Carver Railroad Bridge

Lost Girder Bridge over Minnesota River
Carver, Carver County, Minnesota
Rural Scott County, Minnesota

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Carver Railroad Bridge
Built By Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway
Contractor Widell-Finley of Mankato, Minnesota
Currently Owned By Nobody (Bridge has been Removed)
Length 680 Feet Total, 67 Foot Main Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 26 Feet
Type Deck Plate Girder and Trestle
Date Built 1917 Using 1871 Piers
Date Removed August-December 2011
Demolisher Mike's Excavating of Madrid, Iowa
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is Removed)
Current Status Lost
M&StL Bridge Number 22
In 1871, the Minneapolis and Saint Louis (M&StL) began building a line from Minneapolis to a point just south of Carver, a distance of about 30 miles.

The line crossed the Minnesota River at Carver on a large wooden bridge.

In 1877, the line was continued towards Albert Lea. This line would form the central spine for the M&StL.
The line had heavy grades east of Chaska, and this was corrected in 1901 when a major project was undertaken to rebuild the grade.

The bridge at Carver was rebuilt a third time in 1917. This bridge was supposed to be temporary, but was kept in service.

The M&StL was often poor up until the 1950s, where they became wealthy again. This attracted larger railroads. By this time, they had a large network of lines around Iowa and Minnesota.
In 1960, the Chicago & Northwestern purchased this line.

In 1983, the line was abandoned from Montgomery to Waseca due to the purchase of the parallel Rock Island line. In 1986, the line from Hartland was sold to Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern.
In 1991, the line from Chaska to Hopkins was abandoned, and the section to Minneapolis followed in 1994. This became a trail

In 1995, The C&NW was purchased by Union Pacific Railroad.

In 2007, following a trestle collapse, the line from Merriam Junction to Chaska was abandoned, and intended to be used for trail.

In 2011, the section from Albert Lea to Hartland was abandoned. This was intended to become a trail as well.

Today, the last sections are somewhat stable from Merriam to Montgomery and Waseca to Hartland.

This spectacular bridge was one of my favorites, and was a favorite among locals. The bridge was well known by most people in the area.

I will miss the bridge I remember from my childhood, the days from my first railroad bridge photos and from the days where I would come down here weekly to see it.

Perhaps this bridge was just cool, or perhaps it was sentimental that I was there in it's last days.

The first bridge here was built in 1871, and was a wooden structure. It would be replaced by a swing span that was not unlike the Redstone Bridge, near New Ulm. Then it appeared to have trestle approach, but also a pony truss span, supported by trestle bents underneath. A very interesting design.
In 1917, the bridge would be replaced with the final structure; which was a quick fix for World War I.

The center pier was removed, the stone piers capped with cement and 5 new concrete piers were built. One on the outsides of the stone piers, and 3 between.
Then 6 deck plate girder spans were rested on these piers, and trestle approaches built.

As great and sturdy as this bridge looked, it had MANY underlying problems that were discovered when it was being taken down by Mike Howard of Mike's Excavating. We will get to those probes a little later.

The bridge designer was fired soon after because it was built so poorly. The new concrete piers never had any rebar because the rebar was stolen. Instead, wooden pilings held the piers into the river. Rail was used to support the pier.

Also, the interior bracing was 3/4" instead of the normal 1 1/2". Bolts were put in upside down, and pilings were only dug a few feet, instead of the normal 20'.

The bridge was supposed to have a very short life, and be replaced by a double track lift span. But this plan fell through
Despite these problems, the bridge stood proud, seeing as many as 15 trains a day at times.

After the CNW purchased the M&STL, the bridge never received much maintenance, although it was pointed out that the stone piers were regrouted around 1985.

After the floods of 1991, the bridge began really shifting and moving.

It was really not noticeable until after 2006, when it was noticed that pier #6 had appeared to have sunk about a foot.

Although the actual problem was piers 5 and 7 had been scoured out, and the pilings had raised a bit.

After the battle of the historic status of the structure, it was determined the bridge must come down.

This bridge was situated on a curve on the river. This means that logs would get caught in the closely spaced piers, creating massive log jams.

This bridge also leaned because of the log jam. In the fall of 2011, the water was about 2" on the girders on the upstream side, but nearly 1' on the downstram side.


After being tipped off about the removal of the rails, I went down to carver in mid July 2011.
Because the rail removal crew was too scared to go out and remove the rails on this bridge, Mike had to. While removing the rail, water pressure from the water that was very high at that point caused 4 spans of trestle on the south approach to collapse.

Soon after, a huge machine came out and drilled holes in all 7 piers for dynamite.

After water had gone down, Mike began removing the 6th DPG span. He would strip off the ties, cut out the interior bracing with a cutting torch and drop the bracing to the river. Then he would proceed to cut the big girders loose, pushed them over, then attaching a zip line to them, pulling them off the pier, and into the river. They would be pulled out with a bulldozer and brought up on shore, where they would be cut into 2 pieces, and hauled to a pile.

Mike repeated this for 5 more spans. Most went trouble free until he had a little whoops where the zip line snapped with a girder from span #4 still in water.

That girder sat down there until it was reattached by divers, and pulled out before span #1 came down.

After the girders were out, the north approach was pulled out by stripping off the ties, unbolting the stringers, and cutting the pilings.

Then came the interesting part. I was playing football with friends when I heard a big bang and saw a cloud of dust coming from the general location of Carver.

I immediately knew that the first pier had been blown up. In order that the piers were blown up:


After the piers were gone, then mike started on the south approaches, which he did the same method for.
The difference was the 4th and 5th approach spans collapsed with his F-150 on them. Everything was later cut, and it was regraded.

Then the pieces of the pier were picked out of the river, and thrown up against the river banks. The log jam was loosened and everything was finished up. The final work was done around December 26th.


Among the things noted about the bridge during its demolition were a number of things.

-All 6 main spans had holes for plates, but were pulled off at an earlier date
-The pilings were all too small, and rotted
-The 5 concrete piers had no rebar, and were held in by pilings that were very shallow
-Many bolts were upside down, and not put in properly
-The bracing of the main spans was nearly 1/2 as thick as it should have been
-Piers 5 and 7 were scoured the worst
-The bridge had shifted within the last 20 years

Unfortunately the bridge did come down, and I think most everyone was upset by that.

The bridge would have been better if the swing pier never had been removed, and big stationary spans were put in instead, like the BNSF Bridge At Grand Forks

The reason for this was a planned double track lift bridge which was to be built in the 1920s. The railroad suffered financially during that time, and it never happened.

But what is done is done, and cannot be reversed. A big trail bridge will take over this area soon, so stay tuned for that.

The photos above are looking from the ice when the bridge was still standing and the bridge site in late May 2012.

Minnesota River Railroad Bridges

Upstream Kasota Drawbridge
Downstream Chaska Swing Bridge

Site Search Site Search

Widget is loading comments...

© Copyright 2010- John Marvig and Contributors. All Rights Reserved