Polly "L" Bridge

Parker Through Truss Bridge over Union Pacific Railroad
Near West Side, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Polly "L" Bridge
Built By Metropolitan West Side Elevated
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 250 Feet Total
Width 2 Tracks
Height Above Street Level 30 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Parker Through Truss
Substructure Type Stone Masonry
Date Built 1895, Raised 1905
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge Is Abandoned)
Current Status In Use As a Signal Bridge
Significance Regional Significance
Documentation Date June 2015
In 1895, the Metroplitain West Side Elevated Railroad began construction of a series of elevated lines through Chicago.

As with the other three elevated railroad companies in Chicago, the goal was to create a strong transportation system which connected the outlying neighborhoods together, reducing the need for horse drawn wagons (and later automobiles).

The first mainline extended from downtown Chicago, at the "Union Loop" out to 48th Street (present day Oak Park Avenue); along Congress Parkway.

In addition, a branch line extended north along present day Paulina Street, eventually following Milwaukee Avenue to Logan Square. This was known as the Logan Squrare Branch.
This branch would eventually become a mainline for the railroad, serving a high population density of Near West Side.

In 1913, the other three companies (The South Side "L", The Lake Street "L" and The Northwestern "L") came together to form the Chicago Elevated Railways Collateral Trust, forming complete crosstown service of Chicago for the first time.

By 1924, all companies completely merged to form the Chicago Rapid Transit Company (CRA).
Following WWII, the City of Chicago and Illinois Government favored consolidating the bus, streetcar and elevated/subway operators into one company. The Chicago Transit Authority was born in 1947.

The system continued to expand through the 1950s and 1960s, with construction taking place primarily along new Interstate Highways, including The Eisenhower (I-290) and the Dan Ryan (I-90/I-94)
Unfortunately for the original mainline, it would be replaced by a trench along I-290 (Eisenhower Expressway).

In 1951, the line between Milwaukee Avenue and Lake Street would be abandoned. By 1954, the Lake Street to Congress Parkway section would be abandoned.
At the same time, a new subway connecting the Milwaukee Avenue segment to the Loop opened, reducing the need for the Paulina Street line.

Today, one part has been rebuilt. In 2003, the line was rebuilt between Congress Parkway and Lake Street.

Like the many similar spans that were built during the 1890s, this one crossed a railroad main line for an electric elevated railroad that would eventually form the CTA.
This 10 panel, pin connected Parker Through Truss is a beautiful example of a truss, preserved as a signal bridge for the railroad below.
The bridge rests on stone piers, which were clearly built up at two different times. The lower portion was built in 1895 for this bridge, and the upper portion was built in 1905 when the railroad below was raised.
In addition, the bridge is an extremely light example of a railroad truss, almost more reminiscent of a highway bridge. Fortunately, it has been somewhat kept in place.
The railroad used it every day until 1951, when it was downgraded. It was used sparingly into the 1960s, when it was abandoned and sold to the Chicago & North Western Railway.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in good condition. It is unknown how long the bridge will continued to be used as a signal.

The author has ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the rare design.
The photo above is an overview on a less than favorable weather day. The bridge is located between N. Paulina and N. Wood Streets.


Source Type


Build Date Construction of railroad
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

Widget is loading comments...

© Copyright 2010- John Marvig and Contributors. All Rights Reserved