White Cloud Trail Bridge

Whipple Through Truss Bridge over W. Nishnabotna River
Near Malvern, Mills County, Iowa

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Name White Cloud Trail Bridge
Built By Wabash Railroad
Contractor (Original Truss) Detroit Bridge & Iron Works of Detroit
Contractor (1910 Modernization) American Bridge Company of New York
Currently Owned By State of Iowa
Length 305 Feet Total, 114 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Whipple Through Truss, I-Beam and Trestle
Substructure Type Concrete and Timber Pile
Date Built (See Below for Details) 1910, Using 1884 Parts
Parts Relocated From Bridge #110; Decatur, Illinois
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is a Trail)
Current Status Rails to Trails
Wabash Bridge Number 1229
NW Bridge Number 381.50
Significance High Significance
Documentation Date October 2015 and November 2020
In 1871, the Brunswick and Chillicothe Railroad built a 30 mile line from Brunswick, Missouri to Chillicothe, Missouri.

At the same time, the St. Louis, Council Bluffs and Omaha Railroad was building an additional 42 miles from Chillicothe to Pattonsburg, Missouri.

By 1872, the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railway began another extension, from Pattonsburg to the Iowa State Line near Blanchard.

These railroads were part of a loosely organized system of railroads which formed the Wabash "System".

By 1878, the Council Bluffs & St. Louis Railway would become the controller of all three of these railroads, and would finish the line to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The Wabash Railway was officially formed in 1924, and took over absolute control of these lines. It connected to a Kansas City-St. Louis mainline.

The railroad allowed for a strong connection between St. Louis and the Southeast Railroads, to Council Bluffs and the railroads of the west.

The Wabash was leased to the Norfolk & Western in 1960, and was completely absorbed by 1968.

The Norfolk & Western continued branchline operations of this line, and inevitably abandoned it by 1984. The Blanchard, Iowa to Council Bluffs portion was purchased by the Iowa Southern Railroad.
The ISR abandoned nearly all trackage, except for spurs in Council Bluffs in 1988.
The remaining portion would go through the COuncil Bluffs and Ottumwa Railway, and inevitably the Iowa Interstate.

The abandoned segment became part of the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, a 66 mile trail in Southwest Iowa.

One of the most scenic places along the Wabash Trace Nature Trail is around Malvern, where the trail crosses two large trusses.
The Silver Creek Bridge, and this bridge are two of the highlights of the 66 mile trail.
This bridge is also one of the most significant in Southwest Iowa. The bridge features a rare Whipple Truss span, which has even more rarely been converted between truss styles.
Originally, the truss span was built in 1884 to cross the Sangamon River in Decatur, Illinois. That bridge was a Whipple Deck Truss bridge, where the tracks ran on top of the truss.
That bridge was replaced in 1907 by a large concrete arch bridge. At least one span was salvaged from the old bridge, and relocated here and in 1910, American Bridge Company was tasked with the job of "modernizing" that span for use at this location.
This modernization included completely reconstructing the floor beams, removing the interior bracing, adding sway and portal bracing, and strengthening the overall structure.
This rare conversion left what was once a deck truss, as a through truss. This is the only known such conversion on this website, and possibly on any railroad in the United States.
Further upgrades occurred to the bridge in 1929, when the trestle spans were replaced; and again in 1951 when a steel stringer span was added to the bridge.
Currently, the bridge features the 9-panel, pin connected Warren Through Truss, a steel stringer span and numerous trestle spans on either side. The bridge rests on concrete and timber substructures.
The bridge has a series of plaques, all of which are the same. They are located in the upper corner of the spans, inside the truss. This unusual location is easily missed, but has allowed the plaques to remain instead of being stolen.
Like many other locations along the trail, the river has been reinforced with old box cars. This is likely due to constant flooding it sees.
Overall, the bridge is in fair to good condition. While the steel components of the bridge are in excellent condition, some of the trestle spans need immediate repairs or upgrades.
The author has ranked this bridge as being highly significant, due to the unique modifications and old age.

The photo above is a photo from the southeast corner of the bridge, while the photo below is a photo of the plaque.
Nathan Holth illustrated the conversion process in picture #22, where he noted extra holes and plates.

Special thank you to James Holzmeier for finding information on this bridge!

W. Nishnabotna River Railroad Bridges
Upstream BNSF W. Nishnabotna River Bridge
Downstream Confluence with E. Nishnabotna River

Detail Photos


Source Type


Build Date Wabash Railway Historical Society
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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