HAMMOND — A Whiting man is pleading not guilty to demolishing a historic railroad bridge for scrap metal.

Kenneth R. Morrison, who operates T&K Metals, appeared Thursday before U.S. District Court Judge Andrew P. Rodovich on a federal charge of interstate transportation of stolen property. No trial date is currently scheduled.

The U.S. Attorney and the Environmental Crimes Division of the U.S. Department of Justice allege Morrison dismantled the century-old Monon Railroad bridge over the Grand Calumet River in Hammond and sold it to Illinois metal dealers.

A code inspector for the City of Hammond, which owned the bridge as a historic remnant, issued a stop order on Morrison's work Jan. 29, 2015, and a state conservation officer cited Morrison for sending creosote-soaked railroad ties into the waterway as he dismantled the structure, but officials couldn't stop its complete destruction later that year.

Morrison defended his actions in a 2015 interview with The Times, arguing the bridge was "like a shipwreck," and that "if a ship sinks, that's abandoned and it's fair game."