Escanaba Rail Bridge

Lost Modified Quadrangular Through Truss Bridge over Escanaba River
Escanaba, Delta County, Michigan

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Escanaba Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago & North Western Railway
Contractor (1892 Construction) Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago
Last Owned By Canadian National Railway
Length 675 Feet Total, 65 Foot Spans (130 Foot Originally)
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 20 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Quadrangular Lattice Through Truss
Substructure Type Stone Masonry and Steel Pile
Date Built 1892, Modified 1943
Date Lost 2015
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge has Been Replaced)
Current Status Replaced By a New Bridge
CN Bridge Number 117.01
Significance High Significance
In 1864, the Peninsula Railroad Company of Michigan built a 62 mile line from Escanaba, Michigan to Negaunee, Michigan.
The following year, this railroad would become part of the Chicago & North Western Railway, which was beginning to build extensive lines in the Upper Midwest.
In 1870, the railroad would extend another 5 miles to Lake Angeline. The system of mine spurs in the northern part of the Upper Peninsula would be extended over the coming years.
By 1871, the railroad would build a new mainline to connect Escanaba to Green Bay, Wisconsin. This line connected the Upper Peninsula lines to the rest of the core system.
The new line would head west along present day US-2, and drop south at Powers. From here, it would cross the Menominee River at Marinette.
It would go through Peshtigo and Oconto before finally reaching Green Bay from the north. The railroad would serve a solid freight base and stay very well off, until the Chicago & North Western sold it in 1988.

The C&NW intended to reduce the amount of route miles. This line got sold to the Wisconsin Central, Ltd. This regional railroad owned many former C&NW and Milwaukee Road lines in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
By 2001, the railroad would change hands again. This time, Canadian National Railway would take over.
Today, it continues to be operated as the Canadian National Marinette Subdivision

This very unique truss bridge once crossed the Escanaba River and ELS Railroad in Escanaba, and was a landmark in every sense to the town.
Unfortunately, it was replaced in 2015. While its successor will undoubtedly serve its job, it is nowhere near as appealing as the original structure.
The truss bridge was originally built with five spans in 1892. These riveted Quadrangular Lattice Through Truss spans were set onto stone abutments, and had a typical pedimented portal bracing.
However, to counter the increasing traffic, the railroad decided to rebuild the bridge in 1943. This was accomplished by splitting the spans, creating 10 short spans. New concrete and pile piers were installed.
These split spans were rebuilt with laced endposts on the interior portals, and A-Frame portal bracing.
These modifications only added to the uniqueness and historic integrity of the bridge. It created a visually appealing structure.
While five span Quadrangular Through Trusses certainly are nothing to look away from, a 10 span modification creates a very interesting structure.

Historic Photo
Historic photo of the bridge

For this reason, the author rated this as one of the most significant railroad bridges in the area. Because of its age and uncompromising level of historic integrity, along with its almost unheard of uniqueness; it would have been nice to see the bridge at least rehabilitated instead of being replaced.
Unfortunately for the structure, the bridge was supposed to be replaced in 1943, likely due to a bad batch of iron. Two other identical bridges at Marinette were replaced in 1943 due to strength issues.
Canadian National has been extremely destructive in recent years with historic truss bridges in this region. Historic bridges at Manitowoc, Oshkosh and Green Bay have all been removed for various reasons.
In addition at this site, a failing concrete bridge formerly carrying US-41 and US-2 was removed at the same time.

The photo above is an overview, looking north. The photos of the historic bridge were used with permission, and were taken by Randy Mulder and Nathan Holth.
More info, and their page for the bridge can be found at Historicbridges.org
Unfortunately, I arrived in Late March 2016 to this site. This was too late to see the historic bridge. The replacement bridge photo was taken by John Marvig on this March 2016 morning.
All historic truss bridge photos were taken by Randy Mulder, unless noted.

Escanaba River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Wells Rail Bridge
Successor New Escanaba Rail Bridge
Downstream Mouth at Lake Michigan


Source Type


Build Date Lassig Bridge & Iron Works plaque
Contractor Lassig Bridge & Iron Works plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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