Phoenix Park Railroad Bridge

Through Truss Bridge over Chippewa River
Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Phoenix Park Railroad Bridge
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad
Original Contractor American Bridge Works of Chicago
Currently Owned By Wisconsin DNR
Length 526 Feet Total, 232 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 10 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Whipple and Pratt Through Truss
Substructure Type Concrete
Date Assembled 1903
Fabrication Date 1876
Original Location La Crosse, Wisconsin
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is a Trail)
Current Status Rails to Trails
MILW Bridge Number G-192
Significance High Significance
In 1882, the Chippewa Falls and Superior Railway wished to build from an existing line in Wabasha, Minnesota to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
The same year, the route was extended to Menomonie from Red Cedar Junction.
The route was completed to Chippewa Falls by 1883, but never was extended north to Superior. It was purchased by Milwaukee Road.
At Reeds Landing, a large pontoon bridge allowed bridges to cross the Mississippi River.
By 1882, the railroad was purchased by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. Known as the Milwaukee Road, this route became a spur for the railroad giant.
The Milwaukee Road was renamed the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific Railway in 1915. By 1951, the Pontoon Bridge was dealt a severe blow by ice, and the line was abandoned from Durand to Wabasha.

The remaining portion was purchased by the State of Wisconsin in 1979, and was operated by private owners. Despite the promise, a bridge strength issue in Eau Claire would not allow train operations to be feasible, and the route was abandoned in 1981.
In the 1980s, Wisconsin turned it into a trail, and by 2004 the trail was complete to Eau Claire. The Red Cedar branch is also used as a trail.
These trails are named the Chippewa Valley and Red Cedar State Trails.

The Phoenix Park Bridge is another very notable railroad bridge in Eau Claire.
Starting from the west side, there is a 232' Whipple Through Truss, then a 146' Pratt Through Truss and a 148' Pratt Through Truss.
All three spans include pin connections and wooden stringers. These stringers were relocated from the original Shortline Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1903 and built in 1880.
The two pratt trusses only contain a heel portal bracing, while the whipple contains X-Frame Portal Braces.
The bridge is a landmark in downtown Eau Claire, and one of 4 major bridges fixed for pedestrian use.
This iconic piece of history clearly states a 1903 build date on the west abutment. However, the trusses were relocated from two different bridges.
The Whipple Through Truss was relocated from the East Channel Bridge at La Crosse, Wisconsin. Originally built 1876, it was cut down to 232'6" from 247' in 1903 upon relocation.
The other trusses were relocated from separate bridges. One was relocated from the East Channel Bridge, and the other from the French Slough Bridge, both at La Crosse. Both were built in 1876 as 160' Spans and cut down to 146'3" Spans in 1903.
Whipple trusses are very rare, and this is one of only two in western Wisconsin. The other is the Dunnville Bottoms Bridge, in rural Dunn County crossing the same river.
These types of situations prove that the Milwaukee Road branch lines oftentimes reused former mainline structures. Such is the case with many locations in the midwest.

The author has ranked the bridge as being highly significant due to the high level of historic integrity, the Whipple Truss and the relocation history.
The bridge crosses the Chippewa River just upstream of the confluence with the Eau Claire River. The photo above is an overview. The photo below is a patent inscription on the bridge.

A special thank you to the Milwaukee Road Archives at the Milwaukee Central Library for this information!

Chippewa River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Northwestern Bridge
Downstream Clairemont Avenue Railroad Bridge

These Pictures Start at varying points in the Series
Detail Photos


Source Type


Build Dates Milwaukee Road Archives at the Milwaukee Central Library
Original Location Milwaukee Road Archives at the Milwaukee Central Library
Contractor Milwaukee Road Archives at the Milwaukee Central Library
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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