Northwestern Bridge

Massive Deck Truss Bridge over Chippewa River
Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Northwestern Bridge
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Omaha Railway
Contractor Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago ILL (Approaches)
Contractor Leighton Bridge & Iron Works of New York (Main Spans)
Currently Owned By City of Eau Claire
Length 890 Feet Total, 180 Foot Main Spans
Width 1 Track, 2 Trail Lanes
Height Above Ground 82 Feet
Type Quintuple Intersection Lattice Deck Truss and Deck Plate Girder
Date Built 1880, Approaches added 1898
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is a Trail)
Current Status Rails to Trails
Bridge Number 270-1/2B
Significance National Significance
In 1870 and 1871 the Western Wisconsin Railway and St. Paul and Taylors Falls Railway began a joint project to build a line connecting St. Paul, Minnesota to Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

The line also connected to Augusta and points east via a line that was built the same time.

Starting in St. Paul, the line would leave on the east side, cross the St. Croix River at Hudson, and continue through such towns as Roberts, Baldwin, Woodville, Knapp and Elk Mound before arriving on the north side of downtown Eau Claire. The main terminal was east of Eau Claire in Altoona.

The railroads were purchased by the Chicago, St. Paul Milwaukee and Omaha, which later started to dissolve into the Chicago Northwestern.

Over the next 40 years the line experianced major changes. Many sections of the line were relocated.

Also, in 1911, 1912 and 1913 a second mainline track was built. This resulted in many relocations, and many new bridges.

Perhaps the most famous of all these is the relocation off of the 1880 bridge over the Chippewa River in Eau Claire, and onto a new bypass around the north side of town. This also meant a new double track bridge was built about a mile above the old bridge. This happened in 1903, and the bridge was rebuilt in 1911.

The line was heavily used to get to Milwaukee from places such as Sioux City via the Twin Cities.

The second mainline was removed in many places around 1963. Although some segments of it still exist.

The Union Pacific came into control of the Chicago Northwestern in 1995. Today this line still is a mainline, and is known as the Altoona Sub. It sees a half-dozen trains a day.

This is the oldest railroad bridge in the city of Eau Claire. It is a massive deck truss bridge over the Chippewa River.

The bridge lies right below the dam, and about half a mile below the giant double track bridge.

This bridge is magnificent. The massive stone piers that it rests on are just that, massive.

The four deck truss spans were built 1880, while the deck plate girder spans were built 1898.

The girder spans replaced smaller Deck Truss spans of a similar design. Although it was half the length

Here is the composition of the bridge (from east to west):
1-90' Deck Plate Girder
4-180' Lattice Deck Truss
1-80' Deck Plate Girder

Getting to this bridge is a lot easier than it once was. There are views from Madison Street and the east side, down stream.
Also, the west side is easier. The bridge can be accessed from 1st Street on the west side. One could climb down the bluffs and get to the bank.

Those bridges are Forest Street Bridge (North) and Forest Street Bridge (South).

This is the only known bridge with the quintuple intersection lattice deck truss design! Another unique feature is the trusses are actually wider at the bottom than the top.
This unique design contains riveted connections, which are very light. The trusses are massive and should be considered some of the most significant trusses in the Nation.
Fortunately, a good preservation history in the City of Eau Claire has led to this bridge being reopened to pedestrians. It has been heralded as an Eau Claire landmark.

The bridge opened to pedestrian traffic in July of 2015, nearly two years behind schedule. However, well worth the wait, the bridge has become popular among residents of the area.

The author has ranked the bridge as Nationally Significant, due to a number of factors. The first is the truss design. These are the only known trusses with this design in the United States, and likely the world.
In addition, the only alterations the bridge ever received occurred in 1898, old enough to be considered significant.
The preservation and landmark status has contributed to this bridge being rated as such a highly significant structure.

This structure should be preserved at all costs, and be considered one of; if not the; most significant bridge in Wisconsin.

The photo above is an overview. The photo below is truss details. In the series of photos, there is a difference. Older photos show no trail deck, while newer photos show a completed trail deck.

Chippewa River Railroad Bridges

Upstream UP Chippewa River Bridge
Downstream Phoenix Park Railroad Bridge

These Pictures Start at varying points in the Series
Detail Photos

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