Breaking New Ground—Stories from Defence Construction Breaking_new_ground - Page 33

Did You Know? The towers for the Doppler detection and microwave communication equipment at the Mid-Canada Line stations ranged in height from 50 to 350 feet, and were designed to withstand winds of 120 miles per hour even when encased in a layer of two inches of ice. Project: The Mid-Canada Line By the end of 1954, DCL was responsible for awarding the construction and some winter transportation contracts for the Mid-Canada Line—a radar network that would eventually become eight attended Section Control Stations spaced some 400 miles apart with 90 unattended Doppler Detection Stations spaced some 30 miles apart between them. DCL’s Annual Report for 1954–55 noted that the Mid-Canada Line would be the most important project for the company in the coming year; in 1956–57, it was still the largest defence construction project under DCL’s administration. Construction proved easier in some areas than others. In Quebec and Labrador, aircraft were the only practical means of transporting materials and personnel in many areas (the project cost included $15 million for Air Force helicopters alone) while the muskeg south of Hudson Bay required the use of winter tractor trains—a tractor pulling between six and eight sleds of some five to seven tons each. Other sites were supplied by ship. BREAKING NEW GROUND DEFENCE CONSTRUCTION CANADA DCL President Dick Johnson would later note that DCL was responsible for groundbreaking work on winter ground transport, including handling a considerable amount of the northern work between November and April. He credited the construction industry for its “growing mastery of an uncompromising climate.” At the same time, the project was experiencing difficulties on other fronts, and staff warned that cost and deadline projections from Bell were not realistic. In 1957, the Air Force intervened to take direct responsibility for finishing construction, including working with DCL and the construction contractors. The Mid-Canada Line became fully operational on January 1, 1958, one year behind schedule and over-budget by approximately $225 million. Although shipping, transportation, weather and division of responsibilities all factored into the delays and overruns, DCL’s role in the project attracted relatively little attention and even less blame. This was very much in keeping with Dick Johnson’s comment about the early years that “DCL kept a low profile and got the jobs done.” 23