Robert Street Lift Bridge

Pratt Through Truss Vertical Lift Bridge over Mississippi River
South Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota

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Name Robert Street Lift Bridge
Built By Chicago Great Western Railway
Engineer (Lift Span) Waddell & Harrington of Kansas City
Contractor (Original Structure) American Bridge Company of New York
Contractor (North Approach) Bethlehem Steel Company of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Currently Owned By Union Pacific Railroad
Length 940 Feet Total, 192 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 15 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Pratt Through Truss Vertical Lift, Deck Girder and Steel Stringer
Substructure Type Concrete
Date Built 1913, North Approach Rebuilt 1956
Traffic Count 5 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use, Scheduled for Replacement
Significance Regional Significance
In 1885, the Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad began construction on 129 miles of railroad between St. Paul, Minnesota and Manly, Iowa.
In 1887, this line became a part of the Chicago, St. Paul and Kansas City Railway. By 1893, the CStP&KC was merged into the Chicago Great Western Railway.
CGW had a moderate amount of trackage throughout Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. The CGW linked Kansas City, Des Moines, Chicago and St. Paul at the time of creation.
In 1901, the Mason City & Fort Dodge Railway continued construction on the route with a 10 mile line into Mason City, which the Rock Island would later use as well.
In 1902, 47 miles of railroad between Manly and Hayfield, Minnesota were sold back to the Mason City & Fort Dodge.
While the CGW and MC&FD remained separate on paper, the two were closely tied. By 1940, the CGW took full ownership of the MC&FD.

The CGW was never a strong railroad. As a result, it was purchased by the Chicago & North Western Railway in 1968. This segment of line remained somewhat important for the C&NW, particularly north of Hayfield.
The first abandonment consisted of a short segment of line between Waltham and Austin, Minnesota in 1977.
However, the parallel Rock Island route was a straighter and all around better route. When the Rock Island fell bankrupt, the C&NW purchased the Saint Paul-Kansas City line, rendering this route,as well as the parallel Minneapolis & St. Louis route, useless.
By 1981, the route between Manly and Austin would be abandoned. In 1982, the route between Randolph and Waltham would follow.
The final abandonment came in 1984, and included a section between Roseport and Randolph.
Currently, the Manly-Mason City and St. Paul-Roseport sections are operated as the Union Pacific Albert Lea Subdivision.

The most iconic railroad bridge in downtown Saint Paul is this structure, which crosses the Mississippi River at an angle under Robert Street .
Built in 1913 to replace a previous through truss swing bridge built in 1885, the current bridge features a massive Pratt Through Truss vertical lift span, which is approached by eight deck girder spans on the south. In 1955, a series of steel stringer spans were added to span Warner Road. The entire bridge rests on concrete substructures.
To meet the rail line on the north side, it was decided to raise the bridge in 1925. The bridge has seen very little other alteration since construction, apart from the addition of north approach spans. The main towers of the bridge contain large concrete counterweights, which can lower and raise the bridge. Unfortunately, the northern tower is in poor condition, with severe deterioration of the concrete substructure.
Overall, this bridge appears to be in fair condition. Significant section was noted on portions of the approaches and main span, with the worst deterioration on the north tower.

Historic Photo
Historic postcard of the previous bridge

The author has ranked this bridge as being regionally significant, due to the uncommon nature of the vertical lift span. Waddell & Herrington was an internationally known company, particularly known for building large vertical lift spans. In addition, this bridge is the northernmost vertical lift span over the Mississippi River.
These types of spans were rather unpopular on the Upper Mississippi River. A majority of the bridges north of Minneapolis featured short fixed spans, while bridges between Minneapolis and St. Louis generally featured swing spans. Vertical lift spans have increased in popularity since the 1950s, and are oftentimes used to replace older swing spans.
Unfortunately for this bridge, permitting and a historic review have been initiated by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2021. It is believed this bridge will be replaced in the near future.
The photo above is an overview.

Mississippi River Railroad Bridges
Upstream Omaha Bridge #15
Downstream South St. Paul Swing Bridge

These Pictures Start at Varying Points in the Series

Detail Photos


Source Type


Main Span Build Date Waddell & Harrington Plaque
Main Span Contractor Waddell & Harrington Plaque
Approach Build Date Bethlehem Steel Company Plaque
Approach Contractor Bethlehem Steel Company Plaque
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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