Pearl Rail Bridge

Through Truss Lift Bridge over Illinois River
Pearl, Pike County, Illinois
To Rural Greene County, Illinois

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Pearl Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago & Alton Railroad
Contractor (1900 Approach Spans) American Bridge Company of New York
Contractor (1913 Approach Spans) Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company of Milwaukee
Currently Owned By Kansas City Southern Railway
Length 1,180 Feet Total, 425 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 30 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Warren Through Truss, Warren Pony Truss and Deck Girder
Substructure Type Concrete and Stone Masonry
Date Built 1900 and 1913, Lift Span Added 1978
Traffic Count 5 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
KCS Bridge Number 250.4
Significance Moderate 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.

This massive and somewhat confusing bridge crosses the Illinois River at Pearl, Illinois.
The original bridge at this location was built in 1885. It was partially rebuilt in 1900 with three 8-panel riveted Warren Pony trusses on the west end.
A further rebuild came in 1913-1914, when the rest of the bridge was replaced. Three more nearly identical pony trusses were added on the west end, the swing span was replaced, and an additional truss was replaced on the east end.
In 1978, the swing span was replaced by a vertical lift span to increase safety of river navigation. In addition, the easternmost pony truss and the east through truss span were replaced at this time.
Today, the main vertical lift span is a large riveted Warren Through Truss span with 12 panels.
The present approach spans are five 8-panel riveted Warren Pony Trusses, and a deck girder on either side of the lift span. The bridge rests on a combination of stone and concrete substructures.
One interesting fact to note is the old bridge here, built in 1885, had at least one span relocated and sold to an electric railroad. This span was relocated to Minnesota, and now serves as part of the Luce Line Trail.

Historic Photo
Historic photo of the bridge, prior to replacement of the through trusses and swing span in 1913. Library of Congress photo

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant due to the more modern build date, as well as the hard to access nature of the structure.
The photo above is looking east along the structure. The author hopes to get more photos of this bridge soon.

Illinois River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Valley City Rail Bridge
Downstream Confluence with Mississippi River


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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