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Railway History by Jay Underwood

Fleming’s Army

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Fleming's Army, Jay Underwood, Summer 2011, Transportation, 224 pages, maps, 60 photographs, 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-897190-71-5 (paper) . . . $29.95

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Fleming’s Army: the civil engineers who built Canada’s Intercolonial Railway

In the years immediately following Canada’s Confederation, the designing and building of the Intercolonial Railway was the most important and challenging civil engineering project undertaken by the new country. Conventional history has long left the impression that Canada’s first national railway was built single-handedly by chief engineer Sandford Fleming, when in fact he was assisted by a veritable army of engineers, several of whom were equally qualified to hold his post.

This book, the first to fully describe the careers of these men, reveals a corps of geniuses – and some charlatans – who all played a role in the completion of the Intercolonial Railway, the line that bound a country together with a ribbon of steel. Author Jay Underwood tells the stories of the individuals who came together in what became an international consortium of men. They combined their skills and resources to bring about this major work, showing how co-operation, determination, and technical capabilities were needed in equal measure to achieve such success.

There has never before been such a comprehensive catalogue of the work of the engineers who built railways, canals, docks, and waterworks to improve the quality of life in a young nation. Many of these men have gone virtually unnoticed in the bright spotlight that has been shone on Sandford Fleming; several saw their careers end in failure, and as many as seven died in the service of Canada while building the great railway. Many of the more than ninety engineers assembled in “Fleming’s Army” went on to other great achievements, learning and honing their skills on the Intercolonial before fanning out across North America. Sandford Fleming was credited with completing the national trans-continental line, the Canadian Pacific Railway, a decade later.

This 224-page book, with over sixty photographs, was written for those interested in the history of Canadian railways, the development of the Canada’s civil engineering profession, family genealogy, and Canadian history.


Author Biography

Jay Underwood (1958-2013) lived in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia, and had a life-long connection with the military and the railways. Born in Changi, Singapore, son of a Royal Air Force non-commissioned officer, he earned his diploma in journalism from Holland College of Applied Arts and Technology in Charlottetown, PEI. He was city editor of the Truro, NS, Daily News, and served for several years as the information officer for 1st battalion, the Nova Scotia Highlanders (North), Canada’s largest militia infantry battalion.

He joined the Halifax Daily News as senior copy editor and a member of the editorial board. His books include Ketchum’s Folly, a history of the Chignecto Ship Railway in Cumberland County (Lancelot Press 1995), Full Steam Ahead, (Lancelot Press, 1996), a biography of Nova Scotia born Alexander Mitchell, the designer of the 2-8-0 Consolidation type steam locomotive that went on to become one of the leading designs of the steam era.

Underwood acted as president of the Nova Scotia Railway Heritage Society, and was a contributor to Canadian Rail, the journal of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association. His article “Fruit of a Poisoned Tree,” an examination of the adoption of standard gauge on Canadian railways, won the association’s award for best article in 2002.


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