The StP&P route crossed Nicollet Island, then headed southwest around the bottom of Cedar Lake, through the current day west metro suburbs, and passed along the north edge of Lake Minnetonka. The railroad was purchased by James J. Hill in March of 1878 after it defaulted during the panic of 1873. The StP&P would eventually become the Great Northern Railroad.
Once Hill gained control of the StP&P, and the panic of 1873 started to ease in the late 1870s, Hill decided to build a more direct route into western Minnesota. The new line, known as the “Minnetonka Cutoff,’ was surveyed in 1882 and was completed in July, 1883. This new route passed north of Cedar Lake, and ran in a more direct line west of Minneapolis. It also featured double track, which meant that trains could operate much more efficiently.
The Minnetonka Cutoff crossed the Minnehaha Creek twice between the present day locations of Hopkins Crossroad and Interstate highway I-494. This alignment passed about 800 feet south of the original StP&P bridge over the Minnehaha Creek. As a result, the 1867 era wood trestle at this location was abandoned.
The 1867 era bridge was located about 300 feet south of the intersection of the present day Cedar Lake Road and Saint Albans Mill Road. The best way to locate the site is to park in the Big Willow Park parking lot on Creek Road just south of Cedar Lake Road. Then hike east along the Minnehaha Creek. You will eventually find an old railroad roadbed that runs along the north bank of the creek. That roadbed will end at the bridge site. Your hike will pass the site of the historic Saint Albans Mill, however, there are no markers that note its location.
The photo above is looking west along the Saint Paul & Pacific Railroad roadbed in Big Willow Park in Minnetonka. The roadbed is used as a trail heading east of this location, but it disappears into the woods heading west. The photo below is looking west along the railbed where it passes along the north bank of the Minnehaha Creek.