Project 365 – Day 230: Victoria Bridge

August 17 2012

When it was decided in 1850 to build a railway bridge linking the Island of Montreal with the south shore, many people said it was impossible to build such a large structure. Despite the skeptics, the Grand Trunk Railway launched a gigantic construction project, and the celebrated engineer Robert Stephenson (son of George Stephenson ‘The father of railways’) drew up the plans for a tubular structure made of riveted iron plates that would form the 3km covered railway bridge.

Victoria Bridge

Victoria Bridge
ISO 100 – 10mm – f16 – 1/25 sec (-2ev/0/+2ev)

At the time it was built, the Victoria Bridge ranked as one of the most daring structures of its day.  Erected between 1854 and 1859, Victoria Bridge was officially inaugurated by Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales on August 25, 1860. At the time of its completion it was the longest bridge in the world.

Before the bridge was built, travelling to the South Shore from Montreal was done by boat in the summer and sleds in the winter, but only when the ice froze solid. The Victoria Bridge assured year-round transportation and access to seaports in the Maritimes, Toronto and Chicago.

The bridge spawned ingenious innovations in construction techniques:

  • The stone piers were angled at 45 degrees into the current to act as a long line of icebreakers.
  • The builders also devised the first derricks to lift up the rocks brought in by barge and the first steam-driven cranes.
  • There was even a just-in-time delivery system for the prefabricated parts shipped from Liverpool, England, that used a fleet of steamboats.

Since steel hadn’t yet been invented and cast iron was proving problematic, the bridge was constructed using wrought iron. While the 28 piers are pretty much those that were constructed in 1860 the initial tubular iron sections were replaced in 1897/8 with standard metal trusses.

Today the bridge has a rail line running in the center section with single roadway on either side. In morning rush hour both lanes carry traffic to Montreal and in the evening rush hour the lanes carry traffic to the south shore. At all other times, there is one lane available in each direction. Due to weight restrictions and low clearance, heavy Goods Vehicles are prohibited from using the Victoria Bridge.

Victoria Bridge

Victoria Bridge
ISO 100 – 18mm – f16 – 56 sec

Victoria Bridge - Ice breaking piers

Victoria Bridge – Ice breaking piers
ISO 100- 70mm – f25 – 56 sec

Victoria Bridge

Victoria Bridge
ISO 100 – 17mm – f7.1 – 1/160 sec (-2ev/0/+2ev)

View toward Champlain Bridge

View toward Champlain Bridge
ISO 100 – 17mm – f16 – 1/30 sec (-2ev/0/2ev)

Steps leading to Saint Lawrence river

Steps leading to Saint Lawrence river
ISO 100 – 10mm – f4 – 1/125 sec (-2ev/0/+2ev)

Steps leading to Saint Lawrence river

Steps leading to Saint Lawrence river
ISO 100 – 14mm – f4.8 – 1/100 sec (-2ev/0/+2ev)

Pont Victoria

Pont Victoria
ISO 100 – 20mm – f10 – 1/60 sec (-2ev/0/+2ev)

Having walked all the way to the bridge, and not being the easiest place to get to, I forgot completely about looking for the Irish Commemorative Stone (known as The Black Rock) that was laid by the workers on the bridge who discovered human remains during construction. The remains were of Irish immigrants to Canada, who had fled the famine in Ireland, only to die during the typhus epidemic of 1847 in fever sheds at nearby Windmill Point (site of the grain Silo 5). I plan to return again to shoot the bridge in winter so hope to find Black Rock then.

It’s a bit sad having viewed a structure that is over 150 years old and still in good working order to then have to walk under the elevated Bonaventure Expressway that was built in 1967 and is due to be demolished over the next few years. Not to mention the Turcot Interchange (built in 1967 and to be demolished in next few years) , Champlain Bridge (built in 1962 to be demolished and replaced in next 10 years) and the Mercier Bridge (built in 1934 requiring ongoing major repairs). I plan to cover these structures in future posts, but feel I need to go buy a hard hat first ;-)

Beneath the Bonaventure Expressway

Beneath the Bonaventure Expressway
ISO 100 – 10mm – f10 – 1/10 sec (-2ev/0/+2ev)

I didn’t want to end the week with some ugly shots, so here are some nice views of modern Montreal…Have a great weekend everyone !!!

Office tower reflections

Office tower reflections
ISO 100 – 20mm – f9 – 1/60 sec (-2ev/0/+2ev)

Office tower reflections

Office tower reflections
ISO 100 – 20mm – f9 – 1/60 sec (-2ev/0/+2ev)

Ferrari

Ferrari
ISO 100 – 16mm – f5 – 1/50 sec (-2ev/0/+2ev)

To view images in gallery format, simply click on one of the images below.

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Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.

- Martin

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4 Comments

  1. Laura August 18, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    I love the Victoria Bridge. As an American who has visited Montreal from NYC many times, crossing the St-Laurent always signified that I was “almost home.” Montreal is home to the most beautiful bridges I have ever crossed, despite the Brooklyn Bridge and the George Washington Bridge and plenty of others. There is something amazing about crossing the St-Laurent, looking out across all that water and seeing the beautiful city of Montreal welcoming you, that has always made me feel like I was coming home, even though Montreal isn’t my home. Your pictures do it justice.

    The Turcot, on the other hand, is a total blight on the city of Montreal and its engineering. I can’t believe that the city hasn’t done more to keep its highways and concrete buildings in better condition. Something build in the 1970s should certainly NOT be falling apart, much less crushing innocent civilians beneath it. Shame on the government of Quebec for allowing all of these fatalities to occur, and for its slow attempt to contain the madness.

    • Montreal in Pictures August 18, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      Thanks for stopping by Laura. The Victoria Bridge is certainly a beautiful old structure that has stood the test of time. I think everyone will be happy to see the end of the Turcot, although many are unhappy with the planned replacement…same goes for the Bonaventure Expressway. Sad when these 2 road structures form the first impression of the City to so many visitors coming by road and air (not to mention rail)…Personally I want to see green boulevards and less cars ;-)

  2. artsmith7 August 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    Beautiful series

    • Montreal in Pictures August 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by and the kind comment artsmith7 :-)