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The River Spanned

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The Winona Weekly Republican
June 24, 1891


Completion of the New Railway Bridge at Winona.

A Graceful Structure Spans the Father of Waters.

It is the Second of its Kind Built at this City.

History of the Enterprise from its Inception to Close.



Within the next fortnight the second railway bridge across the Mississippi river at Winona will have reached successful completion. It has been not quite a year in erection, and is now so nearly done that trains could run across it if the approach side were finished. It is expected to have the first train across Tuesday or Wednesday. That this bridge will be an important factor in building up Winona's industries is an admitted fact, but the full measure of the benefit derived will not be known until it is put into every-day use. It will be used jointly by the Chicago, Burlington and northern, Green Bay, Winona, and Saint Paul, and the Winona and Southwestern railways and will form a link to a great transcontinental route of which the Southwestern will be an important part, and Winona one of the important division points. Merchandise from the east, north, and even the southeast will be brought here over the Burlington and Green Bay roads and shipped in a southwesterly direction over the Winona and Southwestern, which in a few years when it shall have reached further to the south and west will have important connections with many of the great trunk lines. The building of the railway bridge will undoubtedly result in bringing new lines of road to Winona. The Milwaukee. Lake Shore, and Western, with an eye to the rich country opened up for trade by the Winona and Southwestern, has already has already made arrangements to build from Wausau to Marshfield, and from there will reach Winona over the Chicago, Saint Paul and Minneapolis road to Merrillan, and from there to Winona over the Green Bay road. By means of this road, Winona and that portion of the southwest reached by the Southwestern road will have much more direct access to the rich iron, copper and lumbering regions of Northern Wisconsin. It is almost certain, also, that the projected road from Eau Claire to Ashland, a portion of which is already built, will be extended south to the Mississippi river. This can be done by building some thirty miles from Eau Claire to Independence on the Green Bay road. Eau Claire would then be brought some sixty miles nearer to Winona by rail than at present. Other railways in the future desiring access to Winona from the Wisconsin side of the river, or an outlet in that direction, can secure it over this bridge, which, according to the act of Congress authorizing its construction, is open to all railroads upon payment of a reasonable toll. If the owners of the bridge and such railroad companies cannot agree as to what is a reasonable toll, the Secretary of War has the power to determine the same. This is the first railway bridge built across the Mississippi river on which such a regulation has been placed. On all other such bridges the companies owning the structures have the power to fix the charges, and other companies desiring the use of the bridge must submit. The benefit that this will accrue to the city from this special provision is apparent.

Winona is an ambitious city in the matter of bridges. Not content with one railroad bridge she has secured another, and is now planning for a high wagon bridge to bind her still closer to tributary territory in Wisconsin. As Captain Van Sant has remarked, on completion of the wagon bridge Winona can truthfully be called the City of Bridges, having more than any other city on the Upper Mississippi river below St. Paul and Minneapolis.


The project of building a second railway bridge over the Mississippi river took definite shape in the Spring of 1888, when the matter was carefully considered by the directors of the Winona and Southwestern railway, the construction of which road was not begun until the Fall of that year. The requisite act of Congress authorizing the construction of the bridge was secured on August 13th of that year by the Southwestern Railway Company, who were allowed the privilege of turning the grant over to their assigns. The cat as passed authorized the construction of a high or draw railway, or combined railway and wagon bridge, and provided that the construction of the bridge should be begun within two years from the date of the passage of the bill and be completed in four years. In 1889 the necessary auxiliary legislation was obtained from the Legislatures of Wisconsin and Minnesota. In the Spring of 1890 the plan of the bridge and its location as prepared and chosen by Engineer D. M. Wheeler was approved by the Secretary of War. All the preliminary preparation was made by the Winona and Southwestern Railway company. About the time of the approval of the location and plan, the Winona bridge Railway Company was organized as a Minnesota corporation to maintain a railway which should cross the bridge, have its eastern terminus in Wisconsin at a connection with the Burlington road, and its western terminus in Winona. This railway was to be an independent railway corporation to construct an operate a line of road over two miles in length with terminal facilities on both sides of the river. In this Bridge Railway company the Winona and Southwestern, the Chicago, Burlington and Northern, and the Green Bay, Winona and St. Paul are equally and jointly interested and represented, and have furnished the funds for the construction of the bridge railway and bridge. The general offices of the Bridge Railway Co. are in Winona. The officers and directors are as follows:
President - Matthew G. Norton
Vice-President - Joseph Walker, Jr.
Secretary - Henry W. Weiss
Treasurer - H. W. Lamberton
Directors - Benj. G. Clark, New York; Edward F. Hatfield, New York; Geo. B. Harris, Chicago; Joseph W. Losey, la Crosse, Wis.; H. W. Lamberton, Winona; M. G. Norton, Winona; J. C. Peasley, Chicago; V. Simpson, Winona; Jos. Walker Jr., New York.

After creation of this company the Winona and Southwestern Railway Co. transferred all its rights and franchises granted by an act of Congress and by the Legislatures of Minnesota and Wisconsin to the Winona bridge Railway Co., which company is now the owner and holder of said grant. The bridge Railway Co. has executed separately to the Winona and Southwester, Green Bay, Winona, and St. Paul, and the Chicago, Burlington and Northern railway companies leases for crossing the bridge.

The contract for the construction of the bridge was let last Summer under an agreement to have it completed by March 1, 1891. The precise cost of the bridge and approaches is not given out by the company, but the estimated cost was $440,000, which amount is probably not far from the actual figures. The work of construction was begun on August 1, 1890, and nearly four months additional beyond the specified time has been required for the completion of the bridge.

It is but just and proper in this connection to state that the charter granted by congress for this bridge the legislation of the States on each shore of the river, and all other documents and legal muniments by which this great enterprise was brought into being and given a potential existence, were prepared by Thos. Simpson, Esq., of the Winona and Southwestern Railway Co., and the drawings and plan of the bridge structure, together with the selection of its location as approved by the Secretary of war, the careful and painstaking work of Mr. D. M. Wheeler, chief engineer of the same company.


The bridge proper is a graceful structure, consisting of four spans, which are modifications of the Pratt truss. The bridge is located a short distance below where the river turns to the southeast, the Minnesota pile approach being about a block below the old Keyes residence. The track of the Winona bridge Railway Co. starts on this side of the river at a connection with the Chicago, Burlington, and Northern road on the north line of Third street between Wall and Steuben, a block further west than the present connection of the southwestern road with Burlington. The track extends almost due east for 854 feet, and then in a 1 degrees and 30 minute curve 1,089 feet, turns to the north to the bridge. Grading is begun from the point of connection with the Burlington track, and when the trestle work is reached a grade of seven feet is necessary. The trestle work on this side is 270 feet long. Then comes the bridge proper, 1,260 feet long, and on the Wisconsin side a length trestle of 1,100 feet. Part of this trestle is in the 6 degree curve with which the road turns slightly to the east, so as to cross the Burlington track at right angles. From the end of the trestle to the Burlington track is 895 feet further. At the Burlington track the line of the Winona Bridge Railway Co. ends, and though the track is continues beyond that point, it is then the property of the Green Bay company. The entire length of the line of the bridge Railway Co. is 5,440 feet. At the intersection of the two roads the station of East Winona is located, having been moved up a half mile from its old location. Tracks have also been constructed which give the Burlington and Northern road easy access from its main line to the track of the Bridge Railway Co. On the Winona side of the river the terminal facilities will be more extensive, the 37 4-10 acres of the Keyes estate recently condemned by the Bridge Railway Co. being used for that purpose.

The bridge proper, as before stated, is a modification of a Pratt truss bridge, and consists of four spans supported on six stone piers. The two spans nearest the Wisconsin side are each 240 feet long. Then comes what is known as the raft span, 360 feet long, and then the draw span, 420 feet long. The piers are as solid pieces of masonry work as stone and mortar can make them. They rest on grillage on piles driven 25 feet below the cutting off point. The stone work in all begins three feet below low water mark, and is continued to eight feet above high water mark. The width under the coping of the four piers beyond the draw is 8 feet and there is a distance of 22 feet at the top and 32 feet at the base. These four piers north of the pivot pier are all alike. They are much larger at the base than at the top. At the lower end they rise perpendicular, while at the upper end, where the current of the river strikes, they slope gradually and, being rounded, resemble the halves of conical frustums. A tick tier of stone is laid around the outside of the pier, while the inside of the pier is filled with composition, which, when it hardens, is said to make the pier as solid as if it were on stone, and much stronger than it made of common stone. The pier on this side of the draw, designated as No. 8, is a pier square at both ends, consisting of fifteen courses of stone. Its construction is much lighter than that of the other piers, because it is near the shore where there is little current. The pivot pier on which the draw span turns is circular in form, 30 feet in diameter, with the stone coping on top five feet lower than the other spans to allow for the turning machinery. The rests for the open draw are protected by piling and heavy fender work. The protection crib at the upper end is 30 feet wide, 30 feet high, and 46 feet long. It is held in place by 2,000 cubic yards of stone.

From the pier on this side a sheer boom 850 feet long extends westward at a slight angle to the shore, so that the smooth walls on both sides rafts can experience little trouble in passing through the draw.

The bridge is constructed partly of iron and partly of steel. The tie bars and stiff boom chords are of steel on all spans. All other parts are of wrought iron. A Pratt truss, briefly described, is one in which the vertical parts are in contraction and the diagonals are in tension. The modification in this bridge consists of having the upper horizontal take the form of a curve instead of a straight line. The following is a brief and somewhat technical description of the various spans:

Draw span, 420 feet long - 14 panels of 30 feet; 1 center panel of 20 feet; heights 25 feet at end posts to 50 feet at center posts. It is capable of bearing a moving load of 3,000 pounds per lineal foot and a dead load of 2,600 pounds.

The 240 foot fixed span - 8 panels of 30 feet each, width center to center of trusses, 17 feet; heights 25, 32 1/2, 37 and 38 1/2 feet to centers of chords. It is capable of bearing a moving load of 3,000 pounds per lineal foot and a dead load of 2,000.

The 300 foot fixed span - 12 panels of 30 feet each; width center to center of trusses, 20 feet. Can bear a moving load of 3,000 pounds per lineal foot and a dead load of 2,700.

In the center of the draw span and the first panel on each side top chord bars are substituted for the stiff top chords elsewhere used. The draw span rests on a drum, which revolves on an iron track on the pivot pier. It is operated by a double cylinder 20 horse power steam engine built by the Vulcan Iron Works of Chicago, with a boiler to match. The draw is fastened at the ends by means of cams, which when the draw is closed bring the weight of it at the ends upon piers. The weight of the bridge is 1,400 tons and it took 95 cars to transport it to Winona.


As previously stated, the contract for the construction of the bridge was let to the Union Bridge Co. The works of this company are located at Athens, Pa. The company is composed of the following gentlemen; Chas. McDonald, New York; C. S. Maurice, Athens; Gen. Geo. S. Field and Edmund Hayes, Buffalo. The work was begun Aug 1, 1890, and since that time an average of 60 men have been furnished employment in the city in its erection. It [obscured] little riveting and painting. It is to be painted a pure white.

The Fall and Winter were consumed in the erection of the piers. The first shipment of iron was received Feb. 18 and the last June 1. The delay has all been at the works in Athens. The specifications were very severe, and the cause for the delay was in getting iron that would stand the test. Mr. T. J. Long of St. Louis has represented the Union Bridge Co. in having charge of the work, D. M. Wheeler has been the chief engineer, and Geo. S. Morrison of Chicago the consulting engineer. The plans as originally submitted to the War Department were drawn by Mr. Wheeler. Mr. T.. W. Cartledge has been the foreman of the construction and Mr. F. Tench the bookkeeper. To all of these gentlemen great credit is due for the excellent and systematic manner in which the work has been constructed.

The steamer Little Hodie was employed during the early part of the construction in moving stone and timber and latterly in assisting rafts through the draw., which on account of the Burlington transfer landing is now rather difficult of passage. The stone came from the Gilmore Valley Stone Co. The piles were supplied by Hersey & Bean of Stillwater, the St. Paul Timber and Supply Co., and John McLeod of Ellsworth, Wis. Local firms furnished the lumber used in the grillage, draw protection and sheer boom.

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