CP Menomonee River Swing Bridge

Bobtail Through Truss Swing Bridge over Menomonee River
Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin

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Name CP Menomonee River Swing Bridge
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee & Saint Paul Railroad
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By Canadian Pacific Railway
Length 275 Feet Total, 230 Foot Main Span
Width 2 Tracks
Height Above Ground 12 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Through Truss Swing Bridge
Substructure Type Concrete
Date Built 1904
Traffic Count 90 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
MILW Bridge Number A-316 1/2
Significance Regional Significance
In 1873, the Milwaukee & Saint Paul Railroad completed a mainline between Milwaukee and Chicago, two key port cities.

The line became part of the Chicago, Milwaukee & Saint Paul by 1874, which was vastly expanding its empire across the midwest. It had already reached into Iowa and Minnesota, along with extensive networks in Wisconsin and Illinois.

The line was double tracked in the late 1880s and early 1890s, and was part of the Milwaukee to Saint Paul mainline.

The CMStP reorganized into the Chicago, Milwaukee Saint Paul & Pacific in 1912, as it began expanding its empire towards Seattle.

This line saw some of the most stable traffic of the Milwaukee Road, which generated trains day and night.

When the Milwaukee Road fell out of buisness in 1985, it became part of the Soo Line, who eventually dissolved its Wisconsin lines. Most of the Soo Line went to Canadian Pacific, including this line. Canadian Pacific later sold lines off to Wisconsin Central. This line was not included.

Canadian Pacific is the current operator of this line, which sees nearly 110 trains per day, and is the main route from Chicago to Saint Paul with the Amtrack. It is known as the C&M Subdivision.

This bridge is one of the three unique Milwaukee Road swing bridges.
In the namesake city of the Milwaukee Road, three bobtail style swing spans were built. Of these, this is the middle one, crossing the Menomonee River near Plankinton Avenue.
This bridge is built on concrete substructures, and is approached by a single concrete slab span. The bridge opened in 1904.
During recreational boating season, it opens almost regularly for commercial and private boats alike.
Utilizing a bobtail design takes a specific skill of engineering. The bridge has to perfectly balance on the pivot point, meaning use of a counterweight is typically needed.
Bridgehunter.com has a list of 13 railroad bobtail swing spans. Of these, eight were built for the Milwaukee Road.
The swing span is also a 6 panel riveted through truss with a warren design and an M-Frame portal. The center is a simple tower connecting the two leafs of the bridge, one with five panels, the other with three.

The author has ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the rarity of bobtail spans such as this.
Instead, the angle above is from 1st Street. The bridge can be seen from nearby roads.

Menomonee River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Burnham Bridge
Downstream Confluence with Milwaukee River


Source Type


Build Date Milwaukee Road Reports
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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