29 August

The Quebec Bridge, 1917

Quebec Bridge Falls

People sailing to Canada for the first time are always thrilled to pass under the Quebec Bridge. When completed in September, 1917, it was the biggest bridge in the world, although it no longer holds that distinction. The plan to build a bridge across the St. Lawrence, eight miles above Quebec, was First proposed in 1853. Before it was completed in 1917, the Quebec Bridge had fallen down twice, with the loss of seventy-three lives.

The original plan would have cost $3 million, but no engineer would undertake its construction. In 1882, the idea was revived when the famous Firth of Forth bridge was built in Scotland. Sir James Brunless, who built the Firth bridge, was brought over to Canada as a consultant, but work progressed slowly. Finally the job was entrusted to a New York firm.

On completion day, August 29, 1907, with thousands watching, the southern cantilever suddenly collapsed. The crash killed sixty workmen and injured eleven others, as tons of twisted steel sank to the bottom of the St. Lawrence. There was a dramatic sight as a priest administered the last rites to a man caught inside a girder. There were no devices capable of cutting metal quickly enough in those days, and he drowned as the water rose inside the girder.

The Laurier government then stepped in and put the Department of Railways in charge. The contract was awarded to the St. Lawrence Bridge Company with two Canadian steel companies supplying the materials. On September 11, 1916, another large crowd assembled to see the centre span raised into position. It was floated down the St. Lawrence on six steel barges. Thousands watched from the shores or from small boats in the river. There was great cheering and waving of handkerchiefs as the giant cranes began to lift the span from the barges. As it rose to approximately 15 feet above the water, there was a crack like a rifle-shot and the span The Quebec Bridge. 1917 plunged into the river. Thirteen men were killed.

Another center span was built and floated down the river. The huge cranes began lifting it on September 15, 1917, and it was in its place by September 20. The Quebec Bridge had finally been completed!


29 August

-1708    French and Indians from Acadia massacred the settlement at Haverhill, Massachusetts.

-1758    Wolfe, instructed by Amherst, left Louisburg to destroy settlements along the lower St. Lawrence, including Gaspé and Miramichi.

-1849    The Toronto, Sarnia and Lake Huron Railroad was chartered. In 1858 it became part of the Northern Railroad.

-1864    Macdonald, Cartier and other Canadian delegates left Quebec for a conference at Charlottetown (see September 1).

-1883    The first Salvation Army service in Canada was held at London, Ontario.

-1914    The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (the Princess Pats) sailed from Montreal for Britain. The main Canadian Expeditionary Force followed on October 31.

-1917    The Compulsory Military Service Act caused a demonstration by 5,000 people in Montreal.