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A river runs under it: This family turned a railroad bridge into a home

The old Union Pacific doesn’t come by here much anymore. OK, it was the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad line, and it doesn’t run through Ursa, Illinois, at all anymore. That’s why it’s perfectly safe for Tom and Janelle Shaffer to make their home on the old railroad bridge. Sitting atop two concrete piers that used to hold railroad tracks, their 16-foot-by-88-foot home spans Ursa Creek. It’s big enough for a kitchen, pool table, half bath, and fireplace on the first floor and master bedroom, bathroom, and baby’s room on the second. A spiral stair case connects the two floors. The amenities include fridge, dishwasher, stove, washer, and dryer. There are also two patios with views of the creek.

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Shaffer and his father built the bridge home in 2000, hauling the stones from Ursa Creek to construct the fireplace. “Our motto was that if the Egyptians could do it, surely we could do it here in the 20th century,” he told HGTV. It was Shaffer’s father who originally bought the property that now houses the home in 1993, though at the time most of the bridge was gone and little more than the piers remained. The railroad company tore it all down in 1986. “We decided if we’re going to cover it, then it ought to be functional,” Duane Shaffer says. “Why not be a home?”

Though the family gets some teasing about being trolls, many of Ursa’s 600 older residents remember when the bridge was functional and they used to play on it.

If you’d like to spend some time as a bridge dweller, the family opens the home for meetings and overnight stays, and the bridge house can hold six to eight people. Look them up if you find yourself near the Illinois-Missouri border.