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Engineering Historica: The Final Report on the Engineering and Construction of the Quebec Bridge

To His Excellency, Victor Christian William, Duke of Devonshire, Marquis of  Hartington, Earl of Devonshire, Earl of Burlington, Baron Cavendish of Hardwicke, Baron Cavendish of Keighley, K.G., P.C., G.C.M.G., etc,. etc, Governor-General of Canada,

May it Please Your Excellency:

The undersigned have the honour to lay before Your Excellency the Final Report of the Board of Engineers on the Design and Construction of the Quebec Bridge.

Respectfully Submitted,

J.D. Reid,

Minister of Railways and Canals

Our digital library collection grows day by day, as volunteers and staff at the Falvey Memorial Library here at Villanova University continue to scan different works from both our own collection as well as collections generously loaned from other institutions.  Because Villanova is a Catholic university, much of this material is of related interest, i.e. our collection includes scanned Catholic manuscripts, works from Augustinian scholars, collections related to Irish history, etc.  Of course, not every item in our collection comes from this area, so I’ve decided to highlight one item from our collection today with more of an engineering-historical bent.

Published in 1919, and donated to Villanova in 1944, the digital library currently has posted two volumes containing the final report from the board of engineers on the design and construction of the Quebec Bridge.  With its abundance of information, figures and stats on the bridge, this material may be of interest to civil and structural engineers on its own merit; however, what makes this a more interesting read is that the Quebec Bridge itself is famous above and beyond other bridges for three reasons: the first is that, at 987 meters, the bridge is the longest cantilever (i.e. non-suspension) bridge in the world; the second and third reasons are related – the bridge is also famous for collapsing not once, but twice during construction, the first occurrence in 1907, the second in 1916.

The Quebec Bridge @1919

Fortunately for the travelers and commuters among us, bridge collapses, though not unheard of, are a rare occurrence – and collapsing while still under construction rarer still.  To collapse twice, however, is exceptionally rare.  Therein, the story of the construction of this particular bridge is a fascinating tale – the initial warning signs of the first impending bridge collapse were ignored, and eventually when pleas from on-site engineers to halt construction on the bridge were finally heeded, the message did not arrive to the construction site in time before disaster struck.   The resulting collapse cost the lives of 75 bridge builders.  When construction of the bridge began a few years later, disaster struck again when the central span of the bridge was being raised into position – the span fell during the raising, killing an additional 13 workers [1].

Raising the Central Span

This particular report covers the time period of the second bridge building, including the time period when the central portion fell into the river (the central portion was re-raised and the bridge eventually completed, leading to this report). While the later sections of this report are very “engineer dense”, with drawings, figures and tables on the exact structure of the bridge (load tolerance of the materials used, etc.), most users will find the General Narrative, starting at page 13 of the book, the most interesting portion of the read.  It recounts the issues with the first bridge and its collapse, what was changed in the new bridge and why, as well as a running narrative of the construction of the new span (the fall of the central span is covered on page 32).  Included in this read are some interesting historical references (note the reference to the Lusitania on page 18 as the current ship with the tallest mast, and references to the Carnegie Steel Co. and Bethlehem Steel on page 25, amongst others).

The complete scan of this report is available through the Villanova University Digital Library.  Volume I can be found here and Volume II here.

[1]  “Quebec Bridge.Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. Dec 2010.


VuFind tools and search transform the Digital Library experience

  • Posted by: Michael Foight
  • Posted Date: January 24, 2011
  • Filed Under: Software, VuFind

Posted for Demian Katz,  Library Tech Development Specialist:

As announced on January 20th, Villanova Digital Library content is now fully searchable through the library’s VuFind software.  You can perform a search using the box at the top of the page at http://digital.library.villanova.edu/.

In addition to helping you find documents more easily, VuFind offers several other useful features to anyone with a Villanova University login:

* You can build lists of favorites and add tags in order to more easily revisit records in the future or share them with others.
* You can post comments if you want to add notes to a record.

Even without a VU account, you can still take advantage of some new features:

* You can text or email records to friends (or to yourself, for future reference).
* Suggested MLA and APA citations are provided (although you may need to make manual adjustments for some records).

This is only the beginning of the melding of VuFind and the Digital Library.  Over the coming months, more features will be added and the experience will become even more seamless, allowing faster access to content with fewer clicks.  Stay tuned, and feel free to ask questions and offer suggestions in the meantime.  Feedback is always welcome as we work to continually improve our software.


A stellar day for Villanova’s Digital Library

Thursday, January 20th 2011,  was quite a day for the Digital Library: the incorporation of Digital Library data into VuFind – and this is not just the metadata but the full indexing of all OCR’ed content, pdf files from transcriptions and faculty publications.  This of course brings all of the functionality and power of VuFind to the Digital Library content including all of the social features and best of all – high quality searching.  In addition to this, the Google sitemaps to Digital Library content were published so all Digital Library content will again be findable – after a 3 year hiatus – directly from Google.  It also marks the final tweaking of the latest software back-end rewrite from David Lacy – we are back in full operation since a break in November for software deployment and testing.  Transcripts for handwritten materials that have been archived for over 4 years are finally being wedded to the images and of course it is all findable using VuFind.  These software deployments have been eagerly awaited for years!

So a hearty round of Kudos to Dave Lacy, Demian Katz, and Dave Uspal.   They have worked tirelessly to make these enhancements possible and have been excited about the developments too!  They are working hard to bring VuDL to birth and so share this robust toolset with the library and archives communities!  Indeed there are a large number of enhancements and tweaks that will increase the utility of the software that are in development.

Other items on Thursday of interest are: the highly positive news about a possible development / testing partner for VuDL;   a request from another maritime museum about possible partnership;  a request from a Princeton scholar for a Digital Library photograph for a new book on Irish nationalists to be published by Princeton in December 2011,  and of course, an article in the latest ACRL News about our La Salle partnership!

From last week we had some other fantastic news:  two new partnerships – the modest partnership with the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, and dramatically the Philadelphia Ceili Group. We will be digitizing the audio and video of the Ceili Group’s meetings and performances of Irish Musicians from their historic archive – who knows what content and performers we will find on these tapes!  And we will also be working with the Library of Congress to obtain the master tapes for years that Villanova University currently does curate.   Stephen Spatz will be acting as our point person for this project due to his skill and interest in all things musical.

I am so very positive about our future progress and our outstanding staff that works so very well together!



Last Modified: January 21, 2011