Roland Kulla

South Branch Bridges ~ 2015 home resume gallery available work news contact

South Branch Bridges

These paintings focus on the bridges of the south branch of the Chicago River. This portion of the river was an industrial corridor, connecting first to the Illinois and Michigan Canal in the 1840's and its replacement--the Sanitary and Ship Canal--in 1900. These structures are more diverse than the standard bascule design favored on the main branch from 1900."Canal Street" and "Ashland" are examples of this type, built in the 1930's and 40's. The remaining works are railroad structures designed for very heavy lifting. "St. Charles Air Line" was the longest bascule bridge in the world when first built in 1919, but shortened when the river was realigned in 1930. The "Amtrak" bridge was the world's heaviest vertical lift when built in 1915 for the Pennsylvania Railroad. "Bubbly Creek" is a unique Page lift that was constructed in 1906 on the position of the south branch that flowed south to the Stockyards and received the pollution that caused the methane bubbles. Finally, the "8 Track Bridge" is a dramatic set of four double track Scherzer lift bridges from 1909. Their configuration aptly merits the nickname "scissors bridges".

This diversity of engineering solutions make for amazing structures. My chosen views highlight the complexity and strength of the designs. In addition, the patina of time--rust and corrosion--is very evident. The railroad bridges in particular, are not maintained to make them look "pretty". For me, that adds an additional layer of interest. The occasional bits of graffiti tops things off.

Image: "8 Track Bridge I", Acrylic on Canvas, 36" x 48", 2015

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