Harpole Covered Railroad Bridge, Colfax Washington
The Manning-Rye Covered Bridge crosses the Palouse River outside of Colfax. It was constructed about 1918 by the Spokane and Inland Empire Railroad, an expansive interurban electric railroad line scheme that extended from the Palouse to Spokane. In contrast to most railroads, the electric railways could provide a frequent, rapid service with numerous stops. Because it was most feasible to construct the electric railroads in well developed areas, the promoters focused on areas like the Palouse, rather than on areas that had no railroad service at all. By the summer of 1907, the electric line to Colfax was completed.
Presumably, the Manning-Rye Covered Bridge replaced the original structure constructed over the Palouse River in 1907. The timber housing protects a single span timber Howe truss which rests on timber pile abutments, encased with timber cribs. Because it was necessary to provide for the connection between the locomotive and the overhead electric lines, the top of the bridge was left uncovered. There are doors in the housing to provide access for the maintenance of the truss components.
The bridge eventually became the property of the Great Northern Railroad, and subsequently was owned by the Northern Pacific Railroad; it remained in use as a railroad bridge until 1967. In 1969 it was purchased by a private owner who saved the structure from demolition. At this time, the rails were replaced with wooden planking so that the owner could use the structure for automobile access to her property.
The Manning-Rye Bridge is one of four covered bridges remaining in Washington. It is significant as one of the extant structures of an early electric railroad line within the state. The manner in which the housing was adapted to service the electrified locomotives remains the only discernible sign of its original function.
Surviving Covered Railroad Bridges in the United States
Contoocook Bridge Merrimack County, NH 1889 157' Town lattice truss B&MRR
Sulphite Bridge Merrimack County, NH 1896 180' Pratt deck truss B&MRR
Shoreham Bridge Addison County, VT 1897 109' Howe truss Rutland RR
Clark's Bridge Grafton County, NH 1904 116' Howe truss M&WR RR
Wright's Bridge Sullivan County, NH 1906 124' Town lattice truss B&MRR
Pier Bridge Sullivan County, NH 1907 217' Town lattice truss B&MRR
Fisher Bridge Lamoille County, VT 1908 98' Town lattice truss SJ&LC RR
Harpole Bridge Whitman County, WA 1922 163' boxed Howe truss Great Northern RR