1 vote

First Frisco Arkansas River Bridge


Frisco Bridge Van Buren Portal

Vintage photo provided by Gene McCluney


BH Photo #135310



Written by Gene McCluney

This bridge is the First Frisco bridge across the Arkansas river between Van Buren and Fort Smith, Arkansas. The current railroad bridge has nothing remaining of this bridge except perhaps a few piers.

Built by the Union Bridge Company, with caisson work by William Sooysmith & Son of Chicago, the bridge was completed and the first train to cross was on February 9, 1886. The bridge was of mixed iron and steel construction. The Bridge, resting on 10 piers consisted of 4 fixed spans of 165' length on the south (Fort Smith) end, and 3 fixed spans of 256'9" on the north (Van Buren) end separated by a pivot (swing) span of 366'. The bridge was built with the provision of wood planking to permit the bridge to carry wagon traffic and for many years operated as a dual purpose railroad and toll wagon bridge. The original cost was about $400,000.00.

A new (reconstruction) with heavier trusses of this bridge was started in 1913 by the railroad and after many delays was completed sometime in 1914. The original trusses were then offered for sale at bargain rates, and some may have wound up in other locations as vehicular bridges.


Lost Through truss bridge over Arkansas River on Frisco Railroad in Fort Smith
Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, and Crawford County, Arkansas
Replaced by new bridge
Built in 1886 by Union Bridge Company the bridge was reconstructed in 1913-14 with heavier trusses.
- Union Bridge Co. of Buffalo, New York & Athens, Pennsylvania
- William Sooysmith & Son of Chicago, Illinois (Caissons)
- St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (SLSF; Frisco)
7 fixed spans and one swing span resting on 10 piers.
Length of largest span: 366.0 ft.
Total length: 1,798.0 ft.
Deck width: 18.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+35.43326, -94.36431   (decimal degrees)
35°25'60" N, 94°21'52" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/376160/3921946 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Van Buren
Inventory number
BH 41293 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • September 24, 2018: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • February 17, 2010: Updated by David Backlin: Added GPS Coordinates
  • March 12, 2009: Essay added by Gene McCluney

Related Bridges