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Baird's Works

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Baird's Works, of St Petersburg, Russia

1792 Charles Baird entered into partnership with Francis Morgan. Their St. Petersburg business became known as the Baird Works and specialised in steam-driven machinery. It supplied machinery for the Imperial Arsenal, Mint, and glassworks, and undertook a range of projects from bridge-building to ornamental metalwork.

The Baird Works were responsible for the Elizaveta, Russia's first steamship, launched in 1815. Further vessels were constructed under the direction of William Handyside such that, by 1820, there were four other steam-vessels on the river. This gave Baird's a ten-year monopoly on steamship routes from St. Petersburg, including the Elizaveta's run to Kronstadt. They had their own wharves, and the St. Petersburg Times has said Baird helped "create a great industrial kingdom on the Neva River that is known today as Admiralty Shipyard (Admiralteiskiye Verfi), the shipbuilding company."

Also supplied the ironwork for several bridges, including the first cast iron arch bridge in Russia (1805) and from the 1820s, suspension bridges designed by Wilhelm von Traitteur, such as the Post Office Bridge over the river Moika. The company also worked with the architect Auguste de Montferrand on the Alexander Column and Saint Isaac's Cathedral, and were responsible for technical aspects of the cathedral dome design.

The business was operated by Russian serfs, some of them extremely skilled in fine ornamental metalwork, according to James Nasmyth's account. Baird brought other engineers from Scotland to work with him: his son Francis and nephew William Handyside made important contributions, with Francis carrying the Baird Works forward after his father's death. Handyside took the lead in the firm's work with Montferrand, and another nephew, Nicol Hugh Baird who spent a few years in St. Petersburg, later became a noted Canadian engineer. Other Handyside brothers came to work in Russia, including Andrew Handyside.

Among many other works, the firm constructed the Blagavetchari (usually called the St. Nicholas) bridge, which was the first permanent structure of its kind across the River Neva.

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