Manitoba Historical Society
     Keeping history alive for over 141 years

 

Pay & Donate in the MHS Online Shop

Endangered Top 10
Endangered
Top 10
2020

Prairie History No. 2
Prairie
History

No. 2

Manitoba Photographers List
Manitoba
Photographers
List

Free Press Manitoba 150
Free Press
Manitoba
150

MHS YouTube Channel
MHS
YouTube
Channel

Manitoba Brick & Blocks
Manitoba
Bricks
& Blocks

War Memorials in Manitoba
War
Memorials
in Manitoba

This Old Elevator
This Old
Elevator

Abandoned Manitoba
Abandoned
Manitoba

Memorable Manitobans
Memorable
Manitobans

Historic Sites of Manitoba
Historic Sites
of Manitoba

Manitoba History: Manitoba’s Historic Bridges

by Gordon Goldsborough
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Number 73, Fall 2013

The MHS is compiling an inventory of historic sites around Manitoba as an encouragement to tourism and management. Some sites in that inventory are featured in issues of Manitoba History. Eds

Most Manitobans today take for granted the highway network that allows us to reach far-flung parts of the province with relative ease. Yet, the plentiful lakes and rivers that define the provincial landscape were once formidable barriers to movement. They necessitated some means of crossing, by ferry boat or bridge.

Bridges have been constructed in Manitoba since earliest times but the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s made them an essential part of the transportation infrastructure. During the early 20th century, the Manitoba government became actively engaged in local bridge construction with the result that the nature of personal transportation was changed forever. The expanding web of roads and bridges made automobiles a feasible alternative to trains so, gradually, the seeds were sown for the development of a few, large urban centres where retail trade was focussed while smaller, once isolated communities waned. In short, the development of roads and bridges during this period underpin a dramatic transformation of Manitoba that led to the condition existing today. They changed everything, and it seems to me those early bridges—as a tangible symbol of that early trend—are an important but under-appreciated facet of Manitoba’s history.

An early example. This bridge over the Whitemouth River in southeastern Manitoba was photographed in the mid-1870s by Winnipeg photographer Simon Duffin. Its design was typical for the day: wooden cribs supporting horizontal wooden spans, just wide enough for a single horse-drawn wagon to cross. Such bridges were frequent victims of shifting spring ice and flood water, and eventual decay of their unpreserved wood.

An early example. This bridge over the Whitemouth River in southeastern Manitoba was photographed in the mid-1870s by Winnipeg photographer Simon Duffin. Its design was typical for the day: wooden cribs supporting horizontal wooden spans, just wide enough for a single horse-drawn wagon to cross. Such bridges were frequent victims of shifting spring ice and flood water, and eventual decay of their unpreserved wood.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough, 2013-0154

The pace of bridge-building in rural Manitoba increased considerably during final two years of the First World War, and would continue unabated until the Great Depression of the 1930s. The “golden years” of bridge construction were arguably through the 1920s when a diverse array of structures was built all over the intensively agricultural parts of southern Manitoba. The impetus seems to have been the hiring, in April 1914, of Manson A. Lyons as Chief Engineer of the Manitoba Good Roads Board. Born in Nova Scotia in 1879, Lyons had a degree in Civil Engineering from Boston’s MIT and had spent several years designing wharves, dams, and railways in eastern Canada. In 1911, he went to Calgary, Alberta to work on irrigation works and general engineering for the Canadian Pacific Railway. By the time of his Manitoba appointment, Lyons was said to have designed and built 80 wooden bridges, 35 steel bridges, and 350 concrete bridges.

Lyons wasted no time at designing new, more robust steel or concrete bridges to replace deteriorating wooden structures or to supplant ferry service at places where there had been no prior bridge. As the first elected President of the Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba, he played a key role in developing the engineering profession. He mentored a cohort of civil engineers who would enhance his infrastructural legacy. On the following pages are a few of the surviving historic bridges—including some designed by Lyons and still in daily use after nearly 100 years—of which Manitobans can be proud.

This abandoned concrete bridge in the Rural Municipality of Daly, near the village of Bradwardine, was built in 1916.

This abandoned concrete bridge in the Rural Municipality of Daly, near the village of Bradwardine, was built in 1916.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

A wooden truss bridge over the Roseau River at Gardenton was built in 1918. A municipal historic site, it remains in active use.

A wooden truss bridge over the Roseau River at Gardenton was built in 1918. A municipal historic site, it remains in active use.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

A box culvert bridge was built in 1920 over the Jordan River in the RM of Franklin, replacing a bridge erected three years earlier.

A box culvert bridge was built in 1920 over the Jordan River in the RM of Franklin, replacing a bridge erected three years earlier.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

A derelict wooden bridge over the Whitemouth River, built by Winnipeg’s Reidle Brewery, is now closed to all traffic.

A derelict wooden bridge over the Whitemouth River, built by Winnipeg’s Reidle Brewery, is now closed to all traffic.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

A graceful concrete bridge in the RM of Whitewater, built in 1929, enabled Highway No. 10 to cross the Souris River.

A graceful concrete bridge in the RM of Whitewater, built in 1929, enabled Highway No. 10 to cross the Souris River.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

A steel truss bridge over the Souris River at Wawanesa is now closed to vehicular traffic.

A steel truss bridge over the Souris River at Wawanesa is now closed to vehicular traffic.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

An impressive triple-arch concrete bridge over the Assiniboine River, in the village of Millwood in the Rural Municipality of Russell, was built in 1920, replacing an earlier wooden structure. Aside from minor damage to the balusters of its railings, it is in good condition.

An impressive triple-arch concrete bridge over the Assiniboine River, in the village of Millwood in the Rural Municipality of Russell, was built in 1920, replacing an earlier wooden structure. Aside from minor damage to the balusters of its railings, it is in good condition.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Millwood #6, 1921.

An impressive triple-arch concrete bridge over the Assiniboine River, in the village of Millwood in the Rural Municipality of Russell, was built in 1920, replacing an earlier wooden structure. Aside from minor damage to the balusters of its railings, it is in good condition.

An impressive triple-arch concrete bridge over the Assiniboine River, in the village of Millwood in the Rural Municipality of Russell, was built in 1920, replacing an earlier wooden structure. Aside from minor damage to the balusters of its railings, it is in good condition.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

An impressive triple-arch concrete bridge over the Assiniboine River, in the village of Millwood in the Rural Municipality of Russell, was built in 1920, replacing an earlier wooden structure. Aside from minor damage to the balusters of its railings, it is in good condition.

This concrete arch bridge over the Souris River in the Rural Municipality of South Cypress was built in 1921. The northern-most arch was damaged during a flood in 1976 and was later removed. The bridge collapsed completely during the flood of 2011.
Source: Ken Jacobs

An impressive triple-arch concrete bridge over the Assiniboine River, in the village of Millwood in the Rural Municipality of Russell, was built in 1920, replacing an earlier wooden structure. Aside from minor damage to the balusters of its railings, it is in good condition.

This concrete arch bridge over the Souris River in the Rural Municipality of South Cypress was built in 1921. The northern-most arch was damaged during a flood in 1976 and was later removed. The bridge collapsed completely during the flood of 2011.
Source: Travis Everard

A 1916 concrete bridge in the Rural Municipality of Wallace has now been bypassed by Provincial Road 256.

A 1916 concrete bridge in the Rural Municipality of Wallace has now been bypassed by Provincial Road 256.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

We thank Clara Bachmann for assistance in preparing the online version of this article.

Page revised: 2 October 2019

Back to top of page

   


For queries on the above page, please contact the MHS Webmaster.

Home  |  Terms & Conditions  |  FAQ  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy  |  Donations Policy

© 1998-2020 Manitoba Historical Society. All rights reserved.