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Historic Vigo iron truss bridge faces uncertain future

March 2024

It sits silently rusting away, but the bridge crossing the Nottawasaga River on the former Line 4 road alignment in Flos Township, north of Barrie, Ontario, has seen hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of vehicles travelling across its surface in the over 100 years it has spanned the river. Now this historic bridge is facing demolition.

This riveted through iron truss bridge near the former Hamlet of Vigo, one of two remaining in Simcoe County, an example of an unusual design of subdivided double-intersection Warren through iron truss not unusual found outside of Ontario. It’s also distinguished by end posts with a shallow incline, with the end post itself is subdivided, containing a vertical member which leads to a floor beam.

Known locally as the Vigo Bridge, named after the nearby Hamlet, was built by the Hamilton Bridge Company out of Hamilton, Ontario, between 1911-1913. Spanning 148 feet, with a 15.1 foot roadway, the bridge was replaced in 2019 with a modern three-span steel girder structure, set upon a new road allowance slightly to the west.

While former railway bridges have been retained and preserved for foot and bicycle traffic, especially when an abandoned railway line has been turned into a recreational rail-trail, this usually isn’t the fate of former motor vehicle bridges. It’s unknown what will ultimately happen to the Vigo Bridge, but as the bridge doesn’t currently merit inclusion within the Ontario Heritage Bridge List, there are likely many who would like to see the it saved. The only other riveted through iron truss bridge remaining in Simcoe County is the McKinnon Iron Bridge, a long-abandoned bridge hidden within Minesing Wetlands Conservation Area, east of Town of Angus.

Built in 1927, the McKinnon Iron Bridge was originally built as a logging bridge for the now-ghost village of McKinnon, a pioneer settlement established along the Nottawasaga River in the mid-1800s. Once featuring five homesteads and a mill, the village was abandoned in the mid-1900s due to regular flooding in the spring from the Nottawasaga River.

The only road leading into the former village, now named McKinnon Road, was closed and barricaded around a mile to the south of the bridge. The overgrown and frequently swampy remains of the road make it a difficult trek to the bridge by foot.

A third riveted through iron truss bridge over the Mad River, along Collingwood Street in Creemore, 12 miles to the west of Angus, was demolished and replaced in 2015, after standing for just over 100 years. However, it still exists in spirit, as the two original truss sides were salvaged and installed on the new bridge.

Sources: https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=ontario/vigo/#photosvideos, https://historicbridges.org/b_a_list.php?ct=&c=&ptype=county&pname=Simcoe+County,+Ontario, https://www.simcoe.ca/TransportationEngineering/Pages/flos-road-4-west-vigo-bridge-replacement.aspx, Mckinnon (Ghost Town) – Springwater, Ontario – Ominous, Efforts to save Creemore bridge fail (simcoe.com), New Creemore Bridge (Clearview Township, Ontario) | New Cree… | Flickr.

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.

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