The Minister of Railways is having more than his share of trouble over WEie Quebec bridge. Mr. Graham has been of necessity pretty much in the hands of the expert engineers, who have been advising him as to the tenders for the new bridge and the conditions under which it shall be built. He inherited rather a bad mess and has found it far from easy to clean it up.
There is one thing that Mr. Graham should, and no doubt will, put first in considering the question-the element of safety. The matters of cost, elegance of design, and even convenience of navigation must all be subordinated to safety. One Quebec bridge disaster was enough. It may be that some old-fashioned bridge engineer who puts safety first is holding out against a spidery bridge and in favour of some massive structure like that across the Forth, the unnecessary strength of which provokes the mirth of the modern bridge builder. The ' Globe' does not know what the points of difference are, but it is certain that the people of Canada are for the old fogey ideas that mean unnecessary strength rather than for the sacrifice of assured safety to cheapness. No matter wdiat the cost, the Quebec bridge must be built to last.
No fair minded person, whatever his politics, can cavil at that view: safety is
the first consideration, and we have had enough experience in connection with this bridge to indicate that the question of safety is not yet finally settled. I may, without accepting responsibility for any condemnation that appears in these articles, but merely to call the attention of the minister to the matter, read two or three passages from articles published in the ' Scientific American ' of last year. I do not understand that the bridge here referred to is the bridge which the government now contemplates building, but some of the suggestions in these articles may be useful. In its issue of February 12, 1910, the ' Scientific American ' refers to the proposition that a country may be judged as to its capacity by the kinds of structures it erects, and it says:
When the Canadian government took hold ot the matter and lent all its powerful prestige and financial assistance to the scheme it was accepted as an augury that the new bridge would be worthy of the great Dominion across the border line. We have to confess, however, that the bridge which it is now proposed to build is decidedly disappointing The type selected and the method of treatment are not up to the latest standards of bridge engineering. In other words, the design is distinctly commonplace; aesthetically I- has not a single redeeming feature. In re-designing the bridge the Canadian government could have made more sure of securing the best possible designs if they had thrown the bridge open to world wide competition.
That is an important statement, and although it is pretty late in the day to suggest it now, it might be even at this date worth while to consider whether that is not the position that should be taken by the government. I understand that the'engineers are, in a sense, at loggerheads, that they did not agree upon the design when it was prepared, that the expensive design prepared was practically abandoned, and the government now adopts the very doubtful _ expedient of advertising for tenders, telling those who tender that they are to prepare their own plans and state the amount for which they will undertake to erect the bridge. That seems to me a job lot way of doing it, and I have my doubts as to the wisdom or safety of this plan. This paper says:
We should then have learned whether the strongest, most economical, and most beautiful bridge could have been secured under the cantilever or under the suspension system of design. Personally, we believe that on all three counts it would be possible to produce a suspension bridge that would be greatly superior to the structure which it is now proposed to build. The suspension bridge, especially when built of these great proportions, is a far easier bridge to erect, not being subjected to those heavy erection stresses which are the peril of large cantilever erection. Moreover, the essential elements, namely, the anchorages, the towers, and the main cables, are at all times entirely free from suspicion, and may be erected with the absolute certainty that they are well within the limits of safe construction. With these main elements assured, it is possible for failures to occur in subordinate elements, such as the suspenders and stiffening trusses, without in the least endangering the integrity of the bridge as a whole.
Not so, however, the cantilever bridge, the greater part of whose intricate framework is in compression. Let but one among the multitudinous members of the main trusses fall, and the whole structure will be thrown into immediate and absolute ruin-as witness the mass of tangled steel now lying in the St. Lawrence river.
For the credit of the profession of bridge engineering in the new world; for the prestige of the great and growing people of Canada; and above all for the greater safety of the public at large, we trust that, before the final plans of this great bridge are adopted, the Canadian government will take steps to make it certain that the final bridge will, from every point of view-engineering, architectural and artistic-be the noblest work of its kind yet erected in any country.
Then if I might read a line or two a few pages further on, where they give a view of the Forth bridge in Scotland, the Quebec bridge which collapsed, and Of what was at the time of the writing of this article, the proposed bridge, in other words the government design, the design prepared by the government experts. They say:
The commission was appointed about eighteen months ago. In the interim the preparation of the plans has cost about $150,000, and as the result of its eighteen months' work the commission has produced the very commonplace design, herewith illustrated, regarding which there is a general professional opinion that both structurally and aesthetically it is distinctly inferior to the Forth bridge, which was completed nearly twenty years ago.
If the bridge is built according to the proposed plans, it will not only be of inferior merit, considered from the bridge engineer's standpoint, but will also be the ugliest bridge of monumental proportions among those hitherto proposed or built. It presents the appearance of a monotonous mesh of triangles and straight lines. From abutment to abutment there is not one graceful line in the whole structure; not the slightest attempt to combine the beautiful with the useful. The faulty structure which collapsed had at least the redeeming feature that the oulines were structurally and aesthetically correct; and although the Forth bridge has been made the subject of much criticism by the artist and the architect, it must be regarded as having distinct claims to beauty when compared, as on the accompanying page, with the new plans for the Quebec bridge.
It would seem, however, that the board has some doubts as to the merits of its own work; for it now invites competitive plans from contractors, which are to be filed by May 1, 1910; the plans to be drawn at the contractor's own