Merchants Bridge

Pennsylvania Through Truss Bridge over Mississippi River
St. Louis, Missouri
Venice, Madison County, Illinois

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Merchants Bridge
Built By St. Louis Merchants Exchange
Contractor Union Bridge Company of Athens, Pennsylvania
Engineer George S. Morison
Currently Owned By Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis
Length 4,340 Feet Total; 517 Foot Largest Span
Width 2 Tracks
Height Above Ground 82 Feet
Superstructure Type Pennsylvania Through Truss and Deck Plate Girder
Substructure Type Stone Masonry, Concrete and Steel Tower
Date Built 1890, Approaches Rebuilt 2005
Traffic Count 35 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use, Undergoing Replacement
Significance National Significance
In 1889, the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis was formed as a switching company to connect railroads on both sides of the Mississippi River.

The original line was charted in 1866; and included a single bridge across the Mississippi River. The St. Louis and Illinois Bridge Company is rewarded with a charter to build the bridge; albeit with numerous restrictions.

The first train of this bridge, known as the Eads Bridge, would cross the bridge in 1874. The line would connect downtown St. Louis to Illinoistown (later East St. Louis).

Another line was built in 1890 by the St. Louis Merchants Exchange, and included another massive bridge across the Mississippi River designed to combat the prices of the Eads Bridge.
Eventually, these two bridges would be merged into the Terminal Railroad Association. The TRRA was masterminded by Jay Gould; and included:
The Missouri Pacific Railroad; the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway; the Wabash Railroad; The Ohio and Mississippi Railroad; the Louisville and Nashville Railroad; as well as the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (Big Four).

The Rock Island eventually joined the TRRA in 1902. The TRRA opened a number of switching yards in the much more industrialized East St. Louis, Illinois.

Presently, the TRRA operates a number of lines throughout the same area. The two bridges across the Mississippi River include the Merchants Bridge, and the MacArthur Bridge.
The MacArthur Bridge was acquired in a trade in 1989 for the Eads Bridge with the city of St. Louis.

Today, Union Pacific is the largest stakeholder in the company. UP owns 3/7 of the company. Norfolk Southern, CSX, BNSF and Canadian National all own 1/7 each.

The northern most railroad bridge over the Mississippi River in Saint Louis is this massive bridge, which crosses at the original intended site of the Eads Bridge.

This massive bridge is the second oldest of the four over the Mississippi at St. Louis. It also contains a design very similar to the McKinley Bridge and the MacArthur Bridge.
This bridge was also one of the earliest railroad bridges to utilize large Pennsylvania Through Truss spans to cross a major body of water. The lightweight design of these trusses can very clearly be seen when observing the bridge.

Despite this, the bridge continues to handle the constant loads of traffic which cross it. It is the second busiest freight bridge over the Mississippi in Saint Louis.

The main three main spans are constructed of pin connected Pennsylvania Through Truss spans, all of which are built with 18 panels. The substructures for the main spans are stone, while the remaining spans are concrete and steel.
These are approached by deck girder spans on either side. The closest deck girder spans replaced old deck truss spans in 2005, while the further out ones are older, but not 1890 vintage. It is unknown when these were built, but likely Ca. 1900.

Despite the good condition of the bridge, it has been scheduled for replacement with a similar span. Only one train at a time can cross the double tracked structure, due to structural concerns of the three main spans.

Unfortunately, a bridge like this should be preserved at all costs. However, railroads put profits first; which does result in a significant loss of transportation heritage. As of 2021, the bridge is currently being replaced, and no historical components will remain by the end of 2022.

The bridge can be accessed from riverfront trails on either side of the bridge.
The author has ranked this bridge as nationally significant due to the age, large spans and revolutionary design it imposed in 1890.

The photo above is an overview looking west. The photo below is the portal bracing on the bridge.

Mississippi River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Alton Swing Bridge
Downstream McKinley Bridge

These Pictures Start at varying points in the Series

Detail Photos from June 2016


Source Type


Build Date Historic Articles
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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