quadrangular Through Truss Bridge over Rock River
Nelson, Lee County, Illinois

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Name Nelson Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago & North Western Railway
Contractor Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 730 Feet Total, 150 Foot Largest Span
Width 2 Tracks
Height Above Ground 20 Feet (Estimated)
Type Quadrangular Lattice Through Truss
Date Built 1898, Rebuilt 1926
Traffic Count 115 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 105.68
In 1855 the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad started a project to build from the Chicago Union Station to the mining town of Galena in far Northwest Illinois. This attempt was thwarted as the Illinois Central got to the town first.
The line was instead built to the Mississippi River at Fulton. The Mississippi River was a major barrier for any railroad at the time. Earlier that year the Rock Island Railroad had started the bridge across the Mississippi in Rock Island.
The railroad used a ferry for many years to cross the Mississippi River.
The line was built across the river in 1865 and completed into Clinton. The Iowa & Nebraska Railroad continued building west from Clinton in 1856 and it was completed to Omaha in 1867.

The line was instrumental in the connection to the west coast. It was part of the transcontinental railroad.

It eventually became a part of the Chicago & Northwestern System.
In 1884, the C&NW undertook a major project to double track the line. It was double tracked as far as Sterling in 1898, and Omaha by 1901.

The C&NW operated this as a mainline. The Geneva Subdivision, as it was known extended from Clinton, Iowa to Chicago.
In 1995, the Union Pacific purchased the C&NW. They continue to operate this line with a steady traffic base as their Geneva Subdivision.

This large bridge across the Rock River features five massive Quadrangular Through Truss Spans.

These spans sit on stone piers and substructures, and have been modified significantly.
The major modifications came in 1926 when they were strengthened with new chords and floor beams.

Recent modifications include the removal of the portal bracing, and installation of a large steel beam running across the structure, above it.
This allowed for a major clearance increase for tall trains.

Overall, the bridge is in good health, but is undoubtedly going to be facing replacement within the coming years as traffic on this line picks up.

The above view is looking from the west bank.

Rock River Railroad Bridges

Upstream Dixon Rail Bridge
Downstream Rock Falls Rail Bridge

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