The history of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern began largely with the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Minnesota railway. Formed in 1868, the railroad opened lines from Burlington to Plymouth, Iowa; from Cedar Rapids to Postville, Iowa and several other branch lines. The BCR&N was formed in Iowa on June 27th, 1876.. The next year, they completed the line into Minnesota. By 1878, they purchased the BCR&M.
After building a successful mainline in Iowa, the route contracted with other railroads to build lines. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa Falls and Northwestern Railway was formed in 1880 to build a line between Holland, Iowa and Watertown, South Dakota. In addition, lines to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Worthington, Minnesota were completed as well. The BCR&N leased the line in 1889, but did not officially purchase it until 1902.
By the time the century turned, the railroad had a healthy collection of routes across Iowa; as well as trackage rights on the Milwaukee Road to reach Minneapolis and St. Paul. In addition, trackage rights over the Rock Island allowed the route to reach Chicago.
Map above released into public domain. Depiction shows the BCR&N route in 1901, prior to being purchased by Rock Island.
In 1902, construction began on a route from Albert Lea, Minnesota to St. Paul. This route included utilizing a small portion of Milwaukee Road trackage just south of St. Paul, but was a very successful route. By 1903, the railroad had attracted the interest of another railroad, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway. In June of 1903, the railroad was consumed by the Rock Island. In 2017, approximately half of the lines constructed by the BCR&N continue to exist. Between the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and Manly, the route is a Union Pacific mainline, while the Manly to Cedar Rapids segment survives as a shortline, the Iowa Northern Railway. Other small segments in Iowa exist, but most all of the branch lines have since been abandoned. Despite abandonments of the system, historic bridges and structures continue to exist on BCR&N land, past and present.
Examples of Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Bridges can be seen above. The photo above was one of the main surviving bridges, a unique truss bridge that once existed near Columbus Junction, Iowa. It was removed in 2014.