Ghost Bridge Piers of a Former Railroad Line in Lemont, IL
Looking from the Lemont Road Bridge east towards this bridge in Lemont, IL, you’ll see bridge piers in front of it, just to the railroad bridge's immediate west, which hold no tracks or road. Despite their redundancy, they're quite easily visible
So why do these piers exist, and what was the bridge they used to carry used for?
From what I’ve been able to tell, they are remnants of a former bridge which once stood here (over the Des Plaines River), before the Sanitary & Ship Canal was built. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District built the currently standing bridge around 1900. This bridge carries the BNSF Chillicothe Subdivision.
|Note the piers in the foreground. FRRandP photo.|
My initial thought was that they were simply bridge piers from an earlier mainline bridge, except that didn't appear to be the case, as the piers have been there since at least 1938. It turns out that my initial thought was true, but I was wrong on the reasons why the piers remain today.
|Image: 1938 Illinois Aerial Imagery|
I've seen only one piece of photographic evidence of this former line, and it's very subtle, but it shows that both bridges were used at the same time at one point, both the mainline bridge which is obviously still in service, and this bridge, which appears to have been used in the construction of the Sanitary and Ship Canal and the channelization of the Des Plaines River.
"It was 1899 when the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was being completed - and this photo was taken of the two bridges that spanned the waterway. On the left is the Stephen Street/Lemont Road bridge, which was used for vehicle traffic - mostly horse and buggy at the time. The bridge was removed in the early 1980s." (Lemont Patch)
|Image: Lemont Historical Society. Note the tiny wooden trestle next to the bridge which still stands. This line would have continued north to the Des Plaines and to a quarry.|
If you look very closely at the bridge on the right in the above photo, to its immediate left you'll see a rail line that was either used for construction of the bridge and canal, or quarrying, or most likely both.
LiDAR data shows the right of way continuing adjacent to the mainline north and easterly.
|IMHP LiDAR Data|
And the final piece of this puzzle is the USGS Historic Topo Map Explorer, which shows the lands where this bridge led to were used for quarrying, like much of Lemont.
|USGS Historic Topo Maps (Sag Bridge and Romeoville, 1933-73)|
UPDATE: This was originally posted in February of 2020, and since that time the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago has posted more photos of the area, which refute my hypothesis that this was used for a quarry, at least initially.
Thanks as always for reading!