Memorial to Commemorate Chinese Railway Workers in Canada

Memorial to Commemorate Chinese Railway Workers in Canada

Eldon Garnet

Memorial to Commemorate Chinese Railway Workers in Canada
  • Wood, concrete, three pairs of rocks from the Rocky Mountain region, life-cast bronze
  • 1987/89
  • 4.6 m x 3 m x 6 m
  • Blue Jays Way and Navy Warf Court, Toronto

About the artwork

This project is a memorial to the Chinese workers who built Canada’s first transcontinental railroad. The Commemorative sculpture consists of two components, a monument and a series of large rocks. The monument is a large wooden rail tressel under construction, 30 feet high, 16 x 28 feet at the base, on which two Chinese workers are depicted lifting a beam into position. Pedestrians pass through the trestle under construction as they would a large gate. The monument is situated in a linear park beside Toronto’s downtown rail corridor. Three pairs of rocks brought from the Rocky Mountains of the original transcontinental train route sit parallel to the pedestrian pathway. The figures are life-size cast bronze, realistically depicted. The tressel is wood and concrete.

About the artist

Eldon Garnet is a photo-based artist, public sculptor, and writer based in Toronto, ON. He has exhibited his photographic and sculptural work extensively in North America and Europe. A participant at the Venice Biennale in 1985. Garnet’s work, NO, 1997 was included in the exhibition Hitchcock and Art: Fatal Coincidences at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal (2000) and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2001). In 1997, the National Gallery of Canada hosted his mid-career survey entitled: The Fallen Body. Garnet has had major surveys of his photographs, at the Amsterdams Centrum voor Fotografie (2002) and Dust at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto (2002). His novel Lost Between the Edges is published by Semiotext(e), New York. For fifteen years he was the editor of IMPULSE, an international magazine of art, fashion and ideas. He is the artist of numerous public sculptures including The Memorial to Commemorate the Chinese Railroad Workers in Canada.

Fun facts

  • The monument was financed by the Chinese Canadian community who wanted to commemorate the 17,000 railway workers who came from China to build the Canadian Pacific Railway between Alberta and British Columbia between 1880 and 1885. This tragic event resulted in more than 4,000 deaths of the railway workers while building the railway.
  • The boulders at the base of the sculpture are from the Canadian Rockies, provided by the Canadian Pacific Railway and Fording Coal Company Limited. Two of the boulders have plaques on them, with each containing an inscription. One reads “Rich the hand which holds the stone of memory”.

Engagement questions

  • How does the artwork interact with its surroundings?
  • How do you feel standing in front of this sculpture?