Louisiana Rail Bridge

Through Truss Swing Bridge over Mississippi River
East Louisiana, Pike County, Illinois
Louisiana, Pike County, Missouri

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Louisiana Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago & Alton Railroad
Contractor (1898 Spans) Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago
Currently Owned By Kansas City Southern Railroad
Length 2,054 Feet Total; 446 Foot Swing Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 20 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt, Parker, Polygonal Warren and Warren Through Trusses
Substructure Type Concrete and Stone Masonry
Date Built 1898, Rebuilt 1905 and 1945
Traffic Count 5 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
KCS Bridge Number 274.4
Significance High Significance
Documentation Date June 2016
In 1870, the St. Louis, Jacksonville and Chicago Railroad began construction on a line from Roodhouse, Illinois to Quincy Junction, on the East Bank of the Mississippi River.
At Roodhouse, it connected to another StLJ&C mainline.

Three years prior, the Louisiana and Missouri River Railroad constructed a line between Mexico, Missouri and the Mississippi River at Louisiana, Missouri.

The two railroads would finally connect in 1873, when a bridge would be constructed over the Mississippi River.

An additional 163 miles to Kansas City would be built westward from Mexico in 1878, finally seeing completion in 1879. This line was constructed by the Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago Railroad.
Both the railroads in Missouri would be under control of the Chicago & Alton Railroad from completion. In Illinois, the St. Louis, Jacksonville and Chicago Railroad would become fully absorbed by the Chicago & Alton in 1899.

The Chicago & Alton operated this route as a backbone type route, connecting Kansas City to the Mississippi River.

In 1931, the Chicago & Alton would be renamed the Alton Railroad, and be operated as a subsidiary of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This lasted until 1947, when it became part of the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad.
The GMO operated this line until 1972, when they merged with Illinois Central to form Illinois Central Gulf; who operated this line until 1987.

By 1987, the line had deteriorated significantly. The line was sold to the Chicago, Missouri and Western Railway. This railroad failed very quickly, and by 1990 the line was spun off to Gateway Western Railroad.

From 1990 to 1997, Gateway Western was an affiliate of Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. After ATSF merged to form BNSF, GWWR became a subsidiary of Kansas City Southern.

Kansas City Southern fully dissolved the GWWR in 2001, and continues to operate this line.

One of the most mismatched and impressive structures across the upper Mississippi River is the massive swing bridge at Louisiana.
The first bridge at this location was built in 1873 and featured a number of Whipple Through Trusses, along with the massive swing span.
Between 1890 and 1900, Chicago & Alton did a major overhaul of their Kansas City Line, including reconstructing this bridge completely.
The reconstruction began in 1897, and involved replacing all spans. However, two spans were built using four of the original 1873 spans, in a "twinned" configuration. These spans would later be replaced in 1945.
However, additional span replacements would be completed in 1905 and 1945.
More than likely, these spans were replaced due to some sort of incident (derailment, barge strike, etc).
As currently constructed, the bridge contains (from west to east):

6-Panel Pratt Through Truss (Built 1898)
17-Panel, 2 Span Cantilevered Through Truss Swing Span (Built 1898)
9-Panel Parker Pratt Through Truss (Built 1897)
8-Panel Parker Pratt Through Truss (Built 1897)
A Pair of 6-Panel Warren Through Trusses (Built 1945)
12-Panel Polygonal Warren Through Truss (Built 1945)
A Pair of 6-Panel Pratt Through Trusses (Built 1905)

All spans, except for the 1945 spans have pinned connections. The 1945 spans contain riveted connections. In addition, all substructures are constructed of stone, although many have been encased in concrete. These substructures date to 1873, when the previous bridge was built.
When constructed, the swing span was the largest in the world. However, it would be quickly succeeded by other structures along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
This bridge is a structure that is extremely impressive, and mismatched. It clearly has a unique history to the untrained eye.
The author has ranked this bridge as being highly significant, due to the age, back story and overall scale of the structure. This type of structure should be preserved for future generations to see.

The photo above is looking from MO-79 east towards the bridge.
Both historic photos in the above series of photos were posted to Bridgehunter and are in public domain.

Mississippi River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Hannibal Lift Bridge
Downstream Alton Swing Bridge


Source Type


Build Dated 1979 Illinois Central Gulf Track Profile
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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