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St. Thomas Michigan Central Railway Bridge

Michigan Central Railroad Kettle Creek Bridge

St. Thomas Michigan Central Railway Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Dave Stinchcombe

Bridge Documented: Summer 2011

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railway (Abandoned Michigan Central) Over Kettle Creek
St. Thomas: Elgin County, Ontario: Canada
Structure Type
Metal Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1929 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
Not Available
Structure Length
Not Available
Roadway Width
Not Available
Main Span Count Not Available
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

This bridge's future is at risk!

This heritage bridge has an uncertain future, but a group is attempting to preserve it!

Visit The On Track St. Thomas Official Website

This bridge sits on a historic railway crossing that dates back to 1871. The current structure seen today dates to 1929. While its superstructure of two parallel deck plate girder structures which provided a double-track deck are traditional in composition and do not offer anything unique or unusual, the substructure upon which these spans rest is quite interesting indeed. Rather than using steel bents as was common for high level railroad bridges of this type, the bridge sits on massive concrete piers that give the bridge a striking, imposing appearance. There is one exception. The bridge crosses over a road that crosses under the bridge at a skew right where a pier for the railroad bridge would need to be. To deal with this problem, a special steel bent is employed that allows the beams that support the bridge to be located on either side of the road. This single pier only adds to the landmark identity of the bridge, giving it an appearance shared by no other bridge.

This bridge was abandoned by Canadian National Railway, and a developer assumed ownership of the bridge. The developer has offered to transfer ownership of the bridge to the city of St. Thomas so that the self-described "Railway Capital of Canada" might spare this heritage bridge from the demolition that a number of scrap-seeking contractors have proposed to the current owner of the bridge. However, the city has refused to take ownership of the bridge apparently fearing costs. It is unclear what costs might be associated with the ownership of a bridge that is designed to hold two trains at one (since it is double track), has concrete with  surprisingly little spalling or deterioration, and will be holding either no weight or the weight of pedestrians. However, it seems fair to assume that this bridge could stand as it is for decades with even no repairs or maintenance. The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario has produced a page describing the availability of the bridge to a third party. The historic and technological significance of the bridge is recognized by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineer as a National Historic Civil Engineering Site as indicated by a plaque on the bridge.

As of 2013, a local community group called On Track St. Thomas has been raising funds to purchase this bridge. Their intent is to preserve this heritage bridge and create a unique elevated park: literally, a park on the deck of the bridge, for the public to enjoy. This solution is an excellent plan that preserves the bridge and makes use of the bridge's wide, double-track deck width. The group currently has over 60% of its funds raised, but still needs your help to complete the fundraising to be able to purchase the bridge. Click here for a form if you would like to donate toward this heritage bridge preservation project.


Photo Galleries and Videos: St. Thomas Michigan Central Railway Bridge

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