BNSF Turkey Creek Bridge (DeWitt)

Historic Pratt Through Truss Bridge over Turkey Creek
South of DeWitt, Gage County, Nebraska

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Name BNSF Turkey Creek Bridge (DeWitt)
Built By Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad
Contractor Shiffler Bridge Company of Pittsburgh
Currently Owned By BNSF Railway
Length 445 Feet Total, 132 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 10 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Through Truss and Modular Concrete Beam
Substructure Type Concrete and Steel Pile
Date Built 1895, Approaches Replaced 2013
Traffic Count 2 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
BNSF Bridge Number 19.95
Significance High 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.

Located about two miles south of DeWitt, this unique through truss bridge crosses Turkey Creek along Blueridge Road.
Built in 1895 by Shiffler Bridge Company, the bridge features a simple 6-panel pin connected Pratt Through Truss. This truss is set onto concrete substructures, which may be newer than the truss bridge.
In addition, numerous modular concrete spans were added to the bridge in 2013 to replace trestle approaches on either side. These are set onto standard steel pile substructures.
Shiffler Bridge Company is a relatively obscure company, and the author has only found two bridges so far built by this company: this truss bridge and a girder bridge in the Omaha area. Curiously, both of these bridges are on former CB&Q lines. The span of the Omaha bridge was clearly relocated to that location, indicating there may be more such structures that exist.
It is believed that Shiffler Bridge Co was founded in Pittsburgh in 1890, before being merged into American Bridge Company in 1900. It is known that former employees went on to form McClintic-Marshall Company.
Also unknown is the true history of this truss. It is entirely possible that the truss was moved from another location, judging by the concrete piers. It is known that the piers were constructed in 1905, although no further history of the truss could be found.
Further complicating the mystery is the apparent use of Shiffler spans for trusses identical to this one on a line between Sheridan, Wyoming and Billings, Montana. There were several spans over the Big Horn River which were upgraded in 1911. Curiously enough, that line was built in 1895, indicating those trusses almost certainly had an 1895 build date, like this one.
The main truss appears to follow a design commonly seen along the CB&Q. While the bridge is pin connected, members are riveted around the joints. In addition, the outermost vertical members feature a double pin connection, occasionally seen on pre-1900 truss bridges. The vertical members in the middle are laced style beams, while the endposts are solid on three sides. The outer vertical members consist of two parallel posts. The portal and sway bracings are typical of a CB&Q bridge.
Unfortunately, there were likely many more Shiffler spans that are now gone. Throughout Nebraska, many of the original population of CB&Q trusses are gone, many since 2000. However, it is also likely that more trusses or girders built by Shiffler may turn up.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in good condition. The approaches being replaced indicates BNSF intends to keep this line in service. It also appears that no major alterations have been made to the truss span.

Because of the obscure builder and high level of integrity, the author has ranked this bridge as being highly significant.
The photo above is an overview.


Source Type


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

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