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Edward Banfield

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Edward Banfield (1837-1872)

1873 Obituary [1]

MR. EDWARD BANFIELD, second son of Mr. John Banfield, of Ilfracombe, and grandson of the late Mr. Richard Trevithick, was born the 9th of February, 1837.

Being delicate, he was not sent to school till 1849, having up to that time received instruction from a private tutor.

Subsequently he entered the factory of Messrs. Harvey and Co. at Hayle, where he remained till 1855, when he went to Paris, and placed himself under M. Test - who prepared young men for the Ecole Centrale - and studied mathematics till December, 1857.

In March, 1858, he left England to join his uncle, Mr. Frederick Henry Trevithick, at Montreal, and was for three years employed in the locomotive department of the Grand Trunk railway.

In May, 1861, he was appointed manager of Mr. Foley’s Ramsey lead mine, at Carleton, Canada West; but the operations not proving successful, he only held the appointment for about a year. While in Canada he assisted Mr. Clarke in illuminating the Falls of Niagara, on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales, who was so much struck with the magnificent effect, that His Royal Highness requested it might be repeated on the following night.

In January, 1862, he returned to England, and was for a short time in Mr. West’s factory, at St. Blazey, Cornwall.

In June, 1862, he became the manager of the Homburg and Frankfort line where he remained till December, 1864. In this position he occasionally had to contend with vexations arising from the management of a staff jealous perhaps of subordination to one of a different nationality to themselves ; but the good-nature, tact, and firmness, which afterwards became his chief characteristics, sufficed to carry him through all difficulties, and he left Germany with the good wishes of a large circle of friends.

On the 17th of January, 1865, he married his cousin Jane, eldest daughter of Mr. John Harvey Trevithick, of Hayle, and soon after proceeded to South America, to undertake the management of the Buenos Ayres Great Southern railway, then newly opened. As manager of this line he became known and appreciated all over the province, and the success of the railway was on several occasions stated by the London directors to be entirely owing to his exertions. Among other improvements he introduced a system of carrying wool - a staple product of the country, and the source of large revenue to the railway - in the country bullock carts without unlading, by means of low trucks. This avoided the necessity of using bags, and greatly facilitated the conduct of the traffic.

In November, 1867, he was obliged to come home in consequence of ill-health, but returned in the following May, and from that time until May, 1872, devoted the whole of his energies to the working of the railway. He carried out the Salado Extension under somewhat difficult circumstances, the Government of Buenos Ayres wishing to make an independent line of their own, and thwarting him in every way. But he overcame their opposition, and the Salado Extension is a notable example of cheap and efficient railway construction, it having been completed as a first-class line, and laid with steel rails on wrought iron sleepers, for 534,500 a mile, exclusive of rolling-stock. He also superintended, with a like result, the construction of the Azul and Tandil Extension.

In November, 1871, Mr. Banfield, owing to a second attack of severe and weakening illness, and acting under medical advice, was compelled to resign his appointment and return to England. Unfortunately it was too late; for, arriving in England on the 14th of June, he lingered a few weeks, and died on the 6th of July, 1871, at the house of his uncle, Mr, F. H. Trevithick, in London, leaving a widow and three daughters, the eldest under six years of age.

The Directors of the Buenos Ayres Great Southern Company, in their Report, dated the 17th of May, 1872, put on record, that “It is with deep regret that the Board have to announce the resignation of Mr. Edward Banfield, who has been General Manager of the Railway in Buenos Ayres since the commencement of the Company, and whose valuable services as an administrator, in organising and developing the traffic of the railway, entitle him to the best thanks and special consideration of the Shareholders.” This resulted in his being presented with a sum of £2,000, as a recognition of his labours in connection with the Salado and the Azul and Tandil Extensions ; but an even more gratifying testimonia1 was the receipt of a handsome service of plate, duly inscribed, and accompanied by an illuminated address signed by twenty-two of his fellow associates in the service of the Company.

Mr. Banfield was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 23rd of May, 1871, but his residence abroad prevented his taking an active part in its proceedings.

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