Taken from the McDonald mailing list:
American Society of Civil Engineers Institutued 1852
"Memoirs of Deceaced Members"
Charles Neil McDonald
b 25 Aug 1862 near Sidney, Nova Scotia d 5 Jul 1929 Portland, OR.
Charles Neil McDonald, the son of Alexander and Johanna McDonnald,
was born on August 25, 1862 near Sidney, Nova Scotia. As a boy he attended
the grade schools of Sidney, Nova Scotia. As a boy he attended the grade
schools of Sidney, and there, too, he served an apprenticeship as a
In 1882, after living for a short time in Boston, Mass, Mr.
McDonald moved to the Dakotas, where he was employed as Bridge Carpenter
and Bridge Foreman by the Saint Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway
Company (now part of Great Northern Railway Company).
In 1884, Mr. McDonald moved to the Far West and located at Celilo,
OR., where he entered the employ of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation
Company as Bridge Foreman on the construction of stone, concrete, iron, and
In 1890, he was appointed Superintendent of Construction for Robert
Wakefield and Company, Contractors, of Portland, Oregon, and for eighteen
years he continued in active charge of all the numberous large construction
projects undertaken by that firm. During this period, Mr. McDonald's work
covered a wide scope and included docks and hrbor improvements at various
points along the Pacific Coast, numberous bridges for the Union Pacific
System, all the bridges on the Astoria and Columbia River Railway, and
several large structures for the City of Portland. He was also retained
from time to time to represent the Cheif Engineer of the Oregon Railroad
and Navigation Company in the execution of difficult bridge fondations and
in the solution of various erection problems.
In 1908, his activities carried him to the Far North. He
associated himself with the Copper River and Northwestern Railway Company
which was being extended into the interior of Alaska, and was placed in
charge of all the bridge construction on that line.
This work, which included the famous Miles Glacier Bridge and the
Kuskolina Cantilever, was crowned with notible success in the face of the
most adverse circumstances. Operations were on far from base of supplies;
the season of the year in which climatic conditions were favorable for
constructionwas limited to only a few months; and the work had to go on
during the long stormy winters of the Copper River country and in
tempuratures alomost unbelievably low.
Large masses of ice are discharged from the Miles and Child's
Glaciers into the Copper River during the summer months, and for that
reason the Miles Glacier Bridge which crosses that stream was origially
designed for cantilever erection. To advance the opening of the railroad a
full year, however, the plan was changed, and it was decided to carry on a
substructure work during the winters and at the same time, to erect the
spans of the falsework supported on ice. The plan was a success. The ice
moved out in an unusually early spring thaw just twenty minutes after the
bridge was self-supporting. This dramatic incident is well described in
Rex Breach's Novel, "The Iron Trail."
In 1912, Mr McDonald returned to Portland and again associated
himself with the Robert Wakefield Company. For several years he was the
active head of that firm in charge of the execution of important river and
harbor work and large building projects, involving the expenditure of
millions of dollars. Included in this work was the erection of Harriman
Bridge (double-deck railroad and highway lift) across the Willamette River,
at Portland, and the Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River, at
In 1920, he became Vice-President of the Gilpin Construction
Company of Portland, and, from that time until his death, he directed its
more important operations, among which were bridges across the Columbia,
Willamette, and other large rivers of the Pacific Northwest.
Mr. McDonald possessed to a rare degree the good judgement that is
acquired only in the stern school of experiance, but he combined with it a
technical knowledge and designing ability worthy of a man of great formal
training. His counsel was sought by many, especially by younger men, whom
he seemed to understand. His life was marked by a succession of great
achievements, bold and daring conception, taxing amazing resources of skill
and energy in execution, yet uniformly successful in realization.
Deeply religious, and of a modest and retiring disposition,
generous, honorable, and upright in all things, he was an inspriation to
those who came in contact with him. No man was loved more by his
associates. His passing has left an empty place which they can never quite
In 1890, he was married to Mrs. Carrie Harrison, who survies him,
together with two daughters, Mrs. Joan Atwater, of Eugene, OR. and Mrs.
Jessie Acklen, of Raymond, WA.
He was a member of various Masonic bodies and other fraternal
orders, and was affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Mr. McDonald was elected a Member of the American Society of Civil
Engineers on January 17, 1927.