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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Great Western Bridge
Chicago Great Western Railway Mississippi River Crossing
Saint Paul, MN

Chicago Great Western Railway Lift Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 839.3.
• River Elevation: 686 Feet.
• Railroad: Union Pacific Railroad.
• Daily Traffic Count: 10 Trains Per Day (Estimated).
• Bridge Type: Steel Deck Girder With Truss Lift Span.
• Length: 940 Feet Overall, 192 Foot Longest Span.
• Width: 22 Feet, Single Track.
• Navigation Channel Width: 158 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 34 Feet (Lowered), 72 Feet (Raised).
• Date Built: Built 1913.
This bridge was built in 1913 by the Chicago Great Western Railway. The CGW later became part of the Chicago & Northwestern, which is now part of the Union Pacific. As a result, some folks refer to this bridge as the C&NW Lift Bridge or the Saint Paul Union Pacific Lift Bridge. The names can be confusing since there are other major river bridges operated by these railroads.

In 1925, the north end of the bridge was raised 16 feet to tie in with the rail lines that served the Saint Paul Union Depot. In 1926, the Robert Street Bridge was built, a project made much more difficult since it had to accommodate rail traffic from the lift bridge. In the first decade of the 21st century, this is one of three operating lift bridges on the Mississippi River. The other two are located at Hastings, Minnesota, and Hannibal, Missouri.

This is a great spot to watch trains. The best spot is a river overlook on the south side of the river. You can get very close to the trains, and still be a safe distance away and remain in a legal spot. Another place to watch is from the deck of the Robert Street Bridge on the north side of the river. There are a lot of trains in this area. Nearly all the trains coming in from the east and from along the Mississippi River flow through the area between the river and Dayton's Bluff. A large wye track sends over half of the traffic to the north to head towards Energy Park, while the remaining traffic comes though lower Saint Paul, either headed towards the Omaha Bridge, the Short Line Bridge, or across the Great Western Lift Bridge.

The photo above is a view from Kellogg Avenue in Saint Paul. This spot features an elevation about 100 feet above the river level, which results in a sweeping vista of the river and the river flats area south of downtown. The photo below is a view looking east from high over the river from the stairway structure on the Wabasha Street Bridge.

Chicago Great Western Railway Lift Bridge
Chicago Great Western Railway Lift Bridge
These two photos show two views of the Great Western bridge from the south bank of the Mississippi River in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The photo above is a view from the river walk between the Great Western bridge and the Robert Street bridge. The photo below is a view looking directly through the lift span. Note how the bridge lines up both horizontally and vertically with the Robert Street bridge.

Chicago Great Western Railway Lift Bridge
Chicago Great Western Railway Lift Bridge
These two photos show a pair of Union Pacific locomotives crossing the Mississippi River on the Great Western bridge. The photo above is a wide angle shot, while the photo below is a close view of the lift span.

Chicago Great Western Railway Lift Bridge
Chicago Great Western Railway Lift Bridge
The photo above shows the two locomotives heading west across the trestle spans of the Great Western bridge. In the photo above, the locomotives are about halfway across the trestle. In the photo below, the lead engine is nearing the end of the bridge. Cab number 3198 is a General Motors EMD model SD40-2 locomotive. It is a diesel-electric locomotive that is able to generate 3,000 horsepower. This unit is an early SD40-2, which was built in late 1972. Nearly 4,000 SD40-2 were built between 1972 and 1986.

Chicago Great Western Railway Lift Bridge
Chicago Great Western Railway Lift Bridge
One does not need to wait long for the next train to cross the Great Western bridge, as shown in these two photos. The photo above shows the lead locomotive just emerging from the lift span. The photo below shows this train having two large locomotives and a train consisting of at least a number of refrigerated box cars.

Chicago Great Western Railway Lift Bridge

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