Historic Bridges in the Bessemer Area

The Bessemer Bridges were built around and for the railroads.   This page contains some little-known Bessemer facts as well as facts from the bridges and railroad websites.  Please refer to these websites listed on the Resource Link Page for more information.

SPECIAL NOTE: Most photos on this page were taken by a Bessemer historian and photographer, James Rouse.

First Avenue Truss Bridge

This was the Soo Line Railroad Bridge over 1st Avenue in Bessemer constructed by the Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Campany in 1986. It is 225 feet long. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Structure #80004782. No other TRUSS bridge of this style is known to exist.

The bridge is one of only two known railroads over highway grade separations in Michigan to utilize a truss structure. This bridge is significant for its design. Utilizing lightweight members and chords, this bridge has a primitive look. The end posts are vertical and short, which is unusual. The bridge is supported by a wooden substructure. The bridge is on the IronBelle non-mortized trail easily walkable from the Heritage Center.


Artesian Spring - Located below and adjacent to the bridge flows an Artesian spring year around.  Residents, to this day, collect clear pristine water for drinking.

The Jungles -   In the 1890's homeless and penniless vagabond (Hobo's who traveled the country by jumping on railcars) found refuge below and to the north of this bridge.  The local residents at the time called it - THE HOBO JUNGLE.  To this day, this area below the bridge is referred to as THE JUNGLES. The area provided a dry shady place to rest; out of the way so as not to attract attention; and, water from the spring for drinking and bathing.

Mine Street Railroad Overpass

This bridge is only a block east of the First Avenue Bridge and is also a Soo Line Bridge. The Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Company constructed this bridge in1899. It is 10' wide and 100' long, resting on two steel piers and concrete abutments. Two steel deck girder rather than wood posts hold the approach, each 25' long.

This is known as a plate girder overpass. There are steel supports for the main span. The design is a bit unusual because the girders are not completely under the deck, and are instead positioned at the edge of the deck and the girders are flush with the top of the deck.

The bridge is on the Iron Belle non-motorized trail easily walkable from the Heritage Center.


The Siemens Bridge, 126 feet long, was designed by the WI bridge & Iron Co and built in 1896 for the Soo Line Railroad. This bridge is located near an old rail yard. This is where the Soo line and the Chicago & Northwestern cross over each other. This bridge is an example of a Baltimore riveted truss. The bridge is short. It was abandoned in 1997.

The bridge is part of a non-motorized trail (part of the Iron Belle Trail) and below the old Chicago Northwetern railroad grade is retained as a dirt trail accessed by 4-wheelers and snow mobiles.

Powder Mill Creek Bridges

The above photos are of the Powder Mill Creek Bridge located on the Iron Belle Trail.

The stone arch below the non-motorized trail remains in good condition and has historic integrity. Most people would never know what lies beneath the Powdermill Creek on the Iron Belle Trail. This is from the abandoned Soo Line Bridge over the Creek. It is an example of small-scale railroad concrete arch construction. The Concrete Closed Spandrel Deck Arch has one fixed main span.

TRIVIA NOTE:  How Powder Mill Creek Got It's Name
In Bessemer's early days the numerous mines needed explosives as well as clearning the woods for houses and roads.  The blasting process for the mines and blowing up stumps required large quantities of explosives and Powder Mills were established.  One of them, which began in 1886 was the Gogebic Powder Co.  It wa built on a creek west of Bessemer near what is now known as the Yale Location.  The river later became known as Powder Mill Creek.

NorthWestern RailRoad Powder Mill Creek Bridge

The bridge above is also on the Powdermill Creek and is a HIDDEN TREASURE that not many people know about. The 12'x15' limestone arch bridge is over Powder Mill Creek on the C&NW about 400 yards west of the Industrial Access Road crossing. This bridge is on the motorized trail behind Koski Collision Company off the industrial park road. It is a smaller version of the Ramsay Keystone Bridge. The Historic Bridges web site calls this the abandoned Chicago Northwestern RR Powder Mill Creek bridge.

Ramsay Keystone Bridge 

National Register of Historic Places
Structure # 80004781.

The one-arch KEYSTONE railroad bridge over the Black River is in Ramsay in Bessemer Township. It is considered by many historians as one of the most beautiful of its kind in the world. One of the stones in this bridge is the "keystone" which serves as the vital spot around which the arch is constructed. The keystone of the arch is the last stone set and ties the two other sections together, helping to equalize the pressure on all sides of the arch.

The Keystone Bridge was constructed in 1891 by Chicago and Northwest Railroad at a cost of $48,322. The bridge was built without mortar on a solid rock foundation. The bridge consists of a series of arches, with each arch having a center keystone at the top to lock in the entire structure. The 5 foot thick blocks used to construct the bridge are limestone, which was brought from Kaukauna, Wisconsin. The bridge is 45 feet long, 44 feet wide, 57 feet high, with 50 foot walls. This bridge carried mining and logging materials across the Black River. Millions of tons of freight shipped by rail passed over the arch bridge. The bridge is structurally sound and is located behind the Bessemer Township Hall across from Ramsay Park.


Main Street Bridge also referred to as First Street Bridge
Photos by Jim Rouse
National Register of Historic Places 1999
Structure # 99001514

The Ramsay Main Street Bridge was built in 1922-23 by P. N. Massie. It is comprised of a 50-foot concrete through girder, flanked on both sides by similarly configured 40-foot girders.   Concrete girders were generally used for much smaller crossings without a valley thus making this three-span bridge a noteworthy exception.

It is the largest remaining example of a straight chord through girder bridge in Michigan with a span of 50 feet & a length of 130 feet. Other than minor concrete spalling, the Ramsay Bridge remains essentially unaltered and in physically good condition.