Downsville Trail Bridge

Pratt Through Truss Bridge over Red Cedar River
Downsville, Dunn County, Wisconsin

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Downville Trail Bridge
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway
Contractor Rust & Coolidge of Chicago
Currently Owned By Wisconsin DNR
Length 370 Feet Total, 145 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track, 2 Trail Lanes
Height Above Ground 25 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Through Truss and Trestle
Substructure Type Concrete and Timber Pile
Date Erected 1905
Date Fabricated (Truss) 1882
Original Location (Truss) Byron, Illinois
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is a Trail)
Current Status Rails to Trails
MILW Bridge Number M-502
Significance High Significance
In 1882, the Chippewa Falls and Superior Railway wished to build from an existing line in Wabasha, Minnesota to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
The same year, the route was extended to Menomonie from Red Cedar Junction.
The route was completed to Chippewa Falls by 1883, but never was extended north to Superior. It was purchased by Milwaukee Road.
At Reeds Landing, a large pontoon bridge allowed bridges to cross the Mississippi River.
By 1882, the railroad was purchased by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. Known as the Milwaukee Road, this route became a spur for the railroad giant.
The Milwaukee Road was renamed the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific Railway in 1915. By 1951, the Pontoon Bridge was dealt a severe blow by ice, and the line was abandoned from Durand to Wabasha.

The remaining portion was purchased by the State of Wisconsin in 1979, and was operated by private owners. Despite the promise, a bridge strength issue in Eau Claire would not allow train operations to be feasible, and the route was abandoned in 1981.
In the 1980s, Wisconsin turned it into a trail, and by 2004 the trail was complete to Eau Claire. The Red Cedar branch is also used as a trail.
These trails are named the Chippewa Valley and Red Cedar State Trails.

This unique bridge crosses the Red Cedar River on a heavily skewed truss.
The bridge itself has a build date of 1905 according to the Milwaukee Road Archives at the Milwaukee Central Library.
However, the truss appears to have been relocated to the present location in 1905. The original location appears to be the original Rock River Bridge at Byron, Illinois.
The Byron Bridge was replaced in 1905. Blueprints held at the Milwaukee Road Archives also show the Byron Bridge had identical features. The heavily skewed nature of the span indicates this almost certainly came from that location. Further research is being done to confirm this.
The truss itself is a significant piece of work. The 9 panel span features a heavy 45 degree skew, pinned connections and unique portal bracing.
The structure is supported by one concrete pier, and one wooden pier. The approaches are timber.
Because of the awkward geometry between the structure and river, the best photos come from deck level.
Despite this, the photo above was taken from a canoe, thanks to a couple of fishermen who really took an interest in the structure.
This unique angle shows off the beauty of the structure and surrounding areas.

The author has ranked this bridge as highly significant, due to the build date and detailed relocation history.
The photo above is an overview.

Red Cedar River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Abandoned Red Cedar River Bridge
Downstream Confluence with Chippewa River


Source Type


Build Date Milwaukee Road Archives at the Milwaukee Central Library
Contractor The Railroad Gazette: Volume 13
Likely Original Location Milwaukee Road Archives at the Milwaukee Central Library
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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