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In IL, They Nestle on a Trestle

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

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URSA, IL—Whatever their economic status, Tom and Janelle Shaffer will never live on the other side of the tracks. That's because they live on top of them.

The Shaffers have built their home atop a defunct, old rail bridge in Ursa, IL.

train bridge house
Photos: HGTV

"We kind of get teased because it is just 16 foot wide and it's 88 feet long. So instead of living in a double-wide trailer, people tease us that we live in a double-long trailer," Tom Shaffer says.

The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad starting running across Ursa Creek in 1919. The Shaffers eventually bought the bridge.

The two concrete piers, which carried a train twice each day, are now the foundation for the Shaffers' house.

"We've been accused of being trolls," Janelle laughingly says in a video tour with HGTV, which featured the home in its You Live in What? show.


A spiral staircase maximizes the internal space in the two-story home.

The show highlights unlikely and often-dilapidated commercial spaces that plucky homeowners have converted to one-of-a-kind private homes.

'Double-Long' Trailer

The house spans the creek below, and the Shaffers make the most of its length, since its width is quite narrow.

"We kind of get teased because it is just 16 foot wide and it's 88 feet long. So instead of living in a double-wide trailer, people tease us that we live in a double-long trailer," Tom says. 

The house's stone fireplace was assembled by hand with rocks taken from the creek.

The two-story house features a spiral staircase leading up to a master bedroom and a catwalk that goes to a nursery.

The first floor has a kitchen, game room and living room with a stone fireplace built out of rocks taken from the creek and assembled by hand.

Though unusual, the Shaffers' home is pretty tame by You Live in What? standards.

Other installments of the show have featured a ferry, an ice cream factory, a windmill, a Dumpster, a library, a radio station, a synagogue, a sheepherding wagon, a Ukrainian social hall and a train depot.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Commercial Construction; Rail; Recycled building materials; Renovation; Residential Construction

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