Collingwood Schreiber

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Sir Collingwood Schreiber
Sir Collingwood Schreiber.jpg
Sir Collingwood Schreiber in 1897
Born(1831-12-14)December 14, 1831
Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex, England
DiedMarch 23, 1918(1918-03-23) (aged 86)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Sir Collingwood Schreiber, KCMG (December 14, 1831 – March 23, 1918) was an English Canadian surveyor, engineer and civil servant of German descent. He is best known for his contribution to the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).


Schreiber was born in Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex, England to the Reverend Thomas Schreiber and Sarah Bingham, his father's grandfather, John Charles Schreiber immigrated from Swabia, Germany to England in the mid-18th century. Schreiber trained in England, and then migrated to Canada in 1852, along with the rest of his family, he shortly thereafter began work as a railway engineer with the Hamilton and Toronto Railway. After four years with the firm, Schreiber left to work with Sandford Fleming. After working on various private railways, in 1864 Schreiber received his first government appointment, and by 1873 he was the chief engineer for all government railways.

Subsequently, Schreiber became intimately involved in the construction of the CPR. In June 1880 the "pliant" Schreiber was appointed by Sir Charles Tupper to replace the ousted Fleming as the chief engineer for the project,[1] and by July of that same year had become general manager of all government railways in operation, he arranged financing and conducted repeated inspection tours, often with general manager William Cornelius Van Horne. Without his efforts, it is certainly possible that the CPR would never have been completed.

In 1887, Schreiber was a founding member of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, and in 1892 he was made the deputy minister of railways and canals, a position he held until the age of 73 in 1905, when he was demoted and charged with the "specially created government post of consulting engineer on the western or Grand Trunk Pacific division of the National Transcontinental Railway".[2] Schreiber continued in government employ until his death in 1918.

Despite living in an era rife with corruption, Schreiber always paid more attention to engineering than political concerns, he found a job for prime minister John A. Macdonald's nephew, but flatly refused to promote people with influence unless their performance merited it. He repeatedly clashed with political "meddlers", and was disliked by various ministers in the Macdonald and Laurier administrations he served under.

In 1893, he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George and, in 1916, a Knight Commander.

Schreiber died in Ottawa, Ontario; the township of Schreiber, Ontario, is named after him and contains a plaque commemorating his life and achievements.


  1. ^ Creet, Mario, FLEMING, Sir SANDFORD, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  2. ^ "Collingwood Schreiber". Dictionary of Canadian Biography (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 1979–2016.

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