McKnight Road Overpass

Recycled Girder Bridge over Twin Cities & Western Railroad
Chaska, Carver County, Minnesota

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Name McKnight Road Overpass
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By City of Chaska
Length 158 Feet Total, 54 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Road Lane
Height Above Ground 25 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Through Plate Girder and Trestle
Substructure Type Concrete and Timber Pile
Date Erected 1913
Date Fabricated Ca. 1900
Original Location Bridge #Z-1114; Madrid, Iowa
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is a closed road)
Current Status Closed, Awaiting Future Plans
MILW Bridge Number O-484
Significance Regional Significance
In 1871, the Hastings & Dakota Railroad built a line from Hastings, west through Chaska and Cologne to Glencoe, Minnesota.
In 1878 the Hastings & Dakota continued the push west. It made it to Montevideo in western Minnesota by 1878, Ortonville on the Minnesota/South Dakota border by 1879, and Milbank, South Dakota by 1880. The only thing left was to connect the line more directly to Minneapolis. At the time, trains would have to go way south and take the long route back up to Minneapolis along the Milwaukee Road line to St. Paul from Farmington.
In 1880, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway purchased the Hastings & Dakota, and continued building west into South Dakota.
In 1882, the Milwaukee Road constructed the Shortline; a line which would cut the distance and time for passengers considerably. It would connect to the existing mainline at Cologne and end in a terminal in Saint Paul.
The downside of the mainline was the single track operations. Milwaukee Road had reached the Pacific Ocean at Seattle by 1912; hence changing the name to the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railway by 1928.
A series of improvements were constructed between 1912 and 1914, including new bridges and double track configurations for a majority of the line between Aberdeen, South Dakota and Saint Paul.
This route was critical for the Milwaukee Road. It was a middle leg in the Chicago-Pacific route that had been the result of over 50 years of planning and construction.
Despite the critical status of this line, much of the double track would be removed through the 1930s and 1940s. As the Milwaukee Road slipped further into debt; conditions worsened.

By 1985, the Soo Line Railroad purchased the Milwaukee Road. The Soo continued to operate this as a secondary mainline, due to the important connections.
Soo Line already had a line to the West coast from Minneapolis. They sold large sections west of Ortonville to Burlington Northern. But on July 26th 1991, the Twin Cities & Western would be born to operate 229 miles of track between Ortonville, Minnesota and Minneapolis.
While the TC&W operated to Ortonville, they only owned the tracks to Appleton. Past Appleton, Burlington Northern (now BNSF) owned the tracks.
Originally, the Short Line was used to connect TC&W trains to Saint Paul. In the mid-1990s, the route was rerouted around Cedar Lake and the former Shortline has become a trail and is now partially owned by Canadian Pacific.
Since 1991, the TC&W has grown steadily; returning solid service to a mainline that was once so critical to one of the Midwest's largest railroads.

This unique overpass crosses over the former Milwaukee Road mainline in an area of Chaska known as Jonathan.
Originally built as a wagon bridge in 1913, the structure reused a girder span from a bridge over the Des Moines River at Madrid, Iowa.
It is unknown when that bridge was built, but past truss bridges were built in 1888 prior to being replaced in 1911 and 1912.
When the bridge was reused, the main girder span was dissembled. Likely originally a deck girder, the bridge received a new floor and functions as a through girder currently.
In addition to this unique main span, the bridge is approached by trestle spans. It sits on wooden and concrete substructures.
However, the bridge was closed in 2008. With Chaska growing little north of the bridge, it is a low priority for the county to replace. It currently is in a closed status.
The technique of reusing railroad spans for road use isn't new, although this is one of the only known examples of a structure like this along Milwaukee Road.
Overall, the bridge is in poor condition. Unfortunately, the bridge is in a severely deteriorated condition and will be demolished in the future.

The author has ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the unique design.
The photo above is an overview.


Source Type


Build Date Milwaukee Road Archives at Milwaukee Central Library
Original Location Milwaukee Road Archives at Milwaukee Central Library
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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