Oconto Rail Bridge

Through Girder Swing Bridge over Oconto River
Oconto, Oconto County, Wisconsin

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Oconto Rail Bridge
Built By Chicago & North Western Railway
Contractor American Bridge Company (Lassig Plant)
Currently Owned By Canadian National Railway
Length 210 Feet Total, 112 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 10 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Through Plate Girder and I-Beam
Substructure Type Stone Masonry
Date Built 1903-4, Approach Added 1911
Traffic Count 4 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
CN Bridge Number 57
Significance Moderate Significance
In 1864, the Peninsula Railroad Company of Michigan built a 62 mile line from Escanaba, Michigan to Negaunee, Michigan.
The following year, this railroad would become part of the Chicago & North Western Railway, which was beginning to build extensive lines in the Upper Midwest.
In 1870, the railroad would extend another 5 miles to Lake Angeline. The system of mine spurs in the northern part of the Upper Peninsula would be extended over the coming years.
By 1871, the railroad would build a new mainline to connect Escanaba to Green Bay, Wisconsin. This line connected the Upper Peninsula lines to the rest of the core system.
The new line would head west along present day US-2, and drop south at Powers. From here, it would cross the Menominee River at Marinette.
It would go through Peshtigo and Oconto before finally reaching Green Bay from the north. The railroad would serve a solid freight base and stay very well off, until the Chicago & North Western sold it in 1988.

The C&NW intended to reduce the amount of route miles. This line got sold to the Wisconsin Central, Ltd. This regional railroad owned many former C&NW and Milwaukee Road lines in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
By 2001, the railroad would change hands again. This time, Canadian National Railway would take over.
Today, it continues to be operated as the Canadian National Marinette Subdivision

This iconic bridge sits near the mouth of the Oconto River, and contains many historic details
Originally built in late 1903 and erected in 1904, the main swing span of this bridge was once capable of turning. Although it has not for many years, it still has all the machinery necessary to operate.
In 1911, at least the south through girder span was added to the bridge. It is unknown if the north I-Beam span was added at the same time, although it seems likely.
The bridge rests on massive stone substructures.
Unfortunately, the perfectly sunny day turned cloudy right before I got here.

Overall, the bridge looks to be in great condition. The author has rated the bridge with moderate significance, because of the common design turned into a swing bridge.
The photo above is an overview.

Oconto River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Stiles Rail Bridge
Downstream Mouth at Lake Michigan


Source Type


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

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