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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway Minnesota River Crossing
Carver, MN

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 36.2.
• River Elevation: 696 Feet.
• Railroad: Union Pacific Railroad.
• Bridge Type: Steel Plate Girder w/Wooden Trestle Approaches.
• Length: 685 Feet (Estimated).
• Width: One Track.
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable.
• Height Above Water: ???.
• Date Built: Built 1917, Using 1871 Piers.
A number of railroad companies were chartered in Minnesota in the 1850s, well before the Civil War, and only a few years after railroads were established on the east coast. However, despite having big dreams, financial realities prevented most of these railroads from laying even a single mile of track. The business climate changed dramatically after the Civil War. By 1870, there was a wholesale railroad rush happening across the Midwest as everyone wanted to be the first to lay rails across the rich farmlands and connect to the transcontinental line.

One such railroad that got its start in 1870 is the Minneapolis & Saint Louis Railway. The M&StL headed southwest out of Minneapolis with the idea of serving farms southwest of the cities, and eventually connecting with the transportation hub in Saint Louis. It never did reach the gateway city, but it did build track throughout southern Minnesota and Iowa, with branches into South Dakota and Illinois.

The M&StL crossed the Minnesota River in Carver, Minnesota, on its way between Hopkins (in the Twin Cities area) and Albert Lea. The Minnesota River was navigable at that time, which meant that any bridge over the river had to allow for river boat traffic. For railroads, this most often meant building a swing span. The M&StL did just that in 1871, building a sturdy wooden trestle with a 270-foot long wood swing span. The swing span was unusual in that it was a truss, but had an arch shaped rib at the top of the truss. Most truss spans have horizontal ribs. As was common on early swing spans, this one used the center pin design. That is, the swing span was a single truss that was balanced on the pivot point. In contrast, more recent swing spans are two trusses that are joined together at the pivot point. The center pin spans are very difficult to balance. The swing span was operated by hand. A worker would insert a crank into a hole between the tracks, and then turn a gear that would turn the bridge.

The wooden swing span bridge was replaced by an iron swing bridge in the early 1890s. This new bridge reused the 1871 bridge piers. The replacement swing span featured two trusses that were connected over the pivot point. This style of swing span was much easier to balance than the original center pin design.

The 1890s swing span deteriorated relatively quickly and was declared unsafe by 1915. The United States War Department met with the railroad in 1916 to discuss the condition of the bridge, expressing concerns that the unsafe bridge might impede the movement of farm goods should the US become involved in the World War. Since the railroad had made riverboats obsolete, there was no longer a need for a swing bridge. As a result, a steel deck plate girder bridge was proposed.

The United States entered the war in April of 1917. The 1890s bridge was removed in September. The center pier for the swing span was removed and was replaced by three concrete piers. The wooden trestle spans were trimmed back, and one additional concrete pier was placed on each end of the bridge. The result is the seven piers that we see today, including two remaining original 1871 piers. The steel was ordered in November, and the new bridge was open by the spring of 1918.

The M&StL continually had financial problems. It operated in receivership for decades after filing for bankruptcy on several occasions. In 1960, it was absorbed by the Chicago & North Western Railway. The C&NW subsequently merged with the Union Pacific Railroad in 1995. The M&StL mainline from Chaska to Hopkins was abandoned in the 1990 or 1991. As a result, the rail line through Carver was reduced to a spur line for raw materials being shipped into the American Crystal Sugar plant in Chaska.

In addition to the railroad having problems, this bridge has also experienced its share of problems. Since the river remains open most winters from the Mississippi River up to and just beyond Carver, the open water carries ice downstream as it breaks up. The bridge, however, acts as a dam for the ice chunks. As the ice builds up behind the bridge, the water level rises accordingly. The weight of the ice and water puts huge stresses on the bridge piers. Nearly every pier on the bridge is out of alignment, with two piers towards the south end having moved so far that the bridge deck has a kink in it.

In late March of 2007, high water weakened a trestle located about a mile south of the Minnesota River crossing. That trestle failed as a train was crossing the structure. Three cars ended up in the river with one being completely submerged. As of May, 2007, the bridge is still closed. It is possible that Union Pacific will abandon the rail line rather than fixing the collapsed trestle.

Update—the current bridge owner, Union Pacific did in fact file a request in January, 2008, to abandon this rail line and bridge. Local governments are working on ideas for the possible reuse of the bridge as a regional trail. The bridge appears to be in good condition, and the weakened rail line to the south of the river should support foot and bicycle traffic for many years in the future.

Update—as of the Spring of 2010, this bridge is doomed. The two counties on either side of the river have been unable to make a deal with the Union Pacific Railroad to obtain title to the bridge. Scott County considered purchasing the bridge outright, but that deal was scuttled when an inspection found the bridge to be in very poor shape. As a result, the Union Pacific is planning to remove the bridge. It is hoped that either the counties or the state DNR will end up with title to the railroad right-of-way so that a regional trail can be built in the future, complete with a new river bridge.

Update—as of September, 2010, the deal is back on. The city of Carver has an agreement with the Union Pacific to purchase the bridge and 5 miles of right-of-way for $2-million. The two adjacent counties will kick in some funding, along with the Metropolitan Council. The Met Council wants to use the path for a regional sewer connector. The deal is not yet final since Scott County wants to keep the right-of-way in reserve for future light rail, while the cities of Carver, Chaska, and Carver County want to redevelop the land.

Update—while the deal for the purchase of the rail line and bridge was completed in late 2010, the bridge will be removed, likely in May or June of 2011. It is hoped that a new regional trail bridge can be built in the future to connect the trail systems in Carver County to the Scott County System. The rails were removed between Carver and Chaska during the autumn of 2010.

The photo above is a view looking down the length of the bridge deck towards the southeast from the west bank of the Minnesota River.


Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is the northwest side of the bridge as seen from about 150 feet upriver from the structure. The photo below is the northwest face of the bridge as seen from the west riverbank.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is a close view of one of the bridge piers on the northwest end of the structure. The photo above is the northeast face of the bridge as seen from the west bank of the Minnesota River.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos, and the four that follow, are views from the spring flood of 2010. The photo above is the deck plate girder spans at the west end of the railroad bridge. The photo below is the trestle spans on the east end of the bridge. The water level reached the bottom of the steel girders, but did not overtop the bridge.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is the bridge span over Main Street in Carver. Crews were pumping water that was accumulating in the low spot under the bridge. The levee was built relatively recently. There was once a wood trestle located where the levee now stands. The photo below is a detail view where the trestle passes over the levee. It appears that dirt was simply piled in under the trestle, leaving only the tops of the trestle bents visible.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is a close view of a section of track on the bridge. Note that most of the spikes are loose. The photo below is a plaque on the upstream side of the trestle on the north end of the bridge. Jake Anderson was 9 years old when he slipped and fell into the river just upstream where Carver Creek empties into the Minnesota. His body has never been recovered and is believed to have been trapped in the driftwood pile on the upstream side of the bridge.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is looking southeast down the length of the bridge deck. The photo below is looking southeast along the upriver side of the bridge. Note that only the tops of the piers remain above water. Note that the bridge is severely out of alignment at the far end of the structure. The last stone pier has been shifting, resulting in the bridge no longer being straight or level. It has been moving for years, but it appears to have moved significantly since the bridge was abandoned. It is likely no longer safe for a train.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
After hearing that a decision on the bridge was in the works, I revisited this bridge on a sunny but hazy morning in late August, 2010. These two photos, and the four that follow, are from this visit. This was the first time that I have seen the Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge early enough in the morning for sun to be shining on the downriver side of the structure. Both of these photos are looking upstream from the riverfront park in Carver.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos are views looking upstream towards the east face of the bridge, focusing on the two original 1871 piers. The photo above is the pier on the south end of the bridge, while the photo below is the pier on the north end of the bridge.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is looking south along the downstream east face of the Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge. Note that the piers are out of alignment as well as the bridge deck being crooked. The photo below is the bridge over Main Street in carver. The trestle spans were filled in when the flood control levees were built.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
In early September, 2010, I decided to walk into the south end of the Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge. There is a parking area for the Louisiana Swamp located off of US-169 that is about 2 miles from the bridge by rail, but about 3 miles using the State Corridor Trail. These two photos are the trail passing under a trestle on the rail line half way between the parking lot and the river bridge. The photo above is a profile view of the trestle, while the photo below is a close view of the span over the trail.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is the rail line heading north towards the river crossing. The rails are rusty due to not being used since March, 2007, and weeds are starting to grow up on the right of way. About 800 feet up the tracks (8/10-mile southeast of the river crossing), I ran into a gap in the tracks. This is the location of the trestle that failed during the high water in 2007.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is a wider view of the accident site. The river runs along the west side of the right-of-way. The remains of the trestle were apparently removed when the site was cleaned up after the derailment. The photo below is looking south where the rails end at the south end of the failed trestle. Much of the ballast is missing between the ties, likely due to the flood, and the rail line is pushed out of alignment, likely due to the derailment.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Since I was not able to reach the river crossing, I turned back towards the parking lot. Rather than walking along the trail, I decided to walk the tracks since it was considerably shorter. The photo above is looking south down the length of the deck of the trestle that crosses the State Corridor Trail. The photo below is looking southwest down the trail from the top of the trestle.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The spur that crosses the river at Carver joins the Union Pacific mainline at a wye. As a result, a small section of the spur is still in use. The photo above is where the spur is closed. The red sign marks the end. There is also a sign with the letter D, which is indicating that there is a derailer attached to the tracks. The derailer is hidden by the weeds. The photo below is looking south across the wye as a Union Pacific train heads southbound towards Mankato. The lead locomotive, #4713, is an EMD SD70M with 4,000 horsepower. It was built in January, 2002.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The next day, I was able to walk in to the south end of the Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge from a DNR parking area located 1-1/2 miles north of the bridge site. These two photos are views looking upstream towards the east face of the bridge from two different locations along the south bank of the Minnesota River.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos are additional views looking upstream towards the railroad bridge from the south bank of the Minnesota River. The photo above is the trestle section at the south end of the structure, while the photo below is a profile view of the river crossing.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is a close view of the southernmost river span. The stone pier is one of the two original 1871 piers. It has sifted out of alignment, resulting in the bridge having a kink above this pier. The photo below is looking north along the length of the bridge deck towards the city of Carver. The bridge alignment issue is very pronounced from this vantage point.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos are views looking north down the east face of the railroad bridge. The photo above is from about halfway up the riverbank, while the photo below is a view from about the level of the bridge deck.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos are close views of the trestle section at the south end of the river crossing. The photo above is looking north along the downriver east side of the trestle, while the photo below is looking west towards the east face of the trestle.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is a close view of the southernmost river span. The photo below is looking north along the east face of the bridge from the waterline. Due to the large log jam just upstream of the bridge, most of the river current is flowing through this first span at the south end of the bridge.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is looking north along the upstream west face of the bridge. This side of the bridge is shaded due to the bright morning sun. The log jam located upstream of the bridge is visible in this view. It is reported that this log jam formed due to an underwater sandbar that formed around an abandoned pier that once supported the end of the swing span when it was in the open position. The pier has since collapsed into the river and is not visible. The photo below are several trestle spans near the south bridge abutment.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The Minnesota River flooded for a second time in 2010 after heavy rains drenched the southeastern part of the state in September, resulting in the river being flooded into early October. The photo above is the upstream side of the approach trestle as seen from the levee in Carver on the north side of the river. The photo below is looking southwest along the upstream side of the Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos are additional views of the upstream side of the railroad bridge at Carver during the autumn 2010 flood. The large pile of driftwood that had built up on the sandbar just upstream of the bridge pushed up against the bridge girders. The photo above is the steel girder spans, while the photo below includes the trestle on the south end of the structure.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos are views looking along the downstream east side of the railroad bridge. The water is right at the bottom of the steel girders at the north end of the bridge, but the girders are sitting in the water on the south end of the bridge. Some pieces of driftwood has been pushed under the bridge and is sticking up out of the water on the downstream side of the structure.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The photo above is looking down the center of the railroad tracks. Despite the pressure from the water and the driftwood, the bridge does not appear to have moved any further out of alignment. The photo below is a view of the upstream west side of the Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge about ten days after the crest of the flood. The water is still higher than normal despite having dropped about ten feet from the crest.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos are additional views of the upstream side of the bridge ten days after the crest. These two angles give a good view of the driftwood pile, which was pushed towards the bridge during the flood. Union Pacific would bring out a railroad crane to clean out the driftwood every few years when it operated the bridge. It is yet to be seen what will happen now that the bridge is publicly owned. Scott County did bring out a backhoe after the spring flood to remove the drift wood that it could reach, but the pile is much larger now.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos, and the six that follow, were taken in late March, 2011, as the Minnesota River was again threatening the city of Carver for the third time in 12 months. This flood was predicted to be even higher than the two crests in 2010, so the city was working to raise the levee several feet higher. The photo above is the railroad bridge over Main Street. The abandoned railroad right-of-way would be used as a levee to protect the city, so clay was being placed right over the tracks. The photo below is a closer view of the track hoe that was supporting the work.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos are a completed section of dike running along the river just south of the M&StL Bridge. The photo above is the river facing side that is covered with plastic, while the photo below is the inland facing side that will remain exposed.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
These two photos are views of the log jam area located on the upstream side of the railroad bridge. The log jam was partially cleared during February of 2011 when the river was covered with thick ice. Some logs still remain piled under the bridge. Those logs will float away during the high water. Logs and debris located below the water line was not removed due to regulations that prohibit wood from being salvaged from the waters of the Minnesota River.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge
The lack of brush during the winter allows for two detail shots of the bridge that are otherwise not possible in the summer. The photo above is the transition from the deck plate spans to the trestle on the Carver side of the river. Note the very short trestle bent located on top of the concrete pier. The photo below is a view of the trestle where the trestle is partly buried by the levee on the west end of the structure.

Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge

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