High Level Bridge History
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  Posted May 26th, 2017 by Zdenko  in Edmonton | One comment

Edmonton heritage

Source: The Edmonton Radial Railway Society’s
Early in 1903 the engineers of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway (C & ER), which had reached Strathcona in 1891, began surveys for a possible crossing of the North Saskatchewan River to reach Edmonton. In early May of 1903 the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) purchased the C & ER so any new railroad bridge would be built by CPR.

First train crossing CPR High Level Bridge at Edmonton. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, Archives Collection No. B.3618.

Construction of the Edmonton High Level Bridge commenced in 1910, with the final girder in place in 1913. The train shown crossing the bridge is drawn after a photo by Ernest Brown titled “First train to cross the CPR High Level Bridge at Edmonton,” probably taken in June of 1913. The deck at the top of the structure carried three tracks; the centre for trains, the two outside for electric streetcars. The road deck was located twenty feet below, with two sidewalks eight feet wide supported on cantilever brackets.

Negotiations among CPR, Edmonton, Strathcona and Alberta were lengthy and it was not until November 30, 1909 that an agreement was signed. Initial plans called merely for a railway bridge but Strathcona pushed for a combined rail and road bridge. The final agreement included a road and sidewalk deck below the railroad and streetcar deck.

Picture: Provincial Archives of Alberta, B3311

The erecting traveler that moves on the rails at the extreme edge of the top deck of The High Level Bridge has completed the bridge framework to the last concrete pier on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River. The five wooden false work supports between piers three and four support the steel until all rivets are in place to hold the steel framework together.

Construction for the 62 foundations of the land piers and four river piers began on August 14, 1910. Construction of the piers was completed in 1911 and erection of the steel commenced almost immediately from the south side. Early in 1913 the steel reached the north side. On June 2, 1913 the first CPR passenger train steamed into Edmonton over the newly completed structure. The first streetcar crossed the bridge on August 11, 1913.

A CPR steam train traverses the High Level Bridge on its way to Calgary. ©Allan Muir Collection,

Some interesting numbers

Final cost: exceeded $2 million

Length: 755 m (2,478 ft)
Width: 13 m (43 ft)
Steel: approximately 1 million ft
Rivets: almost 1.4 million
Concrete: 25 thousand barrels
Paint: 22,750 liters (5,000 gallons)
Top deck: approximately 49 m (160 ft) above water level.

©Provincial Archives of Alberta, GS193/2  

Edmonton 40 starts across The High Level Bridge northbound on the “wrong side”. As a safety measure the streetcars crossed over to the “opposite” side at each end of the bridge so that if a car failed or some other emergency arose, passengers could exit from the doors on the right side of the car on to the bridge deck rather than into empty space! The narrow pair of rails in the center of each of the three tracks are safety rails to prevent cars from leaving the bridge deck in a derailment.

High level bridge these days

High level bridge these days

High level bridge these days

Streetcar traffic across the bridge was terminated on September 1, 1951 with the abandonment of the streetcar system. After a few years, the streetcar tracks across the bridge were removed, while the railway track saw further use until the 1980s. Luckily, it was never lifted and serves today as right-of-way for the High Level Bridge Streetcar service provided by the Edmonton Radial Railway Society. Furthermore, the disused poles for the overhead wires were left in situ too; at present they are holding the span wires for the re-erected overhead.

Streetcar still goes across the High level Bridge

Museum streetcar service across the bridge from Strathcona to Grandin started in 1997 with an extension opened to Jasper Avenue in 2005. The service operates from May until October and carries close to 50,000 passengers per year.

Streetcar getting onto the bridge from south side

Source: http://www.edmonton-radial-railway.ab.ca/streetcarhistory/highlevelbridgehistory/


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One comment to “High Level Bridge History”

  1. Comment by Adan Sorbello:

    Hi there, I ran into this page from digg. It’s not something I would typically read, but I liked your perspective on it. Thanx for creating an article worth reading!

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