Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Engineers

Edited by
Rod Millard

CAMBIE, Henry John , b. 25 Oct. 1836, Tipperary County, Ireland; d. 23 April 1928, Vancouver. Arriving in Canada aged 16, he entered Walter Shanly's office as an apprentice. From 1853 to 1859, he did survey work for Casimir Gzowski's company on the western part of the Grand Trunk Railway; for the government of Upper Canada (1860-62), and for the Intercolonial Railway in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. (1863-66). From 1867 to 1868, he was engaged in locating and constructing the Windsor and Annapolis Railway, and for the next three years was in charge of work on the Intercolonial in Quebec and New Brunswick. In 1874, he conducted a series of explorations and surveys throughout B.C. for the dominion government, and, in 1877, surveyed a route through the Fraser Canyon for the Canadian Pacific Railway. This discovery led to the decision to select Burrard Inlet as the railway's terminus. In 1880, he built the CPR line through the Fraser Canyon. The location and construction of this part of the CPR was his principal engineering achievement. Afterwards, he became chief engineer of construction of the road between Savona and Shuswap Lake, and, in 1886, was appointed engineer to the CPR's western division. He was made consulting engineer in 1902 for the B.C. district, and retired from the CPR in 1920. He joined the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers in 1888, and spent five years on its council. He was one of the earliest engineers to make a contribution to geology. His 1902 paper "An Unrecorded Property of Clay," published in the CSCE's Transactions, (Vol. 15), described a landslide in B.C., and postulated a cause and possible solution. He was involved in the development of Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican) in Vancouver, and died of pneumonia at 91.

Rhea Harris