10 votes

Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge


Photo taken by Dave Sebben

View this photo on Flickr

BH Photo #200051


A Statement of Significance 

Written by Nathan Holth

This bridge is a nationally significant bridge as an exceedingly rare surviving example of an early generation metal railroad bridge. Nearly all of these earlier generation railroad bridges were lost due to a need for stronger railroad bridges which occurred around the turn of the 20th Century. The bridge is further significant for its cast iron connection assemblies, use of Phoenix columns for the end posts and most vertical members, and the Whipple truss configuration. The bridge was moved here in 1891, having been salvaged from a Mississippi River Bridge in Burlington, Iowa. The bridge was shortened by 45 feet at this time. As such, the bridge is a rare example of a bridge that represents the materials and designs of an early Mississippi River bridge. This bridge is one of the most significant historic structures in the region, but currently sits abandoned and forgotten. It is both historically and technologically significant.


1 Span Whipple through truss bridge with Phoenix columns over Mississippi River on former railroad spur in Moline.
Moline, Rock Island County, Illinois
Open to service vehicles only
Built 1868 as part of a larger bridge over the Mississippi River at Burlington; one span relocated here and shortened in 1891
- Detroit Bridge & Iron Works of Detroit, Michigan
- Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (CBQ)
Whipple through truss with Phoenix column end posts and pinned connections. Includes cast iron connection assemblies.
Span length: 202.0 ft.
Total length: 202.0 ft.
Deck width: 16.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.51072, -90.53278   (decimal degrees)
41°30'39" N, 90°31'58" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/705894/4598393 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Davenport East
Inventory number
BH 37343 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • September 8, 2020: Updated by Tyler: Updated status
  • February 20, 2019: New photos from Melissa Brand-Welch
  • April 20, 2018: New photos from John Marvig
  • February 22, 2015: New Street View added by Luke
  • December 28, 2012: New photos from John Marvig
  • June 18, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added builder
  • March 22, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added category "Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad"
  • February 24, 2011: Updated by Nathan Holth: Made Corrections/Adjustments, Added Flickr Links, and a Statement of Significance.
  • August 28, 2008: Added by Kim Harvey

Related Bridges 



Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted September 8, 2020, by Tyler

Interpretive signage says that the bridge is open for service vehicles. Updated status

Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted February 20, 2019, by Luke
Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted September 4, 2018, by Nathan Holth (nathan [at] historicbridges [dot] org)
Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted September 4, 2018, by Art S. (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

I just looked at the pictures again. Is the entire (not just the connections) top chord cast iron?!?

Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted March 22, 2013, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

Who should be contacted regarding the possible relocation/preservation of this bridge? I agree with previous comments. This bridge should be recognized on a national level, and should be at least open to the public. Currently, the owner fenced it off with cameras and a high barbwire fence. At the bare minimum, the fence should be on the other side and a solid deck be added for fishing and recreation purposes. Someone needs to step up with this bridge.

Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted October 10, 2012, by Jim Lueken (lueken [at] bellsouth [dot] net)

This bridge is a GREAT candidate for relocating and restoration as a pedestrian bridge. We need a local heavy crane service and house moving companies to 'step-up' and offer to relocate this piece of history to a public park. I am sure the owner would contribute the bridge itself. I live elsewhere, but a homegrown 'movement' is needed here!

Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted April 28, 2012, by David Sebben (nebbes61 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

This bridge is indeed an original survivor of the CB&Q bridge at Burlington, Iowa and is on private property owned by MidAmerican Energy Co. Fishing and foot traffic are prohibited.

Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted December 20, 2011, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Maybe forgotten wasn't the best word, but what I meant was for a bridge of its significance (one of the oldest metal bridges in the country, especially this far west) it isn't getting a lot of attention in terms of being photographed, restored, or recognized in interpretive signage, etc. I bet a lot of the people who use the bridge are unaware of how old the bridge is or why its significant. A particular oddity is that it does not appear to be HAER documented. Most cast iron truss bridges are HAER documented. Its like they didn't know it was there.

Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted December 20, 2011, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

Nathan this bridge is hardly "forgotten" by the public. I see people often fishing from it or walking/running across it. It is "abandoned," but it is being re-used, although not "officially."

Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted December 20, 2011, by Anonymous

Nathan says that it's from an old CB&Q bridge in his little entry up.

Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted December 19, 2011, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Very fascinating...sounds like Jim indeed has a match here!

Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted December 19, 2011, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Jim Stewart did some poking around and found that this bridge could be a span originally from the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q) Bridge at Burlington, Iowa. The Detroit Bridge and Iron Works completed the bridge in 1868, which is the builder and construction date we have listed for this bridge.



Sylvan Island Railroad Bridge
Posted May 29, 2011, by Ed Hollowell (erhollowell [at] netscape [dot] net)

I have read that railroad bridges of cast iron/wrought iron construction were subject to a large number of failures and regarded as a hazard during the 19th century. They were not well thought of or trusted. The iron parts would fail with very little notice.