Photo taken by David Backlin
BH Photo #101043
It's been a while since i've lived in AR. Lived in Springdale, AR where A&M bases much of it's offices. If I recall, the Ft Smith Section from Van Buren crosses over a shared yard by UP, A&M, BNSF, and KCS. Shortly after the crossover the A&M line approached the Lift Bridge that, if i recall, up until the last few years ago (i recall on the excusion talk of a transfer to A&M) the bridge was still contoled in St. Louis, MO by Frisco or at least one of it's successors. A&M was in talks for gaining control of the bridge as the line is souly A&M owned all the way to Ft Smith, AR.
a side note the frisco railroad did not stop at ft smith it continued south to poteau ok. it also has a tunnel and a wood trestle bridge as well as a lost thru truss bridge crossing the poteau river coming into poteau. the tunnel is located between rock island ok. and bonanza ar. the wood bridge is located between rock island ok. and cameron ok. it is still being used and connects to the kcs line in poteau
One brief comment, the Arkansas & Missouri is NOT a tourist railroad. It is a regular railroad with a tourist operation.
I am from Fort Smith and this is a very warming site to see, I love trains, and old bridges. This bridge was used in Mathew Broderick's movie, Blouxi Blues.
Look closely in the foggy looking soft background as they show the train he is on passing over the bridge, and you can see the new highway bridge in the upper portion of the screen. Would not be there in the time this movie depicts. Kind of cool.
As far as I can tell, this bridge is "shared" as I think Union Pacific traffic goes across it also to service customers in Fort Smith. The Union Pacific yard is on the Van Buren side of the bridge. The Arkansas-Missouri is a short line railroad operated from Springdale, Arkansas, and was purchased from the Burlington and acts as a feeder to the Burlington main line in Monett, Missouri. The line runs from Monett to Fort Smith, Arkansas. While primarily a freight line, the Arkansas-Missouri does operate an excursion train schedule with vintage passenger cars and vintage Alco diesel engines. There is a tunnel at Winslow, rather long, the excursion train goes through, as well as a number of high trestles through the mountains north of Van Buren, which makes for an exciting ride.
The Frisco built two railroad bridges across the Arkansas at Van Buren. The first was built by the Union Bridge Company in 1885. The first bridge was of wrought iron and steel. The white limestone came mainly from a quarry near Beaver,Arkansas with lesser amounts coming from quarriies in Mountainburg,AR and Garfield, AR.The first bridge, built for the Frisco's Fort Smith & Van Buren Bridge Company subsidiary, took two lives. The first train to cross the brige was Frisco No. 17, southbound , on February 9, 1886.
(Please see American Society of Civil Engineers Transactions, Volume XX (May 1889) for a detailed discussion of the bridge construction project)
In 1912 the Frisco announced plans to rebuild the bridge perhaps due to heavier traffic loads. As the rebuilding was underway in December 1913 high water caused a collapse of the false work used to support the bridge. The Frisco had to detour via the MP to Sallisaw to enter Fort Smith for more than a month.
The bridge project was formally finished April 27, 1915. The old bridge had a second life as it was rebuilt to cross the Arkansas River at Morrilton, AR. It has since been replaced by a more modern structure. The vertical lift was added to the bridge in 1976 to increase utility of the bridge.
The bridge was constructed in 1885-86. When originally built, it had a spin section (still in place) on the Van Buren side of the river. The section would turn out into the river on a Bull Gear mounted on top of the round pier to allow river traffic to proceed. The stones that comprise the piers were quarried from the bluffs of the White River near Eureka Springs.