The Commissariat 3D Reconstruction Project Virtual Museum of Canada
The Bytown Herald
Volume 1, No 1. 24 May 1832 français | home | feedback | credits  
about the project | the animation | still photo gallery | the transcript  





Black Screen - "May, 1932"



Video-clip 1



Scene 1 -- Camera sweeping over Ottawa river


(Colonel By) It’s such a breathtaking land, isn’t it Lord Dalhousie?  Hard to believe it’s been twenty years since the failed American invasion.

Scene 2 -- View of Barrack’s Hill


(Lord Dalhousie) Yes, Colonel By. That’s why the canal is a necessity.

Scene 3 -- The Locks come into view as camera sweeps over steamboat


(By) Heaven only knows when the next invasion will strike. At least we’re prepared now that a safe supply route between Montreal and Kingston has been established.

Scene 4 -- Steamboat pulls up to locks


(By) Luckily the natural geography of the area was suitable for our plans. Following the Rideau and Cataraqui Rivers, we only needed to construct forty-nine locks.

(Dalhousie) It is an amazing accomplishment, Colonel.

Scene 5 -- View of Col. By and Lord Dalhousie


(By) Indeed. Well, it looks like we are prepared to go.

Scene 6 -- Close-up view of Lock doors


(Dalhousie) I would have imagined this all to be smaller.

(By) Our original plans did call for narrower locks that would accommodate Durham boats, but I petitioned the Board of Ordnance back in England when we started to build. I reasoned that with the arrival of steam-powered ships, we would need a larger canal.

Scene 7 -- Inside view of lock one


(Dalhousie) It was a wise decision, Colonel. It’s quite majestic.

Video-clip 2



Scene 8 -- View of entire length of the Locks


(By) Even with the larger locks, we still managed to finish all one hundred and twenty-six miles of the canal in only five and a half years.

(Dalhousie) You speak as though it was no trouble at all.

Scene 9 -- Steamboat moves into the locks and doors begin to close


(By) Far from it, Lord Dalhousie, I’m afraid. Not only did my staff draw up plans for the locks and dams, we had to establish settlements for all of our workers and their families. Barracks, a hospital and support buildings all needed to be constructed. I had over two thousand workers. To my knowledge, it’s the largest construction project the British Empire has ever taken on thus far.

Scene 10 -- View of Barrack’s Hill


(Dalhousie) Yes, Colonel, I do believe you are correct. And it is quite remarkable how much man can accomplish using only our bare hands and a few tools.

Scene 11 -- Sapper moves towards set of Crab Cranks


(Dalhousie) Tell me, Colonel. How exactly is it possible to go up through the locks? Wouldn’t we be pulled back down?

Scene 12 -- Underwater view of sluice path to the next lock


(By) No, sir. One set of gears is used to open and close the lock gate doors. The other set of chains and pulleys is used to open and close the sluice gate.

Video-clip 3



Scene 13 -- View of the sluice path into next Lock


The sluice gate allows the water to travel between the two locks without opening the door. When the water level on both sides of the lock door is stabilized, the doors open and the boat can pass through the gates. It doesn’t matter if the vessel is traveling up or down the locks.

(Dalhousie) It does seem quite complicated.

Scene 14 -- Sapper cranking open one lock door


(By) But easier than carrying a boat on one’s back. Who knows, maybe in two hundred years, there will be new machinery that will make everything easier to operate.

Scene 15 -- View of Royal Engineers office and the Commissariat


(Dalhousie) Fascinating. They’re mirror images of each other!

Scene 16 -- Camera looks at the Sappers Bridge


(By) It is remarkable, isn’t it? On the left, the Royal Engineers Office. This is where the plans for the Canal were drawn up and where we stored many of the surveying tools. These officers worked very closely with the Sappers and Miners on this project. We barracked the Sappers up on the top of the hill. It has such a majestic view up there. I hope someday we can build there too. See the bridge up ahead? That’s what we’re calling Sappers bridge. It’s the first bridge to span across the canal.

Video-clip 4



Scene 17 -- View of first floor of Commissariat showing supplies


(Dalhousie) And the other building?

Scene 18 -- Sapper pulling on rope


(By) Ah, yes. That is the Commissariat. Like the Royal Engineers Office, it was built in 1827. Essentially it’s our supply house. You see those large doors up high? We use pulleys and ropes to easily load the upper floors. Inside you’ll find supplies of all kinds. Tools, food rations, rum.

(Dalhousie chuckles) Ah, the essentials!

Scene 19 -- Sappers unloading supplies


(By) Besides the extensive storage space, there are also offices for the Commissariat staff and a cooper’s workshop to build the barrels for the supplies.

Video-clip 5



Scene 20 -- Scene of stone vault


But perhaps the most unique feature of the Commissariat is its use as a treasury. Tucked away in the northeast corner of the building, we have a vault. Here, both the black powder for blasting and the workers’ wages were kept secure.

(Dalhousie) How secure?

(By) Are stone walls that are three feet thick secure enough?

(Dalhousie) Impressive!

(By) The walls throughout the rest of the building are only two and a half feet thick, but it’s still plenty of protection to withstand cannon fire. But I cannot take all the credit for the sturdiness of the Commissariat. Thomas Mackay and his team of Scottish stonemasons built it. They quarried the limestone from the east bank of the Canal.

Video-clip 6



Scene 21 -- Man writing with small stove in room


Here we see a Royal Engineer filling a supply request with the Commissariat Department.

Scene 22 -- View of Cooper’s workshop


Here is Daniel Cross, the cooper (or barrel maker) hard at work.

Scene 23 -- View of second floor


Here is a view of the second floor with many of the barrels the cooper has made.

Scene 24 -- View of third floor


Here is a view of the third floor of the building.  Notice the high ceiling and wood beam construction.

Scene 25 -- Rear office showing fireplace


The cooper lives in this small apartment in the Commissariat and also acts as night custodian of the building.

Video-clip 7



Scene 26 -- Miners working with stone


(By) And it wasn’t an easy job by any means. After hand drilling and blasting the stone, the rocks still had to be shaped by hand. The limestone was used for constructing many of the buildings here in Bytown and for the locks.

Scene 27 -- Injured minor comes into view


It was a long and dangerous process. We had our share of accidents, whether it be a miscalculated blast, a heavy rock that slipped during a move or a sharp shard of rock that flew while cutting.

Scene 28 -- Scenes of explosions and tumbling rock


(Dalhousie) What a terrible life for the navvies working on the Canal.

Scene 29 -- Lord Dalhousie swatting at mosquito


(Buzzing sound of a mosquito)

(Dalhousie) What the devil?

(By) A mosquito, my Lord. If they didn’t have enough to worry about with work-related accidents, there was also much disease. Malaria and cholera ran rampant during the construction. Even I myself became stricken with a bout of malaria.

Video-clip 8



Scene 30 -- Walking on Sapper’s Bridge


(Dalhousie) What was the total cost of life?

(By) I’m not entirely certain on that, sir. At least five hundred I’d say. But wouldn’t you expect to pay a price for protecting this land?

Scene 31 -- People walking across Sapper’s Bridge


(Dalhousie avoids the question)

Scene 32 -- Steamboat going down canal


(By) There we are, my Lord. We’ve just traveled the first eight locks on the way to Kingston.

(Dalhousie) Splendid! You know, I think this may be the beginning of something truly great.

Scene 33 -- View of Steamboat under Sapper’s Bridge


(By) How so?

(Dalhousie) Think about it. You created this town, Bytown as they call it. It could grow into something bigger, better. You’ll be known everywhere. They’ll name a market after you! And Schools!

Scene 34 -- View of length of Locks


(By) Let’s not get carried away, my Lord.

Scene 35 -- Overview of entire scene


(Dalhousie) And of course you’ll have a statue! And maybe a few roads with your name on it too! Oh and a lake... (fades out).

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