DM&E Cedar River Bridge (Otranto)

Pratt Pony Truss Bridge over Cedar River
Otranto, Mitchell County, Iowa

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Name DM&E Cedar River Bridge (Otranto)
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway
Contractor Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago
Currently Owned By Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad
Length 200 Feet Total, 100 Foot Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 25 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Pony Truss
Substructure Type Stone Masonry and Concrete
Date Built 1899
Traffic Count 4 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
MILW Bridge Number S-504
Significance Regional Significance
Documentation Date April 2021
In 1869, the McGregor Western Railway Company, a subsidiary of the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway built a line between Mason City, Iowa and Austin, Minnesota.
This new line connected the existing Minnesota Central line towards the Twin Cities at Austin to a mainline between Marquette, Iowa and South Dakota at Mason City. By 1874, the Milwaukee & St. Paul became the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, commonly known as the Milwaukee Road.
During the early years of the 20th Century, the Milwaukee Road greatly upgraded routes, and built a new mainline to the Pacific Ocean at Seattle. An expensive route, this extension sent the Milwaukee Road into financial turmoil.
By 1925, the Milwaukee Road had declared bankruptcy and reorganized as the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad in 1928.
This line saw little change throughout the years. While the Milwaukee Road saw success in the post-WWII years, the Midwest was heavily overbuilt with numerous railroads. As a result, the Milwaukee Road again entered bankruptcy in 1974, and begun significantly trimming route mileage.
The Pacific extension was formally abandoned west of Miles City, Montana in 1980; and numerous other routes were abandoned between 1980 and 1982.
In 1985, the Soo Line Railroad purchased the struggling Milwaukee Road. On January 1st, 1986; the Milwaukee Road ceased to exist, completely merging into Soo Line.
The Soo Line had been a part of the Canadian Pacific Railway system since 1984, when they purchased Soo as a subsidiary. CP continued operations of the Mason City-Austin route under the Soo Line name, until April of 1997, when it sold nearly 1,400 miles of trackage to I&M Rail Link.
By 2002, the routes owned by I&M were transferred to Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad, a subsidiary of Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern. DM&E and IC&E were purchased by Canadian Pacific Railway in October 2008.
Today, CP continues to operate this route as subsidiary Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern. It is known as the Owatonna Subdivision, seeing approximately four trains per day.

One of the larger railroad bridges in North Central Iowa, this large pony truss bridge crosses the Cedar River at a remote area north of Otranto.
Built in 1899, the bridge features a pair of identical 100 foot long, 6-panel pin connected Pratt Pony Trusses. These trusses were built by Lassig Bridge & Iron Works, using a standard design seen on many spans along the Milwaukee Road. The bridge rests on stone and concrete substructures.
A similar bridge to this exists to the south at Carpenter, crossing Deer Creek.
Much of this bridge is massive, featuring large turnbuckles, large members and a heavy floor. It also appears that the south abutment was upgraded, possibly around 2014.
At one time, many of these types of spans existed throughout the Milwaukee Road system. However, many have been replaced or removed since the 1970s. This span is also a good representative of a multi-span pony truss bridge, as many of these spans were built as single spans.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in excellent condition, and well maintained. A plaque was taken off the bridge, but emailed to the author, confirming the 1899 build date.

The author has ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the large size, historic nature and truss design.
The photo above is an overview.

Cedar River Railroad Bridges
Upstream CN Cedar River Bridge (Lyle)
Downstream Charles City Trestle


Source Type


Build Date Photo of Plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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