St. Joseph Swing Bridge

The St. Joseph Swing Bridge (also known as the St. Joseph Union Pacific Bridge and the St. Joseph-Elwood Bridge] is a Union Pacific rail truss Swing bridge connecting St. Joseph, Missouri and Elwood, Kansas.

It is located at 39°45′12″N 94°51′30″W / 39.7534°N 94.85831°W / 39.7534; -94.85831


The first bridge on the location was built by the St. Joseph Bridge Building Company and cost $716,000 (of which St. Joseph had paid $500,000) and opened on May 20, 1873 with a crossing by the St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad. The original bridge had six piers with three spans of 300 feet, one fixed span of 80 feet on the east end and a draw span of 3,654 feet makin the total span of 1,345 feet.

The opening of the bridge was reported:

On June 16, 1879 the bridge was transferred to Jay Gould and operated under the name of the St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad Company (which was primarily used for the Union Pacific). The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe and Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific also had trackage rights to the bridge.

The bridge still fell into disrepair and the city bonds were never paid off and it was sold to the bond holders for $5,000 in a foreclosure sale in 1901.

The bridge was replaced with the current swing bridge in 1906.

Union Pacific sold the bridge and its 108-mile line to Upland, Marshall County, Kansas to Railtex in 1990 operating it as the Northeast Kansas and Missouri Railroad (NEKM). Union Pacific bought it back in 1998 to use for returning empty coal trains going from Missouri back to Wyoming. However, Union Pacific was interested primarily in the tracks from Hiawatha, Kansas to Upton. It subsequently abandoned the tracks between Elwood and Hiawatha although it still keeps ownership of the bridge and small rail spur to the west side of Elwood. The swing bridge is usually left in the open position.