Historic Sites of Manitoba: Eighth Street Bridge (Brandon)
In 1881, the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived at the future site of Brandon and, in a short period of time, Manitoba’s second-largest city sprung up. Brandon became a major hub on the railway and a large switching yard was constructed through the heart of the city. Five level crossings permitted Brandonites to cross from one side to the other. They were at 1st Street, 3rd Street, 9th Street, 13th Street, and 18th Street. In short order, the CPR closed the 3rd, 9th and 13th crossings, and opened one on 6th Street. There were frequent delays to pedestrians and vehicles when rail traffic blocked the level crossings, and there were accidents. In 1899, a farmer and his two sons were killed instantly when their wagon was struck at the 6th Street crossing by a passenger train that a subsequent inquiry determined was travelling too fast. The coroner’s jury recommended that overhead bridges should replace the level crossings. The railway pledged to construct such a bridge at no cost to the city.
In August 1903, the CPR’s construction gang began work on a steel bridge to cross its yard mid-way between 8th and 9th streets. Because there was no room for lengthy approaches on each end of the bridge, its builders put east-facing and west-facing approaches so that those entering and leaving the bridge had to make a 90-degree turn. It took about a year to complete, opening in August 1904. This bridge was used daily for 64 years.
Most descriptions about the present bridge say it replaced one built in 1934. In fact, the only bridge work that occurred in 1934 were major renovations to the northern approach of the 1904 bridge, whereby original steel and wooden approaches were replaced by concrete ones, built at a cost of $30,000 by contractors A. E. Jones and Edmund Fulcher.
As time passed, the steep and narrow 8th Street bridge would prove inadequate. By the early 1960s, there were public calls to replace it. In 1960, Brandon city workers repaired the wooden decking of the old bridge. In 1963, city councilors approved extensive repairs on the deck and stringers, at an estimated cost of $66,000. It was closed for major repairs in 1967, prompting demonstrations at Brandon’s City Hall by parents angered that their children living north of the tracks had a long way to walk to high school south of the tracks. (A special school bus was arranged to accommodate them.) Finally, in February 1968, city council approved the expenditure of $275,000 to replace the old steel bridge with a new concrete one. The old steel bridge was removed in August 1968 and construction of the new bridge began on the same spot. It was opened officially by Brandon Mayor Stephen Magnacca on 23 December 1968.
The present concrete bridge did not stand up as well as its steel predecessor. It was closed for four months in mid-1995 while a contractor replaced deteriorating concrete on its deck and support structure. In January 2014, it was hit by a garbage truck and badly damaged. Repaired at a cost of nearly $100,000, it reopened in June 2014 but with a reduction in the weight limit for vehicles using it, from 13.6 to 5 tonnes. The bridge continued to deteriorate and, in July 2015, the city council acted on advice from its engineer and closed it to all but pedestrian traffic.
In April 2016, facing a replacement cost of some $30 million, Brandon city council voted to demolish the bridge and explore other options for a pedestrian / active transportation link to replace it. Presently, the bridge is slated for demolition in 2017.
Photos & Maps
“C.P.R. will spend quarter of a million on improvements,” Brandon Sun, 12 March 1903, page 17.
“Overhead bridge work begun,” Brandon Sun, 20 August 1903, page 33.
“Local news,” Brandon Sun, 14 April 1904, page 23.
“Must strengthen the bridge,” Brandon Sun, 3 March 1934, page 1.
“Federal loan to city will be used for construction approach overhead bridge,” Brandon Sun, 18 August 1934, page 1.
Brandon: A City, 1881-1961 by G. F. Barker.
“Landmark goes,” Brandon Sun, 17 August 1968, page 1.
“Eighth street bridge needs work,” Brandon Sun, 11 December 2003, page 3.
“Eighth Street Bridge may be replaced,” Brandon Sun, 14 September 2010, page 3.
“Garbage truck trashes bridge,” Brandon Sun, 15 January 2014, page 1.
“8th St. bridge repair bill hits nearly $100K,” Brandon Sun, 30 September 2014, page 3.
“Eighth Street bridge demolition delayed,” Brandon Sun, 8 November 2016.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 31 December 2016
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