Grand Trunk Bridge


Engineer Alexander Ross was faced with a major challenge in building Montreal's first railway bridge over a seemingly impassable river. A new technique had to be devised to keep the structure safely suspended under the heavy loads of iron and granite that it would carry.

A quarry was set up in the village of Pointe-Claire, where land had been expropriated the year before, to extract stone for the construction of the Sainte-Anne and Victoria bridges. Like the Victoria Bridge, the first Grand Trunk Bridge over the Ottawa River would take the shape of a long tube made of riveted iron plates. Completed in 1854, it is virtually a prototype for the Victoria Bridge (which would be inaugurated in 1859). However, the tubular structure could not accommodate the double track needed to handle rail traffic between Chicago and Montreal, and was also quite exposed to side winds. Then, when coal supplanted wood as the fuel used, the smoke bothered the passengers, disintegrated the metal and damaged the walls of the tube. In 1898, this long, tubular passageway was replaced by a metal structure, as it was at the Victoria Bridge.

Image : HM_ARC_003487

Canadian Pacific Bridge with passenger train and Canadian North rails

© Canadian Pacific Railway Archives (# NS 4144), © Héritage Montréal

Image : HM_ARC_003490

Canadian Pacific bridge and Ottawa river
© Canadian Pacific Railway Archives (# NS 1376), © Héritage Montréal

Image : HM_ARC_003491

Canadian Pacific bridge

© Canadian Pacific Railway Archives (# A 1377), © Héritage Montréal