Edmonton, Pacific and Yukon Railway and Low Level Bridge

Where: Edmonton, AB.

Engineer: Federal Government for rail traffic

Date of construction: 1898 - 1900

First train to arrive at Edmonton’s Rossdale Flats Station, October 20, 1902, on the Edmonton, Yukon & Pacific Railway. (Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta B6208)

Site Location (Low Level Bridge): Lat.: 53° – 32’ – 17” N; Long.: 113° – 29’ – 12” W. (GPS: 53.5379404, -113.4866234). From the Alberta Legislature Building, drive east on 97th Avenue 2 km, crossing the North Saskatchewan River on the James Macdonald Bridge. Take the first left (north) at 98th Avenue and follow it as it turns to the west 0.2 km. Turn right into the parking lot at Rafter’s Landing in Henrietta Muir Edwards Park, park, and walk 100 m west to the bridge. Bus routes 7, 8 and 81 stop at the Low Level Bridge and 98th Avenue.

Plaque Location: The plaque is located on the parapet of the “deck” of the Shaw Convention Centre, 9797 Jasper Avenue NW, overlooking the valley and the Low Level Bridge. Lat.: 53° – 32’ – 28” N; Long.: 113° – 29’ – 9” W. (GPS: 53.5410343, -113.4857017) From the Alberta Legislature Building, go north 0.8 km on 107th Street. Then turn right (east) on Jasper Avenue for 1.25 km. The Shaw Conference Centre is on your right. Bus routes 2, 3, 5, 100 and 120 stop on Jasper Avenue, just west of the conference centre.

Plaque on deck parapet of Edmonton Convention Centre (Source: Google Street View).

Description (Low Level Bridge): The Inter-Urban Bridge was constructed between 1898 and 1900 across the North Saskatchewan River to connect the communities of Edmonton, on the north side, and Strathcona. It became known as the Low Level Bridge after the construction of the High Level Bridge in 1913. The bridge consists of four Pratt through-truss spans and has a total length of 213 m. It was designed and built by engineers from the Federal Government for rail traffic. It was twinned in 1948, using steel fabricated by the Dominion Bridge Company in Winnipeg. The railway track was removed in 1954.

Low Level Bridge postcard from ca. 1910. (Source: Peel Library, University of Alberta)
The Low Level Bridge during the 1915 flood. (Source: City of Edmonton Archives)

Description (Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway): In 1896, the Edmonton District Railway received a charter to connect Edmonton to Strathcona, which had been connected to the main Canadian Pacific Railway line since 1891 by the Calgary and Edmonton Railway. The initiative remained dormant until the charter was transferred to William MacKenzie and Donald Mann in 1898, who changed the name to the Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway (EY&P R). The connection with the Calgary and Edmonton Railway, across the Low Level Bridge, was completed in October 1902. Extensions to the Canadian Northern main line and to Stony Plains were completed in 1905 and 1907, respectively. After laying only 21 km (13 mi.) of track, the EY&P R was amalgamated with the Canadian Northern Railway in 1909.

Historic Significance: The Low Level Bridge was the first to cross the North Saskatchewan River. It was used by the first train to arrive at Edmonton, on the EY&P R, on October 20th, 1902. Eventually the Canadian Northern Railway completed a route, through the mountains, to Vancouver and so provided an alternative to CPR’s transcontinental service. In 1923, the Canadian Northern Railway and Canadian Government Railways merged to become the Canadian National Railway, now CN. The abandoned EY&P R grade has become a pedestrian and bicycle trail for 5.6 km (3.5 miles) through Mill Creek Ravine Park, using four of the original timber trestles and ending near 68th Avenue.

Plaque detail. (Source: CSCE Archives).

Plaque wording: National Historic Civil Engineering Site. CSCE. THE EDMONTON, YUKON AND PACIFIC RAILWAY and the LOW LEVEL BRIDGE. This plaque commemorating the Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway and the Low Level Bridge is a tribute to those engineers who conceived, designed and built the railroad, its timber trestles in the Mill Creek Valley and the first bridge to cross the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton – the Low Level, completed in 1900. Photo: The first train into Edmonton, 1902. Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. 1996.

Links to Online Documentation:

“The Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway”, Atlas of Alberta Railways.
“The Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway – Maps”, Atlas of Alberta Railways.
Alberta Register of Historic Railways, “Mill Creek Trestle Bridge”.
Lon Marsh, “The Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway”, Canadian Rail, 1987.
(article starts on page 117 of the journal, which is page 9 of the pdf)

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