Plattsmouth Rail Bridge

Pennsylvania Through Truss Bridge over Missouri River
Pacific Junction, Mills County, Iowa
Plattsmouth, Cass County, Nebraska

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Name Plattsmouth Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad
Consulting Engineer E.J. Blake
Contractor American Bridge Company of New York
Currently Owned By BNSF Railway
Length 1,682 Feet Total, 402 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 50 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pennsylvania Through Truss, Pratt Deck Truss and Girder
Substructure Type Stone Masonry, Concrete and Steel H-Pile
Date Built 1903, Partially Rebuilt 1976
Traffic Count 30 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status Open to Westbound Traffic
BNSF Bridge Number 3.80
Significance Regional Significance
Documentation Date October 2015 and February 2017
In 1868, the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad had reached Creston, Iowa from Ottumwa. The crews used Creston as a point to continue building west.
By 1870, the line would be completed to East Plattsmouth, Iowa. This location was set on the Missouri River.

Just across the river, in Plattsmouth, the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad of Nebraska continued building west.

The railroad reached Ashland by 1870, and Lincoln later that year. The expansion would continue west, ultimately reaching Denver.

The lines were purchased by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad in 1875. To the east, the Iowa line connected to Chicago, via Burlington.

By 1880, the CB&Q completed a large bridge across the Missouri River at Plattsmouth, connecting the two lines.

Throughout the early 20th century, the line would be upgraded. In Iowa, many sections were constructed double track between Creston and Pacific Junction.

In Nebraska, the Ashland to Lincoln section was constructed double track in 1910.

The line served as a broader connection, connecting Denver and Chicago.
By 1970, the CB&Q merged with Great Northern and Northern Pacific to form Burlington Northern.
In 1996, BN merged with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe to form BNSF Railway, who currently owns this line.

Presently, the Creston to Lincoln section is known as the Creston Subdivision, and sees a steady traffic base.

The Plattsmouth Bridge is one of the most impressive bridges across the Missouri River, and contains one of the largest single spans.
This structure, and its successor, the New Bridge both contain massive 402 foot main spans, rivaled by few spans. They sit parallel to old US-34, now County L-35/Livingston Road.
The previous structure at this location contained two large Whipple Through Trusses, similar to many other Missouri River crossings. These spans were built by George S. Morrison,and were approached by a number of deck truss spans on the Iowa side.
This bridge was built in 1880, and replaced in 1903 as part of an upgrade to this mainline.
The old trusses found their way to central Iowa, where they would cross the Des Moines River at Tracy. Unfortunately, they were demolished in 1950.
The new 1903 bridge featured a single, 402 foot main span. This large span is a 16 panel, pin connected Pennsylvania Through Truss.
This span features heavily built up members, typical of large spans crossing major rivers.
It is approached by a pair of 8 panel, pin connected Pratt Deck Trusses with lengths of 202 Feet each. These spans replaced the other large span from the old bridge.
In addition, two 200 Foot and a single 198 foot Pratt Deck Trusses are built on the Iowa side, each with 8 panels and pin connections.
A 90 foot deck girder and a concrete arch span finish the approach in Iowa.
In Nebraska, the approach is a pair of deck girder spans. These replaced the original approach in 1976, when the hill on the Nebraska side of the bridge was carved out.
The substructures are all stone, except for the end approaches on either side. Some of the deck trusses have been rebuilt with riveted connections.
The plates on the bridge are on the portals, and endposts of the main span. These can be clearly seen stating the bridge information.

Presently, the bridge only serves westbound traffic. Structurally, it is in great condition. However, a new span was opened next to the bridge as part of a capacity increasing project.
The hope is that this bridge will continue to serve traffic for many years to come.
Views can be had on top of a bluff or from River Road in Nebraska. In Iowa, many views are possible around Karns Road.
The author has ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, as an example of a double tracking project which saved the historic structure.
The photo above is an overview from the top of a bluff in Nebraska. The old bridge is on the left, while the new bridge is on the right. I-29 and the Loess Hills can be seen in the distance.

Missouri River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Omaha Rail Bridge
Downstream New Plattsmouth Rail Bridge


Source Type


Build Date Plaques on bridge
Contractor American Bridge Company plaque
Engineer Plaque on portal
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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