In the spring of 1952, at the Port of Montreal, a crowd of onlookers gathered around the railroad tracks. Montreal’s longshoremen knew what was coming. The day before they finished their work, their gigantic colleague Antonio had told them in a singsong accent: “You’re invited to the Clock Tower Pier, tomorrow at 2 p.m., to see the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen in your life.” Some were intrigued by the colourful invitation and others were too scared to refuse; in the end, most of them found a discreet way to be there.
Antonio arrived with a long iron chain around his neck and hooked it on the front of the first car. Before the spectators’ astonished eyes, he pulled the 433-ton train over a distance of 19.8 m. Hooray! He won his first Guinness World Record to the applause of the longshoremen who were impressed by his feat.
Antonio was quite the character. Originally from Siberia or Yugoslavia, he came to Montreal by boat in 1946, when he was around 20 years old. Starting out as a longshoreman, the mysterious colossus took on a variety of heavy-duty jobs in construction and at the Port of Montreal. He immediately stood out for his size and especially for his great strength. Described with numbers, Antonio was 1.96 m tall, ate 25 whole chickens in one meal and weighed 210 kilos. But what defined him most of all, was his famous world record that launched his career as the Great Antonio, the last of the gentle giants.