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“Proposed Bridge Over the Pecos River”

by James Dun

Construction on the Belen Cutoff re-started in 1905 following the “Rich Man’s Panic” of 1903 and 1904 when the country experienced a severe economic downturn. Hundreds of people began building the railroad in Abo Canyon and farther east onto the plains. Below, Chief Engineer James Dun of the Santa Fe Railway writes to Lantry Sharp Contracting Company, the company that constructed most of the Belen Cutoff, about the challenges posed by building a bridge over the Pecos River near Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Lantry Sharp, also known as Lantry & Sons, followed James Dun’s advice and built a temporary bridge over the river that allowed for easier construction of the permanent bridge. Other than Abo Canyon, this bridge was the most difficult section along the Cutoff and is still the most important engineering feature in DeBaca County.

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Driving Sheet Piling for Coffer Dam“Driving Sheet Piling for Coffer Dam,” Unknown (Photographer)

Chicago, Illinois, December 28, 1905

The Lantry Sharp Contracting Company,
Gambel Building,
Kansas City, Missouri


Replying to your letter of December 26, regarding Pecos River foundations, I enclose you plans and a copy of the specifications.

Please note that you can lay concrete under water from bottom of the foundation up to elevation 4017. In this case the sheet piling should be first driven and the material inside of the coffer dam thus formed be excavated with a dredge down to the rock or to an elevation of 4002. The piling for foundations shall then be driven inside of the foundations and the concrete shall be laid under water, using a bucket specially made for handling concrete in this situation. We used at the Third Street bridge, San Francisco, a bucket known as the “Cyclopean Deep Sea” bucket for placing concrete under water, sold by A. N. Frecker, 96 and 97 Liberty Street, New York City. The bucket used at San Francisco was the one yard bucket, 36 by 44 x 28 inches, price $55.00 with $10.00 additional $65.00. This bucket did its work well and the concrete was first class when the foundation was pumped out.

I would like you to send a man that at once and send us a proposal which will reach here not later than January 6th.

The important thing to do in this foundation work is to get force enough on it to complete all of the foundations before May 1906, and the work on the piers to be followed up as rapidly as possible as fast as the foundation is built.

Pecos River Bridge Under Construction“Pecos River Bridge Under Construction,” Unknown (Photographer)

I propose to build a temporary bridge at the river which will extend from the west bank of the river to the east bank, building that part where the permanent bridge will be up to grade, and dropping down from the east end of the permanent bridge to whatever height you can get the embankment built on the east end.

This work will require a large force of bridgemen and masons and is one of the most important things we have to do in connection with the Eastern Railway of New Mexico.

The plan of the bridge I sent you is not exactly what it will be when finished, as the top of the rail in plan sent you is shown at 12.5 below grade. I have concluded that instead of this we will add a false work top of this trestle in order to bring it o the permanent grade. The false work will be made of 12 x 12 timbers doweled on to the caps shown at “A”. The track on the bottom sill shown at “B” will be used for the masonry and foundations.
Shall be very glad to have you figure on this work and hope you will give us a bid we can accept.
Yours very truly,

James Dun

Chief Engineer System