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BNSF Big Blue River Bridge (Beatrice)

Pratt Through Truss Bridge over Big Blue River
Beatrice, Gage County, Nebraska

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Name BNSF Big Blue River Bridge (Beatrice)
Built By Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad
Contractor Pennsylvania Steel Company of Steelton, Penn
Currently Owned By BNSF Railway
Length 374 Feet Total, 154 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 25 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Through Truss and Deck Plate Girder
Substructure Type Stone Masonry and Concrete
Date Built 1910
Traffic Count 2 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
BNSF Bridge Number 31.10
Significance Moderate Significance
Documentation Date October 2019
In 1870-71, the Omaha & South Western Railroad built a line between Crete, Nebraska and Beatrice, Nebraska.
The following year, the route was leased to the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad in Nebraska. The B&MR (NE) owned a considerable amount of trackage around Nebraska, and this route connected to an existing mainline at Crete.
In 1880, the Republican Valley Railroad built a line between Beatrice and Wymore, Nebraska. Two years later, the RVRR was sold the B&MR.
Around the same time, the B&MR became a part of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy system, which owned and had built tracks extending from Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver and the Twin Cities. The B&MR now had access to a major railroad network.
CB&Q operated this as a branch line, until 1970. In 1970, the CB&Q merged with Northern Pacific and Great Northern to form Burlington Northern.
BN continued to operate this line until 1996, when they became part of BNSF Railway, following a merger with the Santa Fe.
BNSF operated this line as a branch line as well, although they abandoned a segment between Beatrice and Wymore in 2002.
Following the abandonment, most of that track was pulled up, and no trace remains. Today, the segment between Crete and Beatrice is still owned and operated by BNSF as the Beatrice Subdivision.
03/10/21


Located in the city of Beatrice, this large through truss bridge crosses the Big Blue River in a very scenic area.
Built in 1910 by the Pennsylvania Steel Company, the bridge features a large 8-panel riveted Pratt Through Truss. In addition, the bridge is approached with a 60-foot fishbelly deck girder on either end of the truss, and a 50-foot standard deck girder on either end of the fishbelly girders. The bridge rests on concrete and stone piers.
The truss appears to have many components typical of a CB&Q truss, such as the portals, sway bracing and built up members. No significant alterations have been made to the superstructure, although it appears that the stone piers supporting the truss have been altered with new concrete caps.
This truss is far larger than the other two trusses further north on this line. The members are significantly heavier, and the bridge much bigger.
It is worth mentioning that the difference in girders is notable. The inner most girders feature a fishbelly design, often used to resist bending in the middle under loads. However, these girders are only 10 feet longer than the outer girders, which are standard design. It is unknown if these girders were built at the same time and by the same contractor, but it would appear so.
Fortunately, the bridge is easily accessed by walking on a trail from a park.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in excellent condition. No major alterations have been made to the bridge.

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, due to the truss design and newer age. Unfortunately, many other truss bridges in this area have been removed, such as the Rock Island Bridge, once located just upstream from here.
The photo above is an overview.

Big Blue River Railroad Bridges
Upstream BNSF Big Blue River Bridge (Hoag)
Downstream BNSF Big Blue River Bridge (Wymore)

Citations

Source Type

Source

Build Date Pennsylvania Steel Company plaque
Contractor Pennsylvania Steel Company plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele



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