3 votes

UP - Kansas River Bridge (Topeka)


Ks river 6span1a

Photo taken by Jack Schmidt July 2, 2009


BH Photo #272974

Street View 


Six span through truss bridge over Kansas River of lift spans
Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas
Open to traffic
1903, Rebuilt 1951 With Three New Spans
- List & Weatherly Construction Co. of Kansas City, Missouri (1953 Substructure)
- Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad (CRIP (1866-1920); RI (1920-1975) ROCK (1975-1980))
- Union Pacific Railroad (UP)
6 six panel Warren through trusses lift spans
Length of largest span: 140.0 ft.
Total length: 940.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+39.06435, -95.67570   (decimal degrees)
39°03'52" N, 95°40'33" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/268498/4327325 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 36340 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • December 27, 2021: Updated by John Marvig: added builder
  • January 5, 2020: New photos from John Marvig
  • September 6, 2016: New photos from John Marvig
  • September 5, 2016: Updated by John Marvig: Added information
  • August 8, 2014: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • January 18, 2014: New Street View added by Luke Harden
  • January 18, 2014: New photos from Jack Schmidt
  • February 12, 2013: Updated by Chris Knight: Added category "Collapsed"
  • November 12, 2012: Added by Luke Harden
  • April 30, 2010: Updated by Robert Elder: Edited Design description, added city.
  • March 9, 2010: Updated by Robert Elder: Added Street View link
  • March 2, 2008: Updated by Robert Elder



UP - Kansas River Bridge (Topeka)
Posted May 22, 2017, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Looking for bridges with identical spans that may have been relocated here in 1951, and I came across this:



UP - Kansas River Bridge (Topeka)
Posted April 5, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Thanks for the information. I have often wondered how much debris remains in the river from those earlier spans.

UP - Kansas River Bridge (Topeka)
Posted April 5, 2017, by Anonymous

In past years I did much research on the 1951 flood. The spans in the river were collapsed the evening of July 14th, 1951. This bridge was built in 1903 to replace a bridge that was completely destroyed in that flood. In fact, all bridges over the Kansas river were destroyed in the flood of 1903 with the exception of the 1900 built MoPac bridge in Kansas City, which still stands today and is in use. If you search historic images and special collections, aerial photographs exist of this bridge swamped in the July 14th flood waters with weighted railcars and locomotives parked on it in effort to weigh it down. The following morning, additional ones were taken and the center spans are missing. The paper in Topeka published an article too that day I'd read with photos detailing how this bridge and its companion AT&SF bridge downstream about a 1/2 mile both lost center spans and all the locomotives just hours apart when the water was at maximum discharge levels.

AT&SF pieced their bridge back together with different span types and one of them is clearly shorter as well. Rock Island rebuilt this bridge with identical spans (as you pointed out). Much like ATSF, RI left the damaged spans and submerged locomotives in the river where they still remain. The Kaw is also not classified as a "navigable waterway" by the Coast Guard so removing those spans would be a waste of money, and we all know that railroads don't like spending that. RI however did go a step ahead of ATSF, and installed a flood jack system (the sheds atop those arches) and reinforce the piers on this bridge in years after. Three bridges in KC (one also owned by RI at the time) also have a flood jack system that were installed after the 1951 flood. These were most recently used in the flood of 1993.

In closing, I've never seen any photos or info on this bridge's predecessor, but I can say that the spans in the river were built in 1903 with the bridge and not from an earlier one. If looked at in person (from Topeka Blvd) and google earth, it is clear they are Warren trusses as is the rest of the bridge. If I had to guess I'd say the first one was probably an old lattice truss similar to the 1899 Blue River bridge in Manhattan or perhaps even a wood pile structure. Whichever the case, the 1903 flood was much less severe in comparison to '51 or '93, so it was pretty weak to have been completely wiped out. Sorry to ramble on, wanted to share at least what I knew on the subject....... :-)

UP - Kansas River Bridge (Topeka)
Posted September 5, 2016, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The spans in the river may be from the 1903 floods. Photos indicate that the trusses were salvaged after the 1951 floods. The trusses in the flood are identical to the current spans. Thoughts?

Kansas River Bridge
Posted January 18, 2014, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)


Very cool! Never seen anything like that on a railroad bridge, where scrap is just left behind!

Luke and Barry,

Those are indeed houses for raising the bridge. The tender goes up there, and that is probably where the controls are.

Kansas River Bridge
Posted January 18, 2014, by Don Morrison

In the satellite views, you can see the trusses lost in the 1951 flood.

Kansas River Bridge
Posted January 18, 2014, by Barry (bllauver [at] toad [dot] net)

What is the purpose of those buildings that look like construction offices above the trusses? Are they common on RR bridges?

Also, the piers in the middle of the river appear to be very thin. Is this to help with water flow in flood stage?

UP Kansas River Rail Bridge
Posted February 13, 2013, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Sure enough, those spans are still there in the mud. A bit mangled, but still evident after more than 60 years.

UP Kansas River Bridge
Posted February 12, 2013, by Chris Knight

Information and References about the collapse in 1951 can bee seen here: http://ks.water.usgs.gov/waterwatch/flood/fld51.photos.html

Also the latest Google Maps/Earth images shows the Collapsed Spans of the Bridge sitting in the water next to the replacement spans.