John Speller's Web Pages Bridge of Ice

John Speller's Web Pages

Bridge of Ice Untitled
I have to say that when a Canadian friend first told me about this I thought it must be an urban legend, but it is not. Between 1880 and 1883 the South Eastern Railway and Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa & Occidental Railway connected in the winter by laying tracks across the frozen river at Montreal. In the summer, when the river was open to navigation they used ferries. The thought of heavy trains crossing a frozen river on the ice makes the mind boggle and I cannot think how the authorities allowed it. In Britain the Board of Trade certainly would not have. Even passenger trains were run. But the Compagnie de Traverse de Chemin de fer d'Hochelaga Longueuil, which operated the service over the ice between Montreal Island and the South Shore seemed undeterred even when, on 5 January 1881, the ice gave way and the first car of a passenger train sank into the waters. Fortunately everyone managed to get out in time and nobody was drowned. One might think this at least might have given the railway company some pause for thought. Finally the Grand Trunk Railway took pity on them in 1883, and they were allowed to use the Victoria Bridge.
Compagnie de Traverse de Chemin de fer d'Hochelaga Longueuil train crossing the ice bridge at Montreal in 1880.
Inauguration of the Ice Railway on 30 January 1880, from "L'opinion publique," 12 February 1880
Taking up the rails as the ice melts, 5 April 1880
Collapse of the "Ice Bridge" 5 January 1881, from "L'opinion publique," 20 January 1881
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