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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Mississippi River Crossing At Winona
Winona, Minnesota

C&NW Railroad Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 725.7.
• River Elevation: 646 Feet.
• Railroad: Chicago & North Western.
• Daily Traffic Count: 0 (Bridge Is Closed).
• Bridge Type: Steel Deck Plate Girder, Swingspan Is Removed.
• Length: 7,300 Feet (Estimated).
• Width: 16 Feet (Estimated), 1 Track.
• Navigation Channel Width: 160 Feet (Estimated).
• Height Above Water: 20 Feet (Deck, Estimated), 10 Feet (Low Steel, Estimated).
• Date Built: 1928, Crossing Dates To 1871.
The first bridge at this location was built by the Winona & Saint Peter Railroad. It opened in May 26, 1871. The bridge was faulty and collapsed as the first train attempted to cross the Mississippi River. The bridge was rebuilt, and reopened in 1872. The Milwaukee Road used this bridge until the Chicago & North Western bought out the Winona & Saint Peter line. C&NW used the bridge until it became redundant in the mid-1970s. It was closed December 24, 1977.

Since closing, parts of the bridge have been removed. Most notably, the swing span has been removed from the Mississippi River main channel to improve river navigation. In addition, the Minnesota side approach has been removed, 15 deck plate girder spans across Latsch Island are gone, and two short bridges over a slough have been removed from the Wisconsin side of the crossing. What remains are a 540 foot series of deck plate girder spans on the northeast side of the main channel of the Mississippi River, 14 empty piers, a 685 foot series of deck plate girder spans over the north channel of the Mississippi River, and three segments of embankment (2,300 feet, 1,420 feet, and 675 feet).

This railroad bridge had a number of configurations over the years. The 1871 bridge had a wooden swing span. The 1872 bridge featured a 363 foot long iron swing span. The swing span was a center pin design, where the moving portion of the bridge was one long truss. This design was common, but they were hard to balance. An 1899 photo shows a more modern iron and steel swing span that was built from two smaller trusses that were joined over the center pier. This photo also showed two approximately 220 foot long through truss spans, then a number of 100 foot long pony truss spans. The final bridge configuration was built in 1928. It resued the swing span piers, but had a more modern steel swing bridge, a plate girder appraoch span on the Winona side of the river, and 30 deck plate girder spans that vary from 70 to 100 feet in length. The Wisconsin side of the river crossing included about 4,500 feet of embankment with two smaller bridges of between 60 and 75 feet in length.

The photo above is the main channel span looking west towards Winona along the south face of the structure. The swing span was located on the Winona end of this structure. The closer end of the structure is where the deck plate girder spans were removed from across the island between the two channels of the Mississippi River.


C&NW Railroad Bridge
The photo above is looking southeast towards the main river channel structure from the levee on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi. The east end of the swing span landed on the pier on the near side of the river. The photo below is another view of the main channel structure looking northeast from the Winona riverfront.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
The photo above is a closer view of the end of the main channel bridge looking to the northeast from the Winona riverfront. The photo below is looking directly across the river navigation channel towards the bridge remains. This pier is where the swing span met the first fixed bridge span. This is an original pier dating back to either the 1871 or 1872 version of the bridge.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
These two photos are looking southeast towards the main river channel structure from the Winona riverfront. The photo below is from just upstream of the bridge, while the photo below is taken from under the Winona highway bridge.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
The photo above is looking downstream towards the pier where the swing span once landed. The photo below is the same bridge pier, but seen from high over the river from the sidewalk on the Winona highway bridge.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
The photo below is looking downstream towards the main channel bridge remains from the walkway on the nearby highway bridge over the Mississippi River. THe photo below is a close view of one of the bridge piers. Note the bumpout on the walkway on the far side of the bridge, and the metal pipes that once supported a signal detector for overhieght rail cars.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
The photo above is another view of the main channel structure as seen from high over the river on the highway bridge. The island on the left side of the photo is Island Number 72, known locally as Latsch Island. The photo below is the end of the deck truss bridge spans on the island.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
There are 14 bridge piers located between the two sections of deck plate girder spans over the two river channels. These two photos are the first pier located east of the main channel structure. The photo above is from 2007, while the photo below is from 2011. Note how far the trees have grown out in this short period of time.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
The photo above is the 2nd empty pier heading east, while the photo below is the 3rd empty pier heading east. The pier above is difficult to see despite being located only a few feet from the road leading to the Latsch Wagon Bridge.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
These two photos are two more empty bridge piers located in a small pool between the two segments of steel deck plate girder bridge spans.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
These two photos are two more empty bridge piers located amoung the many houseboats that are tied up along the northeast side of Latsch Island.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
The photo above is another empty bridge pier. This one is the 4th pier from the start of the north channel section of the C&NW Bridge. The photo below is the remaining bridge spans located over the north channel of the Mississippi River.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
These two photos are looking east from the north channel highway bridge towards the remaining deck plate girder spans of the C&NW Bridge located over the north channel.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
The photo below is a close view of a bridge pier on the north channel section of the C&NW Bridge. This pier is shaped differently compared to the other remaining concrete bridge piers. It is possible that this was once the center pier of a swing span section, or it might be a concrete encasement used to reinforce a failing bridge pier. The photo below is the southwest end of the north channel bridge segment.

C&NW Railroad Bridge
C&NW Railroad Bridge
The photo above is the date mark on one of the concrete bridge piers. Below are the remains of a short bridge on this same rail crossing. The bridge was located on the very east end of the crossing where the rail line bends to the south. It is visible from Wisconsin highway WI-35. There is another short span located along the railroad embankment between the BNSF tracks and the north channel segment of the C&NW Bridge.

C&NW Railroad Bridge

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