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Arthur James

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Arthur James (1816-1866)


1867 Obituary [1]

MR. ARTHUR JAMES, eldest son of Mr. John Thomas James, Purser of H.M.S. ‘L'Espoir,’ was born at St. David‘s, Pembrokeshire, on the 3rd of March, 1816.

At the age of two years he was adopted by his father’s brother-in-law, Nathaniel Philipps Bland, Esq., of Trelethin, who, being a Graduate of Oxford, and a man of varied attainments, carefully superintended his early education.

When he was twelve years old he was placed at the Collegiate and Chapter School of St. David‘s, under the charge of his maternal uncle, the Rev. Prebendary Richardson, and afterwards at the grammar school of Haverfordwest, then under the charge of the Rev. James Thomas, M.A. Subsequently to this he appears to have spent several years at Trelethin, engaged in private study, showing a strong taste for mathematics, and for scientific pursuits in general, as well as some skill in mechanics.

On one occasion it is related of him, that, having constructed an enormously large kite, he applied it successfully to the traction of a carriage across the neighbouring downs, and also to the conveyance of himself across St. David‘s Bay, through the restless waves of which (after having attached his clothes to the line of the kite), he permitted himself to be towed, aided by a brisk breeze, from the shore under Trelethin towards St. David‘s Head, near which he safely effected a landing. He early showed a most fearless nature, and at that time is said to have excelled both as a swimmer and a cragsman, filling up the intervals of his studies by boating, fishing, and seal-hunting.

In 1844 he was engaged by Mr. Harry Phelps Goode, of Haverfordwest, on the Parliamentary Surveys of the Manchester and Milford Railway, and on this, though only working out his own theoretical acquirements as connected with mathematical study, he produced excellent field-work, and passed muster with the surveying party for an “old hand.”

In 1846, Mr. James was introduced by Mr. Goode to Mr. Robert Brodie (M. Inst,. C.E.), who had the engineering charge, under the late Mr. Brunel (V.P. Inst. C.E.), of the Swansea division of the South Wales Railway, then in course of construction. Appreciating his mathematical acquirements, his energy of character, and his aptness for acquiring engineering knowledge, Mr. Brodie employed him on the works of that division, where he was chiefly engaged in setting out and correctly maintaining the centre line and levels, throughout the execution of the works, until 1849.

He was then transferred to the Newport division of the same railway, under the charge of Mr. W. G. Owen (M. Inst. C.E.), by whom he was intrusted with the winding-up of all the measurements of contracts for works from Gloucester to Neath. These had been executed by twelve separate contractors, and amounted in value to about £750,000. Mr. Owen states that “it was very much owing to Mr. James’s great patience and skill, and to his nice tact and good temper in dealing with the agents of the contractors, that we were enabled to close this troublesome business satisfactorily, and without a single law-suit.”

In 1851, on the commencement of the works of the Forest of Dean Railway, Mr. James was engaged as Resident Engineer. These works were peculiarly troublesome and difficult, embracing the enlargement of three long tunnels, which were originally merely tramway headings, and the conversion of nine miles of tramway, into a broad-gauge line, the gradients and curves varying considerably, and the traffic being kept open throughout. Mr. James devoted himself day and night to this operation, and carried it through very successfully.

After the completion of these works, in 1854, Mr. Brunel having strongly recommended him to Government for an appointment connected with civil engineering in the Crimea, during the campaign, Mr. James was about to enter into such an engagement, when he received a permanent appointment as Engineering Assistant, at Paddington, under Mr. T. H. Bertram (M. Inst. C.E.), of the Great Western Railway. In this position, the completion of the new terminal works, the extended application of the hydraulic system of Sir William Armstrong to the passenger and goods stations, and to the coal depot, the rearrangement of many stations, and laying out of new branch lines, with all the multifarious routine and office duties, afforded ample and varied scope for his energetic and efficient services : and he proved himself a most valuable assistant in every way; ready and skilful in mathematical investigation, indefatigable in carrying out all that was intrusted to him, and withal most obliging, genial, and popular.

From 1860, when Mr. Michael Lane (M. Inst. C.E.), was appointed Principal Engineer, on the retirement of Mr. Bertram, ‘Mr. James continued in the discharge of similar duties, having also to superintend the reconstruction in brickwork of a long timber viaduct at Windsor, while kept open for the running of frequent trains, and the execution of the works for the junctions of the Metropolitan, the Hammersmith, and the West London Railways with the Great Western line. At the same time he afforded efficient aid in directing surveys, and in preparing the details of Parliamentary work for promoting the new Bills of the Company, and for opposing hostile schemes.

On the 4th of January, 1866, he was appointed, as successor to Mr. Alexander Mackinto (M. Inst. C.E.), General Assistant to Mr. Lane, with the superintendence of the Way and Works of the Railway. Shortly after, on the 20th of March, while in discharge of duties on the line in connection with that appointment, and engrossed in the examination of some details of permanent way, near Ealing Station, Mr. James was accidentally run down by an express train, and was instantly killed.

Mr. James was elected an Associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 13th of April, 1858, and at the time of his death was in his fifty-first year. His remains were interred in Ealing Cemetery, in the presence of the chief officials, and of upwards of five hundred of the employed of the Great Western Railway Company. By the urbanity of his manner and the kindness of his heart, Mr. James had endeared himself to every one with whom he was associated. A valued colleague, a warm friend, and a generous and considerate man, the tidings of his lamentable death were received at the Paddington Station, where he was so well known and appreciated, with the utmost consternation ; while to the Company there was thus lost the services of an active, faithful officer, ever anxious to do justice to the employer as well as to the employed.


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