IAIS S. Skunk River Bridge

Warren Through Truss Bridge over S. Skunk River
Near Colfax, Jasper County, Iowa

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name IAIS S. Skunk River Bridge
Built By Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad
Contractor American Bridge Company of New York
Currently Owned By Iowa Interstate Railroad
Length 395 Feet Total, 150 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
SuperstructureType Warren Through Truss and I-Beam
SubstructureType Concrete
Date Built Ca. 1905, Relocated here Ca. 1945
Traffic Count 5 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
IAIS Bridge Number 329.2
Significance Moderate Significance
Documentation Date May 2017
In 1867, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad continued building west from Newton, Iowa to Des Moines.

By 1869, construction would restart on the next 142 miles of track in Iowa, connecting Des Moines to the Missouri River. This trackage would be required to transverse some tougher landscapes, including large rolling hills and summits.

The railroad would be completed later that year, creating a continuous network for the Rock Island between Chicago and Council Bluffs.
In addition, trackage rights across the Missouri River Bridge at Omaha allowed for trains to access Nebraska and head to other points west.

In 1880, the railroad became the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway.

The railroad continued to see a growth in traffic, so it expanded the line. Significant portions were rebuilt west of Des Moines, including reduced curves and not as steep hills.

However, the biggest improvements took place in 1953. The Atlantic Cutoff was completed by September of that year.
The Atlantic Cutoff was an important improvement, reducing grades and creating a fast network. The Council Bluffs-Atlantic route shaved 10 miles off the old trip.

Because of this, the old line between Atlantic and Council Bluffs, including sections through Shelby and Avoca were abandoned.
In the end, the cutoff did almost nothing for the Rock Island. Interstate 80 opened only a decade later, closely paralleling the route.

By 1980, the Rock Island completely went bankrupt. The system was abandoned and chopped up.
However, in 1982, Iowa Interstate Railroad stepped in and purchased the Rock Island mainline between Chicago and Omaha.
Today, Iowa Interstate continues to operate the Newton to Council Bluff segment as the 4th Subdivision.

This large Warren Through Truss bridge crosses the South Skunk River near the former town of Metz.
Originally built in approximately 1905 at an unknown location, the main span features a riveted Warren Through Truss with 6 panels. This span rests on concrete piers.
The original bridge at this location was a Quadrangular Through Truss, which may have been reused at another location.
These I-Beams were likely extra spans stored around the area. Built by American Bridge Company, a sample of plaques include dates of 1939 and 1945. It is believed the truss was moved here in approximately 1945.
During the early 1940s, the Rock Island spent a fortune rebuilding track in eastern Iowa. A number of identical trusses existed, but were later moved to new locations.
In addition to other features, the bridge has a ballasted deck, which is common on former Rock Island structures.

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, due to the small number of trusses in the area.
Iowa Interstate Railroad has begun a replacement plan to remove and replace all the existing trusses along their lines. The first bridge of the replacement plan was replaced in 2017.
The author is genuinely concerned with this plan, as it would remove a considerable amount of transportation heritage from the area.
The photo above is an overview.

S. Skunk River Railroad Bridges
Upstream South Skunk River Trail Bridge
Downstream Oskaloosa Rail Bridge


Source Type


Build Date American Bridge Company plaques
Contractor American Bridge Company plaques
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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