BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 165 Tribute to James Baughn

This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to Clay County, Illinois and to this bridge. When bridgehunting, one will find an abandoned structure out in the open and hard to reach. In the case of this bridge, it’s the exact opposite. The Parker through truss may be in tact, as one can see in this picture. But given the thick vegetation that has grown on the structure, it is almost inaccessible. One would have to brave cuts and abrasives as well as spiders and other insects just to get onto this structure. It has a scary resemblance of a bridge in Kansas that was covered in vines, but was sadly removed earlier this year.

Yet this bridge is one of three that can be found along US Highway 50 between Clay City and Noble. All three bridges were built in 1923, when the US Highway system had not been introduced just yet and the road was operated as FR 2114. It was one of the first in the state that was built using concrete. When the highway system was introduced in 1926, this stretch of road was designated as US Hwy. 50, which became a 3073-mile route from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California, but running through Cincinnati, St. Louis and Kansas City. Out west, it received the nickname “Loneliest Road in the Country” as it crossed through hundreds of miles of desert and mountains.

The bridge trio carried US 50 until the 1980s when the highway was realigned and widened and the structures were vacated. Now closed to all traffic, they can be seen while driving along this stretch. However, talks have been ongoing about making the stretch of US 50 an expressway, which means these three bridge may become history unless there is opposition to the project. Given their location in the wildlife area where the Little Wabash, and the branches of Muddy Creek are located, there is enough ammunition to put a stop to the plans with arguments involving the environmental impacts of such a project, let along the historical significance of the bridge trio. The bridges are not on the National Register but should be because of their association with the highway’s history, let alone their design and connection with the builder, whoever was responsible for the structures.

When traveling between Clay City and Noble, check out these structures, then find many ways to make preserving them happen.

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INFORMATION ON THE BRIDGE TRIO OF CLAY COUNTY:

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Big Muddy Creek Bridge:

Location: Bug Muddy Creek west of N. Clay Rd. and Hites Hardware

Description: This crossing is a multiple span bridge with a riveted Pratt through truss span and concrete beam approach spans. The approach spans have brick railings. The truss span has lattice portal bracings

Built: 1923 by unknown builder

Dimensions:

Length of largest span: 125.0 ft.
Total length: 558.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.

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Little Muddy Creek Bridge

Location: Little Muddy Creek

Description: This crossing is a multiple span bridge with a riveted Pratt through truss span and concrete beam approach spans. The approach spans have brick railings. The truss span has lattice portal bracings

Built: 1923 by unknown builder

Dimensions:

Length of largest span: 125.0 ft.
Total length: 341.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.

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Litte Wabash River Bridge

Location: Little Wabash River east of Mayflower Road.

Description: Single span Parker through truss bridge with concrete decking, riveted connections, and Howe lattice bracings on the struts and portals

Built: 1923 by unknown builder

Dimensions:

Length of largest span: 170.0 ft.
Total length: 172.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.

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The photos were taken by James Baughn sometime between 2015 and 2016 but we don’t know the current status as of present. According to Google Maps and Street View, they appear to be extant. We can only hope they remain that way and they can be saved for generations to come.

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