Westminster Junction Tunnel #3

Stone Arch Tunnel over BNSF Railway
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota

Click the Photo Above to See All Photos of This Bridge!
Name Westminster Junction Tunnel #3
Built By St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway
Contractor Unknown
Currently Owned By BNSF Railway
Length 677 Feet Total
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 20 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Brick Lined Stone Arch Tunnel
Substructure Type Stone Masonry
Date Built 1885
Traffic Count (Through) 50 Trains/Day (Estimated)
Current Status In Use
Significance Moderate Significance
In 1862, the first railroad in Minnesota would be constructed by the St. Paul & Pacific Railway to connect Minneapolis and St. Paul, following what is today the midway area.
This short 10 mile segment would be critical to the growth of Minnesota.
Eventually, the line would be extended to the west towards Fargo, North Dakota; and to the north towards Duluth, Minnesota.
In 1879, the St. Paul & Pacific was purchased by the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway.
This railroad began rapid expansions throughout Minnesota and the surrounding areas, and eventually became a part of the Great Northern Railway in 1890.
The railroad used this segment as a critical line, with connections to several other lines. Industries began to pop up along the line, and it began to rival the Northern Pacific, only a few blocks to the north.
Both lines connected with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, as well as Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific Railroads in Saint Paul, which served as a connection to Chicago.

By 1970, the Great Northern, Northern Pacific and CB&Q merged together to form the Burlington Northern Railroad, a major freight hauler in the midwest.
Throughout the next two decades, many of the yard tracks and industries would be torn down on this segment.
In 1996, the BN merged with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway to form BNSF Railway, which currently operates the line as the Midway Subdivision.
The line is a complementary line to the St. Paul Subdivision, formerly the Northern Pacific mainline. This line serves more industries and yards, including a massive intermodal yard at Energy Park.

Today, the line also provides a major thoroughfare for oil heading towards Chicago from North Dakota.

One of four bridges and tunnels at Westminster Junction, this tunnel is the southwestern structure, and by far the longest of the four.
Built for a the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba (Great Northern) mainline to cross the Northern Pacific, the bridge currently carries a BNSF track over a BNSF track.
Built in 1885, this tunnel was built using a cut and cover method, which included excavating land, building a stone arch with a brick lining, and covering it to form a tunnel. A 70 foot gap exists, and the walls are reinforced using concrete beams. This was added in 1921, as coal smoke from locomotives seriously degraded the limestone at this point in the tunnel.
With only two tunnels officially numbered, this structure has been assigned the number 3 by the author. At one time, five total tunnels existed at Westminster Street. Today, four remain.
This tunnel connects to the northwestern bridge as well, as the track goes through a trench with a drainage structure.
Overall, the bridge appears to remain in great condition, and should continue to serve traffic for many years to come.
A sign at the junction indicates that these four tunnels were vital to the growth of the St. Paul railroad network. Before the construction of this two level junction, a major bottleneck existed.

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, due to the economic impact these four tunnels had on the City of St. Paul and the railroad companies that built them.
The photo above is an overview.


Source Type


Build Date Date Inscription
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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