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.
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.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 17 March 2012
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