Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Engineers

Edited by
Rod Millard

JENNINGS, William Tyndale, b. 19 May 1869, Toronto, Ontario; d. 24 October 1906, Lansing, Michigan. Educated at the Model Grammar School and Upper Canada College, Jennings began his career in 1869 with the Ontario Department of Public Works, moving to the Great Western Railway in 1870 to become a resident engineer three years later in southwest Ontario under John Kennedy. Appointed a locating engineer in 1875 on the BC section of the future Canadian Pacific Railway, he surveyed the route through Fraser Canyon and other difficult terrain. Appointed a CPR district engineer in 1879, he had charge of heavy construction from Rat Portage (Kenora, ON) to Eagle Lake. From 1883 to 1885, as chief engineer of construction for Andrew Onderdonk's company, Jennings supervised the building of 350 difficult miles of CPR line inland from the Pacific. Moving to ON, Jennings then had charge of construction of CPR lines from Woodstock to London; London to Detroit; the Wingham extension; and the Guelph junction (as consulting engineer); the eastern entrance to Toronto; and the wharves west of Yonge Street. As Toronto city engineer (1891-2) he recognized his department and was responsible for the Sherbourne Street Bridge; Carlaw Avenue, and King Street subways (the latter from Charles Sproatt's plans), and the Toronto Island Ferry slips. In private practice, he built two electric lines: the Niagara Falls Park and River Railway, and the Galt, Preston and Hespler Street Railway, as well as a railway connecting Tilsonburg and Port Burwell. From 1892 to 1895, he was chief engineer of the CPR's proposed Crows Nest Pass line. He reported on coastal passes leading to the Yukon interior (1897), and the following year, the region between North Bay and James Bay for the Dominion Government and the Toronto and Hudson Bay Railway Commission respectively. Also, he examined the dry docks at Halifax and Esquimalt. During his final years, he was consulting engineer to the Electrical Development Company and the Toronto and Niagara Power Company, and in 1906 was preparing a report for the federal government on the Louise Basin at Quebec. A member of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Great Britain and the American Society of Civil Engineers, Jennings was a charter member of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers (1887), and elected president in 1899. An advocate of scientific engineering education, he also supported the enactment of restrictive engineering licensing laws to raise the status of engineering. The Canadian Engineer reported that Jennings's remarkable career was practically the "history of Civil Engineering in the Dominion."

Rod Millard