In 1871, the Hastings & Dakota Railway charted a railroad from Hastings, Minnesota to Cologne, Minnesota; with the intention of continuing to expand west.
The route generally followed a path to the south of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, connecting towns such as Farmington, Shakopee and Chaska.
The following year, the 72 mile segment from Hastings to Glencoe would be sold to the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. The M&StP owned a sizable amount of trackage in the area, and this line became a natural assett.
By 1876, the railroad was merged to form the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, also known as the Milwaukee Road.
This route became unfavorable for the Milwaukee Road, as it bypassed the Twin Cities. In response, a route known as the "Benton Cutoff" would be built in 1882, rendering the Cologne-Hastings line as obsolete.
Between this time and World War II, the route saw a steady amount of traffic due to freight and passengers. However, after WWII, the passenger traffic was virtually non existent.
By 1978, the line became a major hole for the Milwaukee Road, which had been renamed the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific Railway in 1913 due to an extension to the Pacific.
In response, the route was abandoned in its entirety between Cologne and Hastings. Fortunately, Carver and Scott Counties worked together to preserve a portion between Chaska and Shakope as a trail.
The trail would be built in the early 1980s, and crossed a large trestle and a large swing bridge near Chaska. However, both these bridges would be damaged in 1996.
In August of 1996, the center pier of the swing bridge crossing the Minnesota River sunk in a matter of days, closing the trail and forcing the demolition of the historic structure.
Later that year, the large trestle on the overflow of the river caught fire and was partially destroyed.
The trail was severed from 1996 until 2008, when a new crossing parallel to the highway in Chaska was completed.
The once popular Chaska-Shakopee trail has never recovered from losing the landmark bridge, and the crumbling asphalt is a memory of the past highlight status of the trail.
The Chaska Swing Bridge is my hometown mystery bridge. So much was unknown about this bridge when I started with it in 2010.
The bridge was demolished in 1996, a year before I was born. Although both my parents seem to remember it, I never got to see it.
When the bridge came down, the workers accessed it from the east. They had to bulldoze the east abutment in order to access the scrap steel.
Three of the four stone structures came down. Much of the stone was relocated and used for decorative purposes along the trail, with another bunch simply being thrown on the east bank.
All the steel was removed, although I have found minuscule chunks of it.
The bridge was first built in 1871 as a wooden swing bridge, and was rebuilt in 1889 using steel.
When it was built the final time in 1905 (The DNR claimed 1900, although a date stamp says otherwise), the river was still navigable. The new bridge was a pin connected swing span with a large five panel pratt through truss approach.
The bridge had elongated abutments, which were considered part of the bridge as parapets (38' East and 20' West).
Today, all that exists is the west abutment.
The photos above are from the John Hill collection of 1977.
Minnesota River Railroad Bridges
|Upstream||Carver Railroad Bridge|
|Downstream||Dan Patch Swing Bridge|
These Pictures Start at varying points in the Series
Newspaper Articles and Misc Photos