UP Sunfish Slough Bridge

Deck Girder Bridge over Sunfish Slough
East Clinton, Whiteside County, Illinois

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Name UP Sunfish Slough Bridge
Built By Chicago & North Western Railway
Contractor Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company of Milwaukee
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 550 Feet Total, 50 Foot Spans
Width 2 Tracks
Height Above Ground 10 Feet (Estimated)
Type Deck Plate Girder
Date Built 1909
Traffic Count 100 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use, Scheduled for Replacement
UP Bridge Number 136.26
Significance Local Significance
In 1856, the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska Railroad began construction on an 81 mile line connecting Clinton to Cedar Rapids. Prior to this, a bridge had been built across the Mississippi River and the line extended to Chicago.
By 1859, the railroad reached Cedar Rapids. This particular line spurred significant growth in the towns it connected.

In 1860, the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad was charted to continue construction west. Construction would start the next year.
By 1866, the route reached Boone and by 1867, it reached the Missouri River. This line became instrumental to the growth of Iowa, connecting more towns such as Marshalltown, Boone and Ames.

Both of these routes became a part of the Chicago & North Western Railway in 1884. The C&NW had already built an extensive network of lines throughout Wisconsin and Illinois, and this route provided a new mainline to the Missouri River.
Running across the geographical center of Iowa, the railroad would quickly see a need for upgrading. The first portions of double tracking came in the early 1890s, primary between Clinton and Cedar Rapids. The entire route between these two towns was double tracked by 1893.
A bypass of Cedar Rapids had been built between 1886 and 1887, and was known as the Linn County Railway. This single track cutoff would immediately become a part of the Chicago & North Western Railway.

As traffic continued to grow on the line west of Cedar Rapids, more double tracking projects occurred. Between 1898 and 1902, the entire route to Boone was double tracked, including both the mainline through Cedar Rapids and around Cedar Rapids.
Throughout the 20th century, traffic along the line continued to grow at a steady rate. The entire route, connecting Chicago to the Missouri River became one of the core main lines for the Chicago & North Western. In addition, the route connected to Omaha and the Union Pacific mainline to the Pacific.

By 1995, the Chicago & North Western was a railroad as strong as ever. As a result, it became noticed by other railroads. Despite several failed merger attempts in the 1970s, a Union Pacific purchase of the C&NW finally became reality in 1995.
Union Pacific sought the line to connect Chicago to the West Coast. Currently, Union Pacific operates this route and sends approximately 100 trains per day over it.
The route between Clinton and Boone is now known as the Boone Subdivision, and is one of the most important rail lines in the United States.

This structure is the easternmost crossing of the Mississippi River at Clinton.
Located entirely in Illinois, the bridge features 11 deck girder spans, resting on steel caissons and stone abutments.
Built in 1909, the bridge is in a deteriorated condition from how heavily used it is. As a result, it is scheduled for replacement. As of January 2018, the project is in early stages of construction, including surveying and soil tests.
The double track bridge currently carries approximately 100 trains a day. Since its original construction, it has been carrying this level of traffic nearly every day.
Overall, the bridge remains in a deteriorated condition. Preventative maintenance appears to have ceased due to the planned construction of the new crossing, which will be located nearby to the south.
Upon completion of the new bridge, the old bridges will be removed, ending their 110+ year history.

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, due to the large scale version of the deck girder design.
The photo above is an overview. It can be accessed from the island on the west end of the bridge.

Mississippi River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Sabula Rail Bridge
Middle Channel Willow Island Rail Bridge
Main Channel Clinton Rail Bridge
Downstream Government (Arsenal) Bridge

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