UP Elkhorn River Bridge (Waterloo)

Pratt Through Truss Bridge over Elkhorn River
Waterloo, Douglas County, Nebraska

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Name UP Elkhorn River Bridge (Waterloo)
Built By Union Pacific Railroad
Contractor American Bridge Company of New York
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 813 Feet Total, 163 Foot Main Span
Width 2 Tracks
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Through Truss and Through Girder
Substructure Type Concrete
Date Built 1906
Traffic Count 30 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 23.86
Significance Moderate Significance
In 1862, United States President Abraham Lincoln signed the Union Pacific Charter, declaring a railroad would be built west from Omaha, to a point on the West Coast at San Francisco.

Construction began in early 1863, starting in Omaha and progressing westward. Led by Thomas C. Durant, the route picked would follow the Platte River across Nebraska, and into the Rocky Mountains.

The main challenge of the eastern section was connecting Omaha to Fremont, a short distance. Yet the landscape provided many issues, with a hilly terrain.

By 1866, the road would be complete to Fremont. From here, it would continue west. It would reach the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869, at Promontory Point, Utah.
This completed the first transcontinental mainline.

By 1871, the Union Pacific Railroad aspired to build a bridge over the Missouri River into Council Bluffs. This would allow for connections to numerous eastern railroads, heading to Chicago and St. Louis.
The main connection was the Chicago & North Western, which built a mainline across Iowa, and to Chicago.

Because of the traffic this railroad inevitably would receive, an expansion was undertaken in the earliest part of the 20th century. This included double tracking the entire line to Fremont and further west.

The biggest portion was the Lane Cutoff, providing a straight route between Omaha and Waterloo, Nebraska. This opened in 1908.

The line survived the merger era with no alterations. By 1995, Union Pacific would acquire the Chicago & North Western.

Presently, the line is still one of the most significant mainlines in the country. It is known as the Omaha Subdivision, and is still owned by Union Pacific.

Another typical Union Pacific bridge crosses the Elkhorn River near Waterloo, Nebraska.
Built in 1906 to replace a single track bridge, this structure contains a large 6-panel, pin connected Pratt Through Truss. Approaching to the east are 10 spans of through plate girder.
The entire bridge sits on concrete substructures.
This main span has a portal style typical of Union Pacific bridges. The bridge also contains a number of plaques and cutouts, indicating dates and contractors.
Overall, the bridge is in fair condition. Unfortunately, the bridge crosses an abandoned opening, and is a possible candidate for being filled in.

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, due to the notoriety of being a truss.
The photo above is an overview. The bridge can be accessed from nearby trails.

Elkhorn River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Arlington Rail Bridge
Downstream Mouth at Missouri River


Source Type


Build Date Portal Cutout
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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