The Sibley Bridge Company was chartered in 1888 to construct the large bridge across the Missouri River at Sibley. Similarly, the Mississippi River Railroad & Toll Bridge Company constructed the bridge across the Mississippi River.
The entire line became part of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1900. This mainline would see heavy reconstruction throughout the first decade of the 20th century. Reconstruction included tasks such as relocation and double tracking.
The line was critical to the development of the State of Missouri. The line provided the quickest and most direct route between the agricultural center at Kansas City and Chicago.
Throughout the 20th Century, the line remained one of the most critical rail lines in the United States. The heavy duty mainline saw guards during World War II, due to the critical connection between Southern California and Chicago.
Despite the importance of the line, the ATSF would see serious financial issues in the late 20th century. Because of this, they merged with rival Burlington Northern to form BNSF Railway. BNSF currently operates the line as the Marceline Subdivision; and it is a part of the greater Southern Transcon Line; completed in 1908.
The line connects to the equally as important Chillicothe Subdivision on the east, and the Emporia Subdivision on the west.
One of the most significant bridges in Southeast Iowa is this structure: a massive Whipple Through Truss crossing a rail yard on the west side of Fort Madison.
Built in 1934 to cross the Shopton yards, the bridge was constructed with relocated components.
The main span of the bridge is a massive and unique Whipple Through Truss span, which was built in 1888 to cross the I&M Canal in Chicago, near Ashland Avenue. This bridge contains pinned connections, and massively built up members. A huge X-Frame portal also graces the ends of the structure.
On the south end, the truss is approached by a series of wooden trestle spans. The north end has the same design, plus an additional 80 foot through girder span. This through girder also is likely an old railroad span, but a location has not been found for it.
The bridge rests on concrete and wooden substructures. It is located on a public road, and is maintained by the railroad (as is evidenced by the lack of National Bridge Inventory entry).
The most unique aspect of the bridge is the idea that the truss was relocated from another place. A truss this size was designed for two heavy railroad loads, and it faithfully serves automobile traffic now.
The author has ranked the bridge as being highly significant due to the incredibly rare nature of the structure, as well as the old age.
The photo above is an overview. It is important to stay off of railroad tracks when visiting this bridge, as an active railyard is a dangerous place.