NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY - FARGO, N D


DEPARTMENT OF GEOSCIENCES, NDSU

TOILS ON WEAK SOILS:

A PHOTO-ESSAY ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE STOCKWOOD FILL (1906 - 1909),
PART I:

INTRODUCTION



"The problem of raising from the Red River Valley
eastward is . . . of particular importance as that will
be the limiting grade on about 550 miles of main line."

Letter from Northern Pacific Chief Engineer E.J. Pearson to N.P. President H. Elliot, April 11, 1905.


[Outline map of Minnesota]
Straddling the border between Minnesota and North Dakota is the Red River Valley: a vast flatland that once represented the floor of an ancient glacial lake (Lake Agassiz). Despite the featureless topography of the Valley, settlers were drawn here by the remarkable fertility of its soils.
Railroad development accompanied settlement. By 1872, tracks of the Northern Pacific (N.P.) Railway reached the Red River. Initial construction closely followed topography, resulting in many steep grades which slowed traffic and often forced uphill assistance by pusher engines.
Among the problem grades was a 3.5 mile long, 0.75% eastbound rise from the Red River Valley to the glacial uplands surrounding the plain. In 1906, N.P. engineers decided to construct a huge earthen embankment (the "Stockwood Fill") rising a distance of 7.3 mi.
Driving piles for the Stockwood Fill, ca. spring, 1906.

S.P. Wange photo, © Clay County Hist.Soc.

[Driving piles for Stockwood Fill]

Most of this length would involve building a wooden trestle, inclined to the height of the intended grade. Trains carrying sand and gravel could then pass onto the trestle, dump their loads, and thus bury the trestle to form a permanent, earthen embankment. The trestle would require over 2 million board feet of lumber and would rise up to 50 ft in places. Local road access through the fill would be via a 125 ft long, 16 ft high concrete archway.

[Construction of archway]

Construction of the concrete archway and surrounding trestle, station #1262, Stockwood Fill, ca. early summer, 1906.

Northern Pacific Railway Company, Engineering Records, © Minnesota Historical Society


The Railroad survey crews marked "stations" every 100 ft along this zone of the N.P. line, with the station numbers increasing from east to west. The N.P. engineering division placed S.A. McCoy in charge, with an overall project budget of $2,133,000 and an expectation that the embankment would be completed within two years. In April, 1906, construction of the Stockwood Fill began.

CONTINUE



[ Homepage ]     [ Part II ]     [ Part III ]     [ Part IV ]