Thank you to R. David Adams for submitting these photos of the Fairview Lift Bridge and the accompanying Cartwright Tunnel, between Cartwright, North Dakota and Fairview, Montana. This bridge is frequently confused with the Snowden Bridge, a few miles away in Montana, partly due to a similar history (each bridge has only been raised once) and construction. However, this bridge is distinct from the Snowden bridge when the Cartwright tunnel is taken into account. To our knowledge, the tunnel is the only train tunnel in the state of North Dakota.
As you’ll learn from Mr. Adams’ comments below each photo, this lift bridge was built to accommodate steamboat traffic on the Yellowstone River, but the steamboats stopped steaming the Yellowstone River before the bridge was complete. Thus the lift was only used one time. The last car crossed the bridge in 1955, and the trains ended in the 1980’s. Since the bridge and tunnel were so narrow, travelers were required to pick up a phone at one end and call to ensure no traffic was coming from the other side!
On ramp west end of Fairview Lift Bridge just a couple of miles East of Fairview Montana. This Bridge was finished in 1913 and was a bridge used for rail and automobile traffic until 1955.
Looking east as we walk on the rail bed. You can see the Cartwright tunnel at the end of the bridge.
Approaching the bridge support from the west looking east.
The center section or “draw” weighs in at 1.14 Million Pounds. At each end of the span large concrete counterweights are hung to assist in the lifting of the span.
Platform that contains a three cylinder kerosene engine that lifts the bridge span.
Closer look at the lift mechanism. this lift operated one time to test the bridge and never again. It seems that steamship travel on the Yellowstone ended during the construction of the bridge in 1912!
Looking up at one of the two counterweights. Held up by several 2 inch cables. I was thinking they have been there for almost a hundred years and decided to move… just in case!
On the east end approach showing the west tunnel opening.
Notice the size of the treated lumber used around the opening! Cars traveled across the top to gain access to the bridge on the right just behind where I was standing.
Inside the tunnel.
The road that used to allow cars to use the bridge until 1955. right behind me the road slopes down to the bridge and also branches off to get down to the bridge abutments.
Looking west from the tunnel to the bridge.
I climbed up the small hill on the south of the rail bed to get a better picture of the engine and tower houses that move the center span of the bridge up and down.
Just around the bend is the east entrance to the Tunnel but is now on private lands. Cartwright is just a mile to my back. To read more about this bridge, visit this site.
All photos by R. David Adams, copyright RDA Enterprises. Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Author: Troy Larson
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.