Golden Boy - Pi Engineering

Golden Boy

Darryl Stoyko and Golden Boy

The Golden Boy is a statue on the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Arguably the province’s best-known symbol, it was modeled after the Roman god Mercury and is meant to represent the prosperity and entrepreneurial spirit of Manitoba.

Pi Engineering’s Darryl Stoyko, a proud Manitoban, loved to tell the story of his own connection to Golden Boy as a student at the University of Manitoba. It all started when the Manitoba government set out to repair and restore Golden Boy, unaware that it required anything more than a re-gilding. The restoration project wound up being one of the most unique public works projects in Manitoba history.

The 17 ft statue depicts a nude young man running forward carrying a torch in one hand and a bundle of wheat in the other. Golden Boy was dreamed up by architect Frank Simon (who also designed the Legislative building it stands upon) and sculpted by Georges Gardet in Paris, France during the first World War. The story is that the statue, named Eternal Youth by its sculptor, had just finished being cast in bronze, when the foundry working on it was bombed. The statue survived intact and was rushed upon a cargo ship set for Canada. However, the ship was commandeered for active duty and Golden Boy remained stuck in the hull until the war’s end. Golden Boy then travelled by rail from Halifax to Winnipeg where the 3,640 lb statue was hoisted onto the Legislative Building on November 21, 1919.

Golden Boy endured many years of extreme weather typical for Manitoba, long frigid winters, sweltering hot summers, and extreme wind. In the 1940s Golden Boy was painted gold as his bronze surface was weathering. On December 31, 1966, a light was affixed to Golden Boy’s torch so he would shine bright for Canada’s centennial year, however the electrical cord dangling from the statue proved to be more than just a little distracting. Rising warm air combined with the moisture seeping through the holes drilled to fit the wiring for the lamp had taken a toll, causing rust to accumulate.

Dillon Consulting spearheaded a restoration project funded by the provincial government and had the statue lowered in February of 2002, using a custom-designed support cradle. During the 7 months Golden Boy was on the ground, it was visited by nearly half a million Manitobans, eager to get a closer look at the iconic statue.

Not only was rust accumulating on the inside of its hollow core, the iron supports were also eroding away. Endoscopic investigations and X-rays showed that the support rod had lost up to 15 mm of its original 125 mm due to corrosion. Our own Darryl Stoyko, a student working with Neil Popplewell of University of Manitoba, came in to install a structural health and monitoring system designed by ISIS Canada (Intelligent Sensing for Innovative Structures – now called SIMTREC). For statues, stress injuries come from standing in place for decades. By measuring the strain, engineers are able to predict the stresses that the statue endures, which also serves as a predictor for what areas need to be bolstered to prevent damage.

Darryl inside Golden Boy (notice all the white points for referencing movement).

The system ISIS developed for Golden Boy involved accelerometers, strain gauges, electric resistance, fibre optic, and temperature sensors. Darryl assisted in this process, and later brought his expertise to Pi Engineering where he installed the same devices on piping.

The system they designed allowed them to collect data on how the structure was handling stresses, such as from the high-altitude winds and inhospitable temperatures. Master’s student Bogdan Bogdanovic examined the steel rod supporting the Golden Boy and the statue’s reaction to stress caused by wind and gravity loads. Golden Boy was one of the first heritage structures to be equipped with such components and for a time, the live monitor readings inside Golden Boy were available on the ISIS Canada website.

Dillon Consulting had photogrammetry done on the statue’s exterior to provide an accurate surface area to calculate wind loads. They completed tests of a 1:20 scale model in the University of Western Ontario’s Boundary Wind Tunnel Laboratory, showing that at the current rate of corrosion, the available yield stress of the rod would be reached in 15 to 30 years.

It took several months to complete the restoration project. The first phase took place at Pritchard Machine Shop in Winnipeg, where Golden Boy was carefully dismantled, its joints loosened, the corroded shaft replaced with a stainless-steel shaft (electrical conductivity had to be considered, since the Golden Boy makes a beautiful lightning rod). It was here that the sensors and wiring for the structural health monitoring system were installed.

Golden Boy was then brought to Bristole Aerospace because the industry facilities were large enough to work on the statue. Alpha Masonry blasted off the old gilding and paint with walnut shells, as they had the best combination of gentle and cleaning power. Reportedly, the entire Bristol Aerospace painting crew participated in painting by hand, the lead primer, a crew normally accustomed to painting helicopters and commercial and military fixed-wing aircrafts.

As the process of restoration was creating such a sense of community among Manitobans, it was decided that the 23.7 k gold leaf final coat was to be completed in full view of the public in a climate-controlled enclosure, at the Forks Market, a popular gathering place at the junction of Winnipeg’s Red and Assiniboine Rivers.

The Golden Boy was returned home to the top of the Legislative Building on September 5, 2002, where it remains today. The total restoration cost was 1.1 million dollars. The challenges Dillon Consulting faced before completing the repair earned them an Award of Excellence for Innovation in Consulting Engineering. It has been 20 years since the one and only time Golden Boy came down this century, and remains a great story for all of the many individuals involved in its restoration.