You are here

Chicago & North Western Railroad Bridge

-A A +A
1906–1907, Pennsylvania Steel Company with Arthur McMullen and Company. Spanning the Missouri River between Pierre and Fort Pierre.
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)

The Chicago and North Western (C&NW) Railroad Bridge, constructed in 1906–1907, was one of the first rail bridges to span the Missouri River in South Dakota, linking Pierre (Hughes County) and Fort Pierre (Stanley County) on either side of the river, and more broadly, connecting eastern South Dakota, Minnesota, and the upper Midwest to western part of the state. Indeed, the C&NW played a crucial role in the settlement of western South Dakota. Although the eastern part of the state had railroad service by the late nineteenth century, there were few lines in the west, where most of the land was closed to white settlement. By the early twentieth century, however, the government reduced the size of Native American reservations, opening the land for white settlement, and the C&NW quickly began laying tracks to Rapid City, the gateway to the Black Hills.

This bridge was South Dakota’s first permanent river crossing over the Missouri River. Measuring approximately 2,200 feet in length and 20 feet wide, the bridge consists of five pin-connected Pennsylvania through-truss spans, one of which was fitted as a swing span. The Pennsylvania truss was desirable for long spans carrying heavy loads. The four non-swing spans are each 350 feet long, while the swing span is 445 feet long. The Pennsylvania Steel Company fabricated and installed the superstructure, which rests on massive piers faced with ashlar granite from Ortonville, Minnesota; this substructure was built by Arthur McMullen and Company of New York City. The original approaches included timber trestles, but these were replaced in the 1920s with plate-deck girder structures fabricated by the Lassig Bridge and Iron Works of Chicago, Illinois. By the time of the bridge’s completion, the swing span, which was mandated by federal navigation laws, was rarely used since commercial riverboat traffic on this part of the Missouri River was virtually over. The swing span is no longer functional but the bridge has seen continuous rail service since its construction.


Grant, H. Roger. The North Western: A History of the Chicago and North Western Railway System. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1996.

Hufstetler, Mark, “Chicago & North Western Railroad Bridge,” Hughes County, South Dakota. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1998. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

Writing Credits

Michelle L. Dennis



  • 1906


What's Nearby


Michelle L. Dennis, "Chicago & North Western Railroad Bridge", [Pierre, South Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.

, ,