UP Des Moines River Bridge (Des Moines)

Subdivided Warren Through Truss Bridge over Des Moines River
Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa

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Name UP Des Moines River Bridge (Des Moines)
Built By Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad
Contractor American Bridge Company of New York
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 459 Feet Total, 160 Foot Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 20 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Subdivided Warren Through Truss
Substructure Type Stone Masonry
Date Built 1920
Traffic Count 15 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 72.30
Significance Moderate Significance
Documentation Date November 2012 (Photos 1-3); September 2017 (Photos 4-19)
In 1871, the Chicago and Southwestern Railway constructed a segment of line between Allerton, Iowa and St. Joseph, Missouri.
At the same time, the Des Moines, Indianola and Missouri Railroad built a 21 mile route from Des Moines, to Indianola, Iowa.
This mainline connected critical towns in North Central Missouri, such as Trenton and Princeton. It also continued to Davenport, Iowa on the east.

By 1876, the DMI&M became a part of the Iowa Southern and Missouri Northern Railroad, becoming a part of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific in 1880. The C&SW followed suit in 1878.
While effective at transferring goods and customers from Eastern Iowa to St. Joseph, the railroad failed to connect Des Moines or Kansas City.
In 1911, the St. Paul and Kansas City Short Line Railroad made a connection from Carlisle, Iowa to Allerton, Iowa. This line would be completed by 1913.
While an independent railroad on paper, the Short Line was actually operated by the Rock Island. Another extension would be made in 1931, connecting to Kansas City from a junction point near Jamesport, Missouri.
Two uses of the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific tracks were required; both from Polo to Lawson, and from Mosby to Kansas City.

The Short Line would be fully absorbed by 1948. The Rock Island operated this route as a critical mainline. Further extensions to the north fully connected Kansas City and Saint Paul with a direct route.
The Rock Island oftentimes had financial issues. By 1980, the deterioration and severity of these issues led to an abandonment.
The redeeming factor for the line was an interest by Chicago & North Western Railway, who wanted a more reliable route to Kansas City from Des Moines.
In June of 1983, the C&NW acquired the line and began reconstructing it to meet operational standards. By 1995, the C&NW became a part of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Presently, this route is operated as the Union Pacific Trenton Subdivision, and is a mainline between Kansas City and Iowa.

This large through truss bridge crosses the Des Moines River just south of Downtown Des Moines.
Built in 1920, the three truss spans overshadow the surrounding landscape. These trusses feature riveted connections and a Subdivided Warren Through Truss design.
Originally when built, the structure also had a sizable trestle approach to the north. That was removed in the 1980s and replaced by a new approach.
The substructures of this bridge contain both concrete and stone. Previous bridges here are unknown, but it is assumed they would also have been through truss spans.
Overall, the bridge remains in good condition with a steady traffic base crossing the bridge.

The author has ranked the bridge as being moderate significant, due to the newer age of the bridge.
The photo above is an overview from the south bank. The bridge can be accessed from local walking trails.

Des Moines River Railroad Bridges
Upstream CGW Des Moines River Bridge
Downstream CB&Q Des Moines River Bridge


Source Type


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

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