The worst train wreck in central Iowa history occurred on August 29, 1877 at 2:30 AM on the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad. The Pacific express out of Chicago wrecked while crossing Four Mile Creek-east of Des Moines near Altoona-due to heavy rains that undermined the foundation of the bridge. Twenty people were killed and 35 injured as a result of the wreck. According to an August 31, 1877 article in the New York Times the wreck would have been much worse if the train had safely passed over the Four Mile Creek Bridge because of a larger bridge passing over a ravine had washed out just a mile further down the track.
Sources Wreck of a Train in Iowa.,
New York Times, August 31, 1877, p. 1.
(read the article)
Long, Barbara Beving and Patrice K. Beam. Des Moines and Polk County: Flag on the Prairie. American Historic Press, 2003.