Santa Fe Railway Bridge

Location: Blum, TX
Year Built: 1899 - 1903
Crosses: Nolan River

Blum, Tex. (SPECIAL) — The historic Santa Fe Railway bridge across the Nolan River at Blum, Hill County, Tex., a county road bridge since 1952, on December 4, 2012, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Communications from Ms Carlyn Hammons at the Texas Historical Commission announced the Department of the Interior approval of this national designation.

The current Nolan River Bridge at Blum was built in stages between 1899 and 1903 to replace an earlier structure. The initial 1881 railway bridge, which stood on three cut limestone piers, consisted of two overhead iron trusses with timber approaches. In order to carry heavier loads, the current bridge took its place.

Starting in 1899 construction crews replaced the two overhead trusses with six much stronger steel plate girder spans. The three 1880s stone piers, increased in height, were retained, and two more were added together with abutments in stone and concrete to support six riveted steel girder spans. After the reconstruction work ended in 1903, the bridge was rated to carry two 139-ton steam locomotives followed by a load of 3,200 pounds per square foot plus the dead weight of the structure.

The Nolan River Bridge carried freight and passenger trains of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe railway between Chicago and the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston from the turn of the twentieth century until 1952. The construction of the Whitney Dam on the Brazos River after World War II led to the relocation of the Santa Fe tracks near Blum to their present location on higher ground. After the railroad ceased using the Blum bridge, the company transferred it to Hill County to become a one-lane bridge for motor vehicles. Since that time it has carried the county road later number 1127 across the waters of the Nolan River.

“It is great that the Nolan River Bridge has received this national recognition for its significance,” stated Tarleton State University historian T. Lindsay Baker. The professor nominated the Blum structure to the National Register of Historic Places with the assistance of Santa Fe Railway historian William Osborn and from historic bridge authority James Steely. Baker resides near the bridge on a farmstead that for over twenty years has been listed on the National Register.

Photo and article provided by Dr. T. Lindsay Baker. For more information contact Professor Baker at Tarleton State University, 254-968-1886

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