UP Turkey Creek Bridge (DeWitt)

Deck Plate Girder Bridge over Turkey Creek
DeWitt, Gage County, Nebraska

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Name UP Turkey Creek Bridge (DeWitt)
Built By Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad
Contractor (South Two Girders) American Bridge Company of New York
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 412 Feet Total, 65 Foot Largest Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Deck Plate Girder and Trestle
Substructure Type Stone Masonry, Concrete and Timber Pile
Date Built Ca. 1900, Two Spans Replaced 1924
Traffic Count 1 Train/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 23.43
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 near NE-103, this large deck girder bridge crosses Turkey Creek and is one of a series of three similar bridges in the immediate area.
Based on other bridges along this route, the author believes the north span was built approximately 1900. In 1924, the other two deck girder spans were replaced with new spans of the same design. In addition, the bridge features a large trestle approach on the west end. The substructure of the bridge is built of stone, concrete and timber piles.
The two build dates (Ca. 1900 and 1924) are very similar to the Big Blue River Bridge less than a mile away. That bridge also had spans replaced the same year, and features both stone and concrete substructures.
Spans like this are common for small to medium sized waterway and roadway crossings. Simple to construct, they are also easy to maintain and will last 100 years or more.
This bridge is unique because of the upgraded deck girders. While the north span is deeper and considerably different appearing, the newer spans appear lighter, despite these two spans being approximately 10 feet longer. It is believed flooding or general upgrades may have resulted in the replacements of some spans.
Furthermore, stone piers and abutments seem to be rather uncommon along this line. Other spans built around 1900 feature exclusively concrete substructures, indicating the previous bridge here was also a similar structure, probably 1893 vintage. It is possible the north span could be that old.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in good condition. Little serious deterioration was noted anywhere on the bridge.

The author has ranked the bridge as being locally significant, due to the common design.
The photo above is an overview.


Source Type


Build Date (North Span) Estimated based on similar bridges
Build Date (South Span) American Bridge Company plaque
Contractor American Bridge Company plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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