7 votes

"Flying" Bridge


Photo taken by Quinn Phelan in March 2010


BH Photo #156768

Street View 


Built across the Wapsipinicon River at Otterville in Buchanan County in 1876. It was air lifted into Fredericksburg in December 1998 by a Chinook Helicopter by the Iowa Army National Guard as an operational training mission.


Pratt through truss bridge over East Wapsipinicon River on Robert Mattke Park Trail
Fredericksburg, Chickasaw County, Iowa
Open to pedestrians
Built 1876 in Otterville, IA. Moved to Fredericksburg, IA in 1998.
- Wrought Iron Bridge Co. of Canton, Ohio
Cast- and wrought-iron, 6-panel, pin-connected, Pratt through truss
Span length: 96.0 ft.
Total length: 96.0 ft.
Deck width: 16.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 13.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places
Also called
Otterville Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.96452, -92.21015   (decimal degrees)
42°57'52" N, 92°12'37" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/564416/4757177 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 44299 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • July 6, 2022: New photo from Lee Smith
  • October 30, 2013: New Street View added by Luke Harden
  • October 30, 2013: New Street View added by J.P.
  • March 30, 2013: Updated by Tony Dillon: Added builder
  • May 3, 2010: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added GPS Coordinates per To-Do List
  • March 2, 2010: Added by Quinn Phelan

Related Bridges 


  • Quinn Phelan - qphelan [at] earthlink [dot] net
  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • Tony Dillon - spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • J.P. - wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Luke
  • Lee Smith - ljsmith_32 [at] hotmail [dot] com


"Flying" Bridge
Posted September 15, 2021, by Art S. (Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)


Tough call. In the day, guys like Nels and Ross were common. They also didn't need to be babysat. So recovery and repair wasn't that big of a deal. So, it was probably an interesting thing to observe the decision - transport and alter vs. retrieve and repair.

Sadly, bureaucracy has eliminated this to the point where most with the responsibility to decide would pay 10X to 20X of the cost of repair to replace with new. Hopefully we can claw back a little of the mentality that once was. We'll see...


Art S.

"Flying" Bridge
Posted September 15, 2021, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)


Good observations, I would agree there still seems to be a mystery to clear up here. I find myself wondering how many WIBC bridges are wrongly dated. Not only did they often omit construction dates on plaques, so many were built across the country that near-twin replacements might in some cases be reused to replace lost spans. We thought this might have happened with East Delhi Road in Michigan after a tornado wiped out the 1883 span we believe that it was replaced with another bridge similar enough that people today think that the collapsed bridge was rebuilt. That's why I omit a construction date for that bridge on my website. https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=t...

"Flying" Bridge
Posted September 15, 2021, by Art S. (Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Luke, Thanks. Nathan is right regarding many WIBCo. plaques. however, if your document is right, in this case 1876 actually means 1876 :^)

That said, something doesn't make sense. Luke's description says 1875, which would be impossible if this had an 1876 patent plaque. I suspect someone used some 'educated guesses' to fill in a lot of missing info for the historic application. Given the layout of the stone piers and the iron piers, as seen here https://bridgehunter.com/photos/50/28/502821-L.jpg from https://bridgehunter.com/ia/buchanan/otterville/ it suggests something cobbled together from used parts. Reading the articles here suggests the same https://catalog.archives.gov/id/137889600 My guess is that this superstructure looked very different in 1876 besides the addition of two ponies. My guess: two spans of equal size defined by the stone abutment and stone pier (the other abutment washed away resulting in https://bridgehunter.com/photos/50/28/502821-L.jpg Someone needs to do some research to sort this out.

Tommy, superstructure + substructure of the 1876 bridge was probably $3,500 to $6,500 roughly split 50%/50% between the superstructure and substructure assuming 1 through truss, one pony and a pier + abutments based on the 1876 description as described in Luke's post. However, I personally doubt that this is the 1876 configuration. I suspect the 1876 structure had an all stone substructure.

Nathan, based on the above I suspect the bridge isn't in its original configuration.


Art S.

"Flying" Bridge
Posted September 15, 2021, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Thanks Luke its good to have that confirmation on the website because any bridge historian eyes a WIBC 1876 date with caution. This would actually make the bridge fairly significant as one of the earliest WIBC Pratts. Now if I could just figure out why only a few WIBC Thru trusses follow the Hammond truss configuration he outlined in his patent. You would think the oldest ones might have that oddball configuration but this one does not. Also unusual in that the verticals are laced. The 1880s ones usually aren't laced. Then in the 1890s lacing appears again, with the sideways orientation the company seems to have preferred.

"Flying" Bridge
Posted September 15, 2021, by Luke

From the NRHP form for the original location:

"Flying" Bridge
Posted September 15, 2021, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Was this bridge REALLY built in 1876? My guess is probably not. The 1876 date probably came from a patent plaque that once would have been on this bridge. The 1876 WIBC patent has often resulted in bad dates for bridges by WIBC.

"Flying" Bridge
Posted March 30, 2013, by Tommy Staley (allodial2 [at] aol [dot] com)

Does anybody know what the original cost of this bridge might have been? Thanks, Tommy Staley 972-603-8647