Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Engineers

Edited by
Rod Millard

SULLIVAN, John G. , b. 11 Jan. 1863 Bushnell's Basin N.Y.; d. 7 Aug. 1938, Winnipeg. Receiving a civil engineering degree from Cornell University (1888), he worked for various American railways until July 1893 when the Alberta Railway and Coal Company employed him until a strike stopped work. In Oct. 1894 he returned to the United States to work for several railways in the Pacific northwest. From 1900 to 1905, he was a Canadian Pacific Railway division engineer west of Fort William, and from Sept. 1905 to Jan. 1907 was assistant chief engineer of the Panama Canal. Returning to the CPR in Feb. 1907, he rose to become chief engineer by 1915. The construction of the CPR's five mile long Connaught Tunnel replacing Rogers Pass in 1916 won him international attention. Rejecting European and American methods, he modified A. C. Dennis' plan to first bore a small pilot tunnel parallelling the centre line of the projected double track tunnel and then blasting in rings through solid rock. The work was completed ahead of schedule in Dec. 1916 at the height of the First World War under Dennis' supervision. It was North America's longest tunnel. From 1918 to 1935, Sullivan reported on projects in Canada, the United States and Britain. Naturalised in 1905, he chaired the Manitoba Drainage Commission (1919-22), and with the backing of the pro-business Citizens' League, he was elected a Winnipeg city alderman, serving four terms. A member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Railway Engineering Association (president 1917), he was elected president of the Engineering Institute of Canada in 1922. A Roman Catholic, he belonged to the Knights of Columbus, as well as the Rotary, Manitoba and St. Charles Country Clubs, Winnipeg. In May 1936, the University of Manitoba conferred an honorary LL.D. on him. The following year, Sullivan was awarded the EIC's highest award, the Sir John Kennedy Medal.

Rod Millard