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The Construction of the Lethbridge Viaduct

he Canadian Bridge Company’s men arrived at the site about April 25th, 1908, and started work on the erection of traveller runways for the material yard, building of falsework, and erection of the first three spans and the erection traveller. The actual raising of the steel by the main traveller was commenced about August 15th, 1908. Two weeks' time was lost in February, 1909, on account of a strike amongst the men, and some time was also lost during the winter months, on account of stormy and cold weather.

The erection of the last span at the west end of the bridge was completed on June 22nd, 1909. The month of greatest progress was March, 1909, during which bents 37 to 46, inclusive, were completely erected; the material handled weighed about 2,300 tons, and constituted about 735 lin. ft. of structure at about the highest portion. The 167 ft. deck lattice span over the west bank was erected on falsework in the usual manner, timber for the falsework being taken out of the runways used for the unloading traveller in the yard.


The quantities in this structure are approximately as follows: Dry excavation, 18,1100 cubic yards; Wet excavation, 4,870 cubic yards; Concrete, 17,090 cubic yards; Concrete piling, 1,676 piles; Riprap, 339 cubic yards; Steel, 12,200 tons.

It required 645 cars to transport the steel actually used in the erection of the bridge to the bridge site. Contractors' plant required about 40 cars, timber ties and guard rail about 53 cars, beside which there were additional cars used on the work for coal handling, which would make the total about 900.


Throughout the work careful records were kept of all measurements, triangulations, and other work, and, in addition to this, records were kept ... giving the approximate force and direction of the wind and state of the weather on each day throughout the work. Weekly progress reports of the substructure were made out and sent in to the head office. During the construction of this bridge four fatalities occurred.


The bridge was designed in the office of the engineer of bridges of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company at Montreal; the substructure was laid out and built under the direction of the assistant chief engineer (western lines), Mr. J.E. Schwitzer, of Winnipeg, Man.; and the erection of the steelwork was carried out, under the direction of the bridge engineer, by Mr. J. Ranking. Mr. C.C. Schneider, of Philadelphia, was consulting engineer. The manufacture and erection of the steelwork was carried out in a most efficient manner by the Canadian Bridge Company, of Walkerville, Ont. About $75,000 was expended by them in a special plant used during the operation. For the Canadian Bridge Company, Mr. A.L. Colby, manager of construction; Mr. J.W. Stoughton, superintendent of erection; and Mr. C.F. Prettie, superintendent on the ground, were in charge of the work, and a gang of about 100 men was maintained in the field.

Source: C.N. Monsarrat, Construction of the Lethbridge Viaduct, Crow’s Nest Branch, Canadian Pacific Company, Transactions of the Canadian Society of Engineers, Vol. 23, 1909 (Montreal, 1910).