Towns such as Eldon, Ottumwa, Oskaloosa, Pella and Altoona were all served by this new railroad. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad leased the railroad nearly immediately, before finally merging the route in 1923.
The Rock Island operated a significant amount of trackage throughout Iowa and the central United States. This route served as a connecting route between several mainlines.
The Rock Island was a poor railroad, facing financial trouble regularly and often in bankruptcy. After World War II, the Rock Island struggled to survive, proposing mergers and deferring maintenance on their routes.
By 1964, the Rock Island began attempts to merge with Union Pacific, and restructure railroads west of the Mississippi River. This merger was eventually denied, and Rock Island turned its last profit in 1965.
In the mid-1970s, the railroad was in serious decline. The railroad received loans to attempt to fix slow orders, received new equipment and turn a profit. By 1978, the railroad came close to profit, but creditors were lobbying for a complete shutdown of the Rock Island. During the fall of 1979, a strike crippled the railroad, and by January of 1980, the entire system was ordered to be shut down and liquidated.
This line was one of the casualties of the 1980 shutdown. Unlike many other lines, there was little interest in continuing to operate this route. Significant portions of the line were scrapped and removed.
Fortunately, some small sections were retained, such as the Iowa Interstate owned Altoona-Pella segment. The Pella-Otley section was abandoned in 1998, and the Otley-Prairie City segment in 2000. The remainder is still used as car storage.
Further north, the Gay Lea Wilson trail uses segments of the old roadbed, and a trail has been proposed between Altoona and Monroe along the old route.
This deck girder bridge crosses a tributary of Camp Creek near Mitchellville.
While a date stamp on the concrete abutment gives a date of 1907, one span of the bridge has a plaque giving a date of 1903.
This four year difference may indicate that the spans were stored until construction. However, most likely the previous bridge was built in 1907 and consisted of a steel trestle, which was ultimately replaced.
Rock Island liked using secondhand spans, which were usually from former main lines and sent to be emergency replacements for other bridges. It is also possible that these spans were originally constructed here, but the substructures were replaced.
Currently, the bridge consists of three deck girder spans, set onto timber piers. The bridge is approached by a trestle span on either side. Footings from a previous bridge exist below. A 1972 track chart lists this bridge as having three 44 foot deck girder spans. However, the current bridge has an 70 foot span, as well as a 44 foot span on either side.
The author believes the most likely situation is that two 44-foot spans were reused when the bridge was rebuilt with a 70-foot span from an unknown location.
Unfortunately, Rock Island bridge information has been incredibly difficult to find, so a confirmed build date may never be known.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in fair condition. Iowa Interstate uses this bridge exclusively for car storage, so it is likely that it will see trail development in the coming years.
The author has ranked this bridge as being locally significant, due to the common design.
The photo above is an overview.