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Canal Street railroad bridge facts for kids

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Canal Street railroad bridge
2014-05-25 7356x4904 chicago pennsylvania railroad bridge.jpg
Southbound Amtrak train crossing the South Branch Chicago River
Coordinates 41°51′20.3″N 87°38′13.2″W / 41.855639°N 87.637000°W / 41.855639; -87.637000
Crosses Chicago River
Locale Chicago
Official name Pennsylvania Railroad, Canal Street Railroad Bridge
Heritage status Chicago Landmark
Design vertical-lift bridge
Longest span 272.8 feet (83.1 m)
Designer Waddell & Harrington
Construction begin September 4, 1913
Construction end July 30, 1914

The Canal Street railroad bridge (or Pennsylvania Railroad bridge) is a vertical-lift bridge across the south branch of the Chicago River in Chicago, Illinois. It was designated a Chicago Landmark on December 12, 2007.


The present bridge was constructed for the Pennsylvania Railroad to replace a two-track swing bridge at the same location. The necessity to allow both continued use of the swing bridge and unimpeded river traffic during building work complicated construction of the bridge. The chosen solution was to construct the bridge in the raised position above the old bridge, then demolish the old bridge once construction was completed. The bridge was designed by Waddell & Harrington, and fabricated and erected by the Pennsylvania Steel Company.

Construction of the south tower began on September 4, 1913. When the two 185-foot (56 m) towers were completed, falsework for the main span was constructed in a fan shape that allowed the main span to be constructed in the raised position 130 feet (40 m) above the river. The bridge was built from steel and metal.


The bridge carries two railroad tracks across the Chicago River at an angle of about 40 degrees to the center line of the river. Upon completion, the main span could be raised 111 feet (34 m) in about 45 seconds. By 1916, each day the bridge was crossed by about 300 trains, and was raised for river traffic about 75 times.


When it was constructed in 1914, its 1500-ton main span was the heaviest of any vertical lift bridge in the United States. It is the only vertical-lift bridge across the Chicago River.

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