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Milwaukee Bridge & Iron Company (1891-1970s)

Milwaukee Bridge & Iron Company (1891-1970s)

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Name Milwaukee Bridge & Iron Company
Formed 1891
Defunct Ca. 1970s
Succeeded by None
Headquarters Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Railroads Served Alaska Railroad
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway
Chicago & North Western Railway
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad
Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway
Great Northern Railway
Green Bay & Western Railroad
Missouri Pacific Railroad
Northern Pacific Railroad
Pennsylvania Railroad
Pere Marquette Railroad
Likely others
Shop Location 35th Street; Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Little is known about the Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company. Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company was originally founded in 1880, according to the University of Wisconsin. History before this date has been difficult to determine, but it is believed that three brothers opened Weinhagen Brothers, Engineers in nearby Wausautosa. Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company would be officially incorporated in 1891.
A shop was maintained along N. 35th Street north of Hampton Avenue. Served by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway (Milwaukee Road), the company quickly expanded into building road bridges. By 1896, it appears the company decided to enter the railroad bridge market.
The most rapid expansion came in the years after railroad bridge production began. After American Bridge Company purchased numerous other companies, railroads such as the CM&StP and the Soo Line turned to WB&I for bridge fabrication.
It is well documented that WB&I matched bids from American Bridge Company. It appears that the Milwaukee Road started using WB&I spans in approximately 1901, and continued through at least the 1920s. A majority of the WB&I spans built for the Milwaukee Road were built between 1901 and 1906, and then again from 1912 to 1916.
In addition, WB&I supplied many of the girder bridges for several major expansion projects. Some steel girder bridges along the Milwaukee Road's Pacific Extension also still have plaques from WB&I. In addition, the double tracking and realignment of the Minneapolis-Aberdeen and Sabula-Manilla, Iowa lines also seem to have heavily favored WB&I spans.


Truss Bridge
Cedar Bend Swing Bridge, built in 1913 for the Soo Line to cross the St. Croix River at Osceola, Wisconsin

The Soo Line also used several WB&I spans, especially throughout the lines in Wisconsin. WB&I built a number of trusses for the Soo Line and subsidiary Wisconsin Central between 1896 and 1917.
Other central United States railroads also used WB&I, such as Green Bay & Western Railroad, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, Missouri Pacific Railroad and Pere Marquette Railroad; among with several others.
During the late 1910s, the company again became well regarded for building major highway bridges. After the railroad bridge manufacturing slowed down, numerous crossings of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers were constructed by the company, as well as other large river crossings.
It is known that the company lasted until the 1970s, when it is sold. Little other information can be found on the company.


A sample of plaques and projects completed by Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company can be seen below. Despite being used by several railroads, the text pattern never changed on the plaques. Every plaque had six lines of text, with the year built in the first line. Most plaques were thin metal rectangles, attached by two bolts at the top and bottom center of the plaque.
Two variations have been found. Mid-1890s plaques are a much thicker design with beveled edges, and had a single bolt through the center. Some plaques between 1918 and 1922 seem to be a wider rectangle, with a slightly changed text format, including stating the hometown of "North Milwaukee, Wis." These plaques have been seen on Great Northern, Milwaukee Road and Soo Line structures.


Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Works plaque

1905 plaque on a CM&StP deck girder bridge near Defiance, Iowa

Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Works plaque

1913 plaque on a GN deck girder bridge at Fargo, North Dakota

Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Works plaque

Wider style plaque from 1921 on a GN deck girder bridge at Freeport, Minnesota

Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Works plaque

1907 plaque on a Soo Line truss bridge near Ladysmith, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Works plaque

1896 plaque on a Soo Line deck girder bridge at Hurley, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Works plaque

1907 plaque on an ATSF pony truss bridge at De Soto, Kansas

Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Works plaque

1914 plaque on a CM&StP grade separation in Chicago

Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Works plaque

1919 plaque on a Soo Line through girder bridge over Westminster Parkway in St. Paul, Minnesota


Selected Works
BNSF Des Moines River Bridge (Keokuk, Iowa)
Cedar Bend Drawbridge (Osceola, Wisconsin)
De Soto Rail Bridge (De Soto, Kansas)
Siemens Rail Crossing (Bessemer, Michigan)
Black Bridge (Stevens Point, Wisconsin)

Citations

Source Type

Source

Company History University of Wisconsin-Madison company database


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