Disasters and Calamities, 1840-1867

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Train crossing bridge over canal, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, QC, 1904
Herbert Wallis
1904, 20th century
Silver salts, coloured ink ? on glass - Gelatin silver process
6 x 8 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Photograph (77678) , rail (370) , Transportation (2517)
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Keys to History

This train is crossing the railway bridge at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, an important link to the west of the country. Starting in the second half of the 19th century, the Canadian railway network underwent extremely rapid development. However, some of the many constructions were subject to speculation, which sometimes had an impact on the quality of the installations. The history of the railway is also marked by catastrophes related to a poorly designed platform, rails in disrepair and a weakened bridge.

On March 17, 1857, a train belonging to the Great Western society began to cross the bridge that spans the Desjardins Canal, near Hamilton. However, the wooden bridge was old and poorly maintained: it collapsed and fell 20 metres down, taking 60 people to their death.

  • What

    The spans on which the rails of the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Victoria bridges were installed, were made from iron girders, whereas Canadian bridges were usually made of wood in the mid-19th century.

  • Where

    The Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue bridge crossed over the canal built in 1843 to connect the Saint-Louis and Deux-Montagnes lakes.

  • When

    The city's name dates from 1878; it was inspired from the panoramic view of the city owing to its geographic location on the western point of the Island of Montreal.

  • Who

    The Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue bridge was built by the Grand Trunk Railway, which connected Montreal to Toronto and would incorporate the Great Western Railway in 1858 to link up Niagara Falls and the United States.