Friday, December 2, 2016

1916 UP/(RI+MP+SSW) Harahan Bridge over Mississippi at Memphis, TN

(Bridge Hunter, no Historic Bridges, John Weeks IIISatellite)

In 1913, the Rock Island commissioned Modjeski to design this bridge. [Modjeski] The name was originally The Rock Island Bridge. Harahan was the president of the RI who was killed four years before the bridge was completed when his car was hit by a train. Some postcards call it The Missouri Pacific Iron Mountain Bridge. The autolane on the north side was restored as the Big River Crossing trail in 2016. [historic-memphis] I noticed that the new trail now shows up in 2021 satellite images.

Jim Henneberger posted
Memphis too
Randy James also posted
Otto Perry photo, Bill Pollard collection
RI 2696 eastbound coming off the Harahan Bridge into Memphis, June 1950
John A. Weeks III
The photo above is looking west from the riverbank on the Memphis side of the river from between the Harahan and Frisco railroad bridges. This is a rarely seen view of the Harahan Bridge given that it is difficult to access this location.

The bridge was built between 1914 and 1916. "A 14 foot wide roadway was hung off of each side of the railroad bridge. This allowed highway traffic to use the Harahan Bridge from 1917 to 1949. The highway lanes were removed after the new US-40 bridge opened (later to become the I-55 bridge)." [Weeks] When built, this was the only road crossing for 170 miles. The dream of building a trail across an old highway lane was realized October 22, 2016.

John A. Weeks III
Looking southwest towards the upriver face of the Harahan Bridge as seen from Ashburn-Coppock Park along the Memphis riverfront.

David Gulden posted

Another image that is old enough that a separate road bridge has yet to be built.
David Gulden posted
Dennis DeBruler: This image also shows the Harahan Bridge back when it still carried auto traffic because there is not a third bridge for highway traffic. (The first two bridges built at Memphis were railroad bridges but the Harahan Bridge had "wings" to also carry vehicle traffic.) Actually, the Harahan might be carrying horse & wagons instead of autos.

Norfolk Southern Corp posted
A westbound Union Pacific Railroad train crosses the Harahan Bridge into West Memphis, Arkansas, with a Thoroughbred locomotive leading the way. This train originated as Norfolk Southern train number 17Z in Sheffield, Alabama, and continues west as a Union Pacific "run-though" train. NS crews operate between Sheffield and Memphis, where they swap crews with UP. The Memphis skyline can be seen a few miles in the distance, across the Mississippi River.
Norfolk Southern has 1,780 employees, 840 railroad retirement recipients, and 1,304 miles of track in the state of Alabama
James Adams posted
Westbound Rock Island train to cross the Harahan Bridge, a Frisco train came across the Mississippi River on the Frisco Bridge.March 1975. Kodachrome slide by Steve Forrest.
Fred Meek Trains are westbounds. Picture is looking east into Memphis.
John Matrow The roadways on the Harahan have been converted to bicycle pedestrian. This is why UP 844 came to Memphis.
Big River Crossing Video
Randy James posted
1975 slide photo of "Rock Island with SOUTHERN run through power pulling freight westbound over a swollen Mississippi river ," Harahan Bridge, leaving Memphis, Tennessee.
Taken on April 12, 1975
Michael Bandy Standing on the frisco bridge!
Thomas Cobb Nice was going to ask if someone had pics of that bridge they are in the works on rebuilding it both just was there last week.
Steve Forrest posted
I'm scanning slides when I really ought to be out mowing the yard, but this is a lot more fun. Here's Rock Island train #31 leaving Memphis (the head end is now in Arkansas) crossing the Mississippi River on the Harahan Bridge in January 1974. GP40 #4710 leads the way.
Kodachrome by Steve Forres
Steve Forrest This is the jointly operated Harahan Bridge - Cotton Belt, Rock Island, and Missouri Pacific (now all UP of course). The RI came to Memphis well before the MP-TP merger, so that would not have had anything to do with RI operations in Memphis since this bridge was completed in 1916.
Raymond Hill That was the Sou connection run thur.Steve Forrest BNSF uses the single track Frisco Bridge which is next over to the south (to the right in this photo).
Jim Henneberger I detoured over the Frisco bridge one time. I had 3 SD40's and our pilot had us take one off line,said they were afraid 3 of them would pull the bridge down! Don't know if he was full of BS or full of something else.
Steve Forrest The Frisco bridge did indeed have some locomotive restrictions on it at one time - I think they did some steelwork on it back in the 80's that eased that some.

Mike Shaw posted
Dennis DeBruler: An interesting view of the UP Harahan Bridge on the right.

Steve Forrest posted
I'm riding the second engine of an eastbound Rock Island train about to enter the superstructure of the Harahan Bridge over the Mississippi River at Memphis. On this date in July 1973 we were led by engine 1317, a GP9.
Kodachrome by Steve Forrest
William Bethurem Looks like the old Auto Bridge just to the right, can you imagine driving across that way back in the day ( or night for that matter)....?
Bill Pollard The bridge to the right is the Frisco [now BNSF] bridge, but the outrigger framework to the right of track on the Harahan bridge is the old auto bridge westbound lane. A lane hung off each side of the Harahan, abandoned after the "new" automobile bridge was opened in the 1950s, but now to be revived as a bicycle path across the Mississippi.
Randy James posted
rock island, Memphis Tennessee to tucumcari new Mexico through freight, at 800 plus miles trip, passes over old man river (harahan bridge) into West Memphis Arkansas, 1970, Steve forest photo.
Ian Rock shared
Keith W. Heard Interesting that all three locomotives have the same color scheme. You didn't always see that on the Rock.
Mark Silverberg This area looks a little different today, of course. The Big River Crossing trail utilizes the Harahan Bridge on the north side and the BNSF has replaced that trestle (middle of the bridges) with concrete pillars.
Mark Zaputil First two units GP35's the third one I believe is a GP40.
Rick Smith commented on Randy James posting (Randy's photo is at the top of this posting)
James Torgeson That's a stout looking bridge!
Rick Smith ..One of the most stout bridges in the state of Tennessee, although perhaps not as much so as are many other RR bridges such as the one at Thebes IL or the one at Sibley MO. What makes it so odd looking is partly due to the reverse-truss portal design, which gives it that gigantic "Flat Face" look.

Harahan Bridge, during the Big River Parkway Trail groundbreaking, Nov 2014

[photo - courtesy, Michael G. Lander]
John Edmonson posted
1996, Memphis. Nathan Edmonson photo, my collection.
George R Widener Someone needs to turn off his sanders
Joseph Yarbrough ^^ He's still pulling them over the crest. This isn't the place to notch off just yet. I made many runs as a LE over that bridge
Joe Dudek posted
Gil Moser posted
Bridge 376.57 over the Mississippi river NS Train on Segment-B track # 1 west bound,Bridge
Bart Culbertson Harrahan Bridge nice and frosty.
Terry Redeker shared
[A BNSF OCS train from Topeka KS via Kansas City to the Super Bowl in Atlanta, GA on their bridge with a freight on this bridge. Jan 29, 2019]
M.J. Scanlon shared a link on 2/24/2019 to BNSF Former Springfield Division
A BNSF loaded coal, destined for the Scherer coal powered facility in Georgia, enters Memphis after crossing the overflowing Mississippi River on the Frisco Bridge. It is switching to main 2 on the Thayer South Sub. A westbound UP train is crossing into Arkansas on the Harahan Bridge. 1/18/19

Thomas Dorman posted nine photos with the comment:
Harahan Bridge was built in 1916 to carry trains and vehicles between the high bluffs on the east bank of the Mississippi River south of downtown Memphis, Tennessee, and the lower bluffs on the west bank of the river in Arkansas. The center structure is still very busy with many trains every day. Two wooden-deck car lanes were hung on either side of the main structure. The car lanes were closed for years, but now the one on the north side of the bridge has been repurposed into a pedestrian walk, the Big River Crossing. Trains crossing the bridge are about 10 or 15 feet from anyone on the walkway, on the other side of a metal grill. 21 March 2019
View southwest from Martyrs' Park on the east bank of the river, north of the bridge. — at Big River Crossing.

From right to left - Harahan Bridge, with the Big River Crossing walkway, Frisco Bridge built in 1892 ( ), and the Memphis-Arkansas vehicle bridge that carries I-55 across the river.

East end of Harahan bridge.

On the Tennessee-Arkansas border in the middle of the Mississippi River. Downtown Memphis on the right.

West end of the walkway

Looking east along one of the abandoned vehicle lanes on the bridge. The timber flooring of the lane is gone.

View from the Arkansas bank. The approach to the Frisco bridge is on the right

Plaque on the east end of Harahan Bridge

Plaque on east end of Harahan Bridge.
Helen Harris posted
Memphis, Tn. The Railroad Bridge
Tom Spaansen commented on Helen's post
Memphis 2017 from the Peramide.

Todd Simpkins posted
Wind & High water, Memphis Bridges
[It is interesting how they have to play the currents and wind. I one time saw a tow still aiming for a pier while it seemed to be awfully close to the bridge.]

Andy Phillips posted
 Part of the original Harahan bridge crossing the Mississippi River from Arkansas into Memphis TN.
Ray Lubrano Forgive me for asking this question. I worked on the Huey P. Long Bridge in Harahan, LA. for 34 years. And it went from the West to the East bank of the Mississippi River. From interlocker to interlocker it is 5.3 miles long. At a grade from 1.3 to 1.5 pct. Double main lines. And at the apex you will be 125 ft. above the river. Is there another Harahan, TN. Bridge or a Harahan, ARK. Bridge. Just asking.J
 David Bateman
 Ray Lubrano it crosses the Mississippi at West Memphis AR in to Memphis.
Ray Lubrano J David Bateman I’ve been by there many times. Just didn’t know the name of the bridge. Thanks for the info.
J David Bateman Ray Lubrano I spent about 10 years with bridge and water service crews keeping up ties, removing fire breaks, charging water lines after winter for fire suppression, installing expansion joints. It’s beeen a few years now. I think maybe the pedestrian auto traffic attachment in pic may be a bike route now. I’m not sure. Someone will respond that knows.
Skeeter Pettigrew commented on Andy's post
I removed some fire breaks off that bridge about 5 years ago. When they fixed the walk way across it.

Some of the 6/23/2018 photos posted by Redeker Rail Video & Photography are of this bridge.




Terry Redeker Flickr
UP 4730 (SD70M) UP Harahan Mississippi River Bridge Memphis, Tennessee

Redeker Rail Video & Photography posted
Had a chance to catch the M-K-T Heritage unit UP1988 “The Katy” on the point of UP train MNVNL in the Memphis area yesterday thanks to a heads up from my friend Austin. 4/10/20
Terry Redeker shared
Dennis DeBruler commented on Terry's share
I noticed that you caught the river running high. So I did a little research. It was about 36' on the 10th, which was minor flooding. It reached 41' in 2019 and 47.8' in 2011. The record was 48.7' in 1937.
Terry Redeker Dennis DeBruler Awesome that’s pretty cool it gets about this high at least 2 to 3 times a year.

Jim Cottle posted
Arkansas approach to the Harahan Bridge over the Mississippi River at Memphis, TN.
Dennis DeBruler: It also catches the rebuilt approach to the BNSF/Frisco Bridge.

Chris Ousset posted two photos with the comment: "Harahan Bridge crossing Mississippi River from Memphis, TN side, photo taken in 1989. Has always remained one of my favorite pics!"


Bill Arbon Flickr per the Gulf advocate comment below
Because most of the top chords of the middle bridge are flat, that would be the BNSF/Frisco Bridge. Because of the "V" in the top chord at this end, we are on the Tennessee side of the bridges. Also, the close proximity of the road to the bridges implies Tennessee because the road is far away from the bridges on the Arkansas side because of the flood plain. The following street view shows how far away the approach was from the bridges on the Arkansas side. So the delicate truss to the left of the middle bridge would be the road bridge. That means the bridge on the right is this one. The 3D Satellite image below shows that the UP tracks are at the same level as the BNSF tracks. So the "white rectangle" is above the tracks and the tracks curve off to the right so that they are not very visible from this view. I think they were doing some rehabilitation of the bridge and the handrails we see on the side of the bridge are above the track level and they are part of some sort of scaffolding. And the white rectangle is probably a tarp to contain sand blasting and/or paint spray.
Street View
Street View
3D Satellite

M.J. Scanlon Flickr 2018, probably a drone shot from over the river

BNSF 6673 | GE ES44C4 | BNSF Frisco Bridge

A BNSF manifest train makes the Mississippi River crossing on the Frisco Bridge (center bridge) as it leaves Arkansas and approaches Memphis, Tennessee. Union Pacific's Harahan Bridge above the Frisco has the MNLCN stopped partially on the structure waiting to go to CN's Harrison Yard. The Memphis-Arkansas Bridge (I-55 highway) is in the foreground.

A photo and description of all three Mississippit bridges at Memphis

John Weeks revisited the bridges at Memphis and posted fourteen photos and comments about the new trail. Since his focus is the Big River Crossing, most of his photos are about this bridge. But he includes some views of the other Memphis bridges as well. 

Terry Redeker shared his post of five drone photos of a UP train with two CN locomotives pulling it.


  1. Great photos, everyone. Now, however, I am confused about a photo I took in April '70 of the approach to the bridge. Which bridges are which in my photo and what is going on with the bridge on the right as it has no approach and seems to be unconnected to land.

  2. Correction on date, April, 1971, not '70. I agree that the middle bridge is indeed the 'Frisco' and the bridge on the right undergoing some sort of maintenance. I knew this was the approach from the Tennessee side as Memphis is on the cut bank side (high) of the river as opposed to the opposite side's broad low flood plain along the point bar where the river deposits its sedimentary load. I think the 'hand rails' are actually telephone line carriers as you see the posts lined up with the bridge on the approach, some of which blend into the structure of the bridge and 'disappear'. Thanks for the clarification and for gluing the bridge to the ground where it belongs. I would not be surprised that all those telephone line carriers are no longer needed and have been removed. Would save a lot of weight even if it has been reduced to a single cable still swinging on the bridge;-0) Great pictures of an important piece of national history, architecture and infrastructure.

    1. I was going to point you to the addition to the notes after I did yet another round of proofreading, but I see that you already spotted it. I wondered about the handrails being crossbars when I first looked at your photo. Back then, railroads had a bunch of lineside signal wires called code lines that looked like telephone wires. I agree with your crossbar theory.

      I learned that Rock Island was the lead railroad for this bridge. And I'm glad to see on a satellite image that adding a trail to the bridge has finally happened.