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Frederick Smith Stanton

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Major-General Frederick Smith Stanton R.E. (1832-1892)

Superintending Engineer of Rajputana State Railway at Delhi

Director General of Indian Railways from 1882 to 1884


1892 Obituary [1]

MAJOR-GENERAL FREDERICK SMITH STANTON, R.E. retired, was the son of William Henry Stanton, Member of Parliament for Stroud from 1841 to 1852, and was born at Stroud in Gloucestershire on the 21st October, 1832.

As a cadet at Addiscomb he early showed great ability, coming out first in his term with the Pollock medal and several prizes; he was gazetted Lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers on the 9th of December, 1850.

After the usual course of instruction at Chatham, he proceeded to India in 1853, where he was attached to the Public Works Department of Bengal. His first employment was on the Grand Trunk road, which at that time, when only three or four short lengths of railway had been commenced, afforded the most rapid means of communication between Calcutta and the North- Western Provinces. The section to which he was attached was between the coal district of Raniganj (120 miles from Calcutta) and Benares, a distance of about 300 miles. The rapid passenger traffic was effected by means of carriages each drawn by a pair of country ponies, which, with short stages, performed the journey at the rate of about 8 miles an hour. Stanton’s station was on the banks of the Soane, a river 3 miles wide with a sandy bed, across which a causeway was annually constructed.

The monotony of his work was soon interrupted by the outbreak of the mutiny in 1857. The East Indian Railway was at that time open to Raniganj, from which town some of the first detachments of European troops were despatched, four men in each pony-carriage, by the trunk road to Benares. His chief having died, Stanton was left in charge of the whole Road, and in those troublous times was entrusted with magisterial as well as administrative and engineering duties. He was one of the special commissioners appointed by Lord Canning, with summary powers of life and death, to try suspected rebels and mutineers in the disaffected districts, and received the thanks of both the British and Indian Governments for the manner in which he discharged the very responsible duties imposed upon him.

In the following May he served as Staff Officer with the Jaineram Field Force, and was present at the affair of Buraon, in connection with which he was mentioned in despatches, and obtained a medal.

His bungalow at Sherghatty was the resting place of all the chief Government officials on their journeys up country and Lord Canning repeatedly partook of his hospitality on such occasions. He was gazetted Captain on the 27th of August, 1858.

Meanwhile the East Indian Railway was being pushed on, and the Trunk road soon sank into a subordinate position. Captain Stanton entered the Railway Department in 1860 as Deputy Consulting Engineer, his duties being to act as Assistant to the Government Inspecting Officer, who exercised control over the company constructing the railway, under contract, with Government guarantee.

In the following year Stanton took furlough.

Returning to India in 1863 he was employed on special duty in connection with the Agricultural Exhibition in Calcutta, and subsequently on a committee appointed to inquire into railway extension in the 24-Pergunnahs.

He acted in 1864 as Executive Engineer in the Darjeeling Division, during which charge he was detached on military duty with the Dooar Field Force. He soon joined the railway department again, and, after acting from August, 1867, to March, 1868, as Consulting Engineer and Joint Secretary in the Railway Department of the Bengal Government, was transferred to Oudh, where he performed similar duties under the Chief Commissioner of that Province, and in 1869 the Railway Department of the North-West Provinces was added to his charge.

In 1871 the Government resolved to undertake the construction of metre-gauge railways in Rajputana, to facilitate the supply of salt from the Great Salt Lake at Sambhar to the North-West Provinces, and to get rid of the vexatious salt-customs barrier. Captain Stanton was selected to take charge as Superintending Engineer of one portion of the railway from Delhi to Rewari and Bandakui, with a branch to Farakhnagar.

He was gazetted Major on the 5th of July of the following year.

Shortly before the completion of this section the famine of 1873-74 broke out in Behar and Tirhoot; Stanton was sent on emergency duty to construct a short line of 63 miles from the Ganges to Durbhunga in Tirhoot, which he opened for traffic in fifty-three days. The construction of this temporary line, which was carried out at the rate of a mile a day, was, in the words of Sir Richard Temple, then Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, "an extraordinary achievement in respect of speed. To carry the line over a country intersected by three considerable streams; to make it strong enough to carry 2,000 tons in a day; to open it within the prescribed time, demanded primarily an indefatigable energy, but also professional skill and administrative ability. All these qualities were displayed by Major F. S. Stanton, R.E., the Engineer-in-Chief. Having made this line, he worked its heavy traffic with the same efficiency." The thanks of the Government were given to him for this work, as well as for his services on the Rajputana Railway.

On the completion of the Delhi District of the Rajputana Railway, Major Stanton was appointed in October, 1875, an extra Deputy Consulting Engineer for Guaranteed Railways, and in February, 1876, Engineer-in-Chief of the Tirhoot State Railway then in course of extension.

On the 10th of March he was gazetted Lieut.-Colonel, and in the following year acted as Director of the North-Eastern section of State Railways and Joint Secretary to the Government of Bengal in the Railway Department, and in 1880 as Secretary to the Public Works Department of the same Government.

In the latter part of 1881 he served as Acting Director-General of Railways and Deputy Secretary to Government, to which office he was permanently appointed in 1882, and which he held for five years.

He was gazetted Colonel on the 16th of September, 1886, and in the following February retired from the service with the honorary rank of Major-General, having attained the highest grade in the Public Works Department- that of Chief Engineer 1st class.

On returning to England he continued, until his death on the 22nd of January, 1892, to serve on the Boards of the East Indian and the Bengal-Nagpur Railway Companies.

General Stanton won his way to the highest posts in the Public Works Department of the Government of India by professional ability, energy and determination, sound judgment and prompt decision. He never spared himself, and thus inspired his subordinates with the same devotion to work. If somewhat stern in enforcing discipline, it was a proof of his justness and popularity that the best men were always glad to serve under him. In private life he was genial and hospitable, but even with his oldest friends extremely reticent as to his professional and administrative services.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 1st of March, 1870.


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