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The Old Finch Avenue Bailey Bridge – A historic temporary bridge still in use 66 years later

June 2020

A Bailey Bridge is a pre-fabricated truss bridge that was designed by civil engineer Donald Bailey of the British War Office, and developed for use by the British military early in World War II. The wood and steel Bailey Bridge was designed as a portable type of bridge; one that could be easily transported by tuck and quickly assembled, usually for temporary usage, without the need for special tools or heavy equipment.

Bailey Bridges saw extensive use by British, Canadian and American engineering units during WWII, and were sturdy enough to hold the weight of tanks. The 12 foot-wide by 10 foot long sections, with 5 foot high, cross-braced rectangle railings, weighing 570 pounds, can be lifted into place by six men. When assembling the bridge, it can be placed on rollers and simply pushed across the gap, with the top and bottom chord of each panel secured by inserting the male and female lugs into each other, and held in place by connecting pins.

The decking can be either wood or steel panels, or open mesh steel panels.

Despite the original intention of being a temporary bridge, several Bailey Bridges remain in use today, including several in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area of southern Ontario.

The Old Finch Avenue Bailey Bridge is one still in use, in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, for vehicular traffic. The bridge, which carries traffic in both directions, was constructed in October 1954 to replace the previous bridge that was destroyed when Hurricane Hazel tore through the Toronto area.

Tasked with the construction was 2 Field Engineer Regiment (2 FER), a militia regiment that dates back to 14 January 1876, with the formation of the Toronto Engineer Company. The 130 foot long bridge was completed by 2 FER in just 3 days.

The Old Finch Avenue Bailey Bridge was one of several in the area built by 2 FER in the wake of Hurricane Hazel, but it’s the only one still in use in Scarborough today.

The stone abutments of the destroyed bridge were thrown significantly out of alignment by the hurricane, and can still be found underneath the Bailey Bridge, slowly crumbling.

A historical plaque was placed beside the bridge by Scarborough City Council, commemorating the valuable work of 2 FER and the historic significance of the bridge; a bridge that probably few thought would still be in use 66 years later.

2 FER was re-designated as 32 Combat Engineer Regiment in 2006, and is housed at the Lieutenant-Colonel George Taylor Denison III Armoury in Toronto, on land that was once a part of the former RCAF Station Downsview.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Finch_Avenue_Bailey_Bridge, https://hikingthegta.com/2018/12/01/old-finch-avenue, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bailey_bridge

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/the-old-finch-avenue-bailey-bridge-a-historic-temporary-bridge-still-in-use-66-years-later/

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