The Johnson Street Rail and Vehicle Bascule Bridge, Victoria BC

by Murray Polson 2012

I captured some images last winter when the City of Victoria removed the rail bridge portion of the Johnson Street Bridge over Victoria Harbour.

The bridge was designed under the direction of Mr. F. M. Preston, City Engineer in 1920. This is a Bascule-type bridge in which one end rises while a counter weight lowers on the opposite end. The superstructure of the bridge was fabricated in Walkerville, Ontario and contains 100 tons of steel. The City of Victoria Engineering Department built the sub-structure of the bridge. It required 10,000 cubic yards (7,600 cubic metres) of concrete.

According to the City of Victoria, in 1979, extensive repairs were made to the superstructure, which had become severely corroded. The blue paint now on the bridge was selected because the oxides of its pigment are the same colour as the paint so that little fading of the colour would occur. In 1995, abnormally high temperatures caused the steel decking to expand to the point the bridge would not open or close properly. This necessitated the removal of about 1-inch of the decking.

Johnson St Bridge

The railway span has been removed, and the vehicle and pedestrian bridge will be replaced by a new bridge which is currently being designed and constructed.

Johnson St Bridge

Torches were used to cut away material on the railway span prior to removal.

Johnson St Bridge car traffic

The Johnson Street Bridge is a busy link. The 88 year old bridge connects downtown and Victoria West in Victoria, British Columbia.

Vessels requiring passage through the waterway radio the bridge operator to request that the bridge be opened. Traffic would be stopped and the bridge would open up. It was a common announcement from the city radio stations announcing "The Johnson Street Bridge is about to go up!" signalling motorists who did not wish a long wait in stalled traffic to find an alternate route across the water - usually on the Bay Street (Point Ellice) Bridge.

Johnson St Bridge

An AMIX heavy lift barge was positioned to lift the railway span with a crane.

Johnson St Bridge

Once free of the bridge structure the span was settled on a barge for removal.

Johnson St Bridge

Most people in Victoria think that the old bridge has been cut up and sold, but in fact it is still sitting more or less intact on the waterfront awaiting final disposition.


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