Blair Rail Bridge

Parker Through Truss Bridge over Missouri River
Rural Harrison County, Iowa
Blair, Washington County, Nebraska

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Blair Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago & North Western Railway
Contractor American Bridge Company of New York
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 1,335 Feet Total, 330 Foot Main Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 45 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Parker Through Truss and Deck Girder
Substructure Type Stone Masonry, Concrete and Steel Tower
Date Built 1924
Traffic Count 30 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 340.18
Significance Regional Significance
Documentation Date October 2015
In 1867, the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad built a line from Missouri Valley, Iowa to California Junction, Iowa.
The line was a short spur from the main line.

By 1869, the Sioux City and Pacific Railroad took control of the short spur, and continued building west.

To get from Iowa to Nebraska meant to cross the Missouri River. This was accomplished by barge, and in the winter, ice crossing.

The railroad was opened to Fremont, Nebraska by 1869. At Fremont, it would connect to the Union Pacific Transcontinental Mainline.

The line was a short bypass of Omaha, connecting to the Chicago & North Western Railway at Missouri Valley.
By 1883, a bridge would be built across the river at Blair.

In 1901, the C&NW purchased the Sioux City and Pacific Railroad. The line continued to serve as a smalltime bypass.

By the 1960s, with many consolidations well underway, the line became more important. It allowed coal and intermodal trains to bypass the congested Omaha area.

By 1995, C&NW was purchased by Union Pacific. Union Pacific continues to operate this line as the Blair Subdivision.
It is considered one of the most high priority Union Pacific lines, and is in the process of being upgraded to allow seamless operations.

Parallel to US-30 sits one of the most massive truss bridges in the States of Iowa and Nebraska: the Blair Rail Bridge.
The bridge was built in 1924, replacing an older Whipple Truss Bridge. These older spans were rebuilt and moved to Wyoming, where one of the three continues to survive near Midval, Wyoming carrying a trail across the Wind River.
That bridge was built in 1883 by George S. Morrison, who was well known for building massive Whipple Truss spans over the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
The old bridge featured large spans, with a latticed portal bracing. These spans included pinned connections and were set on stone substructures.
By 1923, the old spans had outlived their usefulness and were scheduled to be replaced. These spans were replaced with a trio of massive Parker Through Trusses and Deck Girders.
The new trusses are 10 panel, riveted Parker Through Trusses with very heavy pieces.
In addition, the approaches were rebuilt at this time. The west side features 3 deck girder spans, set onto steel towers.
The east end features a single deck girder, of fishbelly design, and a newer I-Beam span.

The bridge also reused the 1883 stone piers, in addition to new concrete abutments, a steel tower and a H-Pile pier on the east end.

The bridge has a strong significance to the area. Because of the railroad originally crossing the Missouri River at this point, Blair came to be. It is the largest town in Washington County.
In addition, the bridge serves a steady base of westbound traffic across the Missouri River, bypassing Omaha. Because of the rising level of traffic coming from the west, plans to replace this bridge; or to build a second span have been circulating.
However, none of these have been confirmed or engineered yet.

The best places to view the bridge are from the Nebraska side, at a boat launch. For the more daring, walking along the shoulder of US-30 can be quite intimidating but also provides good views.
It should be noted that trespassing on this bridge is absolutely not tolerated for obvious safety reasons, and a camera system has been installed to enforce this.

The author ranks the bridge as being regionally significant, due to the bridges history and background in Blair.
The photo above is an overview, from the west bank.

Missouri River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Sioux City Rail Bridge
Downstream East Omaha Swing Bridge

These Pictures Start at varying points in the Series
Detail Photos from October, 2015


Source Type


Build Date American Bridge Company Plaque
Contractor American Bridge Company Plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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