Lowes Creek Trail Bridge

Fishbelly Deck Girder Bridge over Lowes Creek
Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin

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Name Lowes Creek Trail Bridge
Built By Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railway
Contractor (Fabrication) Unknown
Contractor (1931 Strengthening) Vierling Steel Works of Chicago
Currently Owned By Wisconsin DNR
Length 82 Feet Total, 54 Foot Main Span
Width 1 Track
Height Above Ground 10 Feet (Estimated)
Superstructure Type Fishbelly Deck Girder and Trestle
Substructure Type Timber Pile
Date Fabricated 1893
Original Location Bridge #I-824; Mosby, Missouri
Date Erected 1931
Traffic Count 0 Trains/Day (Bridge is a Trail)
Current Status Rails to Trails
MILW Bridge Number M-184
Significance Moderate Significance
Documentation Date March 2019
In 1882, the Chippewa Falls and Superior Railway wished to build from an existing line in Wabasha, Minnesota to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
The same year, the route was extended to Menomonie from Red Cedar Junction.
The route was completed to Chippewa Falls by 1883, but never was extended north to Superior. It was purchased by Milwaukee Road.
At Reeds Landing, a large pontoon bridge allowed bridges to cross the Mississippi River.
By 1882, the railroad was purchased by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. Known as the Milwaukee Road, this route became a spur for the railroad giant.
The Milwaukee Road was renamed the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific Railway in 1915. By 1951, the Pontoon Bridge was dealt a severe blow by ice, and the line was abandoned from Durand to Wabasha.

The remaining portion was purchased by the State of Wisconsin in 1979, and was operated by private owners. Despite the promise, a bridge strength issue in Eau Claire would not allow train operations to be feasible, and the route was abandoned in 1981.
In the 1980s, Wisconsin turned it into a trail, and by 2004 the trail was complete to Eau Claire. The Red Cedar branch is also used as a trail.
These trails are named the Chippewa Valley and Red Cedar State Trails.

Located on the far south side of Eau Claire near I-94 and WIS-37, this girder bridge carries the Chippewa River State Trail over Lowes Creek.
Originally built 1893 as an overflow span over Williams Creek at Bridge #I-824 near Mosby, Missouri; that bridge was replaced when the Milwaukee Road realigned their tracks through the area.
In 1931, the bridge was installed here after being cut from 60 feet to 54 feet. Other proposed secondhand spans included Bridge #U-762 and Bridge #C-522, both of which likely ended up elsewhere.
Currently, the bridge features the single 54-foot fishbelly deck girder span, set onto wooden piers and approached by a single trestle span on each side.
Fishbelly spans were commonly used to replace through trusses, as they could be manipulated to adjust for the height differences. However, the most common use was turntables. These spans were also used to save material, as the maximum bending moment is located at the center of the span, where the span is the thickest.
Overall, the bridge appears to be in fair condition, with little major deterioration noted.

The author has ranked this bridge as being moderately significant, due to the unique relocated span.
The photo above is an overview.


Source Type


Build Date Milwaukee Road Archives at the Milwaukee Central Library
Railroad Line History Source ICC Valuation Information, Compiled by Richard S. Steele

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