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Canadian Rail 443 1994

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Canadian Rail 443 1994

No, 443
Canadian Rail

THE VICTORIA BRIDGE; INTRODUCTION…………………………………………….. ….. FRED F. ANGUS …………… ………. 207
CROSSING THE RiVER……………………………………………………………………………… ROBERT R. BROWN ….. , ………….. 208
BUILDING THE CENTRE SPAN …………………………………………………………………. .
GLANCE AT THE VICTORIA BRIDGE …………………………………………………….. .
TRAFFiC …………………………………………………………. .
HAWGS CAN, AND PEOPLE CAN TOO ………………………………………………….. .
FRONT COVER. A wew of ViClOria Bridge, looking awards the .fOllfh shore. aiHmt 1878.
l$ of wlI~truction of both stonework and imn wbcs are plainly visible; even Ihe small
ill the sides of the tubes
hoto hy Henderson. National Archhcs afCanada Phota Nn. PA·ZI071.
OPPosrrE PAGE: A lithograph by S. RI/ssell, primed ill umd(m in 1854. showing VICtoria
Bridge as it would appear when completcd. The 1;111 is /oojing towards MOil/real ..
FOr your membership in lhe CRHA, which
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write to:
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As part of its activities. the CRHA operates
the Canadian Railway
Museum at Delson I
SI. Constant, Que. which is about 14 miles
(23 Km.) from downtown Montreal.
It is open
from late May to early October (daily until
Labour Day). Members.
and their immediate
families, are admined free of charge.
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VatCI:J<.NW. B.C. V&: 2f1
1148 BaImoraI Rood
VIdoria.BC. V8TIBI
CHARLES LEGGE …………. ,., …….. 230
SAMUEL KEEFER ……………………. 244
EVENING PllOT.. …………………….. 246
.. …….. _____ …. ___ ………………………… _ .. _. 248
ROBERT A. BROWN ……………… 251
EDITOR: Fred F. Angus
DoU91aS Nw. SmHh
HU(Jues W. Bonin
DISTRIBUTION: Gerard Frechette
Fled F. Angus
Printing Procel Printi
PRESIDENT: Walter J. 8edbrook
VICE PRES.: Charles
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Bemard Mat1in
Frederick F. Angus
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James Boochard
Gerard Freche
T. Green
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Al1drew W. Panko
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W~liam Thomson
A. Slephen Walbridge
Michael Weslren
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Calgary. AS T3A 189
Phone: (403)-286-2189
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Phone: (506)-734-3467
The Victoria Bridge, Introduction
The Victoria Bridge, spanning the St. Lawrence river, was
of the greatest feats of engineering in the 19th century. More
than a mile long, it was the longest bridge
in the world when it was
completed late
in 1859. Victorian in concept and design, as well as
in name, this structure aptly symbolizes the era named for the
Queen who also gave her name
to the bridge. Despite the unfortunate
tendency these days
to consider the Victorian era as old fashioned,
simple, and perhaps a little stuffy, the era was a time
incredible progress and development of the latest in modern
Far from simple, it was a very complex time which laid
the foundation for most
of the developments we enjoy today.
For 135 years the original Victoria Bridge and its successor,
officially named the Victoria Jubilee Bridge but known
everyone simply as Victoria Bridge, has served to carry trains,
and later road traffic, across the St. Lawrence. The present bridge
replaced the original tubular structure between 1897 and 1899;
however it rests
on the original piers of the 1850s. Since service
was interrupted for a total
of only one day during the rebuilding,
the continuity has continued since the original bridge was opened.
The tubular concept of bridge design became obsolete with
the development
of improved structural methods, and the last one
in Canada, at Ste. Anne de Bellevue near Montreal, was replaced
in 1899, only one year after the completion
of the rebuilding of
Victoria Bridge. One tubular railway bridge survives at Conway in
Wales where it carries the main British Railway line to HoUyhead
as it has been doing since 1849.
The second rebuilding, that
of the 1950s, saw a diversion
built around the St. Lawrence Seaway lock, as well as the destruction
of some of the spans and piers at the southern end of the bridge.
However there was little interruption
to rai I traffic during this
rebuilding also.
While some may say that 135 years does not constitute a
particular anniversary, preferring such round numbers as 100, 125
or 150, we feel that it
is time to devote an issue of Canadian Rail
to this subject, the bridge that is one of the greatest surviving relics
of Victorian engineering in Canada. We hope you enjoy it. This Victoria Bridge issue begins with the article Crossing
The River, written
by the late Robert R. Brown, and published in
serial form in the CRHA News Report, the predecessor of Canadian
Rail, between 1954 and 1956. Since few present-day CRHA
members have access
to these long out-of-print issues, we are
reprinting the entire article. A few errors have been
cOITected, and
some references
to surviving artifacts have been brought up to
date, however most of the article is as written.
In 1860 Charles Legge, an engineer who had worked on the
of the bridge, published a small volume entitled A
Glance at the Victoria Bridge and the Men Who Built It. This
highly interesting book,
of 153 pages, contains a great deal of
information and stories about the undertaking. Unfortunately,
space does not permit
us to reprint the entire work, however
extracts have been made
of the more significant parts. The
resulting selection compliments and adds
to the Brown article.
During the last two years
of the building of Victoria
Bridge, the Grand Trunk Railway commissioned Montreal
photographer William Notrnan
to take photographs of the work as
it progressed. So was created a priceless photographic record
probably unprecedented for a construction project
of such early
date. Most
of these photos stili exist and are held by the Notman
Photographic Archives
of the McCord Museum of Canadian
in Montreal. We have received special permission to use
a generous selection
of these photos in this issue, and they appear,
together with illustrations from other sources, throughout the
entire issue. Since the Brown article and the Legge book were not
illustrated (apart from some drawings in the Brown article), the
of these photos is especially valuable. We owe grateful
to the McCord for their cooperation.
in this issue is some supporting material including
Robert Stephensons 1854 report outlining the necessity and
feasibility for a bridge, and Samuel Keefers 1859 report on the
of the completed spans just prior to their being placed in
service. Some contemporary newspaper items are included as is a
brief account
of the official inauguration ceremonies in 1860.
Crossing The River
The Story of the Construction of the Victoria Bridge at Montreal
1854 to 1860
By Robert R. Brown (1899 -1958)
One hundred and forty years ago, the Grand Trunk Railway corrunenced the construction of the Victoria Bridge across the Saint
Lawrence River between Montreal and St. Lambert; a structure, which, for many years, was considered the eighth wonder
of the modern
world. The work was famous for the boldness
of design, the ingenious methods of construction, the speedy completion and the famous men
connected with it. So that these early engineering triumphs will not be forgotten, we are reprinting the article, which originally appeared
in serial fonTI in the CRHA News Report from 1954 to 1956. This article, entitled Crossing the River described the construction of the
Victoria Bridge between 1854 and 1859.
From time immemorial, the Saint Lawrence River has
been the great highway
of eastern Canada; for centuries, and
perhaps millenia, carrying the canoes
of Indians, and since the
XVII Century, the commerce
of a growing nation. At the same
time, it formed a barrier between the opposite shores and it was not
until the advent
of the steamboat that people ventured across to the
other shore unless some very important reason compelled them to
do so. Only in wintertime was it safe and easy to cross and even
then sudden movements
of the ice would often create serious
hazards. During the early winter freezeup and during the spring
debacle, crossing was particularly dangerous and the usual whale­
boats and birch bark canoes could not
be used because the sharp
of the ice would cut through the sides in no time, and the
occupants would soon find themselves floundering about in the icy
To cross at such dangerous times, dugout canoes, made
from single logs, were used, and well into the XIX century, too. A
very fine specimen
of one of the dugouts, which was used to take
the mail across from Montreal to Longueuil, was for many years
in the Chateau de Ramezay Museum in Montreal. During the winter months all navigation ceased and Montreal
was cut
off completely from the sea except by overland rOlltes to
Portland, Boston or New York. These routes terminated on the
opposite shore and
mueh thought was given to improve the· means
of crossing the river safely and easily. The two principal trans­
fluvial ferries ran to Laprairie and to Longueuil; with a steamboat
running to Laprairie as early as 1822, and a similar service
to Longueuil, in 1829. After 1852, the Laprairie service
of little importance and served only local needs, but the
Longueuil ferry was active until 1930, and for a brief period, from
1852 to 1863, the
SI. Lambert ferry was the most important of the
Canadas first public carrier, the Champlain and Saint
Lawrence Railroad, served as a portage line linking with the
navigable waters
of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain
it reached the south shore of the Saint Lawrence at Laprairie
in the summer of 1836. Its terminus was 7 miles from Montreal
and the company had to build a specially-designed steamboat, the
Princess Victoria, to navigate the treacherous waters of the
shallow Laprairie Basin and the rapids which then existed
off Point St. Charles. For a few years, the railway did not
operate in winter, so the annual freeze-up did not matter
very much, but even then the pattern
of Canadas great
future was beginning to unfold and it was realized that
something better would soon be needed.
In the days before the bridge. Passengers and mail crossing the St. Lawrence
in the 1850s. Published
in London by John Weale, 1860.
Early in 1852 the Champlain and St. Lawrence
Railroad abandoned its original terminus at Laprairie
and built a new line from Cote de la Bataille to SI.
Lambert, where it descended into a cutting, known for
many years as the Gully, passed under Riverside Drive,
and then ran out on to a long wharf which extended out
to and beyond Moffats Island.
The station at the end of
the wharf was called South Montreal and ferry boats ran
from there
to the foot of Jacques Cartier Square. The
wharf, in reality a sort of bridge, was a remarkable
structure for 1851 when the art
of bridge building was
little known in Canada. It was more than 1200 yards long
and that made it about half as long as the Victoria Bridge
itself. Between the SI. Lambert shore and Moffats
) Oil
~ 5 T.
I ~
This map, dated i879, shows the location of the Moffats island terminal as well as Victoria Bridge and the railway lines connecting to it.
Island, and probably west of the Isl~nd too: there was a ir:~·.~. ~~~~~~~::—-:=~——=~—–==:-=——-.=~~~~~~~~~~:
continuous cribwork structure, backfilled with stone and /. ___ r / )~~ / ~-J~ !
earth, which carried the track well above the high water -…..-/———- _._-=—-I
mark. At intervals of 56 feet, centre to centre, there were
sluiceways, 20 feet wide,
to permit the water to flow I
through and, as part of the river was very shallow with
comparatively little strong current, the obstruction, amounting
to 64% was oflittle consequence. Undoubtedly the structure
was protected from the violence
of the spring break-up by
well-placed rip-rap but fortunately the worst ice-shoves
occurred elsewhere. Beyond the island, the wharf extended
300 yards to deep water. The South Montreal terminus, and
its peculiar bridge, was abandoned in 1864, following the
of a third rail which allowed the standard gauge
Champlain trains to share the bridge with the
5 6 gauge
Grand Trunk. Sketch of the bridge between St. Lambert and Moffats island.
Forty years after the South Montreal terminus was abandoned,
the sluices were still in fair condition with some rails and ties
still in place. By the 1950s, however, the cribwork had completely
rotted away, the backfilling had tumbled down, and the ice and the
current had completed the work
of destruction so that very little
remained. At that time one could still see, from the
St Lambert shore, what seemed
to be a long narrow pile of tumbled stones
in a perfectly straight line out to Moffats Island but few
people realized that it was the remains
of what was once one of the
most important railways in America. Then the construction
of the
St. Lawrence Seaway, and later the islands for Expo 67, completed
job of obliteration so that the remains of the bridge, and
Moffats Island itself, have entirely vanished.
The idea of building a railway bridge across the Saint
Lawrence River at or near Montreal, originated long before the
of the Grand Trunk Railway, which finally did build it.
The Saint Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad, from Longueuil toward
Portland, Me. was barely started when John Young, one
of its
promoters, and A.M. Morton, its Chief Engineer, became interested
in the bridge project. Mr. Morton made a cursory examination of
the river in 1846, and he suggested a bridge which would start in
what is now the eastern part of Verdun, cross the middle of Nuns
Island and thence diagonally across to the South Shore, about a
mile and a half above Saint Lambert, making the entire length
the bridge some 11,540 feet.
In 1847, an experienced American engineer named Gay
was engaged to make a thorough reconnaissance survey
of the river
from Laprairie down to the foot
of St. Helens Island. He
subsequently expressed the opinion that it would be too dangerous
to build a bridge anywhere below the foot
of Nuns Island and he
suggested two favourable alternate sites, known as the upper and
The upper one extended from a point on Nuns Island, about
400 yards below its upper end, across to a point on the opposite
shore, about 2 miles below Laprairie, which would make the
bridge 14,960 feet
in length. The lower one extended from a point
about mile above the foot
of the island to the opposite shore, a
of 12,354 feet. He strongly recommended the upper site
in spite
of its greater length. The superstructure was to be of wood,
in that form of framing known as Burrs combined
arch and truss, and supported on two abutments and 55
piers, with a clear distance
of 200 feet between the piers.
Application was made-
.Im-statntory-authority to build the
bridge but the Legislature rejected the plea because it was
felt that the bridge would impede navigation too much.
1851 the subject of an extension of the railway
westward from Montreal was again taken
up and a committee
was appointed
to procure an examination of the proposed
route from Montreal
to Kingston. John Young was chairman
of the committee and he was still as resolute on the bridge
as he was in 1847. On June 3rd, 1851, the conduct
of this important survey was entrusted to Thomas Coltrain
Keefer, a talented young Canadian engineer, and he was
instructed to make a third examination
of the river. It was
suggested that the proposed line would begin at a supposed
terminus near the Wellington Street bridge over the Lachine
Canal, and proceed
to a point on the south shore most
convenient for a connection with the Sl. Lawrence
Atlantic Railroad. He boldly selected a site about 400
yards below the present bridge and his projected line was
to run from about the middle
of Goose Village (Victoria
sufficiently and to shorten the length of the bridge, he planned to
have solid embankments reach out from each shore to the abutments,
for 1,350 feet from the Montreal side and for ],710 feet from the
south shore. The descending gradient from the middle span to the
abutments would have been 25 feet
in 4,800 feet, which was not
For the superstructure, Mr. Keefer suggested two plans;
one with the middle span
of iron tubular construction and the
smaller spans
of wood, to cost $] ,600,000; the other plan called for
iron construction exclusively,
to cost $3,000,000. He naturally
favoured the all-iron bridge, in spite
of its greater cost, realizing
that the difference would be made up very quickly
in reduced
maintenance costs. He also designed stone piers with the upper
ends shaped to break
up and deflect drifting ice and piers of this
type were subsequently used for all bridges where ice might be
In February 1852, the government directed its engineer,
Samuel Keefer, to re-examine the various sites. A very elaborate
survey was made with very exact measurements made over the ice
and on the basis
of this survey he recommended a site about mile
above the one suggested
by his brother Thomas. Tom and Sam
never got much credit for the preliminary work they did before the
Grand Trunk Railway got under way, but the plans
of these two
young Canadians were later adopted by the engineers
of the
Victoria Bridge, who thereby became famous.
Town) across to Moffats Island. It was a remarkable fact ;-~>::.. ,~ ..
that on this line was to be found the shallowest water _1 .. : i .
between Lake Ontario and the ocean. There was a channel, ~~;~~J t_-flrJ.I!:1~~~~~~~l1t~~
immediately-west of Moffats Island, about 300 yards -;i..W ;r~:f~l Tt-
……… -… .
wide, with a depth of 9 to 10 feet at low water but for the ~., .
of the distance the depth seldom exceeded 5 feet. ..
To overcome the objections of the Legislative
Council, Mr. Keefer recommended a high level bridge with
a span
of 400 feet over the main channel, and a clear head­
of 100 feet. Trains would run through the centre span,
on top of the other spans. To raise the approaches Digging at the bOllom
of No. 11 coffer dam, 24 feet below the sUlface of
the river.
Notman Photographic Archives,
McCord Museum of Canadian History
(Hereafter referred to as NPA) Photo No. 7017.
The Victoria Bridge had, as
consulting engineers, two
of the most
eminent men in the profession –Robert
Stephenson and Alexander M. Ross -­
and it
is very unfortunate that, after the
bridge was completed, there were
acrimonious controversies over which
of the two deserved the greater credit.
There is no point in reviving these old
quarrels, especially since the principals
themselves were not involved; anyway,
the honour can be pretty evenly divided.
Robert Stephenson designed the
superstructure and supervised all the
necessary calculations and tests, while
Alexander Ross selected the site,
designed the piers and worked
out the
plans and procedures for construction.
Mr. Ross came out to Canada
in the spring
of 1853 to examine the
area, and, getting in touch with the
government officials in Quebec, he
was referred to our old friend, Hon.
John Young, who in the mean time had
Chief Commissioner of Public
A mechanical shovel in use during the construction of Victoria Bridge.
NPA photo No. 7577
Works. What a fortunate meeting that
was for a bridge projector and a bridge builder! They left Quebec
together the same evening for Montreal and the day following their
arrival, they hired a canoe and an experienced paddler. They
explored the river thoroughly from the upper end
of Nuns Island
down to the lower end
of St. Helens Island and very carefully
examined the various sites which had been proposed for the bridge.
Canoes were no novelty for John Young but the trip must have been
a rather terrifying experience for the engineer
just out from
When Mr. Ross completed his inspection and had weighed
all the advantages and disadvantages
of each of the various sites,
he unhesitatingly adopted the one which had been recommended
by Samuel Keefer.
He rightly concluded that construction would
be no more difficult and no more costly there than elsewhere, and
since it was the narrowest part
of the river, the bridge could be from
eight hundred to four thousand feet shorter than at the other
proposed sites.
The saving in the cost of the superstructure alone
was enormous.
The contractors, Peto, Brassey and Betts, then sought a
chief engineer for the job, and their choice fell on James Hodges,
who had been in their employ for many years and bad superintended
many railway and harbour contracts. He had retired from active
business some time before but he was recalled from his rustic
retreat to engage in the most important and most difficult
job of his
career. A distinguished American engineer said:
It is my firm conviction thai the contractors never, in
any of their great enterprises, displayed more wisdom
and sagacity or greater ability
to cope with great
difficulties, than
in selecting Mr. Hodgesforthe arduous
of placing the Victoria Bridge where it now stands,
as firm as the rock it rests upon. It
is not enough to say that no better man could have been found for the place.
I go further and assert, that
in any community, however
e, of intelligent and able men, it would have been a
difficult matter, a difficult matter indeed, to have picked
outamansoeminentlyfitted in all the various qualifications
it required, as Mr. Hodges has proved himself to be for
conducting the great work to a successful completion;
and it
is not only in his dealings with the Saint Lawrence
that he proved himself a man
of resource and a skilled
and patient workman but, better still, in his dealings
between man and man he has proved himself to be that
which the poet has termed, the noblest work
of God, an
honest man. It
is but negative praise to say that a man
has no enemies:
of Mr. Hodges it is but simple truth to
say that
in evelY man whom he had dealings during his
sojourn amongst us here in Canada, he secured a
No small praise indeed from a man who perhaps might have hoped
to have had the position himself!
During the winter
of 1853-54, the first steps were taken by
Mr. Hodges in laying
off the distances between the abutments and
the piers on the centre line. The work was done on the ice the
various distances were measured accurately and the exact
cent~e of
each pier was ascertained and marked on the surface of the ice. A
small hole was then cut in the ice and an iron bolt, about 3 feet long,
was forced into the bed
of the river. To the bolt was fastened a piece
of chain, the length depending on the depth of the water, and a
wooden buoy was attached to the free end
of the chain. The buoys
were forced under the ice and left until spring. Then, when the ice
disappeared from the river, the buoys floated free and it was a
simple matter to find the exact location
of each pier.
…. .. -.-:
Cal1ier Ave. to the Lake Shore and then out to the end of
a long wharf. From this branch, short spurs extended
westward into the quarry. Stone buildings were erected
nearby to serve as bunkhouses, stables, etc, and several
these are still standing. For the first year or two, shipments
were made via the Lachine Canal to the Bridge site, and six
side-wheel towboats and
72 barges were used in the
service. Later, when the railway acquired more rolling
it was found more convenient to ship by rail direct
to the stone field near the bridge, using specially-built flat
cars to carry the large blocks
of stone.
For more than 300 miles, between Montreal and
Toronto, the Grand Trunk Railway followed the north
of the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, but although
of Canadas freight traffic was water-borne, the
railway did not provide facilities for handling transshipments
to and from the boats, thus causing much inconvenience
and unnecessary expense. Pointe Claire Wharf was one
the few places where such interchange was possible, but,
perhaps being so near Montreal, it was not used very much
for that purpose. For many years, however, large quantities
of company fuel, brought down on the barges from the
of the Ottawa Valley, were unloaded there, put on
platform cars, and transported to the various wooding­
up stations.
The steamer Beaver which was used, with her sister Muskrat, to tow
barges and coffer dams, as well as
cany men and supplies to the bridge
The wharf branch was not used very much after
1870 and the rails were taken up
in 1885, but the railway
retained ownership
of the right-of-way until it was bought
by the Town in 1920. The quarry property was sold to the
Beaconsfield Golf Club in 1904 and the Pointe Claire
construction site. NPA photo No. 7026.
During the summer of 1854, little was done beyond the
necessary preparations opening quarries, preparing machinery,
barges and other needed equipment. The north approach was
commenced and the cofferdam for the n0l1h abutment constructed.
Also built were two floating cofferdams for use
in building the
piers. An observatory, about 70 feet high was built at Point St.
Charles, in which was located a large transit for establishing the
centre line
of the bridge, and a similar but smaller one was built at
St. Lambert.
The principal operation
in 1854 was the opening of the
quarries to supply stone for the abutments and piers not only
Victoria Bridge, but also the bridges over the Ottawa River at Ste.
Anne de Bellevue and Vaudreuil. The Victoria Bridge alone
required 3,000,000 cubic feet (or 250,000 Tons)
of masomy and
the two Ottawa River bridges almost as much.
The first stone of the Victoria Bridge was laid at the north
abutment on July 20, 1854, and was brought from a quarry on the
Indian Reservation at Caughnawaga. Although the stone was
good quality, the quarry was in a very inconvenient location and
the.strong currents at the head
of the Lachine Rapids made,it very
difficult to tow barges from Caughnawaga across to the Lachine
Locks, and the quarry was soon abandoned.
The line
of railway westward from Montreal to Ste. Anne
de Bellevue was completed early in 1854 and a low hill
of excellent
limestone was found almost alongside the track at Pointe Claire,
where the Beaconsfield Golf Club
is now. A branch line, almost
a mile long, was built from Pointe Claire Station, down what
is now Yacht Club, one
of the oldest in Canada, has been occupying
the site
of this former scene of activity since 1879. Today there is
little· evidence left, but the west leg of the wye at Pointe Claire
Station served a lumber yard and an oil company for many years.
of the east leg of the wye disappeared in the 1930s when the
Metropolitan Boulevard was built.
The old quarry now serves as
a rather picturesque automobile parking lot for members
of the
Golf Club, and the old wharf, which is kept in good condition by
the Town, is much used as a promenade, for bathing, and as a
shelter for the yacht anchorage.
Mr. Benjamin Chaffey, who had been given the contract
for the building
of the south abutment and the two piers nearest to
St. Lambert, procured the necessary stone from a quarry on Isle La
Motte, in Lake Champlain, operated by Messrs. Fisk and Hodgson.
As this quarry was directly on the shore
of the Jake, the stone, after
being prepared, was loaded on barges and towed by steamers
to St.
Johns. There it was trans
felTed to the Champlain and St. Lawrence
Railwad and transported a distance
of 20 miles to the south
of the bridge and deposited until needed in the stone
field, where the St. Lambert Municipal Yard
is now. Mr. Chaffey
was··a clever and· progressive engineer and the labour-saving
devices he made use
of were a revelation to the English contractors
who were accustomed to somewhat more primitive methods.
The construction
of the Victoria Bridge posed many
serious problems for the designers and builders; no bridge,
as long,
had ever been built before, and
in addition to the usual engineering
difficulties, there were some purely local conditions which were
positively alarming.
At the site selected for the bridge, the river was shallower
than at any other point between Lake Ontario and the sea, but there
was a very strong current which, since that time, has been greatly
in volume and violence by the dredging of a submarine
escape flume on the south side
of St. Helens Island. In the old
days, the speed
of the current was more than seven miles per hour
and Champlain
who visited it in 1611, described it as Le Petit Sault.
Then, in the days before the larger ice-breaking steamers
cleared the channel, the annual spring debacle was a terrifying
sight. As late as the 1950s there were many Montrealers still
living who could
remember the ice shoves which piled up a huge
of ice in the narrow tickel between Sl. Helens Island and
the Montreal shore
–higher, tis said, than the dome on Bonsecours
The engineers from England, however, who had never
seen such a sight before, were aghast at
mans impotence in the
of such uncontrollable and destructive violences of nature.
Finally, the
export of timber to England from the shipping
centres at Garden Island and Ottawa, was then at its height, and
huge rafts
of pine timbers floated down the river to the coves at
The rafts varied in size but usually were 40 feet wide by
250 feet long, and although they were equipped with steering
sweeps, they were quite unmanageable and it was thought that the
rafts men would never be able to run them through the
without striking the bridge piers, which surely would be destroyed
by the impact
of the enOnTIOUS weight carried along by the stong
current. One English engineer reported having seen, with
dismay, 35 huge rafts, AT ONE TIME, charging erratically down
towards the bridge site. Fortunately, the raftsmen were amazingly
skilful, and the danger was not as great as was feared. Perhaps, too,
the hazards were decreased by the increasing use
of sidewheel
towboats to speed up the deliveries. No longer did the rafts wander
aimlessly all over the river, getting in everyones way. However,
the engineers
got busy, and, with typical British tenacity, they
solved the problems one by one.
As previously mentioned, a careful survey was made
the surface of the ice, and the exact centre of each pier was located
and marked. Then a small hole was cut in the ice on the mark, and
iron rods, 5 feet long and four inches
in diameter, were driven
down into the bed
of the river. To these rods were attached lengths
of chain and buoys, which were thrust under the ice to reappear in
the spring. The late William E. Breithaupt, in his outline history
of the Grand Trunk Railway, which was published in Railway &
Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin No. 23, said, of the 25
spans, 24 were 242 to 247 feet
in length –it was apparently easier
to slightly vary the tube length than to exactly locate the piers.
this respect, he was mistaken, evidently having been led astray by
the varying thickness
of the piers, which increased from 144 at
piers Nos. 1 and 24, to a thickness of 27 in piers 12 and 13.
The pier thicknesses are
as follows:
Piers: X
I and
24 -144
2 and 23 -148
3 and 22 -150
4 and
21 -158
5 and 20 –
6 and 19 -164
7 and 18 -170
8 and 17 -174
9 and 16 –
10 and IS -230
11 and 14 -250
12 and 13 -270
Diagrams of floating coffer dam and
method of towing to pier site.
is to reduceforce of current.
is buoy.
The iron spans, except No. 13, were of unifonn length, but
of course the openings between the piers varied, but not in the
haphazard manner that Mr. Breithaupts statement implied. Actually
the piers were located with remarkable precision, not only with
respect to the longitudinal axis
of the bridge, but also the distance
from one pier to another, centre-to-centre.
The shallow water was full of glacial boulders, some of
them of immense size, as may be seen by examining the one which
fOnTIS part of the Ship Fever Monument in Bridge Street,
The river bed is solid rock for about 1900 feet out from
the north shore, and about 600 feet from the south shore, free from
deposit except for the large boulders. Towards the middle
of the
river, there
is shale, clay and quicksand, overlaid by hardpan, 12
to 14 feet thick, which at first was thought to be a continuation
the solid rock and subsequently caused a great deal of trouble. The
most important consideration at the begirming of operations was
the method to
be employed in placing the foundations of the piers
and abutments.
With such a varied assortment
of difficulties, it was
evident that the methods generally used for foundations, such as
or by means of concrete confined in round caissons,
would be useless.
The first plan was the construction
of large floating
cofferdams, roughly boat-shaped so
as to present the least resistance
to the current, and furnished with an inner wall
or opening
sufficiently large to admit
of the pier being built, after the water
and the boulders were removed. They would have to be capable,
of being refloated on completion of the masonry, and taken
to the site
of another pier. Three of these floating cofferdams (see
diagrams above) were built, and in some ways, they proved
to be
very satisfactory, but serious unforeseen disadvantages developed.
No.2, just after being moored at the site of Pier No.2, was struck
by a large raft, its spuds were broken, and it drifted downstream.

~ .



rrI D
. —-…,1

……… ~
, ..
-~ , ~

Elevation of floating coffer dam.
A· Spuds to hold dame in position.
B· Caissons filled with water.
C-Puddle chamber.
D· Pier in course of erection.
£. Traveller to carry stones.
p. Block of stone.
G· Removable section of caisson.

B ..–



r–:::.:.:. …. ~~ .. cl.
-. !-~-
Some repairs were needed, and then the mooring had to be done
again. Cofferdams Nos. 1 and 2 were used
in the construction of
piers 1 and 2, and, while the masonry work was completed in time,
the cofferdams were destroyed by the ice before they could be
moved to a place
of safety. No.3 was more successful, and was
used in the building
of piers 7, 17 and 18, and continued in use until
the bridge was completed.
The second plan was a cofferdam
of cribwork, and was
used for piers, 3, 4, 5, 6,
8,9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 19,20,21,22,23,
24 and the two abutments.
The third plan was a combined system, used for piers
and 13 which were somewhat larger than the others.
The floating cofferdam was built in two pieces; the principal
one consisting
of the wedge-shaped upper end and the two parallel
The height of the structure was 16 feet and the sides 20 feet
wide, and made wateltight. The second, or tail piece, was
rectangular, 16 by
20 feet, and was made to fit into and close the
in between the sides of the other at the lower end. The first
was towed upstream from the lower entrance of the Lachine
on May 24th, 1854, appropriately enough on Queen Victorias
35th birthday, and this was the actual beginning
of work on the
bridge. However, the current was so strong that the caisson could
not be moored properly, so a cribwork breakwater, similar to those
which were long visible alongside the New York Central bridge at
Chateauguay Basin, was built upstream from the mooring position,
and this provided quieter water, and there was no further difficulty.
Then the caisson was brought to its exact position, over the
iron rod
in the bed of the river, strong spuds or piles were shipped
down through guides into the bed
of the river, thoroughly driven
home by pile drivers, and these served to keep the cofferdam
stationary. Sluice gates were opened, allowing water to flow into
.the pontoon and causing it to sink to within a few feet
of the bed
of the river, the piles playing freely in their guides and allowing
this subsidence to take place. When the required depth was
reached, strong iron bolts secured the piles to the main body
of the
cofferdam, and, with additional weight on the deck, rendered the
whole mass, now resting on the numerous pile legs, stationary and
firm. Sheet piling, reaching to the bed
of the river, was then placed
around the outside to prevent the current from sweeping underneath
the cofferdam .
The second section, or tail piece, was then brought into
position and sunk
in a similar manner, completely closing the
opening at the foot
of the first and forming a well of still wate,
about 130 feet long by fifty four feet wide. In this space, two strong
frameworks were built, following the inner wall
of the caisson.
The larger one was built against the walls of the caisson, and the
smaller one was built four to six feet
out from the inner sides of the
caisson. They were stiffened
by cross braces or.struts, to prevent
them from giving way when exposed to pressure, and they extended
from the level
of the deck down to the bottom, conforming to any
irregularities in the river bed.
The two frames were covered with sheet metal piling,
driven down into the river bed, and the space between the two
formed the puddle chamber. After the gravel and loose stones were
removed, as much as possible, by dredging, the puddle was
introduced, consisting
of thick clay, rendered impenetrable to
by tamping, or beating down. The cofferdam was then ready
for pumping.
Cribwork was little understood at first by the English
engineers, but it was a form
of construction extensively used in
Canada for bridges, dams, wharves and foundations and practically
every man and boy
in the country knew how to build one. An added
advantage was that the only tools needed were saws, augers and
hammers, so, when trouble developed with the floating cofferdams,
Mr. Hodges tried cribwork with complete success.
These cribwork cofferdams were about 175 feet long and
about 90 feet wide; the enclosed well, or working space, was 125
feet long by 52 feet
in width. The cribs were built of logs, with
dovetailed cross ties between the side timbers, every ten feet, and
the whole structure strongly bolted together with iron bolts and
wooden trenails. The upper end was finished with a sloped surface,
planked over, so that the ice would slide up, and break. A floor
logs was laid down, several feet above the bed of the river, and the
whole crib filled with large stones.
On completion
of the cribwork, a puddle chamber was
in the well in exactly the same manner as in Plan No.1, and
it was ready for pumping.
In several cases, it was necessary to leave the clibwork
in the river and in place, all winter, some times planked
over as a protection against the ice but in other instances left
unprotected with equal
success and it was found that,
in most cases, they resisted
the pressure
of the ice without
difficulty. A few were more
or less damaged by the ice.
The two centre piers
were larger than the others
and also it was necessary to
block the main channel as
little as possible, so a
combination system was used
-probably the best
of all.
Four rectangular pontoons
were built for the sides
the two dams and were towed
into place and sunk in the
same manner
as in Plan No.
1. The upper ends were
of detached cribs,
wooden aprons between
to break the current,
while the lower ends were
made of continuous cribwork.
After the whole
structure was solidly bolted
together, the puddle cham­
bers were built and the well
was ready for pumping.
View of the constructions/rom the lOp o/the bridge, 1858-59. The small locomotive was built in the GTR
shops and
Llsed to haul construction material and crews.
NPA photo 7578.
The two abutments were huge stone structures, 290 feet
long by 92 feet wide at the foundation, and they now seemed
have been built on dry land or partly so, but actually they were built
well out into the river, and the intervening space subsequently
filled with a rock embankment. Experiments were made with a
floating caisson, but it was impossible
to moor it broadside to the
strong current, so it was abandoned. Finally, the working space
was surrounded by two continuous lines
of cribwork, each 9 feet
wide and one within the other, and the space between the two, four
feet wide, formed the puddle chamber.
Pumping the water
oUI of the well of the cofferdams
presented numerous difficulties, and the operation was not as
as one might suppose. About half of them were reasonably
water-tight from the beginning but others leaked badly. At pier
No.3, the bed of the river was 10 feet lower on one side than on the
other, and the whole summer was spent overcoming the difficulty.
In many cases, a sudden influx
of water would cause the workmen
to abandon their tools and scurry up the ladders provided for their
escape. Dams nos. 8 and 9 could not be pumped out, and when a
diver went down in the still water
to ascertain why the pumps made
no impression on the level, he found that the cofferdam was resting
on a pile
of round boulders which the sheet piling could not
penetrate. These stones had
to be removed by the difficult and laborious process
of divers going down and attaching grappling
to each stone, to be then removed by powerful derricks above.
The stones weighed from three
to fifteen tons and one was found
to weigh thirty tons.
The pumps used by Mr. Hodges consisted
of two cast-iron
cylinders, about
18 illches in diameter, and placed vertically, side
by side, with their piston rods connected by a bell crank, working
them alternately. They were very efficient but their large size
crowded the limited working space on the deck; the vibration was
so severe that it often caused the shOIt piling to loosen. A flexible
suction hose
led down into the well to the bottom of a sump, to
which all surface water was conducted.
of the sub contractors used centrifugal pumps
which were very efficient except when chips
of wood or other
small obstructions were drawn into them.
The size of the shell
varied from
15 to 24 inches in diameter and six to nine inches in
depth. The pumps were held
by light iron or wooden frames and
were lowered
to the bottom of the weU, thus doing the work while
submerged; power was transmitted from a shaft extending downwards
from the deck. When the well was completely emptied, a sump
was excavated and the centrifugal pump lowered into it.
Both types
of pumps working at normal speed could throw
out 800 to 1000 gallons a minute, lowering the water in the inner
of the dam at the rate of two feet an hour, and taking from three
to ten hours
to empty it entirely.
In most cases, the stones for the piers were delivered
by barges and steam tugboats, of which there were 72 of the
former and six
of the latter. Many of the stones were very
heavy, especially the ashlars, which weighed
10 to 15 tons.
On the piers built under Mr. Hodges supervision,
the stones were handled by travellers, the tops
of which
were 36 feet above water level.
Two of the machines were
elevated on staging, composed
of bents on each side of the
cofferdam, supporting two longitudinal caps
of timbers on
which were laid the rails for the travellers
to move upon,
and extended from the upper end
of the pier to the lower end
of the cofferdam, and projected sufficiently far over the end
to permit one of the travellers going out beyond the coffer­
dam above the deck
of the barge containing the stones.
The travellers were worked
by manual labour and
were provided with gearing so that they could be moved
from one end
of the cofferdam to the other. Each one had
a strong jennie or small traveller, working laterally
across the top and carrying the hand operated hoisting
machinery. They worked reasonably well, but they were
slow and it was back-breaking work for the men.
In this, as
in other ways, the sub-contractors were
more inclined
to use labour-saving devices to offset the
relatively high wages. Mr. Chaffey used derricks which
were operated by a small steam engine and the mechanism
was so ingenious that an intelligent boy could,
by manipulating
the levers, bring into play three
of the six possible movements,
either separately or at the same time.
BELOW: The piers under construction, looking
south from the centre, October
25, 1858. Mr.
Chaffeys derricks are plainly visible. Also, note the
tube under construction at the extreme right.
NPA photo No. 7526.
_.0 _
Digrams of the two types of hoisting mechanisms used to lift the stones into
place. TOP: Hodges traveller, and ABOVE: Chaffeys derrick.
The main part consisted of a mast, about
80 feet high, with an iron pivot at the base resting
in a cast iron socket, and it was held securely in
a vertical position by two wooden guys attached
to an iron pin at the top
of the mast, and the lower
ends securely attached
to the sides of the cofferdam.
Thus arranged, and with the horizontal arms
afterwards added, it could swing in an arc
of 270
and could reach all parts of the work. The arms
for supporting the travelling jennie were two
long timbers,
8 x 14, bolted on each side of the
mast. The long end,
64 long, carried the rails for
the jennie and the shorter arm served
faT the
truss rods introduced to stiffen the mast. The
controls responded to the slightest touch, it
worked very rapidly, and the heavy stones could
be deposited
in their proper places with amazing
precision and it was, perhaps, the most remarkable
and successful application
of steam power, during
the entire progress
of the work.
The superstructure consisted of square
wrought iron tubes, large enough to permit a
train to pass through the inside and being almost
entirely enclosed,
it was like riding through a
long, dark, iron tunnel.
Prior to the building
of the Victoria
Bridge and the similar but earlier Britannia
Bridge, engineers knew very ljttle about stresses
in bridges and strength of materials and Robert
Stephenson was forced to carry out a long and
This extremely detailed photo shows the piers in the course of construction in 1858.
Notice the huge stone blocks
on the barges, ready to be hoisted into position by the
cranes. NPA photo No. 7574.
A chilly looking view taken from pier
No. 12, looking towards Montreal, in March, 1859. These piers are complete, and work is proceding
on the tubes. Note the workers houses to the right of the bridge, and the GTR shops 10 the left. NPA photo No. 7533.
A view, looking in from the centre, of the piers, and the tubes under construction, late in 1858. NPA photo No. 7525.
elaborate series
of experiments with scale models. He found that
in a hollow beam, supported at each end and sustaining a weight,
the upper surface
in the centre is exposed to a strain of compression,
to the ends, while for the bottom surface, at the same
point, the conditions are the reverse, becoming tensile
–the sides
as struts or braces to prevent those oppositestrains approaching
each other.
In a beam of this description, therefore, the excess of
strength must, on the top and bottom, be in the centre and diminish
as the ends are approached; while on the sides, the conditions are
again reversed, the centre requiring the minimum
of strength
necessary for connecting the top and bottom, with
an increase as
the ends or bearings were reached. To accomplish the required
of material in the different parts of the tube, wrought
iron plates
of various thicknesses were used: –5/8, 9/16, 1/2,
7/16, 3/8, 5/16 and 1/4
–the thicker parts being used in the
parts requiring greater strength, and vice versa.
Each tube was 516 feet long and rested on three piers; it
was securely bolted to the masonry of the pier in the centre, on
which it had a solid bearing
of 16 x 19, and free bearings on each
of the two contiguous piers of 7 x 19. To provide for expansion
and contraction, the ends rested on fourteen rollers, six inches
diameter and three feet in length, with cast iron bearing plates on
the top
of the piers and similar plates bolted to the under side of the
tube. The sides
of the tubes were made of wrought iron sheets,
3 6 wide, and put together with vertical spaced butt joints,
by T bars inside and out and rivetted through.
The bottoms
of the tubes consisted of iron plates running
longitudinally with butt joints reinforced with angle and T bars on
the under side. Keelsons, made
of 10 I beams, were placed
transversely on top
of the bottom plates, spaced 7 feet apart, and
rivetted through
to the reinforcing T and angle bars underneath.
The keelsons were also attached to the inner T bars of the sides of
the tubes by lap joints and gussets.
The tops
of the tubes were supported by transverse 10 T
bar keelsons, also spaced 7 feet apart and similarly attached
to the
T bars
of the sides by lap joints and gussets. The top plates were
laid longitudinally, rivetted
to the transverse keelsons, and the
longitudinal buttjoi.nts strengthened
by inverted T bars. There was
a continuous opening, 2 feet wide, along the centre line
of the tops
of the tubes, to permit the escape of smoke and gases from the
of the locomotives. The effectiveness of this vent
was, however, nullified
by the roof which was built over the top of
the tubes. For this reason, the smoke and gases lingered unpleasantly
in the Stygian darkness
of the interior of the bridge.
To protect the tubes from rain and snow and to prevent
oxidation, it was originally intended
to cover the top of the tubes
OPPOSITE PAGE: Two photos, taken on October
25,1858. showing progress.
ABOVE: From below the north abutment. Compare this with the cover photo. taken from almost the same place after completion
of the bridge.
BELOW: A detailed view showing the staging for
No.6 tube.
NPA photos Nos.
7528 and 7529.
A lithograph, based on a Notman photo taken in 1858, showing the downstream side of the south abutment, as well as the tubes under
construction. The tempormy staging supporting the tubes
is plainly visible.
Cross sectional drawing
of the bridge showing a typical Grand Trunk
of the 1850s. Drawing by RR. Brown and a.SA Lavallee.
with a curved corrugated iron roof but this design was
abandoned and a sloping angular one substituted, composed
of tongued and grooved boards, covered with the best quality
of tin. A footwalk, 26 inches wide, extended along the top of
the roof, and rails along each top edge camed the painting­
The erection
of the superstructure started in the spring of
1857 and was completed in the autumn of 1859; the time
required for each span being about ten weeks.
Heavy staging was required for the erection and this had
to be very solid to prevent subsidence during the course of the
work. The staging consisted
of Howe trusses, the ends of
which rested on corbels left for them in the masonry of the
piers, and the middle was supported in some cases on scows,
20 x 60 feet, sunk and kept in place by spuds a
nd, in shallower
of the river, on cribs built up from the river bed. The
lower chords
of the Howe trusses carried a platform of 3 inch
planking, resting on cross timbers. This platform was 39
inches below the line
of the under side of the tube to be built
thereon. The upper chords
of the Howe trusses carried rails
on which the erecting travellers moved.
The iron work was fabricated by Peto, Brassey, Betts and
Jackson in the Canada Works, Birkenhead, England. Detailed
erection plans were provided and each piece was carefully
marked with its location and erection number. On arrival at
the bridge, the pieces were stacked in a systematic manner so
that needed pieces could be found easily. In each span there
abour5000 pieces and about half a million rivet holes
and the fabrication
in England was so accurate that the pieces
fitted together with only a few minor adjustments. At first,
drift pins were used
to line up the rivet holes but this was
prohibited by Stephensons inspectors and subsequently all
non-fitting holes were reamed. First, the bottom plates were
to camber adjusted by oak wedges on longitudinal
Another chilly scene, taken from the ice near the centre of the river, looking south, in March, 1859. NPA photo No. 7535.
timbers, and then the erection of the sides followed, starting at the
centre; finally the top plating followed the erection
of the sides as
closely as possible. Large sections were rivetted together on shore,
where the work could be done more easily, and then the sub
assemblies were carried out to the spans by the travellers.
Each tube extended over two spans, fixed on the centre
pier and having expansion rollers at the ends, and the first few were
erected as one, but when the wedges were removed and the tube
swung, there was unexpected tension at the top and partial compression
at the bottom. Later the spans were erected and swung separately
nd allowed to settle for ten days before they were joined. They
were connected at daybreak when the temperature was uniform
The camber for span No.1 was set at 3 inches, which left
a slight sag when the span was freed, so span No.2 was set at 6
inches which left a rise
of 3 inches at the middle when it was swung.
Finally, 4 inches was adopted for setting camber, resulting
in a
perfectly level floor.
The permanent track through the bridge was
laid with 63-pound
U rails, resting on 12×14 inch continuous
longitudinal timbers, with cross ties every 14 feet. The timbers
were bolted
to place at the rest piers but elsewhere they were
notched over the floor keelsons
to allow for expansion. The rails
were fasted down with dogs, with 14 lb. rolled iron chairs at the
joints. A four-foot footway extended along one side
of the track.
Windows were cut in the sides, every 60 feet, but they
quickly became covered with soot and the panes were broken too
often, so they were removed and the openings covered with
removable iron plates having a pattern
of round holes drilled in
them. The expansion and contraction in the ironwork, due
changes in temperature, was almost incredible, and careful records
were kept for the future guidance
of engineers. On hot summer
days, the temperature on the top
of the tube might be as much as
35° higher than the temperature underneath and this would cause
the tubes
to arch their backs like a row of angry cats on a fence. The
of such increase in camber observed in one day was 1
with a temperature of 124
on top and 90
at the bottom. The
maximum observed longitudinal expansion in one tube, with a
temperature range
of 27
to 128
was 3J inches, which meant that,
in the whole length
of the bridge, the length of the ironwork
increased by more than 40 inches, in the course
of a winter, spring
and summe
r! The observations were made by T.D. King who made
the bridge record its own movements
by means of flat strips of
metal or wood attached to the end of one tube and extending past
the end
of the adjoining tube. These strips were calibrated in
inches, but Mr. King also calibrated some of them in degrees of
temperature and thus claimed that the bridge was an accurate
thermometer. Modem meteorologists might think otherwise.
On November 24th, 1859, Vice President Blackwell was
on his way back
to England to attend a meeting of the Directors of
the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, and, accompanied by a large
of company officials, he crossed the bridge on a work train,
and was thus able
to report that he had come via the Victoria
Bridge. The last span,
No. 14, was completed on December 12th,
1859, and the bridge was opened for traffic on December 17th,
1859. On August 25th, 1860, the last stone was laid and the last
rivet driven by the Prince
of Wales, and the job of creating the
eighth wonder
of the modem world was completed.
The Report of Robert Stephenson
To the Directors of the Grand Trunk Railway
Reprinted from the Canadian Journal, June 1854
24, Great George Street, Westminster,
2nd May, 1854.
Gentlemen: Absence from England, and other unex pected
circumstances, have prevented my sooner laying before you the
of my visit to Canada last autumn, for the purpose of
conferring with your Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. Alexander Ross,
respecting the Victoria Bridge across the River St. Lawrence, in
the vicinity
of Montreal.
The subject will naturally render itself into three parts,
First,-The description
of Bridge best adapted to the situation.
Second,-The selection
of a proper site.
Third,-The necessity for such a structure.
Regarding the first point, I do not feel called upon to
enter upon a discussion
of the different opinions which have been
expressed by engineers, both in England and America, as
to the
comparative merits
of different classes of bridges, and more
as between the suspension and tubular principles, when
large spans become a matter
of necessity. It is known to me that
in one case in the United States a common suspension bridge has
been applied to railway purposes, but from the information in my
possession from a high engineering authority
in that Country, the
work alluded to can scarcely be looked upon as a permanent,
substantial, and safe structure. Its flexibility, I was informed, was
truly alarming, and although another structure
of this kind is in
of construction near Niagara, in which great skill has been
in designing means forneutralising this tendency to flexibility,
I am
of the opinion that no system of trussing applicable to a
platform suspended from chains will prove either durable
efficient, unless it be carried to such an extent as to approach in
dimensions a tube fit itself for the passage
of railway trains
through it. Such bridge may doubtless be successfully, and perhaps
with propriety, adopted in some situations, but I
am convinced that
even in such situations, while they will
in the first cost fall little
of wrought iron tubes, they will be more expensive to
maintain, and far inferior
in efficiency and safety.
I cannot hesitate, therefore,
to recommend the adoption
of a Tubular Bridge, similar
in all essential particulars to that of
the Britannia over the Menai Straits in this country; and it must be
observed, that, the essential features being the same, although the
length much exceeds that
of the work alluded to, none of the
formidable difficulties which surrounds [sic] its erection will be involved in the present instance.
In the Britannia, the two larger
openings were each 460 feet, whereas in the proposed Victoria
is only one large opening of 330 feet, all the rest being 240
feet. In the construction
of the latter, there is every facility for the
of scaffolding which will admit of the tubes being
constructed in their permanent position, thus avoiding both the
precarious and expensive process
of floating, and afterwards
lifting the tubes
to the final level by hydraulic pressure.
In speaking
of the facilities, it is a most agreeable and
satisfactory duty
to put on record that the Government Engineering
Department has, throughout the consideration
of this important
question, exhibited the most friendly spirit, and done everything in
its power
to remove several onerous conditions which were at one
time spoken
of as necessary, before official sanction would be
given for the construction
of the Work.
On my arrival in Canada, I found that Mr. A.M. Ross had
collected so much information bearing
on the subject of the site of
the Bridge, that my task was comparatively an easy one.
Amongst the inhabitants
of Montreal, I found two opinions
existing on this point -somewhat conflicting: the one maintaining
that the River should be crossed immediately on the lower side
the city, where the principal channel is much narrower than
elsewhere, and where also the Island
of St. Helens would shorten
the length
of the Bridge; the other seeming to be in favour of
crossing a little below Nuns Island.
of the bed of the River at both points had been
prepared, and a careful study
of these left no doubt on my mind that
the latter was decidedly the one to be adopted.
In addition, however, to the simple question of the best
site for the construction
of a bridge across the St. Lawrence, my
attention was specially called
to the feasibility of erecting and
maintaining such a structure during the breaking
up of the ice in
spring, when results take place which appear
to every observer
of forces almost irresistible, and, therefore, such as
be likely to destroy any piers built for the support of a
bridge. I have not myself had the advantage
of witnessing these
remarkable phenomena, but have endeavoured
to realise them in
my mind as far
as practicable by conversation with those to whom
they are familiar, and,
in addition to this, I have read and studied
with great pleasure
an admirable and most graphic description by
Mr. Logan
of the whole of the varied conditions on the river, from
the commencement
of the formation of ice to its breaking up and
clearing away in spring. To this memoir I am much indebted for a
clear comprehension of the formidable tumult that takes place at
different times amongst the huge masses
of ice on the smface of
the river, and which must strike the eye as if ilTesistible forces were
in operation, or such as, at all events, would put all calculations at
is no doubt the first impression on the mind of the
observer; but more mature reflection on the subject soon points out
the source from which all the forces displayed must originate.
The origin
of these powers is simply the gravity of mass
occupying the surface
of the water with a given declivity up to a
point where the river
is again clear of ice, which in this case, is at
the Lachine Falls. This
is unquestionably the maximum amount of
force that can come into play; but its effect is evidently reduced –
partly by the ice attaching itself
to the shores, and partly by its
grounding upon the bed
of the river. Such modifications of the
forces are clearly beyond the reach
of calculation, as no correct
date [sic) can
be obtained for their estimation; but if we proceed by
omitting all consideration
of those circumstances which tend to
reduce the greatest force that can be exerted, a sufficiently safe
is arrived at.
In thus treating the subject
of the forces that may be
occasionally applied to the piers
of the proposed bridge, I am fully
to many other circumstances which may occasionally combine
in such a manner as apparently to produce severe and extraordinary
pressure at points on the mass
of ice or upon the shore, and,
consequently, upon the individual piers
of a bridge. Many enquiries
were made respecting this particular view, but no facts were
elicited indicative
of forces existing at all approaching to that
which I have regarded as the source and the maximum
of the
pressure that can at any time come into operation affecting the
I do not think it necessary
to go into detail respecting the
precise form and construction
of the piers, and shall merely state,
that in forming the design, care has been taken
to bear in mind the
expedients which have hitherto been used and found successful in
protecting bridges exposed to the severe tests
of a Canadian winter,
and the breaking
of the ice of frozen rivers.
I now come to the last point, viz., the necessity
of this
large and costly bridge.
Before entering on the expenditure
of £1,400,000 upon
one work in any system
of Railways, it is of course necessary to
consider the bearing which it has upon the entire undertaking if
carried out, and also the effect which its postponement is likely to
These questions appear
to me to be very simple, and free
ffOm any difficulty.
An extensive series
of railways in Canada, on the north
of the St. Lawrence, is developing itself rapidly; part of it is
already in operation, a large portion fast progressing, and other
lines in contemplation, the commencement
of which must speedily
take place.
The commerce of this extensive and productive country
has scarcely any outlet at present, but through the St. Lawrence,
is sealed up during six months of the year, and therefore very
imperfectly answers the purposes
of agreatcommercial thoroughfare.
Experience, both
in this and other countries where
railways have come into rivalry with the best navigable rivers, has
demonstrated, beyond the possibility
of question, that this new
of locomotion is capable of superseding water carriage
wherever economy and despatch are required; and even where the
latter is
of little importance, the capabilities of a railway, properly
managed, may still be made available, simply for economy.
The great object, however, of the Canadian system of
railways is not to compete with the River St. Lawrence which will
to accommodate a certain portion of the traffic of the
country, but
to bring those rich provinces into direct and easy
connection with all the ports on the East Coast
of the Atlantic, from
to Boston, and even New York,-and consequently through
these ports, nearer
to Europe.
If the line. of railway communication be permitted to
remain severed by the St. Lawrence, it is obvious that the benefits
which the system
is calculated to confer upon Canada must remain
in a great extent nugatory, and
of a local character.
The Province will be comparatively insulated, and cut
off from that coast to which her commerce naturally tends; the
traffic from the West must either continue
to adopt the water
communication, or, what is more probable -nay, I should say,
certain -it would cross into the United States, by those lines nearly
completed to Buffalo, crossing the river near Niagara.
No one who has visited the country, and made himself
acquainted only partially with the tendencies
of the trade which is
growing up on all sides in Upper Canada, can fail to perceive that
if vigorous steps be not taken to render railway communication
with the Eastern Coast through Lower Canada uninterrupted, the
of the province of Upper Canada will find its way to the
Coast through other channels; and the system
of lines now comprised
in your undertaking will be deprived
of that traffic upon which you
have very reasonably calculated.
In short, I cannot conceive anything so fatal
to the
satisfactory development
of your Railway as the postponement of
the bridge across the river at Montreal. The line cannot, in my
opinion, fulfil its object
of being the high road for Canadian
produce, until this work is completed; and looking at the enormous
of rich and prosperous country which your system intersects,
and the amount
of capital which has already, or is in the progress
or prospect
of being expended, there is in my mind no room for
question as
to the expediency -indeed, the absolute necessity of the
of this bridge, upon which, I am persuaded, the
successful issue
of your great undertaking mainly depends.
I am, Gentlemen, yours faithfully,
Robert Stephenson.
To the Directors of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada.
Building the Centre Span
The great centre tube, 330 feet long, was originally scheduled to be erected during the summer of 1859. However, late in 1858,
the railway offered a bonus
of £60,000 to the contractors if the bridge was completed at the end of 1859 rather than 1860; one year ahead
of schedule! At this point it was decided 10 build the centre·span during the.winter, and work began early-in January, 1859. By January 31,
the staging was ready to accept the tube, and the entire centre span was complete by March 26; only 47 working days.
It was a near thing.
Only hours after the last rivet was driven, the ice began
to break up, carrying with it much of the staging. However the rush to complete the
tube averted disaster by the narrowest
of margins. The views on this and the next three pages depict this race with time, possibly the most
dramatic phase
of the entire construction of the bridge.
OPPOSITE, TOP: The bridge on December 18, 1858, before work began on the staging for the centre tube. NPA photo No. 7530.
in place; work starting on the floor of the tube. February, 1859. NPA photo No. 7531.
THIS PAGE, TOP: Work progressing
on the centre tube in early March, 1859. From a lithograph by John Weale, 1860.
THIS PAGE, BOTTOM: A close-up view
of the work on the centre tube, showing the traveller crane. NPA photo No. 7534.
OPPOSITE: Two views taken in the spring of 1859.
TOP: Looking from one
of the tubes under construction
towards the south shore, with the completed centre span
in the distance. This photo shows a great deal of
detail, even a ladder and teapot beside the track.
NPA photo, unnumbered.
BOITOM: Takenfrom the end of the tube in the previous
view. The completed centre span is plainly visible.
NPA photo
No. 7537.
A lithograph based on a photo taken
from the tower
of Notre Dame church in the summer of 1859.
The complete centre span is standing by itself, still unconnected
to the other tubes.
BOITOM: The completed centre span viewed
from below during the summer
of 1859.
NPA photo No. 7013.
(),u, J)oan fl ~.!JO .ftJd oM!·r…iVav~aAk.cha..> bO.foobaJo,,4Jumm~/-TIVrtc-r.zIJW.L.
24 Span.< 0/ ~4.2fleb ~ Tota? u,,:?vv 7000 fic~
TOP: This impressive engraving was drawn in FebruaJY, 1854 and shows the planned design for the Victoria Bridge. It was published in
Ihe Canadian Journal in June, 1854.
ABOVE: A photo
of the completed bridge in 1873, when it had been in use for more than thirteen years. Note the travellers permanently
for painting and maintaining the bridge. NPA photo No. 84736-1.
OPPOSITE: A contemporary newspaper account
of the slarr of work on the first pier of the Victoria Bridge, 1854.
·f/L-WAY. ;..-
On Saturday afternoon at 2 oclock a select party of the friends of the contractors met on board the Beaver steam tug, and proceeded
to the coffer dam of the No.1 Pier at the Victoria Bridge. The
dam … [aJ gigantic wooden edifice … had been pumped clear of water for the
commencement of the masonry.
As the steamer approached the dam, the company had an excellent opportunity of judging of the immense difficulty of the work. The
current running with extreme rapidity, and forming a considerable extent of broken water, in many places embarrassed by rocks and bolders,
proved that
it could be no slight task to convey to the spot, and then securely to moor, and sink, such unwieldy masses of carpentry. The
steamboat having been made fast a little above the dam, the company were carried
in three large boats to the No.1 dam, and speedily
disembarked. When upon the wooden wall, a large
chamber presented itself below the feet of the visitors, having erected over it a high scaffolding
supporting a couple of wooden bars with iron rails on, which travelled a carriage worked by a crank overhead, having dependant from
it a chain
and cant hooks for transporting stones from one part of the enclosure to another. At the upper part of the dam
was a steam engine of considerable
power, and some idea may be formed of the pumping force, as well as of the closeness of the enclosure, when
we mention that the whole dam
was cleared of water by the engine in less than two hours.
An adjournment was speedily made to the bottom of the river
… The.botto~.s.lligl~Jts natural state; the first process being to fill up
the inequalities, so as to make a level head for the regular courses of stone work. The first operations in this business of leveling took place at
once. Some cement having been prepared, Sir. Cusac Roney, Mr. Hodges, Mr. Ross,
C. E., and some other gentlemen armed themselves with
trowels, and went to work heartily preparing a bed for the rough stone intended to fill up one of the bottoms. The ladies, not to be behind hand,
took the trowels in their turn … The stone being brought
over the spot was lowered amidst several rounds of applause from workpeople and
company; the ceremony being crowned by breaking a bottle of champagne upon the top of it.
Cheers were then given for Mr. Hodges, Sir C. P. Roney, Mr. Ross, Mr. MCKenzie, and other gentlemen connected with the work, followed
three cheers for Her Majesty. The champagne corks soon began to fly, and after a short lunch His Worship the Mayor proposed the health
James Hodges, Esq., and the contractors. Col. Maitland then proposed the health of Sir Cusac Roney and the management directors of the
Grand Trunk Company, and Mr. Holmes that of Mr. Ross, the Chief Engineer of the line. All the gentlemen briefly returned thanks, and as the
weather was very threatening there was a hasty movement from re-embarkation, which, however, was not accomplished till several of the ladies
and some of the gentlemen had been wetted through by a heavy shower, which just then began to fall.
!twill be gratifying to our readers to know that
anothercoffer·dam was sank yesterday, making in all three, and that the contractors hope
only to construct all the piers within them; but to use them again for other piers before the end of the season.
The carrying on of each works, however, in our climate, is attended with difficulties which must arrest progress in spite of all foresight
energy. It is but a few weeks since the place where the dam now is was covered with ice, and in less than three months, all the expensive
constructions .
.. must be removed for another long winter. Such obstacles task the patience and the resolution of the most enterprising; but they
We are convinced, neither check the courage, nor abate the ardour of Mr. Hodges. The Victoria Bridge will proceed, not only in spite of frost
and currents, but, also,
in spite of the sneers and misrepresentations with which its promoters have been assailed.
The Pilot, Montreal, Monday Evening, July 24, 1854
A Glance at the Victoria Bridge -1860
By Charles Legge
The following account is a selection of extracts from a book entitled A Glance at the Victoria Bridge and the Men Who Built It
written by Charles Legge and published early in 1860. Mr. Legge was an Assistant Engineer under James Hodges, and thus was highly
qualified to write such a work, being intimately connected with the
job from start to finish. The actual volume is a paperback pocket-size
of 153 pages, and was published some months prior to the official opening of the bridge, by the Prince of Wales, in August, 1860.
Original spelling, and most
of the original punctuation (including one sentence of 169 words!), has been retained throughout.
The year 1859 closed with the addition of the eighth
wonder to the worlds museum,
in the completion of the Victoria
Bridge, and the adding
of another trophy to the power of mind over
The important connecting link of the Canadian railway
system was completed, and the Far West put
in immediate
connection with the eastern seaboard. The hopes
of its projectors
were realized and the doubts and fears
of its friends dispelled. The
difficulties of nature
in their most formidable type were surmounted,
in a shorter space
of time than anticipated by the most sanguine.
In making arrangements for carrying out the work, in
devising coffer-dams, machinery, and all the thousand and one
skilful appliances to be made use
of in its prosecution, no assistance
was rendered
by Messrs. Stephenson and Ross, as both gentlemen
it entirely within the province of the contractors, or
rather their representative, Mr. Hodges, to adopt such means as
they might consider most economical to themselves, so long
as the
soundness and stability
of the work were in no way affected.
Ajloaling coffer dam in position. with a barge-load o/stones being towed towards the work site. From an engraving published by John Weale
in London
in 1860.
With Mr. Hodges therefore rests
the entire credit
of the origination and
successful applications
of the numerous
ingenious inventions and adaptions
in the
carrying out
of this work.
Th.e most important consideration
at the commencement
of operations, was
the method to be employed
in placing the
of the piers and abutments in
place, and at the same time to combine great
strength, efficiency, and economy. In a river
exposed to such extreme changes, strength
of current and depth of water, with the
peculiar deposit existing on its rocky bed to
be removed, it was evident that the methods
generally used for foundations, such as the
diving-bell, or by means
of concrete confined
in caissons, would be utterly futile, and
therefore not
to be entertained.
The idea that first suggested itself
to Mr. Hodges, in connection with the building
of the piers, was the construction
of large
floating coffer-dams, so arranged
as to present
the least resistance to the current, and furnished
an inner well or opening sufficiently
large to admit
of the pier being built, after
the water and deposit were removed, and
on the completion of the masonry,
of serving a similar purpose with additional
Three structures of this description
were built, and undoubtedly were the most
economical, speedy, and effective system
of coffer damming made use of. By means
of the first two built,
No.1 and 2 piers were
A floating de1lick and pile driver at work in the summer oj 1859.
NPA photo No. 7015.
erected; and had it been possible to remove them to winter quarters
a few days sooner, many other piers would have owed their
existence to them. The third one, however, built
tlu-ee piers most
successfully, and was only taken to pieces on the completion
of the
The circumstances which operated most against the use of
floating dams arose from their being able to build but one pier each,
in the season, besides not being adapted to meet the force of the ice,
and consequently, did any unforseen difficulty with the foundation
arise, by which the masonry could be commenced or completed the
same year, as
in the case of Nos. 3,4,5,6,8,9, 14, and 15 piers,
the entire structure would
be destroyed by the ice. A second system
had to be introduced to obviate such contingencies, being sufficiently
strong to remain intact during the winter, and in readiness for next
seasons operations. A third system, being a combination
of the
other two, was also devised.
No.1, or floating coffer dam, was used in the erection of
piers 1,2,7,17, and 18.
No.2, or solid crib coffer dam: Piers 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10,
11,14,15,16,19,20,21,22,23,24 and the two abutments.
No.3, or combined system: Piers 12 and 13.
The following is a brief description of the fOim and
of a pier, as matured by Mr. Ross. The requirement
of the tube being 16 feet in line ofthe bridge by 21 feet transversely,
the dimension
of the piers, excepting the two centre ones, were
established at 33 feet in line
of the river by 16 feet in width, at the
under side
of the superstructure. The up-stream side of the shaft
descends with a batter
of 3 in 10 feet, to a point in all cases 30 feet
above summer water, forming the top or saddle
of the ice-breaker.
To form the ice-breaker, the masonry at this point is extended
horizontally up-stream, about 10 feet, to prevent ice coming
contact with the shaft, should it even reach that height, and from
thence descends with a slope
of 1 to I to a point 6 feet under
summer water level, or 36 feet from the boltom
of the shaft,
presenting an angular or wedge face to the current.
At this point an
of one foot is made, and thence descending in a vertical line
to the rock, still preserving the same angular shape. The down­
stream end
of the pier is brought down to within 28 1/2 feet of the
summer level, with a batter
of 3 in 10 feet, where an offset takes
of 1 foot, thence descending to summer water level with a
of 4 1/2 in lO feet, thence to a point 6 feet under summer
that his v iews are correct, and that he has arranged
the material comprising the pier in the most
perfect manner possible for the service it
required to perfonn.
The inside of the abutment at the Montreal end, showing the massive masonry work.
An important feature in the character of the
is the formidable looking abutments at
each end, and which give so massive an appearance
to the whole structure. They are 290 feet long by
92 feet in width at the rock foundation, and
carried up to a height
of 36 feet above summer
water level, for the reception
of the ends of the
adjoining tubes, which have a bearing
of eight
feet on them.
At this level the dimensions are
to about 242 feet X 34 feet, from the
different slopes and batters. A parapet
is then
carried up on all sides
to a height of 293,
terminating in a heavy projecting cornice, with
flat lintels 16 feet in width, over the land and tube
at each end of the abutment, and, being
in the Egyptian style of architecture, the effect
is extremely grand and impressive,
conveying the idea
to the spectator of enormous
solidity and strength. These abutments are not
reality what they appear to be, a solid mass of
masomy, butholJow, each having eight openings
or cells 48 feet in length and 24 feet
in width,
separated by cross walls five feet thick, with the
top arched and corbelled over four feet under rail
The flank wall on the down-stream side,
rising nearly perpendicular,
is seven feet in
thickness, and tied to the cross walls, while that
Taken during the summer of 1859. NPA photo No. 7037.
level with a batter of 1 foot in 5 feet, where an offset of 1 foot takes
place, thence vertically
to the rock. The sides of the pier leave the
top with a batter
of 3 in 1 0 feet to summer level, thence to 6 feet
under the summer level with a batter
of l in 5, where the offset of
1 foot occurs, thence plumb to the rock. The dimensions of the pier
are thus increased from 33 X 16 at the top
to 92 X 22 1/2 at the
foundation. The two planes containing the wedge portion
of the
ice-breaker are dressed smooth, while the remaining sides
of the
pier are left in their rough or quarry state, with the exception
of the
angles, which have a margin draft
of 6 inches. The two centre piers
are 33 X 24 at tube level, and increase proportionally in dimensions
as they approach the foundation. The courses
of masonry comprising
the piers run from 310
to 16, the individual stones of which
range from 6
to 17 tons. Those in the cut-water are fastened
together by strong iron cramps 12 X
5 X 1/2 thick, through
which bolts I 1/2 diameter and provided with a slit on the base for
the introduction
of an iron wedge, are passed six inches into the
course below when the bolt reaches the bottom
of the hole prepared
for it in the lower course, the wedge
is forced up into the slip, thus
the iron and forcing it against the solid walls
of its prison,
from whence it
is impossible ever to be withdrawn. The whole
of the cut-water is thus converted into one huge block.
We think any person who compares the two arrangements
for guarding against danger from ice, will be convinced from the
clear and powerful style in which Mr. Ross deals wi
th the subject, on the up-stream side slopes from its foundation
to an angle of about 46 degrees. Its
thickness is 12 feet, and it rests against the cross walls before
to. It presents a smooth surface to facilitate the operations
of the ice, on which account its form has been determined; and to
ensure greater resistance to the pressure of the ice, the walls are
partially filled with earth, stone and gravel so that one solid mass
is obtained. The great length given these abutments,
is in view of
the rapidity of the current and the floating ice sweeping around
their outer ends, after striking the upper side
of the embankments,
and which nothing but the most massive masoruy can resist.
The section determined by Mr. Ross for the earth
embankment leading from the abutment
to the shore, is peculiarly
well adapted for meeting the shove
of ice. The upper side exposed
to it is formed into a hollow shelving face; the lower portion or foot
of the slope has a straight incline of 3 to 1, extending to the bed of
the river; while the centre part is a circular curve of 60 feet radius,
running in a tangent
to the top, with an inclination of I 1/4 to I. The
large floes
of ice, in sliding up, cannot pass this curved section, but
break and fall back. The down-stream side which
is not exposed to
the direct action of floating ice, has a slope of 1 1/2 to 1. The faces
of the slopes on each side, are protected by a rip rap wall of broken
stones, from 3
to 6 feet deep, and surmounted by a cut-stone coping
3 feet wide and one foot thick, running on each side, the entire
of the embankments, and terminating at the end in two
massive Egyptian pilasters, built
in rock-face ashlar. The
as completed are 28 feet in width at rail-level.
The masoruy of the parapets on each abutment was built
by means
of large Wellington cranes, 35 feet in height by 53 feet
in span, encompassing the entire walls, and sufficiently strong
elevate stones weighing ten tons with safety.
On the entrance-lintels
of those parapets, above the
roadway, the following inscription in large letters
is cut into the
While the lintels at the other end, or over the tube entrance, bears
Various considerations induced Mr.
Hodges to adopt the plan of building the tubes in
place, instead
of following the method used by
Mr. Stephenson at the Menai Straits, a considerable
of the river being obstructed by shoals,
and even in deep water large detached boulders,
by ice, frequently lifted their heads ..
within a short distance of the surface. The numerous t.
rafts constantly descending during the summer
season, and the necessity
of continuing the tube
in the winter when the surface of the
river was covered by ice, as well as its great
width, were some
of the reasons which operated
against building the tubes on shore and floating
them out on pontoons.
In designing the most efficient scaffolds
for this purpose many things had
to be kept in
view. These spans near the shore, when built in
summer, and generally beyond the reach of
descending rafts, required the minimum of strength ;
and precautionary measures, apart from the
necessary requirements for sustaining the great
of the tube. This class may be termed No.
1 or Summer Scaffold. Class No.2 consisted of
those built during the summer, but in the direct
channels taken by heavy rafts, and consequently
required an excess
of strength over and above the
tube requirements, to enable them successfully
… ,.
amount of additional weight and stability above either of the other
to meet the tenific and almost irresistible winter forces of
moving fields of ice.
Before describing either
of these direct classes, we will
give a statement
of the work accomplished by each:
No.1 or Summer Scaffold, Tubes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,16,20,21,22,
23, and 24.
No.2 or Truss Summer Scaffold, Tubes 1,9, 10, 11, 14, 15,
16, 17, and 18.
Class No.3 or Winter Scaffold, Tubes 7,8, 12, 19, and 25.
In the erection
of Class No.1, three wooden cribs 57 feet
by 20 feet wide were sunk in the opening between two piers,
it into equal spaces, and raised four feet above summer
water. The floor containing the stone filling was placed at that level
and the cribs filled up; leaving three spaces a foot wide each, the
full width
of the crib, one in the centre line of the bridge, and one
on each side at the distance
of 11 feet from the centre. Through
those openings hard-wood piles, shod with iron, were driven down
into the bed
of the river as far as practicable, and cut off on top to
the same level. In the erection of this class of scaffold, scows were
sometimes substituted for the cribs by Mr. Hodges, in which case
piles were driven down through guides in their sides and these piles
supported the weight
of the superstructure and tube.
Class No. 2.-In this mode
of scaffolding an entirely
different arrangement was introduced. A single crib, 80 feet long
to resist the impact against them by the swift
current. Class No
.3 -This mode required a vast
The northern entrance of the bridge in November, 1859, showing the Egyptian
architecture, as well as the inscriptions over the portals. NPA photo No. 7216.
The scaffold for the centre opening
13] differed somewhat from the foregoing.
There, the increased span required two
supporting cribs; and the height being sufficiently
above any danger from ice, allowed Mr.
to bring the superstructure of the
scaffold entirely underneath the tube bottom
and, for additional strength, to introduce a
third longitudinal rib. All were strongly cross­
braced and connected together.
The run of the
of the truss was reduced from 16
feet to 12 feet.
In the erection of all those scaffolds,
scows with lifting derricks, driven either by
horses or steam power, were employed, and by
this means pieces
of timber 60 feet long and
14 square were taken from the water and
raised 60 feet high, with the same facility as
the stones
of the piers, by the traveller and the
-steam cranes,
On August J 2, J 859, the foundationfor the last pier (No, J 1) was laid, This photo shows the
ceremony at which Sir
W. Fenwick Williams, Commander-in-Chief of the Britishforees in
Canada, and other celebrities were present, Note the paddle boxes of the Beaver and
in the foreground,
The entire scow was made up of two
smaller ones, or pontoons 60 feet long by 10
feet wide and about 4 feet deep, with the lower
of the ends taken off. They were placed
side by side, with an intervening space
of 10
feet between the adjoining sides, and decked
over. The mast stood at the upper end over the
centre space between the two scows, and was
held in place by two wooden guys, running
from the top to the outer angles
of the lower
of the vessel. A moveable jib-boom or arm
was attached
to the mast some distance from
the top and cOImected, at its extreme end, with
the top
of the mast, allowing it to be raised or
lowered at pleasure, or as required
by the
of the scaffold.
NPA photo No, 7030,
by 30 feet wide, was sunk in the centre of the opening and carried
to a height of 10 feet above summer level; the floor was near the
of the water, and entirely filled with stones to yield the
weight necessary for its protection when struck
by rafts,
Class No, 3,-In this design a crib 80 feet long and 30 feet
wide was sunk in the centre and carried
up to the bottom of the truss
or 6 feet from the tube. The upper end was sloped
up from the
bottom, with an inclination
of 1 to 1, to a height of about 30 feet
above summer level, at which point the dimensions of the crib were
to 40 feet in length by 28 feet in width -from this level a
of 12 feet was left from the front edge of the slope, and the
of the crib, 28 feet by 28 feet, continued up, The margin so
retained was planked over and formed the saddle
of the ice­
breaker, being adapted for throwing off the ice if it should succeed
in coming over the top
of the slope, and prevent it striking the
square face
of the shaft. The timber work of the crib was as strongly
put together as possible, and the slope or ice-breaker was sheeted
with 4 hardwood planks, resting with a solid bearing
on the strong
timber-work underneath. The first floor was 3 feet under the
summer level, the second one 7 feet above, the third
10 feet above
the last,
and filled with stones to the top of the ice-breaker. A series
of blocks and ropes, constituting the lifting
arrangement, was attached
to the outer end of the boom, with the
leading rope conveyed down the mast, and thence
to the drum of
the motive power. The whole mast had likewise a rotatory motion,
enabling the stick, after being lifted to the proper height,
to be
deposited on the scaffold anywhere within the range
of the arm. By
this arrangement a large truss-scaffold could be put up or taken
down in a remarkably short space
of time. The scows, from their
peculiar shape and light draught
of water, were eminently well
designed for being moved about or moored in strong currents, and
were first introduced on the work by Mr. Chaffey, with horse
power for working them, and afterwards adopted by Mr. Hodges,
who substituted steam power.
The superstructure, as designed by Mr. Stephenson,
of 25 tubes, or, rather, as one continuous tube extends over
two spans,
of 12 double tubes and the large central one over the
channel. They are
of the uniform width of 16 feet throughout, for
the accommodation
of a single line of railway, but differing in
height as they approach the centre. Thus, the depth
of the tubes
A photo of indifferent quality, but vely rare, shows the iron plates
on the staging ready to be installed in place. Some plates were
rivetted together on shore before being brought out
to the bridge.
Canadian Centre for Architecture.
over the first two spans is 18 6, the next two 19 feet, and so on,
every coupled pair gaining an additional six inches,
to the centre
one, which
is established at 22 feet in depth, as the proper
proportion obtaining for a beam 330 feet long. These side-spans
being all the same length, the increase
in height does not arise from
any requirement
of additional strength, but simply to prevent the
of too great a break being visible in the top line of the
tubes, and, by graduating the difference in height between the ends
and the centre,
to give greater facilities for the roof required in the
of the tubes from moisture and consequent oxidation,
and presenting at the same time a straight and continuous outline
on top.
These tubes, being detached, are not designed on the
of continuous beams, for practical reasons, including the
circumstances of the steep gradient on each side
of the central
span, and the great disturbance which would be caused by the
accumulated expansion and contraction
of such a continuous
of iron work, in a climate where the extremes of temperature
are so widely apart. The alTangement introduced
of coupling but
two together, with an intelTOediate space of 8 inches between them
and the neighbouring tubes, divides this movement and retains it
within certain specified limits.
-A double tube, covering two openings, is-securely boIted
to the masonry of the pier in the centre, on which it has a solid
of 16 feet by 19 feet, and provided with a free bearing on
of the two contiguous piers of 7 1/2 feet, resting at each end
on 14 expansion rollers 6 in diameter and 3 feet in length, seven
on each side of the tube, retained in place by a wrought-iron frame,
allowing the rollers
to traverse on a plained cast-iron bed-plate 7
1/2 feet long 3 1/2 feet wide and 3 inches thick, bolted to the
masonry. A similar plate covers the rollers, and is secured to the
of the tube. The tube is thus free to expand or contract each
way from the bearing-pier in the centre.
Creosoted tamarack timber, covered with felt,
is introduced
between the iron and the stone,
in every case, to give the junction
of these hard materials a certain amount of elastici ty.
The tube proper is composed entirely of wrought iron, in
the folTO of boiler plate, ranging from 4/16 to 12/16 of an inch in
thickness, with the joints and angles stiffened and strengthened by
the addition
of Tee and Angle irons. The secret of success in this
of construction lies in alTanging those different thicknesses
where the strains or weights call for addition strength
or otherwise.
It is not our purpose to enlarge upon this subject further
to state, that in a hollow beam supported at each end, and
sustaining a weight, the upper surface in the centre is exposed
a strain of compression, diminishing to the ends, while for the
lower surface at the same points the conditions are reversed,becoming
tensile,-the sides acting as struts or braces to prevent these two
opposite strains approaching each other.
In a beam of this description,
therefore, the excess
of strength must, on the top and bottom, be
the centre, and diminish as· the ends are approached; while on the
sides the conditions are again reversed, the centre requiring the
of strength necessary for connecting the top and bottom,
with an increase
as the ends or bearings are reached.
The following table will shew the general distribution of
material in the different parts of the tube, as alTanged by Mr.
Stephenson, starting in all cases from the centre of the spans:-
Sectional Area.
Lngth of
Division. Tee and Area.
Thickness of
Centre. Angle

1 11.00 125
92T~ 217)~
2 11.00 125 86
11, 2ll)l ~
3 ll.OO !l4~
4 !l.00 107)~ 84 191H j
5 11.00 87! 84+ 172l
6 11. 00 75 77-[11 152,,% _

7 11.00 56H 77-h 134 –
8 11.00 53! 55! 108!
9 11.00 50 55! 105:

10 11.00 50 48 98

11 11.00 1

Bearing. 8.00
1 19.G 137.50 63.75 201. 25
i-tel 2 14.0 137.50 57.75 195.25 – ~
3 14.0 125.00 57.75 182.75
Cl_CC .g
4 14.0 112.50 54.25 166.75
)5_. -l1, J A
5 14.0 87.50 57.50 145 )~G-d
6 14.0 85.00 33.00 118
7 14.0 50.00 42.00 92 ·li6
8 17.6 50.00 42.00 92 )16
Bearing. 8 50.00 42.00 92
The sides of the tubes at the bearing ends are likewise
greatly stiffened by lateral bracing. Keelsons,
10 inches in depth,
are placed transversely at distances
of 7 feet and secured to the side
Tee bars
by gussets for the support of the longitudinal timbers
carrying the rail.
The top of the tube is also supported by keelsons
at the same distances apart, and the whole tube rendered rigid by
stiffening gussets and double covers over every joint. The wrought
iron in a single tube 258 feet in length, including its bearings over
the piers, weighs about a ton
to the nmning foot, or 258 tons in aJ l.
The central tube, in consequence of its increased length,
is somewhat different in its arrangement; the bottom and top being
proportionally stronger,-the first with an additional thickness
plates, and the last with longitudinal keelsons 10 high, taking the
of the ordinary longitudinal Tee bars, as existing on the side
tubes; the side plates are 2 1/2 feet, instead
of 3 1/2 feet wide, with
a proportionally larger number
of side Tee bars. The whole tube is
disconnected from the others, being bolted
to pier No. 12, and
resting on the rollers on No.
13 pier.
Windows are introduced into the sides
of the tubes near
the line
of neutral axis, and serve to light up the inside. Iron
bracket~ are placed on the piers where not occupied by the tubes,
and slope back to-the top
of the tubes, but are entirely disconnected
from them. They serve
to give a finished appearance, and likewise
prevent the snow and rain blowing
in through the openings left for
expansion and contraction.
It was originally intended to cover the top
of the tubes
with a curved corrugated iron roof
to protect them from the
weather. This design was subsequently abandoned and the present
sloping angular one substituted, composed
of grooved and tongue
boards, covered with the best quality
of tin. This tin is not put on
in the usual manner, but,
by an ingenious arrangement, each sheet
is allowed
to expand and contract at pleasure, without the danger
of destroying the fastenings which attach it to the timber underneath,
as in the ordinary method made use of, and thus ensures its
continual efficiency. [Unfortunately Mr. Legge does not describe
what this ingenious arrangement is. Ed.].
A foot-walk 26 inches in width extends along the top
the roof, the whole length of the tubes, for the convenience of the
employees connected with the work; a track
is also provided for the
painti ng -travellers.
The plates and iron work for the tubes were nearly all
prepared in England, punched, marked and ready for putting
together, before coming
to Canada. Thus each individual plate,
strip, cover, keelson, gusset, tee and angle iron, had the number
tube, thickness and mark corresponding with similar ones in the
detailed drawings
of each tube, sent out with the iron, and enabled
every piece to be identified at a glance and placed
in its proper
position in the work. This was a most important point, as the plates
differed from each other in the small gradations
of 1/16 of an inch
in thickness, and would
o,tll,erwi.s,e have render{:d ita,<;Iifficull and
tedious work
to carry out the correct arrangement in the distribution
of the different thicknesses of plates, and probably would have
in errors.
Prior to the commencement
of the iron work, extensive
temporary shops were put up at Point St. Charles and
SI. Lamberts
[sic. This spelling was often used at that time.] and provided with
the necessary powerful machinery for manufacturing rivets, cutting
and punching boiler-plate, from an inch in thickness downwards,
making screw-bolts, drilling and turning, as well as machinery
which large sections of the sides of the tubes were rivetted together
by steam power, and so conveyed
to the tube in course of erection.
Accommodation was likewise provided for a large number
smiths, and during the two years occupied with the iron work these
unpretending looking shops were alive with labour and energy,
admirably governed
in all the numerous branches and details.
On the completion
of the scaffold, the packings and
wedges were arranged accurately
to levels furnished by the
engineer in charge, at distances
of20 feet along the tube, by which
a camber
of 4 1/2 inches was given to its bottom, to allow about 2
inches for subsidence
of the scaffold, and compression of the
packing, during construction, and
to possess at least 2 1/2 inches
when completed, and prior
to the wedges being struck. The
bearing-plates for the friction-rollers were then bolted
to the bed
of the masonry with 3 creosoted tarmac plank enveloped in felt,
intervening, supporting the 14 friction expansion-rollers, and
frames with the cover-plates similar
to those beneath, placed over
them and bolted
to the end bottom-plates of the tube. Similar
timbers were likewise introduced between those covers and the
tube, as well as
in the recess left in the next or bearing pier. Every
thing was now in readiness for the rapid progress
of the work. The
respective plates as marked and corresponding to those on the plan,
were brought forward and bolted together in place, and in the
of a week the entire plating of the bottom was completed.
Portable forges for heating rivets were then brought on
to the scaffold, attended
by a set of rivetters each. The set was
of two rivetters and a holder-up, all men, with two
boys, one for working the forge, and the other for carrying the rivet
to the place required, and introducing it into the hole from
underneath. The holder-up then brought a heavy hammer against
its head
to retain it in its place, while the two rivetters on the upper
side proceeded with two small hand hammers
to bring its upper end
into the required shape for the head
of the rivet; which being done,
both dropped the small hammers, one seizing a steel concave cup,
which he held on the head lately fashioned roughly into shape, and
the other a heavy sledge-hammer, with which he struck the cup a
succession of vigorous blows, forcing the still red-hot rivet into all
of the hole, and leaving the end smooth, round and regular.
A steel drift, or round pin tapering
to a point was then placed in the
next hole and forced into it
by several heavy blows, causing the
of the different plates lying in each other to correspond
exactly. The drift was then knocked back by the holder -up underneath,
and a second red-hot rivet introduced,
to meet with the same
treatment as its predecessor, and so on throughout.
In an after part
of the work, while the top and sides were being rivetted, the holder­
up stood on a light scaffold some distance from the fires; but such
was the skill acquired by the little boys in the science and laws
projectiles, that with the small tongs they sent the red-hot messengers
through the smoky. atmosphere
,,. with the most unerring aim, to that
of the narrow scaffold occupied by the holders-up, who seized
them with similar tongs, and placed them in the holes previously
drifted, and brought the weight
to bear against their heads.
to return to the bottom. Four or five sets of rivetters
in the course
of a few days prepared it for the reception of the side­
plates. These plates were rivetted with the machines at the shops
in large sections composed
of 6 small plates and four T bars over
their junctions, put on trollies or small cars, and,
by means of the small shunting or pony engine,
were brought immediately to the place required.
From the trollies they were lifted on end and
swung into place by the Wellington cranes before
referred to, and fastened to the bottom keelsons
by side gussets. A second one was then put up on
the other side
of the tube, and secured in like
manner, as well as connected by the top keelsons
and gussets; others soon followed, and in a few
days the greater part
of the sides were in place.
After the centre space
of 1/4 inch plates, amounting
to about 70 feet, was completed, the top plates,
and the longitudinal angle and T bars were
put on
and the rivetters started, the sides requiring them
only at the top, bottom, and every third vertical
T bar. The plating being completed and eight or
ten sets
of rivetters at work, the noise, din,
darkness, and confusion, rendered the tube a
perfect pandemonium
to a person visiting it for
the first time, and as he carefully felt his way
along, before becoming accustomed to the
darkness; falling occasionally
over keelsons and
other obstacles in his path, trembling with fear
lest some
of the fiery rivets should come in
contact with his face in their swift passage
through the air to their respective destinations;
with the smoky blazing fires surrounded by
active little imps covered with soot and dirt;
together with the drum-like reverberations
of the
hollow tube, as
if a thousand demons were
exercising their combined agility and strength in
producing the greatest amount
of tip tap tapping
on its sides and top for his especial benefit, he
would have had some difficulty
in bringing
View along the top of the tube, in December, J 859, showing the roof walk as well as
the traveller used for painting. At the time this photo was taken, the construction
of the bridge was almost completed.
NPA photo No. 7039.
himself to believe he was not a resident in Plutos dark dominion,
of a visitor to the celebrated Victoria Bridge. But as the idea
of being an inhabitant
of earth gained ground, and while cogitating
upon all the wonders surrounding him, with thoughts occasionally
reverting to the probable damage sustained by his hearing facilities,
these doubts were for the time dissipated
by a succession of shrill,
sharp whistles
in the immediate vicinity, and on turning quickly to
learn their import, discerned through the dim, hazy light, the
powerful but puffing little engine rapidly approaching, with its
loaded cars, the place he occupied. This ocular demonstration that
his ears were still all right, gave renewed energy to his bodily
movements; but
in the agile semi-rotary evolution attempted, with
a view to prevent any damage either to the engine or himself,
a collision, a not sufficient heed to his footsteps brought that
delicate and sensit
ive part of his person known as the shin into
immediate and forcible contact with the hard edge
of a keelson bar,
and landed its proprietor at full length, face downward, on the
of the tube, at the same moment the energetic tittle
locomotive swept pas
t. While afterwards reflecting on the erratic
movements described, and congratulating himself on being
possession of all his usual facilities, a sharp stinging pain in the
lower extremity brought to mind the damage sustained
by his
understanding, and furnished adctitional food for reflection, as
he limped out of the darkness into broad daylight.
The plating of the tubes was usually let to the platers by
the ton, while the rivetters, including the holders-up and boys,
were allowed a certain sum per diem. A
days work required the
in of a certain number of rivets, and any over that to be
counted as extra time.
Some gangs have been known to make 4 days in about 16
hours working time, putting
in 700 rivets, when 180 constituted the
number required. Generally, however, they did not average over 1
1/2 days each when working.
Each rivet, after being put in, was tested by the inspector,
if loose or too small, was cut out by the parties who put it in,
and replaced by another. On the completion
of the rivetting, and
after being thoroughly examined by Mr. Hodges and the inspector
by Messrs. Stephenson and Ross, levels were taken to
determine the ordinates
of the camber then existing, at distances
of 20 feet along the bottom of the tu be, prior to the wedges being
struck from underneath.
The foregoing description will convey a general idea
the structure as designed by Messrs. Stephenson and Ross, and, in
assigning each gentleman the individual creditdue for the magnificent
of their joint labours, we find it a difficult matter to
discriminate correctly.
First stone No.1 pier laid: 20th July, 1854.
First passenger train passed: 17th December, 1859.
Total length
of bridge: 9184 feet lineal.
of spans: 25; 24 of 242 feet; one of 330 feet.
Height from surface
of water to underside of centre tube: 60 feet.
Height from bed
of river to top of centre tube: 108 feet.
Greatest depth
of water: 22 feet.
General Rapidity
of current: 7 miles an hour.
Cubic feet
of masonry: 3,000,000.
Cubic feet
of timber in temporary work: 2,250,000.
Cubic yards
of clay used in puddling dams: 146,000.
of iron in tubes: Say 8250.
of rivets: 2,500,000.
of painting on tubes: One coat 30, or for the four coats, 120
Force employed in construction during the Summer
of 1858, the
working season extending from the middle
of May to the middle
of November:
Steamboats, .6,. Horse-power 450, Barges 72. Total 12,000 tons.
by 500 sailors.
In stone quarries 450 men.
On works, Artizans, &c. 2090 men.
Total, 3040 men.
Horses, 142. Locomotives, 4.
The following summary is given of the progress made
from year
to year, during the construction of the Victoria Bridge:
During this year but little was done beyond the necessary
preparations, in opening quarries, preparing machinery, steamboats,
barges, and the requisite appliances for carrying on the work. The
north approach was commenced, and the coffer dam for the
abutments constructed.
Two floating coffer dams were built; and
an observatory about 70 feet
in height erected at Point St. Charles
for the reception
of a large transit-instrument, to be used in
establishing the centre line of the bridge; a smaller one was also put
at St. Lambert. The most important work accomplished was the
up of two quarries, one at Pointe Claire, on the line of the
Grand Trunk Road, fifteen miles above Montreal, the second at
Isle Lemotte, in Lake Champlain, at the distance
of 60 miles from
the south end
of the bridge. The stone yielded by those quarries
to the first in the series of the lower silurian, and is known
by the geological term
pf Chazy, resting immediately. on the
calciferous sand-rock and the Potsdam sandstone, and yielding
courses from four feet to one foot in thickness.
From Pointe Claire, the stone was transported either in
barges through the Lachine Canal, and thence directly
to the work,
or put on stone cars built expressly for the service,
of immense
strength, and so conveyed to Point St. Charles stone-field, where
they were deposited until required.
At the Lake Champlain Quarry, owned by Messrs. Fisk
& Hodgson, the mode
of transit was somewhat different, this
quarry being directly on the border
of the lake. The stones after
being prepared were shipped on schooners and barges and·towed
by steamers
to SI. Johns on the Richelieu River, there transferred
to the Montreal and Champlain Railway cars, and transported a
of 20 miles to the south approach of the bridge and
in the stone-field until required in construction.
During the winter
of 1853 and 1854, the first steps were
taken by Mr. Hodges
in laying off the distances between abutments
and piers on the centre line. This work was done on the ice, the
respective distances being carefully measured with standard rods;
and on the centre
of the pier being found, guides were framed,
so that a long iron rod could be lifted and let fall in one place,
forcing a bolt,
of iron three feet in length, into the bed of the river.
To this bolt was fastened a chain sufficiently long to admit
of a
wooden buoy being attached
to it, and sunk through the ice. The
following summer, the buoys and chains were easily discovered,
and served
to mark out the correct position required for the coffer
dam; and the bolt, the exact centre
of the pier after the dam was
pumped out. During the succeeding winters, the operation was
repeated, and the bolts afterwards found within a few inches.
each other in every case. . ..
We have referred
to the commencement of the north
solid approach, and have now
to chronicle its destruction in the
of 1854 and 1855, by the great height to which the waters
rose at that time. Although
Mr. Hodges had made every exertion
to carry the embankment to such a level
as would guard against this
danger, and in the opinion
of many had done so, yet the shortness
of the season for doing it, and the increased height of the water
above an average, resulted
in its entire annihilation in a few
of time.
The working season of 1855 did not result in any very
great amount
of progress, in so far as the bridge was concerned,
being a time
of great monetary depression owing to the Crimean
war. The energies
of the contractors were devoted more to the
of the line westward to Kingston, which was opened
for traffic in the autumn
of this year. Several important works in
connection with the bridge were, however, accomplished. The
north embankment was again started, and by the
end of the season
had attained a height
of about 20 feet above summer water. The
of the north abutment was put in and raised to a height
of eight feet above summer water, and its extreme end to a height
of20 feet above the same level, corresponding with the embankment.
Piers No. 1 and 2 were built by means
of the floating coffer dams
before alluded to, but not completed in time
to allow of the dams
being removed and taken
to their winter quarters, before the
navigation closed. Those pqnderous vessels, put together as strongly
as iron and wood would allow, were crushed into pieces by the ice
if they had been built of card paper, and hurled against the cut­
of the two piers they had aided in building. This was
probably the severest test those structures will ever be exposed to,
as they are the smallest, and consequently possess less material,
than any
of their brethren, and at the same time had not the
additional weight
of the superstructure. It is needless to remark
that the test was triumphantly borne. without the
slightest mark
or wound to tell the tale.
Solid coffer dams. built
of timber and
raised four feet above summer water. with the
upper ends sloped
off for ice-breakers. were put
in for piers
3.4. 5. and 6. on the Point St. Charles
of the bridge; the latter two by Brown &
Watson. builders belonging to Montreal. These
gentlemen succeeded
in removing about 3000
of boulders. sand. and mud from the foundation
of No.5 pier. and in putting the masonry up to
summer water by the e
nd of the season. No.6
dam was likewise pumped dry. but the time did
not admit
of any masonry being commenced.
The greatest difficulties were
encountered in the foundation of No.3. from the
peculiar formation
of the bedofthe river occupied
by the dam. At one end there was a depth of four
feet. and at the other nine feet
of hard-pan.
boulders and quick-sand. to be removed before
coming to the rock.
The consequence was frequent
of the water. causing a stoppage of the
excavation. and rendered it necessary to postpone
its completion
to another year; this pier proved
the most troublesome
of the 24. NO.4 dam was
pumped out. but with the remaining three stood
over for the next season. A third floating
dam was prepared and
in readiness for No.7 pier
the following year.
Some progress was also made on the
south side
of the river. In the prosecution of his
contract this season.
Mr. Chaffey succeeded in
View from the north abutment on November 1. 1859. The great work was nearing
NPA photo No. 7010.
constructing the coffer dam for the south abutment. and producing
the masonry to a length
of 3 feet above summer water. A much
greater deposit
of sand. gravel. and large boulders had to be cleared
out before reaching the rock. amounting to 8 feet in depth. more
than was anticipated from previous examinations and soundings.
The coffer dam being at a distance of about 800 feet from
the shore. a tramway supported on wooden cribs was built.
which a track connecting with the stone-field and Champlain
Railway was laid. and the cars brought down to the abutment. This
all had to be taken up before the close
of navigation. to prevent the
ice canying it away. and to
be in readiness for next summers
The head of the coffer dam for No. 24 pier was put in
place. provided with a sloped ice-breaker. and this closed the
s operations on the river.
The spring of 1856 opened with brighter prospects. and
a vastly increased amount
of work was the result.
After the clo
sing of the river in the winter of 1855 and
1856. and on the weather becoming more moderate. Mr. Hodges
instituted a complete examination
of the bed of the river. with a
view to become thoroughly acquainted with its conformation on
the sides to be occupied by the remaining coffer dams. Soundings were taken accurately at distances
of about 25 feet and extended
several hundred feet from each centre line
of the piers. He was then
in a position to frame the bottom of the dams to suit the irregularities
of the bed of the river. During the following season. in the spring.
the water again rose to
an extraordinary height. and succeeded in
forcing its way over the
end of the north embankment. although
raised to a height
of twenty feet the year before. A few moments
more would have resulted in its entire destruction; but owing to the
of stone. earth and timber thrown into the gap. the wash
was held
in check. and. the water subsiding a few inches. resulted
in its preservation. A few days after the complete subsidence
of the
river. the coffer dams
of the previous year were found intact. but
with many
of the upper timbers ground down half their thickness
by the abrasion
of the ice floating over. Operations on an energetic
and extensive scale were at once commenced; the north abutment.
with its numerous travellers. started.
as well as clay-trains for
raising the embankment.
A detelmined battle now ensued between Mr. Hodges
and the almost
unconquerable No.3 dam. but resulted eventually
in a complete victory. after a desperate struggle. No. 4 was
likewise subdued and completed. Messrs. Brown
& Watson prosecuted
Nos. 5 and 6 with such vigour
as enabled them to finish the
masonry. and have everything cleared away before the close
navigation. The large floating coffer dam built the previous season
was launched
in the spring. towed out to No.7. sunk in place and
proved an entire success, enabling the pier to be built in deeper
water, and in far less time, than any previous one. After the
of this pier, the dam was towed to Boucherville and
in winter quarters, to be in readiness for the second pier. The
abutment and the embankment were not quite completed, but
raised far above
any danger from ice in winter.
On the south side
of the river, Mr. Chaffeys work had
by the end of the summer loomed
up into view. in the early part of
the season, the tramway leading from the shore to the abutment had
been replaced and continued
out to the second pier or No. 23; the
staging from the abutment was put up, with the necessary travellers,
and the masomy
of the structure vigorously urged on. By an
ingenious and effective method, the hoisting was accomplished
steam. A shaft running along the top of the staging, the entire
of the abutment, was driven by an engine on the coffer dam,
giving motion
to the hoisting-drum of each jennie and elevating
the stones
in a tenth part of the time required by manual labour.
When the stone arrived at the proper height, the jennie was
detached from the motive power and travelled
to the place required
for setting the stone. By this simple contrivance Mr. Chaffey was
to complete the abutment in a far shorter time than would
otherwise have been required, at a much less cost, and forms the
first instance
On the work of the application of steam in building
the masonry.
Coffer dams
of crib-work were put in for piers 24 and 23
and the masonry entirely completed.
The first was built with two
compound derricks, worked
by horse power, and the last by the
ordinary traveller with a steam hoist. The cutting and setting
the masomy thus far was performed by the Messrs. Read of SI.
to whom Mr. Chaffey had given the sub-contract; the
cribbing by Mr. David Irvin.
The taking up of the tramway
concluded the seasons operations.
The amount
of work performed this year was most
satisfactory, and attended with no mishaps.
The work on the river commenced this spring on the
of water permitting. Solid crib-dams were put in for piers No.
8 and 9,
by Mr. Normand, sub-contractor, and the floating-dam
towed up from Boucherville and sunk
in place for pier No. 18. This
position, being about 1300 feet from the nearest built pier, was
determined trigonometrically from the south shore. The chain
to the iron anchors driven into the bed of the river, were
up and the correct position verified. Somewhat greater
difficulty was encountered with this pier, than its mate
No.7, on
of the greatly increased depth of hard-pan, and boulders
lying over the rock. These troubles were easily surmounted, and
enabled the masonry
of the pier to be completed early in the season,
when the coffer dam was taken back to winter quarters for the next
years operations.
In pumping out No.8 and No.9, it was found an almost
impossible task
to reach the bed of the river. An enormous quantity
of boulder-stones formed the deposits, on which the upper ends of
the dams rested, rendering it next to impossible to cut off the
connection between the inside and outside
by sheet-filling and
puddle. The consequence was, that with all the pumping power
possible to be applied, very little headway could be gained against
the sieve-like interstices
of the boulders. Dogged perseverance in
pumping and pile-driving at last enabled
Mr. Hodges to see the
of No.9, and after removing an immense quantity of
material above the rock, notwithstanding several break ins of
water, and consequent delays before being resumed, he had the
of seeing this pier rising its head nine feet above the
water, when the time came in December for abandoning it.
was if anything worse than its neighbour just alluded to, and
yielded but a brief glance
of the terrible work in store for next year,
furnishing anything but agreeable thoughts for the mind to dwell
on during the long winter months which must intervene before it
would again reappear in view from beneath the cold ice waters
theSt. Lawrence. The masonry of the north abutment was completed,
and tube
No.1 built in place, forming the first link in the iron chain
for connecting the two shores. The contract for the tube-work
the entire bridge was given to Mr. James Hodkinson, who had
previously been
in the employment of Mr. Hodges superintending
the construction
of the ironwork for the entire rolling stock built
by him for the Grand Trunk Rai lway. This included many locomotives
fitted up by him, as well as the splendid machine shops at Point St.
The north embankment was also nearly completed.
From the successful manner in which Mr. Chaffey
executed his former contract,
Mr. Hodges extended it to four
additional piers, a winter scaffold for tube No. 25, and a portion
the south embankment, aU to be completed during the season. To
do so it was necessary again to extend the tramroad from the shore
to pier No. 19, a distance of about 2400 feet in water ranging from
to 9 feet in depth, with a current of 6 miles an hour. This
connection with the shore enabled the material to be brought to
each pier by means
of cars, as the shoals existing in the neighbourhood
rendered it impossible
to bring in steamers or barges to the place.
The four coffer dams of crib-work were commenced as
soon as the points were reached by the tramway, and completed in
time to allow the masonry
to be finished in the early part of
December. The contract for all this crib-work was sublet to Mr.
David Irvin, and the cutting and setting
of the masonry to Mr.
Raphael Dufort, a builder belonging
to Montreal, both of whom
carried on their work in a very energetic and satisfactory manner.
The great irregularities existing in the bottom of the river
were never more evident than
in the foundation of No. 19 pier. At
the upper end there was a depth of 12 feet of hard-pan, so compact
as to return a vertical face for that height, while at the foot of the
pier, about 90 feet distant, the material changed
to mud and stones,
with only a depth
of2 feet to the same level of rock. The four piers
were erected by the two compound derricks, each building two
piers, during the few weeks between the completion
of the coffer
dams and the close
of navigation, an achievement not surpassed on
the bridge previously nor afterwards. They were driven during the
commencement by horses, and subsequently by the pumping
engine, proving as effective on the river
as their coadjutor the
steam traveller on the land.
A winter wooden scaffold, sufficiently strong to resist
the force
of the ice, was erected for No. 25 tube, and the embankment
carried out from the shore
to the abutment, to a height of 16 feet
above summer level.
The season by this time had so far
advanced as to render it impossible to save the
of the tramway; a matter of no great
consequence, not being again required, as the
water beyond No.
19 was of sufficient depth for
navigable purposes. Every thing
of importance,
on both sides
of the river, having been removed
to land, a few hours after witnessed the ice in
interminable fields sweeping over the late busy
of energetic and well-directed labour.
The winter scaffold between the south
abutment and No. 24 pier being completed in the
early partofJanuary, tube No. 25 was commenced,
and finished the day previous to the spring shove.
This scaffold was the first wooden structure
exposed to the full force
of the ice and stood the
test remarkably well.
A different system for constructing the
coffer dams was resolved upon, from the
of so much of the summer being
over before they were in readiness for the masonry,
as well as the great strength
of the current, in the
of the river, where they were now required.
Mr. Hodges determined on sinking the cribs
fOiming the upper ends
of the dams, through the
ice, and building them sufficiently high to be
above summer water
in spring. Mr. Chaffey was
accordingly instructed to proceed with those for
piers 14, IS, and 16, and
Mr.lohn O. Hodges, to
whom the contract had been given, with the ones
for piers 12 and 13, on each side
of the main
The two gentlemen at once commenced
The work of constructioll of Victoria Bridge was visible from far away. This photo
was taken
looking down Cote des Neiges Road during the summer of 1859. The
centre span is still unconnected to the others. The photographers carriage
is in the
foreground. NPA photo No. 7097.
building the cribs in the strongest possible manner and sinking
them in place. They were generaUy 92 feet in length
by 30 feet in
width, with an average height of 18 feet. Six feet of the upper angle
were taken
off with a slope of 1 to 1, and planked over to furnish
an ice-breaker. Each crib had about 9 feet in depth of field stones,
with numerous hard-wood piles shod with iron driven down
between the cross ties into the bed
of the river. The upper surface
of those cribs would be about
15 feet under the level of the water
in the spring during the shove of the ice, and abundantly strong, it
was thought, to resist any amount of impact from submerged ice.
most important step was thus taken towards the subsequent
of the work on the departure of the ice, and with it a point
d appui for the commencement of operations in still water, when
the spring would come. A few days, however, served to dispel
those fond anticipations
of progress made, and realizing the words
of the poet,-
The best laid schemes
of mice and men gang aft aglee.
The terrific movement had commenced, with notlling
visible but millions
of tons of ice crushing past the sentinel-like
piers, with their giant heads far above, relieved occasionally by a
large stick
of timber, wand like, hurled into the air, as the only
of the presence of the large and supposed immovable
cribs known
to exist underneath this awful commotion. On the subsidence
of the water, some of the cribs were
found three hundred feet down the river from the places where they
were sunk, while others were from 30 to 100 feet, occupying the
of the masonry, and presenting a truly pitiable condition.
of a step in the right direction, it turned out to be
the reverse, as not much progress could be made until these
obstructions could be removed. This operation, owing to the
of getting the stones out of them, by divers and otherwise,
occupied the greater part
of the summer. A second step taken by
Mr. Hodges, during the winter, produced the most satisfactory and
beneficial results. Four pontoons, 160 feet long, 20 feet wide, and
10 feet deep, were built for the sides of the dams belonging to piers
12 and 13, and which so expedited the work, notwithstanding the
late casualty, as to admit
of both mammoth piers being completed,
as well as No. 10 pier, with an ordinary coffer dam. The winter
ld for the large span was also well advanced.
In conducting this vast amount of work to so successful
a t
elmination, in the face of all these difficulties and discouragements,
being the largest piers, in the deepest water and strongest current,
in the centre of the raft channel, and with a treacherous quicksand
foundation for so
me of the dams, Mr. John O. Hodges pelformed
a larger amount
of work under those circumstances, than was ever
before accomplished on the bridge, or probably
in the world.
Pier No.9, left from previous year, was finished,
and the struggle resumed with No. 8 and waged with
undaunted vigour on both sides, ending however
in favour
of Mr. Hodges. The now venerable and somewhat shaky
old floating coffer dam was once more towed up from
Boucherville, and sunk for No.
17 pier, exhibiting in its.old
age the same virtues which characterized its youth, in
building its third pier in less time than any
of the remaining
Mr. Chaffey succeeded, after removing the
obstructive cribs,
in completing the three coffer dams, the
of the masonry belonging to pier 16, and in bringing
of 15 and 14 some distance above the water. During the
season he also erected five summer scaffolds and the crib
for a winter one. Three summer scaffolds were also put up
by Mr. Walter Wardle, on the north side, two
by Mr.
Hodges as well as a winter one, and the crib for a second
one sunk. These summer scaffolds, on both sides
of the
river, were also taken down after the tubes were built, and
conveyed to the shore.
Mr Hodkinson was enabled to put
up eleven .tubes on the scaffolds so constructed.
! :.
This year, opening with disaster, closed with the
most triumphant success, 7 piers were built and two
brought out
of danger; 11 tubes were completed by Mr.
Hodkinson, and as many scaffolds put
up and taken down,
with four winter ones well on to completion; the embankment
to the south abutment was brought out of danger;
everything auguring favourably for the entire completion
in the year 1859.
Breaking up the old coffer dams during the summer oj 1859; a difficult job
in its own right. NPA photo No. 7023.
The last year
of construction had now arrived, and with
its close is destined to be memorable in the annals
of time, as
having furnished this triumphant result
of the labour of man, for
the admiration
of all generations to come. A year in the time of
completion had been curtailed for a consideration, far from
to the increased cost, resulting in the additional exertions
requisite for bringing
it to pass; the dark hours of night had to be
appropriated for work otherwise requiring the bright sun light
day; many additional men were required for forcing the work
forward at railway speed, and under such circumstances greatly
enhanced the cost. The contract sum was swallowed up, together
with the bonus; large drafts on the private resources
of the
gentlemen composing the film were required to bring the thing
pass. But they were men who faltered not; the country required the
of the bridge by the close of 1859, and was not disappointed.
At the close
of the year 1858, we stated, everything
augured favourably for the next seasons completion. A vast
of work had, however, to be accomplished, and any
unforseen mishap ox.accident might operate seriously .against
it. 13
tubes, including the large one, many of them still in England, had
to be erected, with all the scaffolds, which were now rendered a
difficult and hazardous undertaking by reason
of the almost mill­
race current
in 20 feet of water, and the extraordinalY strength
required to guard against danger
of rafts, when occasionally as
many as three would be hurled up against one scaffold at the same
time. Pier No.
11 was to be built entire, and two others
completed; the parapet walls
of both abutments were to be put up
and the permanent way through the tubes, and the roof constructed;
the embankments finished and protected with stone rip rap wall.
All the old crib coffer dams were to
be tom up and destroyed, a
in itself nearly as troublesome as putting them in. All these
and many other works were
to be completed before the end of the
Mr. Hodges, nothing daunted, set himself about the
of this difficult task, strong in the faith that if the
thing were possible for any men
in the world, those he had
surrounding him were the ones to do
it. In the programme he
issued, Mr. Chaffey was to complete his two piers, build the
parapet walls
of the south abutment, and the six remaining
scaffolds to the centre, complete the protection
of the south
embankment, and remove all coffer dams, scaffolds, and
obstructions in the river between the south shore and No. 13 pier.
Mr. John O. Hodges was to open the ball with the
of the enormous scaffold for the large tube, and the
of the coffer dam for No. 11, together with the pier; Mr.
Hodkinson to have his attention fully occupied with the
13 tubes
yet remaining to be built. While, in addition to the general
planning, directing, superintending the entire work given those
gentlemen to execute, Mr. Hodges himself was to undertake the
of the six scaffolds between the north shore and pier No.
12 and the parapet walls
of the north abutment; the removal of all
scaffolds, coffer dams; the construction
of the permanent way
through the entire length of the bridge, as well as the roof and
painting; the protection by rip rap wall
of the north approach, and
many works
of less magnitude, but equally important and necessary
for the successful opening
of the bridge. We do not propose
e~arging u~on this seasons ope:ations to any further extent than
to say, that
It was owmg to the IOdOlmtable energy displayed by
Mr. Hodges,
as well as to the equally energetic sub-contractors
in the work, that the public are indebted for the carrying
of the programme.
By the 15th day
of November the entire work had so far
advanced as
to admit of the small shunting engine in use on the
bridge, crossing over to St. Lambert, conveying Mr. Hodges and
a part
of his staff, being the first instance east of Niagara Falls of
a locomotive driving itself across the S1. Lawrence.
During the afternoon
of the same day [Incorrect! The
actual day was November 24. Ed.], Mr. Blackwell, Vice-President
of the Grand Trunk Railway, with a party of friends, passed over
en route for England, in a car drawn
by the same engine.
The state of the work at the time not admitting of general
traffic, the bridge was closed to the public, and the work yet
remaining to be accomplished, vigorously urged on,
until the evening of the 12th December, when the first freight train
to Portland passed over.
The week following 292 cars, heavily laden with freight,
made the transit, also during the night,
as in the course of the day
the track was required by the contractors.
On the 15th of December, preparations were completed
for a final test
of the strength of the tubes; singularly enough at the
same time, with the close
of navigation, when vast fields of ice,
under natures superintendence, were hurling their solid masses
against the masonry
of the piers and testing their efficiency and
by over one million tons a minute. Any force or weight
man could bring into comparison with this, would be puny in the
Yet, notwithstanding the inability
of competing with
natures test, a load had been obtained such as seldom before was
seen for a like purpose. A train
of platfonn cars 520 feet in length,
extending over two tubes, was loaded, almost to the breaking limit
of the cars, with large blocks of stones, and in readiness for the
The loaded train was then taken hold of by two of the
most powerful engines belonging to the Grand Trunk and, with
extreme difficulty from the great weight, brought into the first two
tubes, beyond which all their united efforts failed to draw it. A third
engine having been obtained, the three were barely able to force the
load along to the centre
of the bridge; when night coming on, the
of the remaining portion of the bridge was deferr~d until the
following day.
During the two days occupied with the test the public
were rigorously excluded, none being admitted by Mr. Hodges to
witness the experiment but Mr. Keefer, Deputy Commissioner
Public Works, Canada, the engineers belonging to his staff, with
Mr. Ross, and the two engineers from England. [See next page for
Mr. Keefers report on this test. Ed.].
Nothing exemplified more strongly the confidence felt
by Mr. Hodges in the strength of the work, than the severe test to
which he exposed it. The writer weU remembers the peculiar
feelings he experienced when standing at the marking-post
assigned to him, surrounded at the same time by an Egyptian
darkness, dense enough to be felt, arising from the condensed
steam and the smoke
of the engine, and totally obscuring the light
of a glass lamp two feet distant. To thus stand closely pressed up
against the side
of the tube, with eyes and lamp brought within a
few inches
of the datum-line intently watching the movements,
and leaving but sufficient room for the slipping, groaning, puffing
but invisible engines with their heavily loaded cars to pass, with
but a quarter
of an inch of boiler-plate between time and eternity;
or when mentally reasoned back to safety and security, and while
listening, during the stoppages
of the train, to the surging, cracking,
crashing ice far below, as it swept past,
to have those feelings of
personal security dissipated in a moment by the thought of an over­
loaded car breaking down and burying the deflection-observer
beneath its weight, was surely reason enough for the existence
the peculiar feelings alluded to.
On SlIturday, the 17th day. of December, invitations were
issued by Mr. Hodges to a large number
of the citizens of Montreal
to attend an infonnal opening
of the bridge for general traffic, to
which about one thousand ladies and gentlemen responded.
The excursion train containing this great number
people, was drawn by two engines and occupied 7 1/2 minutes in
passing through the tubes; high speed under the circumstances not
being necessary. After proceeding six
or seven miles down the
line, the train returned, and, on emerging from the bridge on the
Montreal end, the excursionists left the cars and partook
of a
champagne dejuner on the north abutment, provided by the host;
when the usual amount
of speechifying took place.
On the following Monday the bridge was handed over to
the Company, and has
ever since been in use.
On speaking
of its future success, who can estimate it,
being intimately connected with the prosperity
of Canada! We
have endeavoured to sketch this, in dwell ing on the countrys rapid
in material wealth, during the past few years, and may
well fonn sanguine anticipations
of its future· indeed but few
minds are capable
of estimating the enormous inc;ease of ~opulation
and wealth yet to be in our Western World, when Canada will
extend to the confines
of the Pacific Ocean and be covered with a
net work
of railways all converging to this point of crossing the St.
Lawrence. Then, and not till then, must
be left -to the yet unborn
milJions, -the rendering
of the verdict as to the full measure of
success which will attend the Victoria Bridge.
A few months more and the Prince
of Wales will behold
for the first time, our noble Province, the brightest jewel
in his
future diadem; and
as·he gazes on the wondrous structure which is
destined to carry the name of his revered parent and sovereign
down to the latest time, may we not anticipate a thrill
of pride and
in the contemplation of the splendid future yet in store for his
Westem Empire; and will not thousands unite with him in wishing
to the march of this young Northern Giant in the van of
enterprise, liberty and happiness on the westem continent, emulating
the noble example
of its mother in the eastern world!
The Report of the Inspector of Railways
Many years ago, the CRHA News Report carried a verbatim transcription of the original report of the Inspector of Railways,
dealing with the testing
of the bridge in December, 1859. By this time the Inspector was none other than Samuel Keefer who had, in 1852,
made·the original survey for the adopted location of the Victoria Bridge. As a.s.upplement to the foregoing, we are reprinting this report
once again, for the benefit
of those who may not possess the original News Report carrying this information.
Brockville, December 18, 1859.
J.G. Vansittart, Esq.,
Secretary, Board
of Railway Commissioners,
I have the honour
to report, that in compliance with
the instructions from the Honourable the Receiver General,
acting Chairman
of the Board of Railway Commissioners,
conveyed to me in your letter
of the 14th instant, I left
Quebec on the 15th and made my examination
of the
Victoria Bridge on the 16th, and
of the Branch leading to it
from the main line at Charons Station, on the 17th instant,
and finding both Bridge and Branch perfectly safe for public
use, the new line across the Bridge was this day opened for
public traffic.
The test applied
to the tubes of the Victoria Bridge
of a train of 18 platform cars loaded with stones as
heavily as they would bear, and drawn by two Locomotive
Engines coupled. This train was long enough
to reach over
two spans at one time and weighed,
as nearly as could be
ascertained without platform scales to weigh the cars, about
one ton
to the lineal foot. In passing this train over the
Bridge, a load
of 242 tons was laid on each of the side spans,
and 330 tons upon the central span.
The side tubes being
in pairs reaching from the
to the second pier, from the second to the fourth,
and so on; they were submitted to a different test from the
central one. The load, or forward part
of the train was
brought upon the first half, then the whole train covered the
whole tube, and lastly the rear part
of the train rested upon
the second half, and the effect noted each time, both in the
middle of each half and at points midway between the
middle and bearings, making six observations upon the tube
each time
of marking.
The tubes covering the 14th and 15th spans being
yet unfinished and unconnected over the 14th pier, were,
course, on this occasion, treated like the central one as
independent tubes.
A remarkable uniformity was observed
in the effect
of this load upon all side tubes that were completed. When
both halves of the tube were loaded, the deflection in each
span was five eighths (5/8)
of an inch, but when it rested on
one half only, that half sunk three quarters (3/4) to seven eighths (7/8)
of an inch. The central and separate tubes
deflected one inch and a quarter under a load of a ton
to the
When the train was sent over at speed, the observed
deflections did not exceed those just stated, more than the
eighth part
of an inch, and in all cases, when the load was
removed, the tubes returned immediately to their former
position, thus proving in the most satisfactory manner, that
they were entirely unaffected
by the passing of a load which
was double that
of the heaviest freight train that will ever
cross the Bridge.
It may be here remarked that the tubes of this
Bridge were designed
to sustain practically, a load of one ton
per lineal foot throughout their length, in addition
to their
own weight, under which load, the horizontal strain was not
to exceed five tons of tension to the square inch on the
bottom, or five tons
of compression to the square inch on the
top. The test load applied was as near the intended load as
it well could be.
These tubes present the finest specimen
Engineering skill and workmanship to be seen in any part of
the world, and the public may have entire confidence in their
strength and durability.
The preparations for testing the tubes in the manner
before described, had been made by the contractors Agent,
Mr. Hodges, at the instance of Messrs. J.D. Bruce and B.P.
Stockman, Engineers from the late Robert Stephensons
in London, who had been sent out from England to
examine and report on the Bridge. The testing was commenced
by them on the 15th instant, accompanied
by Mr. A.M. Ross
(the Engineer in charge,) and by
Mr. James Hodges, and was
completed in my presence on the 16th instant. In reporting
entire satisfaction with the test applied and the sufficiency
of the tubes, I desire at the same time to express my
of the simplicity and accuracy of the means
adopted for observing the effect of these weights upon the
Bridge, and of that perfection of workmanship
in the tubes
.themselves, which are thus made
to shew so slight a deflection,
under such heavy loads.
I have the honour
to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
of Railways.
Mr. Hodges, Builder of the Victoria Bridge
From The Illustrated London News, September 22, 1860
We have much pleasure in presenting to our readers a
of the life of Mr. James Hodges, the gentleman who
superintended the construction
of this the greatest engineering
of the age. From the hour in which the first cofferdam was
laid until the last rivet was driven which completed the Victoria
Bridge as it now stands the presiding genius was Mr. Hodges, as
the engineer
of the contractors, Messrs. Peto, Brassey, and Betts.
That the plans of the bridge, which is nearly two miles
in length, and which occupied from 1853 to 1860 in its construction,
were supplied
by the engineers of the company, Messrs. Stephenson
and Ross, all who know anything
of such works are well aware;
but, the mode
of carrying them out being entirely in the hands of
Mr Hodges, .the whole of the appliances used in the temporary
works necessa
ry for the erection of the bridge were from his own
models and designs; and those, when the novelty of the situation
and extremes
of heat and cold incident to the climate of Canada are
considered, it may be readily inferred, were
of no ordinary
character. Indeed, if none but a master-mind could plan the
Victoria Bridge, it required no less
of a master-mind to carry the
designs into execution. But, during the whole time that these vast
works were in hand, there was no emergency that happened (and
many emergencies did happen) that Mr. Hodges, with his intuitive
genius and energetic action, was not ready
to meet and vanquish.
Never will the writer forget the incessant labour and watchful
anxiety displayed in the winter
of 1858-59 by that gentleman, and
not only by him, but, as by showing the force
of example, by the
of men that were working for him, at a time when the
of their tasks seemed to be at the risk of their very
in order that what he had promised, as regards work to be
done within a given p
eriod, should be accomplished. And to those
that know him it
is not necessary to add that his promise was fully
The circumstances were these. The importance of the
Victoria Bridge to the Grand Trunk became apparent more and
more as the mileage
of the road began to be opened and worked.
The directors determined on giving the contractors a bonus
£60,000 if they would deliver the bridge to the company, completed,
year before the date fixed in the contract; and the contractors at
once undertook to complete the bridge so as to be ready for traffic
in December 1859, instead of that month of the following year as
stipulated in the contract. This arrangement was concluded so late
in 1858 that aU, save the one man who had to do the work, looked
upon the thing as next to impossible, and so it appeared to be. But
with Mr. Hodges it was not only possible but certain, and to this
were his best energies directed, and not only his but those of
all who were with him. At this time the centre tube of 330 feet span
not been commen.ced, and under the new state of things the
prev ious appl iances for the temporary work, such as the cofferdams
were no longer of any service, as the tube was to be erected
during the winter months.
So much risk, indeed, surrounded the
proposition to place the tube
of seven hundred and seventy-one
tons and three hundred and thirty feet in length, that few men
have ventured on the experiment at all. Mr. Hodges,
however revelled
in the idea of having a difficulty to surmount and bravely he set himse
lf about it. On the 31 st of January the staging
was ready to receive the floor
of the tube, when the first rivet was
driven, and the 26th
of March saw the tube in place, completed, the
whole having been done in
forty-seven days. The mens hearts
were in their work as
each one felt it to be a feature in his lifes
history to have assisted in the erection
of such a structure; they
wrought, indeed, with a will. Their labours triumphed, and though
for eight and forty hours
just preceding the termination of their task
it was supposed that the ice was incapable, from its rotten
of holding together much longer, such was the faith of
the men in their masters calculations that not one left his labour
until the centre tube rested on its stone foundations. In a few hours
afterwards the ice moved, and parted in the centre
of the river,
carrying with
it a large portion of the temporary staging, of which
time had not permitted the removal. Thus was completed, within
seven weeks, an amount
of work which has no parallel in the
of engineering. This tube in place, the remainiAg work to
complete the bridge was easy of accomplishment; and, therefore,
within the time agreed upon, und
er the arrangement above referred
to, the Victoria Bridge was opened for tr
affic, through the exertions
of the man whose name heads this sketch.
Mr. Hodges was born on the 6th
of April, 1814, in
Queenborough, in the county
of Kent, where he was educated at the
of that town. At the age of seventeen he apprenticed
himself to a builder residing at Brompton, near Chatham. Having
served four years in this trade he commenced his railway practice
under Mr. John Rowland, the agent
of Macintosh, the contractor of
the Greenwich Railway, his first essay in railway work being the
centring for the arches. [This railway, the London and
was largely built on arches. Ed.]. He afterwards worked on the
Shakespeare Tunnel at
Dover and, on the death of Mr. Rowland,
he assumed charge
of the work in concert with the resident
of the South-Eastern Railway.
In later years
he superintended many railway projects
throughout the country and later became the agent
of Sir Morton
eto, BarL He also contracted for, and built, fifty miles of the Great
Northern Railway on
behalf of his principals, Messrs. Peto and
After so many years of active life, under which his health
suffered to some considerable extent, Mr. Hodges detennined on
retiring into private life, and, with that view, purchased a small
estate near Bagshot, Surrey; but no sooner had he completed his
arrangements, in 1853, for enjoying his
olrum cum dignilale than
the organisation
of the Grand Tnll1k Railway Company, with its
Victoria Bridge across the SI. Lawrence, afforded him, as the agent
of the contractors who had undertaken the work, the opportunity
of handing his name down to posterity associated with an undertaking
which will last through all time.
The good he has done may be
summed up in one
of his last acts, when the workmen in the employ
of Messrs. Peto and Betts erected a stone – a grani te boulder
weighing thirty tons,.taken from the bed
of the river -to preserve
from desecration the remains
of 6000 emigrants which were found
in digging the foundations
of some of the Grand Trunk Railway
The Bridge Opens For Traffic
[From the Portland (Maine) Advertiser, Nov. 26.]
Thursday will be a day long
to be remembered in the history of the commercial relations between the United States and the
neighboring Province
of Canada; it having witnessed the completion of the Victoria Bridge so far as to admit of a train passing through. With
the people
of Canada we feel that this fact is equally with us ourselves matter of congratulation, as through the instrumentality of this Bridge,
Portland has now a direct railway communication without a break, with the upper lakes.
The important bearing that the successful completion
of this stupendous work, spanning the St. Lawrence, will have on the future commerce of this city, is such that we hail with the utmost
satisfaction the intelligence that a train has passed over, and that the bridge will be open for traffic early
in the coming month. The occasion
selected for the first trip through the tubes was the departure
of the Vice-President, Mr. Blackwell, for England, who will carry the gratifying
to the shareholders of the company, of which he is the able representative in Canada, that the last completing link of the vast
Railway system they have originated in Canada, and upon which the success
of the whole undertaking so much depends, has been finished.
Already we hear that large shipments
of produce are now waiting in the West for despatch to the city by this new route, and as an illustration
of the new features developed by this gigantic enterprise, we may state that immediately on the opening of the bridge, considerable
of cotton from Cairo [Illinois} will be forwarded via the Grand Trunk Railway from Detroit to Boston. The arrangements of
the Company, as referred to by us in a recent issue for the transportation of this through business are such that we have no doubt that the
freight traffic from the west
to the eastern markets will, in almost every instance, seek this new channel, as the saving in time, coupled with
the fact that for over a thousand miles
of railway no transhipment takes place, and that the whole line is under one management, gives this
ad1! this road, we cannot but feel gratified at hearing of every additional circumstance likely to assist in making this undertaking remunerative
to those who have embarked their capital in it -and we feel that no one event in the history of the concern will tend more in the early
accomplishment of this result than the completion
of Victoria Bridge, the extension to Detroit having been completed and opened last
Mr. Blackwell and party left the Point St. Charles Station, Montreal, shortly after two, and proceeded through the Bridge, amidst
the cheers
of the workmen engaged in the erection. At Richmond [Quebec] a collation was served, and a large party, among whom we
observed the Hon. A.T. Galt, Sir Wm. Logan, J. B. Forsyth, Esq., Major Campbell, Major Rhodes, M.P., Hugh Allan, Esq., Walter Shanly,
Esq., James Beatty, Esq., James Hedges; U.S. Consul, W. Moor,
J. MCLeod, Esq., M.P. Thos. E. Blackwell, Esq., and several of the chief
officers of the Grand Trunk Railway sat down; the Prime Minister of Canada, the Hon. G. E. Cartier, occupying the chair. The dinner having
had ample justice done
to it, the Hon. Chairman gave the usual loyal toasts … The Directors of the Grand Trunk Railway [were toasted next]
… Mr. Blackwell repJied in a few remarks, closing them by proposing the health of Mr. Hugh Allan, as the representative of the Montreal
Ocean Steamship Company, a line which by the regularity and speed
of its vessels, had in reality now made the crossing of the Atlantic but
a somewhat lengthened ferry. The importance
of the Railway system of the Grand Trunk to Portland was undoubtedly great, but it was
consideraly enhanced
by the fact, that these steamers for nearly one-half of the year made their weekly trips to that port, and coupling the
two, Portland has certainly reason to be proud
of the Railway and Oceanic communications which terminated in her midst. -(Cheers.) Mr.
Hugh Allan briefly replied, and
in so doing, expressed the hope that the effect of the event which they were then celebrating would, as he
had no doubt it would be, the commencement
of the profitable development, both of the line with which his name had been associated, and
of the Grand Trunk Railway. (Cheers.)
The Chairman, then proposed the health
of Mr. James Hodges, the builder of the Victoria Bridge, which was drunk with all the honors
… Mr. Blackwell accompanied by Mr. J. M. Grant, the Secretary of the Grand Trunk Railway, proceeds to-day to England in the Hungarian.
The Evening Pilot, Montreal, Nov. 28, 1859.
[From the Montreal Gazette.]
On Saturday the Victoria Bridge, the greatest in the world, the crowning achievement
of Robert Stephenson, the greatest engineers
greatest invention
in bridge building, was finally opened for traffic. In view of the formal opening by the Company next spring, Mr. Hodges,
the Agentand representative of the Contractors, did
not intend to make the occasiorr on Saturday a grand celebration. Yet he felt that he
could not allow the opening
of the Bridge for traffic to pass without inviting his friends to cross it in the flISt train, and partake of a collation?
But when the list of his friends, and the notables it was proper to invite, came to be made out, the list was swelled to a great length. Accordingly
at the hour appointed on Saturday, -one oclock P.M. -nearly a thousand Montrealers, members of he Government, etc., wended their way
to the Point St. Charles depot. A train
of 14 carriages was made up for their accommodation. The engines were gaily decorated with flags
and evergreens,
as was the entrance to the bridge. Shortly after one oclock the signal was given, and the rain started. We noticed just ere
entering the tube two cars laden with bales
of cotton, brought through from Cairo [Illinois) by this route for shipment, or for New England
factories. In two or three minutes the Bridge was reached, and we plunged into the twilight which reigns
in the interior of the great tubes,
rendering the lighting of lamps necessary within
the carriages.
Nine minutes were consumed in
crossing from
abutment to abutment. On arriving
at the St.
Lambert side the train passed, to allow
people to
examine the end of the structure, and
enjoy the
view of the city the embankment there
affords, and again at the crossing
over the
Champlain Railway. Over the entrance to each
abutment wall is engraved:
Over the entrance to each lube the names
of the Contractors and of Mr. Hodges find their
appropriate places.
From the end of the bridge the train
proceeded to ChalTon
s where the new line connects
with the old leading to Longueuil.
Thence after
short delay it returned, and the passengers
being landed
again on the North side, went
thence to the massive stone entrance buill above
the abutment, which had been roofed in and
prepared as a
banquet hall for the occasion
Mr. Hodges, in rising to propose the first
was very warmly received. He said -I
before giving you a toast, to make one
little explanation.
When I proposed to ask for
presence of a few of my friends here to-day,
I did
not expect to meet so large a number as are
now assembled.
The number is so great that I am
afraid this may be considered a public opening of
the Bridge. But it is no such thing, and anticipating
something that will take place very grander than
this, I wish it to
be understood that this is not the
View of the tables set up for the banquet in the north entrance of the bridge to
commemorate the unofficial opening on December
17, 1859.
NPA photo. No number.
opening of the Bridge, and I would like the Press to note the fact. (Hear, hear.) I have much pleasure in proposing to you Her Majestys
health, standing as we do in this tremendous structure, the strength of which has been tested by having to withstand the pressure of millions
of tons of ice, such as no other structure in the world has had to resist. (Cheers.) The health of Her Majesty has been drunk in many an
extraordinary place, but I question if it has ever been drunk before in a place like this, through which a locomotive has passed a few minutes
drawing a train with nearly a thousand souls in it. (Cheers.) Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to drink the health of The Queen (Loud
The toast was drunk with three rounds of loyal cheers, and the Band played the Royal Anthem …
Before closing this account of the virtual opening of the Victoria Bridge, it will not be out of place to state that the bridge has been
by the English Engineers, as we understand to the severe tests. Wagons loaded with stones to their utmost capacity have been drawn
over it
by two locomotives attached together, and a strain produced, equal to three or four times that which can be produced by ordinary freight
… We subjoin a return. of the produce already sent across the bridge. In doing so we feel we may congratulate Mr. Hodges, the
contractors, the engineers, the company, the city,
or rather the whole country, that this truly gigantic undertaking is thus triumphantly
completed -that the immense expenditure
of money upon it has at last achieved a practical result.
Point St. Charles Station, December 17, i859
Statement of Freight carried over the Victoria Bridge during the last five nights:
From West to East.
From East to West.
162 cars, containing:
barrels flour
552 barrels pork
14·0 bales cotton
11 0 tons general goods
Evening Pilot, Montreal, Monday, December 19, 1859. 130 cars, containing:
534 tons general goods
170 tons iron
39,000 feet
The Prince of Wales Officially Opens the Bridge
ABOVE: The Prince of Wales driving the last rivet completing
the Victoria Bridge.
RIGHT: Laying the last stone beneath a specially-constructed
triumphial arch.
Both views from the Illustrated London News, September
The long-awaited occasion finally arrived, on August
25, 1860, when the Victoria Bridge was officially inaugurated
no less than Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, who would,
more than forty years later, succeed to the throne as King
Edward VII.
In 1859, with the bridge rapidly approaching completion,
the directors
of the Grand Trunk, and the Legislative Council of
the Province of Canada, started planning for some significant
way to celebrate this great feat of engineering. On May 4, 1859,
an official invitation was sent to Queen Victoria and Prince
Albert to attend the official opening which was scheduled for the
following year.
In those days of slower communication, it was not
feasible for the Queen to travel overseas, so the invitation was
regretfully declined. However, in an official communication,
dated January 30, 1860, and sent via Lord Newcastle to the
Governor General of Canada, the Queen said:
Impressed, however, with an earnest desire to testify to
the utmost of H er power, Her warm appreciation of the affectionate
of Her Canadian subjects, the Queen commands me to
express Her hope, that, when the time for the opening
of the Bridge
is fixed, it may be possible for His Royal Highness the Prince
Wales to attend the ceremony in Her Majestys name, and to
witness those gratifying scenes in which the Queen is Herself
unable to participate.
Arrangements were quickly concluded, and a tour of
British North America and part of the United States was organized.
The Prince sailed from England aboard H.M.S. Hero on July 10, and arrived at
St Johns, Newfoundland on July 23. The trip
then proceeded as scheduled, and the Prince arrived at Montreal,
by steamboat from
Quebec City, on Friday, August 24, in the
of a downpour of rain which delayed his official landing
until the following day. However Saturday, August 25, was
beautiful, and the ceremony proceeded.
The Prince officially
laid the last stone, and drove the last rivet, and made a speech
from which the following is taken:
It is with mingled feelings of gratification at the duty
1 am called upon to undertake, and admiration of the
magnificent spectacle
of successful science which is before
me, that I proceed
to comply with your invitation, and, in the
of the Queen, to inaugurate a work as unsurpassed by the
of Egypt or Rome, as it is unrivalled by the inventive
of these days of ever-active ente/prise.
May this ceremony be auspicious
to all concerned. May
the Railway, and this Bridge, which
is its connecting link, realize
all the expectations
of its promoters, and continue throughout the
great future
of this Province a source of permanent and ever­
increasing prosperity.
The Prince concluded the ceremony by giving one or two
formal taps with the
masonic gavel, and the Bridge was completed,
to be henceforth
known by the name of Victoria Bridge.
10 say there was great celebration, fireworks
and a large dance in a specially-built pavilion.
The Royal tour
continued and, the Prince sailed for England on October 20. He
never returned
to Canada, and when Queen Victoria died, on
January 22, 1901,
he became Edward VII, so beginning a reign that
ended with his death
on May 6, 1910. The bridge was rebuilt in
1897-98, even before the end of the Victorian era, but it still stands,
and is still an important link as it has been for 135 years.
Canada had never seen anything like the Victoria Bridge ceremonies, so artifacts and mementos were cherished for years. Top Left we see
the silver trowel used by the Prince to lay the last stone. Top Right is a view of the elaborate fireworks display held the evening of August
25,1860 to commemorate the occasion. Middle Right
is the special railway car built by the Grand Trunkfor the use of the Prince. Above
Left are both sides
of the medal struck by order of the Grand Trunk and presented to selected dignitaries (the Prince received one in gold).
Above Right is
the medal prepared by jewellers Savage and Lyman and sold as souvenirs.
The Victoria Bridge at Montreal, the opening of which was now to be formally celebrated, is beyond all doubt the greatest engineering work
in the whole world.
The Menai Bridge is a noble structure, yet only the germ of the greatness here developed to its fullest. Bruneis great bridge at
Saltash is remarkable for the wonderful skill with which it overcomes obstacles which were, in fact almost created that the engineer might have the
pleasure and merit of vanquishing them. Roeblings suspension bridge over the rapids of Niagara -the most ingenious and, perhaps, even the most
beautiful bridge of its kind
in the world, is only designed for a special and particular gorge, and, apart from this, no fair comparison can be drawn between
the Niagara and the Victoria, when the former is only 800 feet long..and the more than 9000. To appreciate the Victoria Bridge -to do justice
to its grand conception, and what seems the almost superhuman energy and skill necessary to carry out the idea in all its present grand perfection,
one must see it.
One must not only see it, for a merely indefinite length gives no real idea of the immensity of the undertaking. The visitor should look
at the St. Lawrence in Winter, when millions of tons of floating ice come crushing down it, and in
Summer when even at the lowest ebb the current
flows like a sluice, at the rate of eight miles an hour. He should remember that the whole of its bed is a mire, quicksand strewed over the bottom with
gigantic boulders weighing 25 and 30 tons, that the depth of water is nowhere less than 25 feet [sic), and that the stream at this point is two miles wide.
When anyone takes the trouble to think quietly overthe nature of these obstacles, and then looks up at the lofty rib of iron, which stretches high in the
air from shore to shore, he must be more or less than human if he does not regard it as the greatest and most successful engineering work which the
world has yet seen.
It is by no means an imposing or even tolerably well-looking structure. Its height from the water, and its immense length give it
more the appearance of agiganticgirderthan a bridge. Viewed at sunset, when its dull tints are brightened into red, and with Montreal as a background,
with its tin roofs and steeples gleaming like silver in the sun, it looks well enough, though never much more than an iron footpath
to the picturesque
city beyond; and few can believe at the first glance that
it is really more than five times longer and bigger than the longest bridge ever yet constructed.
Manchester Guardian, September 12,1860.
ABOVE: The fame of the Victoria
Bridge was worldwide, as
is seen
from this article
in the Manchester
Guardian in 1860.
LEFT: Sailing under the centre
of Victoria Bridge one fine
afternoon in
1884 or 1885, aboard
the steamer
FUgate. The impressive
of the span is apparant,
although some rust streaks are
to disfigure the tube.
NPA photo No. 1530.
BELOW: An amusing souvenir
advertisement which looks like a
bank note, and contains a pun on
the word bank. The desi
gn was
copyrighted in New York State
1857, before the bridge was
Hawgs Can, and People Can Too
By Robert R. Brown
A little nOlh:.:ns..:, OW ilmllbc:n. i~ relished by Ihe best of
men, and. sioce feroeqllinology is afX 10 be a very dull and serious
business. a Hule levity may relieve the ruonocony of the plain
historic fllCl$.
The Victoria Bridge wa.~ like a long iron box, just big
10 allow trains to run through the inside. There was a
continuous opening. two reel wide, along Ihe centre line ofthc lOp
of the tube. designed 10 allow the smoke and gases from the
locomOlive.s 10 escape. bul. as Olere was II roof over the: lop. the
escape was inlpo.. Practically no
light entered, and the interior oflhe lube was 1 dark.
diny and odoriefrous inferno. On a hOI summer day, with the
sunshine beating down on the iron top and sides. temperatures as
high as 12S
were: orficially m:orded.
Venturesome lourisls onen soughl pennission to walk
across the rivu on lhe catwalk on the roof of the bridge in ocdcr
10 enjoy the fine views of the river, the city, the mountain and the
surrounding country.
It WII$ JUSt like walking along the lop of a
of box can: but, being considered dangerous especially on
windy day~, only agile young men were allowed 10 do it and tbey
h:tdTO be accompanied by a
r.lilway cmplo) popular with lhe management
and, having an amaring collection
of tailway yarns, was often detailed 10 go along with these
II was a pleasanl change from the din and noise of
the foundry and boiler shop where he wor1:ed, and generally the
es wen.: gent.Tl)US.
One rlJle day. about 1870, a wcallhy and innuential
shareholder in the Gtand Trunk Railway came out to Canada to
an unofficial inspection of the road and incidentally make a
gcneral nuisance
of himself. His cntour-Ige comprised a bevy of
eleganl oot useless .~ons, ncphcw~, compnnions. secretaries and
valets and, like Sir Joseph
Poner in GiJbcn and Sullivans H.MS.
Pinafore, a varil mention wives, daugh!e and other female impediments.
For no very good reaSOtl, they decided Ihey would like
10 walk across Ihe river through The i.n.llik of Ihe tube! Efforts to
dissuade th
em merely aroused their Anglo-Saxon obstinacy. so
finally the officials pulthem on board a train which would stop at
Lamben and Illl.lCh to his disgust, sent Uncle Bill along as
It was II lovdy hot summer day when the pan) alighted at
the old passenger
C()a(;h body which then served as a Slation at St.
Lambc.n and they set out toward the bridge, tripping gaily along
lhe lmek with
many a song and jest; the ladies in their prelly light
mmer dresses. bonnets tuxl parasols, and the men in I;ght­
eoloured suits, fancy waiStcOlltS and top hat~. Uncle Bill wore his
overalls, carried
a brakemans lantern. and ….. as filled with grim
Goi, from lhe bright sunlighl outside imo tbe Stygian
of the inlerior. they were blinded for a time and had walked
diSTance before Ihey began to reali;,.e that they ….. ere not
in a p.1r1our. SOOI and rust were.e.verywhere and it was not long
before the l:tdies discovered, by the dim and flickering light of
Uncle Bills lantern, that their hands, faces and dresses were
getting dinicr and dirtier. And … it was gelling honer and hOlier.
with almost no Yentil:lIi
on and the hot sunshine beating down on
the iron tube, it was like an ovellinside and they were all drenched
with perspirati
on. They grimlycootinued their walk but the former
gaiety was noticcabl) absent. By the time they reached
Itl.! middle
of the rivlr. they were hot, tired and dirty. The pauses to rest were
becoming more and
more frequent and they were thoroughly fed
up wilh their silly advenlure.
Suddenly there
WAS a distant rumble and the lillie square
of light al the oinl SI. Charles end was blotted out. A train
coming! Siriel ordets had been given to keep the bridge clear
until the pany h
ad crossed but someone had blundered. Disregarding
the accumulation of rust and soot, Uncle Bill forced his charges 10
stand againstlhc ~ide wall and with their faces to the wall, ….. arning
oflhc probable fatal re:rults ofbcing strucK by thecowc:rtcher
of the locomotive, How luridly he cursed the lad;es hoopskirts!
Uncle Bill moo franlically to nag down the train but
evidently the enginemen
were. crouched down in the comers of the
cab (0 avoid the ~mokeand gases from Iheirown engioc, and they
nOI and cared less about anyone in lhe bridge. 1be upward
caused the heavy lrain to lose speed graduaUy, and when it
reached the terrified explorers, it was ~ly moving and then the
full horror
of their $ituation dawned 0(1 them –the train consisled
of stock cars Io:lded with hundreds offetid pigs which gave
off the most awful stink in the world, magnified many times by the
confined space and the frightful heat. Most
of the group suffcred
attacks of nausea, ladies f~inted, and altogether Uncle Bm had
e a
job on his hands. Fortunately, someone realized their dire
prtdieamenl. and sent out a gang of scctionmen, with three: or four
s, to rescue tbem. When they emerged, the visiTOrs were the
most miser.lble.lookiny .~pecimcns of the flower of the English
gentry Ihal the world had eYer seen. They were hastily bundled into
cabs and
~nt to Ihe SI. uwrcnce HlIII (hotel) where hot baths
awuited them.
About a dOlen
employees were called in on the carpel
prtX1PIly fired for negligenee but. oddly enough, after lhe
ned they were reinstated wilhoullossofpay. Knowing
wmks and slllile.~ ….. ere exchanged and everyone a~d it was one
of the IIIOSI successful japes on record. One galhers the impression
even the top officials did not enjoy the visits of inquisitive and
meddlingstockholdc:rs. AU that Uncle Bill get OUt of the adventure
was a CORlment from his Cockney foreman. Well! Vcr ruddy
ifyer through ~obnobbin wivde strullin nobility, hWT)
up an git bus) wid dat blankcty-blanl:; so-and-so of a boiler.
PS: 111i5 lilllc adventure is not It fairy tale: it actually
TM colt:ro/ u piece. o/sltet!1 ml/sic, ellfilftd ~Gr(lluf Trunk Ctltbr(JliQ~ wall: depicud a Mallllflil CO/Ollr I;ew o/Vicmria
Bddgt!. St!IY!ral musical stle,·tiolls ap/H(Jrtd oooul186Q /N(lrilll; such names (IS St.LAwrilICt Tublilar Br;(lge Ma:urko Polka and Vitwrill
Brillgr G(Jl1QP~. Also shown is Ihe amazingly detailed mellalsolt ill large MII/lilits a.t 0 sor/I·(lIi,. 0/ all tht> e.rciICmtl1l.

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