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Northwestern Railroad Bridge

Photos 

Photo taken by Kent Findley

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BH Photo #112630

Street Views 

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
Open to pedestrians only
History
Built 1880, approach added 1898, abandoned 2007, Became a trail summer 2015; Rehabilitated 2021-22
Builders
- Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago, Illinois (Approach)
- Leighton Bridge & Iron Works of Rochester, New York (Lattice Truss Spans)
Railroads
- Chicago & North Western Railway (CNW)
- Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway (CMO)
- Union Pacific Railroad (UP)
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
Abandoned CStPM&O Chippewa River Bridge
Chicago Northwestern South Crossing
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)
Quadrangle map:
Eau Claire West
Inventory number
BH 36335 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • June 24, 2021: Updated by Nathan Holth: This nationally significant bridge is closed and may be at risk for alteration or demolition!
  • September 21, 2016: New Street View added by Dana and Kay Klein
  • May 7, 2016: New photos from John Marvig
  • February 25, 2016: New photo from Charles Kuehn
  • July 4, 2015: Updated by Luke: Updated status per forum comment
  • 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 March 17, 2022, by Paul Plassman

Great to see this one back open with relatively minor alteration!

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted March 17, 2022, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

https://www.weau.com/2022/03/16/high-bridge-eau-claire-reope...

The bridge has now been reopened. The substructures were repointed, while the middle pier was partially rebuilt. While I think it sticks out, I do think the job was excellent in the end. Itís not every day you see that kind of money and engineering used to preserve a bridge.

Northwestern Railroad Bridge February 2022 Update
Posted February 17, 2022, by Jacob Grabara (jacobgrabara [at] yahoo [dot] com)

It appears repairs are almost complete. Pier caps were being poured last week on the outer two piers, and the center pier's forms should hopefully be removed in the next week or two. The bridge is not yet holding itself under its own weight per the photos on the facebook page dated 2/15, however an article posted to WQOW last week gives an updated expected reopening date for March 2022. https://www.wqow.com/news/high-bridge-re-opening-timeline-se...

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted September 14, 2021, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

It has now been two months since the contract was approved to repair this bridge. Based on photos from the last week or two on the Facebook page previously linked, the center and east river piers (#3 and #4 from west to east) have been reinforced at the bases with a concrete encasement. It appears that the lift of the center spans may be coming soon as well.

Based on the bottom concrete jacket, I assume the goal is to keep as much of the original center pier as possible.

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted August 2, 2021, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

After some high water late last week, it sounds like repairs will begin this week. Someone is documenting the progress on this Facebook page:

https://m.facebook.com/Keeping-the-History-Alive-10972025138...

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted July 22, 2021, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

That's friggin' amazing... especially considering it's Wisconsin!

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted July 22, 2021, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Some good news, the city is not wasting any time getting started with repairs!

https://wqow.com/2021/07/21/high-bridge-in-early-stages-of-c...

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted July 13, 2021, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The council unanimously voted tonight to save the bridge! The repairs will possibly include complete replacement of all five piers with a faux cut stone, but preserve the superstructure. At very minimum, the repairs will include complete replacement of the failing center pier. More to come...but its looking positive!

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted July 8, 2021, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

https://www.leadertelegram.com/news/front-page/high-bridge-r...

Hopefully some excellent news...letís hope the city council agrees!

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted June 24, 2021, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Wow, the second article shows a fairly serious situation. The superstructure appears fine, but they almost certainly will have to rebuild at least one pier. I hope they can get something bracing that span before the rest of that pier fails..

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted June 24, 2021, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

This nationally significant bridge is closed and may be at risk for alteration or demolition!

https://wqow.com/2021/06/23/eau-claires-high-bridge-closed-f...

https://volumeone.org/articles/2021/06/23/278610-urgent-stru...

Northwestern Railroad Bridge
Posted July 4, 2015, by Jacob Grabara (jacobgrabara [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Hello, I have an update on this bridge for you. I live near this bridge in Eau Claire, and the conversion of this bridge to a multi-use path are complete. The bridge opened to the public on Friday, July 3rd, 2015. I took several photos, and plan on returning once the approaches are paved and will also get photos of the abandoned forest st. bridges.

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/topi...

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...