3 votes

UP - Chippewa River Bridge


Union Pacific Chippewa River Bridge

Looking East

Photo taken by John Marvig in May 2012


BH Photo #232138

Chicago Northwestern Bridges around Eau Claire 

Written by John Marvig

The new Chippewa River with its four pratt deck truss main spans each totaling 180 feet in length, supported by stone piers and abutments, and approached by deck plate girders, one on the west side and two on the east is by far the biggest and heaviest built of the three bridges. Started in 1911 and completed August of 1912, it is nothing short of massive, and was meant to carry mainline traffic on the new alignment.

Passenger trains could whip around the curve approaching this bridge at nearly 75 MPH at times.


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


Pratt deck truss bridge over Chippewa River on Union Pacific Railroad
Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin
Open to traffic
Built 1911 by Chicago Northwestern succeeding the bridge downstream
- American Bridge Co. of New York
- Chicago & North Western Railway (CNW)
- Union Pacific Railroad (UP)
1-80' Deck Plate Girder
4-182' Warren Deck Truss
43'9" Deck Plate Girder
80'6" Deck Plate Girder
Length of largest span: 180.0 ft.
Total length: 924.3 ft.
Also called
CNW - Chippewa River Bridge
CNW - Bridge #273
Approximate latitude, longitude
+44.83227, -91.51153   (decimal degrees)
44°49'56" N, 91°30'42" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/617655/4965395 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Eau Claire West
Inventory number
BH 52460 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • May 7, 2016: New photos from John Marvig
  • December 27, 2015: New photo from Charles Kuehn
  • June 17, 2013: New photos from John Marvig
  • November 4, 2012: Essay added by John Marvig
  • May 14, 2012: Updated by Daniel Hopkins: Added category "Railroad"
  • May 13, 2012: Added by John Marvig

Related Bridges