New Viaduct Nearing Completion. Old Viaduct to Come Down in March/ April
MEDIA, ILLINOIS- Railway Companies have been well known for abandoning and removing historic bridges for liability purposes. Even legendary historic bridge preservationist Eric DeLony had mentioned when the National Park Services and its division dealing with the National Register of Historic Places mentioned the possibilities of some bridges being historic, many of these companies would run to the opposite side of the room or lock themselves up in their own offices as a way of saying “Not Interested.” It’s a wonder that only a handful of structures have been preserved and many key ones, such as Portage Viaduct are coming down or have been removed.
Many of these railroad companies, such as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) have been systematically removing these historic bridges to make way for progress. The reason: Liability. If they cannot be used anymore, even if it’s historic, why keep it standing and risk lawsuits.
This logic is the driving force behind removing this viaduct. The Media Viaduct was built in 1894, spanning Ellison Creek just northeast of Media, running parallel to County Highway 5. Media has 107 inhabitants and is located 35 miles northeast of Fort Madison, Iowa. At the time of its construction, BNSF was once known as the Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, which later was purchased by Atchison Topeka Santa Fe as part of the project to extend the line from Chicago via Burlington to Kansas City. The viaduct had 15 towers and 15 spans, totaling 737 feet long, 80 feet high and the main span having 64 feet. Originally a one track crossing, the viaduct was expanded in 1907 to include another trach. This was done by extending the towers so that one track travels on the new portion; the other on the old one. More illustrations can be found on John Marvig’s website (click here for details). There is no information on the bridge builder, let alone who was responsible for the extensions on the viaduct.
Construction crews have been working on the new viaduct since early last year for a new one is needed to accomodate train traffic, where as many as 90 trains use this bridge daily. It will be a combination of steel beam bridges built on concrete piers, whose spans will be half as many as the historic viaducts. Because of the structure’s age and wear, the old viaduct will be decommissioned once the new viaduct opens in March. It will then be dismantled, piece by piece with the removal project to be finished by the end of April.
The Media Viaduct is the latest example of a historic bridge that will fall in the name of progress. And while railroad companies are expanding their freight and possibly passenger services, it’s becoming more and more obvious that historic bridges along these lines are going to be a hindrance and must be moved aside. And even then, the historic significance will not matter.