Chamberlain Rail Bridge

Massive Truss Bridge over Lake Francis Case (Missouri River)
Chamberlain, Brule County, South Dakota
Oacoma, Lyman County, South Dakota

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Name Chamberlain Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul & Pacific Railway
Contractor American Bridge Company of New York
Currently Owned By Ringneck & Western Railroad
Length 4,890 Feet Total, 370 Foot Main Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 80 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Camelback Through Truss, Warren Deck Truss and Deck Girder
Substructure Type Concrete
Date Built 1953
Traffic Count 1 Train/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
MILW Bridge Number W-44
Significance Moderate Significance
With the opening of Native American Reservations to White settlement in 1905, the White River Valley Railroad began construction of a route between Chamberlain and Presho, South Dakota.
Located on the Missouri River, Chamberlain had been the western terminus of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway (Milwaukee Road) since 1881. With a new expansion, a pontoon bridge was built across the Missouri River, and the race to Rapid City was on.
In 1906, the railroad was further extended to Murdo, and reached Rapid City by 1907. By 1910, the Milwaukee Road fully engulfed the WRV.
This route became one of only two routes crossing the entire State of South Dakota. From Rapid City, plans were made to continue west, but these never materialized.

With the route dead ending at Rapid City, the route was a major cash hole to the railroad. Still reeling from a Pacific expansion made at the same time, the railroad was reorganized as the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific Railway in 1913.
Traffic on the route was highly competitive, as the Chicago & North Western ran a main line just to the north, which roughly paralleled this route between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Rapid City.

Since this line became such a major expense, it was identified for abandonment in 1980, as the Milwaukee Road reorganized to avoid bankruptcy.
Fortunately, the State of South Dakota stepped in and bought the entire route between Sheldon, Iowa and Rapid City. However, no operator would be found until 1987, when the Dakota Southern Railway began operations on the route between Mitchell and Rapid City.
In 1998, the route was discontinued between Kadoka and Rapid City. However, all critical infrastructure is still in place, waiting for a train that may never come again.
Proposals have been made to recycle this segment as a trail, as it directly goes through the famous Badlands of South Dakota.
In 2021, the State of South Dakota sold the Mitchell-Rapid City line to Ringneck & Western Railroad; a subsidiary of Watco. The line is in service to Vivian, and the route to Rapid City may again see service in the future.

Located between Chamberlain and Oacoma, this is the largest railroad bridge in South Dakota.
Built in 1953, this is a third generation bride at this location. The original bridge was a pontoon structure, constructed in 1907. This was replaced in 1923 with a through truss swing bridge.
In 1953, the Missouri River was dammed to create Lake Francis Case. As a result, the old swing bridge was removed and replaced with this structure.
The main spans on this bridge consist of massive 12-panel Camelback Through Trusses with riveted connections.
In addition to these main spans, a trio of 8-panel, riveted Warren Deck Trusses approach the main spans on the west of the bridge.
Along with the truss spans, an additional 29 deck girder spans exist. The entire bridge rests on massive concrete substructures.
Overall, the bridge remains in good condition. Recently, the State of South Dakota upgraded the bridge with a new deck.

The author has ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the large scale size of the bridge.
The photo above is an overview. The photo below is a picture of the plaque. This bridge can easily be seen from Interstate 90.

Missouri River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Pierre Rail Bridge
Downstream Yankton Rail Bridge

These Pictures Start at Varying Points in the Series

Detail Photos from July 2017


Source Type


Build Date American Bridge Company Plaque
Contractor American Bridge Company Plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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