Pine Street Bridge (Melvern)

Pratt Through Truss Bridge over BNSF Railway
Melvern, Osage County, Kansas

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Name Pine Street Bridge (Melvern)
Built By Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By City of Melvern
Length 140 Feet Total
Width 1 Track; 1 Road Lane
Height Above Ground 25 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Through Truss
Substructure Type Concrete
Date Built Ca. 1890, Relocated Here 1909
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is Open to Pedestrians)
Current Status Open to Pedestrians
ATSF Bridge Number 79.7
Significance Moderate Significance
Documentation Date September 2016
In 1870, the Kansas City and Santa Fe Railroad and Telegraph Company began construction on a 32 mile segment of line between Olathe, Kansas and North Ottawa, Kansas.
This line was the base of construction operations of a new mainline across Kansas. This railroad would become the Kansas City, Lawrence and Southern Kansas Railroad by 1880, and later the Southern Kansas Railway in 1883.

Another segment of line was added by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1871. This segment connected Emporia, Kansas to Ellinor, Kansas.
In 1875, another segment from the Kansas City Union Depot to Olathe was added by the Kansas City, Topeka & Western Railroad; later leased to the ATSF in 1875.

By 1879, another segment between Mulvane and Wellington, Kansas was opened by the Cowley, Sumner and Fort Smith Railroad. This was leased to the ATSF in 1879.
In 1884, the Kansas City & Emporia Railway opened a connecting line between Ottawa and Emporia. This line would be leased by the Southern Kansas Railway in 1888; which in turn would be leased by the ATSF in 1889.

By 1887, the final segment of line between Ellinor and Mulvane would be opened by the Chicago, Kansas City & Western Railroad. This railroad would be leased by the ATSF in 1888.

The ATSF began purchasing all of the leased lines in 1899, and would complete it by 1901. This mainline connected to Chicago on the east and Los Angeles on the west.

The entirety of this line would be double tracked around 1905, due to an increased demand for freight service. This would be the backbone of the ATSF system.
Despite the heavy use this line saw, the ATSF oftentimes found itself in financial turmoil. As a result, it would merge with the thriving Burlington Northern in 1996 to form BNSF Railway; the current owner of the line.
BNSF operates this as the Southern Transcontinental Route, and the line between Kansas City and Wellington is known as the Emporia Subdivision. It is one of the most heavily used lines in the BNSF system.

This historic Pratt Through Truss bridge crosses the BNSF Mainline in Melvern, Kansas.
The bridge here was built in 1909, using a much older truss. This truss likely dates to approximately 1890, based on identical structures. However, the Kansas Historical Society suggests the bridge may date to 1884.
However, the official National Register of Historic Places nomination for this structure lists a build date of 1909; and that the Santa Fe used a standard railroad truss for the road crossing.
Despite this claim, this is clearly false. Similar Santa Fe trusses have been seen on other portions of the system, and date to the 1880s and 1890s. In addition; this was a time of double tracking and expansion for the Santa Fe mainline. As a result, there were numerous crossings of the Marias des Cygnes River that were only 20 years old at the time of double tracking.
One possible theory the author has is the bridge came from Quenemo; just to the east of this location. While the existing truss bridge is slightly larger than this structure, only one pier is constructed of stone masonry.

Other situations are similar to this structure, including the Santa Fe Street Bridge in Sibley, Missouri.
Whatever the situation of this bridge is, it is certainly a very unique structure. The truss is a 7 panel, pin connected Pratt Through Truss set onto concrete substructures. It bears much resemblance to another bridge in the region, at Iola.

Despite the unknown origins of this structure, the author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, as it is a good example of an old type of railroad through truss.
Fortunately, the railroad and Melvern have partnered to preserve this bridge and turned the surrounding area into a nice park.
The photo above is an overview.


Source Type


Build Date Based on identical structures
Relocation Date Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway 1937 Bridge Records
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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