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No matter how mighty your locomotive is, it will need a bridge to cross a river. As a result, there are hundreds of railroad bridges scattered across the state of North Dakota. One very significant bridge is the High Line Bridge near Valley City.

The Northern Pacific Railroad had actually been going through the town of Valley City before building the bridge. The trains crossed the Sheyenne River on a low bridge, but then had an arduous climb up the steep river valley. To resolve this problem, they decided to build a tall bridge about a mile upstream. Work began on June 30th, 1906, and what a project it was. It took 14 million pounds of steel and 10,000 cubic feet of concrete to support the columns. Adding stability was 80,000 linear feet of wood. It took 160 men to do the work.

There’s some disagreement about the final measurements of the bridge. Some sources say it's 3,860 feet long and 162 feet above the river. Others say it’s 3,886 feet long and 155 feet high. Either way, at the time it was finished, it was the longest bridge of that height in the entire world.

The bridge was officially ready for service on May 8th, 1908, and the first train crossed it four days later on May 12th. On this date in 1908, the High Line Bridge was officially opened for regular service, and it remains in use to this very day.

The bridge was closely guarded during both world wars due its importance for transporting supplies. Company H from the North Dakota National Guard in Jamestown took on that duty for World War I. After Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II, the bridge was initially guarded by volunteers from the American Legion, VFW, and railroad personnel, but Company F of the North Dakota National Guard soon took over.

The High Line Bridge remains one of the longest and highest bridges in the United States. It is still recognized as an amazing feat of engineering, and in 2005 it was dedicated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Dakota Datebook by Lucid Thomas





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