Grand Forks Rail Bridge

Girder Bridge across Red River of the North
East Grand Forks, Polk County, Minnesota
Grand Forks, Grand Forks, North Dakota

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Name Grand Forks Rail Bridge
Built By Great Northern Railroad
Contractor 1 Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company of Milwaukee, Wis
Contractor 2 American Bridge Company of New York
Currently Owned By BNSF Railway
Length 1,056 Feet Total, 95 Foot Main Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 25 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Through Plate Girder with I-Beam and Concrete Trestle
Substructure Type Stone Masonry, Concrete, Timber Pile and Steel H-Pile
Date Built 1918, 1924, 1956 and 2005
Traffic Count 7 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
BNSF Bridge Number 107.0
Significance Moderate Significance
In 1875, the Red River Valley Railroad Company built a line from Crookston to Fisher. The line was extended to Grand Forks by 1879, connecting the cities of Crookston and Grand Forks. The railroad quickly became part of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, which became part of the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba by 1882.
Then in 1888, the line was continued east from Crookston, through Erskine, to Fosston by the StPM&M. The StPM&M became part of the Great Northern in 1890.
At the same time, the Duluth and Winnipeg Railroad Company was building from Duluth to Deer River, on the other side of the state. The line was completed between the two cities, reaching Swan River and Grand Rapids in 1892. By 1900, the Eastern Railway of Minnesota opened the line between Deer River and Fosston, connecting Duluth to Grand Forks.
The new line was critical, as freight could be shipped from western Minnesota to Duluth, and placed on barges heading towards Michigan or other areas of the country.
The line crossed the Mississippi River in Ball Club and Bemidji. New lines were constructed from Cass Lake to Sauk Centre, connecting to another mainline, as well as several lines into the Iron Range.

Great Northern proceeded to operate the line from 1907 until its demise in 1970, when it merged with the Northern Pacific and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy to form the Burlington Northern.
Burlington Northern continued to operate the route as a main line. In 1996, BN merged with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe to form BNSF Railway, the current owner of this route.

Crossing between Grand Forks and East Grand Forks is the well known railroad bridge connecting the structure.
The first bridge here was an 1879 wooden truss bridge, but was rebuilt 1885. In the 1890s, the swing span was rebuilt using iron trusses. All generations of structure had timber stringer approaches.
In 1918, the approach trusses were replaced by through plate girder spans, built by Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company. In 1924, the main swing span was replaced with a pair of stationary through girder spans built by American Bridge Company.
The trestle approaches were replaced in 1956 by 10 spans of I-Beam resting on concrete substructures. The west side trestle spans were replaced by precast modular spans in 2005.
Sitting on various substructures, the bridge contains stone masonry, concrete, timber pile and H-Pile piers.

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, for the numerous build dates and designs.
The photo above is an overview. The bridge is easily accessed from nearby trails.

Red River of the North Railroad Bridges
Upstream NP Bridge #95
Downstream Memorial Park Rail Bridge


Source Type


Main Spans Build Date American Bridge Company plaque
Main Spans Contractor American Bridge Company plaque
Approach Girders Build Date Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company plaque
Approach Girders Contractor Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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