Tucked under the Robert Street bridge (on which more tomorrow) is the span I affectionately have always called the Greasy Black Vertical-Lift Rail Bridge.
Oh, it has a real name and all – the St. Paul Union Pacific Vertical-lift Rail Bridge – but that hardly matters, does it?
Railroad bridges are as purely utilitarian as a structure can get; there’s not a scrap of wasted, ornamental or decorative metal anywhere on this bridge.
Now, I’m kind of a fumblefinger as a handyman. Raising a bridge?
The bridge was originally built by the Chicago Great Western Railroad, which later became part of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. The Robert Street Bridge, built later in 1926, had to be carefully engineered around the railroad bridge.
With results that are, frankly, kinda cool – but we’ll get to that tomorrow.
In April 1997, high water on the Mississippi River reached the bottom of the span. The Union Pacific Railroad spotted a train of hopper cars laden with rocks on the bridge to help anchor it and keep it from being washed away.
Truth be told, the Greasy Black Vertical-lift Rail Bridge isn’t all that interesting on its own. It’s the efforts made to work around it that are kinda cool.
But we’ll get to that tomorrow.