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Northwestern Railroad Bridge

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Photo taken by Kent Findley

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Chicago Northwestern Bridges around Eau Claire 

Written by John Marvig

The Northwestern Bridge is by far the most historically significant of the three bridges. The quintuple intersection lattice deck truss spans each of 180' and a 30' 8.25" depth are graced by massive stone piers and 80' a Deck Plate Girder approach span on each side. The original bridge, a wood Howe Through Truss with simple pile trestle approaches and massive wood piers only lasted 10 short years. The replacement was a bridge similar to it, only with massive lattice deck truss spans and howe deck truss approaches, one on each side. These approaches were replaced in 1898 by Lassig Bridge and Iron Works with 80' Deck Plate Girders, again, one on each side.

At the time of construction, the 1880 bridge crossed a log flume for logs to bypass the dam and head to the paper mills, and a Milwaukee Road track on the east side

The bridge always had weight restrictions, and was abandoned in 1992, being transferred to Eau Claire ownership in 2007

The bridge is planned to be a trail. It currently stands much as it looked in 1880, a staggering 82' above the river.

Timeline:

1870-The Western Wisconsin Railway arrives at Eau Claire and builds massive wood truss structures over both the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers.

1880/1- both the Chippewa River Bridge and the Eau Claire River Bridge are rebuilt

1898-The Eau Claire River Bridge is completely rebuilt, and new approaches added to the Chippewa River Bridge

1901-The Eau Claire River bridge becomes a gauntlet, line between Yukon Jct and Altoona is double tracked

1911-work begins on a new high speed double track bypass to the single track high bridge over the Chippewa River. Work begins on a new double track bridge about 1000 yards upstream of the current bridge (600 yards above the dam)

August 6th 1912-a new 2.15 mile double track line built with high speed curves and grades opens, allowing trains to travel at a maximum of 60 miles per hour through Eau Claire, until the Eau Claire River Bridge. The new bridge significantly cuts the traffic on the old one.

1914-A double track line between Milwaukee and St. Paul is completed, allowing for high speed passenger and freight travel between the two cities, going through Eau Claire along the way.

1916-Plans for a second bridge parallel to the existing one over the Eau Claire river are brought to life, but are later deemed too expensive

1991-The double track is completely removed

1992-old Chippewa River Bridge abandoned

1995-Chicago & Northwestern is swallowed by Union Pacific

2007-Excel Energy purchases old Chippewa River Bridge from Union Pacific due to demolition plans, donates it to Eau Claire to save their gas line

2013-Old Chippewa River Bridge to become a trail

Facts 

Overview
Lattice Deck Truss over Chippewa River on Former Union Pacific Railroad
Location
Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin
Status
Abandoned 2007, stands solely because of a pipleline, being refurbished as a trail
Future prospects
Becoming a trail summer 2012
History
Built 1880, approach added 1898, abandoned 2007, became a trail summer 2012
Builders
- Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago, Illinois (Approach)
- Leighton Bridge & Iron Works of New York (Lattice Truss Spans)
Design
Lattice Deck Truss (Quintangular) with Deck Plate Girder Approaches
Dimensions
Length of largest span: 180.0 ft.
Total length: 890.0 ft.
Also called
Chicago Northwestern South Crossing
Abandoned CStPM&O Chippewa River Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+44.82464, -91.50951   (decimal degrees)
44°49'29" N, 91°30'34" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/617830/4964551 (zone/easting/northing)
USGS topographic map
Eau Claire West
Inventory number
BH 36335 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • November 12, 2013: Updated by Nathan Holth: Added lattice truss spans builder.
  • June 17, 2013: New photos from John Marvig
  • November 4, 2012: Essay added by John Marvig
  • October 3, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Updated bridge type
  • May 20, 2012: New photos from John Marvig
  • May 14, 2012: Updated by Daniel Hopkins: Added category "Railroad"
  • May 13, 2012: New photo from John Marvig
  • July 10, 2009: Updated by J.R. Manning
  • June 30, 2009: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added to Lassig Bridge & Iron Works category.
  • March 1, 2008: Added by Kent Findley

Related Bridges 

Sources 

Comments 

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted October 4, 2012, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

I can email you my pictures if you want...

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted October 4, 2012, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Yes, this bridge would be an outstanding addition to HistoricBridges.org!

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted October 4, 2012, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

Nathan, you run historicbridges.com right?

I think this bridge should be added to that website as well.

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted October 4, 2012, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I should add another odd/rare detail about this bridge is that the bridge truss system is wider at the bottom than the top (ie the distance between the two top chords is less than the distance between the two bottom chords).

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted October 4, 2012, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I definitely think a National Register listing would be feasible via Criterion C (Engineering Significance) considering the truss configuration, size of bridge, and pre-1900 construction date.

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

How rare is it? NRHS rare?

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Yes, this is an exceedingly rare quintuple intersection Warren truss (or, yes, "quintangular" as this configuration is named on BridgeHunter). The current listing here as a quadrangular is in my book incorrect.

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by Matt Lohry

The deck truss portion to me actually appears to be a "quintangular" deck truss--I see 5 intersections for each diagonal! Anyone else see this, or is it just me?

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

Another great bridge finding reuse!!!!!!!

http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/eauclaire/messages/topic/7J9QFn7xEPu8w6q8pGjCSK

2013 is the expected opening date of this extremely historic structure as a pedestrian crossing!

CStPM&O Bridge
Posted May 12, 2012, by John Marvig (johnmarvig [at] chaska [dot] net)

The east side of this bridge has been cleared significantly, allowing for a good view of the entire approach span. Also, there is a way to get to the bank on the west side if you are careful enough...