Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Tri-Cities BNSF Bridge

Cable Bridge, Tri-Cities WA

When I stopped briefly in the Tri-Cities to snap some photos of the famous Cable Bridge, there was a BNSF railroad bridge in the background and I ended up taking a few photos of it too. It looks like your average utilitarian railroad bridge, with a bunch of truss segments and a lift span, but it turns out this one is quite old (by Northwest standards) and historically significant. Its HistoryLink page explains that it was built way back in 1888, completing a key missing link in the Northern Pacific transcontinental railroad between Minnesota and Puget Sound, and the towns of Kennewick and Pasco were founded here on opposite banks of the Columbia River, thanks in large part to the railroad.

Before the bridge was completed, a steamboat railcar ferry served here for several years. Trains would be demated and the railcars slowly barged across the river. Once reassembled on the opposite bank, the train would continue on its way. This sounds kind of crazy but it does actually work, so long as you don't care too much about speed or the cost of manpower. A similar arrangement once operated near Portland until the Vancouver Railroad Bridge went in.

Tri-Cities BNSF Bridge

Eastern Washington was still part of the wild west in the bridge's early years, and the Kennewick side of the bridge was the scene of a big outlaw shootout in 1906. It's a proper Western tale, with posses, horse thieves, an improbable jailbreak, and an unsolved mystery. I don't keep up on Tri-Cities news that closely but I assume the area isn't quite so rough-n-tumble anymore. Still, in 2011 the city of Kennewick managed to get the bridge designated as a "potential terror target", netting a cool $250k in Homeland Security pork cash.

Cable Bridge, Tri-Cities WA

I did come across a couple of good photos of the bridge to pass along: one of the bridge at sunrise, and another taken on the railroad tracks looking across the bridge.

Cable Bridge, Tri-Cities WA

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