Historical Arrival for the Olympic Torch

By Jim Barr, SnowSeekers Inc.

As the Olympic Torch makes its way across this province, it’s travelling by more ways than one. Snowmobile, Horse Drawn Carriage and in today's case, an Olympic first – via a vintage hand railcar across the world's longest and tallest railway bridge, Lethbridge’s High Level Bridge.

I caught up with one of the four who had the chance to pump their way into the history books. "When we got to the other side I could see my kids standing in the audience and tears started to well up in my eyes … it’s a pretty emotional experience," said Olympic torch bearer, Don Burla. 

And a little hair-raising I'd gather as Burla and his mates where not just on any ordinary set of tracks; the bridge is a steel structure suspended 314 feet above the ground. Burla was joined by CP locomotive engineers, Brian Lagace and Gord Balderston along with rail car mechanic, Roger Brown on a vintage handrail car on loan from Calgary's Heritage Park.

The Lethbridge Viaduct as it’s known, is owned and operated by Canadian Pacific Railway and just celebrated its own 100th anniversary. It's a piece of history Burla's been working on since 1978. 

The bridge spans over a one mile and took over two years to build – construction took two years, from 1907 to 1909. "I started with Canadian Pacific as a bridgeman and worked on keeping this very bridge in great shape," said Burla. 
I asked him if there were any memorable moments from working on a bridge of this magnitude. "Well you certainly know when there is a wind about, it can get pretty interesting out there.” 

Lucky for all of us the sun was shinning and the temperatures were mild. I am sure Burla and his team would have kept themselves warm pumping their way across the bridge for their 20-minute ride pulling the Olympic cauldron behind them.

It was a once in a lifetime sight. 

Make sure to catch the Travel Alberta Olympic Torch Relay videos on YouTube

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