Memorable Manitobans: Valentine Irving Smart (1874-1940)
Born at Brockville, Ontario on 14 February 1874, son of Thomas Smart and Isabel Irving, he was educated at Brockville, Upper Canada College (Toronto), Queen’s University (BA degree), and Armour Institute of Technology (Chicago). From 1897 to 1898, he surveyed railway rights-of-way and immigration lands in western Canada for the federal government. From 1900 to 1902, he assisted in locating rights-of-way for the Illinois Central Railway between Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri, becoming assistant signal engineer in 1903, transferring to the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railway in 1904. He became right-of-way maintenance chief in 1905. He returned to Canada in 1907 as professor of railway engineering at McGill University, remaining there until 1914. From 1914 to 1917, he was Vice-President of the General Railway Signal Company of Montreal. He had a private engineering practice in Montreal from 1917 to 1923, serving the federal government’s Department of Railways and Canals from 1920 to 1923.
From 1923 to 1928, he was special engineer for the Canadian National Railways at Montreal, and played a role in the incorporation of the Grand Trunk, Canadian Northern, Grand Trunk Pacific, Intercolonial, and Transcontinental railways into the national system. In late 1928, he moved to Winnipeg as the CNR’s General Superintendent of Transportation, serving as a chief troubleshooter for the system in western Canada. He moved to Ottawa in 1930 where he served as Deputy Minister of Railways and Canals. His responsibilities increased in 1936 when the department consolidated the Department of Marine and the Civil Aviation Branch of the Department of National Defence. During the Second World War, he oversaw the construction of airfields for the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, chaired the Subcommittee for Reserved Occupations (assessing which occupations were essential to war industry and therefore exempt from military service), and the Interdepartmental Committee on Tourist Trade. He was a member of the Defence Coordination Committee and the Canadian Film Board.
In 1904, he married Anne Luske (?-1912) at Chicago and they had two children, Thomas Smart and Janet Smart. He was a member of the Rideau Club, Royal Ottawa Golf Club, and Montreal University Club. His hobby was to make models of railway locomotives.
He died of a heart attack at Ottawa, Ontario on 2 December 1940 and was buried in the Mount Royal Cemetery. He is commemorated by the Smart Siding in Manitoba.
“Col. V. I. Smart, Deputy Minister of Transport, dies of heart attack,” Ottawa Journal, 3 December 1940, page 10.
We thank Elizabeth Manley for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 20 January 2020
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