Evelyn and I took the water taxi down the south branch of the Chicago River to Chinatown for an early Cantonese dinner--shrimp and walnut in a light glazed sauce, oyster omelet, and pea leafs and mushrooms.  The hole-in-the-wall restaurant was packed with locals.  

While we waited for the return water taxi, we spent some time in Ping Tom Memorial Park.  The willows lining the river have certainly grown over the years that we have lived in Chicago.

The visual treat in this neighborhood is the Amtrak vertical lift bridge that was built in 1915 (101 years old) by the Pennsylvania Railroad.  Except for graffiti, the bridge doesn't look like it has been painted since first built.  

I had never seen the bridge in the "up" position, but on this trip, I watched the central span move upwards shortly after a southbound Amtrak train rolled over it.  The bridge mimics an elevator, with the counterweights on the sides doing all the work--they must be heavy.  As they move down, the center span moves up, providing 130 feet of clearance. 

The bridge was designed by Waddell and Harrington, an engineering firm that held the patent on the design.  The lift mechanism is now operated remotely from a switching tower at 14th and Lumber streets.  No one lives in the rickety old house topping the center span.  It once housed both the bridge tender and mechanical systems. 

For more information about this bridge, visit HistoricBridges.org.  Interestingly, Patrick T. McBriarity's excellent and highly recommended Chicago River Bridges gives this bridge only a cursory mention.  McBriarity's short account states that the bridge was built in 1917.

By the way, the water taxi is the best deal in town when it comes to boat travel.  For $10, you can purchase an all-day pass.  It moves much faster than the tour boats, with no running commentary, but you see the same buildings and even more of the south branch of the Chicago River.  Great for photographers.  Bring the widest angle lens you own.

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Copyright 2016, Jack B. Siegel.  All Rights Reserved