- 1871: 72 miles completed from Hastings to Glencoe, Minnesota by the Hastings & Dakota Railway
- 1872: 72 miles from Hastings to Glencoe, Minnesota sold to the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway
- 1874: Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway changes name to the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway (Milwaukee Road)
- 1880: 128 miles completed from Glencoe to Ortonville, Minnesota by the Hastings & Dakota Railway
- 1880: H&D purchased by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway
- 1880: 69 miles completed from Ortonville to Brisol, South Dakota by the Milwaukee Road
- 1881: 10 miles completed from Bristol to Andover, South Dakota by the Milwaukee Road. This segment was difficult to build, due to the massive plateau and an elevation change of 400 feet
- 1881: 10 miles completed from Bristol to Andover, South Dakota by the Milwaukee Road
- 1882: 30 mile "Benton Cutoff" completed from Minneapolis to Cologne, Minnesota by the Milwaukee Road
- 1882: 29 miles completed from Andover to Aberdeen, South Dakota by the Milwaukee Road
- 1883: 26 miles completed from Aberdeen to Ipswich, South Dakota by the Milwaukee Road
- 1885: 30 miles completed from Ipswich to Bowdle, South Dakota by the Milwaukee Road
- 1900: 32 miles completed from Bowdle to Glenham, South Dakota by the Milwaukee Road
- 1912-15: Majority of Minneapolis to Aberdeen route realigned, grade separated and double tracked, except Bird Island to Granite Falls segment
- 1934: Second track removed from Hopkins to Hector and Summit to Groton
- 1947: Second track removed from Granite Falls to Milbank
- 1953-57: Remaining second track removed
- 1935: Hastings to Farmington segment abandoned
- 1978: Shakopee to Cologne segment abandoned, Chaska to Shakopee segment purchased for trail use
- 1980: Farmington to Shakopee segment abandoned
- 1982: Appleton to Andover segment sold to Burlington Northern, Andover to Miles City, Montana segment purchased by State of South Dakota and operated by BN
- 1986: Soo Line purchases the Milwaukee Road and takes over Minneapolis to Aberdeen route
- 1990: Soo Line controlled as a subsidary by Canadian Pacific Railway
- 1991: Twin Cities & Western Railroad purchases Hopkins to Appleton segment
- 1996: Cedar Lake Junction to Hiawatha Avenue segment abandoned and acquired for trail use
- 1996: Minnesota River Bridge at Chaska removed, portion of trail abandoned
- 1996: Burlington Northern merges with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway to form BNSF Railway
- 1990-Present: Canadian Pacific operates the Cedar Lake Junction to Hopkins segment as the Bass Lake Spur
- 1991-Present: Twin Cities & Western operates the Hopkins to Appleton segment
- 1996-Present: BNSF operates the Appleton to Aberdeen segment as the Appleton Subdivision
- 1996-Present: BNSF operates the Aberdeen to Hettinger, North Dakota segment as the Mobridge Subdivision
- 1981-Present: Segment near Shakopee used as the Minnesota Valley Trail, formerly the Chaska-Shakopee Trail
- 2000-Present: The Midtown Greenway operates in the "29th Street Trench" through South Minneapolis
One of the most intriguing structures in Minnesota was what sealed the deal with bridges for me. After discovering that my hometown had such an awesome bridge at one time, I set out in 2010 to find what happened to it, and to create a way to restore memories of it.
As I write this narrative in April 2018, it has been eight years since I created a small website to raise knowledge of Minnesota Railroad Bridges. With well over 1500 bridges covered (as of April 2018), a long forgotten relic that met an untimely demise was what started it all.
Even after eight years of research, some mystery still surrounds this very unique structure.
What was once perhaps Minnesota's greatest bridge preservation accomplishment now sits as a series of ruins near the town of Chaska.
Originally, the first bridge at this location was a wooden truss swing bridge, set onto stone substructures. Similar to the first bridge at nearby Carver, the bridge was replaced with a more durable structure in the 1880s.
The 1880s structure also featured truss designs, this time assembled of iron.
A new swing span was installed in 1900, which utilized a design typical of the Milwaukee Road. The new swing span was set onto the same stone substructures which previous bridges utilized. This span featured a pair of spans, connected with a simple tower over a pivot point. The spans contained pinned connections, typical for spans of this era.
By 1905, a new approach span would be relocated from a bridge over the Zumbro River at Kellogg, Minnesota. However, this span had a short tenure at this location, and would be relocated to Eau Claire, Wisconsin in 1910, only 5 years later. The 1905 bridge from the Zumbro River was then relocated here, after that bridge was double tracked.
At this point, the final configuration of the bridge was assembled. A 6 panel, riveted Pratt Through Truss was relocated to the site. In addition, the west abutment was rebuilt with a new concrete face.
The bridge changed very little between 1910 and 1980. In the early 1980s, the bridge was converted to trail usage. It was one of the first rail trail projects in the country.
Connecting Chaska and Shakopee, the trail was the most popular rail-trail in the state for quite some time. However, tragedy struck in August of 1996.
Engineers noticed that the bridge was shifting. Within only a few short days, the pier had sunk over a feet. A sinkhole was scoured near the upstream side of the swing pier, which gradually begun to fall in.
Within a short 24 hour period, the pier shifted three inches, a catastrophic amount for a bridge. While the public wanted the bridge saved, it would likely have collapsed within days.
As a result, the bridge was destroyed in a controlled explosion. Had the pier shifted less rapidly, it is very likely that the structure could have been stabilized, and would still be there today.
Without a critical river crossing in the trail, the route dropped in popularity. A fire on a nearby trestle further set back the plans for a new river crossing. The trail was abandoned, and stayed inactive until a new connection was made in 2008.
Currently, the mile segment of trail between Chaska and the site of the former bridge is severely damaged and overgrown. The Chaska-Shakopee trail still exists on the Scott County side of the river, but the popularity has never recovered. The trail remains as a shadow of its former self.
The author would have ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the uncommon design and preservation efforts, prior to the damage.
The photo above is an overview from 1977. The photo below is a historic photo.
A special thank you is in order for John Hill, for contributing much of the photos from the extant bridge. In addition, the Chaska Historical Society provided newspaper articles and historic photos.
The Milwaukee Road Archives at the Milwaukee Central Library also provided some insight into the history of the bridge. A special thank you is in order to all contributors for making memories of this bridge alive again!
|Upstream||Carver Railroad Bridge|
|Downstream||Dan Patch Swing Bridge|
Newspaper Articles and Misc Photos