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Trail Blazers: Sidewalk superintendents steer away the lookie-loo

Trail Blazers is a weekly feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives
“Sidewalk superintendents” were hired to deter onlookers from climbing large gravel piles at approaches of the “new” Trail bridge circa the early 1960’s. Photo: Trail Historical Society

This week, Trail Blazers looks back 62 years to the construction of the Victoria Street Bridge.

“This rather artistic photo, published March 10, 1961, was less a progress report on construction, but rather a warning to curious spectators to stay off the structure,” begins Sarah Benson-Lord, manager, Trail Museum and Archives.

Safety measures were not nearly as robust as worksites of this magnitude in today’s world.

Benson-Lord notes that back then, the Workmen’s Compensation Board required only hardhats and life jackets when on site of the bridge build.

Nonetheless, work site foremen were vigilant in ensuring unauthorized people stayed away.

“At the time of the photograph, the final two steel arches were ready to install, which generated plenty of interest for downtown spectators,” Benson-Lord continues.

The site was monitored by what the contractor called “Sidewalk Superintendents,” who attempted to deter onlookers away from climbing the large gravel piles at bridge approaches.

Children were especially keen to witness the progress and set foot on the new crossing.

Benson-Lord recalls her father, who grew up on Columbia Avenue, sharing his stories of delinquency crossing the unfinished structure.

“Often the Pied Piper leading otherwise law-abiding youth across,” she shares. “Perhaps he and his friends were the reason for extra surveillance!”

The “new” Victoria Street Bridge opened officially Monday, Oct. 2, 1961.

The city welcomed a large crowd, dignitaries, and many folks who were present 49 years earlier at the opening of the old Trail bridge.

Designed by the Bridge Engineer’s Office within the Department of Highways and built by Dominion Bridge, the project cost roughly $2.5 million and runs 950 feet in total. (According to an online inflation converter $2.5 million in 1961 equates to roughly $26 million today, hardly enough to build a new crossing like the Victoria Street Bridge.)

Over 2,500 tons of structural steel was erected to accommodate 5,000 cars within an hour (in 1961).

Do you remember the bridge going up?

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Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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