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Railroad bridge idle for years is getting ready for some swingin'

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Hey, hepcats – ever seen that really swingin' bridge in Bloomington?

For more than a century the pivoting bridge has been able to carry a train across the Minnesota River ... or spin around to let water traffic go by.

The thing is, the ol' Dan Patch Line bridge hasn't budged in about nine years. That's how long it's been since a train crossed its tracks.

That should finally change this year, though. The Sun Current has photos of the maintenance work that's been underway on the bridge this winter in preparation for the return of railroad use.

The difference is in Panama

Why does 2016 look any different for rail traffic in the area? The Star Tribune reports it has to do with a nearly-finished expansion of the Panama Canal.

The president of the Twin Cities & Western Railroad Co., which owns the bridge, tells the newspaper a bigger canal means bigger ships will land at the port of New Orleans. And Mark Wegner says the railroad expects to be hauling more grain down the Mississippi River valley to help fill those big ships.

There's plenty of corn and soybeans available to ship, even before a crop is planted. Commodity prices have been so low many farmers put last fall's harvest in storage rather than sell it at a loss.

Wegner tells the Star Tribune he expects the Dan Patch Line bridge, which is near the port at Savage, will see rail traffic of about one train per day.

The Dan Patch Line

According to railroad bridge hobbyist John A. Weeks III, the Dan Patch Line bridge was built in 1908, is about 489 feet long, and is normally 20 feet above the Minnesota River.

Dan Patch was a horse – the most successful horse in harness racing – who became the first to break the two-minute mile in 1906 (it was more than 30 years before another horse accomplished that).

Dan Patch's owner, Marion Savage, named the rail line he founded after his famous horse. Savage himself is the namesake of the city of Savage, Weeks' site explains.

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