Sabula Rail Bridge

Through Truss Swing Bridge over Mississippi River
Savanna, Carroll County, Illinois
Sabula, Jackson County, Iowa

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Sabula Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad
Contractor American Bridge Company of New York
Currently Owned By Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad
Length 1,967 Feet Total, 365 Foot Swing Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 25 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Swing Span, Through Truss and Deck girder
Substructure Type Stone Masonry and Concrete
Date Built 1906; West Approach Rebuilt Ca. 1930
Traffic Count 6 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
MILW Bridge Number Z-496
Significance Regional Significance
Documentation Date April 2018
In 1861, the Northern Illinois Railroad began construction of a line that would run from Savanna, Illinois to Racine, Wisconsin, including a segment from Lannark to Kittredge, in Illinois.

In 1862, the line would be extended again to Savanna, on the Mississippi River.
The line would beconme part of the Western Union Railroad in 1865.

In 1875, the Chicago and Pacific Railroad would begin building west from Halsted Street in Chicago, and reach Byron, Illinois; seated on the Rock River.

By 1880, with the lines becoming heavily profitable the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway took over the lines, although allowing the railroads to operate as subsidiaries.

Also in 1880, the lines would be connected. A new piece of track connected Byron and Kittredge.
In addition, the railroad built a new bridge across the Mississippi River at Sabula, Iowa to connect to the empire in Iowa.

The railroads became fully owned by the Milwaukee Road in 1900, and double track work commenced from Chicago that year, and made it as far as Sabula by late 1905.
The railroad became known as the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific in 1913, as the pacific expansion began to near completion.

The line became one of the most important for the Milwaukee Road, connecting Chicago to Elgin, Byron and Savannah. In addition, the line connected to Council Bluffs in Iowa, making a regional connection.

While much of the line is still intact, a part from Goose Island to Halsted Avenue in Chicago was removed in the 1970s.
Also in Chicago, the line from Ashland Avenue (near the Kennedy Expressway) to a junction with the main line to Saint Paul near Monticello Avenue became a trail in 2015, after abandonedment years later.

The Milwaukee Road disolved in 1985, merging with Soo Line, and eventually Canadian Pacific Railroad.
Canadian Pacific in turn sold the line to I&M Rail Link in 1997, which became the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern in 2002, and Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railway later that year.

The DM&E was purchased by Canadian Pacific in late 2008. The line is known as the Chicago Subdivision, and sees a fair traffic base.

Located at the island town of Sabula, this massive through truss bridge utilizes a swing span to cross the Mississippi River.
The first bridge at this location was built in 1881, consisting of a swing span built by Edge Moor Bridge Works, a Pratt Through Truss and several Whipple Through Trusses built by Rust & Coolidge of Chicago.
By 1906, the old bridge was aging and an upgrade was required. As a result, American Bridge Company was contracted to build a new swing bridge, reusing some of the old piers.
The bridge contains the following spans (from west to east)

1-35' I-Beam
1-45', 1-55', 1-50' Deck Plate Girders
1-360' Through Truss pin connected swing span (Truss #1)
1-259' Pin Connected Parker Through Truss (Truss #2)
3-217', 1-215' Pin Connected Pratt Through Trusses (Trusses #3-#6)
Several assorted deck girders

Historic Photo
Historic photo of the bridge

While most of the bridge was built in 1906, it appears that the west approach was upgraded around 1930, when several other bridges along this line were reconstructed. It is unknown if the original 1906 approach was reused, or if new spans were installed. The bridge rests on concrete and stone substructures.
Today, the Swing Bridge here is a very notable feature of the island community of Sabula.

The author has ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the unique swing span design and large river crossing.
The photo above is looking from the Iowa side. The Illinois side is very hard, if not impossible, to access.

Mississippi River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Dubuque Rail Bridge
Downstream Clinton Rail Bridge

These Pictures Start at varying points in the Series, for the Pictures taken by others
Detail Photos


Source Type


Build Date Milwaukee Road Bridge Reports
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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