Arsonist destroys state’s longest trestle bridge

Debra Kellner | State Historic Preservation Office

From the “Department of We Can’t Have Nice Things” comes word that the longest trestle bridge still standing in Minnesota has burned, thanks to the work of an arsonist.

The Blackduck trestle, spanning Coburn Creek, was a favorite of snowmobilers and hikers, the Bemidji Pioneer reports.

The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “Minnesota and International Railway Trestle at Blackduck.” M&I was a subsidiary of Northern Pacific that provided a rail link between Bemidji and Koochiching, which is now International Falls, according to the National Register.

“The land in this region of north central Minnesota is dense pine forest punctuated with terrain comprised of swamp and marshland. The marshland proved difficult to traverse and required the erection of timber trestles to span the otherwise impassable sinkholes frequently encountered on the route,” the Register states.

“The M&I Railway Trestle at Blackduck is historically significant for its method of construction and the considerable length required to span Coburn Creek and the surrounding marsh. It is the longest structure on the former M&I and is widely recognized as the most difficult bridge the railroad had to build.”

The bridge was constructed between 1901-1902 by veteran bridge builder, Frank O’Brien, according to the Register application. The Minnesota Department of Transportation took ownership of the bridge in 1992, after the railroad ceased operation, and the bridge was converted for pedestrians and recreational vehicles as part of the Blue Ox Trail.

Can it be rebuilt? Would we even know how?