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Artifact Spotlight - Switchboard Panel from the Sault Ste. Marie canal power house

Manufacturer: Canadian General Electric, 1895.
Source: Ontario Hydro
Artefact #: 1992.2666

Switchboard Panel

The Sault Ste. Marie canal was constructed by the Canadian government between 1889 and 1895 to open the shipping route from the Atlantic to the upper most of the Great Lakes. The canal was a showcase of engineering innovations. It

  • was the first canal in the world to be entirely operated by electricity;
  • included the world’s longest lock;
  • was constructed with structural steel instead of wood and iron; and
  • concrete replaced traditional clay and reinforced stone walls.

This switchboard controlled all electrical systems for the canal. It incorporated all the latest technologies: meters and breakers were set in front of slate panels, and dangerous wires were hidden to improve safety. To enhance the beauty of the switchboard, the panels were framed in heavily ornate oak.

This Canadian innovation had benefits for the US as well as for our customers for western Canadian products, particularly wheat, and made the Canadian Prairies the "Bread Basket to the World". Although the commercial operation ceased in 1987, the channel is still open for recreational use.