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Nipigon River Railway Bridge

Nipigon River Railway Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Ian Graham

Bridge Documented: March 20, 2020

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Rural: Thunder Bay District, Ontario: Canada
Structure Type
Metal 7 Panel Rivet-Connected Pratt Deck Truss, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal Rivet-Connected Warren Deck Truss, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1905 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
150.0 Feet (45.7 Meters)
Structure Length
770.0 Feet (234.7 Meters)
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This crossing has an interesting history. Piers and abutments were completed in 1885, designed by famous engineer Charles C. Schneider of St. Louis, Missouri, who was a member of the board of engineers for Pont de Quebec, and was involved with the erection of the Statue of Liberty in New York City in the United States, and also the Niagara Cantilever Bridge over Niagara River near the Falls. In 1905, the Warren truss span was added, replacing one of the previous deck truss spans. In 1910 the rest of the bridge superstructure was replaced. 

The bridge today is noted for its rare fishbelly deck truss span. Fishbelly deck trusses tended to be used by railroad companies when they wanted to reuse existing piers, but wanted a stronger (and thus deeper) truss span. The fishbelly design provided a deeper truss in the middle of the span, while avoiding the need to alter the piers. The 1885 stone piers were not removed when the existing superstructure was built. The piers today are not recognizable because they appear to have been completely encased in modern concrete. Some of the approach spans appear to have been replaced with modern rolled girder spans, resting on what are assumed to be the 1910 bents.

Bridge lengths given are extremely rough estimates.

It is impossible to not notice the adjacent highway bridge at this location. The first one constructed in 1936 was a deck truss, and was replaced in 1974 with a steel beam bridge. This structure was replaced with the current cable stayed structure in 2015. The bridge failed in early 2016, as the bolts holding the structure down to the bearings failed, resulting in the deck lifting up. This was a massive problem as this is the only structure connecting one half of Canada to the other. If you were traveling all the way across Canada you need to cross this bridge, there is no other way. The bridge has since been repaired and the issue remedied. It is the first cable stayed highway bridge in Ontario.

Above: Historical photo showing previous bridge at this location.

Above: Historical photo showing previous bridge at this location.

This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Fishbelly


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