Union Pacific replacing century-old landmark rail bridge in Liberty

A crane hoists a section of the truss bridge over the Trinity River in Liberty to the nearby banks. It is being replaced by a new steel bridge.

One of Liberty’s most-visible and most-beloved landmarks will soon be gone. While change is inevitable and improvements were needed to modernize the structure and resolve structural deficiencies, many Liberty County residents will be sad to see it go.

After months of preparations for the installation of a new steel bridge, Union Pacific crews on Thursday, May 12, began dismantling sections of the old truss bridge that spans the Trinity River west of Liberty along US 90.

Two spans on the west side of the river were removed on Thursday, and the final sections are set to be removed sometime in July. During the times that crews are working to remove and replace the sections, rail traffic will be diverted or halted.

Union Pacific crews prepare to remove a section of the truss bridge over the Trinity River in Liberty on Thursday, May 12.

The old 523-foot truss bridge, which has withstood numerous flood events and hurricanes over the years, was built in 1904 by the Texas and New Orleans Railroad for the purpose of rail traffic between New Orleans and Houston. Other sources suggest the bridge was built in 1914 or 1919 but Union Pacific spokesperson Robynn Tysver confirms that the bridge was built in 1904.

The bridge is unique because it had two different types of trusses – a Parker Bowstring Truss to the east and a Pratt Through-Truss to the west. It is a vital component of Union Pacific’s rail system as it connects the port cities of Beaumont and Houston, two of the nation’s busiest ports.

The Trinity River is shown at the train trestle bridge in Liberty during a flood event in 2018.
File photo of the Trinity River rail bridge in Liberty, along with Texas Game Warden Jake Noxon

24 COMMENTS

  1. Been passing by that Bridge for seventy Years. Hate to see it go. Ready to see the New Bridge.

  2. Lisa. LIBERTY does not own the bridge. Would you rather a train derail and dump toxic chemicals in the river? It is JUST a bridge. Nothing else.

    • Just a bridge? That shows how much you know
      about preserving a strong historical figure that had withstood the elements; they must be replacing it for other reasons ? And I don’t even live there but I don’t like comments condemning and not preserving historical figures especially bridges .

      • They’re replacing it because it’s 118 year old steel that has been out in the elements and has had the weight of thousands upon thousands of trains on it. Steel fatigues, steel rusts, and has to be replaced; bridges have to be rebuilt periodically in order to be safe. Sentimentality over bare steel girders is silly.

    • Why couldn’t the old bridge, or sections of it, be used somewhere else in the área, maybe as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge

  3. Yes a possible pedestrian walk way, we always talk about recycle why not put it to use in a park. Possible artwork, think people, 🤔

    • You can’t turn that bridge into a pedestrian walkway because it is still needed to connect the active and vital freight rail lines on either side of it. Think, people.

  4. The boat ramps off US and state routes are maintained by txdot liberty txdot office is very lazy i worked there if the boat ramp needs cleaned up call main office in Beaumont they will get liberty txdot moving on fixing the boat ramp

  5. Saw a date plate last Friday on one of the bridge sections removed on Thursday. It said 1919. The bridge was Certainly a piece of history. It served for over 100 years, through two World Wars. The bridge section I saw had a large interesting gear underneath near its end. It would be fascinating to know what that gear was intended for. I will miss the iconic Bridge, you served your Country Well!

    Thomas Blazek, Lake Charles, Louisiana

  6. The section of bridge removed in picks used to be a turn span, meaning it would open to allow large boats to pass. That is why there are gears on that span.

  7. The turning span would have been interesting to see! More History for the old bridge. I have only been in the area since the late 1980’s so perhaps the use of the opening span was before my time.

    The new replacement bridge design, I was told, is called a Through Plate Girder Bridge Design. With no overhead super structure I suspect it eliminates any width and height restrictions the old bridge may have had, for extra wide or high rail shipments. The new bridge may also be designed for heavier loads removing any load restrictions the old bridge may have presented to the RR. The new bridge sections appear to be a ballast deck design which also allows track crews to easily maintain track alignment and level as needed. The new bridge may also allow for higher train speeds if the old bridge had speed restrictions.

    The old bridge is certainly a testament to the people who Designed, Built and Installed the Bridge over 100 years ago. It was a different time then, no computers, everything was hand calculated. Beams and Columns were not hot rolled in steel mills as they are today. They were fabricated from plates, angles and bars riveted together with red hot rivets. The 100+ year life span of the old bridge is really a tribute to all those who have had a part in its design, connection and maintenance over all these years. The Bridge did its Job, rain or shine, year after year, through flood and drought, through War and Peace. It allowed untold valuable cargo to cross the river as if the river wasn’t even there! What a Blessing this Bridge has been to our Country and all those who have been a part of it!

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