Northwestern Bridge

Historic Lattice 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, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway
Contractor (Main Spans) Leighton Bridge & Iron Works of New York
Contractor (Approach Spans) Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago
Currently Owned By City of Eau Claire
Length 890 Feet Total, 180 Foot Main Spans
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 82 Feet
Superstructure Type Quintuple Intersection Lattice Deck Truss and Deck Plate Girder
Substructure Type Stone Masonry
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
Between 1868 and 1872, the West Wisconsin Railway would construct 188 miles of track in western and central Wisconsin.
Starting in Elroy, the route would be constructed westwards, reaching Eau Claire by 1870. A short 10 mile branch was built between Warrens and Tomah in 1868.
By 1871, the route would reach Hudson. The same year, the St. Paul, Stillwater & Taylor Falls Railway would build a route between Hudson and St. Paul, Minnesota.
By 1878, the WW became part of the Chicago, St. Paul & Minneapolis Railway, which in turn became part of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway in 1880.
The Omaha road became controlled by the Chicago & North Western Railway upon formation.
A second main track was constructed along this route between Wyeville and St. Paul between 1911 and 1913, as part of an upgrade to the C&NW system.

The Omaha Road was leased by the C&NW in 1957, and was outright merged in 1972. The C&NW continued to operate this as a main track until 1995, when it was purchased by Union Pacific.
Today, Union Pacific operates this line as part of a main line to the Twin Cities.

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.
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. At this time, the approaches were replaced and the trusses strengthened.
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


Source Type


Build Date (Main Spans) Chicago & North Western Railway Historical Society Archives
Contractor (Main Spans) Chicago & North Western Railway Historical Society Archives
Build Date (Approach Spans) Lassig Bridge & Iron Works plaque
Contractor (Approach Spans) Lassig Bridge & Iron Works plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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