Kettle Creek Bridge. Courtesy of Elgin County Archives.
The Kettle Creek Bridge, also known as the Michigan Central and Canada Southern Bridge, is located over the Kettle Creek valley. In terms of the railway, it is located at Mi. 116.4 of the CASO Subdivision of the Canadian National Railway at the westerly limits of the City of St. Thomas. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the railroad building boom was at its peak. The decision was made that the north shore of Lake Erie would be the ideal place for a route to run from the state of Michigan to Buffalo, New York, and then to ports in New York and Boston.
The Canada Southern Railway was chartered in 1869 to build a railway from Fort Erie, Ontario to Amherstburg, Ontario. The first trains operated over the entire length by mid-1873. By the turn of the century, three American railways had competing lines on the north shore, all running through St. Thomas and all requiring substantial trestles over the Kettle Creek valley. The most significant of the trestles was that of the Canada Southern Railway.
The first trestle was a single track, made of timber with a length of 1,366 feet and a height of 92 feet. Work was started in September 1871 and was completed in less than five months. It consisted of 762ft. of trestle work and fourteen spans of timber trusses totaling 640 ft. The contractor was Dunn, Holmes, and Moore. The bridge was featured in the US publication Scientific American in the February 22, 1873 issue.
By 1883, the Canada Southern was being operated by the Michigan Central, a subsidiary of the New York Central. This shift in control resulted in heavier trains and increased traffic. A new bridge was required to withstand the new demands. The new bridge was a double track steel structure with a rail grad 6ft. higher than the old bridge. The new bridge was erected without disrupting traffic. The bridge was a deck plate girder type with 40 spans, a total of 1,396ft. in length and featured unusual 3 column bents. The bridge was built by the Detroit Bridge and Iron Works.
Still heavier traffic result in a new bridge erected in 1929. This bridge used the same grade and alignment as the second bridge with reinforced concrete piers, deck plate girders and a rock ballast surface. Trains were not disrupted during this reconstruction. A novel feature of the construction was the use of small narrow gauge railway suspended from the existing girders and running between the columns for the entire length of the bridge. The contractor was D.W. Thurston of Detroit.
In 1985, the CASO was sold to the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways jointly. In 2013, the bridge was purchased by the On Track organization for redevelopment as an elevated park.
In June 2000, the bridge was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Site by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.