Historic Bridge Relict Found in Kansas

Photos by Nick Schmiedeler in October 2016


1870s Whipple through truss bridge found after decades of abandonment

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FORT RILEY, KANSAS- Finding bridge relicts is like going on a treasure hunt: You never know what you find until you open the box hidden for many years to see what’s inside and know more about the origins. Bridgehunting has become a popular hobby among historians, photographers and even those who enjoy the great outdoors, for when finding the bridge, you would like to find more information about it.

It can also be a curse, for when more people visit the bridge you find, the more likely the property owners will find ways to keep them off the land where the bridge is located, even if it means tearing it down. This was the case with the discovery of the Spring Hill Bridge in Warren County, Iowa. Within a year after I found the abandoned bridge, it was removed from the scenery for good. This was despite the fact that it was on a minimum maintenance road owned by the county.

With the discovery of the Clarks Creek Bridge near Fort Riley, Kansas recently, which has become of furor for discussion on its historic significance and design, there is hope that the bridge can be listed on the National Register of Historic Places; ideally restored for reuse. The bridge is located on an abandoned portion of Humboldt Road north of I-70. The structure was spotted via Googlemaps back in August, but it took the effort of Nick Schmiedler to get to the bridge to see for itself what it looked like.

And for him, he found a diamond in the rough that is now one of the bridge candidates for this year’s Ammann Awards.  Here are some facts about this bridge that are of interest. The bridge is a Whipple through truss, constructed of iron and is between 120 and 170 feet long. The portal bracings are Town Lattice with curved heel bracings. A plaque on the bridge indicates the work of the King Bridge Company of Cleveland with a construction date of the 1870s. When exactly the bridge was built is unknown, yet this bridge could be the oldest Whipple through truss bridge built in the US, as most of King’s bridges up until now have dated back to the 1880s. Furthermore, most of King’s bridges built between 1875 and 1920 have consisted of Pratt through truss, thus making this spana rarity to find. It is unknown when the bridge was abandoned, but overgrowth has dominated the structure, thus making it difficult to photograph it. The bridge is on private property and there is no indication of whether and how the owners wish to preserve the bridge- not yet, that is.

Do you know more about this bridge? Click here to the bridgehunter.com website and post your comments. You can also contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles by using the e-mail address in the Contact Details. The more information needed, the more likely the bridge would warrant being posted to the NRHP, and furthermore, the more owners and other interested parties can take advantage of financial benefits and experts neededto restore the bridge. Some more pics taken by Mr. Schmiedler are below but you can find more on the bridgehunter website.


Town lattice portal bracings with builder’s plaque
Builder’s plaque with the King Bridge Company logo on there. The question is when in the 1870s was it built? Any guesses?
Oblique view with the Whipple design. Photo taken by the same photographer in October


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