DeWitt Rail Crossing

Through and Deck Plate Girder Bridge over BNSF Railway and Blueridge Drive
DeWitt, Gage County, Nebraska

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Name DeWitt Rail Crossing
Built By Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad
Contractor Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 109 Feet Total, 50 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 25 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Through and Deck Plate Girder
Substructure Type Concrete and Steel Tower
Date Built 1899
Traffic Count 1 Train/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 23.72
Significance Local Significance
Documentation Date October 2019
In 1889, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad sought to connect the end of their Council Bluffs-Chicago mainline at Council Bluffs to Lincoln, Nebraska and eventually to a point southwest near Fairbury, Nebraska; where the Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railway had built in 1887.
Because the CK&N had built a considerable network of routes around Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado; this connection was desired to give the Rock Island access to Denver. The Rock Island purchased the CK&N in 1890.
Trackage rights were secured to cross the Missouri River on the Union Pacific Bridge into Omaha, before the route turned southwest, running through Papillion and Richfield, before crossing the Platte River at South Bend.
From here, the route continued through Murdock, Alvo and Prairie Home. By 1892, the Rock Island had reached Lincoln, skirting the east side of the city.
In 1893, work continued south, and the route was built through Rokeby, Hallam, Clatonia, DeWitt and Plymouth before finally reaching the existing line at Jansen, Nebraska.

The Rock Island was a poor railroad, facing financial trouble regularly and often in bankruptcy. This route hosted passenger trains known as "Rockets" for many years, although that traffic eventually dried up.
After World War II, the Rock Island struggled to survive, proposing mergers and deferring maintenance on their routes. Rock Island sought to keep interchange traffic between Denver and Chicago running on this line, struggling to compete with a stronger and better built Union Pacific system.
By 1964, the Rock Island began attempts to merge with Union Pacific, and restructure railroads west of the Mississippi River. This merger was eventually denied, and Rock Island turned its last profit in 1965.
In the mid-1970s, the railroad was in serious decline. The railroad received loans to attempt to fix slow orders, received new equipment and turn a profit. By 1978, the railroad came close to profit, but creditors were lobbying for a complete shutdown of the Rock Island.
During the fall of 1979, a strike crippled the railroad, and by January of 1980, the entire system was ordered to be shut down and liquidated.
Many of the lines and equipment were scrapped. Profitable sections of railroad were prepared for sale. The route between Hallam and Omaha was abandoned. The route between Jansen and Hallam was sold to Mid States Port Authority in 1984, and began operations under Union Pacific the same year.
Today, UP owns the surviving part of this line and operates it as the Hallam Subdivision. The line through Lincoln is now the Rock Island Trail, and plans are being made to extend the trail to US-77.
East of Lincoln, a small segment is now the Dave Murdock Trail, and the Platte River Bridge is now part of the Mopac Trail. The remainder of this line is now privately owned and abandoned.

Located in DeWitt, this large girder bridge crosses both the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy line (now BNSF) and Blueridge Drive.
Built between 1899 and 1900, the bridge features three girder spans. The largest of the three is a standard through girder span, crossing the railroad line. The remaining two spans are deck plate girders. While the abutments of the bridge are constructed of concrete, the pier is a steel tower.
Also within a half mile of the area are two other deck girder bridges along this line, as well as an old truss bridge on the BNSF line. This structure is unique for the area. No other structure on this line features a large steel tower such as this one. It is unusual to see such a bridge in Nebraska.
The girders on this bridge are standard designs for this route. Most bridges along this route were built between 1899 and 1901.
Overall, this bridge appears to be in good condition. Little serious deterioration was noted on the bridge.

Despite the unique features of this bridge, the author has ranked it as being locally significant, due to the common design.
The photo above is an overview.


Source Type


Build Date Date stamp
Contractor Lassig Bridge & Iron Works plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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