Historic Sites of Manitoba: Canadian National Railway Oak Point Bridge (Assiniboine River, Winnipeg)
This abandoned steel truss bridge spanning the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg was commissioned in 1907 by the Canadian Northern Railway as part of their Oak Point Subdivision. The project received municipal and provincial funding, in part, to encourage accommodation for pedestrians and non-rail vehicular traffic. The bridge sat on four concrete piers and measured some 440 feet long, with a swing span mounted atop the pier in the middle of the river. Construction was completed in time for rail traffic to begin using it by mid-May 1908. Dr. Hinman and J. McLaren of the Strathcona Hotel were the first non-railway users, taking a horse team across the bridge on 8 September 1908, and it was opened officially to non-rail traffic a few days later.
Conditions for non-rail traffic were less than ideal, as indicated by a statement of the Winnipeg Parks Board in May 1913 in which the bridge was called a “death trap.” A decade later, a St. James engineer echoed those sentiments by labelling it “dangerous” to vehicular traffic. Improvements were made as demand for a non-rail crossing continued to mount, eventually leading to construction of the St. James Bridge.
The Oak Point Subdivision was eventually decommissioned and the rails were removed in the late 1990s. In 2003, the bridge was purchased by architect Alec Katz with plans to convert it into river-spanning condominiums. In spite of municipal support for the project, the plan was ultimately thwarted by local residents. The bridge was put up for sale in 2009 but, as of 2017, the structure and portions of its north and south approaches remain in the same private hands.
“C.N.R. Bridge at St. James,” Winnipeg Tribune, 20 March 1906, page 1.
“Parks Board men angry,” Manitoba Free Press, 15 August 1907, page 10.
“Are working night and day,” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 March 1907, page 1.
“Grand Trunk Bridge over Assiniboine,” Winnipeg Tribune, 4 April 1908, page 1.
“Passing of the ice,” Winnipeg Tribune, 15 April 1908, page 9.
“C.N.R. Bridge at St. James,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 May 1908, page 1.
“A new bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 10 September 1908, page 10.
“The C.N.R. bridge [...],” Winnipeg Tribune, 7 September 1909, page 1.
“C.N.R. Bridge is called death trap,” Winnipeg Tribune, 8 May 1913, page 4.
“St. James C.N.R. Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 July 1913, page 4.
“St. James C.N.R. Bridge unsafe,” Winnipeg Tribune, 15 August 1923, page 5.
“Developer has bridge he'd like to sell,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 October 2009.
“A bridge without direction,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 November 2009.
“Streets, trail to close over bridge woes,” Winnipeg Free Press, 11 February 2010.
We thank George Penner for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 19 April 2019
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