Robert W. Passfield
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Publications: Articles
Books Chapters Articles Brochures Reviews

Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology   
"Swing Bridges on the Rideau Canal" by Robert W. Passfield, in IA: Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Vol. 2, no. 1, l976, pp. 59-64. This article identifies the various types of moveable bridges extant on the Rideau Canal in the early 1970s, and comments on the general development of moveable bridges on the canal since its construction in l826-l832. The article is illustrated with historic engineering drawings, and photographs of the extant moveable bridge structures.

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HSTC Bulletin   
"Ordnance Supply Problems in the Canadas: The Quest for an Improved Military Transport System, l814-l828" by Robert W. Passfield, in HSTC Bulletin: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology and Medicine, Vol. V, No. 3, September l981, pp.187-209. This article sets forth the military transport problems experienced by the British Army during the War of l812, and traces post-war efforts to develop a safe interior communication independent of the St. Lawrence River. The efficiency and operating costs of rail, road, and canal are compared in their contemporary state of technological development ca. 1825, and in the context of the Upper Canadian environment, in an assessment of why the British Ordnance Department ultimately opted for the construction of a military canal through the interior of Upper Canada.

CIS Centennial Convention Proceedings

“A Wilderness Survey: Laying out the Rideau Canal, 1826-1832" by Robert W. Passfield, in CIS Centennial Convention Proceedings (Ottawa: Canadian Institute of Surveying, Vol. l, l982), pp. 291-313. The laying out of a canal was one of the most difficult tasks that a 19th century surveyor could undertake, but even more so in a heavily-forested wilderness environment where traditional surveying methods were largely inapplicable. This paper comments on the surveying systems employed in the British Army's topographical survey in Britain, and traces the adaptations that had to be made, and the bush surveying techniques that were adopted, in laying out the Rideau Canal through a tract of wilderness. This paper was subsequently reprinted, at the request of the editor, in the HSTC Bulletin: Journal of the the History of Canadian Science, Technology and Medicine, Vol. VII, No. 2, May 1983, pp. 80-97.

Horizon Canada   
"Building the Rideau Canal" by Robert W. Passfield, in Horizon Canada, Vol. 2, No. 14, May l985, pp. 320-325. This is a popular history style account of the building of the Rideau Canal. It was prepared to reach a broad popular audience beyond subscribers to professional journals.

Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology   
"The Role of the Historian in Reconstructing Historic Engineering Structures: Parks Canada's Experience on the Rideau Canal, l976-l983" by Robert W. Passfield, in IA: Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Vol. ll, No.l, l985, pp. 1-28. ( Awarded the 'Norton Prize' by the Society for Industrial Archeology in June l987, “for outstanding scholarship in industrial archeology”). This article comprises a case study of a historian's contribution to several lock reconstruction projects on the Rideau Canal. It documents the historian's role in the utilization of historical sources; in the planning and consultations process; and in the selection of treatment options for preserving and restoring historic engineering structures.

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Journal of the International Water Resources Association   
"The Rideau Canal Waterway" by Robert W. Passfield, in Water International, Official Journal of the International Water Resources Association (IWRA), (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois), Special Canadian Issue, Vol. 12, No. 4, December l987, pp. 189-194. This paper comments on the topography of the Rideau waterways system, its engineering structures, and its functioning as a water control system. It was prepared, at the invitation of the International Water Resources Association, as a contribution to a 'Special Canadian Issue' to mark the Sixth World Water Conference of the International Water Resources Association.

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Chateauguay Valley Historical Society Annual Journal   
"The Powerscourt Covered Bridge - A McCallum Inflexible Arched Truss Bridge" by Robert W. Passfield, in Chateauguay Valley Historical Society Annual Journal, Vol. 22, June 1989, pp. 3-14. This article provides a brief history, and photo recording of the Powerscourt Covered Bridge, and assesses its historic importance in the context of the development of the McCallum inflexible arched truss, and covered bridge construction in Canada. It also traces the efforts of members of the local community to preserve the bridge.

To order: (search) Chateauguay Valley Historical Society

Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology

Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology
"Industrial Heritage Commemoration in the Canadian Parks Service" by Robert W. Passfield, in IA: Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Part I, Vol. 16, No. 2, 1990, pp. 15-39, Part II, Vol. 17, no. 1, 1991, pp. 33-67. This two-part article traces the involvement of the Canadian Parks Service (now Parks Canada) in the field of industrial heritage commemoration; describes the types of studies and methodologies employed by Parks Canada; and sets forth the role of the various service branches in carrying out the Parks Canada’s commemoration and heritage preservation mandate. It also lists the major studies and recording projects completed by Parks Canada to that date in the industrial heritage field.

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The importance of this article in conveying to the international heritage community the mandate of Parks Canada, and the scope and nature of Parks Canada’s involvement in researching, recording, and preserving industrial heritage sites and artifacts, is underlined by its being cited in an article by Christopher Andreae and John D. Light, “Industrial Archaeology in Canada: a Binocular View” (IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Vol. 25, 1999, pp. 65-71) on the development of industrial archaeology in Canada. Andreae and Light point out that throughout the 1970s and 1980s it was Parks Canada that “not only had created but also had set and maintained the standards for the practice of both historical and industrial archaeology throughout the country”, in the general absence of formal courses and field training in the discipline of industrial archaeology at Canadian universities at that time.

AQPI 1993

“La Politique des Ponts métalliques” by Robert W. Passfield, in Bulletin Aqpi: Association québécoise pour le patrimoine industriel (Montréal, Québec, volume 5, numéro 3, printemps, 1993, 3 p.). This article (in French) provides a brief comment on an innovative riveted-truss bridge building program, “La Politique des Ponts métalliques”, introduced by the province of Quebec in the period 1887-1892, and identifies and describes the six historic bridges that are extant from that program. It was written to inform French-speaking industrial archaeologists of the historic importance of the surviving bridges to encourage support for their preservation. Translated by Claire Truchon.

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Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology   
“The Turcot Riveted-Arch Truss Bridge: ‘As rigid and unyielding as a stone arch’” by Robert W. Passfield, in IA: Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Vol. 23, No. 2, 1997, pp. 21-48. This article provides a brief history of an unusual riveted-arch truss bridge discovered at Georgetown, Quebec. It establishes the association of the bridge with a long-forgotten provincial bridge building program in Quebec, “La politique des ponts métalliques” (1887-1892), which was introduced by Gérard Macquet, a Belgian engineer engaged by the provincial government. The article places the Turcot Bridge within the context of the introduction of riveted-truss bridges to North America; European influences on metal truss bridge design; the transition from pin-connected wrought iron to riveted mild steel truss bridges; and the pioneering of provincial highway bridge design standards. Six surviving Macquet riveted-truss bridges were located, dated, and identified according to their novel truss types, and were placed within an historical context. (The editor’s preface to the IA journal issue refers to this article as “a classic example of industrial archeology”.)

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Following the publication of this article identifying the six surviving Macquet riveted truss bridges, and their historic significance, the Quebec provincial ministère des Transports undertook a series of restoration projects to maintain and preserve the six surviving structures. (See, for example, Jean Lefrançois, “Les ponts Macquet, La Réhabilitation du Pont de Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier”, L’Équipe, Journal du ministère des Transports, Vol. 32, no. 6, septembre-octobre, 2002, pp. 10-11.)

Chateauguay Valley Historical Society Annual Journals   
“The Turcot Bridge and the Politics of Bridge Building” by Robert W. Passfield, in Chateauguay Valley Historical Society Annual Journal (Huntingdon, Quebec), Vol. 31, 1998, pp. 1-12. This article focuses on the local controversies that surrounded the construction of the Turcot riveted-truss bridge, and the more recent efforts (since successful) to preserve the bridge.

To order : (search) Chateauguay Valley Historical Society

Canal History and Technology Proceedings   
“Construction of the Victoria Tubular Bridge” by Robert W. Passfield, in Canal History and Technology Proceedings (Canal History and Technology Press: Easton, PA), Vol. XX, 2001, pp. 5-52. This paper traces the design evolution and construction of the 6,592 foot-long tubular railway bridge erected across the St. Lawrence River at Montreal in 1854-1859. It relates how the world`s then-greatest bridge construction project was transformed from a looming failure into a triumph of bridge construction engineering through the introduction of innovative steam-powered construction machinery. The Victoria Bridge is placed within the context of the design evolution and construction of tubular bridges in Britain; and the failure of the tubular bridge prototype to establish itself as a long-span structure in competition with the wrought iron truss bridge in both North America and Europe, is examined and explained from a technological viewpoint. Lastly, the role of Canadian contractors in bringing the bridge construction project to a successful conclusion through the introduction of innovative steam-powered boom derricks, travelling gantry cranes, and centrifugal pumps, is set forth; as well as the impact of the construction of the Victoria Tubular Bridge on Montreal and the development of Canada’s railway transportation and trade patterns.

To view or download: victoria-bridge-web.pdf (14.8 Mb)

International Engineering History and Heritage   
“Commemorating Historic Engineering Landmarks in Canada” by Robert W. Passfield, in International Engineering History and Heritage, Proceedings of the Third National Congress on Civil Engineering History and Heritage (American Society of Civil Engineers: Reston, Virginia, 2001), pp. 175-184. This paper sets forth the Canadian approach to commemorating historic engineering landmarks; the guidelines developed for evaluating historic engineering landmarks; and what had been done to that date in commemorating historic engineering landmarks in Canada.

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Select: International Engineering History and Heritage

Manitoba History

“‘Duff’s Ditch’: The Origins, Construction and Impact of the Red River Floodway” by Robert W. Passfield, in Manitoba History, No. 42, Autumn/Winter, 2001-2002, pp. 2-13. This article traces the design evolution and construction of the 30-mile long Red River Floodway within the historical context of the major Red River floods at Winnipeg; and assesses the efficacy of the floodway’s design during the “Flood of the Century” in 1997. It concludes with an evaluation of the historic significance of the Red River Floodway as an engineering achievement.

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Select: Manitoba Historical Society
On-line Copy: (search) Archive: Manitoba History No. 42

Canal History and Technology Proceedings

“Construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway” by Robert W. Passfield, in Canal History and Technology Proceedings (Canal History and Technology Press: Easton, PA), Vol. XXII, 2003, pp. 7-56. This article examines the origins of the St. Lawrence Seaway construction project; delineates its organizational structure; and provides an overview history of its construction with a focus on the construction technologies and project management system employed, and the extent of the Canadian and American contributions to the project. It concludes with an assessment of the engineering significance of the St. Lawrence Seaway project in comparison with other monumental engineering projects of that era.

To view or download: st-lawrence-seaway-construction-web.pdf
(6.3 Mb)

Canal History and Technology Proceedings

“Design Evolution: Reconstructed Timber Swing Bridges on the Rideau Canal” by Robert W. Passfield, in Canal History and Technology Proceedings, Vol. XXVI, March 2007, pp. 1- 41. This article records and documents the provenance, the original design, and structural evolution of the Rideau Canal centre-bearing timber swing bridge from its introduction on the canal in 1866, through a succession of replacement-in-kind reconstructions at roughly 12 to 15 year, until 1972 when Parks Canada acquired the Rideau Canal under a mandate to preserve its historic structures. It also provides insights into the art of empirical engineering, and the traditional timber bridge building culture of the 19th century.

To view or download: timber-bridge-design-evolution-web.pdf (5.9 Mb)

Canal History and Technology Proceedings

“Reconstructing Timber Swing Bridges at Parks Canada” by Robert W. Passfield, in Canal History and Technology Proceedings”, Vol. XXVI, March 2007, pp. 42-76. This article treats the reconstruction of four timber swing bridges undertaken by Parks Canada in the period 1978-1986. It identifies and documents several departures introduced during the reconstructions; and assesses the historical accuracy of the reconstructions. In doing so, it compares two different approaches to reconstruction; and comments on the efficacy of ‘ekki’– a West-African hardwood – in facilitating the attaining of a highly accurate reconstruction while permitting a doubling of the load carrying capacity.

To view or download: timber-bridge-reconstruction-web.pdf (6.1 Mb)

Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering

“Philip Louis Pratley (1884-1958): bridge design engineer” by Robert W. Passfield, in the Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering/Revue canadienne de Génie Civil, Vol. 34, No. 5, May 2007, pp. 637-650. During his professional career P. L. Pratley, a Montréal consulting engineer, was responsible for the design and erection of many of Canada’s most outstanding long-span highway bridges. For over forty years Pratley was in the forefront of his profession in Canada in designing bridge structures that embodied the latest state-of-the-art advances in design theory, construction technologies, and structural materials; and his published technical writings conveyed the latest developments in bridge design and construction practice. The present article provides an overview of his outstanding career as a bridge design engineer.

To view or download: philip-louis-pratley-web.pdf (0.9 Mb)

The Journal for the Society of Industrial Archeology
"Evaluating Authenticity: Reconstructed Timber Swing Bridges" by Robert W. Passfield, in IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Volume 31, No. 2, 2005, pp. 5-26. When Parks Canada acquired the Rideau Canal in 1972 under a mandate to preserve its historic structures, there were five reconstructed timber bridges extant on the waterway. Subsequent research revealed that the design prototype for the timber swing bridges had been introduced on the Rideau Canal in 1866; that the bridges had evolved within a continuing traditional culture of conservation through replacement-in-kind reconstructions; and that the swing bridges had been reconstructed at 12- to 15-year intervals over the course of more than a century. This article evaluates the authenticity of the five reconstructed timber swing bridges within that particular cultural context to determine whether they were 'what they were purported to be' - an evolved integral form of the original timber swing bridge that conserved the genuine heritage values that conveyed the significance and character of the original structure within its setting. In so doing, the article adapts and applies the revised test of authenticity developed by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre at the Nara Conference on Authenticity (Nara, Japan, November 1994) to industrial archaeology and provides a case study of a new approach to industrial heritage evaluation that recognizes reconstruction as a legitimate conservation approach.

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The Journal for the Society of Industrial Archeology
“St. Andrew’s Caméré Curtain Bridge Dam, Lockport, Manitoba” by Robert W. Passfield, IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2007, pp. 4-34. This article describes and analyses the design evolution and construction of a moveable curtain dam that was constructed across the Red River at the St. Andrew’s Rapids in 1907-1910 by the federal Department of Public Works. A novel type of moveable dam developed in France, it was constructed on an unprecedentedly large scale in Canada and adopted to electrical power operation. A postscript comments on the heritage value assessment that led to its commemoration in 1990 as a structure of ‘national historic and architectural significance’, and describes the restoration work undertaken subsequently to ensure its conservation.

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The Journal for the Society of Industrial Archeology
“Forging a Multi-faceted Discipline: A Review Essay”, by Robert W. Passfield in IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, Volume 38, No. 2, 2012, pp. 69-74. [Submitted: August 2013; published: July 2015] This review essay provides a succinct summary of the origin and evolution of the industrial heritage field, the best current practices in the recording, preservation, and presentation of industrial heritage sites world-wide, as well as comment on the ‘re-tooling’ that the field has undergone since the 1950s in its expansion to include industrial cultural landscapes, industrial processes, urban regeneration, eco-museums, and the working life of industrial communities, as presented in the book under review. The mandate and organization of TICCIH (The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage), is also set forth. In doing so, the review essay provides a synthesis of the contributions to the book of 34 international specialists -- members of TICCIH – on the ‘re-tooling’ of the industrial heritage field and the current state-of-the-art. Lastly, comment is provided on the problems inherent in seeking to define “authenticity” and “integrity” in the evaluation of industrial heritage sites, and on the factors that will need to be taken into account in the potential development of an epistemology for evaluating the ‘outstanding universal value’ of industrial heritage sites.

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Dorchester Review
“Tory Conservatism: An Alternative View” by Robert W. Passfield, The Dorchester Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2019, pp.81-85. This article examines the current state of Canada’s political culture. It sets forth the traditional Canadian cultural values that are being supplanted by ‘modern liberalism’, identifies the core beliefs at the heart of Tory conservatism, and elaborates on the traditional duties of a citizen and the limits of legitimate dissent. Above all, the article postulates that there is a role for a conservative moral and political philosophy – Tory Conservatism – to play, as a viable alternative to ‘modern liberalism’ in restoring, strengthening and conserving the traditional cultural values and beliefs at the heart of the Canadian experience.

In the mid-1960s, Canadian philosopher, George Grant (Lament for a Nation, The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism), lamented that a conservative political philosophy -- based on an eternal order, virtue and the common good -- was no longer viable. Modern society was dominated by a Lockean-liberalism that embraced open-ended progress, unlimited individual freedom, international corporate capitalism, and the domination of nature by modern technology; that liberal-capitalism and technical imperatives were destructive of all national traditions, institutions and political cultures; and that the goal of the liberal political philosophy was the superseding of existing nation-states by an universal and homogenous state.

Today, a half-century later, the all but inexorably evolution of liberalism can be seen in the predominance of so-called ‘modern liberalism’ with its embrace of moral relativism (choose your own values), and its beliefs in globalization (political, economic and cultural), in universal free trade, open immigration, pan-nationalism (multiculturalism/trans-national loyalties), and identity politics (a new form of tribalism that denies any national common good). In essence, ‘modern liberalism’ is destructive of the sovereignty of the nation-state, of love of country, national cultures and heritages, traditional values, the concept of virtue, and the social order of western societies. It undermines the moral values of western civilization and any concept of a national interest or common good.

“Modern liberalism’ is a distinct form of liberalism that equates the goal of ‘progress’ with the attainment of a global civil society and trans-national government institutions under a system of global governance: viz. the universal and homogeneous state. (For ‘modern liberals’, a system of global governance is equated with a world of peace, equality and prosperity. For George Grant, the universal and homogenous state was conceived of as being a tyranny. Presumably, what Grant envisaged was the evolution of a future world order in which the egalitarian masses would be ruled by a big brother bureaucracy intolerant of any dissent from Liberal orthodoxy.)

In the 1960s, George Grant saw no indication that Canadians were willing to exercise any self-denial or restraint in their embrace of the benefits of liberal-capitalism and modern technology, and questioned whether Canadians could resist the impact of liberal capitalism and modern technology in the absence of a viable alternative political philosophy to Lockean-liberalism. The present ‘Tory Conservatism’ article postulates that it is Tory conservatism -- a pre-Enlightenment moral and political philosophy – that can provide a viable alternative to the tenets of Lockean-liberalism.

Implicit in the ‘Tory Conservatism’ article is a belief that Canadians have a national consciousness, a strong loyalty to Canada, and an adherence to their traditional national culture and heritage, sufficient to resist the blandishments of ‘modern liberalism’ in its advocacy of globalization, pan-nationalism, moral relativism, and open immigration, and that Canadians have the political will and strength of self-denial to turn to a conservative political philosophy -- Tory Conservatism -- for guidance and sustenance.

Canadians have lost their way in our modern liberal ethos and have need of a far different view of human nature, human freedom, and the purpose of life, to sustain the historic Canadian experience. Hopefully, Canadians are beginning to realize that it was through living in conformity with Judeo-Christian values – the timeless moral values, principles and beliefs of western civilization embodied, politically, in Tory Conservatism -- that they were enabled to live a good and meaningful life and to enjoy ‘peace, order and good government’. They can do so again with a renewed commitment -- within the family, church, schools, and in the public discourse – to sustaining, and living in conformity with, the traditional Canadian cultural values while rejecting ‘modern liberalism’ and what it stands for. Whether this article constitutes a clarion call for Canadians to determine their own fate, or a further lament at the passing of Canada as a culturally distinct and viable nation-state, remains to be determined.

See website: The Dorchester Review

The Loyalist Gazette
Loyalism, Anglican Toryism, and Canadian Conservatism", The Loyalist Gazette, Vol. LVIII, No. 1, Spring 2020, pp. 25-29. In Canadian historiography, there has been a wide disagreement as to the nature of the conservatism of the Loyalists of the American Revolution who settled in the Province of Upper Canada (Ontario), and their contribution to the conservative tradition in Canada. This article reviews the pertinent literature on the subject, and concludes that there were three identifiable conservative streams among the Loyalists who settled in Upper Canada: a 'situational conservative' stream composed on families that supported the established colonial government simply out of custom and habit and a feeling of loyalty to the Crown and Unity of the British Empire: a Lockean-liberal stream of Loyalist families who shared the same political values as the revolutionaries, but were loyal to the Crown and the British Empire and did not think a rebellion was justified; and a philosophical conservative stream - Anglican Toryism - composed on recent English immigrants to the American colonies and the Church of England clergy in the northern American colonies, who rejected the political values of the American revolutionists. All three streams combined with the Anglican Toryism brought to Upper Canada by British government officials and High Church Anglican immigrants, to establish a viable conservative political culture, for a time, in the Province of Upper Canada.

To view or download: loyalism-anglican-toryism.pdf

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