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Historic stone arch railway bridge is older than Canada

January 2021

When North America was still being settled, railways helped transport people and goods across Canada and the United States. In fact, it was the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway line across Canada in 1885, that helped open up the west to settlement, and brought British Columbia into Confederation.

Over the past 200 years, many railway companies have come and gone; some merged into larger companies, and some that simply went bankrupt. Some of the rail lines that once criss-crossed the country have been closed and abandoned, along with the bridges, tunnels and railway stations along the railway route. Some remnants of these former rail lines and their associated structures can still be found.

The City of Cambridge, Ontario, has a former rail bridge that pre-dates Canadian Confederation. The small stone masonry arch bridge, found on the south-west corner of Fountain Street South and Morningside Drive/Blair Road, was built by the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) around 1850.

The Blair stone arch bridge, as it’s commonly known, is a very rare survivor of this unique style of bridge, which needed skilled workers to built it. Concrete bridges became more common around the turn of the century, as it was an easier building material to use than masonry, which required time, money and skilled workers to build them.

It once carried GTR trains over Bowman Creek as they travelled from Berlin (now Kitchener), through the long-vanished former villages like German Mills, Doon and Blair (now part of Cambridge).

The modern-day roads of Morningside Drive and part of Blair Road, follow the former rail right-of-way.

Due to its small size and vegetation growth, it can be hard to find, especially in the summer months. A small section of abandoned road on the south-east corner provides a good place to park, and is directly opposite the bridge.

Sources: https://www.ontarioabandonedplaces.com/Bowman-Creek-Rail-Bridge-abandoned-Ontario_loc10552.html, https://www.therecord.com/news/waterloo-region/2013/07/14/historic-bridges-mapped-in-regional-survey.html, https://www.cambridgetimes.ca/news-story/7291965-the-lost-village-of-german-mills-a-place-big-in-impact, https://uwaterloo.ca/heritage-resources-centre/sites/ca.heritage-resources-centre/files/uploads/files/Bridge-Inventory_Grand-River-Watershed_final.pdf.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/historic-stone-arch-railway-bridge-is-older-than-canada/

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