|The Quebec Railway Bridge (2003)
The massive Quebec Railway Bridge is a splendid example of Canadian railway engineering that today continues to play an important role in moving Canadian National freight and VIA Rail Canada Inc. passenger trains across the mighty St. Lawrence River, connecting Quebec City with the south shore. Rising some 46 metres above the St. Lawrence River, the Quebec Bridge measures 987 metres long and its cantilever span is the longest in the world.
The National Transcontinental Railway, which later became part of the Canadian National Railways family, had began its efforts to cross the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City in 1907 in order to complete its Moncton to Winnipeg mainline. The bridge was only partially complete when on August 29, 1907 a large portion of the bridges recently completed superstructure collasped — tragically killing 84 workers. This disaster would prove as one of the worst ever in Canadian railway history. In 1914, a second attempt was made at construction, however on September 11, 1916, while attempting to connect a 195-metre steel span to the newly completed north and south cantilever spans, a support on the lifting apparatus fractured, plunging this new span into the river. This accident would claim a further 13 lives.
Finally, on September 17, 1917, a replacement span was secured in place and on December 3, 1917 the structure was opened for service — finally giving the NTR its completed mainline route. The structure was later formally christened by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in 1919. It is estimated that the cost of completion was in the order of $21.6 million, and tragically nearly 100 lives.
In memorium of those who lost their lives in the quest to construct a bridge at this location across the St. Lawrence River, and in celebration of the continued importance of this remarkable engineering feat to Canada’s railway network, the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame has inducted this structure into its Technology category in 2003.