BNSF Des Moines River Bridge (Keokuk)

Pratt Through Truss Bridge over Des Moines River
Keokuk, Lee County, Iowa
Alexandria, Clark County, Missouri

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Name BNSF Des Moines River Bridge (Keokuk)
Built By Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad
Contractor Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company of Milwaukee
Currently Owned By BNSF Railway
Length 990 Feet Total, 152 Foot Largest Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Through Truss
Substructure Type Concrete
Date Built 1903
Traffic Count 15 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
BNSF Bridge Number 174.95
Significance Moderate Significance
Documentation Date June 2016
In 1855, the Keokuk, Mount Pleasant and Muscatine Railroad began construction of a 16 mile line from Keokuk, Iowa to Veile, Iowa. This new line would run roughly parallel to the Mississippi River.

This line would be completed in 1857, and by 1858 the Iowa Southern Junction Railroad began construction on an extension into Fort Madison. This would be completed in 1859 by the Iowa Southern Railroad.

These two railroads would become a part of the Keokuk and St. Paul Railway in 1866. By 1867, the line would be extended to Burlington, Iowa where it would meet a mainline. The line would be completed in late 1869.

Far south of Iowa, a railroad known as the Clarksville and Western Railroad begun construction of a 54 mile line stretching from St. Peters, Missouri to Louisiana, Missouri.

Similarly, the Mississippi Valley and Western Railway completed a 34 mile segment from West Quincy, Missouri to Buena Vista, Iowa in 1872. This segment was started by the Mississippi and Missouri River Air Line Railroad in 1868.

In 1873, the Clarksville and Western Railroad was purchased by the Mississippi Valley and Western Railway in 1873. This railroad would complete segments from West Quincy to Hannibal, Missouri and from Lousiana to Clarksville.

In 1875, the railroad would become part of the St. Louis, Keokuk and North Western Railway. This railroad would complete the line between Buena Vista, Iowa and St. Peters Missouri in 1879.
Finally, in 1881; the railroad built a portion from Buena Vista to Keokuk. This created a continuous line between St. Peters and Burlington.

After a rename in 1887, the St. Louis, Keokuk and North Western Railroad built a final 49 miles from Cuivre Junction (at Old Monroe) to St. Louis in 1892. The entire line was considered critical to the development of industry along the Mississippi River.

Both the Keokuk and St. Paul Railway, as well as the St. Louis, Keokuk and North Western Railroad were purchased by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway in 1901. The CB&Q had been constructing a significant amount of track throughout the midwest.
In 1907, the 10 mile spur to St. Peters would be abandoned, considered unnecessary.

The remainder of the line remained critical to the CB&Q, which would eventually merge with the Northern Pacific and Great Northern to form Burlington Northern in 1970.

By 1996, the thriving BN decided to merge with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe to form BNSF Railway, the current owner of the line. It currently sees a solid traffic base, and is operated as the Hannibal Subdivision.

This large and prominent Pratt Through Truss Bridge crosses the Des Moines River near its mouth with the Mississippi River.
The current bridge was built in 1903. The railroad constructed it, but shared joint costs with the counties which constructed a road inside the truss.
Roads utilizing railroad bridges are not commonly seen on smaller crossings, albeit this is not a small crossing. The road was removed from the railroad approximately the time the United States Highway System came into creation in 1926. The route would become designated as US-61 and US-136.
The bridge is constructed with 6 large Pratt Through Truss spans. These massively built up spans feature heavily reinforced pinned connections. It features a combination of 7 and 8-Panel trusses.
The spans are set onto concrete substructures. The spans feature a heavy skew to combat the rapid flow and harsh angle of the Des Moines River. In addition, the bridge features an M-Frame Portal bracing, not commonly seen on bridges of this age.
One thing is clear. The bridge was built sparing no expense. In 1903, this design of bridge would have been considered downright state-of-the-art.
The author has ranked this structure as having moderate significance, due to the unique design of the bridge. It is hoped this bridge will serve traffic for years to come.

The photo above is an overview.

Des Moines River Railroad Bridges
Upstream BNSF Des Moines River Bridge (Argyle)
Downstream Confluence with Mississippi River


Source Type


Build Date Historic Articles
Contractor Missing Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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