Road Trips

Illinois US 50: Barnstorming through east-central Illinois to find three abandoned bridges

This is the second installment of my report from a 2009 road trip along the oldest alignments I could find of US 50 across a good chunk of Illinois.

I think I’ve never seen a road with so many old alignments as US 50 in east-central Illinois, from the Indiana line to Clay City about 50 miles to the west. I’ve confirmed all sorts of roads that used to be US 50 and I strongly suspect many others.

Along the way, you pass through Lawrenceville, Bridgeport, Sumner, Claremont, Olney, and Noble. Normally I stop and document the towns along a route. Given that this was a recon mission for a later trip (that sadly never materialized), we drove straight through.

We found a stubbed-out section of old US 50 shortly after we entered Illinois. About the first mile or so of old US 50 is signed today as Illinois State Route 33. Where State Route 33 curves to the north to meet current US 50, it leaves old US 50 behind, with this section that ends where a bridge over a ditch was removed.

Old US 50 in Illinois

From the air, it looks like this.

When old US 50 reaches Lawrenceville, it becomes State Route 250. It follows that path to Sumner, where it turns north briefly and then curves back westward.

Do you notice that there are thin traces of road to the north and south of US 50 west of where it merges with SR 250? A previous iteration of US 50, paved with concrete, follows along to the south all the way to Olney. We were able to drive on those sections if we wanted to, but we were short on time and stayed on current US 50. Those sections looked very rough, and all of the bridges had been removed.

SR 250 separated from US 50 east of Olney and followed US 50’s old path through that town. Shortly it reached the little town of Noble, where it made a left, crossed some railroad tracks, and made a right before leaving town.

On the second of these turns stands this old gas station, old pumps standing quietly by.

Gas station and pumps

Just outside of Noble, SR 250 reaches current US 50. The road marked “Old IL 250” in the map below is also old US 50, and it parallels the current highway to Clay City.

We did drive this section, for it is along this old road that the three abandoned bridges lie which sparked my interest in this trip. This concrete is rougher than it looks.

Old US 50 in Illinois

The first bridge spans the Big Muddy River. This eastbound photo from the bridge’s east side shows the condition of the road here.

Old US 50 in Illinois

Here’s the bridge, which I’m told has been closed since 1994. Check out the brick railing. The shot is westbound.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Big Muddy River

Here’s a closer look at the railing. I’d never seen anything like it before, but perhaps it was once common in Illinois.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Big Muddy River

Eastbound.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Big Muddy River

Check out the hole in the deck!

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Big Muddy River

I walked out to the west end of the current US 50 bridge here to get this photo.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Big Muddy River

Little Muddy Creek and its abandoned bridge are about a half mile to the west.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Muddy River

This one is more overgrown than the other.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Muddy River

At least its deck is whole!

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Muddy River

Its railing, however, isn’t in great shape.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Muddy River

Here’s the whole bridge.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Muddy River

Just over a mile to the west is the Little Wabash River and its bridge.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Wabash River

Can you imagine two oncoming semis encountering each other on this narrow bridge?

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Wabash River

Here’s the whole bridge.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Wabash River

The old road shortly reaches Clay City, where it stops being abandoned and starts being County Road 600 N, and then S 1st St. SE. Old US 50 curves onto Main Street and follows it through town, curving west again just before Main Street reaches current US 50.

Next: Quickly through Flora and skirting Xenia on the way to Carlyle, where a small suspension bridge was likely on the original stagecoach road that ran along the corridor of what is now US 50.

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13 thoughts on “Illinois US 50: Barnstorming through east-central Illinois to find three abandoned bridges

  1. Greg Clawson says:

    Jim nice account of your trip. Do you ever have people confront you when you get off the beaten path for these photos?
    I went down a rural lane once until I came to a sign that said:

    Keep your (posterior) out
    This means you
    All survivors will be prosecuted.

    I left post haste.

    • Once in a while someone will stop. Mostly they ask me if my car’s broken down and I need help. Sometimes that question is genuine, other times it’s a clear cover for “what in the hell are you doing here?” I’ve learned to take an “aw-shucks, I’m just a harmless fuzzball with a camera” approach, and people have almost always moved on. I did get a lot of flak from one guy once who seemed very suspicious — I wondered if I’d stumbled upon something that he was hiding. Another time I just got a bad vibe where I was — the place didn’t feel safe. In both cases I just skedaddled.

  2. I remember a brick bridge railing like those pictured on old 40 on the east side of Casey east of SE 8th where it narrows back to two lanes. Think it has been rebuilt.

  3. You must be having an influence…since following your blog I have noticed I do keep a bit of an eye old for old bridges and roads, sometimes I even photograph them! Although usually abandoned road alignments here very quickly revert to pasture with sheep or cattle on them!

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