Rockford Rail Bridge

Warren Deck Truss Bridge over Rock River
Rockford, Winnebago County, Illinois

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Rockford Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago & North Western Railway
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 768 Feet Total, 120 Foot Largest Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Warren Deck Truss
Substructure Type Stone Masonry
Date Built 1896
Traffic Count 2 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 92.51
C&NW Bridge Number 469
Significance Regional Significance
Documentation Date March 2015, June 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.

Located in downtown Rockford, this massive truss bridge crosses the Rock River south of Chestnut Street.
Originally built in 1853, the bridge first featured a wood arch. Reaction pads in the abutments can still be seen from this bridge. The bridge was rebuilt in 1869 with a wooden truss and likely rebuilt again before 1896.
In 1896, the wooden bridge was replaced with a massive steel bridge. This new bridge consisted of seven spans of 7-panel riveted Warren Deck Truss with alternating vertical members. This bridge is what still exists today, and it sits on stone masonry substructures.
The design is interesting for the time period, as it uses a more modern design typically seen on Ca. 1910 bridges. However, railroad documents confirm that this is the original 1896 span.
Presently, the bridge is still operated as a railroad. Below the dam downstream, another railroad bridge exists, and is now a trail. The area around this bridge has been redeveloped significantly. Both sides of the bridge are accessible as a park.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in good condition, with no serious deterioration noted.

Historic Photo
Historic photo of the bridge

The author has ranked the bridge as being regionally significant, due to the large scale truss design.
The photo above is an overview.

Rock River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Rockton Rail Bridge
Downstream Rockford Trail Bridge


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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