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Historic Sites of Manitoba: Canadian Northern Railway Freight Lift Bridge (The Forks, Winnipeg)

This bridge on the west side of the Historic Rail Bridge at The Forks was designed not only for heavy freight railway cars to travel over the Assiniboine River but also for steamships to travel under it. The centre span of the bridge lifts and is known as a bascule bridge (from the French word for “see-saw”). Like a see-saw, the bridge deck and the huge concrete counterweights are counterbalanced on massive bronze pivot pins. Relatively small electric motors and brakes move the concrete weight down and inwards causing the bridge deck to rise. The bridge to the west was also a bascule bridge although the counterweight machinery was removed.

The bridge, completed by 1914, is based on designs by Joseph Strauss (1870-1938) of the Strauss Trunnion Bascule Bridge Company of Chicago, Illinois, important bridge engineers and designers of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge (1937). Although federal regulations at the time required all railway bridges that crossed rivers to lift, it is unknown whether this one ever did.

A plaque describes the bridge design. A miniature working model of the bridge is located nearby.

The former CNR Freight Lift Bridge

The former CNR Freight Lift Bridge (2010)
Source: City of Winnipeg

Aerial view of the former CNR Freight Lift Bridge

Aerial view of the former CNR Freight Lift Bridge (December 2013)
Source: George Penner

The former CNR Freight Lift Bridge

The former CNR Freight Lift Bridge (December 2013)
Source: George Penner

The former CNR Freight Lift Bridge

The former CNR Freight Lift Bridge (December 2013)
Source: George Penner

Site Coordinates (lat/long): N49.88590, W97.12938
denoted by symbol on the map above

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Nistawayak / Forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers (The Forks, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Johnston Terminal Building (25 Forks Market Road, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railway Repair Shop / Manitoba Children’s Museum (45 Forks Market Road, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Canadian National Railway Power House (8 Forks Market Road, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Canadian Museum for Human Rights (85 Israel Asper Way, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Stable / Great Northern Railway Stable / Forks Market Building (1 Forks Market Road, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Canadian Northern Railway Freight Lift Bridge (The Forks, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: The Red River - A Canadian Heritage River (The Forks, Winnipeg)

Sources:

Information for this page was provided by The City of Winnipeg’s Planning, Property and Development Department, which acknowledges the contribution of the Government of Manitoba through its Heritage Grants Program.

We thank George Penner for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 24 April 2022

Historic Sites of Manitoba

This is a collection of historic sites in Manitoba compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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Please note that inclusion in this collection does not mean that a particular site has special status or protection. Some sites are on private property and permission must be secured from the owner prior to visiting.

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