Barker Island Rail Bridge (South)

Double Intersection Warren Pony Truss Bridge over Wisconsin River
Wausau, Marathon County, Wisconsin

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Name Barker Island Rail Bridge (South)
Built By Chicago & North Western Railway
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By Canadian National Railway
Length 98 Feet Total, 70 Foot Longest Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 10 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Double Intersection Warren Pony Truss and Trestle
Substructure Type Steel Caisson and Timber Pile
Date Erected Ca. 1913 using Older Parts
Date Fabricated Ca. 1885
Original Location Unknown
Traffic Count 2 Trains/Week (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
Significance High Significance
In 1881, the Chicago & Northwestern Railway constructed a line from Neilsville to Merrilan, where it would connect to the mainline towards Madison and towards Saint Paul.
Ten years later, in 1891, the line would be extended to Marshfield.
By 1892, the Chicago & North Western subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway completed a new 40 mile route between Wausau and Marshfield.
At Wausau, the line connected to a line towards Green Bay, and at Marshfield it connected to a number of lines heading in all directions.
By 1893, the MLS&W became a full part of the Chicago & Northwestern. The C&NW had built a number of branch lines serving the major industry of Wausau since 1880, one of which included the Barker Island Spur, which would serve Barker Island and northern Wausau.
The C&NW used this line as a main route from the mainline at Merrilan (near Black River Falls) to Wausau and Green Bay.
The line was damaged heavily in the 1912 floods which destroyed much of Wausau. The main bridge over the Wisconsin River, along with many other structures, were destroyed in the flood.

Much of the line was abandoned in 1981, after it fell out of favor, since the paper mills of Wausau and surrounding areas began shipping by truck.
The remaining stub of the line in Wausau was purchased by the Wisconsin Central in 1997, who in turn was purchased by Canadian National in 2001.
The line had been cut on both ends of Wausau, no longer connecting to major destinations. The line did however connect to the former Wisconsin Valley line of the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific; which was also owned by Wisconsin Central.
Today, the largest remains of this line are on Barker Island, serving limited industry and are operated by Canadian National. The remainder is largely abandoned.

This span is by far the smallest on the island of bridges in Wausau, and crosses a back channel which separates Barker Island from Stewart Island.
Built around 1885 at an unknown location, the main span was later relocated here in 1913 after a flood presumably destroyed the old bridge.
Currently, the bridge consists of a single 70 foot long, 6-panel riveted Double Intersection Warren Pony truss. This span is approached by trestle spans, and the bridge sits on steel caisson and timber piles.
Research conducted at the Chicago & North Western Historical Society showed proposed blueprints for this bridge signed in 1912, although the plan was canceled. It appears that the plan was re-initiated after the flood of 1912.
During this time period, several trusses of similar design were replaced throughout the system and reused or relocated. Ten spans at Hudson, Wisconsin; three at Des Plaines, Illinois; four at Beloit, Wisconsin among many others were replaced in a period between 1911 and 1913.
However, most of these spans were built with standard lengths of 82 feet. It is possible that this bridge could have been cut down from the original length.
The Double Intersection Warren Pony truss was a favorite of both the "Omaha Road", as well as its parent, the Chicago & North Western. A majority of these lightweight structures were built between 1880 and 1890.
Simply built and economical, these trusses served as early versions of girders, and are even referred to as "lattice girders". When they were replaced on mainlines in the first two decades of the 20th century, many were relocated or rebuilt as road bridges.
Overall, the bridge remains in good condition. It is hoped that someday this bridge will be preserved as a trail bridge.

The author has ranked this bridge as being highly significant, due to the relocated status of this truss bridge.
The photo above is looking from the east bank of the Wisconsin River towards the Island. The bridge can be seen from nearby trails.

Wisconsin River Railroad Bridges
Upstream (East Channel) Barker Island Trail Bridge
Downstream (East Channel) Woodson Park Rail Bridge


Source Type


Erection Date Estimated based on flooding
Original Locations Information unknown
Fabrication Date Estimated based on similar spans
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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