Dubuque Rail Bridge

Through Truss Swing Bridge Across Mississippi River
East Dubuque, Jo Daviess County, Illinois
Dubuque, Dubuque County, Iowa

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Name Dubuque Rail Bridge
Built By Illinois Central Railroad
Contractor (Swing Span) Keystone Bridge Company of Pittsburgh
Contractor (Fixed Spans) American Bridge Works of Chicago
Currently Owned By Canadian National Railway
Length 1,535 Feet Total, 356 Foot Swing Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 20 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt and Parker Through Truss
Substructure Type Concrete and Stone Masonry
Date Built 1892 and 1899, Rehabilitated 2013
Traffic Count 6 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
CN Bridge Number 182.00
Significance High Significance
Documentation Date April 2018
In 1857, the Dubuque and Pacific Railroad began construction on a 29 mile line extending from Dubuque to Dyersville, Iowa.
By 1860, the line would receive another 49 mile extension to Jessup, Iowa.
At the end of 1860, the D&P would be purchased by the Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad, which desired to build west to Sioux City.
In 1861, the route would be extended to Cedar Falls, where it would terminate.

The D&SC would continue building west in 1866.
Beginning in 1867, the Illinois Central leased the D&SC. The route would be able to provide a mainline into Iowa for the company.
Relatively uncommon in the modern world of railroading, the Illinois Central did not fully consume the D&SC until 1946. Despite this, virtually every project was Illinois Central funded until then.
Immediately after this, the IC went to work rebuilding numerous older truss bridges along the line. This route served as the western mainline for the Illinois Central, which had grown to be considerable in size.
In 1972, the IC merged with the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad to form the Illinois Central Gulf. The ICG dissolved back into the Illinois Central in 1988.

The entire western main line and associated branch lines of the IC were sold to a railroad known as the Chicago Central and Pacific Railroad in 1985.
Just 11 years later, the route would again be purchased by Illinois Central. By 1999, the Illinois Central was purchased by Canadian National.
In 2017, Canadian National operates the Cedar Falls-Fort Dodge segment of this line as the Waterloo Subdivision.

Located between the cities of Dubuque, Iowa and East Dubuque, Illinois, this large through truss bridge crosses the Mississippi River.
The first bridge here was built between 1868 and 1872, and consisted of a much larger structure. Several portions of this bridge, particularly the approach, were reused in Dubuque County and other areas as the approach was filled.
Four 1872 approach spans are still known to exist, located at Bergfeld Pond, Sageville, Iowa and Vicksburg, Mississippi, as part of a two span bridge carrying Fairground Street over a rail yard.

Historic Photo
Historic photo of the previous bridge

The current bridge at this location was built in two stages. The swing span was built in 1892, and consists of a pair of 7-panel, pin connected Pratt Through Truss leafs, built by Keystone Bridge Company.
The rest of the bridge was added in 1899. The remainder of the bridge consists of three 9-panel pin connected Parker Through Trusses on the west end, with an additional 10-panel span before the swing span. The east approach of the bridge also contains a 10-panel Parker span. The entire bridge sits on concrete and stone substructures, which date to 1892 and 1899, respectively. No portions of the original bridge were used at this location.
Because this bridge is critical to operations of Canadian National, it underwent an extensive reconstruction in 2012 and 2013. As part of the repairs, members and connections were strengthened with new high strength bolts and steel.
The method of repair to the bridge did not diminish the historic significance. While the appearance was changed by the new riveted connections and brown members, the original connections and members are still visible. The repairs superimposed new over old, allowing for a maximum amount of historic material to remain.
Currently, the bridge is operated by Canadian National. At the east end of the bridge, the railroad enters the tunnel, which makes a sharp turn to head south.
At one time, Chicago Great Western also used this bridge. However, CGW successor Chicago & North Western relinquished the trackage rights in the 1980s, after abandoning the route.
Overall, the bridge appears to be healthy and in good condition. With the significant upgrade, the bridge should continue to serve traffic for years to come.

Historic Photo
Historic postcard of the bridge. Photo credit of PhotoLibrarian on Flickr

The author has ranked this bridge as being highly significant, due to the large scale design. In addition, the repair techniques used on this bridge are applauded by the author, as they retained a significant amount of historic material.
The photo above is an overview. the photo below shows the extensive repairs.

Mississippi River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Marquette Pontoon Bridge
Downstream Sabula Rail Bridge

Detail Photos


Source Type


Build Date 1973 Illinois Central track profile
Contractor Missing American Bridge Works plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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