The CK&N was almost exclusively funded by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. The Rock Island sought to expand west through Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado, where they saw an entrance to the Denver market as vital for their railroad.
By the end of 1887, the railroad had reached Mankato, Kansas; where work paused for the winter. The route chosen went southwest towards Belleville, Kansas, before turning straight west. At Belleville, the line intersected another route, which was built into eastern Kansas.
In the spring of 1888, work continued westwards, running through Smith Center, Phillipsburg, Norton and Colby, before reaching the Colorado/Kansas state line west of Goodland.
Work continued to Limon, Colorado the same year. At Limon, the route dropped south and ended up in Colorado Springs.
In 1891, the CK&N failed to make a payment to the Rock Island. As a result, the Rock Island took over ownership and operations entirely.
As a result, the Rock Island secured trackage rights from Colorado Springs to Denver, and built a connecting route between Omaha and a point near Fairbury, to connect this line to the mainline across Illinois and Iowa.
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 Limon and Colorado Springs was abandoned. The section between Limon and Belleville was sold to Mid States Port Authority in 1982, and began operations under the newly formed KYLE Railroad the same year.
Today, the remaining route makes up the backbone of the KYLE Railroad system, which is now owned by Genesee & Wyoming, which operates numerous other North American railroads.
In Fairbury, a small segment and a bridge still exist as a local trail.
Located on the south side of Scandia, this large through truss bridge carries the Kyle mainline over the Republican River.
Built in 1904, the bridge consists of three identical 6-panel, riveted Warren Through Trusses, set onto concrete substructures. These spans are all 155 feet long, and are of standard design for the Rock Island. Several other trestle spans cross overflow channels in the vicinity of this bridge.
Numerous other spans of this design exist along the Rock Island lines, particularly on the former main lines between Chicago and Denver, as well as the Golden State Route across Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. These spans all contain identical portal bracings, heavy members and riveted connections. While many of the spans on the Iowa Interstate line were relocated to those locations, this bridge appears to be in the original spot.
In addition, this is one of few bridges of this design with a plaque still intact. Throughout the bridge, there are numerous spots of repairs, including the replacement of vertical members on the truss spans. In addition, there are numerous spots of slight damage throughout the bridge.
Despite this, the bridge appears to be in good condition, with no significant deterioration noted.
The author has ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the truss design.
The photo above is an overview.
|Upstream||BNSF Republican River Bridge (Superior)|
|Downstream||Kyle Republican River Bridge (Yuma)|