One of the most interesting Smiths Falls landmarks is located just south of the Railway Museum. It is the Scherzer Lift Bridge, at Mileage 35.4, right in the heart of the Rideau River and Rideau Canal area, the last one existing designed for crossing a small canal in Canada.
Photos: Erecting the five-span steel through girder bridge and the Scherzer Bascule Lift Bridge, at the time, the third bridge of it’s kind built in Canada.
The bridges were built by the Canada Foundry Company of Toronto Ontario, and NOT the Dominion Bridge Company whose name is casted into the historical plaque. If fact, all bridges along the CNoOR line were contracted to Canada Foundry. Sir William MacKenzie and Sir Donald Mann, the financiers and builders of the Canadian Northern, had considerable interest in the Canada Foundry Co. and not surprising they were awarded the contract.
In the winter months, concrete piers were poured, and in the month of March, around 25 men were employed to erect the Bascule bridge. Mr. T. Riley from the Canada Foundry Co. took charge of the work and Mr. James Carr, Bridge Inspector for the C.N.R. was getting the work started.
The bridge was originally operated by electricity! Just by a push of a button, in 1912!
The bridge weighs 270 tons and rocks back and forth like a child’s rocking horse. Perfectly balanced, one person could move the bridge. It took 20 minutes to lift by hand. There was a 15 hp electric motor installed in 1912 that lifted the bridge in one minute. But, when Smiths Falls went to AC electric a year later, the motor was disused and went back to hand-cranking for 67 years!
There was supposed to be a “sister” Bascule Bridge on the CNoOR line at Shannonville but it was removed a few years after construction.
Lionel Dorsch of Smiths Falls was the last Bridge Tender in 1978. He wrote his bridge examinations for a Mr. Pye in Montreal.