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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Grassy Point Bridge
BNSF Saint Louis River Railroad Crossing
Duluth, MN

Grassy Point Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A
• Location: River Mile 8.2
• River Elevation: 602 Feet
• Railroad: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway
• Daily Traffic Count: 4 Trains Per Day (Estimated)
• Bridge Type: Steel Truss Swing Span
• Bridge Length: 1,645 Feet (Estimated), 212 Foot Longest Span (Estimated)
• Bridge Width: Built For 2 Tracks, Only 1 Track Installed
• Navigation Channel Width: 175 Feet
• Height Above Water: 12 Feet
• Date Built: 1912
The Grassy Point Bridge was authorized by the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota in 1887 to cross Saint Louis Bay at the shortest possible location. It was built by the Minneapolis and Duluth Railroad, which was later acquired by the Northern Pacific. The bridge allowed the Northern Pacific to move trains between their railroad lines on either side of the Twin Ports Harbor.

The Northern Pacific Railroad also had a bridge across the Twin Ports Harbor near the present day US-53 Blatnik Bridge. This bridge, the Saint Louis Bay Bridge, featured two swing spans. These spans were known was the Wisconsin Draw and the Minnesota Draw. The Great Northern Railroad also had a swing span bridge located just east of the present day US-53 Blatnik Bridge. Known as the Interstate Bridge, it handled both rail and automobile traffic.

When the NP and GN merged to form the Burlington Northern Railroad, the BN ended up with three bridges across the harbor. The closed Interstate Bridge was removed in the 1970s, with one span still surviving today. The Saint Louis Bay Bridge was also closed due to it being more expensive to operate than the Grassy Point Bridge. As a result, the BN consolidated onto the Grassy Point Bridge. Today, most rail traffic that crosses between Duluth and Superior uses the Oliver Bridge, resulting in the Grassy Point Bridge seeing relatively little traffic.

The Grassy Point Bridge connects between two small BNSF rail yards. The yard on the Duluth side is known as ‘Mike’s Yard’. The east end of the bridge connects to the BNSF 28th Street Terminal, and a massive maze of rail yards and side tracks (now mostly gone) on the west side of Superior. The current iron and steel bridge was built in 1912. It was built to handle two parallel railroad tracks, but only one track is installed on the swing span. There are two tracks on the causeway leading to the bridge, but the trestle spans are only wide enough for a single track.

The Grassy Point area was the focus of a major clean up and wetlands restoration project in the 1990. A waterfront trail now runs through this area. It presents an interesting contrast between how humans build and abandon industrial facilities, and how nature builds and recycles its own infrastructure.

The photo above is looking north from the end of the remains of the former US-2 Arrowhead Bridge in Superior towards the swing span of the Grassy Point Bridge. The US-2 Richard Ira Bong Memorial Bridge is visible behind the railroad bridge. The bluffs of the West Duluth neighborhood is visible in the background. There is so little railroad traffic across the Grassy Point Bridge that the bridge is often maintained in the open position, and only closed when a train needs to cross the bay.


Grassy Point Bridge
The photo above is a view of the Grassy Point Bridge from the overlook at Thompson Hill. The overpass where the photo above was taken is visible in the foreground of this photo. The photo below is a late evening view of the Grassy Point Bridge, also from Thompson Hill.

Grassy Point Bridge
Grassy Point Bridge
The photo above is looking due north from the vicinity of the east end of the old Arrowhead Bridge in Superior towards the swing span of the Grassy Point Bridge. The main span of the Bong Bridge is located just north of the railroad bridge. The photo below is a closer view of the swing span.

Grassy Point Bridge
Grassy Point Bridge
These two photos are the two fixed pony plate girder spans on each end of the swing span. The photo below is the span on the east side of the swing span, while the photo below is the span on the west side of the swing span.

Grassy Point Bridge
Grassy Point Bridge
These two photos show a power boat passing under the Grassy Point Bridge. The photo above shows the boat heading north towards the bridge with the west side of the swing span in the background. The photo below shows the boat passing under the east side of the bridge.

Grassy Point Bridge
Grassy Point Bridge
The photo above is looking east down the BNSF tracks towards the Grassy Point Bridge from the deck of the highway bridge over the tracks on Waseca Industrial Road. This vantage point is very near where highway US-2 once crossed over the BNSF trans leading to the Duluth end of the old Arrowhead Bridge. The photo below is taken from the same location, however, the bridge is in the closed position.

Grassy Point Bridge
Grassy Point Bridge
These two photos, and the four that follow, are views of the Grassy Point Bridge as seen from the walkway on the Bong Bridge. The photo above is looking northwest towards the south face of the railroad bridge. The photo below is looking due west down the center of the railroad right-of-way.

Grassy Point Bridge
Grassy Point Bridge
These two photos are looking southwest along the north face of the Grassy Point Bridge.

Grassy Point Bridge
Grassy Point Bridge
These two photos are looking south-southwest towards the swing span of the Grassy Point Bridge. The photo below was taken from the main span of the Bong Bridge, which is approximately 120 feet above the navigation channel.

Grassy Point Bridge

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
For further information, contact: john@johnweeks.com