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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
BNSF Railroad Bridge (West)
Minnehaha Creek Railroad Crossing
Minnetonka, MN

BNSF Railroad Bridge (West)

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 18.4.
• River Elevation: 915 Feet.
• Structure Type: Railroad Bridge.
• Construction: Concrete Girder.
• Length: 50 Feet (Estimated).
• Width: 1 Track, Abutments Built For 2 Tracks.
• Height Above Water: ??? Feet.
• Date Built: 2000s, Abutments Date To 1883.
The Wayzata Subdivision of Burlington Northern Santa Fe's Willmar covers 90 miles between Minneapolis and Willmar. The line crosses the Mississippi River on the Nicollet Island Railroad Bridge, then heads west passing just north Cedar Lake, around the top of Lake Minnetonka, then through the cities of Delano and Litchfield before arriving at a junction in Willmar. The line crosses the Minnehaha Creek twice at bridges set about a half-mile apart located between Hopkins Crossroad and Interstate highway I-494 in Minnetonka.

The Wayzata Subdivision dates back to the Minnesota & Pacific Railroad, which was chartered in 1857. The charter was assigned to the Saint Paul & Pacific Railroad in 1862, which reached Lake Minnetonka in 1867. The “Minnetonka Cutoff”, following the current route, was opened in 1883. The Saint Paul & Pacific evolved into the Great Northern in 1890, which merged with the Northern Pacific and Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy in 1970 to become the Burlington Northern. A later merger with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad resulted in the BNSF, the current owners of this line.

The two bridges over the Minnehaha Creek are nearly identical concrete girder bridges, each about 50 feet long. The abutments appear to date back to the original bridges at this location, which were built in 1883. A circa-2000 watercolor by Victor Gilbertson shows this as a steel bridge, but my fall 2009 visit found concrete girders. That dates the current span to sometime in the decade of the 2000s.

The Wayzata Subdivision was built as a double-track mainline. It has operated as a single track line since at least 1991 based on an aerial photograph of the western suburbs. As a result, the current bridges carry only a single track over the creek. As of 2007, traffic levels were about 10 trains a day moving at up to 40 miles per hour.

The photo above is a view looking north towards the BNSF Railroad bridge from a trail located in the Big Willow Park. The creek channel enters the scene in front of the bridge from the left, crosses under the rail bridge, then heads back to the left behind the bridge.


BNSF Railroad Bridge (West)
The photo above is looking east across the creek along the south face of the BNSF Railroad Bridge. The photo below is looking east towards the railroad bridge. The wooden barricades block the gap where the parallel track once crossed the creek.

BNSF Railroad Bridge (West)
BNSF Railroad Bridge (West)
The photo above is a view looking down the north face of the bridge. The photo below is looking east down the length of the bridge deck. The Saint Albans Mill Condominium project is just beyond the trees in the background.

BNSF Railroad Bridge (West)
BNSF Railroad Bridge (West)
The photo above is another view looking down the south face of the bridge, this time from track level on the west abutment. The photo below is a view from the Big Willow Park Trail, which crosses under the west end of the railroad bridge.

BNSF Railroad Bridge (West)

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