Canadian Consulting Engineer

Montreal bridge was Wonder of the World

December 21, 2009
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Once called the Eighth Wonder of the World, Montreal's Victoria Bridge is celebrating its 150th anniversary th...

Once called the Eighth Wonder of the World, Montreal’s Victoria Bridge is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The bridge was the longest in the world when constructed and was first to connect the Island of Montreal to the South Shore.

The structure is wrought iron, since it was built a decade before the invention of steel. The design included innovations such as stone piers angled at 45 degrees into the current as ice-breakers. Originally it carried just a railway in an enclosed tube.  It took six minutes to travel through the tunnel, in darkness and with no holes in the sides of the tunnel to allow the smoke from the engine to escape. The first passenger train left Montreal on December 17, 1859, and a freight train had made the crossing the previous week.

The bridge measures 3 kilometres, with 76-metre spans between the piers. It is credited with opening up Montreal to trade with the rest of North America, since before it was built the only way to reach the island was by boat or over ice when the river was frozen.

The Grand Trunk Railway Company built the bridge, with Peto, Brassey & Betts as the contractors from England. There were bitter disputes over who could claim credit for the design (see CCE archives, March-April 2005), with the names of engineers James Hodges, Alexander Ross, Robert Stephenson, and Thomas C. Keefer associated with the project at various stages. Wikipedia states that James Hodges was the official engineer.

In the late 1800s the tube was replaced with trusses. The bridge still carries thousands of vehicles every day to and from the island of Montreal.

The National Film Board has an entertaining short video clip about the construction of the bridge in 1854-59.


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