Fort Dodge High Bridge

Massive Deck Truss High Bridge over Des Moines River
Fort Dodge, Webster County, Iowa

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Fort Dodge High Bridge
Built By Chicago Great Western Railway
Contractor (Superstructure) American Bridge Company of New York
Contractor (Substructures) Bates & Rogers Construction Co. of Chicago
Contractor (Erection) Kelly-Atkinson Construction Co. of Chicago
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 2,179 Feet Total, 219 Foot Main Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 182 Feet
Superstructure Type Baltimore Deck Truss and Deck Girder
Substructure Type Stone Masonry and Steel Tower
Date Built Completed 1902
Traffic Count 1 Train/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
UP Bridge Number 6.31
Significance National Significance
Documentation Date April 2017
In 1886, the Mason City and Fort Dodge Railroad began construction on a 72 mile line between Mason City, Iowa and Fort Dodge, Iowa.
The route served as a diagonal railroad in an area otherwise dominated by a gridline rail network.

Due to the success, the route would be expanded in 1903. Another 133 miles would be built towards Council Bluffs, Iowa.
By 1905, the route had attracted a railroad to merge with. The Chicago Great Western Railway purchased the line to access the Missouri River town of Council Bluffs.

The line served as the quickest way between Mason City and Council Bluffs. In Fort Dodge, a massive high bridge was constructed over the Des Moines River.
This landmark continues to exist.

In 1968, the Chicago & North Western Railway purchased the Chicago Great Western. Because Chicago & North Western already operated a considerable amount of trackage through the area, several abandonments began.
The first abandonment stretched between Council Bluffs and Harlan, and occurred in 1971. Another major abandonment occurred in 1977, between Carroll and Somers.
Between 1981 and 1983, the route was trimmed between Harlan and Carroll. More modern abandonments have occurred between Thornton and Belmond in 2000, Mason City to Thornton in 2005 and Somers to Roelyn in 2008.

Presently, a segment of track from Belmond to Roelyn exists. This route is known as the Fort Dodge Subdivision.
In addition, rail trails have been built along the line in Carroll County and are planned in Cerro Gordo County.

View an article regarding the construction of this bridge.

One of the most massive bridges in Central Iowa crosses high above the Des Moines River and a neighborhood in Fort Dodge.
Construction on the bridge began in 1901. The rationale for the bridge was to avoid the large grades that would otherwise be required in Fort Dodge.
By 1902, the bridge would be complete and open for service. The west approach consists of 11 spans, resting on large steel towers. The east approach consists of 19 spans of the same design.
The four main spans of the bridge are massive Baltimore Deck Trusses. These trusses consist of 7 panels each, with pinned connections.
Another unique piece of the bridge is the towers on which the trusses sit. These rest on large stone piers below. The approach towers rest on simple stone bases.
The bridge not only crosses the Des Moines River, but also several streets and a Canadian National rail yard.
The Des Moines River Valley has had several large high bridges, past and present. This is one of the larger structures.
In this area, the Kate Shelley High Bridge in Boone County gets the most recognition. However, the Fort Dodge structure is longer than the Kate Shelley Bridge, and has four trusses compared to one.

Historic Photo
Historic photo of the bridge

The author has ranked this bridge as being nationally significant, due to the uncommon design, and the overall imposing nature of this structure.
The photo above is an overview of the bridge. The photo below is a photo of a pier. It can be accessed from nearby roads.

Des Moines River Railroad Bridges
Upstream CN Des Moines River Bridge
Downstream M&StL Des Moines River Bridge

These Pictures Start at varying points in the Series

Detail Photos from April, 2017


Source Type


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

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