Bridge Across the River at Selkirk

Selkirk Bridge from East side

During the early years of the depression the Council of the R.M. of St. Clements set about to create job opportunities and work situations for its residents. People were hurting and the relief lists were growing at an alarming rate. Council had been negotiating with the Canadian Industries Ltd. since 1929 and had their promise that the explosives site would employ over 50 local residents. Other relief projects being organized were road building, ditching, wood camps and farm labour, to mention a few.

Agitation for a bridge over the Red River at Selkirk had been petitioned for, almost continually, since the l870’s. The topic had been raised on the floor of the House of Commons time after time by various members, earlier for rails and later as a vehicle and foot bridge.

During early Jan. 1934, Tom Hay had written a letter to his old friend Thos. Bunn, Sec.-Treas. of the St. Clements Munc. He indicated that he, along with Jim Stitt, were going to make a big effort to have a bridge constructed across the Red River at Selkirk. He told Tom Bunn to have a well worded resolution passed by Council stating need for bridge, and the total residents who would benefit by it in the surrounding area. Bunn was to do this with all speed and forward copies to the Ministers of Labour and Public Works, as well as the Prime Minister. Tom hay said, “do this early, will really assist us.”

Council completed the task by Feb. 13, 1934 stating, “the ferry between the east and west side of the river was the only facility connecting for traffic totaling about 50,000 foot and vehicle passengers. Ferry was inadequate for needs. The Council of the R.M. of St. Clements go on record as favoring the immediate construction of a bridge across the Red River at Selkirk as a Dominion Gov’t Relief Project”. A lot of pressure was directed at Ottawa, and to Tom Hay and Jim Stitt must go some of the credit for hammering away at the Dominion Public Works Committee.

In the Public Works Construction Act, 1934, Chapter 59, Item 159 reads as follows: Selkirk, Man. – Bridge over Red River —- $250,000.

The councillors of St. Clements were jubilant over the news,

The Federal Gov’t had sent, by Aug. 1934, a District Engineer who arranged for field surveys and investigations of approaches to determine the most suitable location for the bridge.

Soon the Council were involved in plans and specifications for the eastern approach. A new road had to be drawn up and soon Council were negotiating with the Van Horne Estate representatives to transfer the old road on the flats in lieu of the new one needed for the bridge approach. The old road was coloured green on the plans and the new one in red and by Nov. 1934, Mr. Goodspeed, the Engineer, was urging council to “acquire the land from the Van Horne Estate right away because St. Clements would have to abandon and close up the one (in green) at such time as the other was available (red).

St. Clements advised the Engineers (Nov. 16, 1934) that they had passed a resolution authorizing the munc. to transfer the old road for the new one approaching the bridge, providing St. Clements would not be held responsible for the cost of transfer or the building of the new road.

Then the whole project seemed to sit idle for a spell and the residents were beginning to feel anxious and a little apprehensive. Once again Tom Hay wrote to Tom Bunn explaining that the delay in construction was due to a mix up in tenders. It seems new tenders had to be called for and the bids didn’t close until early Feb. 1935. The tender of Macaw and Macdonald was still the lowest tender and it was being recommended that the contract be awarded to them. The Minister of Public Works promised the work would start immediately, Thomas Bunn reminded the Minister that unless the work was done within 60 days it would be impossible to do it later because of the spring break-up and high water of spring.

The contractors, Macaw and Macdonald, soon had the camp set up and as soon as they were settled, Tom Bunn handed him a list of names of St. Clements residents who were available and willing to work on the project: L. Rowley, Sam Romaniuk, David Muzichka, Harry Sokolowski, Frank Malazdrewicz, Joe Burdiak, John Michalishyn, P. Kosakewicz, Fred Sokolowski, Nick Chiboyko, N. Rozonick, John Seniuk and Pete Hornetski.

Hauling gravel by boxcar for East Selkirk Bridge

They needed men and teams and Tom Bunn quickly listed: Arthur Macfie, John Korba, Joe Rokosh, Jack Martin, Mike Zarichney,  John Rokosh and Tom Sul.

By March 13, 1935, the contractor, Macdonald was able to report he had 58 men at work on the bridge. Of this total, about 7 were company men, experienced at bridge work, while about 20 were from St. Clements and 31 from elsewhere. About 8690 of the workers were married men. Joe Rokosh sent a telegram to Tom Hay at Ottawa complaining that the east side of the river “were not getting a square deal when it came to the number of teams at work on the bridge”. Soon, there was more work for teams on the east side.

About mid-March the Dept. of Public Works advised St. Clements that the grading on the east approach required 8000 cu. yards of fill and they needed a suitable “borrow pit” which could be obtained at the hill on the Road Allowance just east of the junction of the 2 ferry roads. lf they could borrow from this location, the final grade would be left trimmed and gravelled to the satisfaction of Council. The Department warned that if they were to proceed with the plans of the approach grading, that Council would have to approve the “borrow pit site” as soon as possible. For some reason Council never gave them permission until the beginning of June 1935.

The notice closing up and stopping the old road (Portions of River Lots ‘7’7 and’78 in the Parish of St. Clements) known as Ferry Road was posted and the bylaw read three times by April 2, 1935.

The contractors by April, 1935, were able to report that Piers No. 1, 2, and 3 had been completed before April 6, and then on that date had closed down as the ice was getting bad and it was a risk to the men and machinery to carry on. On April 19, the ice broke up and work was delayed until the barges could be moved up to Selkirk from Winnipeg with needed supplies and materials. During the winter months the contractor had provided about 9780 hours of labor for the men. Out of this at least 7190 hours were for local people situated on the east and west side. The rest went to the company men Council kept a close tab on who was working and how they were making out. According to a progress report toward the end of April, 1935, the common labour supplied by the local authorities had been satisfactory but the mechanics and carpenters left a lot to be desired. The report went on to say, “they are willing enough but do not understand this class of work as well as men who have been at it before. we gave them the work to satisfy all concerned — but it has cost us considerably more to erect concrete forms and other similar items. “

ln the summer of 1935, the contracts had been awarded for the substructure and it was underway. The Provincial Public Works were building the eastern approach at the same time and it was expected that the tenders for the superstructure would be called for in order that the bridge be ready for traffic in 1936.

On the eastern approach, by July 18, 5 teams with wagons (2 I/ 4 cu. yards) were busy working, 3 teams with scrapers, 2 teams on plows and about 4 scraper holders. The timekeeper was Sidney Hall and the foreman, it was recorded, was to do no hiring of men.

Early in Sept. 1935, St. Clements wrote to Engineer F.G. Goodspeed of the Provincial Public Works Dept. and reminded him that the munc. had given them permission to cut down the hill of Ferry Road, to get their material and fill for the bridge. Council felt that the intersection turn off to East Selkirk, at the foot of the hill was a very dangerous dip. Council felt this hill should also be taken down a bit and the dip filled in and widened at the curve. Unless this matter was rectified now, Council felt that in future it could cause problems with increased traffic from the opening of the bridge.

The Good Roads Engineer, W.H. Hunt, by late Oct. 1935, was quite alarmed over the condition of the Ferry Road. Council explained that in order to provide the needed fill for the bridge approaches, the hill on which the north end of this road was built was cut down and the material from the old roadway was hauled a distance of about 3/4 mile. The material had been hauled in wagon boxes, which allowed a certain amount of clay to spill and slop over the road surface. Mr. Hunt was not at all impressed. He reminded St. Clements Council that under the Good Roads Act they had surfaced this road with over 500 cu. yards of gravel not long before this and now this good gravel road was “a very slippery, muddy one” owing to the bridge approach work. He also warned Council to make sure that they had an understanding of the Federal Gov’t to “leave the road in as good a shape as it was before the work began”. Mr. Hunt concluded by telling Council that he had recently inspected the road under discussion and it required considerable work, probably costing well over $1,000 and needing over 100 cu. yard of gravel to put it back in shape. He urged council to take immediate steps so that the road would be passable in the spring of 1936 when the frost came out of the ground.

On Nov. 12, 1935 a memo was received from the office of the Minister of Public Works, requesting St. Clements t0 pass a resolution of agreement to take over and maintain one-half of the structure with approaches, upon completion of the bridge.

Back in 1934, the Prov. of Manitoba had informed the Gov’t of Canada that the province had no intention of accepting any of the responsibility for or the cost of maintaining the bridge once completed. In a memo to the Prime Minister (Aug. 29, 1934) the Minister responsible for Public Works within the province had clearly stated: “According to our provincial legislation, the maintenance of the bridge (Selkirk) when opened for traffic, will be inter-municipal and the responsibility of the two municipalities concerned. “

Ottawa, was quite surprised, it would appear, that the Prov. of Manitoba had no intention of taking over the bridge when completed or the responsibility of looking after it. Ottawa cited instances where other provinces in Canada were accepting this responsibility and continued to press the Province to justify their position. The Minister of Public Works for Manitoba, explained the policy again, towards the end of July, 1935 “In the areas in this province organized under municipal gov’t, the province is responsible for the maintenance of roads, including bridges thereon, which have been given statutory authority as (PTH) Provincial Trunk Highways. According to our provincial legislation, the municipalities are responsible for maintenance of other roads and bridges within their respective boundaries. “

Mr. W.U. Clubb related this policy directly to the Selkirk Bridge so there could be no misunderstanding between the Province and the Dominion Gov’t in this regard: “the bridge in question is situate intermunicipally between the Town of Selkirk and the Municipality of St. Clements, and is not a part of the Provincial Trunk System. The maintenance of this bridge, therefore, when open to traffic, will no doubt become the responsibility of the two municipalities concerned. “

Mr. Clubb reminded the Dominion Public Works Dept. that they (the province) had clarified their position in this regard in a memo to the Prime Minister almost one year ago.

St. Clements had always assumed that the Province would arrange to take over the bridge once completed and maintain it, at least they hoped this would be so. They were aware of the provincial legislation cited, but were perhaps thinking about the Lockport bridge with similar eastern approaches and lift span. Thomas Bunn had warned Council that St. Clements might have to cost/share in the maintenance costs, but that it would be minimal and shared by the province/Town of Selkirk and St. Clements.

The Dominion Gov’t requested that once the bridge was completed that the cost of maintaining the bridge would have to be borne equally by the Munc. of St. Clements and the Town of Selkirk. They required this assurance in writing and by Oct. 21, 1935, and were strongly urging this be done at once. Ottawa informed St. Clements that the opening of the bridge to traffic was expected to be early in 1936. These formalities and agreements share to be completed. in preparation.

After a lot of discussion by the Councillors, finally, on Dec. 10, 1935, a resolution was passed and forwarded to Ottawa, However, it was not what Ottawa expected. St. Clements resolved indicating: “their residents were taxed to the utmost limit to provide absolutely necessary requirements and to also meet the exceedingly heavy costs of relief – and were not in a position to assume further financial obligations — for these reasons they could not assume any responsibility for the maintenance of this bridge joining the munc. of St. Clements and the Town of Selkirk.”

The Dominion Gov’t wrote to the Province on March 16, 1936 warning them to come to some agreement about the take-over of and maintenance of the new Selkirk Bridge. It could be ready in mid-summer and both the Prov. of Manitoba and the two joining municipalities had indicated they were not prepared to assume responsibility for it. They advised that failure on the part of the municipalities to undertake the maintenance of the bridge would render it a “Toll Bridge”, in the event of its operation being left with Federal authorities. On March 19, the Provincial Public Works Minister, W.U. Clubb, was suggesting to St. Clements and Selkirk that if they didn’t want the structure turned into a toll unit that some type of mutual arrangement or inter-municipal agreement should be made as soon as possible.

Ottawa informed St. Clements that the bridge could be complete by June 1, 1936 and asks Council for their decision in regard to taking over the bridge and maintenance of it. The Federal Minister of Public Works warned that “ some action in this matter is called for within a relatively short period’ and the Provincial Minister of Public Works, who was in possession of the same warning, simply wrote to St. Clements advising “ deal with this matter without delay.”

Thomas Bunn, on behalf of Council, had forwarded to Ottawa along  with the earlier resolution, a further comment that stated: “ St. Clements is not able to meet their present obligations and it would be suicidal on our part to assume any further financial obligation.” Bunn also informed Ottawa that the bridge was something that St. Clements had looked forward to for over 50 years and now that they were finally getting it, it seemed a pity that it would have to be a toll-bridge and St. Clements Council respectfully asked the Dominion Gov’t to take over the maintenance of the bridge.”

On April 16. 1936 St. Clements forwarded to Ottawa a copy of joint resolution passed by the Town of Selkirk And St. Clements at a joint municipal meeting held a few days earlier where they jointly outlined “after full .consideration of the question of maintenance and operation of the new Selkirk Bridge. we cannot accept any financial responsibility for same’ owing to the continued  heavy burden of Relief, which shows no sign of decreasing, and also other heavy financial responsibilities. “

Within a day or two Ottawa wrote to the Province reminding that the bridge could be opened to traffic in about one month’s time and the federal Gov’t expected the Province to resolve the matter of the take-over and maintenance before they would release it to any authority.

The Province ( Minister of Public Works, W.U Clubb ) once they were aware that St. Clements was petitioning Ottawa to take over the bridge, wrote to Thos. Bunn saying, “I will be very interested in knowing what reply you receive from the Dominion Gov’t.

They didn’t have long to wait. On April 20,1936 the Dominion Gov’t had read the joint resolution of the two municipalities and J.B. Hunter the Deputy Minister of Public Works replied: “ In view of the Joint decision arrived at, there appears to be no other course open to the Federal Gov’t than to make this a toll-bridge, when completed and ready for operation. Arrangements to that end will be proceeded with.”

Within the month Ottawa had forwarded St. Clements a copy lisitng the toll to be charge when Bridge was open to traffic:

Foot passenger 0.05
Auto and Driver 0.25
Each Passenger in car 0.05
Motor Bus and driver 0.5
Each bus passenger 0.05
Motorcycles and driver 0.15
One-horse vehicle 0.15
Two-horse vehicle 0.35
Livestock Per head 0.1
Commercial vehicles:  
Up to I ton 0.25
Ito2ton 0.35
2 to 5 tons 0.45
5 tons and over 0.5

Selkirk Bridge 1936

On Friday May 15,1936 the lift-span of the Bridge was operated for the first time. The machinery for this purpose was not quite the lift by hand. Everything worked well without a hitch.

The Town of Selkirk passed a resolution dated May 26, 1936 which outlined the feeling of the local authorities: “town clerk to notify the Dominion Gov’t that the Proposed schedule of tolls on the new bridge is prohibitive and that if such tolls be insisted upon, in the opinion of this council the public will  demand that the present Ferry kept in operation.

The Sec-Treas. For the Town of Selkirk ( H.M. Outhwaite ) added: “ if the toll is carried out, the bridge will, instead of being a help, be a drawback, and I sincerely hope your Dept. will think very seriously before attempting to put this schedule in force.”

It appeared that the work on the bridge was nearing completion with only a few more details such as some welding, painting and work left on the approaches. The asphalt planking was progressing well.

The elected officials. ( MPs ) stationed at Ottawa made every effort to assist St. Clements in resolving the Federal Gov’t to approved the project in the first placed and now it had taken an unpleasant turn. In June, when J.M. Turner , the MP for Springfield had called the Public Works and objected to the Gov’t making the Selkirk Bridge a “ Toll Unit” the Deputy Minister replied “nowhere in Canada has the Federal Gov’t taken over the operation and maintenance of bridges.” He was very curt when he added “ this bridge was build as a relief project and it has already cost the gov’t over one-quarter million dollars.’

On June 17, 1936, St. Clements forwarded to the Dominion Gov’t a petition containing over 700 names of resident living on the east side in the vicinity of the petitioner were praying that “ the toll in connection with the Bridges should be eliminated.”

Feeling were running a little high and tempers were a little short about this time. By the end of June 1936, St. Clements wrote to the District Engineer ( Goodspeed) drawing his attention to the fact that “ you were given permission to take earth from the hill on the Selkirk  Ferry Road with the distinct understanding that the hill and roadway be left in as good a condition as it was before the work started. Nothing has been done regarding this and the roadway has been practically impassable ever since the early spring and Council insists something be done to correct this grievance.’

Engineer Goodspeed replied to St. Clements in early July advising they would proceed at once to complete the repairs on the east side approach. He further explained that nothing had been done to this road before because the money for the project had lapsed on March 31, 1936, and no further monies were received for completion of  the east approach.

There was a Joint meeting in Selkirk to hear a report from J.T. Thorson, MP for Selkirk on his negotiations with the Dominion Gov’t to try and plead case for a free bridge or else substantially reduced toll schedules. The Civil Service Commission, in the meantime, had advertised and were calling for applications for the position of Bridge master (seasonal) at Selkirk, Man.

Early in July it was reported that the Hon. R.A. Hoey, Minister of Education would be placing plans, for making the Selkirk Bridge toll-free, before the Manitoba Gov’t.

Then followed a period of utter confusion. Selkirk had requested that if tolls were to be charged then the fees should be reduced to a rate charged by the local Ferry now in operation on the Red River. The Hon. T.A. Crerar, Minister of the interior telegrammed Selkirk by July 30, 1936 and said Bridge could be opened on the basis of the ferry tolls pending the working out of an agreement of cost sharing the operating and maintenance expenses.

During the month of Aug. Selkirk was again petitioning for a free Bridge and the Member of Selkirk, J.T. Thorson was pressuring the Dominion Gov’t from Ottawa and by seeking audience with anyone who would listen to him about the matter.

ln the Aug. 3rd issue of the Selkirk Record they summed it up this way: “Unless the bridge can be opened as a free bridge, it might just as well remain boarded or as someone has suggested, throw a tarpaulin over it and keep it protected from the elements until such time as someone wants to adopt it. “

About mid-Sept. there was quite a flurry of excitement caused when a gang of men walked down to the Selkirk Bridge, pushed aside the barricade and started to apply a coat of tar to the flooring. The lift-span, with a tooting of the whistle, was raised to its highest point and it really looked like there was going to be something doing at last. That, coupled with a report that the Governor-General was going to visit Selkirk, was all that was needed to have rumours run rampant. The favorite thought was that the Governor-General was coming to Selkirk to officially open the Selkirk Bridge. They held public meetings in town and made preparations to welcome their distinguished guest.

After the workmen had finished their work on the flooring of the bridge, they moved over to the east side and work was commenced on filling in the balance of the approach. This of course, was taken as another sign that the gov’t really meant business and the bridge would surely be opened.

Then the Governor-General cancelled his visit. The people just shook their heads every time they viewed it and said it certainly is a pity that our bridge has remained blockaded for so long. It was hard to credit the Dominion Gov’t with spending so much money on a bridge and then quibbling over the matter of tolls until everybody, including themselves, had lost all interest in the project.

Then early in Dec. the Selkirk Ferry was hauled up on the river bank, there to remain it was said, until dismantled and sold. During the summer of 1936 the  residents of the Selkirk area had the unique opportunity of witnessing the old and the new within a short distance of one another. The old ferry which had served the residents both sides of the Red River, had ceased its service and it was doubtful if it would be launched again in the spring. People had mixed feelings about the ferry. It remained on the river bank above the high water mark collecting snow all winter and by March, 1937 council were still considering whether to dismantle it or not. Indications were that the bridge would likely be put into operation in the spring or early summer of 1937.

Toward the end of March the structure was completed except for the approaches, which the engineers stated could be finished in about l0 days.

Then the Winnipeg daily newspapers carried some news that said the Dominion Gov’t were willing to divest themselves of the ownership of the bridge and transfer same to the province and were also willing to contribute some monies toward the operation and maintenance of the structure for four or fire years.

A conference was arranged for Sat. March 27, between the Hon. W.R. Clubb, Town of Selkirk and the Munc. Of St. Clements. Hopes were high that the bridge would open as soon as navigation was passable.

They had their meeting and it was tentatively agreed, for the first time, that unrestricted use by the public would be provided. This meant that under the terms of the new proposed agreement, there would be no tolls. The Dominion Gov’t it appeared would contribute about $1,500 per year for the next four years toward the operation and maintenance of the bridge.

Selkirk got ahead of themselves and during an April Council meeting approved by resolution the hiring of two bridge operators at a salary of $90.00 per month. St. Clements Council thought Selkirk did not have this  authority without joint committee approval. A committee was very quickly struck and one of the first duties was to send a telegram to Ottawa: “respectfully urge that you wire instructions to District Engineer Goodspeed in Winnipeg to open the bridge for traffic immediately. River ice conditions at present exceedingly dangerous. Person’s living on the east side and working in Selkirk at present are compelled to cross on the ice.”

The signing of the agreements became quite involved and the province were corresponding with the railways, city engineers and gathering information about other draw bridges over the Red River. The Redwood Bridge was open from May to Oct. and kept two men on l2 hour shifts during this period. The Louise Bridge was operated on an “on call” basis from the City Shops, while the Whittier bridge only opened a few times per year and was looked after by the Signal Maintainer who was on call 24 hours per day. The Kitdonan Bridge was operated by tender and the operator lived close by and worked about l0 hours per day and on call for the remaining time. The wages were quite diverse: Redwood operator received 34.9clhour for married men  and 31.40 for single men. Whittier operators received from 670 to 72c per hour while the Kildonan tender was for 400 per hour worked.

The Asst. Deputy Minister of Public Works Dept. forwarded a suggested copy of a proposed agreement between the Province, Town of Selkirk and the R.M. of St. Clements — providing for the mutual control of operation, maintenance and repairs of the Selkirk Bridge and approaches.

On May 6, 1937 the agreement was signed by the three authorities. The Province was authorized to enter into the agreement by order-in-council No. 454/37 dated April 20. The Town of Selkirk had passed by law No. 847 on the same date and the Munc. of St. Clements had given their bylaw No. 536 the third reading and passed it earlier, April 13, 1937.

The agreement was binding from May l, 1937 to April 30, 1941 and the Dominion Gov’t had agreed to pay a lump sum of $6,000 for the use in defraying the cost of the operation and maintenance. It outlined that the costs “shall be” borne between the parties: Province $500 (5090 by Province, Selkirk 33 1/390 and St. Clements 16 2/3).

Selkirk Bridge 1936 with span down

The bridge had been unofficially and “mysteriously” opened on Thursday afternoon, April 29, 1937 by unknown persons and once the lift-span was lowered the foot traffic poured across both ways. On Friday morning, April 30, 1937 two officials came down and raised it again. Every effort was then made to have the bridge remain open, but to no avail. Numerous telegrams were sent to Ottawa by local people voicing their disfavor with the whole situation. It appears that the bridge company men removed the barriers at each end of the bridge, but put the bridge lift-span up several feet. While the bridge could be crossed it was not only a hardship but it was dangerous. It was reported that on more than one occasion farm produce including butter and eggs, etc. were dropped and lost in the river by person’s attempting to make the dangerous crossing by climbing onto the lift span.

The Selkirk Bridge was used from Thursday April 29, 1937 up to Sat. May 1, with the lift-span raised quite a few feet. On the Sat. it was lowered again while the men were doing some filling in on the east approach. While this was in progress, the pedestrians used the bridge continuously, both ways up until Mon. May 3, when it was officially opened for vehicle traffic.

At the end of Nov. 1937, the expense to operate and maintain the Selkirk Bridge came to $1020. Mr. H. Hawes was being paid $100 per month. The Bridge Committee had advertised in April for an operator and he was hired toward the second week in May and he received $60 that month. During 1937 they paid $30 per month for energy and light. The Province contributed their share of $500 and the Town of Selkirk and the R.M. of St. Clements had to share the remaining cost of $520.00. St. Clements paid $111.75 as their share in 1937 and another $33.34 up to April 1938.

Selkirk Bridge on July 9, 1936

During the navigation period in the year 1938 it was recorded that the bridge lift-span was lifted for boats over 125 times starting on May 24, 1938 to Nov. 3, 1938 when it ceased its seasonal operation. The Manitoba Telephone System received permission from the Bridge Committee in 1941 to place telephone cables under the bridge in order to extend telephone service to the east side of the river. St. Clements passed bylaw No. 700 on July 29, 1941 allowing the MTS to extend services to the east side and the agreement was signed by Aug. ll,1941.

Authorization was received by Aug. 1941, for the “Renewal Agreement” and the cost share contract for the operation and maintenance of the Selkirk Bridge. The expiry date would be April 30, 1945. The Province of Manitoba received approval by order-in-council No. 834/41 dated Aug. 1, 1941, Selkirk’s by law was No. 1064 dated June 23, and St. Clements passed their by-law No. 699 on July 8, 1941.

In St. Clements it was usually the Reeve who was appointed to the Bridge Committee and by 1945 Russell Burnett signed the third agreement and in 1949 Max Dubas was appointed and signed the fourth agreement that would be in effect until April 30, 1953.

The shared operating and maintenance costs were minimal with St. Clements share being $200.39 in 1947 and $ 181.00 in 1948. Up to 1949 there was very little work done on the bridge with the exception of normal spot checks and regular maintenance. In July 1949, the inspection revealed that the main cables to the counterweights and the actuating cable, both on the lift-span were found to be in excellent condition and well cared for. However, an earlier inspection found that a certain amount of corrosion was in evidence and the structure required painting. The Selkirk Bridge had not been painted since it was erected and when estimates were called for, the Bridge Committee informed their respective authorities that it would cost in excess of $5,000. This price covered the scraping and wire brushing to remove old paint plus two coats of new paint. However, the work was not contracted for in 1949 due to the lateness of the season.

In the spring of 1950, the Committee reminded the Province to include the painting of the bridge in their budget and requested them to take over the administration of the contract. The Province agreed to look after the painting etc. but the local Committee was to advertise, open bids and let contracts. The financing of the work would be the responsibility of the local authorities and the Province would reimburse 5090 of costs when the work was completed and after inspection of same.

ln St. Clements, by May 9, 1950, the bridge approach road was flooded on the east side and Council passed a resolution No. 49l 50 urging the Dept. of Public Works to give permission to include in the 1950 budget the costs of “raising the East Road Approach (about I /4 mile) to the Selkirk Bridge — so the bridge road approach could be free from spring flooding. “

The province never replied to the St. Clements appeal for raising the east approach road until mid-Sept. of that year when the Minister of Public Works reported that they would pay up to 75% of the cost of repairs to flood damaged roads, Council never expected an early reply that year because the province had its hands full with the 1950 major flooding of the Red River.’

As people drove back and forth over the bridge during 1950 they noted and “honked greeting at” a man systematically cutting weeds and grass on the east approach. This was Joe Medal and he was paid 55C per hour for this work.

Electrical wiring problems affecting the lift-span operation developed in 1952. It was in the wiring from the central cabin to the gate relays. It appeared the wiring was in bad condition and all the conduits had to be replaced in the gate control. On June 25, 1952, Schumacher-Mackenzie Ltd. was the. successful bidder and was told to proceed with the work. Reeve Helwer was appointed to the Bridge Committee during this period.

The year 1953 was a more active year for the Bridge Committee. In April the Manitoba Telephone System asked for permission to install more cable to the underside of the bridge. The cable was I I /2″ in diameter and weighted about 22 pounds per foot. The new cable was said to be more efficient and had greater line capacity and was needed to increase and improve telephone facilities in East Selkirk and throughout the Mun. of St. Clements. The old 1941 MTS agreement remained in effect and the authority was given in early May, 1953.

At about the same time the Resident Engineer (Al Burrows) did an examination of the bridge decking. He reported several areas of deterioration in the asphalt planking. The Dept. of Public Works upon closer inspection discovered that the joints had opened up causing water seepage between the asphalt planks and the l” tongue and groove. lt was noted that when traffic passed over certain well defined areas it caused water to squirt up through the nail-holes where the nails had been loosened by the constant vibration. The water trapped between these layers would eventually cause decay of the 1″ tongue and groove, if it had not done so already. However, when Public Works did some repairs on the asphalt planks they found the 1″ tongue and grooves to be in “fair” condition, at least in the areas under repair, The engineers initially placed two proposals before the Bridge Committee. Proposal “A” involved the removal of the asphalt planking and layer of the l” grooves and the installation of new material costing about $10,000. Proposal “B” was a patch up job with repairs to only the evident deteriorated areas costing about $1,300.

The Bridge Committee received notice from the Province that they would receive a grant of up to $1,000 if they carried out the work themselves.

In 1954 the MTS advised the Committee that the 1953 cable additions leading under the bridge to the east side was found inadequate and it was now found necessary, for transmitting purposes, to attach two loading coils. The cable was attached to the underside of the metal sidewalk bracing on the north side of the bridge and weighed about 75 lbs. The old 1941 MTS agreement was still in effect and approval was given by early spring for this work.

Reeve Max Dubas continued to represent St. Clements on the Joint Committee for the Selkirk Bridge during the years 1955 to 1960.

An inspection of the Selkirk Bridge in the spring of 1959 revealed that it was in excellent condition except for the decking which had by this time deteriorated quite badly. The engineers reported after close examination. “The deck is made of timber with an asphalt-plank surface and consists of 3×6 timber sleepers on top of the steel floor joists. On top of this are 4″ treated timber floor planks, followed by 1″ tongue and groove which is followed by 1 l/2″ asphalt planking. Upon testing the deck the asphalt planking was found to be in poor shape. It was missing and lifting in many places and had been extensively patched. The l”x 6″ tongue and groove layers under the asphalt planking was almost completely rotten while the 4” planks forming the decking was showing extensive signs of dry rot. “

It was strongly suggested that the Selkirk Bridge be “re-decked” and also the steel cables which lifted the centre-span (over 23 years old) should be replaced for safety.

The estimated cost of the preceding was tabled as being about $40,000 and the work was delayed in the hope that the Province of Manitoba would “take-over” the Selkirk

In 1961, Councilor Victor Watko was appointed to the Selkirk Bridge Committee. This was the year that there was agitation and petitioning for the Province to treat the Selkirk Bridge as a connecting highway between two provincial trunk highways (PTH). The municipal Solicitors were in constant contact with the Minister of Public Works asking him to use his influence in convincing the province to make the road and the bridge, a PTH. Several delegations from the Munc. of St. Clements and the Town of Selkirk attended the office of the Minister and related Provincial Dept. but to no avail. The Local Bridge Committee were “somewhat incensed” over the constant delays and in lack of concern or response or some type of action, on the part of the province. In the meantime the traffic crossing the Selkirk Bridge were muttering and complaining about the condition of the bridge which even the non-experienced eye could see was in a bad way. But nothing was done during 1961 and that winter the surface of the bridge was so bad that snow clearing was difficult.

In Jan. of 1962, the council of St. Clements passed Resolution No. 4 relating to the Bridge over Red River at Selkirk “Whereas the Bridge over Red River between Selkirk and the R.M. of St. Clements required new decking and other repairs (est. cost $40,000) Therefore, be it resolved that the Town of Selkirk and the Province of Manitoba be notified that it is in order to proceed with this project this year and that the Munc. of St. Clements will contribute their share of 33 I /390 with the Town of Selkirk contributing 66 2l3Vo to cover the balance of the cost after the Province of Manitoba has paid their share of about 7590 and winter works contributions have been
credited. “

Walter Weir, who was the Acting Minister of Public Works at the time, advised the Committee within the one month’s time that the confirmed provincial contribution to this project would be 8090 of the cost.

The Bridge Committee were able to report to their respective authorities by May 3, 1962, that the Bridge Contractor, Husky Construction, had removed a total of 729 useable  planks from the Selkirk Bridge. The Munc. of St. Clements were entitled to one third of these planks or a total of 243, Husky Const. delivered to St. Clements a dozen more than they were entitled to Selkirk wanted them back. All summer this episode of the “missing planks” was the source of some heated comments during meetings. Finally, in Oct. of 1962 the mystery was cleared up when Bill Sokolowski, the Sec – Treas. of St. Clements wrote to the Town of Selkirk advising them that there were 252 planks delivered to the St. Clements Public Works’ yard, not 255 as the Town of Selkirk had thought. The Munc. of St. Andrews had picked up 8 of them, that they required, and there was I left over which they could pick up, if they so wished. In July the Bridge Committee advised the Contractor that if the Sub-contract (asphalt) was not completed to the satisfaction of the Committee by July 18, then the Town of Selkirk would take steps to rectify the work performed. Also, there was a I / 2″ cable on the northeast corner of the lift that had been left slack and was whipping around in the wind. Eventually, all the differences were ironed out and traffic continued to flow both ways without too much interruption, except for most every spring when the east approach road was under water during spring break-up.

It is interesting to note that our people on the east side and many on the west bank get a certain amount of satisfaction in viewing the spring flood of the old Van Horne flats each spring. It never lasts very long, usually only a few days and sometimes you can be caught unawares. Although you get fair warning, you can travel the east approach road in the morning and be caught before lunch and cut-off. Then you have to use the Lockport Bridge to reach the west side or east side of the river. Usually we have many brave residents who can travel for sometime through the flooded flats with water reaching the floor-boards of their vehicles. Some vehicles stall and have to be towed out of danger. Large chunks of ice travel over the banks of the Red and flow from south to north and the high water line can be viewed by the marks on the trees edging the old Ferry Road Many of the giant elms were removed because of Dutch Elm disease, but while they stood, you could see the history of flooded years by the scars caused by floating ice and water marks. Sightseers converge on the hills overlooking the flats on the east side almost every spring and take a certain amount of pride in coping and knowing that the flooded waters disappear just as quickly as it rose.

Councilor Victor Watko remained on the Bridge Committee during 1963 to 1967, up to the time that the Province of Manitoba declared the old Ferry Road to be a Provincial Trunk Highway (PTH No. 204) and took over the ownership of the Selkirk Bridge.

Provincial Road 204 (north of PTH 44) was declared by order-in-council No. 179 in 1964 and the portion from Lot 88 west to the Red River Bridge was declared by order-in-council No. 765 in the same year. The order-in-council No. 765 also closed up and abandoned the stretch of road from Lot 88 to East Selkirk at the same time.

Provincial Road No. 204 south of PTH No. 44 was declared by order-in-council No. l’12’7 in 196’1 .

In conclusion, the unofficial and “mysterious opening” of the Selkirk Bridge on the afternoon of Thursday, April 29, 1937 by unknown persons, had at least one eye-witness who lived on the east side of the river and was using the bridge to cross that particular day.

The story is that this east-side resident left his bike on the east side span and was edging his way across when he saw two men coming onto the bridge. One was Maloney and the other was Duncan Rowley. Maloney and Rowley climbed the ladder and Maloney was a big heavy man and the eye-witness wondered how he would make out climbing the ladder, but he made it in an agile manner. They went under the shack and pumped and pumped by hand. The big guy had a large pipe wrench, soon the span came down and the two men left the bridge heading west into town. Our eye witness, not being sure what he had just witnessed, (the mysterious opening) picked himself up from his hiding spot and could be classed as the first east side resident to ride his bicycle across the new bridge Later that day everybody was using the bridge from both sides of the river.

Several years later our east side lad was talking to Maloney’s son who he reported said, “Dad was really angry that day because everybody was using the bridge and it wasn’t safe to do so. One lady had dropped her basket of produce which was her only means of support and there was quite a bit of trouble over people who worked at the Rolling Mills trying to make it across carrying their bicycles with them, on their back, edging along the rails, lt was very dangerous, and everybody from the east side was trying to cross that way, men, women and children. It would only be a matter of time before someone would really get hurt or drown.” Our eye-witness said Mr. Maloney wasn’t fired for defying the government orders and lowering the center-span — he was just transferred elsewhere.

During 1982/83, there has been much talk and some speculation about a new bridge to span the Red River, Several locations have been mentioned but the most popular seems to be north of East Selkirk in the vicinity of P.R. No. 508 — time will tell. The residents located in the area of No. 508 and St. Peters Road are quite apprehensive.

The present bridge has need of repair to its roadbed, again, and it looks like some changes are planned to relocate the east approach direction, somewhat. More rumours, but it is fun to speculate. If there is a master plan, it is certainly being kept a close-guarded secret, much like the first bridge that was planned to span the Red.

Submitted by, slh

Posted in Influence of the River, Transportation.