BNSF 4th Street Bridge (East)

Deck Plate Girder Bridge over 4th Street
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota

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Name BNSF 4th Street Bridge (East)
Built By Northern Pacific Railroad
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By BNSF Railway
Length 50 Feet Total, 25 Foot Spans
Width 2 Tracks, 1 In Use
Height Above Ground 13 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Deck Plate Girder
Substructure Type Stone Masonry and Concrete
Date Built 1889, Rebuilt 1926
Traffic Count 20 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
Significance Local Significance
In 1868, the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad Company planned to construct a line from St. Paul, Minnesota to Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota.
The first section, completed in 1868 was constructed from St. Paul to Wyoming, a city on the outskirts of the Twin Cities.
The second section was completed from Wyoming to 3 miles north of Hinckley by 1869, and the last section from Hinckley to Duluth in 1870.
The line became part of the St. Paul & Duluth Railroad in 1877, which became part of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1900.
A new grade, which crossed through Thomson and Current Jay Cooke State Park was built in 1888 to avoid unfavorable grades around the Fon Du Lac Area.
Carlton, in Carlton County became a major interchange point for the NP, with its line towards Fargo, Superior, and its line towards Cloquet breaking off here.
The line continued to be operated by NP until 1970, when they merged with their rival, Great Northern Railway to form Burlington Northern.

Because Great Northern already had a parallel line, the BN decided to abandon parts of this line. The first chunk came in 1976 from New Duluth to Riverside Junction, a short distance of 4 miles.
A second blow came later that year, when the line was abandoned from Carlton towards Duluth. This section contained many twists and turns as it went through what would later be known as Jay Cooke State Park.
Continuing abandonments included from Hinckley to Moose Lake in 1977 and from Moose Lake to Carlton in 1980.
In 1989, the BN abandoned another segment from North Branch to Forest Lake, and from Hugo to Forest Lake in 1987.
Also in 1987, the southern section from the St. Paul Union Depot to White Bear Lake at I-694 was abandoned.
The remaining tracks came under BNSF Railway control due to a merger in 1996 between BN and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.

In 2019, there are two remaining sections. The southern one, currently owned by Minnesota Transfer Railroad runs from I-694 in White Bear Lake to the Washington County Line in Hugo.
The second segment is significantly longer and runs from North Branch to Hinckley, and is currently owned by the St. Croix Valley Railroad, which was created upon the sale of the tracks in 1997.
The entire line, known as the "Skally Line" is planned for trail development once the remaining tracks become available.
Currently, from North Branch to Hugo is the Sunrise Prairie Trail, while north of Hinckley is the Willard Munger State Trail. This section is 63 miles long, and the 5th longest paved trail in America.
In addition, a portion from I-694 to Saint Paul is now the Bruce Vento Nature Trail.

This bridge is a simple two span deck girder, which is parallel to the middle bridge. It was built to carry the East Side Line of the Northern Pacific.
Built in 1889, the bridge originally consisted of two tracks of single span deck plate girder. In 1926, a center pier was added to the bridge to reinforce the aging girders.
It is unknown when the second track was removed, but the girders have remained largely unaltered since the construction of the center pier.

The bridge has been ranked by the author as being locally significant, due to the common design of the bridge.
The photo above is an overview.


Source Type


Build Date Northern Pacific 1967 Bridge Book
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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