Iowa River Trail Bridge (Union)

Modified Warren Through Truss Bridge over Iowa River
Union, Hardin County, Iowa

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Name Iowa River Trail Bridge (Union)
Built By Iowa Central Railway
Contractor Phoenix Bridge Company of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
Currently Owned By Marshall County
Length 260 Feet Total, 138 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track, 2 Trail Lanes
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Schaub Variant Through Truss and Trestle
Substructure Type Concrete and Timber Pile
Date Built 1902
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is abandoned)
Current Status Abandoned, Awaiting Trail Development
M&StL Bridge Number 258
Significance Moderate Significance
Documentation Date April 2014
In 1867, the Eldora Railroad & Coal Company began building a rail line to connect to Marshalltown from Eldora, where a deposit of coal had been found.

The same year, the line was extended north to Ackley, where it connected to the Illinois Central Mainline.

Two years later, in 1870; the Iowa Central Railroad would absorb the ER&CC and build their own connection, running from Ackley to Albert Lea, Minnesota.

At Albert Lea, the line would connect to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, via the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway.

At Marshalltown, the line would eventually be extended south towards Peoria, Illinois.

With the Iowa Central operating a critical line between Marshalltown and Albert Lea, via Mason City, the Minneapolis & St. Louis first proposed a merger in 1901, which went through finally in 1912.

When the M&StL operated this line, it was used as their second subdivision, a critical line.
The first downfall came in 1913, when the Rock Island opened a parallel line from Mason City to Des Moines.

Although this line was profitable for the Minneapolis & St. Louis; the Chicago & Northwestern purchased the M&StL in 1960.

The first abandonment for this line came in 1970, when it was abandoned from Manly to a junction just south of Mason City.

The second was in 1988 and from Hampton to Ackley.

The next two came in 1990 and 2001, which was from Rockwell to Sheffield, and from Sheffield to Hampton.

One important note was the Chicago & Northwestern was purchased by the Union Pacific in 1995.

In 2006, the Iowa River Railroad rehabilitated the line from Ackley to Marshalltown and used it.
Although it soon fell through, the line would be abandoned in 2011.

Today, the Steamboat Rock to Marshalltown section will become the Iowa River Rail Trail in the near future.

Read an article about the Schaub variant truss.

This unique truss bridge crosses the Iowa River just south of Albion in a very scenic location.
Built in 1902, the main span is a 136 foot long, Schaub variant through truss with all verticals and an A-Frame Portal.
It rests on stone piers, which are mainly encased by concrete. On the south end, it is approached by a long trestle.
The Schaub variant truss is a take on the traditional Warren design, developed by Julius Schaub in 1901. While the original design featured a combination of pin and riveted connections, this bridge utilizes purely riveted connections.
The Schaub design offered a savings of material and a reduction of traditional stresses in truss members. Schaub considered it to be an ideal link between long pin connected spans and short riveted spans.

Diagram of bridge
Diagram of this style bridge

The north abutment is a basically an encased stone pier abutted against a concrete pad.
It is a nearly identical match to the Bridge near Albion

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, due to the unique design of the truss.
The photo above is an overview on a warm spring 2014 evening.

Iowa River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Steamboat Rock Trail Bridge
Downstream Albion Trail Bridge


Source Type


Build Date ICC Valuation Summary Report, courtesy Doug Harding collection
Contractor Phoenix Bridge Works Collection at the Hagley Library and Museum
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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