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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Cedar Bend Drawbridge
Canadian National Saint Croix River Crossing
Osceola, WI

Cedar Bend Drawbridge

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 40.7.
• River Elevation: 682 Feet.
• Railroad: Canadian National Railroad.
• Daily Traffic Count: 4 Trains Per Day, Closed In Winter.
• Bridge Type: Steel Through Truss With Swing Span.
• Length: 675 Feet (Estimated), 286 Foot Swing Span.
• Width: 1 Track.
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable.
• Height Above Water: 28 Feet (Estimated).
• Date Built: 1887.
The Cedar Bend Drawbridge was built in 1887 by a forerunner of the Soo Line Railroad as part of its Minneapolis to Sault Ste Marie mainline. This route carried passenger traffic until 1961. This rail line was sold to the Wisconsin Central Railroad, which was subsequently bought out by the Canadian National Railroad in 2001. The two major users of the bridge today are the Osceola & Saint Croix Valley Railway, a tourist railroad line run by the Minnesota Transportation Museum, and ballast trains coming out of the Dresser Trap Rock, Inc, quarry.

The Saint Croix River was once a major working river, carrying both boat traffic and large groups of floating logs. To accommodate river traffic, the Cedar Bend bridge was built as a swing span with a long wooden trestle on the eastern approach. In modern times, there is no longer river navigation, and the logging industry is played out. The result is that the bridge is no longer required to accommodate river navigation. The swing span has been welded in the closed position, essentially converting it into a fixed span. The wooden trestles have since been replaced with concrete piers and steel plate girder spans.

The Cedar Bend Drawbridge is one of the more difficult Saint Croix River structures to visit. Most people who see this bridge do so in one of two ways. First, the Saint Croix River is a very popular water trail for canoes and kayaks. Second, the tourist train from Osceola crosses the Cedar Bend Drawbridge. It is possible to visit the bridge on foot. The best approach is from the Wisconsin side.

The east end of the bridge can be reached by heading west on 55th Avenue from Wisconsin highway WI-35. 55th Avenue will turn into Drawbridge Road. This road is narrow and has a very steep hill. It was muddy when I visited in 2007, but had just been graded and was in good condition in 2011. Once you reach the railroad tracks, I found a locked gate and a No Trespassing sign blocking the road in 2007. In 2011, the gate was gone, and the sign has been taken down. Topo maps indicate that this is a DNR public access area. The road takes you to within 1,300 feet of the bridge. While it is possible to follow deer trails during periods of very low water, most visitors walk along the railroad tracks. That is dangerous because trains coming downgrade can be unexpectedly silent, and the CN agressively enforces their No Trespassing policy.

On the Minnesota site, it is about a mile from highway MN-95. There is a DNR trailhead located at the intersection of MN-95 and Pilar Road, and a trail that runs down to the west end of the bridge. However, about 1,000 feet of that trail is on private land that is posted for No Trespassing, and another 1,000 feet would require walking along the railroad tracks, which is illegal in Minnesota. I would not recommend this approach since the views on the Minnesota side are not worth the risk of prosecution.

The photo above is a view of the main truss swing span of the Cedar Bend Bridge. The vantage point is a loaction along the northwest bank of an island on the east side of the main channel of the Saint Croix River. This island is reachable during periods of low water by walking along the railroad embankment to the east bridge abutment, then following a trail down to a small sandy beach area.


Cedar Bend Drawbridge
The photo above is another view of the main bridge spans as seen from the island at the east side of the main channel of the Saint Croix River. The photo below is a wider view of the bridge that includes the steel deck plate girder spans on the east side of the swing span. This photos are looking into the bright after noon sun on a day when the sky is overcast. That makes from some nice reflections off of the water, but it also makes it a challenge to pick an exposure setting--no matter what you pick, elements of the photo are going to be over and under exposed.

Cedar Bend Drawbridge
Cedar Bend Drawbridge
The photo above is a side view of the steel truss swing span looking upstream to the northwest. The photo below is a closer view of the center pier that supports the movable section of the bridge. The bridge was reportely welded shut following WWII, and it no longer operates. River boats once operated as far north as Taylor's Falls, but today, large boats do not venture upstream beyond the remains of the Wisconsin Central Bridge near Stillwater.

Cedar Bend Drawbridge
Cedar Bend Drawbridge
These two photos are views looking upstream towards the deck plate girder spans on the east end of the structure. Note the small platform hanging off of the downstream side of the bridge. Also note that remains of the old trestle are visible just poking out of the water. These cut off trestle piles normally stick a foot or two above the water line, but the water is still high from spring run-off and several very large storms earlier in the summer. I have not determined when the trestle was replaced. The concrete looks old. Many bridges in the Twin Cities area were upgraded as the US Government made preparations for World War 1, and this work might have been completed at that time.

Cedar Bend Drawbridge
Cedar Bend Drawbridge
The photo above is looking west down the center of the railroad tracks from the west bridge abutment. From here, the tracks enter Minnesota and head towards William O'Brien State Park, Marine On Saint Croix, and White Bear Lake before entering the Twin Cities. The photo below is looking west along the downstream south face of the Cedar Bend Drawbridge.

Cedar Bend Drawbridge
Cedar Bend Drawbridge
The photo above is a similar view looking west along the downstream south face of the Cedar Bend Drawbridge, but this time, from water level. The photo below is a closer view of the water between the first two bridge piers at the east end of the structure. We see the remains of the piles for the wood trestle that once carried the railroad tracks just sticking above the water.

Cedar Bend Drawbridge
Cedar Bend Drawbridge
These two photos show graffiti on the first bridge pier and abutment at the east end of the structure.

Cedar Bend Drawbridge
Cedar Bend Drawbridge
The photo above is the east bridge abutment looking up from the shoreline at the edge of the river. The photo below was taken by Shawn Schoenberger, whose father worked for the Soo Line and crossed this bridge many times during his career.

Cedar Bend Drawbridge
Cedar Bend Drawbridge
The photo above is the sign at the entrance to the Osceola & Saint Croix Valley Railway, located on the south side of Osceola, Wisconsin, and about four miles northeast of the Cedar Bend Drawbridge. The photo below is the historic Osceola Depot, which serves as the headquarters of this tourist railroad.

Cedar Bend Drawbridge
Cedar Bend Drawbridge
The photo above is a 1,750 horsepower EMD SD9 locomotive carrying cab number 6234. It was built in April, 1959, for the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad, and served with the Burlington Northern and BNSF railroads until 2002. The locomotive was donated to the Minnesota Transportation Museum, where she was restored and has been running since 2004. In the photo below, we see that BN 6234 is coupled to a Great Northern streamlined passenger coach carrying road number 1213. This 60 seat coach was built in 1951 by the American Car & Foundry and it ran ran as part of the Empire Builder passenger train until 1970. This train was preparing to head out on one of the museum's fall leaf tour excursions.

Cedar Bend Drawbridge
Cedar Bend Drawbridge
The photo above is Soo Line locomotive cab number 559, which frequently pulls excursion trains on summer weekends for the Minnesota Transportation Museum on its Osceola tourist trains. She was built in November, 1951, by EMD, and features a 1,500 horsepower diesel engine. This locomotive was purchased new by the Rock Island Railroad as cab number 1223, and later served in C&NW colors after the Rock Island was acquired by the Chicago & North Western. The museum purchased the locomotive in 1998. While 559 never operated in Soo Line colors, she sure wears them well today. In the photo below, we see 559 coupled to the Northern Pacific number 1102 triple combine car. This car has a seating area, railway post office, and baggage compartment. It was built in 1914, it ran on passenger trains until the early 1960s, and was parked after the BN merger in 1970. The museum web site indicates that this is their favorite coach and is part of nearly every tourist train that they operate.

Cedar Bend Drawbridge

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