/ Pine Creek Crossing

The Big Fill over Pine Creek, near Firdale /

The Grank Trunk Pacific built a large trestle bridge across Pine Creek, just west oif Firdale. Later they rebuilt it a bit to the
south and filled it in for stability.

Photos from 2011 by Ken Storie

Archival photos from the Crocus Plains Library Collection. (Rivers MB.)

The second crossing, about 200 metres from the first one.

Today it is the main CN / Via Rail  Line, passing through Rivers, Sasktatoon...

The foundations of the first bridge were cut at ground level, but have come out of the swampy ground.

* photos taken from the east side.

The second crossing took a more southerly route for a few km.


The embankment of the old crossing.

A trails follow the original path of the rail line.

Debris from the contruction  crews

More Info...


These fills are located on the third mile west of Firdale on the Canadian National Railway main line.  This was the most costly mile to construct of any between Winnipeg and the Rocky Mountains. When the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (later C.N.R.) was being built through this hilly terrain both east and west of Firdale in 1905 to 1907, many cuts and grades had to be made to make a level track.

The biggest obstacles were crossing Pine Creek and Mule Creek valleys.  Wooden trestle bridges were built; the one crossing Pine Creek was 2200 feet long and 85 feet high, and the one on Mule Creek (just west) was 1,000 feet long and 85 feet high. 

The material (heavy piling and bracing) was brought into Edrans from B.C. on flat cars in the winter of 1904-1905, then hauled by mule teams on heavy sleighs south east on the Ridge Road (352) two miles, then south along Smith's Creek, then southwest up a ravine three miles, then south over a rise and down into Pine Creek flat, then southwest to the bridge sites.  There was very little snow that winter and many men were kept busy gathering what snow they could find along either side to keep sleighing.  Dad said they could hear the mules braying long before daylight as they headed for Edrans.

The trestle bridges were built on pilings driven into the soft ground on Pine Creek and Mule Creek flats, many went down 25-35 feet before becoming solid.   It took three of these 40 foot piles, with what was in the ground, to reach the height of 85 feet. There were nearly 5,000 of these heavy 40 foot pilings plus all the bracing, spikes and bolts that held this trestle together. 

On top of this were put heavy bridge timbers, then the rail road ties, then the rail.  All this was put together by men using horse and mule power, levers and pulleys. Some of this work had to be done in the winter, as the ground was too soft to hold the mules without frost.  Even so, Mule Creek got its name because of the mules that died there. There were three camps of men working on these bridges.  Once these trestle bridges were in use, fire was always a threat, and a watchman was hired to cross these bridges after
every train.  Barrels were placed every 200 feet and kept full of water (in the summer) in case a spark from the steam engines started a fire.

All trains had to slow down while crossing these bridges even then these bridges swayed.  These trestle bridges were used until 1920.  Between 1918 and 1920 an earth fill was put in along the south side of these bridges. 

They first had to build a bridge over these creeks; the one over Pine Creek is a two channel reinforced concrete about 200 feet long with a concrete floor.   Years ago in the summer I walked with my children down one channel and back on the other in our bare feet in the shallow water.  One cannot see through these channels as they were built with a curve, this gives them added strength. 

Many men, horses, and machines were again used but this was built from the top. Millions of tons of earth were loaded on dump cars on rail tracks,
these were moved to the fill sight by steam engines and dumped over the edge and the track extended out as the fill grew.  Earth for these fills were taken from the hills south of the tracks.  For years very little grew where these hills were leveled, but after over 70 years, vegetation has grown so that one can hardly tell where these hills were. These fills are still used but have
settled as much as 14 feet in centre of the longest fill.

By Fred Smith