Grand Forks Rail Bridge

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

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
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)
Type Through Plate Girder with I-Beam and Concrete Trestle
Date Built 1918, 1924, 1956 and 2005
Traffic Count 7 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
Bridge Number 107.0
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.

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, going through Sawn River and Grand Rapids in 1892. By 1900, the Eastern Railway Company 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 was extended further west of Grand Forks, and east of Duluth over time, but we are only focusing on this portion.

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.

All the line became part of the Great Northern by 1907, who proceeded to operate the line until its demise in 1970, where it merged with the Northern Pacific and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy to form the Burlington Northern.

The BN kept the line around as a mainline, and the Burlington Northern merged with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad in 1996 to form Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, now known as BNSF.

BNSF continues to operate the line as a mainline, seeing about 5 trains per day. It should remain around for a long time, as it remains a critical line.

This is the famed and massive bridge over the Red River of the North, crossing between Grand Forks, ND and East Grand Forks, MN.

Just like the other Great Northern Bridge over this river about 90 miles downstream in Fargo, this one consists of Through Plate Girder mainspans.

But there are several major differences between the bridges. Perhaps the approaches is the most noticable difference.
The bridge at Fargo has many deck plate girder approach spans on either side. The bridge at Fargo is also curved, and only contains two main Through Plate Girder spans. This one contains two also, but has an additional three.

But the most subtle difference is probably the size. The bridge at Fargo is 1,040 feet long, while this one is 1,056 feet long.

Which bridge is better? That is up to you to choose. Both bridges are really nice looking structures, worthy of recognition.

This one was built over many dates. The first bridge was built 1879, but was later rebuilt 1885 as a wooden swing bridge with pony truss approaches.
It was rebuilt again in the 1890's as a steel swing span with wooden howe through truss and trestle approaches, with the west truss being longer than the other.
The Howe Trusses were replaced in 1918 with through plate girder spans. One on the east end of the main span, two on the west.
In 1924, the main span was replaced with two 95' Through Plate Girder spans.
In 1956, the Minnesota (East) approaches were replaced with 10 spans of I-Beam.
In 2005, the North Dakota (West) approaches were replaced with 8 Spans of Ballasted Deck Concrete Girder.
Similar to both bridges in Fargo, this one contains a center swing pier in which the Through Plate Girder spans continue to rest on.

One must have an hour at least to explore all the possible view points associated with this bridge.


When I am talking about Spans #1-5, that means the 5 center spans, in order from west to east.
Only the two large through plate girder spans are the main spans.
The ballasted deck cement girder spans were built 2005 by BNSF

The photo above is looking at the main spans.

Red River of the North Railroad Bridges

Upstream NP Bridge #95
Downstream Memorial Park Rail Bridge

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