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John A. Weeks III
Tuesday, November 21, 2017, 3:00:28 PM CST
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Chaska Trestle
Former H & D Railroad Minnesota River Crossing
Chaska, MN

Chaska Trestle

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 30.8.
• River Elevation: 695 Feet.
• Railroad: Hastings & Dakota, Milwaukee Road.
• Daily Traffic Count: 0, Trestle Is Closed.
• Bridge Type: Wood Timber Trestle.
• Length: 440 Feet (Estimated).
• Width: 1 Track.
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable.
• Height Above Water: ???.
• Date Built: Site Dates To 1871.
The Hastings & Dakota Railroad built a bypass around the Twin Cities area in 1871. This line ran west across Dakota County, passed through Shakopee, ran along the south side of the Minnesota River, and crossed the river into Chaska. The river crossing consisted of a river flats trestle on the south side of the river, swing bring over the main river channel, and this long trestle leading into Chaska behind the present day Carver County Government Center.

The Hastings & Dakota was bought by the Milwaukee Road. The line through Chaska became a secondary route when a cut-off was built from Hopkins to Cologne. Traffic dwindled over the old swing bridge. The route was abandoned in 1972 after a derailment near Carver resulted in a bridge being destroyed. The Minnesota state DNR purchased the abandoned railroad right-of-way and led a project in 1980 to convert the section between Shakopee and Chaska into a bicycle and hiking trail. It was one of the first rails-to-trails projects in Minnesota and paved the way for the extensive trail system that the state now enjoys.

The Shakopee-Chaska Trail suffered two serious setbacks in 1996. First, the center pier of the swing bridge failed in August, forcing the DNR to remove the swing bridge, severing the trail. Later that year, a group of youth accidentally set the Chaska Trestle on fire on Halloween night. The trestle was damaged beyond repair, which effectively ended the work to get a new main river channel bridge built. The Shakopee-Chaska Trail languished for nearly a decade. An extension was built from near the south end of the old swing bridge to a parking area near highway MN-41, but there was no way to bring the trail across the river on the narrow MN-41 bridge. A new highway bridge opened in 2007, allowing the trail to enter Chaska.

The remains of the Chaska Trestle still exist behind the Carver County Government Center. A spur trail off of the levee leads to the north end of the trestle. An access road for the power line passes near the south end of the trestle. The area can be explored during the late summer and autumn when the river bottoms are typically dry. The more adventurous might want to explore the abandoned path of the bicycle trail and the remains of the old swing bridge.

The photo above is a view of the fire damage on the south end of the Hastings & Dakota trestle. Moss is growing on horizontal beams, likely due to water pooling up in the cracks and pockets that were formed when the wood burned.


Chaska Trestle
The photo above is a view of the north end of the Chaska Trestle as seen from the levee just behind the Carver County Government Center. The orange sign appeared in the summer of 2010. Also note that the fence is held up by steel posts rather than the wooden posts that we see below. The photo below is the first view of the north end of the structure when hiking south from the trailhead parking area at the Carver County Government Center.

Chaska Trestle
Chaska Trestle
The photo above is a view of the east face of the Chaska Trestle as seen from the levee that runs behind the Carver County Government Center. The photo below is a view looking southwest towards the trestle from the trail that runs along the top of the levee.

Chaska Trestle
Chaska Trestle
The photo above is looking south down the length of the trestle. The trestle extends for quite a distance across the river bottom before it connects to a mile long fill that runs along the bank of the Minnesota River. The trestle is blocked off due to the fire damage, and one span has been removed as an attempt to keep pedestrians off of the structure. The photo below is a view of the west face of the trestle from the river bottom area.

Chaska Trestle
Chaska Trestle
The photo above is a view of trestle from a trail that runs between the power line service road to the east of the structure and the Minnesota River to the west of the structure. The photo below is a close view of the fire damage on the south end of the trestle. The deck has burned off, and the stringers are all but destroyed.

Chaska Trestle
Chaska Trestle
These two photos are looking south towards the south end of the trestle. The photo above is the east face of the structure, while the photo below is the west face. Several of the vertical supports near the end of the trestle were totally consumed in the fire. Note that the wire mesh that once formed the guard rails is still draped along the top of the ruins.

Chaska Trestle
Chaska Trestle
The photo above is another view of the fire damage on the south end of the trestle. The photo below is a close view of the missing span at the north end of the structure.

Chaska Trestle
Chaska Trestle
The Minnesota River experienced a rate autumn flood September and October of 2010. These two photos show the floodwaters under the north end of the trestle. The photo above is the east face of the trestle, while the photo below is the west face of the trestle. The water is about three feet deep along the line of trees in the background.

Chaska Trestle

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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