Mystery Bridge Nr. 7: Two identical bridges not far apart

While still sitting in western Iowa, a pair of bridges came to my attention recently as I was doing some research on one of them that had existed in Harrison County, and another local found a similar one in neighboring Monona County.  Like in the Volga River crossing in Fayette County and its counterpart in Downsville in Dunn County, Wisconsin, these two bridges are exactly identical. Both are Parker through truss bridges with pin-connections. Both have identical portal bracings: Howe lattice with curved heel bracings that are subdivided. Both have the exact same length: 170 feet long. Both were constructed using steel rolled from Cambria Steel Company of Pittsburgh. And according to historic bridge research conducted in the 1990s, both were relocated in the late 1940s to serve as replacements for the bridges lost to the infamous 1945 flooding that destroyed almost every single bridge in western Iowa. And this after spending ca. 35 years at its original site in……?

This is where the blanks need to be filled. Like the two aforementioned bridges, there is a potential that because they were exactly identical that they were part of a multiple-span bridge that existed outside Harrison and Monona Counties, respectively. Yet as was mentioned in one of the columns on the bridges in Dunn County, such chances of chopping up the multiple spans and dispersing them into different directions are only 50-50. It is possible that they were merely single spans constructed in different locations and were related to each other in any way, shape or form.  But the easiest way to find out is to look at the records at the engineer’s office, the county court house and especially the newspaper articles, for they provide the readers with exact information on the construction of the bridges and the companies that oversee the project. One has to start in their own backyard- in this case, Monona and Harrison Counties. If these bridges were relocated from another place, then the next step is to track down the information to determine whether they were built separately to begin with or were part of a bigger multiple-span bridge, like the US 101 Buellton (California) Bridge, whose four truss spans were relocated to Harrison County in the 1950s. Once the information is tracked down then we can be certain about the history of the two structures, even though one of them no longer exists. As for the other one, given the degree of structural integrity, there is a chance that this structure may be preserved in its place, should it no longer be able to carry traffic. It is located only a mile away from the nearest town and given the overgrowth that has hounded the bridge in recent years, it may serve as a picnic area or part of a bike trail network running along the Soldier River. It depends on the interest, the funding and how long it will take before such a project can be realized.

Here are the two bridges profiled as they Mystery Bridge:

Bridge 1:

Pearson Bridge- This bridge spanned the Soldier River at what was 170th Trail. Built ca. 1910, the bridge was removed a few years ago, although it is unknown when it happened. It was located 3.5 miles southeast of Little Sioux at the foot of Loess Hills.

Pearson Bridge (now extant). Photo taken by Clayton Fraser.


Bridge 2:

Soldier Bridge- This bridge spans the Soldier River just off Iowa Hwy. 183, 1 mile northeast of Soldier. Records on the date of construction of this bridge is contradictory. While the National Bridge Inventory claims the bridge was built in 1905, the historical bridge survey used 1910 as the construction date. Also unique about the bridge is its curved east approach span revealing that the bridge was not a straight crossing.

Soldier Bridge. Photo taken by Craig Guttau. When looking closely, one will see the curve in the bridge itself.

Now the questions in summary:

1. Were these two bridges part of a multiple-span bridge or were they just built separately with no exact relation whatsoever?

2. Who originally built the bridge? When and where were they located? Remember, it was the same bridge builder that had close ties with Cambria Steel.

3. When were they relocated to their final destinations and how?

Any leads? Here is the e-mail address: Good luck!

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