Memorial Park Rail Bridge

Through Girder Bridge over Red River of the North
Moorhead, Clay County, Minnesota
Fargo, Cass County, North Dakota

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Name Memorial Park Rail Bridge
Built By Great Northern Railway
Contractor Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company of Milwaukee
Currently Owned By BNSF Railway
Length 1,041 Feet Total, 80 Foot Main Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 20 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Through Girder, Deck Girder and Concrete Slab
Substructure Type Stone Masonry, Concrete and Steel H-Pile
Date Built 1913
Traffic Count 5 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
Significance Moderate Significance
In 1872, the St. Paul and Pacific railroad (StP&P) started work on a planned line from St. Cloud to Moorhead. They started in 1872 by building part of the line from St. Cloud to Melrose, which is just south of Sauk Centre. They also built from Barnesville to Baker.

In 1878, they built from Melrose to Alexandria. By the next year, they became the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba railway (StPM&M), but before that happened they finished building to Barnesville.

By the next year, it was completed to Moorhead/Fargo. At Barnesville, a switch controlled a line built around the same time to Crookston via Glyndon, Ada and Beltrami.

The order of the cities that this line went through is: St. Cloud, St. Joseph, Collegeville, Avon, Albany, Freeport, Melrose, Sauk Centre, West Union, Osakis, Nelson, Alexandria, Garfield, Brandon, Evansville, Ashby, Dalton, Fergus Falls, Carlisle, Rothsay, Barnesville, Baker, Sabin, Moorhead before finally crossing the Red River to Fargo, ND.

For most of the way, it followed US 52, but 52 was combined with 94 when that was built in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's.

The StPM&M became the Great Northern in 1907. The GN operated this line as a mainline, until they merged with their rival Northern Pacific in 1970 to form the Burlington Northern. The BN already had the Ex NP Staples Sub, so they abandoned the part from Monticello to Clearwater in 1983, and Clearwater to St. Cloud in 1984.

The BN abandoned the part from Collegeville to Avon in 1981. They sold the part from Avon to Barnesville to Otter Tail Valley Western railroad in 1986.

OTVR turned right around in 1992, and ripped out the tracks, between Avon and Fergus Falls. But they left the bridges alone. If BN had ripped out the line, all the bridges would have been removed. The tracks were removed in the mid 1990's. The Minnesota DNR purchased the line from Collegeville to Fergus Falls.

BNSF was created in 1996 when BN and Santa Fe RR merged. They abandoned the line from St. Joseph to Collegeville in 2002.

The Albany Jaycees planned a trail in 1995. They worked hard with fundraising and getting people on board. The Trail opened from Collegeville to Osakis on September 30th 1998. The trail became very popular, because it connected several small to medium sized cities along the former US 52 corridor. The trail was named the Lake Wobegon Trail, which was a fictitious town in Minnesota, said to be the boyhood home of Garrison Keillor. Sinclair Lewis almost drowned in a stone arch bridge over Hoboken Creek in Sauk Centre

Now Osakis wanted it extended. It opened from Osakis to Fergus Falls in August 2005. This part was named the Central lakes trail, for the lakes area it goes through. Minnesota is famous for their 10,000 lakes.

The trail was also extended to St. Joseph after BNSF leased the part from St. Joseph to St. Cloud in 2002.

This trail is one of the only trails that has the original Railroad Milepost's as it's mileposts. All the bridges have asphalt decks, and the trail has many of them. There are also stone Culverts all over the place. Check out my regional trail guide for this trail.

This bridge is one of a pair in Fargo/Moorhead which cross the Red River of the North (Red River).
Constructed in 1913, this bridge was built to replace an aging swing bridge. This swing bridge was a through truss structure, approached by trestle.
The present structure is an extremely long, and curved bridge.
Consisting of a pair of main through girder spans with a series of deck girders and concrete slab spans approaching.
The bridge is also subject of major concern. Because a few oil trains cross this bridge each day, the bridge must be in top condition.
Unfortunately, several pieces of this bridge have had corrosion, pack rust and complete loss marked.
The substructures appear to be in fair health, with a combination of stone, steel and concrete substructures.
The 10 deck girder spans on the west approach appear to be in the worst condition of any spans, with significant loss and deterioration.

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, due to the several types of structure.
The photo above is an overview, looking east. The bridge is extremely similar to the next bridge downstream, the Grand Forks Rail Bridge.

Red River of the North Railroad Bridges
Upstream Fargo Rail Bridge
Downstream Grand Forks Rail Bridge


Source Type


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

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