Huntingburg Rail Bridge
On 10 September 2012 a group from the UIUC AREMA Student Chapter had an opportunity to observe the span replacement of a trestle crossing Bruner Creek just to the west of Huntingburg, IN. The bridge is at milepost 200.3 West in Southern East district of the Norfolk Southern Illinois Division.
The existing bridge contained separate deck spans for the mainline and siding tracks. The entire structure was 186 feet long with a 70-foot span and probably dated from sometime in the late 1960's or early 1970's.
The approaches were reconstructed under the active line in the months prior to the span replacement. The replacement span was constructed just to the north of the existing span. On the replacement day, the track was shut down from 8am to 6pm. The old track and spans were removed in the morning. The new span was rolled into place on casters, lifted on jacks to remove the casters, and then lowered onto four corner bearings. The contractor was Cooper Rail Service
While the line was shut down, some repair work was done on a smaller bridge just to the East over Hunley Creek. Standing water had corroded some H-beam piers at the waterline and new metal was welded over the corroded area.
The bridge workers estimated that the Hunley Creek bridge also dated from the late 1960's, which was a difficult period for the railroads as they faced declining traffic due to highway competition while still dealing with a cumbersome regulatory regime dating from a time when railroads had a monopoly on freight traffic. The infrastructure of this period seemed to suffer, with bridge crews making do with whatever capital and materials were available. Accordingly, the substructure of the Hunley Creek bridge had a haphazard quality, especially in comparison to the better-capitalized reconstruction of the new bridge over Bruner Creek.
We build for our descendants. Our job is to be good ancestors.
Special thanks to Howard Swanson and Randy Ziliak of the Norfolk Southern Railroad for their invitation and hospitality, and to Brennan Caughron, president of the UIUC AREMA Student Chapter, for organizing the field trip.