Item From the Past: The Tiffany Railroad Bridge
October 5, 2002
If you can’t marvel at far-away wonders, you have to seek out things closer to home. Today we made it as far as Beloit, Wisconsin, a modest-sized town just north of the state line, and also north of that modest-sized city, Rockford, Illinois. In recent years Beloit’s riverfront has been landscaped, and now includes various amenities [such as the sculpture to the left]. There's also a remarkable playground along the river, sporting a variety of wooden structures that kids can crawl around. In recent years, I’ve taken an interest in finding playgrounds wherever we go, and this ranked as one of the better ones.
Later, we walked around the leafy campus of Beloit College, another example of a seminary planted in 19th-century sod that has evolved into a small but locally important institution of higher education. I see from looking in my almanac that tuition there runs in excess of $21,000 per annum. My tour was free, and informal. While Yuriko took a nap in the car, Lilly and I took a walkabout. At my age, and the way I was dressed, I might be a suspicious character on campus, but if you take a small, happy child with you, nobody has any suspicions. Beloit College features a number of interesting old buildings, invariably built in the late 1800s. It's also supposed to have a first-rate anthropological museum, free for casual visitors, but I didn’t think we had the time to see it.
Toward the end of the day, we drove a few miles northeast of Beloit, on the advice of the Moon Guide to Wisconsin, which contains a paragraph about a bridge between Shopiere and Tiffany, Wis., two hamlets near Beloit. After a short drive on a local road, we came to a one-lane car bridge crossing Turtle Creek, which is almost river-sized. Though rural, it wasn’t a desolate spot. We saw a fisherman in the creek, complete with waders, and some canoe enthusiasts drifted by as well.
Across an open field, we could see a five-arch limestone railroad bridge crossing Turtle Creek. The bridge, built in 1869, was modeled after a Roman aqueduct in France. We were able to park the car beside the road and traverse an open field to get a closer look.
The land around it seemed to belong to the Rock County Boys and Girls Club, and a nearby structure, maybe a clubhouse, looked empty. Dandelions were blooming all across the field — very unusual for October, as was the green grass. Lilly had good sport with the dandelions while her parents admired the bridge. As we were leaving, we wondered if the structure were still in active use as a RR bridge. It looked sturdy. Sure enough, a westbound train whistled and blew across the bridge as we watched.