|The Rock Island Bridge was built for the purpose of uniting the |
Chicago and Rock Island Railroad, which had just reached Rock
Island from Chicago in 1854, and the Mississippi and Missouri
Railroad in Iowa, which was building from Davenport toward
Council Bluffs on the western end of the state during 1853.
Proponents of the project touted Rock Island as an ideal location
for the bridge as it provided a direct rail link between the city and
state of New York, the Mississippi Valley, and the Far West.
Project engineers, drawing on an 1837 topographical survey by Lt.
Robert E. Lee and other surveys, deemed the site ideal. Because the
boundary between Illinois and Iowa was in the center of the main
channel of the Mississippi River and both railroad's charters
differed on their legal origin and terminal points, special
legislation and a new charter was necessary to unite the two
railroads. The problem was solved by an act of the Illinois
legislature in 1853 incorporating the Railroad Bridge Company with
the power to "build, maintain, and use a railroad bridge over the
Mississippi River . . . in such a manner as shall not materially
obstruct or interfere with the free navigation of said river." This
condition would become a crucial point in future litigation.
The construction of the bridge started on July 16, 1853, and lasted
for three years. The construction involved three sections—a bridge
across a narrow portion of the river between the Illinois shore and
the island, a line of tracks across Rock Island, and the long bridge
between the island and the Iowa shore.