Corner Post
Quarterly Newsletter of the Saskatchewan
Land Surveyors

Looking Back

Wayne W. W. Stockton

SLS, P. Surv., CLS


I began my Articles with George Bennett, SLS, DLS in November of 1964 when I was employed by UMA Engineering. Two months later I was sent up north to work on the location of Highway No. 165 from La Ronge to Big Sandy Lake on the Hanson Lake Road. The reason the new highway was required was to provide a route for trucks hauling ore from mines in the La Ronge area to the smelter at Flin Flon.


we arrived in La Ronge on a cold January Sunday evening about 8:00 PM with the thermometer reading -60F. Unfortunately the hotel didn’t have a sufficient number of electrical outlets to plug in my vehicle. I asked the desk clerk what to do and he suggested I go to the power house about 2 blocks away and ask if I could plug in at one of their outlets. The fellow working there that evening said it was okay and I thought I was set. Unfortunately, he neglected to tell his replacement for the midnight shift. The new fellow must have thought I was stealing power and he shut off power to the outlet. The next morning my vehicle was stiff as a board. It would turn over but wouldn’t fire. After trying to start it for about 10 minutes, the starter broke in the cold weather and that was the end of work for that day. I got the vehicle towed into a service station where they installed a new starter and it was ready to go the next morning.


Our survey commenced about 40 km south of La Ronge on Highway No. 2 and the new route took off from there in a southeasterly direction. The new route location had been designed from aerial photography by J.D. Mollard and Associates of Regina and they did a masterful job. The route crossed 3 river valleys with relatively steep hills. Specifications called for no more than a 3% grade going east since that was when the ore trucks would be loaded. The trucks would return empty so the grades going west would not be critical. I was amazed at how well it all fit together.


We commenced our survey by turning a scaled angle off Highway No. 2 as the route was marked on the air photo. We established line and had a bulldozer clearing bush ahead of us. We scaled distance from the air photo and when we to got to the next P.I. we established a point. There was a helicopter standing by and at that point he would go up with the project manager for aerial view. From his copy of the photo he could tell if we were in the right place and radio down to us on the ground. Usually he would say that we have to go forward or back 20 or 30 metres. When we got the new point set he would give us the okay and go down the line to the next P.I. In the meantime we would turn a scaled angle and clear bush ahead to get an adequate sight line. When the helicopter arrived over the next P.I. he would radio down to us and we would sight the transit on the helicopter to give us line to the next point.


We had one crew that was establishing line and doing the rough chaining. A second crew was establishing centre line stakes and running levels. Each night the levelling information was phoned in to design engineer, Art Bergan, in Saskatoon. Art was teaching at the University at the time but was consulting to UMA on the project. As the information came in, Art would establish a rough grade line to make sure the location was working as planned. After the entire location was completed bulldozers were used to clear the width of the right of way. The preliminary survey was also completed using aerial photography. After the right of way was cleared a hub line was run on both sides. Targets were then set roughly every 200 metres right and left so the photography could be oriented horizontally and vertically. The right of way was then re-photographed at low level to establish cross section elevations along the route.


I was only on the project for about a month and returned to Regina to work on other jobs. Most of the other crew members, however, stayed through the winter and right through the following construction season. All the time I was there I don’t believe the temperature ever got warmer that -35FR, however, working in the bush under sunny skies it was quite comfortable. The method used to locate the route was very interesting and it all went off like clock work. This was the first project where Dept. of Highways had used aerial photography to do a complete project right down to the final cross sections. I am not convinced that the construction portion of the survey was any more efficient than using conventional survey, however, this project certainly established a milestone in highway location and design.