6 votes

Samson of the Cimarron


Photo taken by Robert Elder in June 2004


BH Photo #111688


Street View 


Researched 05/22/2008

This bridge was built to replace three earlier bridges that collapsed over a course of two decades due to the river expanding new channels under natural works.
In 1938, after the last wood bridge collapsed, the Rock Island railroad adapted a new design for this river crossing, deck truss.
Work began to raise the Right Of Way up 113 feet above the last bridge level to build the bridge, and an extra 3 1/2 miles on each side of the river, this raise allowed many other curves and trestles to be removed.
In 1939, the bridge was completed and opened to rail traffic. On March 31, 1980, after more than five years of bankruptcy, the Rock Island railroad was shut down. This rail line was given to the Burlington railroad, under a ICC "directed service" order.
The bridge remains open today.


Deck truss bridge over Cimarron River on Union Pacific Railroad (former RI)
Seward County, Kansas
Open to traffic
Built in 1939 by the Rock Island Railroad, replacing several earlier bridges
- Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad (CRIP (1866-1920); RI (1920-1975) ROCK (1975-1980))
- Southern Pacific Railroad (SP)
- St. Louis Southwestern Railway (SSW)
- Union Pacific Railroad (UP)
Five-span subdivided Warren deck truss
Total length: 1,269.0 ft.
Also called
RI - Cimarron River Bridge
Rock Island Bridge #4184
Cotton Belt - Cimarron River Bridge
UP - Samson of the Cimarron
Cotton Belt - Samson of the Cimarron
RI - Samson of the Cimarron
"Mighty Samson"
Approximate latitude, longitude
+37.14962, -100.75370   (decimal degrees)
37°08'59" N, 100°45'13" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
14/344261/4112909 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Liberal NE
Inventory number
BH 36246 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • May 10, 2015: New photo from Paul Hamby
  • August 26, 2013: Updated by Dylan VanAntwerp: Added categories "Southern Pacific Railroad", "St. Louis Southwestern Railway"
  • November 12, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added category "Union Pacific Railroad"
  • October 9, 2011: New photos from Steve Conro
  • December 17, 2010: Updated by Matthew Lohry: Corrected bridge type: Looking at the street view indicates that this is a subdivided Warren deck truss, rather than a Baltimore.
  • March 16, 2010: Updated by Robert Elder: Adjusted GPS Coordinates
  • March 9, 2010: Updated by Robert Elder: Added Street View link
  • June 12, 2008: Essay added by Max Johnson
  • February 11, 2008: Added by Robert Elder



Samson of the Cimarron
Posted January 28, 2020, by Ross C. (ats90mph [at] gmail [dot] com)

From the photos it appears to be a Baltimore deck truss, not a Warren...

Samson of the Cimarron
Posted August 26, 2013, by Dylan VanAntwerp (dylan_vanantwerp [at] live [dot] com)

Pardon me, but I have to point out two mistakes in this essay.

No. 1

The Rock Island's lines were not given away under directed service of the ICC. The ICC simply selected other railroads the continue to run the Rock Island lines while the company was carved up and sold off following it's March 1980 liquidation order. This directed service allowed shippers to continue to have rail service while they waited for new owners to step in and purchase the lines.

Lines were NEVER given away. All of the Rock Island lines in service today were purchased by other existing railroads, or formed the basis of new shortlines, such as Iowa Interstate or Iowa Northern. This was the whole point of the bankruptcy sale, to sell of Rock Island property and raise money to pay off stockholders and creditors.

No. 2

Burlington Northern was not the recipient of this line. St. Louis Southwestern (SSW), aka Cotton Belt, a subsidiary of Southern Pacific, had come to an agreement with the Rock Island in 1978 to purchase the Golden State Route from Tucumari, NM, to Kansas City, MO, of which this bridge is a part of. They also agreed to purchase the former Rock Island mainline between Kansas City and St. Louis, MO, at this time. However, the purchase didn't formerly take place until after the Rock Island's demise.

Although the segment from KC to St. Louis was barely used and sits mostly abandoned now, SSW would spend millions upgrading the Golden State Route into a modern mainline again. Today, this line serves as a principal route in the vast Union Pacific empire and still sees its fair share of traffic.

Samson of the Cimarron
Posted December 17, 2010, by D. E. Jones (dejones1947 [at] gmail [dot] com)

As a locomotive engineer, I have been luckey enough to run some trains over the Samson of the Cimarron. As a Cotton Belt Railroad engineer, working at Dallas, TX, I was "borrowed out" to Pratt, KS. in about 1992. Pratt crews worked east to Herrington, KS, and West to Dalhart, TX. While the Bridge itself is quite impressive, to me the giant cuts, especially, the east cut is even more so. It is like running a train down the middle of a small canyon! This cut is deep and very wide. It extends for miles! This was truely an elegantly engineered solution to the Rock Island's problem.

D. E. Jones

Samson of the Cimarron
Posted January 1, 2010, by James Riley (Jriley01 [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

The line this bridge is on, became property of the Southern Pacific (Cotton Belt) not the Burlington Northern. The SP totally rebuilt the line into first class condition. The SP was later absorbed by the Union Pacific in the 1990's.

Rock Island Cimarron River Bridge
Posted February 27, 2009, by Lynda (ljwar [at] ruraltel [dot] net)

It's called "The Samson of the Cimmaron!"

My family lived @ the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Co (PEPL) station, just W of the bridge, where my dad worked. From Hwy 54, we drove under this bridge to and from our home/work, thousands of times over the years.

Actually, my dad drove a truck and dumped dirt and rock from the S end when it was being built (before he and my mother were married). Did you notice that the last time it was painted w/aluminum paint, only half the bridge was finished? Wish I could remember why!

The railroad bridges built prior to this were washed out by the flood waters of the Cimmaron River. My dad, his mother, older brother and baby sister spent a week or so in Union Station in Kansas City; unable to return by train from Iowa to Tyrone, OK because of one of those floods (probably 1913 or 1914)! That must have been quite an adventure for all of them!

Anyway, "The Samson of the Cimmaron" is a magnificent structure--and it has never ceased to amaze me!!!