Nelson Rail Bridge

Quadrangular Through Truss Bridge over Rock River
Nelson, Lee County, Illinois

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Nelson Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago & North Western Railway
Contractor Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 730 Feet Total, 150 Foot Largest Span
Width 2 Tracks
Height Above Ground 20 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Quadrangular Lattice Through Truss
Substructure Type Stone Masonry
Date Built 1889, Rebuilt 1926
Traffic Count 75 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 105.68
C&NW Bridge Number 203
Significance High Significance
Documentation Date March 2015
A brief history of the Union Pacific Geneva Subdivision:


This through truss bridge crosses the Rock River between Sterling and Nelson, Illinois.
Originally built in 1889, the bridge was constructed with five riveted Quadrangular Through Truss spans, set onto stone substructures.
Major modification came in 1926 when the trusses were strengthened with new members and floor beams. Further work was done in the 1980s to allow for taller stack train cars, likely in preparation for the Global Two Intermodal Yard.
While the Quadrangular Through Truss is not an uncommon design on the Chicago & North Western, very few 19th Century spans remain on active double track lines. Most of these remaining date to the late 1890s, although this bridge is a decade older. As a result, this is one of the more historic trusses on active railroads in the area.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in fair condition. This is a significant structure, and has been rebuilt considerably since original construction. The original portal bracing on this structure consisted of a pedimented style with a flat top.

Historic Photo
Historic photo of the bridge, via Library of Congress

The author has ranked the bridge as being highly significant, due to the large scale design of an 1880s truss carrying a considerable amount of traffic currently.
The photo above is an overview.

Rock River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Dixon Rail Bridge
Downstream Rock Falls Rail Bridge


Source Type


Build Date Chicago & North Western Railway Historical Society Archives
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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