2 votes

Harvey Island Road Bridge


Oblique view

Photos taken July 2007 by J.R. Manning

BH Photo #109042


After the Des Moines Valley Railroad was completed in northeastern Marion County in 1866, the citizens of Knoxville began agitating for a railroad line that would link the southern and central parts of the county with a national railroad. A line named the Albia, Knoxville and Des Moines (AK&D) Railroad was planned, and in 1870 Liberty, Indiana, Knoxville and Pleasant Grove Townships approved a special tax to help defray the construction costs for the proposed rail line. But the railroad fell short of completion, and after a period of litigation, the subscriptions and subsidies were acquired by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q) Railroad in 1875. With far better financing than the AK&D, the CB&Q was able to complete the line to Knoxville, with the first train rolling into town in December 1875. The following year the town of Harvey was platted near where the CB&Q line crossed the Des Moines River. The railroad first employed ferries or a temporary bridge over the river at this point. In 1878, however, it contracted with the American Bridge Company of Chicago to fabricate a wrought iron truss as a permanent bridge for this crossing. The structure consisted of four pinned Pratt through trusses, supported by stone abutments and piers. It is not known whether American Bridge or the railroad itself erected the trusses, but the Harvey Railroad Bridge was completed by the time the line was completed through the county to Des Moines in 1879. It carried railroad traffic until 1938, when the county purchased the bridge and adjoining right-of-way and converted it into a county road. Although the river itself has been re-routed to the north, leaving the bridge with nothing to cross, the Harvey Railroad Bridge continues to function in place in unaltered condition. It is today a well-preserved example of early railroad truss construction in Iowa [adapted from Fraser 1992].


Four-span wrought-iron through truss bridge over the old channel of the Des Moines River on Harvey Island Road
Marion County, Iowa
Open to one-lane traffic on a minimum-maintenance road
Built 1878 by the American Bridge Works. for the CRI&P Railroad; Converted for vehicular use in 1938
- American Bridge Works of Chicago, Illinois
- Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad (CRIP (1866-1920); RI (1920-1975) ROCK (1975-1980))
Pratt through truss
Length of largest span: 149.0 ft.
Total length: 600.1 ft.
Deck width: 12.8 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 16.7 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 15, 1998
Also called
RI - Old Channel Des Moines River Bridge (Harvey)
RI - Old Channel Des Moines River Bridge (Harvey)
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.31711, -92.91028   (decimal degrees)
41°19'02" N, 92°54'37" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/507509/4573964 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Land survey
T. 75 N., R. 18 W., Sec. 10
Average daily traffic (as of 2014)
Inventory numbers
NRHP 98000502 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
IA 239640 (Iowa bridge number)
BH 13995 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of December 2018)
Overall condition: Poor
Superstructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 34.4 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • March 8, 2017: New photos from John Marvig
  • September 22, 2016: New photos from Lee Smith
  • July 31, 2015: New photos from Chris Meiners
  • June 2, 2015: New photos from Kevin Skow
  • February 20, 2014: New photos from Jack Schmidt
  • July 3, 2013: New photos from John Marvig
  • July 1, 2013: Updated by Luke Harden: Corrected builder
  • April 3, 2013: Updated by Luke Harden: Added categories "Railroad", "Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad"
  • April 5, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added categories "Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad", "Rail-to-road", "Pin-connected", "Wrought iron"
  • September 8, 2011: New photos from Jason Smith
  • September 24, 2007: Posted all new photos from J.R. Manning


  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • Historic Bridges of Iowa
  • Jason Smith - flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com
  • Flickr
  • Luke
  • John Marvig - marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Jack Schmidt - jjturtle [at] earthlink [dot] net
  • Kevin Skow - weatherbum [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Lee Smith - ljsmith_32 [at] hotmail [dot] com


Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted November 20, 2021, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

By dumb luck, I came across the only photo of the plaque I have ever seen (page 33). I have no clue when the plaque was stolen, maybe in the 1990s?


Also of note, apparently Moritz Lassig (later of Lassig Bridge & Iron Works) spent some time working at the original American Bridge Company of Chicago. Perhaps that is why this style portal was used on this bridge?

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted September 4, 2021, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

This one is one of my favorites in the state. Thereís quite a bit worth seeing here. Itís a bummer that a lot is disappearing so quickly.

I just wish there was more information on this bridge..the historic bridges of Iowa survey was incorrect on another bridge nearby (https://bridgehunter.com/ia/marion/wabash-rr/), so I am seriously questioning information on this bridge as well. Unfortunately, the state did not do a survey on this bridge.

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted September 4, 2021, by Paul Plassman

That one's amazing. I never really thought of Iowa as being a "bridgy" state until I began exploring this site. Needless to say, I am now changing my opinion on that.

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted September 3, 2021, by Luke

Iowa has a lot of hidden gems. This and the relocated-from-Chicago Whipple truss in Fort Madison are just two of such examples. https://bridgehunter.com/ia/lee/bh51417/

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted September 3, 2021, by Paul Plassman

Ahhh....a long, ancient, one-lane, multi-span through truss bridge on a minimum-maintenance road!! Sounds like a pontist's dream....If I ever get out to Iowa I'll be sure to put this one high on my list to see!

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted September 5, 2014, by Tim Courtney (timothycourtney [at] gmail [dot] com)

Bridge is a Rock Island structure. As the 1930's aerial shows, this line also had a bridge over the main channel of the Des Moines just a little to the east. The line was originally built as a branch from Washington through Osky where it crossed the K and D branch at Evans, and then continued on to Knoxville. The Evans to Knoxville portion was abandoned secondary to the coal mining activity diminishing in the area as there were numerous mines the RI served between Evans and Knoxville.

As for the bridge in question over the Des Moines river near Tracy, that line originally was a Burlington and Western railroad branch built to Osky from Winfield. The B&W eventually came under control of CB&Q, at which time a connection from Osky to Tracy was built. The M&StL bought the spur from Osky to Tracy at about the same time the Burlington abandoned its line from Osky to Winfield in the 1930s.

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted July 2, 2013, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

The thing that really startled me was the concrete capped stone piers and the concrete abutments. This, in my mind either means the spans were relocated in from somewhere, the bridge was rebuilt with new substructures or the bridge was built later than 1878. The bridge does seem to look a little heavy for 1878, but I suppose it is possible.

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted July 1, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

The Historic Bridge Inventory states that the American Bridge Company of Chicago built this bridge in 1878. The American Bridge Company of CHICAGO (also called American Bridge Works) was a totally different company that the American Bridge Company of NEW YORK which absorbed Lassig at the turn of the 20th Century. Assuming the HBI data is correct, there is likely no association with Lassig or the American Bridge Company of New York. I have an advertisement and drawing of American Bridge Company of Chicago works at the bottom of this page: http://www.historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowse...

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted July 1, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

That is true, but we have to keep in mind that Lassig had built bridges like these prior to the consolidation of bridge builders into AmBridge in 1900. So it's not surprising that the steel bridge has survived as long as it did. As for the rechanneling, I have no idea when it took place, let alone how it affected the road and bridge itself but I plan to inquire about this to clear up this debate. There is indeed one along RI at Harvey and the Wabash located down river. Those were mentioned even by the locals I've contacted. Everything else will require some inquiries and research. Stay tuned....

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted July 1, 2013, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

In addition, even if the bridge was built in 1878, American bridge company didn't exist until 1900

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted June 30, 2013, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)


I am not sure which railroad built it (I personally believe RI) but I was down there today and I can tell you one thing. It is certainly not any older than about 1895. The stone piers are capped with a crumbling concrete. Pictures to come.

Harvey Island Road Bridge
Posted June 30, 2013, by Dylan VanAntwerp (dylan_vanantwerp [at] live [dot] com)


I believe your source is probably confusing the Harvey RR bridge with the former Wabash RR bridge that crosses the Des Moines River north of Harvey, which is the same one Don Has mentioned:


As Don has already hit upon, the Wabash and the CB&Q had railroad lines that ran nearly side by side from Albia up to a point near Harvey, where the tracks diverged. The Wabash headed roughly NNE from Harvey and crossed the Des Moines River.

Due to the creation of Lake Red Rock, the Wabash was forced to abandon this separate section of track and began joint operations with the CB&Q all the way from Albia to Des Moines. Thus, the Wabash bridge north of Harvey was abandoned and converted to a road bridge. This is probably what the source is thinking of when he mentions a channel project causing a bridge to close.

The CB&Q line mentioned forthwith alongside the Wabash is the original railroad line that was built upwards from Albia and started out as the Albia, Knoxville, and Des Moines RR (AK&D), before being taken over by the CB&Q.

I can't stress this enough, but if only one bridge of any across the Des Moines River in the vicinity of Harvey is a CB&Q bridge, it HAS to be the one at Tracy. The CB&Q already had an existing line going up to Knoxville, so when they built westwards from Oskaloosa, they simply crossed at Tracy and tied into this line.

This also means that without any shadow of a doubt, the Harvey Bridge must be a Rock Island RR bridge. As I've said before, the Rock Island built the second line into Knoxville. The railroad that crossed at Harvey started it's westward journey from Oskaloosa by branching off the Rock Island's KD line near Evans. The CB&Q would have no need to do this when they already had a line in place south of here.

To further prove my point, study the 1930s aerial imagery between Harvey and Knoxville. The CB&Q line runs very close to Rock Island line, with only maybe a half mile or so of separation, but clearly on different grades and ROWs. Had the CB&Q actually built the Harvey bridge line, they would have logically tied right into their existing line, just as they did at Tracy. Why go through the expense of building a parallel route in between Harvey and Knoxville?

Also, remember that the Rock Island arrived in Knoxville just a year or two after the Burlington. All other factors aside, there is no way the Burlington would choose to build two different routes between two smaller and less important towns in that time period.

Below is a 1948 RR map of Iowa. Note that the Rock Island line in question is long gone, having been abandoned in 1938. Yet, you will see the CB&Q line still clearly marked, dipping down SW from Oskaloosa to cross at Tracy. All of this means that the Harvey RR bridge must be considered a Rock Island RR bridge who's historical record is in serious need of major revision.

Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted June 30, 2013, by Don Morrison

Had to move near an outlet and plug the laptop in. 8^p

I'm also seeing CRI&P trackage a short distance up the east side of the west channel from the bridge and property owned by CRI&P where the track ends across river from the mouth of English Creek on the 1937 plat map.

The remains of the Wabash bridge across English creek can be seen on Bing as well as the Wabash DSM river bridge north of Harvey.

Actually, assuming the 1937 atlas was fairly accurate, it appears the Des Moines River really had it's way with this land area. It must mostly be low flood plains. Bing imagery shows a lot of difference from the 1937 map. Interesting.

Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted June 30, 2013, by Don Morrison

I'm seeing CRI&P on this line as well on a 1901 map at http://www.beforetime.net/iowagenealogy/marion/platmap1901/M...

CB&Q apparently did not cross the Des Moines river in Marion county. It did cross in Wapello County north of Ottumwa.

The Wabash (leased from St. Louis & Des Moines) line apparently crossed north of Harvey, then ran down south alongside the CB&Q through Bussey.

Interesting that the main channel is shown as just a small stream in 1901. I'm thinking the change of channel may have been a natural erosion process, with that small stream getting larger while the larger, slower west channel silted in. Possibly a log or ice jam blocked the west channel during a flood period or over a longer time and the water found the east channel an easier path.

Find some RR history in marion County across pages 3 & 4 of the Marion County history available in this 1901 atlas


Here's a 1937 Atlas showing a road with crossings adjacent to those tracks. One wonders what happened to those crossings.


Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted June 29, 2013, by Dylan VanAntwerp (dylan_vanantwerp [at] live [dot] com)

The following is a link to an 1881 RR map. Its a little hard to read, but the line in question is marked as Rock Island's.


Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted June 29, 2013, by Dylan VanAntwerp (dylan_vanantwerp [at] live [dot] com)

Luke, not to be mean, but that makes no sense. Why would the CB&Q go through the expense of building two lines in between Oskaloosa and Knoxville, two smaller and less important towns? Why would the second line branch directly off the Rock Island KD route? Furthermore, I have never read anything about the Rock Island purchasing a route from any other railroad to get to Knoxville. The Rock Island is supposed to have built the second line into Knoxville shortly after the CB&Q. This has to be that line.

Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted June 28, 2013, by Dylan VanAntwerp (dylan_vanantwerp [at] live [dot] com)

The 1938 date of a river channel relocation cannot be right. If you look at the 1930s aerial imagery for this bridge, the old channel it crosses is already well overgrown with trees. A freshly bypassed channel would be far more barren.

Also, just to the east of this bridge was another RR bridge that crossed the actual Des Moines River. Why would the railroad build a new bridge over a new channel just to turn around and abandon it? After all, the line was abandoned in 1938, which is the date of this supposed relocation.

Forgive me, but I believe this source is misinformed. As I said before, this bridge's history needs to be seriously scrutinized. There is no doubt in my mind that it's a Rock Island RR bridge.

Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted June 26, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

In response to your posting, John:

This bridge used to cross the Des Moines River until it was re-channeled in 1938. As the Wabash RR had planned to abandon the line anyway, the rail line became a road at that time while there was no crossing over the new channel. This bridge was the second crossing at this site, for there was another bridge, a Howe through truss made of wood, that existed prior to that in the 1870s. This info is courtesy of one of the locals, who will be at the HB Weekend if you want more info from him....


Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted June 26, 2013, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

Note the difference in portal bracing of the Flickr image. The bridge in that image is either the crossing of the main river, or a predecessor to this bridge....

Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted April 5, 2013, by Dylan VanAntwerp (dylan_vanantwerp [at] live [dot] com)

I think some investigation and possibly review of this bridge's history is in order. I looked up old CB&Q system maps, and they do not show the line from Oskaloosa crossing at this point, but crossing at Tracy where the M&STL bridge was. I believe this bridge was a Rock Island bridge from the beginning. If you look at the 1930s aerial imagery, the line doesn't even go to Oskaloosa directly, but branches off the Rock Island's KD line northeast of town.

The CB&Q must've used the railroad bridge at Tracy, as the line joined the current day BNSF line to Des Moines here, and then went right into Knoxville. Some more research and review must be done on this bridge, too. I doubt the M&STL built the first Des Moines River bridge at Tracy. They probably simply shared trackage rights over the bridge with the CB&Q. The fact that the 2nd bridge at that location was built from pieces of a CB&Q bridge from Plattsmouth further hints to a direct connection with that railroad.

The fact that the given history of the CB&Q bridge doesn't jive with the bridge at Harvey further backs me up. Are they really referring to the first bridge at Tracy?

Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted April 4, 2013, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

In addition to that, the date of 1878 is almost certainly incorrect. While it was not unusual for rail bridges to have been constructed of steel at this time, the portal style was commonly used by American Bridge Company and Lassig Bridge & Iron Works after 1885. It might not be impossible that it was built 1878, as all sources say it was, but I don't think that is the build date of the current bridge.

Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted April 4, 2013, by Dylan VanAntwerp (dylan_vanantwerp [at] live [dot] com)

Very interesting, because this ties into some research I just did. The Rock Island built the second rail line that reached Knoxville in 1876, just one year after the CB&Q. I always wondered where the Rock Island bridge was. They must have decided it was better to tie into the CB&Q at some point and use their bridge, rather than building another one. The Rock Island might have retained use of the bridge longer than the Burlington did; they abandoned service in 1938, which is the exact year the bridge ceased being used for rail traffic.

Harvey Railroad Bridge
Posted April 3, 2013, by Luke Harden (lukemh9 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The aerial imagery says this bridge was CRI&P back in the 30s.