Canadian Society of Civil Engineers (CSCE)

Representing the original engineering profession, history is a very important part of the CSCE’s evolution.   Its National History Committee has an active program celebrating Canada’s rich Civil Engineering History and Heritage. Below we have gathered just a few examples of Canadian engineering works in Ontario from the end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

The public depends on the accomplishments and impacts of our profession on a daily basis, whether they were constructed decades ago or recently completed.  The achievements of civil engineers are in the sky, beneath our feet, and across our nation!  May the next 125 years prove as rewarding as the last.

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Alexandra Bridge, Ottawa, Ontario – Hull, Quebec

This bridge, also known as the Interprovincial Bridge, spans the Ottawa River between Ottawa, Ontario and Hull, Quebec. It was designed and constructed by Canadian engineers at a time when most major works in Canada were designed and built by non-Canadian firms and it provides valuable examples of the changes that were taking place in the use of steel and concrete by the engineers of the time.

Location: Between Hull, PQ, near the Museum of Civilisation and Ottawa, ON near the National Gallery

Engineers: G. C. Dunn, Chief Engineer, Interprovincial Bridge Company.

  1. H. Duggan, Chief Engineer, The Dominion Bridge Company.
  2. P. Shearwood, Assistant, The Dominion Bridge Company.

Background: The prime movers for the construction of this bridge were two local railway companies, later part of the Canadian Pacific Railway that established the Interprovincial Bridge Company, with H.J. Beemer, of Montreal, as its President. The necessary legislation and financing was finally obtained in 1898. The CPR retained ownership of the bridge until it was taken over by the National Capital Commission in 1970: it is now owned by Public Works Canada.

The Interprovincial Bridge Company awarded the contract for the design and erection of the steel superstructure to the fledgling Dominion Bridge Company. The company started work on the substructure in 1898 and steel erection, started in December 1899, was completed nine months later. The first locomotive crossed the bridge on December 12, 1900, although the official opening did not take place until April 22, 1901.

At the time of its opening it was the fourth longest cantilever (pin-connected truss type) span in the world, with a clear span of 320 m (1049ft 9in.). It had a total length, including approach spans and trestle, of 818m. (2685ft.). All steel used was mild steel and the piers were built of concrete with a masonry facing built above the water line. The summer and winter water levels of the river were critical factors in the bridge construction. Excavation for the main piers was hindered by the presence of up to 7.6m (25ft.) of sawdust, wood slabs and logs from the lumber mills upstream. Timber cribs were founded on the bedrock and concrete was placed in them, underwater, by kibbles” (bottom opening steel buckets)’, supported by four scows anchored in the river, was constructed. The original railway track and two pedestrian footpaths ran between the trusses, with cantilevered decks for road and streetcar traffic.

Nowadays, the railway and streetcar tracks having been removed, road traffic used the centre and the downstream deck and a pedestrian sidewalk occupies the upstream one, from which can be seen an unrivalled view of the Parliament Buildings.’

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St. Clair Railway Tunnel, Sarnia, Ontario

This 1837m tunnel was designed by Joseph Hobson who developed a compressed air shield for the excavation and installation of cast-iron liners. Tunnelling was done from both ends commencing in 1888 and on August 30, 1890, the two tunnels met; train service began on

September 19, 1891. It was one of the first subaqueous tunnels in North America.

For more engineering projects and their history visit our History Committee page at http://history.csce.ca/ and stay tuned to this blog for our final feature!

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