1893: A Newly Built Railroad Bridge in Missouri Passes a Crucial Test

December 27, 1893

A pivotal test ride took place for a newly completed truss railroad bridge in eastern-central Missouri. This four-span truss bridge, crossing the Missouri River at Bellefontaine Bluffs and serving as a link between Charles County and St. Louis County in the Show-Me State, had been built for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad. The bridge was designed by civil engineer George S. Morrison and its construction, which began on July 4, 1892, was directed by the New Jersey Steel and Iron Company.

The first trial run on the Bellefontaine Bridge was held on a Wednesday morning, and the next day’s edition of the St. Joseph Herald reported on how everything went with the switch engine (a vehicle that pulls trains along railroad tracks) and the car used for that ride. “The trip was not the formal opening of the bridge, but a test by the engineer,” stated the newspaper. “The test proved very satisfactory and it will now be but a short time until the new [route] into St. Louis, which is to let in lines from the north, will be opened for business.” The passengers for this test ride were several contractors who helped build the bridge.

The Bellefontaine Bridge was one of the first bridges to incorporate what is known as the Baltimore truss design. This design is defined in large part by the installment of additional bracing in the lower section of the truss to prevent buckling.

 Another one of the Bellefontaine Bridge’s claims to fame is that it is the last railroad structure crossing the Missouri River before that body of water joins the Mississippi River. This bridge is now owned and operated by BNSF Railway.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

For more information on the Bellefontaine Bridge, please check out https://archive.org/details/gri_33125016395747/mode/2up and https://loc.gov/pictures/item/mo0523/

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