Sandford Fleming, Engineer-in-Chief of the Pacific Railway, is a son of Andrew Greig Fleming, and Elizabeth née Arnot, and was born in Kirkaldy, Scotland, January 7, 1827. He was educated in’ the grammar school of his native town; paid special attention to the mathematics, and at an early age was articled to an engineer and surveyor, John Sang, a gentleman well known in North Britain, more especially in connection with water works and other works of various kinds. In 1845 Mr. Fleming came to Canada, finding but little employment for several years, and engaging, meanwhile, in various congenial pursuits of a scientific or professional character. In 1852 he was appointed 2nd Assistant Engineer under Messrs. Cumberland, Chief, and Mr. Brunel, 1st Assistant on the engineering staff on the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron (now the Northern) Railway of Canada. He remained for eleven years in the employment of that Railway Company, and for about two-thirds of the time was Chief Engineer of the road. About the same period he was also Chief Engineer of the Northwest Railway, the Toronto Esplanade, and other important works. In 1863 he was sent to England as a delegate, bearing a memorial from the people of the Red River settlement, praying for the opening of such a line of road as would afford that settlement free access without dependence on a foreign power; and in the same year was appointed by the Governments of the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and also by the Imperial Government, to conduct the preliminary survey of the Intercolonial Railway. That important task he accomplished, completing all the location surveys, and, as Chief Engineer, superintending the construction of the great enterprise to its completion and opening for public traffic on July 1, 1876.
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On the 5th of May, 1871, while the Intercolonial Railway was in process of construction, Mr. Fleming was appointed Engineer-in-Chief to prosecute the surveys of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the next year conducted an expedition from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, through Canadian territory, passing from Halifax over the line of the Intercolonial Railway, then in process of construction, thence over the general route of the Pacific line. The expedition performed the long journey in a shorter space of time than it had ever been accomplished before or has been since, viz.: within three months from Halifax to New Westminster at the mouth of the River Fraser. For an account of this journey see “Ocean to Ocean,” by the Rev. Principal Grant, of Queen’s College.
Mr. Fleming still retains the office of Engineer-in-Chief of the Pacific Railway. He has made a large number of able reports on railways and public works, which reports have been printed and widely circulated. On the completion of the railway connecting Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with Quebec, he issued a volume entitled “The Intercolonial: an historical sketch of the inception and construction of the line of railways uniting the inland and Atlantic Provinces of the Dominion,” published in August, 1876. Mr. Fleming has given most of his days, and the best of his energies and thoughts, to Civil Engineering, and the subject of railways in connection with the opening up of Canada, and the development of the vast natural resources of his adopted country. In his own particular province he has no peer in the Dominion. For his imperial and colonial services, Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to raise him to the dignity of a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George.
In August, 1876, immediately after the publication of his history of the Intercolonial mentioned above, Mr. Fleming started for the Old World, visiting his native land, and making a somewhat extended tour through Europe. He returned in January of the following year, with his mind greatly enriched by the fruits of a careful observation.
Mr. Fleming married Anne Jean, daughter of James Hall, Esq., Sheriff of Peterboro’, January 3, 1855. They have had nine children, of whom six are living.