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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Chicago & North Western Bridge
C&NW Railroad Mississippi River Crossing
Saint Paul, MN

Chicago North Western Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 835.7.
• River Elevation: 686 Feet.
• Railroad: Union Pacific Railroad.
• Daily Traffic Count: 12 Trains Per Day (Estimated).
• Bridge Type: Steel Truss With Swing Span.
• Length: 1,275 Feet, 401 Foot Swing Span.
• Width: Single Track, 18 Feet.
• Navigation Channel Width: 179 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 20 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened 1910.
This is a little known metro area bridge due to it being well off of the beaten track and hidden by trees. The bridge is located close to the Saint Paul Police Impound Yard, but you cannot see it from there. It is also located close to the Saint Paul Airport, but you cannot see it from there, either, unless you go through the gate and drive along the perimeter road to the south tip of the airport property. It is located right next to the Pigs Eye Water Treatment Plant, but in an area that is off limits since 9/11, so you cannot see it from there, either. You can catch a glimpse of the truss section from Concord Ave, but you cannot see the main swing span from that vantage point.

It turns out that there is one pretty good vantage point to view the bridge from 2 miles away at the top of the hill at Mounds Park. It takes a long telephoto, however, to photograph it from that location. That view looks directly over the downtown Saint Paul airport and down the river channel.

As it turns out, the land just south of the swing bridge is an old landfill that was improperly closed. The city of South Saint Paul ran a project in the mid-2000s to strip the trees and cap the landfill with clay. That will protect the groundwater from future contamination. The resulting area will be a large park. The trees were cut down in the fall of 2006, resulting a great vantage point to see the bridge from a regional trail overpass that crosses both Concord Ave and the Union Pacific rail yard.

After the park opened in 2008, a trail along the river now provides a great view of the bridge. The photo at the top of the page was taken from this trail.

This bridge was built by the Saint Paul Bridge and Terminal Company. It was purchased by the Chicago Great Western Railway, which became part of the Chicago & North Western, which merged into the Union Pacific Railroad. As a result, the bridge has a number of common names. These include the Saint Paul Bridge and Terminal Railway Bridge, CGW Bridge, C&NW Bridge, UPRR Bridge, the Beltline Bridge, and the Hoffman Bridge. The original 1910 structure has been rebuilt several times, the most recent time in 1982.


Chicago North Western Bridge
The photo above is a close view of the swing span taken from the new park located along the edge of the Mississippi River. This is the northernmost swing span remaining on the Mississippi River. It has only one navigation channel, whereas the Rock Island Bridge swing span just downriver has 2 navigation channels. The photo below is a close view of the truss span and deck girder span on the east side of the river crossing.

Chicago North Western Bridge
Chicago North Western Bridge
The photo above is a view from the edge of the railroad property. The photo below is another view from the edge of the river. The wood barricades near the bridge were installed to prevent barges from hitting the bridge or its foundation.

Chicago North Western Bridge
Chicago North Western Bridge
The photo above is a 2007 view from the regional trail overpass that crosses over Concord Street. The trees have been removed, but cap has not yet been placed on the landfill. The photo below is a view of the bridge from Mounds Park. This view looks across the downtown Saint Paul Holman Field airport. Notice the dense grove of trees on the right side of the river. Those are the trees that were cut as part of the landfill restoration project.

Chicago North Western Bridge
Chicago North Western Bridge
The photo above is another view from Mounds Park. The bridge is over 2 miles from the park. In this view, we see a train crossing the bridge. We also have an excellent view that shows just how dense the growth of trees was along the edge of the river. The photo below happened to catch a business jet on final approach to landing at Holman Field. The river makes a bend that wraps 2/3 of the way around the airport.

Chicago North Western Bridge
Chicago North Western Bridge
These two photos, and the two that follow, are from early summer of 2011 when the Mississippi River was at a high water level. The photo above shows the main swing span and the truss span on the east side of the river crossing. The photo below is the deck plate girder span on the west side of the river crossing.

Chicago North Western Bridge
Chicago North Western Bridge
These two photos are additional views from summer of 2011 when the Mississippi River was at a high water level. The photo above is looking northeast towards the swing span as it sits in the open position. The photo below is the fixed position truss span on the east side of the navigation channels.

Chicago North Western Bridge

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