Northern Pacific Bridge #95

Lost Through Truss Swing 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 Northern Pacific Bridge #95
Built By Northern Pacific Bridge #95
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By Nobody, Bridge has been removed
Length 643 Feet Total, 213 Foot Swing Span
Width 1 Track, 2 Trail Lanes
Height Above Ground 25 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Warren Through Truss Swing Span with Pratt Through Truss, Deck Girder and Wooden Trestle
Substructure Type Stone Masonry and Timber Stringer
Date Built 1883 and 1917, using an 1887 Pier
Date Removed 2000
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is Removed)
Current Status Removed
NP Bridge Number 95
Significance Regional Significance
In 1884, both the Great Northern and Northern Pacific began charting a line from Crookston south. The GN line would have gone from Crookston through Hawley to Fergus Falls, where it would have connected it another GN mainline. At Crookston it would have tied into the mass of GN lines there.

With the NP, it would have gone from Grand Forks, paralleling the existing GN line, going through Crookston, Fertile, and connecting to the mainline at Hawley.

In the end, both began building the line, but the GN abandoned their project. NP built their line. Cities like Twin Valley, Fertile and Gary came into existence because of this line. And because of this line, a branch was built off of the line at Fertile MN. The branch went to Red Lake Falls, Thief River Falls and Eventually Canada. The phrase Manitoba Jct came into existence where this line met the main line.

The NP continued to operate these lines with decent service. In 1956 the line from Fertile to Red Lake Falls was abandoned. The NP had alternative access to Red Lake Falls.

Northern Pacific and its competitor, Great Northern merged to form Burlington Northern. Burlington Northern operated the line until 1986, when the BN abandoned the part from Ulen to Fertile. From Fertile to Crookston and from Manitoba Jct to Ulen eventually came into BNSF's hands. BNSF was formed from Burlington Northern and Santa Fe's merger in 1996. BNSF sold the part from Fertile to Crookston to Minnesota Northern railroad, a shortline who turned around and abandoned it, both things happening in 1996. From Manitoba Jct to Ulen is still in service to serve a huge West Central Ag elevator.

One of the several truss swing bridges over the Red River, this structure connected Grand Forks to East Grand Forks.
Built in 1917, the bridge consisted of a Warren Through Truss swing span with riveted connections.
A 6 panel, pin connected Pratt Through Truss span was built in 1883, and rebuilt in 1917. It is possible that this span was relocated from another location at this time, as similar situations are known for occuring along the Northern Pacific system.
In addition to the main trusses, the bridge featured a deck plate girder span and trestle approaches. The bridge sat on a stone swing pier, and several timber stringer spans.
Unfortunately, the bridge was removed in 2000 after a major flood in 1997. Only a single pier and a plaque remains. The plaque reads:
"Since the 1800s, the Federal Government has required that all bridges over navigable streams make allowance for boat traffic. The center pivot swing span satisfied this rule. Easy to build, it was the most widely used design for railroad bridges in the 1880s. It operated by disengaging the center section from the approaches at either end and rotating it on a turntable. This opened the river channel, allowing boats to pass through. In 1887, the Northern Pacific Railroad built a swing span timber truss bridge here. A howe Through Truss design was used for the 220 foot center swing span and 120 foot eastern approach and a Howe pony truss for the 75 foot western approach. The swing span pivoted on a stone pier 27 feet in diameter. The wooden bridge was refurbished in 1902. It was replaced with a riveted steel bridge in 1917. The steel bridge was also a swing span design. Using the original stone pier to pivot on, it had a 213 foot riveted, 8 panel Warren Through Truss with verticals for the swing span. The approaches were deck plate girder construction on the west and Pratt Through Truss on the east; they were supported by massive wooden piers near the riverbanks which restricted the river's flow during floods. Even after the flood of 1917, there was significant dissension as to a solution for this. Citing the safety of the communities, the Corps of Engineers removed the bridge deck, secondary piers and approaches in 2000."

The author would've ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the unique design and the possibility of relocated parts.
Unfortunately, a better solution to removing the bridge should have been found. Options such as raising the bridge would have been expensive, but preserved an important piece of history.
The photo above are the sole remains.

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


Source Type


Build Dates Northern Pacific Bridge Book, provided by Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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