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Canadian Rail 483 2001

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Canadian Rail 483 2001

Canadian Rai
No. 483
ISSN 0008-4875
Postal Permit No. 1494279
FRONT COVER: When the Intercolonial Railway of Canada opened its through line from central Canada to
Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1876, the passengers had a choice of several different types of accommodation. Most sumptuous and elaborate was the first class sleeping car exemplified by sleeper Restigouche,
of which this is an interior
view. Notice the elaborately carved woodwork, the fancy oil lamps, the plush seats, the decorated ceiling and the beautiful carpet; all typical
of the later Victorian era. At the end of the car is a small but adequate buffet, and each section has its own table on which food could be served.
The Restigouche was like a hotel on wheels during the trip
of more than 24 hours to Halifax. Additional photos of this car appear on page 123.
Photo courtesy
of the New Brunswick Museum.
BELOW: An Intercolonial Railway 0-4-0 switcher
of about 1876 vintage poses at an unknown location not long after the line was opened for its entire length. A photo
of a similar locomotive appears at the bottom of page 122.
Photo given by John Loye
to Donald F. Angus.
For your membership in the CRHA, which
includes a subscription to Canadian Rail,
write to:
CRHA, 120 Rue St-Pierre, SI. Constant,
J5A 2G9
Membership Dues for 2001 :
In Canada: $36.00 (including all taxes)
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in need of news, stories
historical data, photos, maps and other material. Please
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The Intercolonial -1876
July 1 2001 marks the 125
anni versary of the
completion of the Intercolonial Railway between the
Maritime provinces and the rest of Canada. This project,
which had been planned as far back
as 1832, and which had
been promised
in the British North America Act of 1867, was
fulfilled at last. Curiously, this anni versary is almost
forgotten today. Countless articles, and numerous books,
deal with the con-
Work then went ahead as contracts were let and
construction proceeded. However progress was slow and
contracts overran their deadlines while some were
taken over by the Department
of Public Works. In 1873 Saint
John and Moncton were connected to Halifax, and in 1874
the entire project was transfened
to the Department of Public
Works. Soon thereafter the track gauge was changed from 5
feet 6 inches to stand-
struction of the Can­
adian Pacific Railway,
and most railway enth­
usiasts in Canada can
tell you that the last
spike on the CPR was
driven at Craigellachie
B.C. on
November 7,
1885. But how many
know that the Inter­
colonial was completed
on July 1, 1876, and
how many can say
where the last spike on
the ICR was driven? Yet
completion of the
ICR was of importance
second only
to the CPR
(if indeed it was second)
and ·its construction was
by no less an
authority than the
B.N.A. Act which
created the Dominion
of Canada.
INTERCOLONIAL RAILWAY. aid, so the remaining
portions were built as
standard gauge from
the start. The last two
years of construction
were the worst of all as
engineers and workers
braved the rugged
terrain of northern New
Brunswick and Que­
bec. Such structures as
the bridges
across the
Restigouche and the
Miramichi were major
l~. Inasmuch as the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia,
and New Brunswick have joined in a Declaration that the
Construction of the Intercolonial R!i:ilway
is essential to the
Consolidation of tbe Union of British North America, and to
the Assent thereto of Nova Scotia and
New Brunswick, and
have consequently
agreed that Provision should be made for
immediate Consti-uction by the Government of Canada:
Therefore, in order to give effect to that Agreement, it shall be
Duty of the Government and Parliament of Canada to pro­
vide for the Commencement within
Six Montha after the
of a Railway connecting the River St. Lawrence with
City of Halifax in Nova· Scotia, and for the Construction
thereof without Intermission, and the Completion thereof with
all practicable Speed.
construction projects
Section 145 of the British North America Act as printed in 1867. This act
in themselves, but so
well were they built
that they are still in use
today, with
newer and
heavier superstruct­
ures. One by one the
contracts were comp­
leted and by early
1876 the only major
. was entitled-An ·Act f£)r the Union of .Canada, Nova Scotia, and New
and the Government thereof. It was passed by the British
Parliament on March 29 1867 and went into effect on July 1, thereby
creating the Dominion
of Canada. The importance of the Intercolonial
Railway is emphasized by the fact that section 145 required the new
Dominion to complete the line as fast as possible. Note that the word
is capitalized. How many people know about section 145 today?
The first proposal for a railway to connect the colonies
in the east with Lower Canada was made
in the early ] 830s,
before railways even existed in Canada.
The plan was to
build a railway from St. Andrews New Brunswick
to Quebec
Plans were drawn and surveys made, but then the
Ashburton treaty of 1842 gave much of the intervening
territory to the state of Maine and ended the project for the
time being.
By ] 849 the scheme was revived, and plans
were made for a longer line from Halifax via Moncton (then
The Bend), to the St. Lawrence valley and thence to
Quebec City, entirely on British territory. Despite the constant
of money, some work was done. In Canada the Grand
Trunk was built, and
an extension to Riviere du Loup was
completed in ] 860. Also in 1860 Saint John New Brunswick
was connected by rail to Moncton, and several lines were
in Nova Scotia. In 1865 Sandford Fleming prepared
detailed report of several possible routes for the ICR.
However there was no through route by the time of
Confederation in 1867. The importance of this connection
was not lost on the Fathers
of Confederation, for section 145
of the BN A Act declared that it was the duty of the new
federal government to begin construction within six months
of Confederation and to continue without Intermission, and
the Completion thereof with all practicable Speed.
gap was in the Mata­
pedia Valley of Quebec. Soon this gap too was closed,
evidently with little or no ceremony, and on July I ] 876,
exactly nine years after Confederation, the Intercolonial was
opened for its entire length.
commemorate this significant but unheralded
anniversary we are devoting an entire issue of Canadian
Rail to the Intercolonial of 1876, and to Sandford Fleming,
its Engineer-In-Chief.
We will reproduce illustrations of some
of the major bridges and other structures on the ICR as well
as a
selection of documents, advertisements and other
material of the era. Many of these illustrations are from
Flemi.ngs ] 876 history
of the Intercolonial. After a century
and a qua11er this is still the best account
of the consb.uction.
Jay Underwoods article on Fleming is very well researched
and casts a new light on one
of the major participants in the
Intercolonial saga. In addition we will also reproduce a series
of very rare photos, some previollsly unpublished, of
locomotives and passenger cars with which the ICR began
service. These photos were taken
in ]876, about the time of
the opening of the line, and were likely ordered by the railway
They were kindly supplied by the New Brunswick
Museum and they show in considerable detail the choices
of passenger accommodation available to the traveller to
the Maritimes a century and a quarter ago.
An Act for authorizing a Guarantee of Interest on a Loan to
be raised by Canada towards the Construc­tion
of a Railway connecting Quebec and Halifax.
[12th April, 1867.]
HEREAS the coostructioo of a Railway cOJUlecting the
Port of
Riviere du Loup, in the Province of Quebec, with
Ihe line of railway leading from the city of Halifax, in tbe Pro­
vince of Nova Scotia, at or oear the town of Truro, in a lioe
aod on conditione approved by ooe of Her Majestys Principal Secretaries of State, would cooduce
to the welfare of Callada
and promote tbe interest of the British Empire:
Aod wbereas it would greatly facilitate the eoostruction of
that railway (in this Act referred to as the railway)
if payment
of interest 00 part of tbe mooey required to be raised for the
same were guaranteed under the authority of
Be it therefore enacted by the Queens most Excellent Ma­
by aod with the advice and conseot of the Lords Spiritual
and Temporal, and Coounons,
in this present Parliament As­
sembled, and by the authority
of the same as follows:
•. Subject
to the provisions of this Act, the Commissioners
of Her Majestys Treasury
may guarantee, in suoh· manner and
form as they think fit, payment of interest at a rate not exceed­
iog four per centnm per
anoum on any principal money not
the sum of three million pounds sterling, to be raised
by way of loan by the Government of Camuhl for the purpose of
tbe construction of the railway; aod the Commissiooers of
Her Majestys Treastuy may from timo
to time cause to be
issued out of the consolldated fund
of the United Kingdom, or
the growiog produce thereof, any money required
for giving effect
to such gnarantee.
The first act relating to Canada passed by the British
Parliament after the B.N.A. Act was this one guaranteeing
interest on a loan
for the construction of the Intercolonial.
Much work had been done on surveying alternative routes
for the Intercolonial. These were summed up in this report
published in 1865 by Sandford Fleming.
This important is progressing 88 rapidly as poeaible and already oonnecb:l
the Eastern Provinces with the leading American lines.
By 1873 work was progressing well as seen in this news item in the Dominion Guide. Connection between the railways of
New Brunswick and those of Maine had been established at Vanceboro in 1871, affording an all-rail route to central Canada
via Portland. However the Intercolonial would be entirely through Canada, and would be
just as short.
Sonle of the Prominent Structures on the I.C.R. Line
lIIustrations from Sandford Flemings 1876 History of the Intercolonial
Sandford Fleming was very
much concerned with the bridges on the
ICR. He was adamant in
his insistance
that they be
of iron rather than wood.
This caused considerable delay to the
project while the iron-vs.-wood
arguements were heard. Eventually he
got his way, and all but three bridges
were iron.
Fleming was not as particular
about other structures SLlch as cuttings,
and even stations. As late as the 1950s
of Flemings cuttings were causing
difficulty with
snow plowing, as they
were too
As would be expected, many of
the illustrations in his book were of
at Bic. Completed in the autumn of
The bridge at Trois Pistoles. It was
completed in 1873.
The Rimouski bridge. Completed at the end
of 1872.
RIGHT: The bridge at Amqui
which was not finished until the
of 1875.
LEFT: The bridge at
Grand Metis which
was completed late in
LEFT: The first crossing of the
Metapedia River at Causapscal.
Btidge completed in 1875.
JULY-AUGUST 2001 115
Intercolonial Rl1.ilway. I··,~c.·;;~, nJ~ ,. . . ,.
bridge across
the Restigouche,
leading from Quebec to New
Brunswick. Note the extra-wide
piers (still in use today) to break
up the ice. Work began on this
structure in the
summer of 1870
and it was completed by Christmas
In later days a road bridge
was built
OIl the upstream side of
the piers, but this has now gone.
RIGHT: A winter view
of one of the
massive piers
of the Restigouche bridge.
S~;d! . ~., 0.:
—……. —
…. r,~.,~. …. •
RIGHT: The New Mills bridge,
of nine on Division L. It
was completed in 1874.
LEFT: The Monisey tunnel, one of the
few on the line. After numerous delays,
was completed in 1874.
-:..: //. . ij, 7k-?Z,;-
;.~~yft}i;:;~~;·> ..
LEFT: The Bridge at Tete-A-Gauche,
near Bathurst, completed in 1874.
RIGHT: The Nipissiguit bridge,
built between 1870
and 1874.
RIGHT: The cut stone culvert over the
Kouchibouguac river in
1874, before the
railway embankment was built on top
of it.
LEFT: A view of the Red Pine
Brook bridge under construc­
It was finally completed
on December 10,1874.
across the two
of the Miramichi
were the most impressive
on the entire line. A lengthy
article, or even a book, could
be written on the vicissitudes
of the construction of these
bridges which were
comenced in 1870 and open­
ed in
an impressive ceremony
held on August
LEFT: A construction
view of the North-West
bridge across the Mira­
RIGHT: The bridge across the Tantramar
river near Sackville.
It was completed in the
of 1871.
BELOW: The highest
point on the
IeR between
Metapedia and Halifax
is at Folly Lake, Nova
Scotia, 607
feet above
sea level. This bridge
across the Folly Valley
was completed in 1872.
From here east the line
LEFT: One of only three wooden bridges on
the line was this one, completed in
which spanned the Missiquash river. This
forms the boundary between New
Brunswick and Nova Scotia, so this bridge
was in both provinces.
BELOW: This bridge at River Phillip, near
the west end
of Division Y, was opened in
This map of the Intercolonial Railway was copied from a timetable folder dated November 201876, only five months after the
line opened, The folder
is in very poor condition, as the paper is brittle and fragile, and some pieces are missing, However we
have attempted to reproduce the map, as well as the timetables on pages 128 and 129, to show the route and schedules of the
Intercolonial as it was when it was new.
. }~-.~~
Map of the Intercolonial Railway in 1876

, ~ .
–1-·· -.•. -.–

JHtdnnC(.! lol,t(:iP~,?l_ .
:! 1-1l(YMil~.
Intercolonial Locomotives and Passenger Cars of 1876
The following photographs of Intercolonial rolling stock are from an album containing original prints made in 1876 and
annotated by hand. They were likely commissioned
by the railway at the time of the opening of the entire route from Quebec to
Halifax. They show very clearly three types of locomotives as well as five types of passenger cars, ranging from the elegant
sleeper Restigouche and the parlour
car Acadia to the more spartan Emigrant sleeper 504. Sadly, no freight cars were shown.
All photos on pages 122 to 127 inclusive are courtesy
of the New Brunswick Museum.
4-4-0 passenger locomotive number 66.
4-4-0 locomotive number 154 for both passenger and freight service.
0-4-0 switcher locomotive number
Sleeping Car Restigollche showing the berths on one side made IIp. Another interior view of this car appears on the cover.
Parlor (sic) Car Acadia. Note the car name on the etched glass at the end of the clerestory.
Emigrant (sic) Sleeping Car 504. Its interior is quite plain compared to the Restigouche.
On this page and opposite are two first-class coaches of the Intercolonial Railway. Opposite is car 40, complete with plush
seats, carpeted floor
and painted canvas ceiling. Above is car 50, similarly fitted out; unfortunately there was no exterior view
of this car. The inscription on the door of car 50 reads James Crossen manufacturer, Cobourg, Ont. There is also an
Intercolonial Railway notice posted on the end wall.
Intercolonial Schedules of 1876
These 1876 schedules are from the same folder as the map on pages 120 and 12l. The folder includes information about
passenger and freight service offered
by the ICR. Note that C.R. Brydges, formerly of the Grand Trunk, was now General
of the Government Railways. What is now Matapedia was spelled Metapediac (its also sometimes spelled
Metapedia, making three different spellings!). Newcastle was then called Miramichi, a name
to which it has recently reverted.
J1t3 fi ~ ~ u; m ti L!J JJ! QUl 0
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CH1ChGOalO.00A. M.
DETROIT al!.).45 P. M.
TORONTO al7.00 A M.
OTTA W A. at ~,OO P. M.
MONTREA L ~l 0.45 P. M.
·POl NT LEVI, opposite Quebec, at.. 8.00 A. M.
:vllRAMICHI at 2.10 A. M.
MONCTON at 6,00 A. M.
SH,EDIAC t12.67 P. M.
TRURO (ll 10.613 A, M.
PICTOU at 2.113 P. M,
HALIPAX al 1.30 P. M.
ST. JOHN at 0.30 A. M.
i -FOR-
No. 174 Prince Willia.m Street, ST. JOHN.
Al,V) AT [HI::
EXPRESS OF FlOE, 209 Hollis Street, HALIFAX,
SUVBE:-:Ac6Drr., TRliRO, NEW Gusoow, PICTOU, LOI$OO:S-1
ptRRY, AMR&ttST, SACKHLLf.., DOltCH~:nEn, 101:-7 Dt:CUf::–C.
SHEDI.U:. ~Iolcro:-.-. Sl:i$PX, SAJiT .ron~, :}11IfA:,)IICU(.
HALIFAX at 1.30 r.M.

ST. JOHN a,t 5.00 P.M.
~IOXCTO! .:Ii 9.15 p,:
,1 IH A:olICII I, 12,:16 A.;1.
IIATI-ilJI{ST, 2:13 A.;
SlE. FLAVfV., I).S (,j[.
TROIS P[STOLES. 11.<15 A.:-f.
RIVIEHE·I)U-tOUP, 12.45 P,;!,
QUEBEC at 7.00 P.M.
MONTREAL at 6.30 A.).1.
OTTAWA at 1.10 P.M,
TOROKTO at ILlS r.~r.
DETROIT at ,(0.05 .-. ~L
CHICAGO nl S.OO 1.;-1.
-.–.. -.——·—–~I
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):,- ~~~Q©·~·J..-(~··~;~;lb~~~);
Leauing HALIFAX ut 1,30 P.M .. and ST. JOHN cd 5,00 P.M.,
Arrive at QUEBEC fit 7.)0 Ilext Euenill(J,
. -·_·la:A n:ING —-
By whlcll tJey leQ.oh Montreal at. 0,30 rollowlng
m:u:~ ~oUw:m Un);
,,;-l) 8 THE klI-:AUTlft;L SHORES or fHI;;.
~II Unnecessa~ TrolJule of Customs
At Moncton. Trllro, Campbellton, and Troia Pisto/es I
A>lO T>l1I CtVK.I ro Rt;RIf~f
::tg. r~~~i~~-(~:::
The Guuyo be1tlf] the Sffme as thot of the Western Rys.
Altli>. ….VOXllliJn
——-_._—_. __ ._——–
MesSTs. W. D. MATHEWS & 00 Toronto.
G W ROBINSON, Montreal.
Ji);-/r>l. l)or/,,.,~ flIt H! (f poslflOli W l,w{e J a(ClJ olld Ctl~ aU
L tlP(I/./!,IJ!J Orm(l/w~ (Q oatnl/o/v Shipper.
~ …… –
Ha.lifax: and St. John to Riviere DuLoup.
=-=. -1-1 =====-:::=I==QU=c=bC::::C-::::–===:=::::
~~~ ____ s_·_rA·n_o~~~_. __ ,:,~~:_.,,_. ~C:~._
° Halitax ……….. Lv 1.30 pill ….
8 LJedfof(1 ………. . I.4H 14 •••••••• ,
~:~:: 1::::::::1
;<3J:; .
13 Windsor Juncti .. .
21 Wellington
28 En(l ….
30 E:lmsdalc. . ……… . 3 …….. (J)
35 :vIilford …………….. .
39 Shubenacadic … .
249 18
44 Stcwi~cke .. .
53 Brookfield … .
3-09 ~
61 Truro …… …….. 1 Lv 1.00
I) b t ,1· 3
I,} e er …….. .
70 Londbnd.rr-y. . . .
4· 52
90 Wentworth.. . . . 5· J<) .
96 Greenville. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. S· 32
Thomson ………….. , . 5.48 ..
107 Oxfqrd ……. ,,, ………… 5·57
tlO River Phillip. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 6.04
121 Spring Hill …. …….. 6.29
12t, Athol … 6.40
1 30 M nccno .. . .. 6. So
138 Amhcl ………….. … 7.
J44AlIlac …………………• …………… 1
: .. ::: 71
147 Sackville. 7.
4 •… E
I $9 Dorchester .. ,, .. . …. i 7· 54 ; -1
167 iicmr:llllcQok …………… ·Its. 12 ~ I
179 Pn.insec ,Tllnelion ………….. 8·40 c:: I
t~7 Moncton ..•…. AI 9·0[) ..c::
-~ St:-J~:-:-:·~~~:-:-~~L.~ . 5.00~;~; -.. -.-.. -.-. ~ I
89 MOllcron ….. …. … AI 8·57 ……. •
—————-if) i
187Monett ………..•…. ,.Lv C).15PIl112.15pm-1
195 Berry, Mills. 12.32 I
206 Canaan ….. ….. ,…… 1.36 I
215 Coul
Bmnch ………. 2.l5 .. I
224 Weldfunl . 10-41 2.51 i
235 fFerri,. .. .. .. .. .. .. . .. 3·35
~44 Carleton …………. ….. /. . . . . . .. <.11
255 Barnaby Rh··a: …….•…………… 4·55 I
259 Chatham Juncllon ……….. 112.03 III 5.11
265 Miramichi …. ……. ,, 12.26 5.50
275 Beaver Brook … . … . I . . …. 6.31
286 I3artihoguc . …. 1.20 7. If,
Red Pin~. . . . . . 7· 57 ..
309 Bathurst 2.13 9·00
32) Pelite Roche …………. ·.· <)·,19 Q)
329 Belledune …….•…. . . . . . . . 10.22 a
338]acquctRier … . …… 3·21 11.25 . ..-<
347 New Mills ………..•…. 12.01 a III L.
353 Charlo …. …….. 12.25 r
363 DalhOUSIe ……………… 4.20 1.05 0
Ar 4.40 I J 40 Q)
372 Camphellton
385 :l1etarediac …… .
395 Mill
405 Assamctquaghan …..
I Lv t~:: t~ ~
6.23 . 4.26 rJ
6.58 5.24 i ..I
7.28 6.17
42~IC.usap,cal .,. . .
43JI.-Il(11l …………. ,
4.4~ Ceda. [{~II … , ..
448 :-;u),bec . . . .. •.. . …•…..
6·47 &.
:).01 II 7.13 It ~
458 Tarlaguc .. . ……. .
468 SI. OClac
…………….. .
477 SI. Flait!
485 St. Luee . . . . . . . . . .. . …… .
Rimou,ki …………. : …. .
506 Hie. . …………….. .
515:;t. Fabian …. .
SI. Simon … .
534 Trois Pistole,. j Ar 11.25
.. l Lv 11.45
544 hie Verle ……. [2,05 pm
552 SI. Arsene . 1221 ..
555 Ca.cono. …. .. …… t2.27 ..
561 Riviere DuLoup. .ArI12·tO
12.17 pm
Point Lei, (Op. Quebec) … Lv 7.30 pml.
843 10nl«01 ….. , ……….. Ar 6.30al1)l.
1007 Ottawn ………………….. 4.lopml.·
1176Toronlo. . …. 111.15 II., •.
1407 Delloil …………………. ! 10.05 a … .
1691IChica!;o.. ………….. ~.: _R.oo pm … .
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[ Riviere DuLoup to St. John and Halifax:.
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0IChicago,,, ……. ….. Lv. 9.00a III ……
284 Detroit, …….. , . 5·45 pm
….. ••.. 7·00(1. m ……. .
c:: 788 Oua Wi, . . :2;00 ~!11 .. -.•.• ·1
h 84i11lontreal,………… .. 9·4$ … .
~ fOW·Pt. /,cvi (Op. QH:i)t~c), …. L. 8.oonm , ……. ,
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r1 6jC:tcouna, …………. . …… 2.13 7.27 f.
~ giSt. A,r!iClw, ……………… 2.20:: 87.4°6::
.-17,T;lcenc,,,… 2.37.
. i AI. 3.00 9·00
(1j 2jTroi, Pi,tol,… I Lv. 3.20 9· IS ,
:t 36 St. Simon. 3 .• 1
16 St. Fauie.I1,.. 4·03 10.5
4 LI.O 66Ri1n(.1~l 76 $(. Lnce … .. …… 5· 12 1.01 s:::;
84 S(. Flav;…. 5·35 1.45 r-<
93St.Octnve,… 5.5
2.22 f-!
103 T:lrlaguc, 3·04 II
I r:3 Savhee, … 645 3·45 ~
cellarHall, . , . .. 4· 14 .D
128 Amqlli,…. … . . 7·)S 4.47 (J)
141 Cnusapcn.l, ….. , 7·4!l ·4
156 A,samellunghall, .. .. . … 8. 19 6.43 rJ
C 176 Metapediae. ……………. 9.
8 8.0; i
s..:; 8 II Ar. 9.4

…… I 9 Campbe ton, .1 Lv. 10.00 . :j.15R m
f-! 198 Dalltou,ie, .. .. …. . …. 10. 21 4.
,…. 208 Charlo. ……. 5.
>-< 214 New ;Iills, . . . . . 5· 26
..c: 223 Jacquct River, .. ,. … .. ,,, 11.20 6.03 c,
o ,232 BelleQune,. . . . . 6.4
–I P J> I 7·12 ) ,240 elite ,oe )e •.
. 1252 Balhlllst., 12.28am 8.10
..J 265 Red Pille, . . . , . . . .. 9· 13
Ij) 275 Barllhogue ,.. …… …. r.2g·· ~ <,
286 Beaver Brook . . , …. 10.29
296 Miramichi. ,,,, ,. .. ,… 2.10 Il.20
302 Chatham Junct.on, 2.23 11.4
Barnaby River, ……….. 11.55
317 CarIclQn, . . . .. ., 12·33 pm
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C. J. BRYDGES, Gen. Superint.endent Govt. Rys.
The Myth of Sandford Fleming
by Jay Underwood
Following our commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Intercolonial Railway, we are pleased to
present this very thought-provoking article by Jay Underwood. It suggests that quite a bit
of the honour given to Sandford
Fleming by historians may not have been fully deserved. Since Fleming was the Chief Engineer of the Intercolonial, and the
of the book from which considerable material for the article was taken, your editor feels that the two articles should
appear in the same issue
of Canadian Rail.
Even before his death
in 1915,
Sandford Fleming
enjoyed a legendary repu­
tation: creator of Standard
Time, railroad surveyor,
designer of Canadas first
postage stamp, saviour of the
Queens portrait from a
burning Canadian legislature
building. Over the course
time, however, Fleming has
been so lionized that this
reputation has assumed
mythological proportions.
Canadian popular
Alger story, indeed, he came
from a wealthy family. He was
born at Shirra Ha , on
Glasswork Street in Kirkaldy,
Scotland, January 7, 1827.
father, Andrew Greig Flerrung
was a
lumber merchant, and
the younger Fleming was
educated in Kennoway, then
at Kirkaldy where he articled
surveying and engin­
eering. A biography con­
tained on the website of his
hometown suggests he ani ved
Canada at the age of 18,
fully qualified, and with a
patron waiting to receive
Hugh MacLeans biography
(Man of Steel, 1969) notes he
received his surveyors
license in Montreal. histories are fond
of heaping
praise upon Fleming, espec­
in his role as the chief
engineer of five railways: the
Northern, Nova Scotia,
Newfoundland, Intercolonial
and Canadian Pacific, all
which added in their own way
the patina of his ach­
ievements, but which require
dispassionate, perhaps
iconoclastic, examination to
strip away some
of the false
This homage ranges
from the fanciful to the
Sandford Fleming (1827-1915) as he appeared in the
1860s, about the time he began working on the
The second myth, albeit
of little real significance to his
reputation, was that Fleming
was the champion of standard
gauge track in
Canada. This
notion has been reinforced
most recently in the CRB
Foundation (now Historica)
Heritage Minutes aired on
1ntercolonial project.
sublime, the latter being
typified by Leonard Setons article in the May 1958 edition
of the CRHA News Report, now Canadian Rail:
We must admire the
part played by Sir Sandford
Fleming in this achievement.
Few public servants have
displayed his scrupulous honesty and his conspicuolls
application to his duties. Nothing deterred him from
advocating strongly and persistently, that which he knew to
in the best interests of the railway.
While Flemings accomplishments may indeed be
admired, deeper investigation will show that he was not
altogether free of self-interest, and that he played the political
as adroitly as any of the popularly detested poljticians.
The first
of the myths about Flerrung is that he came
to Canada as a penniless immigrant.
This was no Horatio Canadian television stations.
fact, Fleming only
surveyed one railway built on the standard (or Stephensons)
gauge, the Canadian Pacific.
The Newfoundland Railway was built on the three­
foot-six-inch narrow gauge; the Northern, Nova Scotia and
Intercolonial Railways were built on the broad Provincial
of five foot six inches. The Intercolonial was converted
to the
four-foot eight-and-a-half inch standard gauge in
1875, only after the Grand Trunk forced the change, when it
converted its track to accommodate the interchange
of U.S.
rolling stock.
The Northern Railway was converted in 1872,
for much the same reason.
Strangely, for a man
of such supposed forethought,
Flerrung was building the Intercolonial on the Nova
gauge, even though English railways had changed to
Stephensons gauge in 1846. The only major railway in
Blitain that did not change gauge at this time was the seven­
foot gauge Great Western. That conversion was accomplished
over a period
of 46 years by running mixed gauges, to relieve
the railway
of the immediate capital expense of conversion.
This same practice had been the policy
of the Great Western
Railway in Canada, which had been obliged by legislation
to build on the Provincial five-foot six-inch gauge, but by
necessity had to operate a mixed gauge to accommodate
American traffic built on the Stephenson gauge. Fleming
did not follow this course, and as a result, the Intercolonial
was challenged in its infancy by the expense
of converting
its track, locomotives and rolling stock.
The Newfoundland Railway
It is convenient here to deal briefly with the
Newfoundland Railway, which Fleming saw as vital link in
his concept for an All-Red Route around the world, a global
highway for the service
of the British Empire. This concept
was not Flemillgs alone, but he was a vocal advocate, and
forceful enough to convince British investors to back the
first stage of construction
in 1881. Harbour Grace was reached
three years later, but
by then it was apparent Flemings interest
was waning.
participation diminished after the somewhat
optimistic driving of the last spike in 1884 by the future
King George V at Harbour Grace, and he moved on
to promote
his concept
of standards time and a trans-Pacific telegraph
cable from British Columbia
to Australia.
It was left to the colonial government to complete
the second section of the line, between Whitbourne and
Placentia Bay. In 1889, contractor Robert Gillespie Reid –
who had built difficult sections of the Canadian Pacific
Railway north of Lake Superior -stepped in to salvage the
plan, but even with Reids determination the railway, which
was intended to link Ireland to Canada via St. Johns, was
doomed. [although the main line did survive until 1988!J
contradictions of Flemings reputation are
apparent in the execution of the Newfoundland Railways
construction. The first is that he used the three-foot, six-inch
gauge (the first locomotives we
re acquired second hand from
the Prince Edward Island Railway) despite the fact Stephen­
sons gauge had become the standard gauge in Canada
almost six years earlier, and the cost difference was accepted
as being negligible.
The second is that he did not use the
gradual approach he had advocated as early as1863 to ensure
the railway would earn revenue while under construction.
In the appendix to
his history of 1876, Fleming
acknowledged that the flaw in his scheme was the effect of
seasonal ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In theory the route
(although hardly what might today would be called
seamless) might have worked, but it was proposed at a
time when the technology to break ice by ship was not
sufficient to guarantee the route would remain in operation
through the winter:
This route would not be open for traffic throughout
the whole year; during certain months, the direct course
steamers would be so impeded by floating ice, that it could
no! with certainty or safety
be traversed. It therefore remains
to be seen whether the route has sufficient advantages whilst
open, to
recommend its establishment and lise, during
probably not more than seven months
of the year.
This did not stop Fleming from despatching
engineers to walk the ground in Newfoundland for a
preliminary survey, one he paid
for from his own pocket,
employing another engineer since he was
chief engineer of
both the Intercolonial and Canadian Pacific at the time. The
of that survey came back to line Flemings pocket in
the form
of a contract for further exploration at government
expense. The Newfoundland railway was a venture that never
fulfilled its Imperialist destiny, and became something
of a
comic oddity until its eventual
abandonment .in .the 1980s.
,( .
The Northern Railway
Fleming is also given a great deal of undeserved credit
for the Northern Railway, the first operating railway
in Upper
Canada, the construction and operation of which was
launched with great political hoop-lao Its first chief engineer
was H.C. Seymour, who was dismissed for his unscrupulous
financial and political activity, not to mention his slipshod
Seymour was replaced by Frederick William
Cumberland, who oversaw completion
of the project, when
the railway opened
ill 1855 with royal participation.
It was Cumberland who paved the way for both
Fleming and Schreiber, as John Thompsons 1974 history
for Parks Canada notes:
Cumberland recruited a staff of bright yo ling
engineers which included Sandford Fle.ming and
Collingwood Schreiber … Together they pushed the work of
construction and location ahead rapidly.
The work was perhaps too hUlTied, as Thompson goes
on to observe:
The Ontario, Simcoe and Huron, with its wooden
bridges and and culverts, its scanty ballast and its numerous
curves, was typical
of American railroads of the time and
was far from the standard of British lines.
It is at this point that the myth of Sandford Fleming is
exposed, for it is apparent that even though he succeeded
Cumberland as
chief engineer in 1855, little was done to
improve the lines condition until after Cumberland returned
1859. By that time the railway had proven to be
unprofitable, and it was Cumberland who turned
to a protege
for help. Thompson notes:
Acquiring British capital, Cumberland rebuilt the
which had fallen into great dilapidation, and
replaced the wooden structures with stone culverts and iron
girder bridges.
In their 1871 survey of the financial and physical
of Canadas railways, John and Edward Trout noted the
Railway needed more than $250,000 in repairs
and debt retirement when Cumberland came out of retirement,
of it apparently liability incurred during Flemings
as chief engineer.
Schreiber was instrumental in the revival. His
biography minors that of Fleming. Born at Bradwell Lodge,
Colchester, England in 1832, Schreiber
came to Canada at
age 20, a formally trained engineer. Shortly after his arrival
he went to work on the Hamilton and Toronto Railway, until
the completion
of that project. He went into private practice
in partnership with Sandford Fleming and another engineer
named Rideout, until 1866 when, as the Cyclopedia of
Canadian Biography (1886) noted:
… he entered the service of the Northern Railway
of Canada, where he was employed making a restoration of
the works upon the line.
In the same era (1860), Fleming had cultivated
friendship with the influential British politician, the Duke
of Newcastle, who had ridden the Ontario, Simcoe & Huron,
as chief of staff to the Prince of Wales, who was visiting as
of Queen Victoria. This association led directly
Flemings appointment as the chief engineer of the
Intercolonial, but not before he launched his next enterprise;
a proposal
to build a railway link from Upper Canada across
the prairies to British Col.umbia,
Again, Fleming was not the first to make such a
proposal, but his memOlial from the people
of the Red River
settlements (the area that would later become Manitoba)
stilTed a great deal of interest in Canada and London.
is clear from Flemings involvement with the
Northern Railway,
is that while his engineering achievements
were less than stellar, it was an important aspect
of his persona}i
learning curve, an experience that would teach
him much
about the limitations financing places upon an
ability to execute the work necessary for the efficient and
profitable operati.on
of the line. Some of these tenets would
find their place in his next great project.
It was while he was in London presenting the Red
River memorial to the Imperial council, that
Fleming was
considered as the chief engineer of the Intercolonial.
Originally the railway was supposed to have been engineered
by committee, with Canada, Westminster and
Nova Scotia­
New Brunswick each selecting a representative to oversee
their interest in the venture.
by happy coincidence or design, Flemings
name came up
as a candidate for each of the parties, and so
he became the sole and unanimous choice. In his history
Canadian National, G.R. Stevens suggests this was
because …
It was manifestly impossible for the Maritimes to
find a representative of the calibre of Fleming.
This is almost certainly false, and another example
of how historians have lionized Fleming, and exaggerated
abilities. Indeed, quite aside from myriad British
engineers who were easily the equal of Fleming, the Malitime
colonies could have offered the names
of Alexander Luders
Light, George Wightman,
or Collingwood Schreiber.
Light was another British-born engineer, who came
to Canada at a young age and learned his trade formally (he
was a
classmate of Sir John A. Macdonald at the Royal
Grammar School, Kingston.) His railway experience included
time with the Great Western Railway, the St.
Andrews &
Quebec Railway, the Nova Scotia Railway, the European &
North American Railway, the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa &
Occidental Railway, the Quebec & Lac St. Jean Railway,
and the Santos
& Sao Paulo Railway in Brazil.
In 1863 he was elected as a member of the
prestigious Institute of Civil Engineers in London, and in
1869 he was placed in
charge of the Miramichi district of
the Intercolonial, probably the most difficult of all the
of the line.
Wightman was a Nova Scotia-born, self-trained
engineer who had authored a two-volume treatise on the
of roads, in which Nova Scotia was considered
a leader in North America.
He participated in Robinsons
survey for the Intercolonial, on the Whitehaven route
between Canso, N.S. and westward to the New Brunswick
border, and for the Nova Scotia government in locating the
Windsor branch of what would become the Nova Scotia
Railway. He also participated in the St. Andrews & Quebec
Railway project with Light.
Both Light and Wightman were familiar
with the
of the Intercolonial route.
agreeing to Flemings appointment as
representative for all four parties, the
Duke of Newcastle,
then colonial secretary and a patron
of Flemings from the
of the Northern Railway, said:
It is agreeable to me to feel that by selecting Mr.
Fleming as the combined representative of Her majestys
Government and
of the North American Provinces especially
in this important subject, much delay has been
and that the wishes of your Government for the
immediate commencement
of the survey have, as far as this
is concerned, been complied with.
These words would come back to haunt the
Intercolonials development, as Flemings determination to
include a Newfoundland route, and his stubborn refusal
use anything but iron bridges where he deemed them
necessary in fact caused some significant delay.
The Pictou Branch
In order to facilitate Flemings survey of the
Intercolonial from Truro, N.S. to Rimouski in Quebec, he
was hired
as the nominal chief engineer of the Nova Scotia
Railway, which had been built by that province to link
Halifax with New Brunswicks developing rail system. At
the same time, the province was extending the railway from
to the rich coalfields of Pictou County, and Fleming
forged another piece
of his reputation on what became known
as the Pictou branch.
This branch did not get off to an auspicious
beginning. The original contractors got into financial trouble
in the project, and in his anxiety to get it restalted with
a minimal amount
of disruption, Nova Scotias Joe Howe,
chief political architect
of the railway (and chairman of the
railway commission) agreed to let Fleming take up the
contract privately. In this respect, Howe got agreement from
Nova Scotia Premier Charles Tupper, a name that
will become
significant later. As a result, Fleming resigned his position
on the Nova Scotia Railway (although still chief engineer
the Intercolonial).
Finishing the project on the promised deadline
May 31 1867, and under the original budget estimate,
Fleming strengthened his reputation as builder of the finest
half hundred miles of track many engineers professed to
.NAP .1JEW1Nr;
flI. .. WFlIJtA PROVf.V(/liS.
The most direct route of the Intercolonial would have involved going through the territOlY awarded to Maine by the Ashburton
of 1842. This was not accptable to the politicians of the 1860s who required an all-British route.
have seen. The problem with this aspect of his notoriety is
Fleming had little to do with the success of the line,
other than lending his name -and money -as principal
Indeed, even as the construction of the Pictou
Branch got underway, Fleming was in the wilds of northern
New Brunswick beginning the first survey of fifteen
proposed lines for the Intercolonial to take. Collingwood
Schreiber, in the meantime (1864), had joined the Nova Scotia
Railway as division engineer
of the Pictou Branch, and was
on site until the completion of the line.
This is confirmed in J.M. & Edward Trouts The
of Canada (871), where it is noted:
The Pictou extension was surveyed by Mr.
Sandford Fleming, CE., and estimated to cost, including
rolling stock, $2,314,500. Some
of the original contractors
abandoned their contracts, and work proceeding very slowly,
the Government took the work out
of their hands, and re-let
the whole
to M,: Fleming for the sum of $2,116,500. The
road was satisfactorily completed within the time specified,
under the superintendence of another engineer.
This other engineer was the unheralded Schreiber.
The involvement of Schreiber also casts some doubt upon
the Flemings ability to estimate construction costs
accurately, as B.W. Milner, then associate archivist for the
Dominion of Canada, notes in a 1920 article published III
the Moncton Daily Times: In
1869, a survey was made of the countly between
Annapolis and Yarmouth
for a railway, by Mr. Fleming. His
of the cost $2,958,598 or $39,752 per mile. M,:
Schreiber made a survey of the same, by the shore route. His
of cost was $30,200 per mile.
It would have been easy for Fleming to complete
contract under budget if his original estimates were
similarly inflated. Milners history is suspect, however,
because he had earlier claimed:
When later the Pictou branch was decided on,
the names Sandford Fleming
and Collingwood Schreiber
made their first bow
in their debut on the railway stage of
As we have seen, this was clearly inaccurate, but
Milner was the first to make the connection between Fleming
and Schreiber, which following historians have ignored
chosen to overlook. G.R. Stevens is particularly guilty in
this instance. He
devotes a great deal of attention to the
Pictou branch and Flemings supposed triumph, but
completely neglects to include Schreibers participation:
Fleming had taken on this work as a sort of spare­
time occupation but when it was discovered that existing
legislation necessitated a contract the Chief Engineer
resigned and on January lO,l> 1866 undertook to build the
Pictou branch for $2,116,500, inclusive
of the work already
and payments made. This was about eight per cent
below the aggregate
of the original contracts ….
… Fleming paid off unsatisfactory contractors and
took over their work, but where he found work being done
well he left it in private hands and
in some instances placed
fresh contracts. He erected comfortable quarters for his
and roofed over bridge sites, approaches to tunnels
and cuts so that construction might continue throughout
the wintel:
He strung telegraph wire along the right-of-way
to keep a check on the daily tasks. He procured two steam
excavators which did the work
of many men and he opened
quarries instead
of relying upon casual rock for his masonry.
He doubled his force
of masons and stone-cutters during
the winter, when ordinarily they were unemployed, thus
obtaining them at cheaper wages. He introduced many
innovations in connection with the drainage of subsoils
and of the roadbed; he devised new types of bridge seats
and abutments and he invented a scabbard rail
joint which
may have been the ancestor
of the fishplate today.
By the end
of 1866 twenty-one miles of line, from
Truro to West River, were open
for traffic. On the specific
date the entire fifty-two miles
of line were in operation.
Before handing it over Fleming insisted that
his work be
inspected by independent engineers. They praised it highly.
The completed cost
of the Pictou branch, including payments
made before Fleming came
on the scene and the costs of its
rolling stock, came
to $2,321,577, from which it would
appear that Fleming made little if any profit on his contract.
Stevens indirectly acknowledges that Flemings
attention was really elsewhere, when he notes:
He was a man of heroic mould, vivid imagination
and great adaptability. He was interested in everything. His
vigour was astonishing; in a single year he covered more
than twenty thousand miles
in New Brunswick.
The year of this epic trek through New Brunswick
is signifIcant, since it coincides with the time he was also,
nominally, engineer
of the Pictou branch:
On receiving his instructions in February 1864
he struck
off with characteristic impatience into the New
Brunswick wilds, making light
of the bitter winter weathel:
Schreiber went on to follow, equally unheralded,
Flemings footsteps, as the Cyclopedia of Canadian
Biography noted in 1886:
When the construction of an Intercolonial Railway
through Nova Scotia and by the seaboard
of New Brunswick
was decided upon, there was no hesitation in considering
Mr. Schreiber was eminently qualified for the work of
surveying a portion of the route, he was, therefore, in 1868,
appointed by the Dominion government to take charge of
the surveys of the Intercolonial route, via Lake Temiscouata.
By this time, Schreiber was beginning to wear as
many hats as had Fleming, for in 1869 he was also appointed
chief engineer of the Eastern Extension Railway, linking
the European & North American line at Painsec, N.B. with
the Intercolonial at Amherst.
Two years later (1871) he became the
superintending engineer and commissioners agent for the
entire length
of the Intercolonial Railway, Fleming having
on to the nascent Canadian Pacific Railway project,
his Intercolonial route nearly following the original course
charted in 1848 by Major William Robinson. It was during
this period that Schreiber was left
to deal with another aspect
of Flemings fame, the protracted battle over what has been
The Grecian Bend, a sweeping arc of track over
Nova Scotias Folly Mountain that saw Fleming fight a
pitched political battle which reveals a further flaw in his
Fighting the Squire
Whereas history has treated Fleming kindly, it has
been less than kind to John (or James) Livesey, the self­
styled squire with whom Fleming quarrelled over the
course of the Intercolonial as it attempted to climb the
Cobequid Mountains between Truro and Amherst, N.S ..
Livesey was the owner of an iron mine at Londonderry, N.S.
and his lobby to have the
railway pass by his operation
devolved into an outright war between his political allies
and the chief engineer.
Indeed, Fleming explains his side
of the affair in
some detail in his 1876 history of the Intercolonial, but
Liveseys side of the argument has never been made
as clear.
Judgement may have been rendered against
him based solely
Flemings version of events, and the perception of
Londonderry as it has been since the mines closed in 1906.
Flemings account
is included here in its entirety
so that it cannot
be suggested his version was unfairly stated:
During the period that the location through New
Brunswick was the matter
of daily debate, the course of the
line in Nova Scotia was also discussed, with equal warmth
and pertinacity; more especially that portion, some thirty
in length, in which the mineral districts adjoining the
Cobequid mountains are included. The
chief promoter of
these discussions was Mr. John Livesey, who represented
the Londonderry Iron Mines,
and who for more than four
years never ceased to put his views forward.
From the time
of the survey made in 1864, Mr.
Livesey continually urged, both privately and officially, the
of locating the railway on a route passing close
to the furnaces of the Iron Mines in which he was interested.
Four different routes between Truro
and a point of
junction on the railway from Saint John to Shediac were
examined and reported on; one was far
to the east, another
was far
to the west, two were central. By combining parts of
these central routes, two other routes were compounded. Of
the two central routes, one was essentially the same as that
recommended by Major Robinson in 1847.
The other was
similar to that advocated by Mr. Livesey. It was by a
of the two that the route called Line 6 was
formed, to cross the Cobequid Hills by the pass at Folly
and to descend by the northern slope of the Hills
towards Amherst. It was
held that this line would best
accommodate all interests, having primary regard
to general
In 1865, the Government of Nova Scotia directed M,:
Fleming to report on the best route from Truro to the
boundary of the Province. In June of that year he
recommended that a central route should be adopted. From
commercial considerations, a central route appeared
to him
most important, as it would accommodate the Iron
The rival routes as printed in Flemings 1876 history of the Intercolonial.
DistrIct on the Cobequid Range, and open up the Springhill
coalfield. He was accordingly instructed
to proceed with
the location
of the most eligible line on a central route.
The working season
of 1865 was occupied in surveys.
Every pass across the Cobequid mountains, within the limits
of the iron district, was examined, and every effort was made
to secure a practicable line near the Iron works. Six lines
were surveyed, designated
by the letters A, B, C, D, E, F
The first kept the southern slope
of the Cobequid
Mountains, crossing the Folly River and the two branches
of the Great Village River, passing immediately on the South
side of the Acadia iron Works. Afterwards it turned
northwards, and crossed to the north side of the hills by a
gorge, known as Madisons Brook, and by Isaacs Lake on
the summit,
686 feet above sea level.
The line B passed close
to the Acadian /ron works,
thence turning northwards it followed the Great Village
River, on which the works are situated, to the summit at
Sutherlands Lake, where the elevation
is 745 feet above
sea level. Lines
C, D, E and F all passed by Folly Lake,
where they attained the summit level
of 590 feet above sea
Of these lines, B was the shortest, but had the most
objectionable grades. F was second
in point of length, and
had the most favourable grades. A was fourth in point of
length, and second in favourable grades.
Line A, passing close
to the Acadia Iron Works, was
advocated by Mr. Livesey. The Chief Engineer, on the contrary,
gave it as his opll1lOn that, in view of its
engineering features, he would not recommend it for
The Engineer considered that lines A and F would
equally well
accommodate the Springhill coalfield; that
Fwould not accommodate the then existing iron
works so well as
A, it would equally well accommodate any
of the works, and give much better accommodation
to the traffic of the villages of the Gulf coast. He showed
also, that, although
M,: Livesey had in some of his letters
to convey the idea that line F just skirts the
eastern edge
of the ore district, a former manager of the
had conveyed the impression that the ore deposits
were equally on each side
of F, and that they extended over
a large area
in both direction.
Other evidence
of the same import was furnished by
a map
and pamphlet, issued some years previously in the
of the iron mines, which contained reports of several
mineralogists and mining engineers. One
of these writers
expressed his opinion that east
of the Folly River there were
of ore sufficient to produce from 20,000 to 24,000
of metal annually, while the works at that time situated
to the west of Folly River were only capable of producing
about 2,000 tons
per annum. It was, howevel; possible to
extend them so as 10 produce from 10,000 to 12,000 tons per
annum. The map accompanying the pamphlet showed the
proposed site
of new works, one on the Folly Rivel; and
another on Pine Brook, two miles east of Folly RiVe/:
It could not therefore be maintained that the route F,
by Folly Lake, would not extend ample accommodation to
mineral region.
In August, 1865, a contract was entered into between
the government
of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, on the
one side, and the Intercolonial Contract Company of
London, on the other, for the construction of the railway
between Truro and Moncton. The Government of Nova
Scotia, having in May, 1866, received the report of the Chief
Engineel; endorsed his views in reference to the Folly Lake
route, Line
F, and refused to sanction the construction of
this portion of railway under the contract which they had
made with the Intercolonial Contract Company, unless the
Company adhered to line
The members of the Nova Scotia Government were
personally on
friendly relations with Mr. Livesey. And, as
that gentleman took every opportunity
of enforcing his views,
members of the government were fully informed of the
importance of the iron works, and of the expediency of
selecting a route as favourable to them as the general
interests of the country would permit.
After Confederation the Chief Engineer received
instructions from the Dominion Government to locate the
from Truro to Moncton. At this time the Dominion
Ministry had Mr. Flemings report of May 1866, approved
of by the Nova Scotia Government. The marked feature of
these instructions was that he should adopt the most eligible
line, giving due weight to the cost
of construction, cost of
future working and management, and also to general
inte rests.
From the above facts it is evident that no course was
open to the Chief Engineer other than to follow the line
designated F.
But Mr. Livesey was not satisfied with this course,
and in Septembel; 1867, he addressed a letter, enclosing a
of the correspondence, to the then Minister of Public
and in consequence the Chief Engineer was
instructed again to consider the case between the two routes
with regard to:-
jst The local traffic likely to be obtained by these
lines respectively.
2d The development of natural sources of
wealth in the vicinity of those lines respectively, by reason
of their construction.
In September,
1868, the Chief Engineer accordingly
reported on the rival lines A
and F, and showed that the line
was preferable to A under the considerations of length,
cost of construction, grades and curves, and consequently
in cost
of future working and management. Although the
line, as located, crossed and passed near
to valuable deposits
of iron ore, it did not run sufficiently near to the iron works
be of full service without the construction of a Branch,
7 miles long.
The cost
of construction of line F and a branch would
be considerably less than that
of line A, without adding fo A
for the extra cost of working it. It was of importance that
the iron works
should have the benefit of railway service,
and it was desirable that the earliest possible connection,
consistent with general interests, should be made with them
and the Springhill coal mines. It was considered that line F
and a branch to the iron mines would also extend a
connection with the
coal mines, so much more favourable
for cheap transport than line A that it would prove to be the
most economical route for mineral traffic.
The decision arrived at was
based on a comparison
of the lines. Line F passed over a summit 100 feet lower
than that crossed
by Line A; it was the best, the shortest,
and, even including the branch to the iron mines, the
cheapest, and was therefore entitled to the preference. A
combination line was
mentioned as having been traced on
new ground between lines F
and A. It was four miles longer
than line F but reduced the branch from seven miles
to three.
In the comparison, the Engineer considered the combination
second in point of merit, to line F, and in his opinion
line A was the least favourable
of the three.
On the other hand Captain Tyler, Government
Inspector of Railways, England was applied to by Mr.
Livesey, and reported in July 1868, that in his opinion,
taking into account
cost of construction, working over the
super-elevations, counter gradients
and the curves on steep
gradients, line A would be considered cheaper than line
that the construction of line F instead of A, from every point
of view, to be great mistake; and that the manufacture of
iron in a cheap form by the use of Springhill coal was of so
great importance that such an obstruction to the
development of such resources, as the construction of line F
when line A is available
and less costl), would be nothing
less than a general misfortune
to the industrial interests of
the Dominion.
In replying to this letter
of Captain Tylel; the Chief
Engineer stated that he was satisfied that Ca,ptain Tylel;
and Mr. Atkinson who had worked out the calculations for
Captain Tyler, were not in possession of all the information
which the survey afforded, and therefore that their
conclusions, based on imperfect data, could scarcely be
correct; and he repeated that without capitalizing the extra
of working line A, this line would cost, in construction
alone, about. $100,000
more than line F with a branch to
the iron mines; that line F was the cheapest
to operate, the
and as far as he could judge, the best in every
During the months
of September and October, 1868,
Mr. Livesey had test pits sunk in nineteen cuttings on line A,
which had been assumed in the Chief Engineers estimates
as either wholly
or almost wholly rock, and he reported that
a very large deduction s
hould consequently be made from
estimated cost of line A. This deduction was at once
made by the Chief Engineer; but nevertheless he saw no
reason to make any material change in views he had
expressed, and he maintained that although line A had been
surveyed, tested,
revised and improved by repeated trial
surveys, if remained substantially as it
had been described
by him, and that it was his deliberate opinion that, taking
the two lines as they were then represented
by plans and
profiles, line F was capable of doing, at the same cost of
working expenses, at least ten per cent more business than
line A,
and that no improvements could be made in line A
that would materially lower the cost of working, without at
the same time greatly increasing the cost
of construction.
parties took parI in the discussion, amongst
whom were the Honourable
R. B. Dickey, the Honourable A.
W McLelan, afterwards one of the Railway Commissioners,
M,: Morrison, M.P.P. for Colchester, and M,: Purdy, M.P.P.
for Cumber/and.
Notwithstanding that the Government
of Nova Scotia
in 1866, endorsed the views of the Chief Engineer with
to line F, the Executive Council of Nova Scotia, on
3,,1. August 1868, passed a Minute, which was approved by
His Excellency, the Lieutenant GovernOl; to the effect that
in the interests of the Province, the location of line A should
be adopted in preference to that
of line F
It was stated by one
of the gentlemen referred to, in a
letter dated 2ISI September 1868, that this Minute of
Council, though passed on 3
. August, was not
communicated to the House of Assembly until 15,10 Septembel;
and that the House
of Assembly was indignant at the action
of the Government. Three days afterwards the House of
Assembly passed a resolution in favour of the Folly Lake
route, line F
A few days after the passing of this resolution, the
Chief Engineer, by request
of the Government of Nova Scotia,
met the Members
of Council at Halifax. There were, howevel;
only three members present. After hearing full explanations,
they concurred
in the views of the Engineer with respect to
the adoption
of line F, and freely told him to state to the
Government the result of the interview. They
further intimated that they would make a Minute
of Council,
expressing their concurrence, but that they felt themselves
precluded from doing so by the minute which they had
previously been induced to pass, without sufficient
knowledge of the facts.
The controversy was carried
to Ottawa. One Nova
Scotia gentleman, in pressing his views on the notice
of the
of State for the Dominion, drew attention to the
claim advanced on
behalf of the iron mines with respect to
the large capital invested by the company, and met this claim
by saying that the people in the villages on the Gulf coast
had invested infinitely more capital in building wharves,
clearing lands, building roads, bridging streams, opening
stone quarries, building ships, working copper mills,
that they were at that time employing more men, developing
of more read and lasting benefit, and contributing
more to the Dominion revenues, than the mining company.
He contended that all this population, which he estimated
at /0,000, should not be forced
to pass over 12 miles more
of mountain roads to get to the railway, because the Mining
Company had located their works on the least eligible
route …..
Bya letter of 6th Novembel; 1868, the Government
notified the Chief Engineer that the combination line
had been finally adopted, and directed him to proceed with
the location measurements
in accordance with that decision.
Thus the controversy was ended;
and hence arose
that gigantic and conspicuous sweep which the railway
traveller will observe on the southern flank
of the Cobequid
Mountains, where the line describes nearly
half a complete
circle. So marked is this feature in the location that the
popular voice has applied to it the term The Grecian Bend,
which, possibly,
may be retained so long as the railway
This account, however, involves some rather
disingenuous arguments by Fleming, not the least of which
was his determination
to focus upon the location of the iron
ore reserves, rather than the foundries from which the finished
product would be shipped
by rail. In fact, as Fleming notes
later in his history of the railway line, the Squire built a
three-mile branch from Londonderry Station to the mines
and foundlY, at his own expense. Livesey later incorporated
the Acadia works as the Intercolonial Foundry, a major
supplier of railway related items such as wheels and axles,
etc. The Intercolonial Railway was a major customer before
the line was even finished. In 1871, Livesays foundry was
awarded a contract to supply the railway with 60 platform
cars (flat cars) at a cost
of $580 each.
The foundry operated five of its own locomotives,
including a 36-inch gauge 0-4-0 Baldwin, and a 4-4-0
Schenectady engine that ran until at least 1903.
Flemings claim that political forces were unfairly
arrayed against him was also flawed.
It is clear that he had
his own network of allies within both the Nova Scotia
Assembly and the Imperial government. What he may have
found most galling about this confrontation, however, was
that the squires allies triumphed over his own, and . .that.
Livesey was able to do an end run by contacting Captain
The British Board of Trades railway engineer, Tyler
an acknowledged expert in his field, so much so that he
was invited
to inSpect the Erie Railway (in 1874), and later
the Turkish and Russian railways. A.W. McLelan,
coincidentally, was the legislative representative for, and a
of LondondelTY. The others singled out by Fleming
were the elected members
of the neighbouring ridings. R.B.
Dickey was a
Father of Confederation. Dickeys son, I.A.
Dickey was an assistant on Flemings staff.
Also missing from Flemings version are some basic
facts in favour
of the squire. His iroh mine and foundry was
no penny ante affair. Nova Scotia government documents
note that the Londonderry deposits were the most extensive
Canada from their inception in 1847 to the foundryS
closing in 1906. Iron was also a strategic mineral, seen as
vital to the
economic and military well being of both the
Dominion and the Empire. (Thomas Chandler Haliburton,
who was admittedly given
to exaggeration on occasion, sang
the praises
of the local iron as an excellent material for the
casting of cannons). The squires operation would. become
of the first sites in Canada to experiment with the use of
the Siemens process for smelting steel, and in this venture
he was defeated only by the foundry at Trenton, N.S. in
At the same time, Londonderry was not the sleepy
hamlet that passengers on VIA Rails Ocean Limited train
see today. As a result
of the squires mines, the community
would have a thriving population
of more than 1,500 people.
It was a sizeable township even before the days of the
Intercolonial survey, as Joseph Bouchettes 1831 survey The
British Dominions
in North America would note:
There are seven small villages in this township, in
which are six grist-mills, five saw-mills, two carding and
two oat mills …
Given such an economic base it would have made
sense to connect Londonderry to a railway that was already
being built amid criticism it would
never be a commercial
Flemings concern in the affair, aside from being
to have his way with the route, appears to be the necessity
of having the railway go directly to the coal fields at
Springhill, which were then in operation with much promise.
This seems
to be a sensible commercial consideration for
the railway, but what historians who laud hjs honesty neglect
to note is that Fleming was a shareholder in the Springhill
mines and his concern appears
to be one of self-interest.
Morrows history of Springhill, published
after the disaster
of 1891, reCOlds that Fleming was among
the largest shareholders in this company, being the
Springhill Mining Company, Ltd., incorporated at Saint John.
in 1870. R.B. Dickeys name also appeared on the list,
as did that
of another important political ally, Alexander
MacFarlane, the conservative senator from Wallace, N.S.,
who was president
of the company:
These gentlemen owned from one hundred to
nearly one thous
and shares each.
This incorporation took place two years before the
Springhill and Parrsboro Coal and Railway Company, Ltd.
had completed its line from the mines
to the Intercolonial at
Junction. By happy coincidence, the company
was formed at a time when wood was being phased out as the
of the railways, as Leonard Seton noted in his May,
1958 essay
in the CRHA News Report:
1869, it was reported thast six locomotives in
New Brunswick had been using coal as filel for some time,
and that it
had proved a success. It was intended to equip
gradually all
of the motive power to burn coal.
This move alone improved the profitability of Nova
Scotia mines, which were tben facing markets in the U.S.
hampered by high duties imposed by the Americans to
protect their coal mines in Pennsylvania.
The Intercolonial, by the
squires line, would also
pass by the coal mines
of Debert which would have afforded
the foundry a more accessible source
of coal, in competition
with the mines in which Fleming had a vested personal
The Nova Scotia governments interest in seeing
Liveseys mine serviced by the railroad also points to the
of the operation, as evidenced by the provincial
mine inspectors reports
of 1872 and 1873, which note:
(1872) 1 am indebted to the courtesy of lvk Livesey
the resident director.
for facilities afforded me of examining
the property and works of the Intercolonial Iron and Steel
Numerous excavations made along the
of the vein, which has been traced for 12 miles
in a direct lin
e, have proved the existence of a series of
valuable deposits of ore, but the principal mining is on a
of the vein about two miles from the works, where
an adit lately driven
240 feet below the back of the vein
intersects a body of ore as extensive as any cut nearer the
surface. Hence the supposition hitherto generally held that
this v
ein was similar in character to the gash veins of
Missouri would seem to be incorrect, and the probabilities
are that the vein carries productive ore
to depths which will
not be reached
for many years to come.
The difficulties connected with the transportation
supplies which have hitherto greatly retarded the growth of
the iron business at Londonderry having been in a measure
moved by the opening of the Intercolonial railroad, the
of this important industry may now be expected
to progress with rapid strides.
(1873) Neither
of the established iron works were
fully employed. The Intercolonial IrO/i and Steel Co.
reduced their production pending the transfer of their
property to a new company who, it is expected, will erect
furnaces on a part
of the estate adjacent to the Intercolonial
Railway where coal
and coke can be readily obtained from
the collieries
of Spring Hill and Pictou.
The other mine mentioned in the 1873 report was in
the Annapolis Valley, but the Squires mine, still referred to
as the Acadia mine, was the largest in the province, and at
that point employing only 26 men (this figure does not
include foundry employees), producing 2,947 tons of ore,
of which 2,091 tons were smelted into 1,046 tons of pig
iron. The company to which Livesey transferred his interest
was the Canada Steel Co, again acknowledged by Fleming,
almost unnoticed, at a later point
in his history of the line.
Interestingly, by the time
of the Trout report in 1871,
Livesey was advertising the Intercolonial Iron and Steel
Complnyas, the source of the best charcoal cold blast
for Railway, Colliery & Sheet Car Wheels of superior
and noted that it would shortly be ready to supply
cast and spring steel
of the velY finest description.
This is not to suggest, however, that Liveseys
machinations did not have an adverse affect upon the
Intercolonials bottom line. Construction of that part of the
railway which passed by the
squires mines was begun by
the firm of Sumner & Somers, but the contractors,
International Contract Co., ran into some significant
financial trouble, forcing the Dominion government to take
over the work in 1872, lIsing day labour, and incurring a
ovelTUn of more than $105,000. The resident engineer
was William
Hazen, until Schreiber took charge as division
engineer in 1871.
Stevens version of the events does nothing to
vindicate Livesey:
The International Contract Company turned out to
be the creature of James Livesay, proprietor of an iron works
011 the southern slopes of the Cobequid Mountains. He was
a man
of substance and influence, backed by strong British
interests, a stubborn fighter and fertile
in expedients.
The animosity between Fleming and Livesey appears
have become deeply embedded in the culture of the
Intercolonial at an early age, as evidenced by this reference
in the
Halifax Morning Chronicle of October II 1872,
describing the first train excursion
over that section of the
One associates snowsheds with railways through the western mountains. However Fleming was very familiar with snowsheds
long before the
CPR, for the Intercolonial had them too. This one was near Metapedia. Below is the interior of the structure.
on sketches by Rev. T Fenwick. Courtesy of the New Brunswick Museum.
The curve in the road known as the Grecian Bend
was pointed out
to us as we passed along. This is deviation
ordered by the Dominion Government at the insistence
of a
mawin Watlacewho managed to make them believe
that he was an important personage, and by which the road
is taken from the Acadian Iron Mines, by which it should
have run, and carried in an almost circular bend into the
mountains, through a tract
which naturally offers great
to a railroad. And increases the length by several
miles. This deviation, together with those in the interest of
Spring Hill and Roches Landing, make the railroad 14 miles
longer than the old post road.
What is interesting about this account is the ignominy
heaped upon Livesey, the little man, while Flemings
interest in the Springhill mines, and Tuppers interest in the
Roches Landing property (acknowledged earlier in the
account), pass without similar comment.
It is probable this
biased observation was given
to the journalists by H.A Gray,
the engineer
in charge of the section of the line from Truro
to Folly River, as the Chronicle notes:
The last named gentleman was a valuable addition
to the party, especially to the journalists, who had occasion
to call on him frequently for information regarding the
which he cheerfully gave.
Ironically, railway commissioner A.W. McLelan, one
Liveseys most important political allies -and one of
Flemings political masters -departed from the train at the
Folly bridge and went on his way home, spared the caustic
comments reserved exclusively for Livesey.
It may be the
Chief Engineers greatest accolade that he inspired such
loyalty in his subordinates.
Another flaw in Flemings nature, demonstrated by
events surrounding the Grecian Bend, was his
unwillingness to take orders from his political masters,
something he had never had to do before, even as chief
engineer of the Nova Scotia Railway, and as contractor on
the Pictou Branch. Indeed, his stipulation upon taking the
Pictou railway contract was that Tupper give him a free hand
to operate as he saw fit.
Flemings legendary frugality and
his obsession with
the perfect construction of his railway appear to be
contradictory, given the principle he espoused in his 1863
memorial from the people
of the Red River settlements to
the Imperial goverrunent just months before he became chief
of the Intercolonial. In the memorial he noted:
Rather than indefinitely postpone the advantages
of a steam communication Canada and the Atlantic Provinces
by attempting to secure as heretofore the precipitate
construction of nothing less than a fully appointed Railway,
would it
not be more prudent to satisfy ourselves with a
scheme which promises atfirst a road
of less peifect character,
and leaves the Railway
and its sources of traffic to be built,
up by a gradual process? This policy not only appears
to be
that most likely to
secure the desired objective within a
reasonably short period, but it seems most in harmony with
gradual development of a country from a wild and
unoccupied condition, and equally in keeping with the state
of the Public Finances.
At some later point he appears to have significantly
altered his philosophy on the ability
of the public purse to
finance his projects, as indicated
in his 1876 history of the
Intercolonial. Speaking to the need for a high stand of
construction, he observed:
When a line is carried out by private effort, a
circumscribed capital may compel the adoption
of cheap
structures. In
such cases it is not the character of the
or its economy which commends itself; but it is
the necessity
of the case, which limits its cost. A railway
to meet a national requirement, and situated
like the Intercolonial,
is controlled by no such limitation.
This epiphany may have been brought about by
his substantial personal financial interest in the Springhill
mines, but he was not alone
in what -by todays standards –
would be
judged to bea serious conflict of interest. Sir
Charles Tupper, who by this time had advanced in political
status from premier to the Dominions first minister of
railways and canals, had his own financial interests in
Cumberland County coal mines, and that interest led to a
second loop of track near the New Blllnswick -Nova Scotia
The Red River Memorial also established another
keystone in the legend of Flemings frugality, when he
espoused the concept of the gradual constlllction of a railway
on cautious economic principles:
Railways are not only the most perfect of roads,
but they are also the most costly, and although they have
ly in too many instances proved too costly, this
cannot detract from the inherent merits of a means of
communication, the most peifect yet successfully attempted.
In order
to diffuse the benefits of railway service as widely
as possible, by extending these works
to new fields, it will
be necessary
to consider every means which may possibly
effect a dimination in their cost. In this connexion the
economy of first laying down a Territorial Road and
converting it not too speedilY into a Railway may be noted,
as there are some features connected with this system
gradual construction which have an important bearing, not
only on the establishment generally of lines of steam
communication through new districts, but particularly on
the project of connecting Canada with the Atlantic Provinces
by an Intercolonial railway. Suppose, by way
of illustrating
in a few words the
point now referred to, that a line of
railway 1,000 miles in length is to be constructed through
an unsettled or only partially settled country; it
is 110t viewed
as an investment for capital, but purely as a National
undertaking, and its cost has to be paid out of the Public
Two plans, Nos 1 and 2 are presented. By plan No.
1, a capital of $50,000,000 has to be raised by a loan say at
per cent, and the work carried out by an expeditious
manner in the usual way. Plan No.2 is the one herein
and to simplify the comparison, it is pre­
determined to expend annually a sum exactly equal
to the
interest on $50,000,000, or
say, $3,000,000. In either case
it is evident that the amount last mentioned has annually
be raised, and let us say by direct taxation. In carrying into
execution the plan
No.1, the rapid outlay of so much capital
would, without doubt, have a wonde/jul effect in stimulating
industry, enterprise and speculation; there would
undoubtedly for a time be an appearance of great and
unusual prosperity; prices of labour and material would in
consequence be inflated beyond their average value,
in a corresponding proportion the cost of the undertaking
would be enhanced.
The effect
of plan No.2 would be somewhat different;
the work
in this case would be proceeded with systematically
and gradually, year by year. It would, give steady and
desirable employment to those who might be induced to
take up their abode permanently along the route, affording
them an opportunity
to earn the means of subsistence until
could sustain themselves by farming operations. The
to raise prices above a fair average would not be
nearly so great as
in the case of plan No.1, while the growing
of the country could not fail to be benefited by a
of capital, expended gradually year by year.
Moreover, a suspension
of the outlay on the completion of
the works would be less felt, as the reaction would be
comparatively small, and consequently the financial
condition of the country could not be disturbed to such an
injurious degree. It would be rather difficult to estimate the
difference between
pieces of work in the two cases, but
without doubt it would be very material. To allow from 25 to
33 per cent in favour of plan No.2 could not, it is thought,
be very
far astray; and with this difference it is clear that
whole cost of the undertaking would be about
$36,000,000 against $50,000,000 if executed under plan
No.1; and hence with an expenditure of $3,000,000 a year,
the work would be completed
in 12 years. It is only necessary
to draw a comparison of results after the lapse of that
period. In either case the sum
of $3,000,000 would have
been raised by taxation and paid away by the country, and
assuming that the traffic receipts
of the undertaking would
be sufficient
to meet operating expenses, whichever plan
had been adopted, No. 2 would leave it free from debt and
the country relieved from further taxation, while under plan
No.1 the borrowed capital of $50,000,000 would still
remain unpaid. Were the receipts insufficient to pay working
expenses, the comparison would be even more unfavourable
as against
No.1 plan, inasmuch as arrears of operating
losses would have accumulated since the
first opening of
the line, thus greatly increasing the burdens on the country,
-while with the other plan the charge for operating losses
would only begin when taxation
for construction ceased,
and even this might be postponed,
if thought expedient, by
delaying the
final completion of the undertaking until it
was clear that the traffic of the country had
become sufficient to render the work
pelfectly self-sustaining.
The h
ypothetical case above
presented illustrates very plainly some of
the advantages claimed for a gradual
system of road development; and it will
readily be observed that had
it been possible
to have adopted some such system in the
of our Railways in Canada,
they might almost by this time have been
entirely completed
on the simple interest of
their actual cost, and thus have left them
free from debt and
in a position to perform
their functions in a more satisfactory
manner than they can now be expected to
do. Of course a change of system is not now
possible, but
if the principle advocated be
correct, there appears no good reason why
they should not be considered as applicable
prospectively. As a general rule, it has
hitherto been held impossible to construct
great public works advantageously in any
but an expeditious manner; hence
Another snowshed on the Intercolonial was this one near Campbellton.
of New Brunswick Museum
important and most desirable undertakings have been again
and again postponed for the reason that a known paucity
of traffic would not justify that enormous. outlay of capital
which appears
to be inseparable from a rapid system of
This is an admirable principle, to be sure, but what
gets overlooked is the fact that it was
developed by Joe
Howe and the Nova Scotia Railway commission some ten
years earlier, despite Flemings claim that all other railways
had been built according to the general rule, rather than
his plans
The Political Animal
Sir Charles Tupper was only one of a bevy of
influential Conservative politicians with whom Fleming
curried favour. Be that as it may, it was left to Schreiber to
oversee the construction
of the railway in this section, and
testimony to his contribution is ·borne in the
name of the
of Collingwood, the site where his base camp
was located.
It would not be the last time his name would
grace a community. The village
of Isbesters Landing on the
CPRs Superior division in Ontario later changed its name
to Schreiber as the railwayS tracks passed by.
It was not unusual for surveyors to name locations
on a whim, often after themselves or a loved one (naming
lakes after wives and daughters was a popular occulTence),
and christening a community after Schreiber may be seen
less as
an act of personal vanity, than it was of convenience
or humour.
However this does not appear
to be the case with the
of Collingwood, at the Lake Huron terminus of the
Ontario, Simcoe
& Huron Railway. The area had been known
locally as Hen and Chicks Harbour (for the islands nearby)
when it was reached by a railway surveying party
in the late
1840s. Local history suggests the surveyors
came up wi th the name, (MacLean says it was a man named Buist, and that
Fleming was present at the ceremony) which according to
municipal museum representatives honours AdmiraL
Cuthbert, Lord Collingwood (1750-1810) who took
command of the victorious British fleet at the Battle of
Trafalgar (1805) on the death of Admiral Lord Nelson. It is
possible that Schr.eiber ·
himselfwas···namedafter· the British
hero, but why a party
of engineers should choose the name
almost 40 years after his death is uncertain.
Flemings legendary frugality appears to have
extended only as far as the cost of station buildings along
the line. In his 1876 history, he noted:
With the exception of a few localities where towns
called for extended accommodation,
it was held that there
was no necessity
for much expenditure on station buildings:
it was held to be wholly unnecessary to spend money
through the wilderness portions of the line on costly
One can only wonder where Fleming expected his
railways passengers to wait for their trains, but then again,
Fleming was never particularly interested in designing
buildings. Bridges were another matter.
The Bridge Battle
The battle over the Intercolonial bridges was
another of the legendary confrontations that has contributed
to the myth
of Sandford Fleming. Simply put, Fleming
refused to consider the railway commissions order that all
but six
of the largest bridges on the line be made of timber,
to keep costs down.
Fleming returned to the comparison he made
between private and public investment in such structures:
These principles clearly establish what bridges
on the Intercolonial line should
be, structures marked by no
unnecessary expense, substantial, massive and permanent.
The commissioners;
Charles.J. Brydges, a railway
expert in his own right, A.W.
MacLelan, Aquila Walsh and
Edward B. Chandler were
convinced iron bridges would
not stand
up to the cold winters,
and would crack under the
strain of heavy traffic. Fleming
warned that timber bridges
could easily burn, and quickly
used two recent, albeit rare
incidents on the Grand Trunk
to illustrate his point. Stevens
summarized the events:
For this Fleming has
to bear the blame, for wooden
bridges, especially over shorter
spans, would have opened the
railway earlier, and could have
been replaced at a later date
maintenance required, without
adversely affecting the quality
of the construction. It is
interesting to note that
historians have traditionally
focused upon the marginal
difference in cost between
wooden and iron bridges, but
overlook the real loss in
Among other decis­
ions the commissioners had
declared for wooden instead of
iron bridges. Fleming had
given more thought to railway
bridging problems than any
engineer in Canada; he had
prepared a number of original
designs with a view
to arriving
at structures peculiarly suited
to the Canadian terrain
climate. Among his many
innovations was a simple
One of Flemings greatest moments was when he stood just
behind William
Van Horne and Donald Smith at the driving
of the Last Spike on the CPR at Craigellachie B.C. on
7, 1885.
It is also interesting to
note that Stevens refers to
Flemings entreaties to Prime
Minister Sir John A. Mac­
donald as a matter of loyalty,
whereas one might suspect
Macdonald was simply just
another influential Conserv­
ative carefully cultivated as an
Stevens also indic-
method of estimating strength of substrata upon whicht/~£:
bridge seats or other structures might rest. He drove an iron
tube into the··ground
to accommodate a number of rods on
which varying weights could
be placed. The resultant degree
of penetration provided the evidence from which he
computed the loads that cOllld be safely imposed.
As in the case of the basis of payment he carried
the bridging dispute
to the Prime Minister; whereupon, the
railway commissioners offered
to compromise and to allow
to build iron or steel bridges over the five largest rivers.
This concession irritated Fleming more than
it placated
him. for he was battling for a principle. He continued to
fight and eventually proved that, in additional
to all other
factors, iron bridges were cheaper than wooden bridges.
The commissioners withdrew, covering their retreat with
for all bridges over sixty feet in length to be of
iron. Again the Engineer-in-Chief refused to compromise.
In the end he had his way, except in the case of three wooden
bridges which had been built during the protracted displlte.
In this instance, however, Stevens understates the
case, for Flemings obstinacy in accepting orders from his
political masters led to a protracted dispute that took three
to resolve. In the meantime, sections of the railways
track had been laid and the abutments prepared, but no traffic
could run while contractors waited to learn if they were
installing iron or wooden bridges. Unlike the dispute over
the Grecian Bend, which took place before steel was being
laid on the line, the delay posed by the battle over the bridges
caused material damage to the railways ability to raise
revenue since it lay useless where it was all but complete in
some areas.
ates the chief engineers
insis.tence on iron bridges may have had less to do with the
practical benefits
of their construction than it did with the
principle of proving Flemings own designs, at government
risk, and expense.
Popular histories also overlook the full extent
Flemings reliance on the expertise of his subordinates like
Schreiber, Light, H.J. Cambie and Marcus Smith (who, like
Cambie, would follow him to the Canadian Pacific, and who
engaged Fleming in an Homeric battle fully detailed
in Pierre
Bertons fiIst volume
of CPR history, The National Dream)
despite the fact that Flemings 1876 history lists all those
It was Smith who, during his battle with Fleming
over the route the C.P.R. should take through the Rockies,
accused his superior of harbouring pet projects, and
Flemings obsession with the Intercolonial bridges appears
to have been another example
of this flaw in his character
(although Smith certainly appears to have had his share
pet projects, as Bertons account of the battle of the c.PR.
routes indicates.)
Fleming, however, needed such a phalanx
of able
assistants since, between April of 1871 until the
Intercolonials completion in 1876, he was dividing his time
between both the Intercolonial, the Canadian Pacific survey,
and the political hierarchy
in Ottawa. In the last two years of
the Intercolonials construction, it is Schreibers name that
appears as superintendent
of the work, and not Flemings.
This was while Fleming was recuperating form injuries
in a western mishap.
He must also have placed great reliance upon men
like his secretary, George Grant, who wrote the 1873 book
Ocean to Ocean, recounting Flemings expedition westward
in 1872. Indeed, the grammatical style
of Ocean to Ocean
and Flemings 1876 history of the Intercolonial are so similar,
it may
be concluded he did not in fact write the later history,
but dictated it to the faithful Grant, who filled in some
of the
detail. Flemings style,
as evidenced in his 1867 pamphlet,
The Intercolonial Railway: A National Military Work, was
far less succinct.
Schreiber did eventually get his due, again
following in the shadow of Fleming. In 1880 he succeeded
Fleming as
chief engineer of the CPR; in 1892 he became
deputy minister of railways and canals;
in 1905 he was named
general consulting engineer to the federal government, and
in 1916, a year after Flemings death, he received the knight­
hood he so richly deserved. By that time, however, Fleming
had received his accolades for the development of standard
ti me and his participation in the Pacific telegraph cable
scheme, leaving behind a legacy that would be frequently
examined, but rarely questioned, much less challenged.
of the foregoing is intended to suggest that
Sandford Fleming was a fraud, or charlatan, for although he
possessed a keen knack for self-promotion, the distortion
his record is more the fabrication of later historians serving
a nation seeking heroes from any quarter.
Among those historians, only Pierre Berton in his
two-volume history
of the Canadian pacific has offered a
balanced appreciation
of Flemings character and ability,
but even Berton occasionally falls victim to hero worship,
and so indelible is the image created by his predecessors,
that this more reasoned criticism falls by the wayside.
is however, a discernible pattern to Flemings­
success: wherever there was Fleming, there was Schreiber, or
Light, or another subordinate worthy of acclaim. Indeed, in
the examples
of railway construction that did not include
Schreiber, the Newfoundland Railway for instance, Flemings
achievement was less than spectacular. As a feat of
engineering, the Newfoundland Railway was downright
ordinary, as a business enterprise it was only adequate to the
of a small population. Fleming can hardly be blamed
for the latter.
In the case of the Northern Railway, Flemings
stewardship as chief engineer appears to have been a failure,
redeemed only
by the return of Cumberland and Sclu·eiber.
Where his battles with James Livesey, the
of the Intercolonial Railway, and his financial
in the Springhill mines are concerned, Fleming was
very much a man
of his time. Engineers of the Nineteenth
Century were the technological titans of society; the
equivalent of todays rocket scientists and computer geeks.
Society looked to them for the answers to a broad spectrum
of problems; from railways to buildings, roads and bridges
to municipal sewage disposal systems.
Such praise was heaped upon these men, that it
must at times have been
an embanassment to the more modest
of engineers. This description of a chief engineer, from
Harpers monthly magazine of 1874, was typical:
To succeed in his work he must have qualities which
are rare, qualities which no mere school
of engineering can
In his profession, as in every other, there is a certain
something indefinable in native genius, something which
may perish unused
for want of development and training,
but which no mere development
or training can supply. The
engineer must be a man
of ready parts. He must have himself
a/ways well in hanel. He
must understand /Ulman nature,
and know how
to deal with it. He must be equally at home in
the log-hut among the mountains and in the velvet carpeted
and mahogany furnished office in the great
city. He must be
an man
of quick eye and abundant resources, able to meet
an exigency,
or to vary in detail and on the moment a
carefully matures plan for the purpose of avoiding an
unexpected obstacle, and reaching the general result with
the least expenditure
of time and money. The engineer has
tunneled the Alps, and an expert assures us that with money
enough it would be possible to construct a permanent
floating bridge across the Atlantic. But there are a great
many things which it does not
pay to accomplish, and the
successful engineer must be able to subordinate professional
pride to practical results; to avoid obstacles that can be
avoided, and to overcome only those that he cannot escape;
to make the fewest possible rock cuttings, tunnels, culverts,
and bridges; and to be known and honored less for what he
has done than
for what he has avoided doing.
Fleming certainly was worthy of this definition
except, perhaps, where his pride and notoriety were
concerned. Nineteen~h Century politicians were obsessed
with the concept
of progress, and engineers were the agents
of that progress, delivering on the promises made on the
They were therefore inextricably involved in the
political games that were played about any great undertaking
of public work, and Flemings record is clearly one of a man
who learned
to play those games shrewdly.
There is a final irony to the story of Sandford
Fleming and his railways, at least as far as Nova Scotia is
.concerned. The September 1 1899 edition
oUhe Morning
carried the following news item:
The first automobile ever seen in Nova Scotia,
arrived on the Allan liner Siberian from Liverpool this
It is a gasoline horseless carriage, owned by
William Exshaw, son-in-law of Sir Sanford Fleming. It was
built in France and has been run
by Mr. Exshaw since the
of the year. The propelling motor is operated by gasoline.
The automobile
is boxed up, but Mr. Exshaw expects to be
driving it around the streets
in a few days.
While he did much to develop the railways, it
appears Fleming was also responsible for sowing the seeds
that would ultimately lead
to the decline of the railways, the
BACK COVER: The Intercolonial Railways big grain elevator in Saint John N.B. is the subject of this phoro taken in the
of 1899. To the right appears the back of ICR locomotive 490, while open car 48 of the Saint John Railway (built in
Montreal in 1898) rumbles over the crossing. To the left is the track by which the ICRs rival, the CPR, reached the city in 1889.
of New Brunswick Museum.
This issue of Canadian Rail delivered to pruner August 7, 2001.
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