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.
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
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.
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!!!