Taking care of business, 120 feet up: Bridge deck replacement goes without a hitch
At BNSF, we’re a team of tough-minded optimists, and nothing gets us revved up like a good challenge.
Our Engineering Structures team on the Montana Division responded with a “Challenge accepted!” when it was time to replace the entire deck of the Gassman Coulee Trestle rail bridge in North Dakota, about 5 miles west of Minot.
The deck runs the entire 1,823-foot length of this steel trestle bridge. The original bridge was all lumber and built by BNSF predecessor Great Northern Railway, which arrived in Minot in 1886. In August 1889 the wooden trestle bridge was destroyed, either by high winds or a tornado. It was replaced by steel in 1899 in a design known as deck plate girder.
What makes this bridge especially important is that it’s the lone piece of single track with either multiple subdivisions or multiple mainlines for at least 100 miles in either direction, so it was very important for us and our customers to get the recent work done to minimize train traffic disruption.
The crews rose to the challenge and safely built the new deck that’s nearly 120-feet in the air (like standing on top of a 12-story building). Just as important, they completed it ahead of the peak of harvest season on a line that is a major thoroughfare for grain moving to West Coast ports.
“The most challenging part of this project was the precise coordination and focus required between multiple teams to plan and execute the project plan in a compressed timeframe,” said Shane O’Keefe, Structures supervisor, Engineering.
That coordination was between our Engineering and Transportation teams, who together developed the most efficient plan for Engineering work windows to minimize impacts to trains while finishing the job safely, completely and on time. The team also built new walkways on both sides of the bridge for a safer and more efficient means for accessing portions of the bridge for maintenance work in the future.
“I’m proud to report the team completed this challenge in less than half the time we originally planned without a single incident,” said O’Keefe.