Canton Rail Bridge

Lost Pratt Through Truss Bridge over Big Sioux River
Near Inwood, Lyon County, Iowa
Canton, Lincoln County, South Dakota

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Canton Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific Railway
Contractor Unknown
Contractor (Girder Retrofit) Clinton Bridge Works of Clinton, Iowa
Currently Owned By D&I Railroad
Length 385 Feet Total, 130 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Through Truss, Deck Girder and Trestle
Substructure Type Timber Pile
Date Erected 1917 and 1931
Date Fabricated (Truss) 1909
Original Location (Truss) Bridge #Z-1154; Madrid, Iowa
Date Fabricated (Girder) 1887
Original Location (Girder) Bridge #Z-204; Genoa, Illinois
Date Destroyed March 2019
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge has been Replaced)
Current Status Destroyed by Ice Jam
D&I Bridge Number T-648
Significance Regional Significance
Documentation Date December 2014
In 1878, the Sioux City & Pembina Railway built a line from Elk Point, South Dakota to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The line crossed across the Big Sioux a number of times, crossing between Iowa and South Dakota.

The line was merged into the Sioux City and Dakota Railroad in 1879.

By 1881, the line became a branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, also known as the Milwaukee Road.

In 1913, following an escapade to the Pacific Ocean, the railroad became known as the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific Railway.

Heading north out of Sioux Falls, the Milwaukee Road also operated a branch to North Dakota.

By 1981, with the Milwaukee Road falling to bankruptcy, the Dakota & Iowa (D&I) Railroad was formed as a joint coalition between Iowa and South Dakota to operate the former branch to Sioux City.

Today, D&I continues to operate the line from Sioux Falls to Sioux City, as well as the Dell Rapids branch.

Formerly crossing the Big Sioux River at Canton, this unique bridge was destroyed in the spring floods of 2019 during an ice jam.
As originally built, the bridge featured the 5-panel, riveted Pratt Through Truss with a 75-foot deck girder approach. Trestles approached the bridge on either side. The truss was originally fabricated in 1909 at Madrid, Iowa to replace an 1888 vintage bridge. When the Madrid bridge was replaced by a new structure in 1913-14, the old spans were reused here and at another unknown location.
In 1931, a 72-foot deck girder was installed to replace the lighter 75-foot span. This 72-foot deck girder span had a unique history, as it was originally built in 1887 as one span of a double track through plate girder span at Bridge #Z-204 across the Kishwaukee River at Genoa, Illinois.
The 1931 configuration of this bridge represents the final configuration before the bridge was destroyed. The entire bridge sat on timber substructures, unusual for a permanent structure.

Historic Photo
Bridge #Z-204; Genoa, Illinois. From Annual report of the Railroad and Warehouse Commission of the State of Illinois, 1899.

When the Illinois bridge was replaced in 1931, the three spans were freed up to be reused elsewhere. The other two spans were stored at the bridge yard in Tomah, Wisconsin before being sent to Rapid City, South Dakota.
The third span was shipped by flat car to Canton, where it was heavily strengthened and converted to a single track deck girder span and rebuilt by the Clinton Bridge Works. The old 75-foot span was then sent to Tomah, where it was eventually reused elsewhere.
While relocating spans is rather common, it is unusual to convert a through girder span to a deck girder span. Unfortunately, the author was not able to get close to the bridge to inspect underneath the girder for the unusual features that were almost certainly present.

The author ranks this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the unique design of a riveted Pratt truss and the historic nature of the girder.
The photo above is an overview. The bridge was replaced in the spring of 2019.

Big Sioux River Railroad Bridges
Upstream RI Big Sioux River Bridge
Downstream Fairview Rail Bridge


Source Type


Build Date Milwaukee Road Bridge Records at the South Dakota State Historical Society
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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