Rockford Trail Bridge

Pratt Through Truss Bridge over Rock River
Rockford, Winnebago County, Illinois

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Rockford Trail Bridge
Built By Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway
Contractor King Bridge Company of Cleveland
Currently Owned By City of Rockford
Length 915 Feet Total, 150 Foot Main Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 10 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Through Truss, Deck Girder and Concrete Beam
Date Built (Girders) 1896
Date Fabricated (Trusses) 1889 (West Four Trusses); 1899 (Eastern Truss)
Date Erected (Trusses) 1929
Original Location (Trusses) Illinois River Bridge; Beardwtown, Illinois
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is a Trail)
Current Status Rails to Trails
CB&Q Bridge Number 23.27
Significance High Significance
Documentation Date March 2015 and April 2019
In 1874, the Chicago, Rockford and Northern Railroad began construction from Flagg Center (near Rochelle) to Rockford, a distance of 24 miles.

The line granted the Chicago and Iowa Railroad access to Rockford, an important transportation hub in Northern Illinois.

The line crossed two other railroads outside of Rockford. The Chicago Great Western at Holcomb and Milwaukee Road at Davis Junction.
The line entered Rockford from the south, crossing the Kishwaukee River at New Milford. The line would cross the Illinois Central in Rockford, before crossing the Rock River.

In 1880, when the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad took over the line through Davis Junction, a war began between the two railroads. Eventually, it was decided that the Milwaukee Road would have trackage rights to Rockford, connecting to a line towards Beloit.

By 1892, the Chicago and Iowa Railroad officially acquired this railroad, and they were in turn acquired in 1899 by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.

The line became of moderate importance to the CB&Q, and the CB&Q merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1970, after a merge with Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railroads.
The BN became the BNSF Railway in 1996, after a merge with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe.
The Milwaukee Road fell in 1985, and their trackage rights died at that time.

This line would be spun off in 1997 to the Illinois Railway, who still operates it as the Rockford Branch, with nightly service.

The most iconic and visible railroad bridge in Rockford, this large truss bridge has a long history.
The original bridge at this location was built in 1882, and consisted of several covered wooden trusses. The first improvement to the bridge came in 1896, when the east end was rebuilt with two fishbelly deck girders, manufactured by the King Bridge Company. Further improvements came the following year, when a pair of 103-foot through truss spans were added to the west end by King Bridge Company.
In 1929, the wooden truss spans were replaced by five secondhand truss spans, originally built at the Illinois River Bridge at Beardstown, Illinois. These trusses featured two different designs, and were all reduced in size to meet the needs of this crossing.
The easternmost of these trusses is a 150-foot 7-panel, pin connected Pratt Through Truss, which was built in 1899 by the King Bridge Company, and shortened from the original 197-foot length. It was the first span south of the swing span at Beardstown.
The remaining four trusses were built in 1889 by King Bridge Company, and consist of 150-foot, 7-panel pin connected Pratt Through Trusses. These spans were shortened slightly from the original 155 foot length.
Further improvements would be made on the bridge in 1929, including concrete caps on the piers. Encasements of the bases of the piers occurred in 1944,and the two west spans were removed and filled in 1951. One of those spans would be scrapped, while one would be salvaged and reused elsewhere.

Historic Photo
Beardstown Bridge, Ca. 1907. Several spans that are now at this bridge can be seen in this photo.

The bridge was abandoned in 2010 during construction of a new road bridge downstream, and was purchased by the City of Rockford.
In 2016, the bridge opened to pedestrians as part of a redevelopment of the riverfront area.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in excellent condition. Preservation of this bridge is an accomplishment for the City of Rockford, and this bridge should be considered to be a special piece of Rockford history.

The author has ranked this bridge as being highly significant, due to the large scale design and use of relocated components.
The photo above is an overview 2015.

Rock River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Rockford Rail Bridge
Downstream CN Rock River Bridge


Source Type


Build Date CB&Q - Allen Moore collection - BRHS Archives
Contractor King Bridge Company plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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