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.
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.
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)