Tag Archives: bascule bridge

The Tragic Tale of the Rideau Ferry Swing Bridge




Last week I wrote a story about the Bascule Bridge in Smiths Falls. Apparently there was another story and Smith’s Falls beloved Heather Currie-Whiting told me another one told to her by her brothers.

They told me the old story that I think lots of people tell in various versions, about how the bridge master’s son had wandered out onto the bridge when he wasn’t looking, but the train was coming. So the man had to make the decision, does he close the bridge and kill his son, or does he let the train crash and kill all the passengers. They told me he killed his son by closing the bridge. There are all sorts of inconsistencies in the story that a six or seven year-old wouldn’t be able to work out and I can STILL see that little boy getting squished in my mind’s eye.


Here is one from the:

Perth Courier, Aug. 21, 1891

Authors Note: When the new swing bridge over  the Rideau Locks at Smith’s Falls was initially opened for travel– It’s new name was “Somers’ Bridge.”

It is our painful duty to chronicle the sad and untimely death of a little boy Jobie Hutton who was drowned at the ferry on Friday evening of last week.  The bridge had been opened to allow a yacht to pass through and it appears that in the closing of the swing bridge he stepped on and was caught in the railing where the swing bridge joins with the main bridge.




He could not extricate himself and when the swing bridge was slackened up he fell into the water and before help could arrive was drowned.  The funeral services were conducted on Sabbath morning in the Presbyterian Church (being a member of the Sabbath School and Mission Band) and was largely attended.  The funeral cortege left the house of his uncle shortly after 10:00 and proceeded to the church followed by a large procession of the sorrowing friends.  After the services were conducted in the church the children of the Sabbath School joined in the procession before the hearse and proceeded to the graveyard.  After a few touching words by Rev. N. Campbell the body was consigned “dust to dust ashes to ashes”.


Rideau card front.jpg

Full short his journey was; no dust

Of earth his sandals clove

The weary heart that old man must

He bore not to the grave.

He seemed a cherub who had lost his way

And wandered hither, so his stay

With us was short and ‘twas most meet

That he should be no delver in earth’s clod

Nor need to pause and cleanse his feet

To stand before God.


The Bascule Bridge of Smiths Falls — A Ghost Story

The Bascule Bridge of Smiths Falls — A Ghost Story



Please note-This is purely a fictional story.. trust me:)

The Bascule Bridge has been a Smiths Falls landmark for over a hundred years and it’s not without its stories.  Sid Tennant was the foulest-tempered lad you ever did see; and he operated the bridge that sits on the outskirts of town that once spanned across the Rideau Canal,  so folks had to deal with him. The bridge was built on the Toronto-Ottawa line of the Canadian Northern Railway in 1912-1913, and John ran it like he owned the old mobile bridge.

One evening Sid was out riding when something in the trees scared his horse and it bolted like lightening. The crotchety old man was thrown down next to the bridge and he died instantly. The bridge from that day on was forever more poised at a 45 degree angle.


Everyone thought they’d seen the last of Sid, until one night when Timothy Brown made his way home past that  roadbed span after drinking at the tavern.  Timothy was halfway past the old bridge when a plume of red steam came rising up through the boards of the adjacent bridge tender’s unmanned tower.

Timothy stopped and watched the mist solidify into the translucent body of  Old Man Tennant. The span began to move, and you have to remember very little power was required to operate it owing to the unique rolling lift action which almost eliminated friction. As Timothy stared in fright, the ghost of  the old Sid seemed to signal the overhead concrete counterweight which balanced the 21-metre plate-girder lift-span. It made a sound so loud all of Smiths Falls surely heard it, and as quick as Sid appeared he vanished at once with another loud popping sound.


Since Timothy had a reputation for taking a wee drink or two, no one ever believed his story of course.  The ghost of Old Sid continued to harass the townsfolk of Smith Falls for years until Canadian National Railways transferred ownership of the bridge to the City of Smiths Falls for maintenance as a heritage resource in the mid 1980s. The ghost of Old Sid hasn’t been seen since, and maybe that’s a good thing. Or maybe not!

Please watch this amazing movie of the Smiths Falls Bascule Bridge