American Society of Civil Engineers

Case Study in Engineering History Education: Robert Stephenson’s ”Last Great Work” – The Victoria Bridge in Montréal

by Allistair MacKenzie, (Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Ryerson Univ., 350 Victoria St., Toronto Ont., Canada M5B 2K3.)

Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, Vol. 131, No. 1, January 2005, pp. 32-40, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: The Victoria Bridge across the St. Lawrence River at Montral is one of the great engineering achievements of the 19th century. At the time of its construction it was the largest bridge project in the world. It was also the last major project of the last of the ”legendary” engineering figures of the ”Victorian” era of engineering, Robert Stephenson. There were many doubters as to the ability of the engineers of the day to construct a project of this size given the physical conditions of the site. The story of the construction of the Victoria Bridge is one that combines business imperatives, engineering design skills, and construction ingenuity with the enormous challenges presented by one of the world’s great, fast flowing rivers and with the severity of Canadian winters and the massive ”ice shoves” that occur as a result. Following its completion controversy raged as to who deserved the most credit for the conception and design of the bridge. The bridge was constructed between 1854 and 1860 and was formally opened by the Prince of Wales in the summer of 1860. Starting in 1897, the original Tubular Superstructure was replaced by pin-connected through trusses designed to carry two rail tracks with a roadway and sidewalk cantilevered out on each side. The bridge was formally reopened on October 16, 1901 and renamed the ”Victoria Jubilee Bridge.” It continues to serve rail and road traffic to the present day.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Construction methods
Engineering education
Historic sites