The MN Valley Railroad Bridge is used by the Minnesota Prairie Line Railroad, which started operating the 94 miles of track between Norwood and Hanley Falls, MN, in October of 2002. The rail line dates back to 1870 when the Minneapolis and Saint Louis Railway was chartered. That railroad eventually reached from the Twin Cities to central Illinois. A branch line was extended through Morton to South Dakota. The M&StL was always operating on the edge, and spent decades operating under bankruptcy. The line was finally taken over by the Chicago & North Western in 1960. The C&NW abandoned most of the track, and sold other sections to various short-line railroads. The Minnesota Valley Authority ran this line for a while, and later the Minnesota Central Railroad, both having little success.
The Minnesota Prairie Line hopes to do much better than previous operators. The emergence of ethanol and biodiesel as major products manufactured in western Minnesota leave the MPL in an ideal spot to capture much of that business. In fact, the MPL has become the first railroad to run exclusively on biodiesel. As a result of the improved business outlook, the state legislature has approved a $6-million allocation to allow the MPL to rebuild the track with 115-pound rails and increase the operating speed to 25 miles per hour average.
So far, I have learned little about the river bridge. If you can fill in the details, please let me know. The bridge appears in a post card dated 1884, and appears to have been built as part of the 1883 and 1884 expansion of the M&StL. While the bridge appears to look like the bridge in the post card, one never knows if it has been replaced or rebuilt since that time.
The photo above is looking southwest down the tracks from the grade crossing at West 1st Street. The photo below is looking west from the north bank of the Minnesota River from a vantage point located downstream of the bridge and behind the city water treatment plant.