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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
BNSF Railroad Bridge
Minnesota River Railroad Crossing
Granite Falls, MN

BNSF Railroad Bridge (Granite Falls)

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 254.3.
• River Elevation: 909 Feet.
• Railroad: BNSF.
• Daily Traffic Count: 14 Trains Per Day (Estimated).
• Bridge Type: Steel Through Truss.
• Length: 800 Feet Overall (Est), 135 Foot Longest Span (Est).
• Width: 1 Track.
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable.
• Height Above Water: 20 Feet (Estimated).
• Date Built: ???.
The BNSF bridge at Granite Falls was part of the Great Northern Railway mainline between Duluth, Minnesota, and Omaha, Nebraska. A century ago, this was a major interchange line for cargo moving between the Great Lakes and the Missouri River basin. The GN merged with the Northern Pacific Railway and the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad to form the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1970. The Burlington Northern later merged with the Santa Fe Railway, forming the BNSF.

Maps from 1888 show the competed Great Northern line connecting Willmar to Marshall via Granite Falls while maps from 1887 show the mainline ending at Willmar. This dates the river crossing to 1887. I suspect that the piers are of 1887 vintage, but the bridge has likely been replaced once since it was new in order to accommodate ever heavier railroad locomotives. The riveted construction and the style of beams, made from crisscrossed metal tabs, date the bridge to have been built well before WWII.

The bridge crosses the Minnesota River at an angle heading northwest and southeast. From the southeast side, there is an embankment that carries the rail above the flood plain. Two through truss spans cross the main river channel. This is followed by a length of pony plate girder bridge, and then a third truss span that is again about 135 feet long. That truss is followed by a short section of conventional trestle which completes the remaining part of the estimated 800 foot long river crossing.

The photo above is a profile view of the BNSF bridge at Granite Falls as seen from a riverside park located upstream on the south side of the Minnesota River. The third bridge truss span is not visible from this location. In addition, the north end of the bridge appears to be difficult to get to without trespassing or using a boat.


BNSF Railroad Bridge (Granite Falls)
The photo above is looking northwest through the truss structure. The structure in the foreground has two truss spans, and a third truss span is visible in the distance. The photo below is a close view of the bridge truss as seen from the southwest corner of the bridge abutment. Note the angles on the leading edge of the bridge piers designed to break up river ice. Also note the design of the bridge beams, which are built from smaller parallel I-beams joined by crisscrossed metal tabs.

BNSF Railroad Bridge (Granite Falls)
BNSF Railroad Bridge (Granite Falls)
These two photos are additional views from the southwest corner of the bridge. The photo above is a view from track level, while the photo below is a view from partly down the side of the embankment.

BNSF Railroad Bridge (Granite Falls)

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