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1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators

Airdrie

Other Names:

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators is an 80 foot single span steel pony truss bridge set on wood abutments that crosses Nose Creek, Section 2.13.32, from north to south, within the City of Airdrie. Constructed in 1928, it provided a route to the grain elevators that once stood on the siding at the station grounds directly south-east. It is located on a 0.54 acre right of way that continues south from the end of Edwards Way, through the open riparian area between Railway Ave and 1st Avenue. There is 360 degree visibility to the bridge from the Nose Creek riparian area directly west of the CPR rail line. The designation pertains to that section of the right away that lies south of Edwards Way.

Heritage Value
The historical significance of the 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators lies in its value as critical infrastructure constructed by Alberta Public Works for the Municipal District of Beddington no. 250. Now within the City of Airdrie boundaries, the 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators reflects the demand for new and improved roads and bridges to keep pace with settlement and the growing importance of mixed commercial farming. As a rare or unique example of a bridge not located on a working road allowance, its historic function providing a crossing on Nose Creek signifies the emergence of Airdrie as a major grain handling point from the 1920s. It was an important link in providing access to Airdrie’s grain elevators, which by 1929, were additionally located on a new siding north of the rail bridge.

The 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators has architectural and engineering significance as a representative example of a single span steel pony truss design, including its wooden substructure that characterized early bridge construction practices in Alberta. Its 80 foot (24.4m) pony truss design is true to the original plans and specifications for materials to be shipped from the Winnipeg foundry of the renowned Dominion Bridge Company. The plans incorporate load specifications drawn up by the Engineering Institute of Canada in 1918. The top chord of the truss carries the load and the connecting floor beams below with diagonals provide the lateral stability between the two trusses. This open pony design with a narrow width had tensile strength which allowed it to carry a twenty ton truck without requiring an upper through truss.

The scale and sophistication of design, expertise of construction and workmanship, the quality of the superstructure materials, and the serial replacement of the substructure wooden abutments as part of the structural history of the 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators, is indicative of its envisioned continuous importance.

As the last extant structure associated with the cultural landscape of the station grounds and grain elevator sidings at Airdrie, the 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators symbolizes the agricultural origins of the City of Airdrie. An historic landmark, it has provided a critical and continuous link for vehicular traffic between the south and north elevator sidings from 1928 to 1983, and subsequently for pedestrians crossing the riparian area of Nose Creek west of the rail line. In May 2015 a fire damaged part of the wooden abutment at the south end of the bridge and necessitated its closure to pedestrians. Today the 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators can be seen from Railway Avenue and the bridge on 1St Avenue West


Character-Defining Elements
The key elements that define the heritage value of this site include:
-form, scale and massing, as expressed by the single span pony truss design

Superstructure
-Steel members including Vertical chords, Top chord, Diagonal braces, Four bearing corners of truss, Bottom lateral system of stringers and beams, Gusset plates, rivets and bolts; and
-Steel identification number, Lattice handrail, Original black colour, Wooden strip deck planks and Wheel guards.

Substructure
-Wooden abutments including back and wing walls, piles, corbels and caps; and
-Structural sub-deck planks.

Environmental

- prominent landmark location in Nose Creek riparian area;
- spatial relationship between the 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators, the rail line and original station grounds;
- continuous use as a vehicle and later pedestrian route; and
- unobstructed views to and from Railway Avenue and the bridge on 1St Avenue West.


Location



Street Address: 1010 Railway Ave.
Community: Airdrie
Boundaries: South of 1st Avenue NW, north of Railway Avenue NW, spanning Nose Creek, and legally described as contained within Road Plan 0311853 in the City of Airdrie
Contributing Resources: Structures: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
5
1
27
12


PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel

Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Local Governments (AB)
Designation Status: Municipal Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2019/07/02

Historical Information

Built: 1928/01/01
Significant Date(s) 1928 to 2015
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Communications and Transportation
Historic Function(s): Transport - Land : Bridge, Tunnel or Other Engineering Work
Current Function(s):
Architect: Dominion Bridge Company.
Builder:
Context: The Calgary and Edmonton Railway constructed between 1891 and 1892 ran from Calgary north up the Nose Creek coulee following easy grades. Airdrie siding was built in SW section 12-27-1-W5 where Nose Creek provided non-alkaline water to service locomotives at a twenty mile distance from Calgary. The water tower was filled by a windmill that pumped water from a reservoir built on the west side of the two track siding. Nose Creek was dammed to a level that provided sufficient water for the reservoir, but there was leakage and the surrounding riparian area was often wet and prone to seasonal flooding. By 1912 the C & E station grounds were developed with a platform, station house, section house on the east side of the main track which crossed Nose Creek on a rail bridge just north of the siding.

The Nose Creek watershed shaped the location and access to the emerging settlement of Airdrie. When an early store building on the west side of the rail line was flooded out in 1902, it was evident that the village must be located to the east of the rail line. In 1907 a town site, on land purchased by a private developer from the CPR, was surveyed east of the rail line, with one block south-west of the siding. Access to the station grounds and siding was going to be a challenge. A wooden bridge at the west end of Centre Avenue that crossed Nose Creek where it meandered south, provided access to the station house from the east. Access to the siding from the west was more difficult as it was located in the centre of the 1/4 section with no access to the east-west road allowances along Section 12. A road was surveyed to run directly west of the centre of the station grounds, to the north-south road allowance. From here the road ran north as far as the mid-line of Section 12. The road then ran west through the centre of sections 11 and 10 to the next north south road allowance. This road appears to have been the main access route to and from the siding at Airdrie from the west.

As setters came in to the areas surrounding Airdrie, the demand for grain handling facilities grew. Farmers had to haul their grain south to Calgary by wagon teams on the very poor roads that did run through the country or hand-load rail car load lots. In May 1908 the Airdrie village council, formerly incorporated on September 10, 1909, was considering building a grain elevator under the auspices of the Board of Trade. The Alberta Pacific Elevator Co. built a flat grain warehouse by September 1908 from which grain cars could be loaded. Considerable anticipation remained, however, for larger storage facilities and by September 1909 both the Cummings Grain Co. and the Alberta Pacific Grain company had constructed 30,000 bushel grain elevators. By 1912 Cummings Grain Co had been taken over by Alberta Grain Co., and then from 1914 only the Alberta Pacific Grain Co Ltd had a licensed elevator on the siding, until 1926 from when the National Grain Co. also operated a 30,000 bushel elevator.

The west boundaries of the village of Airdrie, surveyed in 1907, ran along the rail line; infrastructure to the west lay outside its jurisdiction. After the Rural Municipalities Act in 1912 the local improvement districts west of Airdrie, comprised the Municipal District of Beddington #250, with ward No. 6 lying directly west of Airdrie, largely represented by councilors E. J. Clayton and Hawkey. Between 1917 and 1930 the council’s focus was the improvement of roads and appealing to the province to repair and build bridges, many of them over Nose Creek. In June 1921, a motion was introduced at a council meeting of the Municipal District of Beddington #250 to close the government surveyed road leading to the station grounds at Airdrie. Although the council defeated the idea, it implies that a road (both boundary lines surveyed by 1909) through the centre of section 12 to 1st Avenue had been developed with a bridge running east-west across Nose Creek giving access to Airdrie village from the west. A special meeting was held in October 1921 with the Minister of Public works to discuss the construction of a new steel bridge over Nose Creek, to be located on the unspecified site of an earlier wooden one.

According to the Airdrie Recorder , on May 14, 1925, a new steel bridge was to be erected west of the CPR tracks. The new steel bridge correlates with contract W1980 between the Dominion Bridge Co. and Alberta’ s Public Works department in 1925. The Department’s report for that year notes the replacement of a timber bridge “with a 80 foot steel span” in Airdrie. Although the evidence as to where exactly bridges were located is inconclusive, Alberta Public works in 1908 repaired one timber bridge, and built another over Nose Creek in Section 12-27-1-W5. In 1927 a second steel Dominion Bridge Company structure was planned over Nose Creek at Airdrie; this bridge also with an eighty foot span specified as contract W2391, was constructed in 1928—undoubtedly the 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators that is today also referred to as Edward’s Way Bridge.

These two bridges fell under the Alberta Department of Public Works’ extensive bridge building program of the 1920s, even as road construction continued to lag behind. By this time Alberta Public Works was gradually replacing timber structures with steel in areas of importance where the traffic or the width of a water course warranted it. Steel bridges were built using standardized designs; the Pratt truss configuration was prevalent. The Pratt truss—the term refers to the orientation of the steel members—has diagonal members in tension and vertical members in compression. The top chord carries the load to the bearings and is always in compression, while the bottom chord is always in tension. Spans of over 100 feet required a through truss (braced above and below the deck) while an open pony truss design was used for those with a span of 40 to 100 feet. This open pony design with a narrow width had tensile strength which allowed it to carry a twenty ton truck without requiring an upper through truss. Approximately 12 to13 such bridges are still in active use on road allowances in southern Alberta.

The Dominion Bridge Company, headquartered in Montreal with a foundry in Winnipeg, was the most significant supplier of steel bridge designs and components in western Canada, contracting a large number of bridges for Alberta Public Works. The superstructure components were shipped west by rail and then assembled by bridge building contractors on site. Horse driven pile drives would have been used to drive the wooden piles that supported the wooden abutment walls. Both timber and steel bridges continued to have wooden abutments and decks, which needed to be maintained—repaired and replaced as required.

As the 1920s saw a rapid increase in grain production and mixed farming, the CPR decided to develop a second siding on its land along side the track on the north side of the rail bridge. Here the Alberta Pool Elevators opened a 40,000 bushel facility to handle Alberta Wheat Pool contracts with farmers in the Airdrie area. By 1939 the Alberta Wheat Pool twinned its elevator was twinned with one moved in from Atlee, and in 1948 built a new 60,00 bushel elevator, adding a large concrete annex in 1967. The 1907 road directly west from railway street at the station grounds remained open though the 1960s and 1970s giving farmers coming from the west direct access to the grain elevators on the south siding. Alternatively, they could cross east over Nose Creek via the 1925 bridge on 1st Avenue and then south over the 1928 bridge to the elevators, stockyards, and coal sheds on the south siding, or north on the trail that led to the Alberta Wheat Pool elevators on the north siding. Traffic coming from the east to the station continued to cross Nose Creek on a wooden bridge on the original location, but in order to go to the south siding, had to cross the rail line on 1st avenue and then turn off south over the 1928 bridge. By 1964 the 1925 steel bridge on 1st avenue west of the tracks was replaced by a wider modern bridge. These three bridges formed a triangle of access to the railway facilities at Airdrie.
The cultural landscape of the railway at Airdrie slowly lost its distinctive features; the water tower as diesel locomotives came into use, followed by the station house and platform, the coal sheds and stockyards. Only the reservoir and the grain elevators remained in their original location by the 1980s, along with the grain elevators on the north siding. The 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators continued to link the south and north sidings until 1983, when it was closed to vehicular traffic. The filling in of the reservoir, the closing of the elevators, the removal of the road west from the south siding by the late 1980s, and the final demolition of the last two Alberta Wheat Pool elevators in 2000, marked the end of the 20th century landscape around the railway at Airdrie. All that remains is the 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators that pedestrians used until 2015 to cross the open riparian area of Nose Creek.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4664-0174
Designation File:
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File:
Website Link:
Data Source: Airdrie Community Development
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