Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Engineers

Edited by
Rod Millard

DONKIN, Hiram , b. 2 March 1845, River Philip, Nova Scotia; d. 8 January 1934, Halifax, Nova Scotia. He began his career as a rodman on the Pictou Branch Railway in 1863. From 1867 to 1874, he was an assistant survey engineer with the Intercolonial Railway, and from 1874 to 1876 worked on a line from Digby to Yarmouth for the Kent Southern Railway. Between 1876 and 1879, he was a divisional engineer overseeing construction for the Eastern Extension Railway from New Glasgow to the Strait of Canso. In 1879, he joined the Canadian Pacific Railway as a divisional engineer in NS, and in 1882, supervised the construction of the Manitoba and Northwestern Railway. He returned to the CPR as a contractor in 1883, but left that company in 1885 to survey the Cape Breton Railway. Promoted resident chief engineer in 1886, he supervised the construction from the Strait of Canso to Sydney. In 1887, he became resident chief engineer of the Dominion Coal Company and constructed a railway between Sidney and Louisburg (as it was spelled until 1966). He was promoted to resident manager in 1896. Five years later, he began designing and constructing the coal shipping piers at North Syndey, Port Hastings and Pictou Harbour for the NS Steel and Coal Company. In 1897 he was appointed NS's Deputy Commissioner of Public Works and Mines, retaining that position until 1923. A charter member and five-time councillor of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers (1887), Donkin played a major role in the design and construction of NS's railway, coal, and steel enterprises.

Trevor A. Corless