Chippewa Falls Rail Bridge

Quadrangular Through Truss Bridge over Chippewa River
Chippewa Falls, Chippewa County, Wisconsin

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Chippewa Falls Railroad Bridge
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Omaha Railway
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 907 Feet Total, 160 Foot Largest Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
Type Quadrangular Lattice Through Truss with Deck Plate Girders
Date Built 1891, Rebuilt 1994 and 2014
Date of Fire July 20th, 1993
Traffic Count 2 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
Bridge Number 10.62
In 1881 and 1882, the Chippewa Falls and Northern Railroad built a line from Chippewa Falls to Cameron, a distance of about 40 miles.

In 1883, the Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls Railroad built from Chippewa Falls, at the existing line, crossing the Chippewa River, to Eau Claire, an additional 10 miles.

There at Yukon Jct. it would connect into the existing mainline from St. Paul, MN to Milwaukee.

Around 1886, the Chicago Northwestern came into possession of both lines. They upgraded the bridges and existing trackage.

Chicago Northwestern operated the line through tough times and good times until 1995. In 1995 they were purchased by Union Pacific.

Union Pacific sold off the line from Chippewa Falls, north to Bloomer to the Wisconsin Northern, a part of Progressive Rail on November 29th 2004.

Union Pacific still operates the line north from Eau Claire to Chippewa Falls.

Still today, there are about 3 to 4 trains operating on the entire system per day.

This is the giant and historic bridge mentioned above. This one is striking, as it has 4 different bridge types, and shows the difference between late 19th century, late 20th century and early 21st Century designs!

This bridge replaced a wooden bridge in 1891. It always has been a landmark for this area. But on the evening of July 20th 1993, it was changed forever.

Imagine: a massive bridge consisting of 6 spans of quadrangular through truss. It is a landmark. All the piers are wooden. People on this bridge are normal. You are walking on a warm July evening. And suddenly you see it, a person fleeing the scene and a pier on the bridge on fire. It is the second one from the north end. And suddenly fire crews rush to the scene! They walk onto the unstable bridge, and attempt to put out the blaze on the wooden pier. And before they put it out, the second span starts creaking, and the whole span comes down! And then, the bridge appears to be a loss. Then a short time later, the closest span plunges, and the burning pier collapses. The fire instantly goes out when the wood hits the river. And just as quickly as it started, it is all over. The area is taped off, and there sits two massive 160' metal spans laying in the river, along with the charred remains of a pier. And the investigation is on.

Police initially suspected teenagers with Roman Candles or similar fireworks. But then a 6 year old girl had a different idea.

She stated that her mother had remarked that her step-father was at the bridge that night. This turned the whole case around, and by a year later, the man was imprisoned.

While the legal issues were going on, the railroad and city were facing a tough decision. Take down the old bridge, and abandoned the line, or, repair or rebuild the old bridge.

The option decided involved taking out the bridge over Lake Wissota on a abandoned line, that was abandoned in 1988. That old bridge consisted of 8 large 100' Deck Plate Girder spans.

Three were moved to the north side of this bridge. New concrete and steel piers were installed, and the bridge was shortened 20'.

Also, an I-Beam span was installed on the north side.
In 2014, the bridge was also reconstructed. The remaining wooden piers were replaced with concrete, and the trestle approach was replaced. The remaining spans were shifted south.
Currently, the bridge consists of:

From North to South: 1-24' I-Beam Span (24') 3-100' Deck Plate Girder Spans (300') 1-40' I-Beam Span (40') 2-160' Quadrangular Truss Spans (320') 2-100' Quadrangular Truss Spans (200') 1-25' Concrete Girder Span (25')

The old bridge had 2 additional Truss Spans, both 160' long, instead of the I-Beam and DPG spans there now.

Since reconstruction in 2014, the bridge has seen an increase in traffic as the frac sand market picks up.
Below, Tom Larson contributed photos of the bridge fire and the reconstruction in 2014. The photo above is a current overview of the structure.

Chippewa River Railroad Bridges

Upstream Lake Wissota Bridge
Downstream UP Chippewa River Bridge

These Pictures Start at varying points in the Series, for the Pictures taken by others
Tom Larson Photos

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