The Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western Railroad was initially authorized by the Kansas Legislature in 1855, and changed the name to the Union Pacific Eastern Division in 1863.
Construction began in Kansas City in September 1863. The original goal was to meet the Central Branch Union Pacific Railroad somewhere near Clay Center, Kansas.
In 1864, the first 40 miles of line between Kansas City and Lawrence was placed into operation. During the fall of 1866, the railroad extended again to Junction City, and reached Salina the following year.
The planners of the railroad realized it would be far more profitable to reach Denver instead of ending at the originally intended Fort Riley. Citizens lobbied heavily to extend the railroad even further west.
Reorganized as the Kansas Pacific, an extension towards Colorado began building west from Salina in 1869. When the railroad reached Kit Carson, Colorado the following year, the KP began building east from Denver. The two railroads met at Strasburg, Colorado in August 1870.
Because the western segment from Denver to Strasburg originally connected with another railroad, the meeting at Strasburg was the first time the east and west coast were connected by railroad, including a bridge over the Missouri River, which did not exist at that time in Omaha.
In 1874, Jay Gould gained control of the KP, and was reorganized as the Union Pacific Railroad. Other than track upgrades, the line saw little change since the 1870 connection.
Today, UP continues to operate the line in four subdivisions. The eastern portion of the Kansas Subdivision extends from Kansas City to Topeka, the Salina Subdivision extends from Topeka to Salina, the Sharon Springs Subdivision extends from Salina to Sharon Springs, and the Limon Subdivision extends from Sharon Springs to Denver.
This unique skewed truss crosses the Delaware River at Perry, Kansas.
This bridge features a pair of riveted Baltimore Through Trusses. The eastern span was built in 1905, and consists of 5 panels. This span is set at a much heavier skew than the other span.
The western span is a smaller 4-panel Baltimore Through Truss, built in 1926. These two spans are set onto concrete substructures.
Photographic evidence shows that the 1926 span was installed after the previous span was destroyed in a flood.
The east span is a typical Union Pacific design. Union Pacific built many similar heavily built trusses during this era. Most were contracted by American Bridge Company of New York.
The differences in trusses are noticeable. The older 1905 truss has more decorative features, while the newer one is much heavier. The bridge is parallel to Bridge Road.
The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, due to the unique back story and combination of trusses seen at this location.
This span is in good condition, and should safely serve railroad traffic for years to come.
The photo above is looking east along the bridge. Because of the nature of this region, good overview photos of the bridge are extremely hard. The author hopes to return for better photos.