The voluminous testimony of the Consulting Engineer of the Quebec bridge, which fills several pages of one of the contemporary engineering journals, Is, to say the least, very disquieting. It Is as yet too early to pass any opinion upon the merits of the case; common fairness demands that judgment be suspended until the testimony of the bridge company has been given. It Is evident, however, from the statements of the Consulting Engineer, that the enterprise labored under two serious drawbacks, namely, a scarcity of funds, and the absence of any chief engineer of the bridge, present on the ground, and possessing the authority to act Instantly In those cases of emergency which are certain to arise during the prosecution of a work of this magnitude. It Is evident that, as matters shaped themselves, the duties of Chief Engineer devolved upon the Consulting Engineer, a gentleman of unquestioned ability and experience; but whose age Is well on to threescore years and ten, and whose physical disabilities were such as to prevent his making any visit to the work. Pore-seeing the necessity for expert engineering Inspection, both at the works of the bridge company and at the site of the bridge, he earnestly advocated. In the earlier stages of the work, the training or selection of a body of expert Inspectors, possessing the necessary technical knowledge to see that, both In the shops and at the bridge, the work was done with strict adherence to the best practice, and capable of dealing with the emergencies, which Inevitably arise during the construction of unprecedented engineering structures. According to his testimony, he met with only partial success; and It Is evident that, at least as far as some members of the Inspection and erecting staff were concerned, he did not consider that the engineering work was In the hands of men who were quite up to the expert requirements of work of this stupendous magnitude and difficulty. One Is astonished to learn that he had to make complaint upon such absolutely vital points as the fit of the pins In the eyebars and connections, and the accuracy of the butt joints In the posts and other compression members. His detailed story of the discovery of the eccentricity In the bottom chord; the making light of It by the engineer In charge; and the tardy and roundabout measures taken to stop all further additions to the weight on the bridge, read more like the story of the building of some county bridge than the record of the erection of the greatest work of bridge engineering of the century.
This article was originally published with the title "Light on the Quebec Bridge Disaster"