Seeley Creek Bridge Completed

Passengers Take First Trip Across New Bridge

On Saturday, May 11, 2019, Mid-Continent Railway Museum celebrated the first crossing of its new bridge over Seeley Creek bridge. The bridge measures nearly 100 feet in length and is located along Mid-Continent’s train ride route near the quiet unincorporated town of La Rue – once a bustling iron mining community.

Museum members and the public were invited aboard the first train to cross the bridge, which departed the North Freedom depot at 11 AM. Local government representatives and project contractors were joined by museum leaders in the train’s first-class cars. After the crossing, the train stopped just clear of the bridge to allow invited guests to view the bridge up close while project leaders gave a brief speech before the train continued on its way.

New Seeley Creek Bridge.Taken May 3, 2019. MCRM Photo.

 

 

At a total cost of over $800,000, the bridge represents one of the larger infrastructure improvements ever undertaken by the organization in its 60-year history and comes less than a year after the completion of a major rehabilitation of the museum’s other bridge over the Baraboo River, which itself was a nearly $700,000 project. The two projects were made possible thanks to major financial support from private foundations and individuals and the Sauk County Economic Development Committee.

Balancing History with Usability

The new bridge, made of concrete and steel, replaces a wooden trestle that had been in use since 1927. Decay of the wooden components over time had weakened the structure. The bridge had been closely monitored by structural engineers and it was expected that the weight limit would need to be lowered within a matter of few years. This would have effectively closed the bridge to all train traffic.

One of Mid-Continent Railway Museum’s “Santa Express” trains rolls over the former Seeley Creek trestle on December 2, 2018, the final day of use of the wooden trestle. MCRM Photo.

Repairing the existing bridge was an option, but the shorter lifespan of wooden components would have locked Mid-Continent into a continuing cycle of expensive maintenance on the bridge every 20-30 years. Finding a design that could easily withstand flash flooding on Seeley Creek was also an important consideration due to increasing numbers of extreme weather events in recent years. Lastly, the anticipated return of steam locomotive operation to Mid-Continent’s rail line also meant that fire-resistance had to be considered as well. Given these factors, museum leaders looked to long-lasting and relatively maintenance-free steel and concrete bridges as the safest and most economical choice.

Ballast-deck design bridges began to appear in common use on the Chicago & North Western Railway in the 1920s. The general design has remained largely unchanged since that time and many such bridges constructed in that era remain in use today. The new Seeley Creek bridge is expected to not require more than minor maintenance during its first 100 years. Cosmetic details of the bridge such as the shape of the concrete tubs, pier caps, and reinforcing walls were modeled after designs of the 1920s versus more current designs to keep the bridge’s appearance as era-appropriate as possible.

This ex-Chicago & North Western Railway Bridge over South Blvd. in Baraboo, Wis. was built in 1928. It was one of many such ballast-deck bridges that inspired the design of the new Seeley Creek bridge. MCRM photo.

With the new Seeley Creek bridge and rehabilitated Baraboo River bridge both complete, Mid-Continent Railway Museum can look forward to offering historic train rides for many decades to come without any major investments in bridge maintenance.

Related Posts

Seeley Creek Bridge Replacement Underway

Seeley Creek Bridge Replacement Underway

UPDATE 5/4/2019

Construction of the new Seeley Creek Bridge is functionally complete. Only some minor landscaping and other small details are yet to take place in the coming weeks.

Join us for a first ride over the new bridge on May 11, 2019. The first train will depart North Freedom at 11:00 AM. Due to the step embankment on both sides of the track at the bridge’s location, there will not be a ribbon cutting ceremony. Instead, the train will slow or stop on top of the bridge for a short while to allow viewing from the train and will then continue on its normal schedule to Quartzite Lake and return to North Freedom.

MCRHS members can ride for free during this special trip. Public is also welcome aboard the first train to cross the bridge for the normal coach ticket rate of $20/adult, $17/senior, $15/student, and $10/children (3-12 yrs).

Tickets will be available at the depot ticket window starting at 9:30 AM that day. Tickets can also be purchased online using the Buy Tickets page.


UPDATE 3/20/2019

Construction is on schedule to be completed in time for the start of our season on May 11th. Join us for the first ride across the new bridge on May 11th aboard the 11 AM departure! Head over to the Buy Tickets page to reserve your tickets aboard the first train!


ORIGINAL POST

As our trains travel to Quartzite Lake, a scenic feature is crossing Seeley Creek, which is nestled in a wooded area near La Rue approximately two-thirds of the way to the end of the line at Quartzite Lake. This bridge has been in place on Mid-Continent’s rail line since 1927, serving us well for many, many years.

The piles of this bridge are over 90 years old, and the timber is over 50 years old. There is also a sharp “kink” in the track near the east side of the bridge that cannot easily be fixed with the placement of the existing bridge. In short, it was time for replacement!

bridge on Seeley Creek trestle

The 90+ year old Seeley Creek trestle’s last day in service was during Mid-Continent’s Santa Express event, Dec. 2, 2018. Jeffrey Lentz photo.

Engineering of a new bridge was completed by SW Engineers in fall 2018 and bid requests sent. The low bid was received from Lunda Construction of Black River Falls, WI., and was accepted. Construction began in December, with a completion date expected just prior to the opening of our new season in May of this year.

engineering plan view

Design of new ballast-deck design bridge over Seeley Creek.

The new bridge will be made of steel and concrete, fire resistant, and with new track alignment over the bridge and approaches. Thanks to the new bridge the stream crossing will remain a highlight of the train route for many, many more years!

Full funding for the this new bridge has already been pledged and comes from private foundations and parties, along with a grant from Sauk County.

partially removed trestle

Removal of the old Seeley Creek trestle. Jan. 11, 2019. Jeffrey Lentz photo.

aerial view of bridge site

Aerial view (looking north) of Seeley Creek work site. Jan. 11, 2019. Jeffrey Lentz photo.