Clinton's New Rail Bridge 1909

From: The Clinton Herald, February 23, 1909
Transcribed by a Clinton County IaGenWeb volunteer.

First Photograph Taken of The Northwestern’s Huge Electrical Draw.

The Herald today presents the first picture of the great electrically driven draw of the Chicago & Northwestern, taken since the new bridge was opened for traffic. The picture is taken from the Iowa shore, south of the new bridge.

The draw is supported by what is called the “central octagonal” caisson pier, the largest in the entire sub-structure of the bridge. The draw span was erected by means of a “three bent” double rail traveler.

The draw will be moved by two 45 horse power electric motors operating the turning mechanism and two twenty horse power motors one at each end of the draw operating the end lifts. Power will be furnished from a power house located on the west bank. The prime movers will be two fifty horse power two-cylinder vertical Otto gasoline engines working either directly through electric generators or through the latter and a Westinghouse storage battery.

The work of removing the channel spans of the old bridge is proceeding briskly this week, and the middle of March will mark its disappearance far below the water line.
In the meantime the new bridge will be completed.

The Clinton Daily Herald, Monday Evening, August 3, 1908

Northwestern and Burlington Officials See “Q” Passenger Steam Over Steel Bridge Across River.

That portion of the new railroad bridge of the Chicago & Northwestern railway company across the Mississippi river, extending from the Illinois shore and Little Rock Island, was officially opened this morning, when the first train crossed the bridge from the island to the Illinois shore. The first train to pass over the bridge was a Burlington passenger. Several officials of the northwestern and Burlington roads were at the bridge this morning when the train crossed the river.

Commencing today, Burlington trains are using the south track of the new bridge between east Clinton and the island, being switched onto the old bridge at that point. At present the Northwestern trains will be operated over the old bridge. After 2 o’clock next Wednesday afternoon the Burlington trains, both west and east bound, and west bound Northwestern trains will use the south track of the new bridge.

Superintendent W. D. Beck of the Galena division of the Northwestern has issued the following bulletin relative to opening of the new bridge.

Trains of both roads will be governed eastbound by semaphore indications at West Clinton and Little Rock Island and by hand signals at east Clinton.

Trains of both roads westbound will be governed by hand signals at East Clinton and by Samphore signals at Little Rock Island and West Clinton.

Signalmen at East Clinton, Little Rock Island and West Clinton will handle the switches at their respective offices, and all trains must approach these points under absolute control and not proceed until assured that the track is clear for them and proper signals are received.

Final change establishes a railway grade crossing about two hundred feet east of the east bank of the Mississippi river between the C. B. & W. railway eastbound and the main track of the C. & N. W. railway westbound. Regulation stop boards will be erected four hundred feet from said crossing and thereafter C. B. & Q. trains eastbound and C. & N. W. westbound will make regulation crossing stop as per current rules and state law, not proceeding until the way is known to be clear.

There will be no charge in present method of operation between Little Rock Island and West Clinton other than as indicated above.

The speed of all trains passing over any portion of the old bridge at either the east channel or draw span must not exceed five miles per hour.

The Clinton Daily Herald, Monday Evening, August 14, 1908

Foundation Company Working on Last of the Caissons, Abutment and Stone Pier on Iowa Side of the River.


Pressure Men Will Be Transferred to Last Caisson in a Few Days – Strange Find of Crews Far Below Surface of the Mississippi.

The Foundation company is working on the central caisson, the pier at this shore, and the abutment on this bank of the river; while it has gotten the last caisson in place ready to sink. The pier, No. 29, is practically completed, and much of the work on the abutment has been completed. The big caisson now rests on bed rock, and the company has its big task well in hand.

The piers and abutments of the new Northwestern bridge are all numbered, beginning at the east end of the bridge. The Iowa abutment is No. 30, there being that number of supports under the huge structure.

Abutment Nearly Completed.

The abutment will be completed in about three days, only three courses of rock remaining to put in.

Yesterday the “sand hogs” engaged in putting down the central octagonal caisson struck “bed rock” i.e., the huge frame rested on the solid rock far down below the surface of the river. In a few days the interior of the caisson will be solidified with concrete, and the pressure will be taken off, the pneumatic men beginning work on the last of the caissons, now in place and ready for sinking. When this last caisson is down the sub structure of the new bridge will have been entirely completed.

Reaching from the abutment on the Iowa shore to a point near Second street, the company will put in a huge fill. The work of putting in this fill will be taken up in a short time.

River Dog in Caisson.

A strange find was made one day this week by the pressure men, working in the interior of the central caisson.

It was a water-dog, alive and evidently in a very healthy condition. The amphibious creature, which is occasionally met with in the river hereabouts, was found 45 feet below the river’s surface, floundering about in the soft mud in the bottom of the caisson. It is a large specimen, nearly two feet in length, and was brought alive to the surface.

Just how the water dog got into the caisson is something of a mystery. Some of the pressure men believe it had burrowed into the bottom of the river to the depth at which it was found. Others are of the opinion that the creature was lying in the mud when the caisson was put down, and unable to effect its escape, managed to avoid detection as the frame was gradually forced down towards bed-rock. In either event, its presence so far below the river bottom is strange and inexplicable.

The water-dog is a species of lizard and is a very repulsive looking creature. It appears to be part animal and part fish, and though very fierce looking, is thought to be perfectly harmless.

The Clinton Daily Herald, February 14, 1909
Trains Enter Iowa Over New Double Track Steel Bridge.

The Clintonite who has not wandered down to the river bank in the vicinity of the bridges since last fall would scarcely know the place today, so great a transformation has been made down there by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad company. A huge double-track bridge has been reared above the water, with an electric draw of great size; tracks have been changed and elevated; a power house constructed on the river bank; and now, a still greater change is being brought about, by the demolition of the old bridge of the Chicago & Northwestern, extending from Little Rock island to the Iowa shore.

But great as has been the transformation wrought by the company of late, there are still greater changes coming. These are the razing of the old depot and freight house, and the erection of splendid new buildings on their sites; and perhaps the destruction of the old roundhouse and shops, and the installation of a fine park system there to beautify that portion of the city. Verily, the great railroad company is working wonders in Clinton.

The Herald has devoted many columns to that enterprise which has aroused so much interest among the people of Clinton, the building of the giant new bridge, over which trains of the company are now entering Iowa and the west. It has tried to keep its readers informed on the progress of the work, since the first pile was driven over on the far side of the island. This week marks the practical culmination of the project, though much work remains to be done; for trains commenced to regularly operate across the bridge yesterday, at 8:50 o’clock in the morning. Ten minutes later the work of removing the island spans of the old bridge commenced, and this work is now well under way. Thus a historic old river mark will soon be a thing of the past.

Accompanying are presented views of the new bridge in various stages of its construction, which are of especial interest at this time.

About the Old Bridge.

In the year 1858 the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska Railroad company began the construction of a bridge at Clinton, Iowa, from the east bank of the river. In 1859 the bridge was completed as far as Little Rock island, and connected with the Chicago & Galena union railway, a line along the east bank of the river, to Fulton, Ill. A car-ferry was operated from Little Rock island to the Iowa shore. In the year 1864 the west channel was bridged, completing the second railroad bridge across the Mississippi. W. D. Walden, the popular superintendent of the Clinton bridge, was foreman of carpenter work in the construction of this bridge.

The draw was rebuilt in 1887, and many alterations, improvements and strengthening measures subsequently taken which became necessary by reason of the consequently increasing traffic.


The New Bridge.

The Herald, in its annual edition of 1908, printed a complete of eh new bridge.

As early as the year 1900 the company had seriously considered the construction of a new bridge across the Mississippi. A constantly increasing traffic, amounting at times to 150 or more train movements in a day, making a new bridge almost a necessity; while the condition of the old bridge forced a reduction in speed on the part of trains crossing the structure. Surveys and borings for a new double-track structure were made in 1901.

A congressional act of February 6, 1907, authorized the construction of the bridge, and on May 4th of the same year the secretary of war approved the plans for the bridge.
The vice president of construction issued a formal order authorizing the necessary expenditures for the bridge on March 21, 1907. A contract for the entire sub-structure was entered into on May 18, 1907, and in the same year a contract was made for erection of the slough spans and east channel spans. Contract for erecting the west channel spans was made in February, 1908.

Briefly stated, the above were the preliminaries in the great project which is now being completed. The bridge is founded on solid rock, far below the river’s bottom, and is a triumph of modern engineering skill. Its construction has been in charge of F. H. Bainbridge, an engineer of wide experience in similar great enterprises.

Rearranging the Tracks.

A long fill has been put in, leading from the bridge to the depot, and at present the work of rearranging the tracks is under way. A big crew of men is engaged in this work. The process is simple but effective. The rails, ties and bolts are moved bodily by the crews, who are equipped with heavy bars of steel. Some 40 or 50 men, grouped closely together, and standing between the ties, insert their bars under the track. At a signal from the spokesman they put their united strength to the bars, and the track moves a few inches. This process is repeated incessantly, and the loud “Yo! Yo! Yo!” of the spokesman (selected out of the whole crew by reason of his superior vocal abilities) may be heard two or three blocks away.

The bridge dispatcher’s office has been temporarily moved to a location near the west end of the bridge. The east Clinton interlocking plant is now in operation, and during the coming spring the electrical plant at this end of the bridge will be constructed.

The Clinton Herald, October 25, 1958, P.1
Bridge Fire Damage May Hit $1-Million.

Halt River, Rail Traffic.

Damage which may total a million dollars and a tie up of river and east-west rail traffic at Clinton is the result of a spectacular fire Friday afternoon on the Chicago and North Western railroad drawbridge.

The fire which is believed to have started from a workman’s acetylene or welding torch, spread rapidly from tie to tie and sped across the plank decking of the 410-foot span in a matter of minutes.

North Western railway officials said today the minimum damage to the 50-year-old bridge would be “several thousand dollars”.

If the superstructure of the heavy span is damaged, the loss may run as high as a million dollars, an unofficial spokesman said today.

Meanwhile, river traffic has been halted by the U. S. Rock Island engineering district.

Opening mechanism of the bridge is said to be hopelessly damaged. If the span can not be opened today by manual controls, the river tie-up will be complete unless emergency measures are ordered by the district engineers.

River tows were halted at Bellevue and Bettendorf last night, but several tows pushing a score of barges, most of them empties, are in the “bottleneck” and are tied up along Riverview park.

The fire reportedly broke out near the west end about 2 p.m., and was fought by workmen with fire extinguishers for nearly an hour before it raged out of control. A call was put in to the Clinton fire department at 2:50 p. m.

By the time the first fire equipment was at the scene, the west sheer boom (the long frame work structure bordering the main channel) was blazing fiercely.
In a matter of minutes, the flames had reached the bridge planking and ties, and fed by the heavy creosote with which the lumber is treated, and fanned by a stiff 25-mile-an-hour wind, sped from tie to tie until over 200 feet of the bridge floor was ablaze.

As the fire raged, it sent towers of billowing black smoke hundreds of feet into the air in a dark tower which could be seen for miles.

The blaze attracted hundreds of spectators, which swelled to thousands before the four-hour battle was over. Capt. Stewart Kraus, in charge of the Central station while Fire Chief Harold Nelson is on vacation, said the fire was brought under control by 4 p. m. but stubbornly smoldering pilings kept the men on the job until nearly 8 p. m.
Fulton Fire Chief Floyd Van Dellen and 10 volunteer firemen from the Fulton Fire Protection district, fought the fire from the Illinois side of the bridge.

The Fulton squad got the fire under control at its most eastern point and then worked across the span toward the Clinton department which was fighting the blaze, tie by tie, from the west end. The Fulton department remained to assist in some clean up work before leaving about 6 p. m.

Clinton police also did yeoman work during the fire, assisting in keeping back the hundreds of spectators, aiding in keeping fire equipment moving, keeping hose lines clear, and lending a hand to firemen when needed.

Over a mile of hose was laid in two lines extending from hydrant connections at 2nd St. and 8th Ave. S. and at 10th Ave. S.

Chief Nelson, though officially on vacation, was at the scene and was reported to be the only casualty. Nelson received a badly skinned shin when his foot slipped through two water-soaked ties.

One hose line was left connected and was put in use during the night, when railroad crews already started on repair work, reported a fire had again broken out in the piling. A fireman was dispatched to turn on the water and the blaze was brought under control within a short time.

Unexpected help came shortly after 5 p. m. when one of two marooned barges came to the rescue. Capt. George C. Thorpe anchored his tow of empty barges at Riverview park and brought the Suffolk down to the bridge to aim its fire fighting equipment at the burning ties from underneath.

Thousands of spectators, drawn by the clouds of smoke and shrieking sirens of police and fire vehicles, came to the scene, and lined the railings of the Gateway bridge where slow moving vehicles caused several traffic jams.

No statement was available this morning from railroad officials, but numerous department heads are checking on possible damage to the superstructure. Chicago office executives were reported last night to be due here by plane.

Visible this morning are the badly warped steel rails which are already being removed, and the charred flooring and ties across the entire span. A drag line was maneuvered into place this morning to begin clean-up work.

Meanwhile four tows of 37 barges, about half of them with cargo, are “stacked up” between Lock 13 and the drawbridge.

Robert Clevenstine, chief of operations of the U. S. Engineers Rock Island district, said today that until an official report is received from the railroad, no action will be taken on moving river traffic. If the bridge is totally inoperable, he said, the marooned barges probably will have to be “shuttled through” and picked up below the bridge by tows sent north by the owners.

Capt. Thorpe of the Suffolk, whose tow is made up of empty crude oil barges, asked police and firemen to warn the public to stay at a safe distance from the barges because of the danger of fire, or other accident.

At the height of the fire last night, several small boats maneuvered dangerously close to the fire area and several passed under the burning bridge, apparently unaware of the danger of the falling ties and flying embers.

Firemen extended their thanks today, however to the numerous other small boat owners who stood by, ready for rescue operations if an emergency arose.
Men of fire Companies 1, 4 and 2, and all off duty men who had been called in, started last night and are continuing today, on the arduous task of scrubbing and drying the 5,350 feet of hose which were used. Able assistance was given by men of the 4-11 auxiliary fireman squad.

The Coast Guard cutter Fern arrived at the scene shortly after 7 a. m. today and was at work placing markers and buoys, above and below the bridge as the river version of “Road Closed.”

North Western veterans say this is the first serious tie up on the drawbridge since it was opened in 1909. An interested spectator at the fire yesterday was Charles M. Kohler, about 85, of 828 5th Ave. N., the last survivor of the crew which installed the bridge planking.

Kohler said he helped open the bridge for the first time in 1909, when crowbars were used to pry the new draw open for the “Minnie Schneider,” transporting a load of sand and gravel.

The Clinton Herald, October 25, 1958, P.10
Span Fire Snags Mail Shipments; Future Uncertain.

The North Western drawbridge fire here Friday afternoon caused “some delay” in incoming and outgoing mail last evening and early today, according to the Clinton post office, since no facilities were available to handle bulky items, such as parcel post.

The Clinton post office said some outgoing mail was transported by government truck around 6:30 last evening across the Gateway bridge where a railway car was spotted on the Illinois side.

Postal officials said plans for local mail-handling hinge largely on decisions to be made soon by the North Western; for example, whether mail might be rerouted via Savanna, Ill., or the Quad Cities.

The Clinton Herald, October 25, 1958, P.10
Timing of Blaze Thrill to Pupils, Worry to Moms.

Start of the spectacular fire at the North Western drawbridge was “timed” almost perfectly with the dismissal of Clinton school children Friday afternoon.

That sort of a concurrence is either and exciting thing or an exasperating turn of events, depending on whether you’re pupil or parent.

Word spread like wildfire that the billows of smoke seen against the eastern sky in mid-afternoon were the result of a huge blaze at the half-century-old drawbridge. Students with bikes wasted no time getting down to the scene of the fire at the river banks.

Around supper time, quite a few mothers showed up at the bridge area to see if they could “encourage” their offspring to show up at home for supper.

One zealous young fire fan was so wrapped up in the spectacle that he or she left a bike at the riverfront. It was reported by bridge officials to Clinton police and taken to the station around midnight.

The Clinton Herald, October 28, 1958, P.8
Bridge Repair Progresses; No Estimates on Fire Damage.

While engineers are still probing for evidence of fire damage, North Western railway officials today reported “good progress” on the repairs which are being made to the Mississippi river drawbridge which was extensively damaged by fire Friday afternoon.

A spokesman who asked to remain unidentified, said as yet no estimates can be made on the cost of repair.

A new track is being laid on the north (eastbound) side of the 400-foot span, but the official declined to comment on when the track would be ready for use. Steelworkers and engineers are still working on the superstructure to determine if there is any fire damage, he added.

Questioned as to the possibility of opening the drawbridge, the officials said “there are none.” Another spokesman had told a Herald reporter Monday an attempt would be made late that afternoon to open the draw. However, unofficial sources now say the draw span has expanded several inches due to the intense heat of the ire, and its early opening would be “an impossibility.”

Meanwhile, river tow boats are shuttling their cargo laden barges under the bridge, which is high enough to permit the passage of barges, but not enough to accommodate most of the tow boats. Unless the draw is opened soon, some of these tow boats may be “wintered in” above Clinton, as only a few weeks of navigation remains.
Freight and passenger traffic is being rerouted via detours on Milwaukee and Burlington rail road lines.