UXBRIDGE: Restoration work is underway on restoring Uxbridge’s historic railway trestle bridge, saving one of the last wooden trestle bridges in Ontario.
John McCutcheon, chair of the Uxbridge Trail Committee recently addressed councillors on the project, which is expected to be completed next month.
“The town trails program is about to take a major step forward,” Mr. McCutcheon said of the restoration project, which has been in the planning stages for the past two years as part of an expansion of the Trans Canada Trail Program.
The restoration project, an initiative of the Uxbridge Trail Program, is being financed entirely by community donations and by institutional grants, with no expenditure of local tax dollars.
One of the first major community contributions to the $200,000 project was made recently with the presentation of a $10,000 cheque courtesy of the Rotary Club of Uxbridge.
“The major contribution from the Rotary Club is important financially, but also in terms of indicating solid community support for this major project,” said Mr. McCutcheon, chair of the Uxbridge Trail Committee, who received the cheque from Rotary president Randy Hickey. “The Rotary Club has always been a huge supporter of our trail program, and was the sponsor of the Historic Trail in downtown Uxbridge.”
Mr. McCutcheon added that contractors expect the trestle bridge project to be completed shortly to allow residents and visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the area throughout the summer. Although, he added that vandalism has been an issue in the area for a number of years, and the trails committee will be taking steps to address the issue.
“It’s a haven for beer drinking youth, complete with a sofa and loveseat,” explained Mr. McCutcheon. “But, we’re not going to let these types take away from the project and we’ll be installing additional security measures in the area.”
As well, contractors working on the trestle bridge told The Standard that vandalism, in particular damage to construction fencing, has caused some minor disruptions throughout the restoration at the site, which has long been referred to as ‘Beer Bridge’ by local youth.
The trestle bridge, located just east of Main St. in Uxbridge (next to the water treatment plant), was built in 1872 by the Toronto Nipissing Railway, the narrow-gauge railway headquartered in Uxbridge. Trains used it mainly to bring wood and grain from the north into Toronto, largely for the Gooderham and Worts distillery. The Grand Trunk Railway acquired the bridge and rebuilt it in 1894, and it was used for train traffic for many years. The last train passed over the bridge in 1980. It was used subsequently for foot and bicycle traffic, but fell into disrepair in the early 2000's. It was closed for a number of years, until the Uxbridge Trail Committee decided that it was worth restoring.
“The old trestle bridge is quite unique, and when we heard the other option was to tear it down, we felt we had to pitch in,” said Mr. Hickey.
The restored trestle bridge will form a key link in the Trans Canada Trail, enabling it to be taken off-road as it enters the town of Uxbridge. Major funding for the restoration was provided by the Trans Canada Trail.
“This will be a jewel in the Trail Capital of Canada, Uxbridge's official designation,” said Mr. McCutcheon. “It will also be key in recognizing Uxbridge's heritage as a major railroad centre a century ago, something that most residents don't realize. And once complete, residents will be able to take their first steps on the bridge on a trip all the way to Halifax if they desired.”
Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor shared in the enthusiasm for the restoration project.
“I think that this project is awesome, and is a great way to highlight one of the true hidden treasures of Uxbridge,” commented Mayor O’Connor.
The restoration will include a new roadbed for foot and bicycle traffic, railings, new abutments at either end, lighting, security cameras and a plan for a unique viewing platform that enables hikers to see and appreciate the huge timber structure beneath, with eight large trestles carrying the bridge across a deep valley through which the Uxbridge Brook flows.