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UP Brazos River Bridge Woes

June 7, 2016

Over the past week or so, I’ve made 3 trips to see the Brazos River at historic levels due to extreme rain events in Central Texas. This post will cover the 3 different trips in chronological order.

May 31, 2016
A KCS empty grain train proceeds east across the Brazos River bridge at Richmond, TX, near MP 32 of the Glidden sub, about 30 miles southwest of Houston, TX. Compare this first image to the second image, from 11/24/2014, showing the Brazos River under more typical conditions.Brazos-1_WEB


A tighter view of the east end of the bridge. The river is running about 40 feet higher than normal!



June 4, 2016

So much water for so long has compromised the easternmost pier of the bridge. The Glidden sub is closed up to 14 days according to the UP. The 30-40 trains per day that pass through here are being re-routed. Note that 50-60 feet of the east approach to the bridge is now visible because all of the trees that obscured it have been washed away! To give you a better idea of the scale of the change in the river, the employees in the next image are standing above where the shoreline was.


It’s clear that pier between the approach and the truss has settled 3-4 feet. What isn’t clear is the condition of the piers supporting the approach, to the extent they’ve been exposed to unprecedented water flows.





June 6, 2016

The rain has stopped so it’s time for another visit to see what recovery efforts might be underway.

The river appears to be down a good 5 feet or so, but there’s a long way to go to the typical depth of 15 feet compared to the 54 feet depth when it crested on June 4.6-6-8_WEB

The next 2 views show the north face of the bridge.



I assume the yellow tape is to provide a legal fig leaf should some miscreant venture across the bridge, stumble, and fall to a watery demise.


An OHIO crane (hopefully not made in China) is visible on the east approach to the bridge.


UP has selected Jay-Reese Contractors, out of Austin, to get this bridge back in service.


Before they can work on the bridge, they have to be able to get to it. They’ve cut a road through the trees and mud to provide access. This is the line of 18-wheelers waiting their turn to dump their loads of rock.


It’s a good 200 feet from Hwy 90A to the right-of-way.


I’ll try to document as much of the work as possible over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned…

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Philip permalink
    June 7, 2016 7:51 am

    Thanks. Do you actually think they will be able to repair this? It looks very unlevel to me.

  2. Marc Montray permalink
    June 7, 2016 8:23 am

    Great coverage. Knew that with that much rain, there would be issues. Any idea how old are the trusses?

  3. noahchapcullmanwx permalink
    June 7, 2016 4:58 pm

    HI From Cullman Alabama Visiting/Volunteering with the American Red Cross, Richmond (TX) First Baptist Church Shelter

    It is good to see Union Pacific is going to try to do the Extensive repairs to the Bridge and it is a testament on the strength of these good Constructed Bridges that were built in the early 1900s

    I will also be keeping a good eye on what is going on with this Bridge and I will be updating the fokes back home.

    • Paul Lathem permalink
      June 9, 2016 7:09 pm

      Noah, do you know a Ray Lathem in Cullman? he’s my uncle. -Paul

      • noahchapcullmanwx permalink
        June 9, 2016 11:17 pm

        No but I have heard the name from some where.

      • Paul permalink
        June 14, 2016 4:26 pm

        Ray Lathem retired from the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and had also been working at the local funeral home helping out. We didn’t get to go to our family reunion this year due to scheduling conflicts, but I may have to call him to catch up. Our reunion is (my Dad’s mother’s family, most of which are gone now) is held in Walnut Grove, MS..

  4. June 7, 2016 7:12 pm

    Thanks for posting these pics. I live close to the bridge and miss the sound of trains. That’s pretty bad damage and I saw it happening last week. I always look at this beautiful bridge and something was awry! Please feel free to check out my train art on Facebook under nina Struthers Cheers!!

  5. Carl Peters permalink
    June 10, 2016 12:26 pm

    Great photographs and narrative concerning the Brazos River bridge.
    I always enjoy your photos and posts.

    • June 10, 2016 8:49 pm

      It’s a good bit of work (and fun) capturing the imagery and composing my thoughts, so I appreciate the kind words…

      • Paul permalink
        June 14, 2016 4:28 pm

        Sure did a great job updating us. Let us know more as you find/learn! Thanks, -Paul

  6. Rusmc permalink
    June 12, 2016 12:28 am

    Are they dumping that rock In the river because from the trucks I seen were very big almost like boulders seen along piers. One concern what happens to a full glass of water when you put ice cubes in it ? The water over fills so with all that rock they are putting in brazos will it over flow quicker now??

    • June 12, 2016 12:42 pm

      The large rocks are intended to stabilize the shore near the work site. I wouldn’t worry too much about the river overflowing more quickly because of the rocks.

  7. Tommyk permalink
    June 12, 2016 9:19 pm

    Great photos. Thanks for doing this. I am truly fascinated by large construction projects being performed quickly. As a commercial contractor, I know it is a monumental task to be able to perform a repair like this. It will cost 10s of millions for this repair and it will take just a few days. Truly Awesome.

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