September 22, 2021
Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge

Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge

The 1905 foot Fredericton Walking Bridge (the old rail bridge) that connects Fredericton’s North and South sides as it spans across the mighty Saint John River has been renamed Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge.

Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge Plaque

Construction of the first railway bridge at Fredericton, from south side looking north (Gibson Leather on north side of the river to the centre right of photo), 1888. Barges and first stone pier in evidence.

First Railway Bridge Fredericton

This bridge was the precursor to what, in 2016, is known as the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge (formerly the railway bridge, the construction of which finished in 1888; the original bridge was replaced following 1935 damage during freshet, reopened in 1938). Gibson Leather was incorporated no later than 2 November 1877 when a notice announcing its incorporation appeared in that day’s Daily Telegraph identifying the founders as John A. Beckwith, E. A. Berton, A. B. Gardner, C. W. Beckwith, James A. MacCausland, Harry Beckwith, Alexander Gibson and Benjamin Close.

Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge at night
Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge in summer

William Wellington (Bill) Thorpe (1933-2006) was well known for a great many reasons.  Bill Thorpe had an extensive career at the Fredericton High School as teacher and vice principal.  Bill was a sports enthusiast and participant, especially with respect to playing, coaching and promoting rugby.  A Municipal politician, Bill served as City Councilor and a few years as the Deputy Mayor of Fredericton.  He was founder (1972) and a member of the board for Fredericton Heritage Trust.
Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge used by many during the summer

Fredricton Railway Bridge 1888
First train crossing Fredericton’s first railway bridge, 1888.
Canadian National train crossing the river in Fredericton, 1954
Canadian National train crossing the river in Fredericton, 1954

An advocate of walking trails throughout our city and province, Bill Thorpe was truly the father of the Fredericton Trail System.  He had a vision to preserve and develop abandoned rail beds into safe recreational pathways for citizens and visitors in the City of Fredericton.  To accomplish this, he gave birth to the Fredericton Trails Coalition and surrounded himself with colleagues who were inspired by his dedication, hard work and stubborn determination.  His contribution has created a superb legacy to Fredericton’s rich heritage:  a first class trail network. 

Swingbridge Fredericton
Fredericton train swing bridge span open in 1943. Photo: Dr. William MacIntosh. 

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