Monday, February 02, 2015

St. Croix Bridge Sabotage, 100 Years Ago Today

One hundred years ago today, a German saboteur attempted to destroy the St. Croix railway bridge linking Canada and the USA at St. Croix near McAdam, NB.

German agent Werner Horn (and an Irish accomplice) planted explosives on the American end of the bridge. The explosives did go off, putting the bridge out of service for a couple of days, but did not cause lasting damage. Horn was quickly arrested and imprisoned in the US (in Atlanta, GA) for a few years before being extradited to Canada, where he was put on trial in Fredericton and imprisoned in Dorchester, NB. In 1921 he was quite sick (suffering from syphilis) and was deported to Germany.

The white X on the photo shows where the explosives were placed, and the people in the photo are apparently American customs officers. Remember that in 1915 the US was not in World War I and were officially neutral.
Woodstock, The Carleton Sentinel, Page 4 - Friday, February 5, 1915 - GERMAN USED DYNAMITE ON C.P.R. BRIDGE AT ST. CROIX - The steel bridge spanning the St. Croix River on the main line of the C.P.R. was dynamited by a German shortly after one o’clock Tuesday morning.  The damage to the structure is not extensive, but traffic was interfered with to some extent.  The perpetrator of the outrage was arrested in a hotel in Vanceboro, Maine, and is held there now.
This bridge was part of what was originally The European and North American Railway Company For Extension From St. John Westward company, formed on April 13 1864 and mercifully renamed to the Western Extension Railway. The WER was formed to build a line from Saint John to the border with Maine, where it would meet the European and North American Railway [of Maine], coming up from Bangor. The Western Extension was started on the Saint John end in 1867 and the line was built to the St. Croix River (the border) by late 1869. The ENA was started in Bangor on January 1, 1867 but ran a bit late so the two sides were not connected until 1871. American President Ulysses S. Grant drove the last spike in Vanceboro on October 19, 1871.

Both the ENA and the Western Extension were originally built to the Provincial Gauge (5'6" between rails) and were not converted to standard gauge (4' 8.5") until 1877.

The ENA in Maine became part of the Maine Central, which leased and eventually sold a portion of its track to CP. The Western Extension became part of the New Brunswick Railway, which was leased and later sold to CP and now is part of the New Brunswick Southern Railway.

This bridge was not the original bridge on the site. The original was apparently a wooden bridge but I haven't found any photos of it. Apparently there was at least one accident during construction, as evidenced by this news clipping:
Halifax, Evening Express, Page 2 – Friday, October 2, 1868 – DOMESTIC AND OTHER MATTERS – We understand that an engine used in the construction of the Railway Bridge over the St. Croix River, exploded this morning, killing the Engineer and badly injuring three men.
The iron bridge that this post was erected in 1887, according to this news clipping.
Woodstock, The Sentinel, Page 2 – April 2, 1887NEW BRIDGE – A new iron bridge is being erected by the New Brunswick and Maine Central Railways, on the St. Croix River between Vanceboro, Maine, and St. Croix, New Brunswick. It takes the place of the old wooden structure, and rests on granite piers. The road bed has been raised three feet above its former level.
The bridge itself was built by the Passaic Rolling Mill Company (as seen in the top photo) of Paterson, New Jersey.

NB Southern train entering Canada, November 25 2006
The iron bridge no longer exists. Between 1972 and 1973 a centre pier for the new bridge was built and the new bridge was constructed beside the old one, and slid into place to replace the old bridge. It opened for service on April 25, 1973.

The current bridge is used by the New Brunswick Southern Railway.

Other references:
PS - does anyone know about the other railway bridge that spanned the St. Croix River near this one?

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