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Northwestern Railroad Bridge

Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railroad Bridge

Northwestern Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): John Marvig

Bridge Documented: May 12, 2012

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (Abandoned) Over Chippewa River
Eau Claire: Eau Claire County, Wisconsin: United States
Structure Type
Metal 17 Panel Rivet-Connected Lattice (Quintuple Warren) Deck Truss, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1880 By Builder/Contractor: Leighton Bridge and Iron Works of Rochester, New York

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
180 Feet (55 Meters)
Structure Length
890 Feet (271 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
4 Main Span(s) and 2 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This is one of the most significant historic bridges in Wisconsin, and the bridge should be considered nationally significant. The four main truss spans give this bridge its significance. Constructed in 1880, they are some of the oldest known railroad lattice truss spans remaining in the country, and because of their rigid connections, are also among the oldest rivet-connected trusses in the country. Also noteworthy is the extremely unusual shape of the truss: the distance between the top chord is lesser than the distance between the bottom chords, giving the bridge a trapezoid-shaped section. Perhaps the most unique and significant aspect of the trusses however is the quintuple intersection Warren truss configuration. Nearly all surviving lattice truss bridges are only quadruple intersection Warren trusses. The bridge is one of the few known surviving examples of bridges built by the Leighton Bridge and Iron Works of Rochester, New York.

The bridge is 82 feet above the river, and the truss spans have a depth of 30.7 feet.

The bridge was originally built ca. 1870 and was a wooden Howe through truss bridge with timber approach spans. In 1880, the Leighton Bridge and Iron Works of Rochester, New York built the existing lattice truss main spans, as well as two 80 foot iron Howe deck truss approach spans. The approach spans were replaced in 1898 by Lassig Bridge and Iron Works of Chicago, Illinois with deck plate girder spans. The lattice truss spans were repaired at this time as well.

The bridge was abandoned in 1992 ownership given to Eau Claire in 2007. The abandoned bridge is slated to become a rail-trail. Aside from the ancient replacement of the approach spans, this bridge appears to be largely unaltered.

Below is an 1882 historical photo showing the original approach spans for the truss bridge. 


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