Railroad Trestle in Illinois Coming Down

Photo taken by John Marvig in 2017

New Viaduct Nearing Completion. Old Viaduct to Come Down in March/ April

MEDIA, ILLINOIS- Railway Companies have been well known for abandoning and removing historic bridges for liability purposes. Even legendary historic bridge preservationist Eric DeLony had mentioned when the National Park Services and its division dealing with the National Register of Historic Places mentioned the possibilities of some bridges being historic, many of these companies would run to the opposite side of the room or lock themselves up in their own offices as a way of saying “Not Interested.” It’s a wonder that only a handful of structures have been preserved and many key ones, such as Portage Viaduct are coming down or have been removed.

Many of these railroad companies, such as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) have been systematically removing these historic bridges to make way for progress. The reason: Liability. If they cannot be used anymore, even if it’s historic, why keep it standing and risk lawsuits.

This logic is the driving force behind removing this viaduct. The Media Viaduct was built in 1894, spanning Ellison Creek just northeast of Media, running parallel to County Highway 5. Media has 107 inhabitants and is located 35 miles northeast of Fort Madison, Iowa. At the time of its construction, BNSF was once known as the Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, which later was purchased by Atchison Topeka Santa Fe as part of the project to extend the line from Chicago via Burlington to Kansas City. The viaduct had 15 towers and 15 spans, totaling 737 feet long, 80 feet high and the main span having 64 feet. Originally a one track crossing, the viaduct was expanded in 1907 to include another trach. This was done by extending the towers so that one track travels on the new portion; the other on the old one. More illustrations can be found on John Marvig’s website (click here for details). There is no information on the bridge builder, let alone who was responsible for the extensions on the viaduct.

Construction crews have been working on the new viaduct since early last year for a new one is needed to accomodate train traffic, where as many as 90 trains use this bridge daily. It will be a combination of steel beam bridges built on concrete piers, whose spans will be half as many as the historic viaducts. Because of the structure’s age and wear, the old viaduct will be decommissioned once the new viaduct opens in March. It will then be dismantled, piece by piece with the removal project to be finished by the end of April.

The Media Viaduct is the latest example of a historic bridge that will fall in the name of progress. And while railroad companies are expanding their freight and possibly passenger services, it’s becoming more and more obvious that historic bridges along these lines are going to be a hindrance and must be moved aside. And even then, the historic significance will not matter.


St. Anthony Parkway Bridge spans for sale

Side view of the Warren trusses and its skewed configuration. Photo taken in August 2010

Meeting on Bridge Project scheduled for 29 October at River East in Minneapolis.

The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, spanning the railroad yard in the Minneapolis suburb of Columbia Heights, has been a focus of concern for transportation officials, historians and locals alike, for although the bridge is historically significant, rust and corrosion was revealed on the bridge, prompting measures to ensure that the bridge is replaced as soon as possible.

Over five months after the article was written (see link here), the project appears to have moved forward. Plans have been approved to replace the five-span Warren through truss bridge, built in 1925 and features a set of skewed portal bracings, with a crossing featuring a through truss span and girder spans. The original trusses are being offered for sale by the City to be used for several purposes. The lone exception is one of the spans will be salvaged and used as an interpretive memorial located on the western end of the bridge. That means four spans are available for grabs to be reused on a local road or bike trail.

If interested, there is an informational meeting on Monday 29 October, 2013 from 6:00- 8:00pm at the River Village East, Community Room, located at 2919 Randolph St NE in Monneapolis. There, the public can discuss about the project and express their interest in the purchase of the old bridge. There will be more meetings to come between now and the time construction actually starts, which is next fall. The new bridge is expected to be open to traffic by the end of 2015.  More information about the project can be found here. This includes the contact details in case of any questions.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, but in case you know someone who wants a historic bridge for a bike trail, park or road, there are four spans available for you to get while they are still there…

Newsflyer 27 May 2013






Update on the Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa,  (Modern) Bridge Collapse in Missouri

In light of the Washington Bridge Collapse last Monday, one would point their fingers on bridge types as a way of pushing for them to be erased from the highway system. Yet Saturday’s collapse of another bridge in Missouri, built only 30 years ago, raises questions about how bridges are built and maintained and what changes should be made in that department. That plus an update on the upcoming Historic Bridge Weekend are found in this Newsflyer:

Photo taken by James Baughn

Railroad Overpass Collapses after Train Derailment/ Collision

Rockville, MO. Built in 1988, this combination steel and concrete girder, spanning two railroads just outside the town of Rockville (30 miles west of the Mississippi River in Scott County) and carrying Missouri Route M would not have expected a bridge disaster to happen, like it did on Saturday.  The 25-year old structure, expected to last at least 50 years carrying main traffic, had its life span cut short during that afternoon, when two trains collided, causing a derailment, and resulting in the bridge being destroyed. 21 people were injured in the wreck.  This disaster is one of the worst in bridge engineering, ranking it up there with the train wreck in Entschede, Germany on 3 June, 1998, destroying a railroad overpass and killing as many as 101 passengers. While the ICE Train, which was travelling at 80 mph before it derailed and folded together like an accordion, the trains at Rockville were going half the speed when the mishap happened.  While investigators will be looking at the behavior of the trains before it happens, the bridge collapse will raise questions about how bridges are being built and many will find ways to build structures that are able to withstand the abuse caused by all forms of transportation, especially given the light of an earlier bridge disaster in Washington.


Portal view of the rebuilt span. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

HB Weekend Travel Itinerary available online; Registration form available upon request.

In the past week, work has been undertaken on the travel itinerary for this year’s Historic Bridge Weekend in eastern Iowa, Des Moines and Boone County. Thanks to the app, Popplet, the itinerary is now available online for you to download. Please click onto the following links, zoom in and out and scroll down to see which bridges will be targeted for photo opportunities by many people expected to attend the 4-day event. The bridgehunting event will be a smorgasbord-style event, meaning even though there will be one or two primary tours to the most important bridges, pontists and bridge enthusiasts can elect to choose the bridges they want to see, while not missing out on the meetings and dinner/entertainment that will take place during that weekend.

Please note: The itinerary does NOT include the bridges of Linn and Marion Counties, for each party responsible for organizing the guided tour will have maps available for you in person. The Linn County tour will start on 10 August at 8:30am, whereas the Marion County tour will take place 11 August at 2:30pm. More information available here.

Itinerary Links:

Day 1

Day 2

Days 3 & 4

Author’s tip: While we will start on August 9 at Old Barn Resort in Preston, MN, the bridges that are highly recommended to visit during the weekend include:

The Bridges in Winneshiek and Fayette Counties, The Bridges of Lanesboro, MN, Motor Mill Bridge in Clayton Bridge, Elkader Arch Bridge, Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque, The Bridges of Jones, Linn and Johnson Counties (including the ones at F.W. Kent Park west of Iowa City), Cascade Bridge in Burlington, Ft. Madison Swing Bridge, The Des Moines River Bridges between Keokuk and Des Moines and of course the Kate Shelley and Wagon Wheel Bridges.

It may be possible that the last span of the CGW Railroad Bridge in Des Moines is still up when visiting it, but don’t hold your breath….

ALSO: Registration forms for the dinner and entertainment portion is available directly through the author. Please inquire by e-mail at either flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com or JDSmith77@gmx.net and you will receive a form to fill out and return by no later than 15 July.  This is to determine how many people are expected at the venues. Payments will be collected at the event.

Bridge memorabilia is being sought for the silent auction taking place on 11 August at Bos Landen Golf Course in Pella. If you have bridge photos and items you want to part ways with, please bring them to the event or contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles.

REMINDER: Bridge information, etc. is still being sought for the Bridge Book Project, the Truss Bridges of Iowa, which the author is working on. An Information Box will be made available for you to contribute to the project. You can also talk with the author of the book at the evening events or while on the bridgehunting tour.  Or just send it via e-mail, which will get there quickly and directly.


What to do with a HB: St. Anthony Parkway Bridge in Minneapolis

Tunnel view of the bridge. All photos taken by the author in Sept. 2010

The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, also known as the Northtown Bridge, is one of Minnesota’s historic bridges that deserves some recognition in itself. Located in the western part of Minneapolis near Columbia Height, this five span Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections is one of the last bridges of its kind to span the railroad yard in the Midwest. Built in 1925, the 530 foot long bridge is built in a 40° skew, another rarity one can find in the region, if not the country!  Despite the lack of information about the bridge- thanks largely in part to missing plaques on the end posts of the bridge- the Northtown Bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as it is located on the Grand Rounds of Parkways and crosses a historic railyard owned by Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railways- all of which have been considered nationally historic!

Yet this unique structure is in serious trouble. Both the City of Minneapolis and the Federal Highway Administration want the bridge removed and replaced, despite opposition from residents and the Minnesota Historical Society. Yet the decision to replace the bridge took many years to make due to series of studies conducted plus the debate over the cost between rehabilitation versus replacement.

In the meantime, the bridge has suffered a great deal, both in its outer appearance as well as with the decking. Officials at BNSF and the City of Minneapolis revealed in their surveys that the bridge is corroding, especially in the decking because of the trains passing underneath the structure combined with the use of salt in the winter time. Furthermore, the upper part of the bridge has sustained substantial damage to the portal bracing and upper chord, probably caused by trucks trying to cross the bridge despite height restrictions. A pair of photos in this article combined with a link to more photos (shown here) reveal a close-up view of the damage to the bridge.

As the city is actively pursuing a replacement bridge, pondering between a basket arch bridge similar to the Mississippi River Crossing at Lowry Avenue and a cable-stayed bridge similar to the Sabo Bridge, the question is what to do with the present structure, for even though one or two of the damaged spans are most likely going to be scrapped, the remaining spans have the potential to be reused, either along a bike trail in or around the Twin Cities area, or somewhere on a rural road for light vehicles, as has been done before. It may be possible that because of its historic status, the city may save only one of the spans, relocate it and reuse, as was the case with the Broadway Avenue Bridge in 1987, when one of the spans was relocated to its Merriam Street location, which still serves traffic to this day.

While the replacement plans are in the starting phase, the plans regarding the future of the present  St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is still open. So let’s take a look at the bridge and ask ourselves this question:

What would you do with the current St. Anthony Parkway Bridge?

a. Relocate the remaining truss spans to rural locations- and if so, which areas would be potential candidates?

b. Relocate the trusses to the bike trail in and around the Twin Cities area- and if so, which bike trails could use a historic bridge?

c. Relocate the trusses to the bike trails elsewhere in Minnesota and the surrounding states- and if so, which ones need a historic bridge?

d. Relocate one of the trusses to a street location, like the Merriam Street Bridge- if so, which street in Minneapolis would be a candidate

e. Keep one of the trusses and relocate it to a nearby park

f. Other options

Please place your comments here, on the facebook pages or send your comments via e-mail. However, just as important as replacing the bridge is addressing the importance of saving the truss bridge to the state historical society and other state agencies, as well as organizations that specialize in bridge rehabilitation so that they have a chance to think about the options and support your decision. A link to MNHS is enclosed here, if you want to talk to the personnel about it.

When there is a will, there is a way to save a historic landmark that is part of a bigger district. While the city parks administrator would like a new crossing that is a signature for the City of Minneapolis, would it not be better to have a relict of history be saved that is just as big a signature for the city and its historic district as the new bridge? Minneapolis has a lot of history that can be reached by bike, foot or car and St. Anthony Parkway Bridge is one of those that deserves its place in history, live and in person…


Side view of the Warren trusses and its skewed configuration
Close-up of the damage to the easternmost span of the bridge. Look closely at the portal and sway bracing. This span will surely be scrapped regardless of the outcome of the entire bridge.