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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Skibo Bridge
DM&IR Saint Louis River Railroad Crossing
Hoyt Lakes, MN

Skibo Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A
• Location: River Mile 183.0
• River Elevation: 1,580 Feet
• Railroad: Canadian National Railway
• Daily Traffic Count: 8 Trains Per Day
• Bridge Type: Steel Deck Plate Girder
• Bridge Length: 100 Feet (Estimated), 50 Foot Longest Span (Estimated)
• Bridge Width: 24 Feet (Estimated), 2 Tracks
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable
• Height Above Water: 16 Feet
• Date Built: ???
This bridge crosses the Saint Louis River near the small village of Skibo, located a few miles southeast of Hoyt Lakes, MN. The bridge site dates back to 1883 when the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad was being built between the iron mines near Tower and the ore loading dock at Two Harbors. Initially, the D&IR used long wooden trestles to cross swamps and valleys. Over time, these were all filled in and more permanent bridges were built over rivers.

I do not know the specific date that this bridge was built. The quality of the steel and the use of concrete suggests that it was after 1900. The use of rivets suggests that it was built prior to World War II. It was originally built for a double-tracked mainline, but only one track is currently in use.

The first D&IR ore train ran on July 31, 1884. The D&IR was bought by Illinois Steel in 1887, which later became United States Steel in 1901. The railroad was merged with the Duluth, Missabe, and Northern Railway in 1938 to become the Duluth, Missabe, & Iron Range Railway. The DM&IR was sold a number of times to owners such as Transtar and Great Lakes Transportation. It was purchased by the Canadian National Railway in 2004.

Skibo was once the site of a large logging operation. A yard with several tracks located just north of the Saint Louis River once supported pulp storage and loading operations. A large saw mill was located a few miles upstream and was served by a spur that branched off at Skibo. This saw mill cut timber supports that were used in underground mining. The underground mines played out in the first half of the 20th century, so cut timber was no longer needed. Logging was done by the 1920's, which also reduced the importance of Skibo. In fact, iron mining was all but done by the 1960s, and this branch of the DM&IR was heading towards abandonment. A new process for concentrating low grade iron ore into Taconite pellets brought a resurgence to the mining industry and is the primary cargo being hauled over this former D&IR line, with smaller quantities of limestone being hauled back to the Taconite plants to be used in ore processing being a secondary cargo.

Skibo was named after Skibo Castle, the summer home of Andrew Carnegie on the north shore of Dornoch Firth in the north of Scotland. The station at Skibo, however, was named Norman, after a long time station master on the D&IR.

There is no easy way to visit this bridge. It is illegal to walk along railroad tracks in Minnesota, and the CN aggressively enforces its no trespassing policy. Despite its remote location, there are enough people living in the area and rail traffic that there is a good chance of being spotted. The legal way to the bridge site is to locate the road leading to the Skibo Mill site. It will intersect a logging road that was the old railroad spur to the mill site. At that point, there is a trail leading south through the woods to a canoe landing. From the canoe landing, head west along the north side of the river. There is an overgrown and little used trail used by canoeists to portage around boulder fields in the river. This trail crosses the railroad line about 100 feet north of the bridge.

The photo above is looking north down the length of the bridge deck. The active railroad is on the east side of the bridge deck, while the tracks have been removed from the west side of the bridge.

Skibo Bridge
The photo below is looking northeast from near the southwest corner of the structure. The photo below is looking northwest from near the southeast corner of the structure. The Saint Louis River flows from right to left in these two views.

Skibo Bridge
Skibo Bridge
These two photos are views of the upstream east face of the bridge. The photo above is from the southeast corner of the structure, while the photo below is from the riverbank near the northeast corner of the bridge. It is dark under the bridge deck, which results in a slight overexposure of the grass, trees, and sky.

Skibo Bridge
Skibo Bridge
The photo above is looking northeast across the bridge deck, showing a downstream view of the Saint Louis River. The photo below is a closer view of the river heading downstream from the Skibo Bridge. The water is at least 2 feet higher than normal due to heavy spring and early summer rains. Normally, the river is a mass of dark black rocks that make it difficult to see the water. This forces canoeists to portage past this section of river.

Skibo Bridge
Skibo Bridge
The photo above is the bridge deck. The shiny rails are used by trains. The additional four rails are guards that attempt to prevent derailed wheels from sliding off of the bridge. The photo below is a close view of taconite pellets on the bridge deck. This rail line exists to haul taconite from the mines to a port at Two Harbors. The pellets sometimes spill off or cars, and they cover the railroad right of way. Smooth round balls on a smooth bridge deck makes walking dangerous.

Skibo Bridge
Skibo Bridge
The photo above is the north bridge abutment. The light pattern on the steel and concrete is due to bright sunlight shining through the metal grating on the walkway on the east side of the bridge. The photo below is the remains of pilings located under the bridge. This is likely from an earlier wooden trestle since this type of steel bridge should not have required falsework pilings to support the construction.

Skibo Bridge
Skibo Bridge
The photo above is a mile marker sign at the north end of the bridge. This post is 39.91 railroad miles north of Two Harbors. The photo below is looking south along the downstream west face of the bridge.

Skibo Bridge
Skibo Bridge
These two photos are from the northeast corner of the structure. The photo above is looking along the east face of the bridge, while the photo below is looking diagonally across the bridge deck.

Skibo Bridge
Skibo Bridge
In these final two views of the Skibo Bridge, we are looking to the south into the midday sun. The photo above is looking south down the length of the bridge deck, while the photo below is looking southeast from where the canoe portage trail crosses the railroad right-of-way.

Skibo Bridge

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