Victoria Bridge


History

At the time it was built, the Victoria Bridge ranked as one of the most daring structures of its day. Originally designed for rail traffic, it confounded all the skeptics … and there were many of them in 1850 who doubted that a structure this size could be successfully built. However, necessity is the mother of invention: the coming of the railway and Montreal's position as the Canadian trading hub made it imperative to build a railway bridge across the St. Lawrence River. Whatever the cost, this city surrounded by water had to be linked to the vast U.S. market. The Grand Trunk Railway launched a gigantic construction project, and the celebrated engineer Robert Stephenson drew up the plans for a tubular structure made of riveted iron plates.

The Montreal public and business community went wild with excitement. During construction, which started in 1854, the Victoria Bridge was already being called “the eighth wonder of the world!” The festivities began while it was still being built, and before it was even officially inaugurated. In one of the most remarkable of these, a banquet, complete with orchestral accompaniment, was held inside the first completed pier, some twenty metres below water level! The bridge was opened to rail traffic on December 12, 1859, but the celebrations reached their peak when the young, nineteen-year-old Prince of Wales laid the last stone on August 25, 1860. For several days straight, the city was filled with balls and demonstrations of pride about the Victoria Bridge, the longest railway bridge in the world and the first to span the St. Lawrence River.

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Victoria Bridge (drawing)

© Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, © Héritage Montréal

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Victoria Bridge engraving

© Division des archives de l'Université de Montréal, © Héritage Montréal

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Workers at the entrance to Victoria Bridge

© Courtesy of Bell Canada Historical Collection, © Héritage Montréal

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Men posing at the entrance of the Victoria Jubilee Bridge

© Transports Québec © Héritage Montréal

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Victoria Bridge, workers in construction

© Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, © Héritage Montréal

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Entrance to Victoria Bridge, Montreal, QC, 1896
Alfred Walter Roper
1896
12 cm x 10 cm
© McCord Museum, © Héritage Montréal

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Central tube, Victoria bridge, Montréal, QC, 1859
William Notman
1859
26 cm x 21 cm
© McCord Museum, © Héritage Montréal

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Interior, Victoria Bridge, Montreal, QC, 1858
William Notman
1858
7 cm x 7.3 cm
© McCord Museum, © Héritage Montréal

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The Men who contructed the Victoria bridge
1897-1899
© Rare Books and Special Collections Division, McGill University Library, © Héritage Montréal

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Inauguration of Victoria Bridge and fireworks (drawing)

© Division des archives de l'Université de Montréal, © Héritage Montréal

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Ticket for the inauguration of Victoria Bridge
1860
© Division des archives de l'Université de Montréal, © Héritage Montréal

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Distinguished guests at the inauguration of the Victoria Jubilee Bridge

© Transports Québec © Héritage Montréal

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Victoria Bridge

© Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, © Héritage Montréal

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Photograph of the deck of the Victoria bridge

© Rare Books and Special Collections Division, McGill University Library, © Héritage Montréal