It was completed to Chippewa Falls by 1883, but never was extended north. It was purchased by Milwaukee Road.
Coming from Wabasha, a train would have to cross the Mississippi River on the large pontoon bridge at Reads Landing.
Then it would follow the Chippewa River for a distance of approxamatly 47 miles. By then it would be in downtown Eau Claire.
This railroad also opened up a world of opertunities for expansion. A line was built at the same time north from a spot where the Red Cedar River drained into the Chippewa. It went north to Cedar Falls through Downsville and Menomonie.
The line from Menomonie to Cedar Falls, along with the branch to Chippewa Falls were abandoned 1902.
By 1951, the Pontoon Bridge was dealt a severe blow by ice, and the line was abandoned from Durand to Wabasha.
Then in 1979, the Milwaukee Road abandoned the rest, figuring it was pointless. The state of Wisconsin then stepped in and purchased it.
They asked Train admirer Clint Jones to operate it. He took control April 1980. He was extremely hopeful for the future.
By March 1981, things were not looking so good. Track conditions were bad, there were a couple of really bad trestles, and a large bridge in Eau Claire was in serious need of repair.
The line was abandoned again. This time, Wisconsin turned it into a trail, and by 2004 the trail was complete to Eau Claire.
Also, the line to Menomonie is a trail. Hopefully they will continue to serve pedestrians for a long time!
This bridge contains a mishmash of structures, with the two main truss spans appearing to be relocated from elsewhere.
The overall contents of the bridge are:
24 Spans Trestle
2-84' Spans Deck Plate Girder
1-103' Pratt Truss Span
1-230' Whipple Through Truss Span
2 Spans Trestle
Despite the bridges significance, nearly zero information can be located on it. All that has been found so far are a few dates.
The first date found is 1907, which is stamped onto the piers supporting the trusses. This could be a possible relocation date for the trusses, and replacement of the 1880s swing bridge that previously existed here.
In addition, the Milwaukee Road Archives at the Milwaukee Central Library gave me a date of 1910 for the bridge, which could signify the approaches only.
Despite the lack of information, the two trusses are some of the most significant in Western Wisconsin.
The larger 230' Span features a Whipple Through Truss design, with 10 panels and pin connections. The span was clearly relocated from elsewhere, as significant modifications have been made to it.
In addition, the span features vertical endposts, extremely rare for railroad trusses, especially of this size.
The builder listed is Morse Bridge Company, of Youngstown Ohio. This company was only in business between 1878 and 1888, meaning the truss must date between these dates.
The shorter, 103' Pratt Through Truss is very similar to a span at Browntown, Wisconsin, and could date to ca. 1889.
The 6 panel, pin connected truss features a very decorative portal bracing.
In addition to these spans, the bridge has a pair of 84' Deck Girder spans, and numerous spans of wooden trestle approaching it.
The bridge rests on a combination of wooden and concrete substructures.
Information will continue to be pursued for this structure, and this page will be updated accordingly. The photo above is an overview.
A massive sandbar provides excellent views of this bridge. The photos are from a pair of days-a humid May 2012 morning and a crisp April 2015 evening.
Chippewa River Railroad Bridges
|Upstream||Clairemont Avenue Railroad Bridge|
|Downstream||BNSF Chippewa River Bridge|
These Pictures Start at varying points in the Series