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BNSF - Kennewick-Pasco Bridge


BNSF - Kennewick - Pasco Bridge

Photo taken by Douglas Butler

License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)


BH Photo #261135

Street Views 

Northern Pacific Railway - Bridging the Columbia 

Written by Richard Doody


The Frederick K. Billings’ Snake River days ended with the opening of the bridge at Ainsworth. Six months later, Captain W.P. Gray ordered a head of steam from the engine room and guided her up the Columbia to the new division point at Pasco. There she began ferrying trains across the Columbia to Kennewick.

Northern Pacific track layers arrived at what is now Kennewick in 1883. Here, they started building the mainline up the Yakima Valley towards its western terminus, Tacoma. No white settlers lived in Kennewick at the time the railroad made camp but several hundred Indians made their winter homes in the area.

Columbia River bridge construction was delayed for several years as the railroad chose to concentrate on laying track towards Puget Sound. The firm of Hoffman & Bates was awarded a $400,000 contract, to build a timber truss bridge on concrete piers, in March 1887. A target completion date was set for January 1, 1888. Thomas Johnson, the timber supplier, was unable to provide sufficient material to keep pace with the contractor and work fell far behind schedule.

The Frederick K. Billings cost a small fortune to operate and could only hold eight cars. Railroad officials were anxious to be rid of the steamer and decided that the piers were far enough along to support a roadbed laid on the falsework. The first train crossed the falsework bridge on December 8, 1887. Ice jams swept the temporary bridge away in January and damaged a pier in February. The Billings was pressed into service again until a new falsework was completed on April 13, 1888.

Superstructure work on the crossing was finished on September 20, 1888. The completed bridge, the first to conquer the Columbia, consisted of nine fixed spans, each 250 foot in length, and a 237 foot swing span. Fifty foot long iron girders at each end completed the 2487 foot crossing.

The new S-Class locomotives, introduced by the Northern Pacific shortly after the turn of the century, were too heavy for the wooden trusses of the Columbia Bridge. The superstructure was rebuilt in steel between July 1905 and October 1906 at a cost of $314,805. Six camelback trusses were installed at the Pasco end of the crossing separated from three Warren trusses on the Kennewick side by a steel swing span. A vertical lift draw span replaced the swing span in 1954 when completion of McNary Dam opened the river to barge traffic as far upstream as Richland.


Parker through truss bridge over Columbia River on Burlington Northern - Santa Fe Railroad
Pasco, Benton County, Washington, and Franklin County, Washington
Open to traffic
Built 1905, replacing a bridge built in 1887; Lift span added 1975
- Willamette Iron Bridge Co. of Portland, Oregon
- BNSF Railway (BNSF)
- Burlington Northern Railroad (BN)
- Great Northern Railway (GN)
- Northern Pacific Railway (NP)
- Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway (SPS)
Vertical Lift with six Parker through truss and four Warren through truss approach spans.
Total length: 2,587.0 ft. (0.5 mi.)
Approximate latitude, longitude
+46.21528, -119.09733   (decimal degrees)
46°12'55" N, 119°05'50" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
11/338231/5120104 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 51749 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • April 27, 2022: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • February 5, 2022: New photos from Patrick Gurwell
  • February 3, 2022: New photos from Patrick Gurwell
  • June 28, 2020: New photos from Patrick Gurwell
  • May 16, 2020: New photos from Patrick Gurwell
  • May 3, 2020: New photos from Patrick Gurwell
  • June 6, 2019: New photos from Mike Garland
  • June 1, 2019: New photos from Mike Garland
  • May 28, 2019: New photos from Mike Garland
  • March 5, 2019: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • September 23, 2018: New photo from Dave Cox
  • April 21, 2018: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added category "Pin-connected"
  • April 19, 2018: Essay added by Richard Doody
  • March 25, 2018: New photos from Luke
  • July 2, 2015: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • July 15, 2014: New Street View added by Ralph Demars
  • October 8, 2013: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • March 19, 2012: Added by Michael Goff

Related Bridges 


  • Mike Goff - michael [dot] goff [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5365 - Article about the bridge's history
  • Douglas Butler
  • Luke
  • Richard Doody
  • Dave Cox
  • Geoff Hubbs
  • Mike Garland - Rapier342 [at] comcast [dot] net
  • Patrick Gurwell - pgurwell [at] gmail [dot] com


BNSF - Kennewick-Pasco Bridge
Posted June 9, 2019, by Geoff Hubbs (geoffrey [dot] hubbs [at] att [dot] net)

Mike, Of the photos you posted, No. 8-19 don't look like the same bridge and I believe they are of the downstream Union Pacific bridge. The rectangular covers at the top of the towers are the main giveaway.

BNSF - Kennewick-Pasco Bridge
Posted March 25, 2018, by Richard Doody (rpdoody3 [at] gmail [dot] com)

This bridge was originally built with wooden trusses in 1887. It was rebuilt with steel trusswork in 1905. The lift span replaced the swing span after completion of McNary Dam raised the water level in 1954.

BNSF - Kennewick-Pasco Bridge
Posted February 5, 2014, by Mark Bozanich (markthemapper [at] gmail [dot] com)

The vertical lift draw span may have been added in the early 1950s when McNary Dam was built, creating Lake Wallula. The UPRR bridge downstream across the Columbia and the BNSF bridge near the mouth of the Snake River may have been modified or replaced around the same time. Note the Warren truss of the draw span that contrasts with the truss patterns of the approach spans.

B.N.S.F. - Kennewick-Pasco Bridge
Posted January 11, 2014, by Evin Fairchild (evindfair [at] gmail [dot] com)

Wow, it's amazing that a bridge this old is still around! I think it's neat that the first bridge built across the Columbia River is still standing, even when others built after it are long-gone.

B.N.S.F. - Kennewick-Pasco Bridge
Posted July 27, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Easy to get an account Mr. BUTLER. Someobe spent a lot of time moving your drawings and then you come in with more. Show a little respect eh. Please.