American Bridge Works

Biography of American Bridge Works (1891-1900)

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Name American Bridge Works
Formed 1891
Defunct 1900
Preceeded by American Bridge Company of Chicago (Plant)
Rust & Coolidge of Chicago (Plant)
Succeeded by American Bridge Company
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois
Key People Unknown
Railroads Served Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway
Illinois Central Railroad
Possibly Others
Shop Location Pershing Road and Stewart Avenue; Chicago, Illinois

Very little is known about American Bridge Works. It is well know that they were formed in 1891, leasing a plant near the intersection of present-day Pershing Road and Stewart Avenue. It is unknown who the proprietors and engineers were. This plant was originally part of American Bridge Company (1870-1878). When this company went bankrupt, the plant became a part of Rust & Coolidge, which continued to build heavy railroad bridges at the location.
In 1885, Rust & Coolidge leased and eventually sold the plant to Chicago Forge & Bolt Company. Chicago Forge & Bolt in turn leased the plant to the newly formed American Bridge Works in 1891. By 1895, American Bridge Works was successful enough to outright buy the plant.
In 1900, ABW was merged into the newly formed American Bridge Company, along with 23 other bridge builders. Four other later joined the conglomerate.
The extent of the work completed by ABW is largely unknown. It appears the company built numerous girders and trusses for the Illinois Central Railroad in the late 1890s, and it is also known that they built at least one bridge for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul. It appears that the biggest known customer was Illinois Central, who completed much of the Fort Dodge, Iowa-Omaha extension using the spans of American Bridge Works.
As a result, numerous truss and girder spans exist today, and there is likely more that have not yet been found.

A sample of plaques and projects completed by American Bridge Works can be seen below. It appears that all plaques followed the same design, with a square shape and inverted corners.

American Bridge Works plaque
Plaque on a bridge at Council Bluffs, Iowa

American Bridge Works plaque
Plaque on a bridge in Delaware County, Iowa, Iowa

Selected Works
Cedar Falls Railroad Bridge (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
CN Boyer River Bridge #5 (Denison, Iowa)
Dubuque Rail Bridge (Dubuque, Iowa)
Milwaukee Road Bridge #Z-6 (Chicago, Illinois)


Source Type


Company History American Bridge Building Companies 1840-1900 by Victor C. Darnell

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