CGW Des Moines River Bridge

Lost Pratt Through Truss Bridge over Des Moines River
Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name CGW Des Moines River Bridge
Built By Chicago Great Western Railroad
Contractor American Bridge Company (Chicago Office)
Last Owned By City of Des Moines
Length 725 Feet Total, 185 Foot Largest Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 25 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pin Connected, 7 Panel, Pratt Through Truss
Substructure Type Stone Masonry and Concrete
Date Built 1901
Date Removed Fall 2012-Fall 2013
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge has been Removed)
Current Status Demolished
CGW Bridge Number F267
Significance Moderate Significance
Documentation Date July 2012 (Photos 1-34); November 2012 (Photos 35-45); March 2013 (Photos 46-50)
In 1882, the Wisconsin, Iowa & Nebraska Railway began construction of "The Old Diagonal", a 112 mile rail line from Cedar Falls to Des Moines.
The work would be completed in late 1884, with the new diagonal line connecting the towns of Waterloo, Marshalltown and Des Moines.
In 1887, an expansion would lead towards Saint Joseph, Missouri.

By 1905, the line would become part of the Mason City & Fort Dodge Railway.
The Mason City & Fort Dodge would join the Chicago & Great Western Railway system in 1909.

By 1968, the Chicago & Great Western would be purchased by the Chicago & Northwestern Railway.

With a slowing freight economy for railroads during the 1980s, the C&NW would begin abandoning this line.
The first piece came in 1983, when the stretch from Bondurant to Marshalltown was abandoned.

The second and larger stretch came in 1988 when the stretch from Marshalltown to Cedar Falls would be abandoned.

While the Bondurant to Baxter (southwest of Marshalltown) section opened as an early rail trail in 1987.

By 2011, the stump to Bondurant from Des Moines would be abandoned, and has since became a part of the same trail.

Today, all of the line is abandoned, with the exception from the Baxter to Des Moines section, which is the Chichaqua Valley Trail.

Once located in Des Moines, this large railroad bridge crossed the Des Moines River south of the Scott Avenue Bridge.
Built in 1901, the bridge featured four large skewed Pratt Through Truss spans. These spans were all 7 panels with pinned connections and a significant skew. They followed a traditional design seen in the first few years of American Bridge Company and the 20th Century.
The substructures of the bridge were all built of stone, although some were later encased in concrete. These substructures became a major issue with the bridge, with the west and east piers having extensive damage, primarily caused by the growing of a tree in each pier. The encased pier also were beginning to fail, as the concrete on the pier was beginning to slip.
Significant alterations to the bridge occurred in 1925 and 1945, when the piers were repaired. It is believed the encasements occurred in 1945. Steel repairs occurred in the 1970s.
The piers on the bridge were built in 1887, for a similar bridge. However, the original bridge was five spans. The size was cut to four spans in the 1901 rebuild.
At the end of 2012, demolition of this structure surprisingly began. The structure was sold to the City of Des Moines for future trail use. Demolition was completed in the summer of 2013.
When demolished, the substructures of the bridge would have needed repairs to be usable for a trail. However, the truss structure actually was in good condition and was rehabilitated with the replacement of failing steel. Unfortunately, Des Moines decided demolition of this bridge was needed for flood reasons. The author believes that this bridge could have been preserved with proper maintenance, and could have served as a trail.

Should the bridge still exist, the author would have ranked the bridge as being moderately significant, due to the truss design. However, this bridge is not as significant as other railroad bridges in Des Moines past or present.
The photo above is an overview. The photo below shows the demolition of the bridge.

Des Moines River Railroad Bridges
Upstream CBQ Des Moines River Bridge
Downstream Union Pacific Des Moines River Bridge at Hartford Avenue

These Pictures Start at Varying Points in the Series

Demolition Photos from 2012-2013


Source Type


Build Date Iowa Historic Site Inventory
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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