Why a ‘Bailey Bridge’ in Downtown Vancouver, 1944?

CVA 586-3200 - Hotel Vancouver 1944 Don Coltman photo.

CVA 586-3200 – Hotel Vancouver 1944 Don Coltman photo.

I could find out nothing about the above bridge either online or in the local library. The photograph of the bridge (1 of 2 by Don Coltman; the other image is here) shows the structure spanning Georgia Street at one-way, south-bound Howe Street in October 1944. There is no photographic (nor textual) evidence that I’ve been able to find to indicate that there was a bridge at this location except for this image.

Zooming on the image reveals a sign on the structure identifying it as “Bailey Bridge Class #2(? or 7?) Dual Carriageway”. Initially, I assumed that “Bailey” was after a local British Columbian (e.g., Vancouver professional photography pioneer, Charles Bailey). But I’ve since concluded that while Bailey is indeed a surname, it wasn’t for a B.C. resident (rather, for British engineer, Sir Donald Bailey); furthermore, the name of the bridge isn’t a unique identifier, but instead a type of bridge (created by Bailey) which was commonly used during and after WWII in Europe and elsewhere. In short, the Bailey Bridge was a modular means of spanning a water or land gap with a structure that could carry vehicles as large and heavy as tanks. For detailed info on Bailey Bridges, please consult this page.

The Georgia Street crossing was evidently meant to carry both pedestrians and automobile traffic (there is one vehicle visible). However, there seem to be a number of pedestrians who ignored the existence of the bridge and preferred to take their chances crossing Georgia at street level. The lack of buy-in from many pedestrians plus the limited clearance on Georgia (10’6″) imposed by the bridge may have contributed to the bridge’s brief lifespan (especially in post-war Vancouver with increasing industrial traffic travelling on Georgia to and from the North Shore).

But, for now at least, the questions of motive (why it was built and why it stood so briefly) remain unanswered. My wife has suggested that perhaps it was a demonstration bridge. That’s a plausible explanation, but why build it here, over a moderately-busy intersection in a part of the world where there are no lack of water crossings?

If readers of VAIW have any clues/tips (or are aware of other images of this bridge), I’d appreciate hearing from you.

CVA 371-33 - [Military tanks and Jeeps travelling west on Georgia Street in the Diamond Jubilee Parade] 1946.

CVA 371-33 – [Military tanks and Jeeps travelling west on Georgia Street in the Diamond Jubilee Parade] 1946.    (Note: We are looking east on Georgia – the opposite direction in which Don Coltman was facing when he made the initial image featured in this post. The photographer in this image was looking towards where the bridge once was on Howe (just below where the Hotel Georgia sign is on the left). This is to illustrate that certainly, within 2 years or less, the bridge had been removed).

Note: A fascinating article of the contribution of a Canadian to Bailey Bridge variants may be found here: “Kingsmill Bridge in Italy”, by Ken MacLeod.

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3 Responses to Why a ‘Bailey Bridge’ in Downtown Vancouver, 1944?

  1. Wiebe de Haas says:

    It’s interesting you have also posted this image, with similar questions, as Every Place Has A Story. I don’t have definitive answers, but would suggest the DND would have some. This Bailey bridge spanning Georgia St was at the location of the second Hotel Vancouver, which for most of WWII was a military headquarters, and temporary home to many returning soldiers. Logic would suggest the bridge made access to from that building so much easier, which may also answer why some pedestrians are not using the bridge. Why it seems to only be here for a short while may be answered by, it no longer served its raison d’etre. Being a Bailey bridge it was likely removed in a couple of days. And that Hotel Vancouver was also gone shortly afterward.

    • mdm says:

      Thanks for your comments re: the Howe Bailey Bridge. I was not aware that Every Place Has a Story had treated this photograph; indeed, I cannot find the post now. I’d be obliged to have the link to this post. Thanks.
      m.

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