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Bernie Stene and Lional Desmarais

In the mid-1990s, Ledcor, a Leduc-based construction company, won a number of contracts to install fibre-optic cable along railway lines. Senior employees Lionel Desmarais and Bernie Stene were challenged to find a way to lay thousands of kilometres of the cable without disrupting railway traffic.

The contracts spanned great distances; one of them, from CP Rail, was for a $160 million fibre-optic network straddling rail lines between Toronto and Vancouver. This meant working on tracks from a platform that could travel the rails, dig the trenches needed for the fibre-optic cables and also be cleared from the tracks to allow regular rail traffic.

Both Stene and Desmarais were veterans of the construction industry when they started the fibre-optic cable work; Desmarais was one of the employees who had spearheaded Ledcor’s fibre-optic ventures, while Stene was Ledcor’s vice-president of construction in the mid-1990s.

The two men worked together to devise a system that would meet their construction timelines and also make sure the cable-laying apparatus could be moved on and off the railway tracks, when the need arose.

The system they devised was patented in the mid-1900s, and helped Ledcor and its spinoff company, 360 networks, lay thousands of kilometers of fibre-optic cable across Canada.

Desmarais and Stene’s invention won them the Ledcor Innovation Award, an internal company honour, in 1998.

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