Rome Bridge Gone!

Photos taken by James Baughn

ROME/SPRINGFIELD, MO-  While flooding has taken its toll on many bridges in the region, another bridge located in Douglas County, Missouri met its end yesterday. Yet the removal was planned. The Rome Bridge was a two-span Pratt through truss bridge featuring a four-rhombus Howe Lattice portal bracings with curved ankle braces. The 102-year old bridge was the product of the Kansas City Bridge Company but was built under the direction of J.H. Murray and Company. Upon completion in 1913, the bridge was 201 feet long (two 100-foot truss spans) and 15 feet wide.

Yet despite its historic significance and its proximity to a nearby park, talks had been underway to replace the bridge for three years because of structural concerns and its age. Attempts were undertaken to convince county officials and a preservation group to take a stand to stop the plans for replacement, part of that was in connection with the successes with the Riverside Bridge, which had been fixed and reopened prior to the unveiling of the plans to tear this bridge down. Unfortunately, to the dismay to many preservationists and locals, the ideas fell on deaf ears as county officials went ahead with the replacement project. With the truss bridge now reduced to a pile of scrap metal, a replacement bridge will take its place, most likely being scheduled for opening to traffic by the end of the year at the earliest. But memories of the bridge will remain and a facebook site (which you can click here) features a gallery of photos and videos of the bridge when it was still in service. There are a pair of videos below, which takes you across the bridge- that is before it was taken down yesterday.


bhc new logo newsflyer

Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges Coming Down

Fairfax (left) and Platt Purchase (right). Photo taken by James Baughn in Aug. 2011

KANSAS CITY-  The Kansas City Royals baseball team finally snapped out of their doldrums this year and not only reached the playoffs in Major League Baseball for the first time since 1985, but was two runs shy of winning their first World Series in 29 years.  Yet the city has lost over half its pre-1945 bridges during that time span. With the Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges coming down this year, the trend seems to be continuing without slowing down.

Work is underway to replace the twin cantilever Warren through truss bridges that span the Missouri River, carrying US Hwy. 69 from I-635 in Kansas City into Wyandotte County Kansas. The spans feature a southbound span built in 1935 and a northbound span built 22 years later. Specifically, here are some details about the bridges:

Photo taken by the author in August 2011

Fairfax Bridge:

Location: Missouri River at US Hwy. 69 southbound

Built: 1935 by the Kansas City Bridge Company

Length: 2,594 feet total; largest span is 470 feet

Width: 20 feet

Last rehabilitated: 1979

Photo taken by the author in Aug. 2011

Platte Purchase Bridge:

Location: Missouri River at US 69 northbound

Built: 1957 (presumably by the same company)

Length: 2,601 feet; largest span is 474 feet

Width: 25.9 feet

Last rehabilitated: 1997

The plan is to replace the twin spans with one span that will accommodate six lanes of traffic. The project has already started with the southbound lanes being shifted onto the Platte Purchase Bridge and the Fairfax Bridge being demolished first. As soon as the new bridge is completed by late 2016, the Platte Purchase Bridge will follow suit. Both of the bridges, which had once collected tolls until 2000, had been made available for taking by the Missouri Department of Transportation until May of this year, when no takers were announced and the decision was made to turn these beautiful spans into a pile of scrap metal. The Fairfax Bridge, named after the city in Kansas, had been considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places The Platte Purchase Bridge was named after the Platte Purchase of 1836, where Missouri annexed the northwestern part of the state along the Missouri River up to the Iowa border, including the suburbs that belong to Kansas City today. That purchase was in violation of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which drew the border between the free states and territories of the north and those of the south, including Missouri. Yet the two are the latest casualties of truss bridges along the Missouri River that are dwindling rapidly in numbers. Since 1990, over 80% of the pre-1950 bridges along the second longest waterway in the United States have been replaced with only a handful of examples being kept for recreational and historic purposes. This includes the Paseo Bridge, located downstream in Kansas City. The 1950 suspension bridge over the Missouri River carrying I-29 was replaced by the Christopher Bond Bridge in 2010 and later removed. While Kansas City still has a large number of historic bridges, including those along the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, as will be shown in the Chronicles’ tour guide, the numbers are decreasing. And with the Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges coming down within the next two years, we could see numerous other examples being torn down in favor of modern but bland structures less appealing to travelers and tourists. While the Royals may have woken up after a long sleep and suddenly become contenders again, it is time for the rest of the city to wake up, look at their heritage and see to it that some of it is saved before it is too late- before we can only see them on youtube videos, as seen below:

More on the bridge replacement project can be found here.


Newsflyer 10 September 2013 Part 1

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa- victim of arson that occurred on 11 August, 2013 and whose future is in doubt. Photo taken in August 2011

Historic bridge burned with scrappers drooling for money. Another set of historic bridges  destined for scrap metal. Historic icon receives a new icon. A replica of a lost bridge to be built. A pair of historic bridges to be focus of restoration campaign.

While away on hiatus for three weeks, which included the four-day long Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa, a lot of events unfolded which involved historic bridges. This include a tragedy involving a historic bridge in Iowa whose future is now in doubt. Keeping all this in mind, the Chronicles will feature a summary of the events that are non-related to the Historic Bridge Weekend with the author’s feedback on each of the themes. Links are provided in the text, as usual.

North trestle span in the foreground with the truss span in the background. Photo taken in August 2011

Bunker Mill Bridge burns. Future in doubt.

Spanning the English River southeast of Kalona, this bridge is unique in terms of its appearance. It was built in 1887 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio and featured a six-panel iron Pratt through truss bridge with Town Lattice portal bracing with a span of 120 feet long. With the north trestle span being 170 feet long- enough to fit another through truss span- the total length of the bridge is 290 feet. In 1913, the Iowa Bridge Company reinforced the bridge which included the addition of M-frame portal bracing. Closed since 2003, plans were in the making to convert this bridge into a bike trail connecting Richmond and Kalona in Washington County. Sadly, the bridge, which was visited during the Historic Bridge Weekend, was burned on the morning of 12 August, destroying the entire bridge deck. The truss span is still in tact but it is unknown how much damage was done to the superstructure. At the present time, work is being undertaken to determine whether the bridge can be salvaged and relocated. At the same time however, sources have informed the Chronicles and the pontist community that the scrappers are making a bid to obtain the bridge for scrap metal. Police and fire officials are determining the cause of the fire, which is suspected to be caused by arson. The Chronicles has a separate article on this bridge based on the author’s visit to the bridge which will be posted after an interview with organizers trying to save the bridge is done.

Rulo Bridge in Nebraska. Photo taken in August 2011

Two Missouri River Bridges to be demolished. Two to be replaced soon.

If the rate continues its course, there will no longer be any pre-1960 bridges along the Missouri River by the year 2030. Two continuous truss bridges built in 1938 have been replaced and are closed to traffic, despite the 2-year delay because of the Great Flood of 2011 which turned the Missouri River into the Red Sea for 3/4 of the year. Already one of the bridges, the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge in Fort Atchinson, Kansas, built at the time of the disappearance of the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean, is scheduled to come down beginning 23 September after the tied arch bridge was opened to traffic. The demolition is scheduled to take two months to complete. The Rulo Bridge, which carries US Highway 159 through the Nebraska town of Rulo was rerouted to the new bridge and is now closed awaiting demolition. This may happen at the earliest in the fall but most likely in 2014. The Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, a two-span tied arch bridge most likely to follow as Missouri and Kansas DOTs are planning on its replacement which will happen in a few years. And finally, a pair of duo continuous Warren truss bridges, the Fairfax Bridge (built in 1935 by the Kansas City Bridge Company) and the Platte Purchase Bridge (built in 1957) in Kansas City are planned to be replaced beginning in 2015. The reason for replacing the US Highway 69 crossing was because of its narrowness.  To know more about the Missouri River Bridges, it will be mentioned in detail in a presentation provided by James Baughn during the Missouri Preservation Conference, which takes place 18-20 September in Booneville. More information can be found here.

Another slab bridge collapses- this time in Illinois

Engineers and politicians are running out of bridge types to condemn in favor of modern bridges. Reason: another concrete bridge has collapsed after a truck rolled across it! This happened near Woodlawn, Illinois on 6 September. Woodlawn is near Mt. Vernon in Jefferson County. The bridge is over 200 feet long and was built in 1977. Fortunately, nobody was hurt when it happened for the structure collapsed right after the truck went across it. Investigators are trying to determine whether the weight of the loaded truck was too much and if a weight limit should have been imposed. This is the second post 1970 bridge that collapsed this year (a 1987 bridge in Missouri collapsed this past July) and has raised questions of whether weight limits should be imposed on all bridges and highways to ensure their prolongitivity and driver safety. But despite the “less is more” mentality that is becoming the norm in society, it will most likely take a few more collapses of modern slab before it get through the heads of the engineers and government agencies that are responsibility for the infrastructure in the US.

Bay Bridge Replacement opens to traffic.

When the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge first opened to traffic in 1936, the eight mile long bridge spanning San Francisco Bay was the longest in the world, with two sets of suspension bridges connecting Yerba Buena Island with San Francisco and a cantilever truss bridge and beam bridge between that island and Oakland. Since 3 September, the Oakland portion of the bridge has been replaced with a cable-stayed suspension bridge and closed to all traffic while cars are travelling on the new span. For those who are not familiar with this portion of the bridge, it was that particular bridge which partially collapsed during the Earthquake of 1989, the one that killed over 300 people, caused the double-decker Nemitz Freeway in Oakland to collapse and brought the World Series at Candlestick Park to a halt. A person videotaped the bridge and a car falling into the collapsed portion of the bridge. A link can be found here.  The bridge collapse prompted notions to replace that portion of the Bay Bridge and bring the suspension bridge portion up to earthquake proof standards, together with the Golden Gate Bridge. 24 years later, they got their wish with a cable-stayed suspension bridge made using steel made in China. This is still sparking a debate on whether Chinese steel has as high quality as American steel, especially as several flaws were discovered while building the Oakland portion of the bridge, which included broken bolts and anchors holding the stayed cables. Despite the bridge being a remarkable landmark that will surely be documented in 50 year’s time, especially with the statue found at the island, it is questionable of whether $4 billion was necessary to build the bridge or if it would have made sense to rehabilitate the cantilever bridge. This includes the cost and time it will be needed to demolish that bridge, which will commence sometime next year.

With all the bad news involving bridges in the US, there are some drives to save historic bridges with one being replicated after a 70 year absence. More in part 2 of the Chronicles’ Newsflyer.


Mulberry Creek Bridge near Ford, Kansas

Mulberry Creek Bridge in Ford County, KS. Photo courtesy of Wayne Keller. Used with permission.


It is not rare that when a person is on vacation, far far away where he is not reachable that he comes home to an urgent message on the answering machine or in your e-mail inbox begging for help. While I was away at the peninsula of Holnis, located northeast of Flensburg northern Schleswig-Holstein, a gentleman provided an SOS to anyone who could help him save a unique bridge from becoming a pile of scrap metal and replaced with an ugly concrete culvert that is a 20th of the length of the original bridge itself. As I had posted about the call for mystery bridges to be solved prior to my departure in the second week of August, it was not surprising that he asked me for his help.
Wayne Keller needs your help. He is currently compiling some information and ways to save the Mulberry Creek Bridge. Located southwest of Ford in Ford County, Kansas (which is  southeast of Dodge City), the bridge features two 85 foot pinned connecting Pratt through truss spans with Howe Lattice portal bracings (9-rhombus with curved heel bracings).

The bridge was built in 1906 by the Kansas City Bridge Company at its original location, Second Avenue in Dodge City. It featured six 85 foot spans over the Arkansas River. In 1935, the bridge was replaced by a concrete span, but the truss spans were relocated to Coronado Road, where it was in service until 1958 when it was replaced by a concrete bridge on a new alignment. Two of the spans were salvaged and relocated to Valley Road, where it has been in place since 1959. The bridge has been susceptible to flooding as it is located near a watershed, which is over 15o square miles. The bridge now serves a general maintenance road and is rarely used. But it becomes a dirt road after passing the Keller Ranch.  Yet if the county commissioners have it their way, the bridge will be history before year’s end. The last inspection in May of this year revealed a broken pin in one of the connections between the diagonal and vertical beams and the bridge was subsequentially closed to all traffic. On 4 June, 2012, the commissioners voted unanimously to tear the bridge down and replace it with a concrete culvert that is seven feet long- an intelligent choice given the fact that the creek is wider than the culvert, and culverts are susceptible to erosion caused by high water, as well as flooding upstream. There was an attempt to sell the bridge to Mr. Keller three years earlier but despite his agreement to the proposal, the deal never bore fruit for unknown reasons.

Mr Keller is looking for some information on the bridge to make it eligible for the National Register but also for ways to keep the bridge in service- and on his property, even if it means fixing the structure to keep it open for private use only. Judging by the information found so far, the bridge has potential to be considered historically significant and repairs on the bridge will prolong its life by up to 50 years, while at the same time, is 70% cheaper than replacing it with a culvert and allow the road to be dammed up, causing flooding upstream and potentially lawsuits by farmers and ranchers affected. More information in the form of oral sources and other articles to help justify the case for saving the bridge is also welcomed.
If you have any information that will be helpful to Mr. Keller in his quest to save the bridge, please contact him at the following e-mail address:

If you would like to address the logic and importance in saving the bridge and cutting down on the cost, please contact the Ford County commissioners using the following information:

Jerry King:  620-385-2975

Christopher Boys 620-225-0800

Terry Williams: 620-225-1104

Update from Wayne Keller:

The plan of the county engineer is to removed the bridge an sell as scrap
metal and replace with a metal seven foot culvert. The bridge is 170 long
and is about 15 feet above the channel. The proposed culvert will be buried
one foot below the channel and the top of the road will be about 12 feet
below the deck of the current bridge. So the cross sectional area of the
opening for water flow will go from basically a triangle 170 along the top
and 15 of depth or about 1,275 square feet to the opening the culvert 38.5
square feet less maybe a square foot that is buried below the channel.

The bridge is on a general maintenance township road and provides me all
weather access to my residence(our family residence since 1905) and my ranch
and cow calf herd. It is also the mail route. From my driveway going east,
the roads become minimum maintenance township roads and are very nasty due
to eroded roadbeds that now serve as ditches when it is wet. The bridge is
my one and only connection to the outside world in wet weather. During wet
weather access to the other lands, which are only farmlands with no
residences, that are east of my driveway are not accessible except by ATV or
high clearance 4WD vehicles. Therefore, during wet weather, I, my hired hand
and the mail man have to use the bridge, along with emergency services if
needed at my place, and no other landowner can use the bridge for to access
their property because of the minimum maintenance road system past my

Update from BHC (12/20/2021):

The bridge has been closed to all traffic since 2016. The barriers are up, but one can walk across it according to information from some fellow bridgehunters. Nevertheless, attempts are needed to preserve the bridge for future use. In case you have some ideas, use the contact information in the text above and/or provide some ideas in the website.


The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you informed on the developments with this mystery bridge and would like to thank you for your support.