1940s Northwest Model 80D crane working on Toronto’s subway system

The fall of 1950 saw the Toronto Transit Commission move forward with subway construction awarding a contract to the consortium of Pitts, Johnson, Drake & Perini Contractors. The sheer size of the project meant many other area contractors took on subcontracts.

One prominent Toronto area company at the time, Rayner Construction Ltd., had several crews under contract driving H-steel piling in preparation for open cut sections of the subway.

The Northwest 1940s Model 80D crane, pictured here, was handling a pile driving attachment equipped with a steam powered pile hammer typical of the period. Many contractors fabricated their own pile leads in-house based on the job requirements at hand.

Read more about the construction of Toronto’s subway system

The Northwest 80D was powered by Caterpillar or Murphy diesel engines in the 103 kW (150 hp)  range. These older friction cranes had clutch & brake controls that were manually operated. Some shovel manufacturers did have air or hydraulic assisted controls that made for an easier operating day for the hoisting engineer.

When the pile driving portion of the job was completed many of these machines were converted to other attachments including cable shovel fronts and backhoes to complete both the open cut and underground excavation phase.

Of course, new innovations, such as diesel powered pile hammers and pile extractors, were not readily available. However, a Hamilton Ontario based firm, Bermingham Construction Ltd., was developing a diesel pile hammer that became known as the ‘Berminghammer’. Its manufacturing division was created in the 1950s, making diesel pile hammers & pile extractors and its construction division has been going strong for over 125 years.

The Historical Construction Equipment Association of Canada (HCEA Canada) is looking forward to holding its 2022 events, as long as pandemic restrictions have been lifted. For updates, visit www.hceacanada.org.

So, to see more than 60 restored pieces of vintage construction equipment in action, be sure to attend HCEA Canada’s ‘Wheels & Tracks in Motion’ in June and ‘Last Blast’ in October. Both events are held at the Simcoe County Museum, which is a proud partner of HCEA Canada.