The old Milwaukee Road trestle that straddles 140 feet above Roosevelt Drive is new again following a $224,000 rehab project.
Now, hikers and bikers can safely navigate the historic structure, which connects an integral section of the Thompson Park trails system, southeast of Butte.
The Forest Service effort included replacing 40 rotten railroad ties in the bridge deck, and installing new 12-inch curbing and six-strand cable railing.
The contractor, R.E. Miller and Sons of Dillon, also removed about 10 inches of gravel ballast from the 594-foot-long trestle and made catwalk improvements that will allow for safe bridge inspections in the coming years.
Concrete repairs further were made on four of the trestle’s five tower footings, said Mark Libby, the project engineer with the Forest Service.
If anyone has reservations about walking on the old trestle, consider this: Libby said the contractor drove heavy equipment on top of the structure during the project.
“It’s definitely sturdy,” he said.
As part of a separate $117,000 contract awarded to Stillwater Excavating of Columbus, two tunnels on the trail leading to the trestle along the former Milwaukee Road rail bed were improved and are open to the public, said Jocelyn Dodge,
recreational forester for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
That work included the removal of loose rock as well as bolting to secure the interior walls.
The projects are the last major work for an improvement project that began this summer at Thompson Park, said Dodge.
Next spring, signs will be placed at the entrances and in other areas of the park.
Both the trestle and tunnels are accessible for non-motorized use from the Pipestone Pass and Eagle’s Nest trailheads as well as the Lions Den, Lower Eagle’s Nest and Sagebrush Flats recreation sites.
“The tunnels and the trestle add a new dimension to the overall recreation of the park,” said Janet Krivacek, Butte district ranger. “It’s just a unique facet of the park that is right here in our backyard of Butte.”
The improvements were paid for with grants from the Natural Resource Damage Program; the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Recreation Trails Program; and the Southwest Montana Resource Advisory Council.