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Bridging Past & Present: J.D. Irving, Limited Rehabilitates the Reversing Falls Railway Bridge

For the last hundred years, the iconic Saint John Reversing Falls Railway Bridge has provided a rail link between East and West Saint John. Connecting customers in East Saint John with access to the Port, the Lancaster Logistics Park and the larger railway network, this bridge is as important today as it was when it was initially constructed.

Thanks to a six-month, $17 million rehabilitation project, which has recently been completed, this piece of critical infrastructure will continue to be part of Saint John's transportation network for another hundred years.

Since being constructed in 1922, the concrete piers that support the 563-foot deck plate girder section of the bridge (the end closest to the Irving Pulp & Paper mill in West Saint John) were experiencing decay. This was detected as part of our rigorous preventative asset inspection process and was determined to have been caused by a chemical reaction that compromised its structural integrity. This reaction causes the concrete to fracture, resulting in the structure degrading over time.

The key to the rehabilitation program was the construction of a mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) retaining wall backfilled with 150,000 metric tons of aggregate. This monumental job would have been impossible without the collective expertise of the team that built it. Eighty workers put in 90,000 hours to refurbish the Reversing Falls railway bridge, including engineers, technicians, operators, skilled tradespeople and labourers from JDI groups including CFM, Gulf Operators, Project Engineering and Irving Equipment. The JDI teams worked in tandem with Irving Oil and Enbridge crews as they worked on their respective pipelines which are connected to the bridge. 

All of these team members can be proud of their efforts to ensure this historic bridge will remain safe and functional for the next century. 

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A Brief History of the Reversing Falls Railway Bridge

  • 1885 | The first Reversing Falls Railway Bridge was a steel truss bridge that spanned the narrows at either side of the Saint John River. As the Industrial Revolution picked up steam across Canada, locomotives became much heavier and carried significantly more cargo. The original bridge was unable to sustain the weight of these new machines. So, it was decommissioned after 37 years of operation.

  • 1922 | Construction of the second Reversing Falls Railway Bridge began in 1920, before its predecessor was demolished. This bridge maintained the steel truss design that has made it such a recognizable feature of the Saint John skyline. For the next century, the bridge provided rail access to Saint John. It also supported the Lorneville Pipeline from the Irving Oil Canaport facility and the Enbridge natural gas pipeline.

  • 1996 | JDI refurbished the piers at either end of the railway bridge. They remain structurally sound today.

  • 2022 | On May 17, 2022, JDI laid the first stone in the construction of the MSE retaining wall. Crews worked on the site for the next six months, finally completing the wall on November 30. The new retaining wall is 61 feet at its highest point, which makes it one of the tallest MSE walls supporting a railway in North America.

For more information about the JDI Construction & Equipment Division, please visit the webpage:


Media Contact

Anne McInerney, Vice President of Communications
+1 (506) 632-4649|