Text and photos by Laura Wickett
This bridge is a hidden secret in Niagara. To access it, you have to know what dead-end street to park on and that there’s a pathway through the bushes. The stonemason who showed it to me grew up living nearby to it, and told me that this feat of stone engineering helped inspire him to do the work he does today.
When I first visited this bridge, I had completed my first year at Willowbank and was working on repointing a limestone church tower. I looked at the bridge with such different eyes than if I had seen it before coming to Willowbank. While previously I would have appreciated the site as a picturesque whole, now I spent time marvelling at the level of craft that went into building a utilitarian train bridge in the nineteenth century. The time spent dressing the stones, the fact that the builders saved the mottled red and white Grimsby sandstone to accent the soaring arches on either side of the harbour. Looking at it up close from the base and being amazed that the mortar still seems sound. The huge size of the stone units inspires theories about the construction techniques that were used.
The stone may be old, but the area is alive with greenery and bird calls. The bridge is in a unique setting surrounded by wetlands and the outlet to Twenty Mile Creek. While the stone piers no longer support train travel, they have become a popular spot for rock climbers. The conservation authority has created a new conservation area here to encourage paddlers to explore the creek, and there is the possibility of creating a pedestrian bridge using the remnants of the old bridge.
The wonderful thing about this stonework is that it is still standing and I expect it will remain for a very long time. Because it stands in water in an out-of-the-way location, there really isn’t much need to clear it away to make room for something new.
I enjoy taking friends and family to see this site where stone heritage makes for a stunning gateway to the rich natural heritage found here in Niagara. This summer I’ll be back to experience it from my canoe. If I’ve inspired you to visit it, I hope you’ll ask me how to get there…