Paxico Rail Bridge

Dual Warren Through Trusses over Mill Creek
Paxico, Wabaunsee County, Kansas

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Name Paxico Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 310 Feet Total, 127 Foot Main Span
Width 2 Tracks, 1 In Use
Height Above Ground 20 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type (Westbound Track) Warren Through Truss and I-Beam
Superstructure Type (Eastbound Track) Warren Through Truss and Trestle
Substructure Type (Westbound Track) Concrete and Concrete Pile
Substructure Type (Eastbound Track) Concrete and Timber Pile
Date Built Ca. 1904, Second Track Added 1923; Eastbound Approach Rebuilt 1932
Traffic Count 20 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 116.50
Significance Regional Significance
Documentation Date March 2017
In 1886, the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway began construction on a long railroad which would connect Oklahoma to Missouri.
The first portion of construction started in 1886, when a 43 mile segment of line was built from Elwood, Kansas to Horton, Kansas.
This line would be continued in 1887 to Herington, Kansas. This line would go through the Kansas capitol of Topeka, and connect to several other railroads. In addition, the route used the Union Pacific (former Kansas Pacific) mainline between Topeka and Kansas City to reach Kansas City.
This new cross-Kansas mainline would be extended to Oklahoma the next year, and open opportunities for expansion to places such as Manhattan and Salina.

By 1891, the railroad became a part of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway. This line was instrumental in becoming a part of the Rock Island's mainline to the south.
In addition, major yard operations occurred in Armourdale, Kansas after 1903. In 1905, a new bridge was built across the Kansas River at this location.

Because of the high significance of this corridor, many parts of it were double tracked. This included track from Paxico to McFarland in 1917, track around Topeka in 1919, track from Topeka to Paxico in 1923, from Alta Vista to Herington in 1925 and from Alta Vista to Paxico in 1927.
The CRIP would be reorganized as the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad in 1947. The Rock Island oftentimes had major financial issues, and many of the lines saw significant deterioration.
The Rock Island would go bankrupt in 1980, and the St. Louis Southwestern Railway would purchase a half interest in the line in 1980, and purchase the other half in 1982. Around this same time, the Kansas City operations ceased and the Kansas River Bridge was abandoned.
Despite this, the second mainline was significantly removed in 1981, and the trackage between Elwood and Topeka would be removed the same year.

The SSW would be completely merged into the Southern Pacific Company in 1992, before being completely merged into Union Pacific in 1996.
Today, the Topeka-Herington segment of this line is owned and operated as a Union Pacific mainline; and is known as the Topeka Subdivision. Union Pacific continues to operate into Kansas City, as part of the Kansas Subdivision.

This extremely unique bridge is the 10th crossing of Mill Creek on the Union Pacific mainline.
Composed of a pair of identical trusses, the bridge likely has an interesting history.
The author has a theory that the current eastbound (unused) truss was part of the original bridge here, and the westbound span was added during double tracking in 1923.
The original location of this other truss cannot be confirmed, although it is likely that it came from another crossing of Mill Creek, likely closer to Alma.
It is also likely that the westbound truss has not changed, and the second truss was added to create a double track.

Regardless of the back story, the main spans feature 6-panel, riveted Warren Through Trusses. These spans are standardized in design, and can be seen in other places such as Iowa and Illinois.
The approach spans are both trestle and I-Beam. The Eastbound (I-Beam) approach was built in 1932.
In addition, the bridge rests on concrete substructures. However, the piers use two different types of concrete, indicating the second track was added without changing the original bridge.
While the westbound span is currently unused, it is still used for maintenance trucks. The deck remains in decent condition, despite the track being removed in 1981.

The author has ranked this structure as being regionally significant, due to the unique configuration of otherwise standardized trusses.
The bridge can be accessed from Exit #335 for I-70. The photo above is an overview.


Source Type


Build Date Based on identical spans
Build Date Based on 1923 double tracking of line
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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