The Story of the Quebec Bridge

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The Story of the Quebec Bridge

The Quebec Bridge is a roadway, rail, and pedestrian bridge over the lower Saint Lawrence River, between St. Foy and Levis, near Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Next to the Pierre Laporte Bridge, the first bridge built near Quebec City connecting the southern bank of the Saint Lawrence River was the Pont de Quebec, Quebec Bridge.

You will most likely cross this bridge or the Pierre Laporte bridge if you are driving on your way to visit Quebec City. It began with what is still the largest free-standing bridge in the world, the Quebec Bridge the St. Lawrence River. At the time it was built, Quebec Bridge was the longest (549 metres) span cantilever bridge in the world.

The First Bridge

On the 17th October, the first trains crossed the bridge, going from Quebec City to Levis, and on 3 December 1917, the Quebec Bridge was officially opened to railway traffic, almost two decades of construction. As construction was nearly complete, the Quebec Bridge collapsed under the weight of the locomotive, which was loaded with steel.

Nearing its closing time later that day, four years in construction, the southern arms and a portion of the middle portion of the Quebec Bridge crumbled in only 15 seconds to fall to the lower St. Lawrence River.

Without warning, The Quebec Bridge gave out a powerful cracking sound, then fell to the Saint Lawrence River, killing 76 people. Seventy-five men were killed, and the ensuing investigation found that the collapse was caused by an erroneous judgment on the part of engineers designing the Quebec Bridge. In the early 1900s, the St. Lawrence Bridge over the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec fell while under construction, killing scores of workers.

Quebec Bridge

The solution was a railroad bridge over the St. Lawrence, which required a single span with cantilevers, which was 1,800 feet long–the longest ever attempted. A combination of design faults and mismanagement caused the first bridge to collapse before it was completed in 1907.

The New Bridge

After reworking the concept, construction was supposed to resume, and on 11 September 1916, while the middle section of the bridge was being lifted up by a boat off of the St. Lawrence, the lifting mechanism failed, collapsing, killing another 13 workers. The bridge suffered a second catastrophe on September 11, 1916, as a new center span being lifted into place fell into the river, killing 13 men.

All was going well until Quebec Bridge was nearly completed in the summer of 1907, when a QBRC Site Engineering Team led by Norman MacLure began to notice increasing distortions of the critical structural members that were already installed.

Previously, noted French engineer Gustave Eiffel had considered this issue, and found a cantilever-type structure to be superior to both the bascule and arched deck designs that were used on the bridge site (pp. American engineer Theodore Cooper chose the cantilever as a better, cheaper plan for crossing the river.

View of the Quebec bridge lit by moonlight

Rail Bridge

The bridge was built and designed mostly as a rail bridge, but in later years, a tramway line (used by Quebec Rail, Light and Power) and one of the two rail tracks were converted to auto-routes and pedestrian/cycling lanes. When completed, the bridge was to become the largest such structure, and the longest in the world, surpassing Scotlands famed Firth of Forth Bridge.

Well, as I was researching this iron ring thing, I learned something new, for one of the stories that I learned about iron rings was that the origins of the Iron Ring was in a bridge collapse at Quebec City, Quebec, when the bridge was being built, back in 1907, which killed 75 of the bridge workers. Of 86 workers on the bridge on that 29th August, 1907, 75 died, a lot of them were the locals from Crownawaga, who were known for doing the highest level of ironwork.

The story of the Quebec bridge continues. Today the Quebec government is now talking about building a third option of a tunnel from Levis to Quebec.

Quebec Bridge

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