Rockford Rail Crossing

Helicoidal Stone Arch over Former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Spur
Rockford, Winnebago County, Illinois

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Name Rockford Rail Crossing
Built By Chicago & North Western Railway
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 15 Feet (As Designed), 22 Foot Arch Ring
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 20 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Helicoidal Skewed Stone Arch
Substructure Type Stone Masonry
Date Built Ca. 1896
Traffic Count 2 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 92.50
C&NW Bridge Number 468
Significance Moderate Significance
Documentation Date March 2015 and April 2019
In 1836, the Chicago and Galena Union Railway charted a line to connect the growing population hub of Chicago, to Galena; a small town directly across the state.

Because of the panic of 1837, funding rapidly dried up and the railroad was shelved. In 1838, a group of investors revised the idea. The railroad included Chicago mayor William Ogden.

While construction didn't start immediately, a charter was acquired in 1847. With investors skeptical, the line began heading west, without a secure funding.
In 1848, the line would be constructed as far out as Des Plaines, Illinois.
The line continued westward, and opened in Elgin by 1850.

The line continued west and opened to Huntley, Marengo and Belvidere in 1851. By 1852, the railroad reached Rockford, and in 1853; reached Freeport.

In Freeport, the railroad dead ended. The Illinois Central already built from Freeport to Galena the same time frame.

Between 1855 and 1857, the railroad double tracked between West Chicago and Chicago.

In 1864, the Chicago & North Western purchased the company. The line connected to several C&NW branch lines in the area, and continued to dead end at Freeport.

In 1972, the C&NW abandoned the line between Winnebago and Freeport, and the line from Winnebago to Rockford was abandoned in 1981.

The C&NW was purchased by Union Pacific Railroad in 1995. The line from Rockford to Chicago continues to operate as the Belvidere Subdivision.
Metra uses the line from Elgin to Chicago as the Union Pacific West Line; and Amtrak is expected to begin operations to Rockford in 2016.

This unique stone arch bridge sits at the east end of the Rockford Rail Bridge and is in great condition.
Originally constructed to cross a Chicago, Burlington & Quincy spur, the actual build date of the bridge is unknown.
Railroad documents give a estimated build date of 1896, which seems reasonable for the structure. The CB&Q built the mainline across the river near here in 1887. However, further research needs to be done. The bridge consists of a single helicoidal stone arch span, tied directly into the east abutment of the Rock River Bridge. It was constructed out of limestone.
Helicoidal arches are exceptionally rare for railroad use. These arches are known for the skewed spiral pattern, which is difficult to construct.
Fortunately, this arch remains in excellent condition, with very little defects. The area around it has since become a park.

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, due to the unique design. One other helicoidal arch is known in Illinois, located in Woodstock on a nearby line.
The photo above is an overview.


Source Type


Build Date Chicago & North Western Railway Historical Society Archives
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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