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Fort Dodge Railroad Bridge

Chicago Great Western Railroad Viaduct

Fort Dodge Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 2, 2009

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Union Pacific) Over Des Moines River and Other Features
Rural: Webster County, Iowa: United States
Structure Type
Metal 14 Panel Pin-Connected Baltimore Deck Truss, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1903 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
220 Feet (67 Meters)
Structure Length
2,582 Feet (787 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
4 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

This massive railroad bridge is considered the second largest bridge in the state of Iowa. The extremely long length of the bridge, combined with rare multi-span pin-connected Baltimore deck truss spans, and the age of this 1903 bridge make it an extremely significant engineering achievement that is both historically and technologically significant.

The Kate Shelley High Bridge, which crosses the Des Moines River down in Boone County is the only bridge larger than this railroad bridge in Fort Dodge. The Kate Shelley Bridge is similar in configuration to the Fort Dodge Railroad Bridge except that it has only a single truss span instead of four. While the Fort Dodge Railroad Bridge is nearly unheard of, the Kate Shelley Bridge gets a lot more attention than the Fort Dodge Railroad Bridge, because it has the distinction of being the tallest and longest known double-track railroad bridge. It is unfortunate that the Fort Dodge Railroad Bridge has not received more attention, since both bridges are extremely important historic bridges, and both deserve attention and research. While the Fort Dodge Railroad Bridge may not have the record-breaking statistic, it is only about a hundred feet shorter than the Kate Shelley Bridge and only a couple years newer. In addition, the Fort Dodge Railroad Bridge has a larger system of deck truss spans.

The Fort Dodge Railroad Bridge consists of four main Baltimore deck truss spans which are significant as a relatively uncommon truss design, and they are also aesthetically pleasing due to their complex geometry. These four main spans carry the bridge over the river and other features on the east side of the river. The system of main spans are flanked on each end by an extremely long series of deck plate girder spans supported by steel bents of a design that are sometimes called "towers" on large high level railroad bridges like this one. The overall historic integrity of the bridge  appears to be good.


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