Bridges and trestles have been constructed and replaced throughout Grand Forks and Christina Lake with the help of the Canadian military’s 39th Engineer Battalion from Trail.
Roland Krueger, the honourary Lt.-Col. of Regiment 39 (a civilian), works as the go between for communities and the regiment with various projects. These projects include Rail to Trail bridges and trestles.
Krueger received a call from a neighbour last April asking for assistance in installing an aluminum bridge that BC Parks had purchased to install across Texas Creek at Christina Lake.
“BC Parks had enough money to buy the bridge but not enough to put it in place,” recalled Krueger. “I thought it would be far too heavy to put into place with the seniors we have here and thought it would be a great opportunity to get my regiment involved.”
On Nov. 16 to 18, around 25 members of the 39th regiment gathered at Texas Point campground in Christina Lake to remove the old bridge and replace it with the new bridge.
“The wooden bridge has been there for over 20 years and was recently declared unsafe by BC Parks,” explained Krueger. “The logs itself were still good but the dimensions and the surface that people walk on were a disaster.”
During the weekend, the regiment stimulated a situation where they had no gasoline and electricity available, and everything had to be completed by hand, he added. From there, they built two three-legged tripod cranes reaching close to six metres tall and held together with knots and lashing.
“The guys got the training on the correct rope work and the correct knots to hold everything – each tower can support up to 15,000 pounds,” Krueger said. “We had one on each side of the bridge so we strung a cable across the two and anchored the cable into the ground.”
The project also involved moving heavy concrete blocks to act as abutments for the bridge before the bridge was installed. The bridge itself was in two pieces and seven metres long.
“Overall, the bridge was much lighter than the concrete blocks,” he chuckled. “After all that work it took us all of 10 minutes to move the bridge across the gap and put it into place. The majority of the time was building the tripod, getting everything set up and wrestling those concrete blocks into place.”
Over the past few years, the regiment has complete four bridges in Grand Forks (including the Black Train Trestle) and three at Christina Lake.
A future project may include replacing a bridge at Sandner Creek at the north end of Christina Lake.
“That will be a great exercise because we can combine so many elements of training in one task,” Krueger concluded. “It’s boat access only, so we will have to build a raft.”
The 39th Engineering Battalion is headquartered in Chilliwack, with three squadrons across British Columbia (Trail, Chilliwack and North Vancouver) and around 250 members.