Welland Ship Canal Gate Lifter

Pictured here in 1932 is the Welland Ship Canal Gate Lifter on its trial run.

It was an excellent example of Canadian ingenuity. Built in Ontario by the Collingwood Shipyards, this 1,088-tonne barge mounted hoist was claimed to be the largest capacity unit worldwide at the time.

To handle the large lock gates, the steam powered electric lifter was nearly 40 metres in height with stability controlled by hull-mounted ballast tanks.

One of nearly a dozen sub-contractors on this complicated build was Hamilton-based Westinghouse Ltd. They outfitted the electrical equipment, including control panels, to help complete the unique heavy lifter. Built over a two-year period, the manufacturing cost was more than $1.3 million, an impressive sum for 1930 dollars.

The Welland Ship Canal was built between 1913 and 1935. Work was halted by the First World War and then again in 1929 during the Great Depression. During construction, some 139 workers died on the job due to lack of experience around equipment or communication issues on-site.

A group of local historians had completed research on every worker that was killed. They set out to create the Fallen Workers Memorial, which was unveiled in 2017. A fitting tribute set in a prominent location near the current Welland Canal Lock #3. It’s worth a look when you go by.

In 2024, the Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA Canada) will hold two events, the Wheels & Tracks event in June and the Last Blast event in October. Both events are held at the Simcoe County Museum, near Barrie. To see more than 60 pieces of vintage construction equipment in action be sure to attend. HCEA Canada is a proud Heritage Partner of the Simcoe County Museum. Visit HCEACanada.org for more information.