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Road Building

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Noah Bearinger worked at Montreal River.


“Our work, road building, was mostly back from the camp up in the hills along the route where the bottom leg of the Trans-Canada Highway is now #17. A lot of the boys spent most of the winter shoveling gravel onto trucks. The largest pit had seven trucks with five boys to each truck. Loading trucks by hand with mostly frozen gravel was slow tedious work. The temperature during the day seldom rose above zero F, and at night it dropped to anywhere from zero to 48 below [-18 to -45 Celsius], which was the coldest. One truck driver had told me that it gets so cold up there that your breath freezes and turns into hoary frost before it hits the ground. I had considered that a tall tale, but I found out it was true.”


“Some boys cut firewood up in the bush and hauled it down for heating the camps. A lot of it was birch, spruce, pine and some maple. Surveyors would go ahead on snowshoes and stake out the course of the road. After the end of February it was almost impossible to get around any other way where no trail was made.”


Grubbing trees for road building

Sketch of Clearing New Road Sketch of Drilling Rock


“By springtime our work had taken us four miles from camp into the unknown. It was all uphill from the camp and about the halfway mark there was a place we called the rock pile. Here the road curved around a small mountain almost too deep to travel at first. An air compressor was set up here to operate jack hammers. They drilled holes ranging from three to thirty feet in depth on a steep slope. Two hundred or more of these holes were loaded with dynamite and wired together to a charger at a safe distance. One big BOOM sent the whole mountainside crashing down the slope. Maple trees were sheared off like matchsticks. Large chunks of rock were split with stone hammers, loaded onto wheelbarrows and dumped further down the slope.”



“A small group of boys were assigned to build culverts with peeled cedar logs in some deep ravines. First they had to clear away snow which was often four to six feet [1.2 – 1.8 m] deep. Then they would dig in two rows of posts about five feet apart with cross members over the top. The sides and top were built like log cabins and later covered with fill."


“I always had in mind that if I ever got back to that area, I would try to locate one of those culverts and see how they withstood the elements. Last fall on a trip to Wisconsin we stopped in at Montreal River . It was early in the morning and everything was wet, which was not the most desirable conditions, but I found that I had no idea where to look for one of the culverts. When we returned home, a friend told me that the highway was at its third setting already, so I imagine those culverts are all buried.” [ASM , 94-106]

A lot of hard work went into building roads, but the COs also built trails.  David Jantzi shares how at the time he thought this was unimportant but has since changed his mind.

Felled trees for making a road. Drilling blasting holes for roads. Clearing the area for a road at Clear Lake


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