Coming into Valley City, North Dakota from the north, I passed under this amazing railroad bridge. On the way back out of town after a stop for gas and a little breakfast, I pulled over and investigated the bridge with my camera. And then I hit up the internet to learn more…
Built from 1906-1908 to flatten out the railroad routing, this bridge was the longest high bridge in the world when it opened for traffic. It’s still one of the longest, highest single-track railroads in the world. It’s still the longest railroad bridge in North Dakota.
The structure is beautiful in its symmetry and engineering. There are 30 steel towers supporting 61 spans, with the whole bridge using 14 *million* pounds of steel. It must have been worth the effort to the railroad to avoid the steep grades in and out of the Sheyenne Valley.
The bridge used to be critical infrastructure for the coast-to-coast railroad network, especially during the world wars. Soldiers guarded it during both wars, that’s how key it was to production.
There’s something about a bridge I can’t resist, especially when the design is so visible. I’m not sure the engineers were going for beauty; they were probably way more focused on functionality. The end result, though, is both beautiful and functional. More than 100 years old, it’s still used by the BNSF railroad on a regular basis.
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The slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries.