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Marcus Smith was born in Ford, Northumberland UK on 16 July 1815. After a local education, he started work in railway construction in 1844. He worked his way up to become a railway engineer and was responsible for building 230 miles of railway. He also worked on railway construction in France and the United States before coming to Canada in 1850. Between 1850 and 1860 he was employed in survey and construction work on the Great Western Railway, Hamilton and Toronto Railway and the Niagara and Detroit River Railway. He was engaged in railway work in South Africa, 1860-1864. Returning to Canada, he was resident engineer for the Restigouche Division of the Intercolonial Railway from 1868 to 1872 under the Chief Engineer, Sanford Fleming.
When Fleming became Chief Engineer of the Pacific Railway in 1872, Smith was put in charge of route surveys from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. Smith was also acting engineer-in-chief between 1876 and 1878 during Fleming's absence. When the Canadian Pacific Railway was formed in 1881, Smith joined the CPR engineering staff, doing location work and inspecting contractors' work. Smith left the CPR in 1886 and became a consulting engineer and inspector for the federal government on projects such as railroads in the Maritimes. He retired from government work in 1893. Marcus Smith then did preliminary estimates for the Montreal, Ottawa and Georgian Bay Canal, Trans-Canada Railway and Hudson's Bay & Pacific Railway up to 1898. He died on 14 August 1904 in Ottawa.
Marcus Smith's most notable project was surveying a western route for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1870s. His proposed route went through Prince George to Butte Inlet on the coast. His son Arthur Smith was Deputy Attorney General of BC before heading the Land Registry Office until his retirement in the 1930s. His daughter Anne Clarice worked as a social worker and was Secretary to the Canadian Council on Child and Family Welfare for a time.
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