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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Milwaukee Road Railroad Bridge
Minnehaha Creek Railroad Crossing
Minneapolis, MN

Milwaukee Road Railroad Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 0.10.
• River Elevation: 799 Feet.
• Structure Type: Railroad Bridge (Abandoned).
• Construction: Concrete Arch.
• Length: 68 Feet (Estimated), 32 Foot Longest Span (Estimated).
• Width: 16 Feet (Estimated), 1 Track.
• Height Above Water: ??? Feet.
• Date Built: Earlier bridges at this location date back to 1865.
When railroads were first built in the Twin Cities, there was no direct rail route between the passenger depots in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. The Mississippi River and its deep gorge was an insurmountable obstacle at the time. Passenger trains that left Saint Paul for Minneapolis would head down the tracks along Shepard Road, cross the Mississippi River on Bridge #15, go through Mendota and Lilydale, across the Minnesota River at the present day site of the Mendota Bridge, along the base of the bluffs in front of Fort Snelling, and then northwest into Minneapolis following the present day route of Hiawatha Avenue. There were stations at Fort Snelling and in Minnehaha Park.

This roundabout route was impractical as traffic between the cities started to pick up. To address the problem, the Milwaukee Road Railroad built the Short Line route in 1880. This route heads down Shepard Road, follows the route of Ayd Mill Road, skirts both sides of I-94, crosses the Mississippi River between Franklin Avenue and Lake Street, and then heads into Minneapolis along Hiawatha Avenue to the depot on Washington Avenue. The centerpiece of this route is the 1,164 foot long Sort Line Bridge over the Mississippi River.

After the Short Line opened, the bridge over the Minnesota River was abandoned. The station at Fort Snelling was abandoned shortly after that. The station at Minnehaha Park remained in operation, and on the weekend, it saw as many as 30 trains per day bringing in upwards of a million visitors a year to the park to see the world famous Minnehaha Falls.

Today, the Milwaukee Road exists only as a memory, having long since been merged into the Soo Line and later the Canadian Pacific Railway. The tracks heading south out of Minnehaha Park is now the Fort Snelling State Trail. The tracks north of the Minnehaha Creek have been removed up to 45th Street. All that remains is this lonely concrete arch bridge, a few hundred feet of overgrown track, and the Minnehaha Depot in Minnehaha Park. The depot operated as a passenger depot up to 1920, and it served as a freight agency until 1963. It was then donated Minnesota Historical Society and is now operated by the Minnesota Transportation Museum on Sunday afternoons. The last train that I saw run over this bridge was a single Soo Line Locomotive that was brought into Minnehaha Park as a display for a Soo Line Railroad company picnic. I don't recall the date, but I think it was in the mid-1990s.

The Short Line route did not fare much better. Amtrak now stops at a depot on Cleveland Avenue, so the western segment of the Short Line is mostly abandoned. Only a few industries still ship by rail on the west side of the river, so the magnificent Short Line Bridge now sees only one or two small trains per week.

The photo above is the upstream west face of the Milwaukee Road Bridge as seen from the roof of the tunnel over Hiawatha Avenue on the north side of the Minnehaha Creek.

Milwaukee Road Railroad Bridge
The photo above is the downstream east side of the Milwaukee Road Bridge as seen from the nearby Minnehaha Avenue Bridge over the Minnehaha Creek. The photo below is looking north along the upstream west side of the structure. While the concrete is worn and chipped, the bridge is still structurally sound.

Milwaukee Road Railroad Bridge
Milwaukee Road Railroad Bridge
The photo above is looking south down the length of the deck of the Milwaukee Road Bridge. The photo below is looking north down the length of the bridge deck. The building in the distance is the Longfellow House, a 2/3 scale replica of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Milwaukee Road Railroad Bridge

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