The Twin Bridges of Fairview & Snowden

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Fairview 59221,Northeast Montana

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One of the oddities of Fairview is the pair of bridges just outside of town. The Fairview Bridge in North Dakota and its twin bridge, the Snowden Bridge in Montana were both obsolete before they were built. While both were designed as “lift” bridges, neither has ever had to be raised as commercial traffic on the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers had ceased years before 1913 when construction began. In spite of that, the federal government through the infinite wisdom of bureaucrats insisted that the lift functions of the bridges were a requirement. And so they were built. The only recorded time the bridge was raised was when it was tested at the completion of construction in 1914.

Over time, the bridges have served as a little-used branch line for passenger and freight trains. Passenger service saw its end in the 1950s and freight service ended around 1986. At one time planking was placed between the bridge rails so that automobiles could use the bridges. This was a problem as trains were still using the bridge. This necessitated a watchman at the bridge to control the traffic. Until 1937, the Great Northern charged a toll for cars using the bridge. The state took over the bridge at that time and assumed responsibility. The bridge continued to be used for auto traffic until a new highway bridge was built in 1955. These are the last two bridges of their kind in the country.

The Snowden Bridge stayed open to traffic until the mid-1980s and is used today as a branch line by the railroad.

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