Minneapolis & Saint Louis Bridge, Carver, MN

28 Апр 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »
Carver 36 Sport Bridge boat

Built 1917, Using 1871 Piers.

A number of railroad companies were chartered in Minnesota in the 1850s, well before the Civil War, and only a few years after railroads were established on the east coast. However, despite having big dreams, financial realities prevented most of these railroads from laying even a single mile of track. The business climate changed dramatically after the Civil War. By 1870, there was a wholesale railroad rush happening across the midwest as everyone wanted to be the first to lay rails across the rich farmlands and connect to the transcontinental line.

One such railroad that got its start in 1870 is the Minneapolis Saint Louis Railway. The MStL headed southwest out of Minneapolis with the idea of serving farms southwest of the cities, and eventually connecting with the transportation hub in Saint Louis. It never did reach the gateway city, but it did build track throughout southern Minnesota and Iowa, with branches into South Dakota and Illinois.

The MStL crossed the Minnesota River in Carver, Minnesota, on its way between Hopkins (in the Twin Cities area) and Albert Lea. The Minnesota River was navigable at that time, which meant that any bridge over the river had to allow for river boat traffic. For railroads, this most often meant building a swing span. The MStL did just that in 1871, building a sturdy wooden trestle with a 270-foot long wood swing span. The swing span was unusual in that it was a truss, but had an arch shaped rib at the top of the truss. Most truss spans have horizontal ribs. As was common on early swing spans, this one used the center pin design. That is, the swing span was a single truss that was balanced on the pivot point. In contrast, more recent swing spans are two trusses that are joined together at the pivot point. The center pin spans are very difficult to balance. The swing span was operated by hand. A worker would insert a crank into a hole between the tracks, and then turn a gear that would turn the bridge.


The wooden swing span bridge was replaced by an iron swing bridge in the early 1890s. This new bridge reused the 1871 bridge piers. The replacement swing span featured two trusses that were connected over the pivot point. This style of swing span was much easier to balance than the original center pin design.

The 1890s swing span deteriorated relatively quickly and was declared unsafe by 1915. The United States War Department met with the railroad in 1916 to discuss the condition of the bridge, expressing concerns that the unsafe bridge might impede the movement of farm goods should the US become involved in the World War. Since the railroad had made riverboats obsolete, there was no longer a need for a swing bridge. As a result, a steel deck plate girder bridge was proposed.

The United States entered the war in April of 1917. The 1890s bridge was removed in September. The center pier for the swing span was removed and was replaced by three concrete piers. The wooden trestle spans were trimmed back, and one additional concrete pier was placed on each end of the bridge. The result is the seven piers that we see today, including two remaining original 1871 piers. The steel was ordered in November, and the new bridge was open by the spring of 1918.

The MStL continually had financial problems. It operated in receivership for decades after filing for bankruptcy on several occasions. In 1960, it was absorbed by the Chicago North Western Railway. The CNW subsequently merged with the Union Pacific Railroad in 1995. The MStL mainline from Chaska to Hopkins was abandoned in the 1990 or 1991. As a result, the rail line through Carver was reduced to a spur line for raw materials being shipped into the American Crystal Sugar plant in Chaska.

In addition to the railroad having problems, this bridge has also experienced its share of problems. Since the river remains open most winters from the Mississippi River up to and just beyond Carver, the open water carries ice downstream as it breaks up. The bridge, however, acts as a dam for the ice chunks. As the ice builds up behind the bridge, the water level rises accordingly. The weight of the ice and water puts huge stresses on the bridge piers. Nearly every pier on the bridge is out of alignment, with two piers towards the south end having moved so far that the bridge deck has a kink in it.

In late March of 2007, high water weakened a trestle located about a mile south of the Minnesota River crossing. That trestle failed as a train was crossing the structure. Three cars ended up in the river with one being completely submerged. As of May, 2007, the bridge is still closed. It is possible that Union Pacific will abandon the rail line rather than fixing the collapsed trestle.

Updatethe current bridge owner, Union Pacific did in fact file a request in January, 2008, to abandon this rail line and bridge. Local governments are working on ideas for the possible reuse of the bridge as a regional trail. The bridge appears to be in good condition, and the weakened rail line to the south of the river should support foot and bicycle traffic for many years in the future.

Carver 36 Sport Bridge boat

Updateas of the Spring of 2010, this bridge is doomed. The two counties on either side of the river have been unable to make a deal with the Union Pacific Railroad to obtain title to the bridge. Scott County considered purchasing the bridge outright, but that deal was scuttled when an inspection found the bridge to be in very poor shape. As a result, the Union Pacific is planning to remove the bridge. It is hoped that either the counties or the state DNR will end up with title to the railroad right-of-way so that a regional trail can be built in the future, complete with a new river bridge.

Updateas of September, 2010, the deal is back on. The city of Carver has an agreement with the Union Pacific to purchase the bridge and 5 miles of right-of-way for $2-million. The two adjacent counties will kick in some funding, along with the Metropolitan Council. The Met Council wants to use the path for a regional sewer connector. The deal is not yet final since Scott County wants to keep the right-of-way in reserve for future light rail, while the cities of Carver, Chaska, and Carver County want to redevelop the land.

Updatewhile the deal for the purchase of the rail line and bridge was completed in late 2010, the bridge will be removed, likely in May or June of 2011. It is hoped that a new regional trail bridge can be built in the future to connect the trail systems in Carver County to the Scott County System. The rails were removed between Carver and Chaska during the autumn of 2010.

The photo above is a view looking down the length of the bridge deck towards the southeast from the west bank of the Minnesota River.

The photo above is the northwest side of the bridge as seen from about 150 feet upriver from the structure. The photo below is the northwest face of the bridge as seen from the west riverbank.

The photo above is a close view of one of the bridge piers on the northwest end of the structure. The photo above is the northeast face of the bridge as seen from the west bank of the Minnesota River.

Carver 36 Sport Bridge boat

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