Bridges that fascinate
Webster County is home to landmarks with intriguing and sometimes sinister history
Editor’s note: One day after returning from an assignment to photograph a small tree along the Fort Dodge Nature Trail, April wanted to know more about the history of the trail. She soon discovered that not much is known about its history. However, while looking up facts about the Nature Trail she found information relating to the Lionel Bridge and ended up researching other bridges in Webster County with an interesting past.
Located along the Fort Dodge Nature Trail is Lionel Bridge. What started as a high school prank nearly 53 years ago has remained a landmark of Fort Dodge.
Six teenage boys who apparently snuck into Crawford Park in the middle of the night in 1969 painted “Lionel” on the side of a Chicago & North Western Railway bridge.
The 72-foot bridge over Soldier Creek was erected in 1901. It has since been abandoned by the railroad, the rails removed and replaced by a 2.9-mile pedestrian and bicycling pathway called the Fort Dodge Nature Trails.
Chicago Great Western Railroad Viaduct
This massive railroad bridge is considered the second largest bridge in the state of Iowa. In 1886, the Mason City and Fort Dodge Railroad began construction on a 72 mile line between Mason City and Fort Dodge. Due to the success, the route would be expanded. Construction began in 1901.
The rationale for the bridge was to avoid the large grades that would otherwise be required in Fort Dodge. By 1902, the bridge would be complete and open for service. The west approach consists of 11 spans, resting on large steel towers. The east approach consists of 19 spans of the same design.
For over 20 years, locals testify to seeing the spirit of a mother who allegedly threw her three children off the Banwell Bridge.
The bridge is located between Fort Dodge and Lehigh. It is rumored the woman took her children to the location, purportedly to watch a train pass below. But, just as the train passed, the children were pushed off the overpass. The train killed them instantly. The mom then threw herself over the bridge and died.
To this day, residents in the area tell drivers to roll up the windows and lock the doors before crossing to avoid the spirit.
Those brave enough to get out of their cars have reported hearing voices, seeing orbs, and at times hearing a woman moaning from beneath the overpass. It was reported that the bridge was taken down and rebuilt in 2004.
April Naeve, a junior at Fort Dodge Senior High, is job shadowing at The Messenger for a class project.