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The Shanly Brothers

Walter Shanly was born in Queen's County, Ireland in 1819.  At the age of 17, he immigrated with his family to London, Ont.  With his brother, Frances, the Shanlys had their first practical engineering experience working on the improvements to the Beauharnois Canal west of Montreal.  In 1845, Walter moved to the Niagara Falls area where he was engaged in engineering work on the Welland Canal. 
Brother Frances, eager to gain experience in the newly emerging phenomonen called railways, travelled to Boston to see what he could find.  Boston financiers were promoting the Northern of New York Railroad from Lake Champlain to Ogdensburg, NY.  By October of 1848, Frances was working in Ogdensburgh drafting plans for this railway line that would siphon traffic off the St Lawrence River down to Boston
Not to miss this opportunity of getting in on the ground floor, Walter joined Frances in November and was immediately put to work drafting plans for the bridges across the neck of Lake Champlain to connect with the Central Vermont Railway at Rouses Point, Vt.  Walter, with no previous railroading experience was only 29 years old. 
Within a year, Frances was the assistant engineer for the Western Division and Walter the resident engineer for the Eastern Division.  It was during this period that the Shanley brothers gained their experience and established their reputation as railway engineers. 
With the start of regular train service to Ogdensburg in September 1850, it was time for the brothers to move on.  Walter had a feeling that big things would be happening across the river in Canada.  The Great Western Railway was starting construction in southern Ontario.  Plans were afoot for a trunk railway connecting Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, and Sarnia. 
Through his connections with one of the leading citizens of Ogdensburg, George Parish, Walter had heard of the organizing efforts of the Bytown & Prescott, and they had heard of him.  A letter was dispatched to Shanly inviting him to Bytown to discuss his appointment (or rather his confirmation) as chief engineer for the road.  No expense was spared to convince Shanley to take the job.  He demanded and received a salary of £600 ($2,400) per year plus expenses - a very large sum of money in those days - and on January 22, 1851 he became the Chief Engineer of the B&P.


Walter Shanley (photo taken 1864) was born in Ireland in 1819 and immigrated to Canada in 1836.  In 1850, he was appointed chief engineer for the western section of the Grand Trunk Railway and became General Manager of the system in 1858.  He always maintained his ties with Prescott, serving as Conservative member of Parliament from 1863 to 1872 and again from 1887 to 1891.  A close confidant of Sir John A. Macdonald, Shanley died December 17, 1899 and was buried in London, Ont. Courtesy Archives of Ontario S603.