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NM - Missouri River Bridge


Published prior to 1923


View this photo at books.google.com

BH Photo #364112


Originally built with eight main river piers, with foundations 54-76 feet below the water line. The superstructure consisted of girder approach spans, 3 trellis (double-form, or double triangular) through truss spans for the channel crossing, and 1 Fink deck truss on the west, and 3 on the east. Total length is approx 2180 ft. The span lengths, west to east, are 305 ft, 317 ft, 317 ft, 321 ft, 306 ft, 306 ft, and 305 ft. The two approach spans are 32 ft.

The upper chord of the through trusses were a single cast-iron tube, large enough that it would "permit the passage of a small man through from end to end". The end posts were Keystone columns with wrought-iron heads and feet.

The floor beams are 12 inch channel, sandwich with and forming part of the lower chord. The ties are attached directly to these floor beams without any lengthwise stringers.

1868. Construction started in August.

1871. Bridge opens May 29th and is the second railroad bridge to span the Missouri River (after the 1869 Hannibal Bridge in Kansas City).

1879. Nov. 8, the west trellis span of the bridge gave way while an eastbound livestock train was crossing the bridge. Eighteen cars fell into the river and three men were killed and 4 injured. The railroad concluded it was caused by derailment. The coroner's report pointed out lack of maintenance as indicated by the rotting deck planks.

1880. Western trellis truss replaced

1881. Dec 8, a westbound livestock and freight train enters the east span. It collapses with the engine on it. 18 cattle and 13 freight cars join the engine in the river. The engineer was the only fatality. The railroad again claimed it was caused by derailment. Critics blame poor design.

1882. Other two trellis trusses replaced.

1883,1884. The Fink deck truss spans are replaced with Whipple through truss spans and the girder approach spans are replaced. No cast iron was used in any of the 1880-1884 upgrade.

By 1884, virtually the entire bridge superstructure had been replaced and upgraded. See https://bridgehunter.com/mo/st-charles/first-wabash-rr/ for info on the upgraded bridge.

Sources include: Missouri Railroad and Warehouse Commission, Annual Report 1884 Railroad Gazette, Volume 3, January 1, 1871


North Missouri Railroad Fink deck truss and Trellis through truss bridge at St. Charles, MO
St. Charles, St. Charles County, Missouri
Upgraded 1880-1884
Built 1868; damaged by derailment 1879, 1881. Substantial upgrade finish about 1884 replacing effectively the entire structure
- J.B Allen & Co.
- Keystone Bridge Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Phoenix Iron Works of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
4 Fink deck truss and 3 Trellis (double intersecting Warren) through truss
Length of largest span: 321.0 ft.
Total length: 2,178.0 ft. (0.4 mi.)
Approximate latitude, longitude
+38.78155, -90.47735   (decimal degrees)
38°46'54" N, 90°28'38" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/719126/4295557 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Saint Charles
Inventory number
BH 73609 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • August 13, 2017: Updated by James Baughn: Tried to assign photos to the correct bridges (either the 1871 original or 1884 reconstruction)
  • August 4, 2017: New photo from Fmiser
  • July 29, 2017: Updated by Fmiser: Expanded description, design, and history - limited to the early 1871-1884 structure
  • September 12, 2016: Added by Dave King

Related Bridges 



NM - Missouri River Bridge
Posted July 29, 2017, by Fmiser (fmiser [at] gmail [dot] com)

I dug a bit deeper and now retract my earlier suggestion to remove this entry. I found that between 1880 and 1884 the entire superstructure was replaced or upgraded. The Fink trusses were replaced with Whipple, and the Trellis were replaced, apparently with new Trellis spans.

Already the bridge is cluttered with whipple and trellis, to have fink too... I choose to make this entry represent the original bridge, with the Fink deck trusses. The other one has details about the newer Whipple spans.

I can't move the photos, but I would suggest that any of them that have the deck truss spans be put on this page leaving only the Whipple on the other page.

I don't know it was the _right_ choice - but it seems to be a logical one.

NM - Missouri River Bridge
Posted June 30, 2017, by Fmiser (fmiser [at] gmail [dot] com)

I think this is the same bridge as


Both are in about the same location. Both were built in 1868. Both suffered a collapsed span causing a train to end up in the river in 1879. North Missouri Railroad was absorbed by the Wabash Railroad. And the image on this page sure looks like the same bridge with regard to span size, style, height, etc.

I was going to comment on the "fink" category - but since I think this is a duplicate entry - with less information, it should be deleted and any pertinent information shifted over to the First Wabash page.

Then, regarding the railroad. Should each of the owners be listed? St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railway was the successor to North Missouri Railroad - but only lasted from 1872 to 1879 before becoming part of Wabash. For now I'm NOT listing St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railway.

And then there is the "Trellis" through trusses. Looks kinda like a double intersecting Warren with half struts/half tension rods.

NM - Missouri River Bridge
Posted September 12, 2016, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Fink Deck trusses are amazing sights!

NM - Missouri River Bridge
Posted September 12, 2016, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Thats an important question that needs additional research!

NM - Missouri River Bridge
Posted September 12, 2016, by Dave King (DKinghawkfan [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Was it completely destroyed during that derailment?

NM - Missouri River Bridge
Posted September 12, 2016, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Waddell's text suggests it only lasted 11 years until a derailment wrecked it? Bottom of page 1541. https://books.google.com/books?id=bxAkAAAAMAAJ&dq=St.%20Char...

NM - Missouri River Bridge
Posted September 12, 2016, by Nathan Holth (nathan [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

All bridges should look like this one... the pinnacle of awesome. Bridges like this are why I laugh when people think cable-stayed bridges are nice-looking "signature" bridges.