Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The Northern Pacific Missouri River Bridge at Bismarck has stood for almost one hundred and thirty years. It has beaten back all that the mighty river has thrown against it, withstanding floods, ice jams and eroded embankments. The bridge was designed and the building of it overseen by George Morrison. But for one man, Frank Ingalls, the ongoing safety of the structure became a lifetime battle.
Frank Ingalls was appointed bridge supervisor for the Northern Pacific Railroad in May of 1882 and his territory ran from Fargo to Mandan. He was born in June of 1853 and held his first railroad job in 1866 as a station helper in Danvers, Massachusetts. In the 1870s, Mr. Ingalls came west, first to Denver, but he eventually moved to Fargo as a carpenter for the Bridge Division. In November of 1882, he was made the supervisor of bridges, a position he held until August 1, 1923.
His battle with the Missouri River began almost immediately after his appointment, as one of the worst floods came in the spring of 1883 as the bridge was nearing construction. Another flood came the following spring, and in 1887 still another flood neared the record mark set in 1883.
Another challenge was the land on the east side of the bridge. It remained a problem throughout his career as landslides shifted the tracks.
Advances in technology also became a problem. In 1905 he oversaw the replacement of the original bridge spans as they could no longer safely support the increasing weight of the locomotives. But it was the ever-changing temperament of the Mighty Missouri that haunted him throughout his career.
Frank Ingalls died on August 9, 1924 in Minneapolis and his funeral was held in Jamestown. The services were heavily attended by officials of the Northern Pacific railroad and employees of the Dakota Division as well as fellow Masons. Upon completion of the service, his remains were sent to St. Paul for cremation. On this date, his ashes were being prepared for one last journey along the railroad line for which he had worked for so many years. It was his wish that his ashes be scattered from the Missouri River Railroad bridge, perhaps so that his spirit could keep an eternal watch over the beloved scene of his earthly endeavors.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
Stutsman County Democrat August 14, 1924
The Jamestown Sun August 9, 1924
“Ice Jams, Landslides and the Northern Pacific Railroad Bridge at Bismarck” by Ed Murphy, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources GEO News Volume 36, #2 July 2009