In 1878 the Hastings & Dakota continued the push west. It made it to Montevideo in western Minnesota by 1878, Ortonville on the Minnesota/South Dakota border by 1879, and Milbank, South Dakota by 1880. The only thing left was to connect the line more directly to Minneapolis. At the time, trains would have to go way south and take the long route back up to Minneapolis along the Milwaukee Road line to St. Paul from Farmington.
In 1880, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway purchased the Hastings & Dakota, and continued building west into South Dakota.
In 1882, the Milwaukee Road constructed the Shortline; a line which would cut the distance and time for passengers considerably. It would connect to the existing mainline at Cologne and end in a terminal in Saint Paul.
The downside of the mainline was the single track operations. Milwaukee Road had reached the Pacific Ocean at Seattle by 1912; hence changing the name to the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railway by 1928.
A series of improvements were constructed between 1912 and 1914, including new bridges and double track configurations for a majority of the line between Aberdeen, South Dakota and Saint Paul.
This route was critical for the Milwaukee Road. It was a middle leg in the Chicago-Pacific route that had been the result of over 50 years of planning and construction.
Despite the critical status of this line, much of the double track would be removed through the 1930s and 1940s. As the Milwaukee Road slipped further into debt; conditions worsened.
By 1985, the Soo Line Railroad purchased the Milwaukee Road. The Soo continued to operate this as a secondary mainline, due to the important connections.
Soo Line already had a line to the West coast from Minneapolis. They sold large sections west of Ortonville to Burlington Northern. But on July 26th 1991, the Twin Cities & Western would be born to operate 229 miles of track between Ortonville, Minnesota and Minneapolis.
While the TC&W operated to Ortonville, they only owned the tracks to Appleton. Past Appleton, Burlington Northern (now BNSF) owned the tracks.
Originally, the Short Line was used to connect TC&W trains to Saint Paul. In the mid-1990s, the route was rerouted around Cedar Lake and the former Shortline has become a trail and is now partially owned by Canadian Pacific.
Since 1991, the TC&W has grown steadily; returning solid service to a mainline that was once so critical to one of the Midwest's largest railroads.
Located in Appleton, this deck girder bridge crosses the Pomme de Terre River.
Built in 1900 to replace a wooden bridge, the bridge features four deck girder spans and two concrete arch spans. This bridge follows a typical Milwaukee Road design, using concrete arches as abutments to the deck girders. The entire bridge rests on concrete substructures.
Standard girder bridges like this are incredibly common along railroads, especially to cross small rivers. While the route between Aberdeen and Minneapolis was double tracked between 1912 and 1914, this was one of the few bridges that was not.
As a result, this bridge became a choke point in the Milwaukee Road system.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in good to fair condition.
The author has ranked the bridge as being locally significant, due to the common design.
The photo above is an overview.